Vancouver Folk Music Festival

Run for the border 2016


What: Vancouver Folk Music Festival

When: Fri., Jul. 15 -17

Where: Jericho Beach Park, Vancouver, BC

Cost: $45-$170


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Owing to the splendor and wonder that is summer in this region, it can be hard to convince any Whatcom or Skagit county resident to leave and go anywhere once shoulder season shines down around these parts.

After all, putting up with nine months of rain and wind and more rain and more wind and then come bone-rattling cold has to have some kind of reward, and around here, the payoff for months of seasonal suffering is glorious indeed. That’s why you won’t catch me taking tropical or exotic vacations when summer strikes. To waste a precious minute of all this splendor would be just plain stupid.

But that doesn’t mean I have a need to plant myself in a lawn chair in a patch of sun and never leave until I’m buried in autumn’s falling leaves. I’m all for a little regional exploration, and I have it on good authority that, along with reasonable gun control laws and an impossibly dreamy prime minister, Canada also has a pretty spectacular summer, at least the part of Canada that is easily accessed by all of us.

If the promise of seasonal bliss in enlightened foreign lands isn’t enough to tempt you to run for the border, perhaps the prospect of seeing 60-plus world-class musicians and bands from 18 countries on seven stages over three days at a scenic waterfront locale will be all the catalyst you’ll need.

The event I’m talking about is, of course, the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, which has been a yearly tradition for some four decades now.

Despite its size—and it is an ambitious undertaking, drawing nearly 40,000 people each year—the VFMF remains a community-oriented, largely grassroots affair, staffed by a crew of some 1,500 dedicated and passionate volunteers. In an era of increasingly corporate music festivals, events and organizations such as the VFMF are becoming ever rarer, and its ability to exist without selling out speaks not only to the ethos behind the festival, but also the widespread community support it receives.

But the authenticity of the festival itself is mirrored by the kind of music it exists to represent: folk, in all its many different forms.

Those of us who consider ourselves music fans believe deeply and wholeheartedly in the power of music to be an agent of change, and no type of music has embodied that belief more than folk, which is far more than just another genre or means of classification. Instead, it is a worldwide tradition that has been used for generations to pass down stories and legends across various cultures, speak truth to power and, in some cases, has helped to spark and document revolution.

Pretty decent legacy for a type of music we often dismiss as hippies who play acoustic guitars while holding hands and singing “Kumbayah.”

In fact, folk is a tradition that knows no time period and transcends all borders, and differs in style and execution the world over. Since its inception, the Vancouver Folk Music Festival has worked diligently to try and encompass folk in all its many forms—an impossible task, but with three days and seven stages, they do their level best to cram in as much as they can every year.

As they do with each iteration of the festival, the 2016 VFMF organizers have chosen a lineup that mixes more-recognizable artists with those that are lesser known. This pretty well guarantees that attendees can see some old favorites while engaging in some wide-ranging musical exploration with no more effort than it takes to meander from stage to stage.

I’m sure that if you wanted to see no more than just a few minutes of each set, it might theoretically be mathematically possible to see all 60 or so bands and musicians playing the festival, but I can’t imagine anyone wanting to do that. As such, you will have to use your discerning taste and inborn curiosity to create for yourself a VFMF schedule tailor-made to your particular proclivities.

Festival organizers have tried to aid you in this goal by sectioning the schedule into bite-sized bits, grouping bands of similar styles or abilities into easily digested morsels.

For me, that would mean spending the afternoon of Fri., July 15—the festival’s opening day—taking in the “Vancouver Specials” (A C Newman and Kathryn Calder, Dominique Fricot, and Jolie Holland & Samantha Parton) on Stage 4 and then “Back Porch Blues” (the Crooked Brothers, the Ragpicker String Band, and Hubby Jenkins) on Stage 1 before planting myself in front of the Main Stage for the duration for Lee Fields and the Expressions, M. Ward, and the New Pornographers.

But Friday’s somewhat abbreviated schedule is just the warm-up. Saturday, July 16 is when things get more complicated and choices must be made. The offerings are plentiful enough to be overwhelming, which is why I suggest you throw careful planning out the window and let your ears be your guide. Since I’m a sucker for a clever name, I’d probably find myself at “The World Accordion Too…” (Geoff Berner, the Young’Uns, the Bills), “The Good, the Bad and the Funky,” (Henry Wagons, Les Hay Babies, The Crooked Brothers), and would not miss stand-alone sets by Birds of Chicago or the provocatively named Ten Strings and a Goat Skin. Once again, near the end of the day, I’d find myself at the Main Stage, this time for Shane Koyczan and the Short Story Long, Oysterband ,Yemen Blues with Ravid Kahalani, and ending my night with the electrifying Nahko and Medicine for the People.

Globalism would be the order of the last day of my personal VFMF 2016 journey, and it would begin Sunday morning with “Aloha, Bonjou, Bom Dia” (Kaumakaiwa Kanaka’ole with Shawn Pimental, Lakou Mizik, Elida Almeida). I might be inclined to follow that with a little “Equatorial Soul” (Flavia Nascimento, Elida Almeida, Betsayda Machado y La Parranda El Clavo) or “Wavemakers” (Mexican Institute of Sound, Trad.Attack!, Les Noces Gitanes) before wandering wherever my inquisitive nature would take me. If I happened to miss Hayes Carll’s set as part of “A Bad Liver & A Broken Heart” (also featured: Terra Lightfoot and Henry Wagons), I’d be sure and catch his sunset set on Stage 3 before hitting up the Main Stage for Leftover Salmon, Bruce Cockburn, and Lord Huron.

