Local acts bring funk to the Vancouver Folk Music Fest

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Two Vancouver acts will no doubt remember this year’s folk festival for years to come.

At Stage 5 on July 19, Corbin Murdoch of the Nautical Miles waxed effusive over how the annual event has shaped his band’s musical tastes.

“This is where we fell in love with folk music,” he said, before noting that percussionist Lucas Schuller’s parents ran the festival CD tent for years, while bassist Simon Rotheisler spent his teens manning the whales-tails snack booth, before turning to folk-music crime as a serial fence-jumper. Murdoch’s strummed acoustic guitar and Tim Tweedale’s amplified Weissenborn speak to those old folk-music connections, and the leader’s very literate lyrics place him firmly in the singer-songwriter camp, but this band’s musical ambitions are more expansive than that.

With a two-piece horn section adding exultant gloss, the Nautical Miles made good on the promise of their recent album’s title: Ode to Joy. Regret for the past and worry over the future are among Murdoch’s lyrical concerns, but depression will never be the outcome when his band has so much heart.

Brasstronaut seemed like a left-field choice for this year’s festival, but the rock-jazz-electro sextet proved a valuable addition to the roster, especially in two collaborative workshops that occasionally found the group in unlikely company. Having violinist Andrew Bird craft improvised, overdubbed symphonic arrangements for its songs “Bounce” and “Francisco” is one thing, but trancing out on the hypnotic desert-blues songs of Mauretania’s Noura Mint Seymali? The locals handled both with equal aplomb in July 19’s Taking Chances workshop at Stage 6.

The smiles were even bigger at Stage 5 on July 20, when the Lemon Bucket Orchestra’s horn section and the Zimbabwean band Mokoomba joined Brasstronaut for the somewhat misleadingly titled A Touch of Brass. This was no mere touch, but a full-on funk party that rivalled anything Maceo Parker or Bootsy Collins could deliver.

A drenching rain was on its way, but for one glorious hour the dancing masses were obviously, joyously in paradise.

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