travel / travel magazine / may08


Boogie nights
By Lisa Gregoire with photography by John Ulan and Ian Jackson

Four days of chair camping and barefoot dancing at the annual Edmonton Folk Music Festival

IT’S SATURDAY NIGHT. Late. Baka Beyond, a seven-piece Cameroon-Celtic groove train, is cooking up a mess of African beats, and I’m dancing with hundreds of strangers on a patch of trampled grass beside the Edmonton Folk Music Festival’s 12-metre-high mainstage speaker tower. Teenage flower children in flowing skirts are swaying on dirty bare feet; men their parents’ age are doing that white-boy, foot-to-foot shuffle; thirtysomethings are shedding tight, civil-service day jobs. Pot and tobacco smoke waft by periodically. Someone’s blowing bubbles. And I’m dancing, in public, like the Baka forest people of Cameroon. My knees are bent, and I’m sort of squat-stomping and pumping my forearms like the lady onstage. When the band shifts effortlessly into a Celtic jig, I’m prancing from toe to toe like my Irish ancestors. I am Riverdance.


Field Reports
A behind-the-scenes chat with photographer John Ulan on assignment at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival.
Folk Fest regulars ask one another the same question every year: what was your Folk Fest moment? It’s always tough to choose between the various intimate side-stage jams by multi-ethnic musicians and the incomparable mainstage superstar performances of, say, David Byrne, Daniel Lanois or Joan Baez. But my moment last year was neither. It happened when I waved goodbye to my husband Dan as he rode away on Saturday night with our twin daughters in the bike trailer. Only minutes before, yawning and sunstroked, I’d been fighting the urge to join him, but the notion of flying solo at Folk Fest gave me a jolt, and I bounced back to my kid-free friends. Arms liberated from 13-kilogram two-year-olds, knapsack drained of toy harmonicas, cookies and sippy cups, and ears alight with music instead of “Mommy, is that a boy or a girl?” I felt oddly effervescent. Hence the aforementioned “So You Think You Can Dance” TV show audition.

“Are you writing down the set list?”

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