Unlike most festivals, artists at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival—even the Main Stage musicians—play multiple sets, all weekend long, meaning if you miss them the first time they perform, you’ll most likely be able to catch them a bit later on. Along with the music, you’ll also be able to peruse a variety of goods from the world over at an artisan market and folk bazaar, enjoy kid-friendly activities in the Little Folks Village, satiate your hunger with exotic foodstuffs from various vendors, and support an award-winning festival with a community-minded ethos that dates back almost half a century. I’d say that’s well worth a run for the border.

More Music...
Come In From The Cold
Hot nights at the Wild Buffalo

Everyone has a friend like me. I wear long sleeves during the summer, long underwear during the winter and am never without auxiliary layers of clothing, just in case. In other words, I am always cold.

I long to be one of those hardy folks who don technical layers and then tromp into the…

more »
St. Patrick’s Day
Happy (almost) holiday

Like most occasions Bellingham wholeheartedly embraces and enthusiastically celebrates, St. Patrick’s Day isn’t a proper holiday. The banks are open, kids have to go to school, no one gets the day off work.

Unless, of course, March 17 falls on a Sunday, as it does this year. In that…

more »
Mandolin Orange
Relationship goals

For as long as I have been an observer of Bellingham’s music scene, I’ve heard musicians talk about how there is no tour stop like this one, no audience like a Bellingham crowd. At first, I was skeptical, thinking it to be the equivalent of a hackneyed pickup line tried out on as many…

more »
Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest

8:00am|Whatcom County

La Conner Daffodil Festival

10:00am|La Conner and the Skagit Valley

Essence of Bellingham Photo Competition


Imagine Convergence on Orcas Island

12:00pm|Rosario Resort

Peter Pan, A Musical Adventure

7:00pm|Meridian High School

Dyo Festival Plays

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Bellingham Puppetry and Mask Festival

7:30pm|Alternative Library

SICBA Home & Garden Show

11:00am|Skagit County Fairgrounds

Tarnation, Ryan Stiles

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

The Pageturners

7:30pm|ACT Annex

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #154

Honeywagon Runs

8:00am|Riverside Park

Nordic Roots Seminar

9:00am|United Methodist Church

NSEA Work Party

9:00am|Squalicum Creek

Native Plant Sale

9:00am|Whatcom Community College

Make It and Take it

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

WNPS Field Trip

9:00am|Breazeale Interpretive Center

Spring Studio Seconds Sale

10:00am|Blue Water Pottery

Quilt Museum Annex Open House

10:00am|Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum

Youth Ag Day

10:00am|Skagit Farmers Supply

Sumas Writers Group

10:00am|Sumas Library

Skagit Beer Week

11:00am|Skagit Valley

Dahlias Made Easy

11:00am|Christianson's Nursery

Free My Heart

12:00pm|Village Books

Tax Help Available

12:30pm|First Congregational Church

Fidalgo and Mount Baker Youth Symphonies

1:00pm|McIntyre Hall

Forest Bathing

1:00pm|Rockport State Park

A Family Immigration Story


Cheese Classes

5:00pm|Chuckanut Center

PechuKucha Night

5:00pm|Museum of Northwest Art

Contra Dance with the Alphabeats

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Manouche NW Concert Series

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Giovanni & the Camino of St. Francis

7:00pm|Village Books

Gabriel and Rebecca Manalac

7:30pm|Jansen Art Center

Skagit Symphony's Masterpiece Concert

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Village Books
Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest

8:00am|Whatcom County

La Conner Daffodil Festival

10:00am|La Conner and the Skagit Valley

Imagine Convergence on Orcas Island

12:00pm|Rosario Resort

Essence of Bellingham Photo Competition


SICBA Home & Garden Show

11:00am|Skagit County Fairgrounds

The Pageturners

7:30pm|ACT Annex

Skagit Beer Week

11:00am|Skagit Valley

Rabbit Ride

8:30am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Langar in Lynden

11:00am| Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

History Tour

12:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Audubon at the Museum

1:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Legally Blonde, the Musical

3:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Murder & Mayhem

3:00pm|Everson Library

Poems for Peace

3:00pm|The Happy Place

Powerful in pink


Art of Jazz

4:00pm|BAAY Theatre

Classy Comedy

7:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Bos2 Legally Blonde
Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest

8:00am|Whatcom County

La Conner Daffodil Festival

10:00am|La Conner and the Skagit Valley

Essence of Bellingham Photo Competition


Skagit Beer Week

11:00am|Skagit Valley

Community Soup Kitchen

6:00pm|Little Cheerful Cafe

Monday Night Pizza

6:00pm|Ciao Thyme Commons


7:00pm|Alternative Library

Open Mic Night

7:00pm|Village Books


9:00pm|Firefly Lounge

see our complete calendar »

Bos2 Trove Web Legally Blonde The Hunts Village Books Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1