A beautiful summer night and a range of music reflecting the span of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival greeted the crowd at Jericho Beach Friday (July 13) night for the launch of the 35th annual event.
The park quickly filled up as the mix of music got underway, including sounds from the early days of the festival such as local folk trio Pied Pumkin, to the offerings of renowned singer Lucinda Williams, to the crowd-rousing choruses of Vancouver's Dan Mangan.
Some of the early highlights in the evening included the impressive upbeat folk-rock sounds of New Jersey group River City Extension, and a strong set from talented vocalist Serena Ryder of Ontario.
As the sun began to set over the silhouetted mountains, musical legend Williams took to the stage to impress the crowds with her trademark vocals and the accompanying bluesy riffs of her band. From tracks such as "Essence" to "Get Right With God", the audience was clearly pleased with the powerful performance.
Meanwhile, over at Stage 3, the audience in the small grassy field was on their feet dancing to the lively sounds of Hungarian group Besh o droM, which featured instruments including cymbalon, bongo drums, and saxophones. Wazimbo also had much of the crowd at that stage on its feet moving to his Mozambican dance music.
Local indie-folk musician Mangan began his set as the sky was growing dark and the paper lantern parade began to surreally wind its way through the crowd. The band joining him on stage included a cello and a trumpet player for a set that focused mainly on songs off his latest record Oh Fortune, such as "Leaves, Trees, Forest" and "Post-War Blues".
No Mangan show would be complete without a rendition of "Robots", however, and the musician rolled out a rousing version of the song, complete with an enthusiastic sing-along from the crowd.
But perhaps the most magical moment of the night came when Mangan told the audience he was going to join them for the last song of the evening. Toting a step-ladder, the singer strode a few metres and set up in the middle of the crowd for a version of "So Much for Everyone".
During the hushed final bars of the song, Mangan's belting voice and the powerful echo of the entire crowd singing the "oh, oh, oh" refrain filled the park, as a lone paper lantern lit the singer and the smiling faces of audience members standing in a circle around him.
The memorable moment was an appropriate end to an evening of impressive music, and a good way to kick off the remainder of the 35th annual festival. The line-up this weekend includes headliners such as K'naan, The Head and the Heart and Ani DiFranco.
Full schedule details can be found on the Vancouver Folk Music Festival's website.