Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mariposa Folk Festival Rounds Out 2011 Line-Up

        It’s a rainy Saturday afternoon in May,  and I couldn't think of a better way to spend it other than by joining approximately 200 of my fellow "folkies" at the Highwaymann Inn in Orillia to enjoy some music and choose three artists to fill out the 2011 Mariposa Folk Festival Line-Up...this is that story. 

        As I arrived I was pleased to see the room almost full to capacity, I knew this was a good indication of what I have always known ... Mariposa is a draw, and will continue to be a draw in the busy summer festival circuit in Ontario. As the showcase got underway Artistic Liaison for the Mariposa Folk Festival
and our MC for the afternoon Amy Mangan took to the mic and introduced herself ,gave a brief description of what was to take place during the showcase, than introduced the first act of the afternoon who was no other than Barrie singer/songwriter Brett Caswell & his band the Marquee Rose. Brett and his band took control of the room from the first note dropped till the final strum of his guitar, it’s no wonder that Brett Caswell & the Marquee Rose were selected to play at this year’s Mariposa Folk Festival, a great addition to a already stellar line-up.

           Next up on the afternoon bill was Nadia Hosko & Folks. Originating from Toronto Nadia and her band captured my attention right away with their soothing harmonies; their vocals just seemed to all flow together. But on the other hand I also got this feeling watching them that they are still trying to find themselves as a band; they just didn’t seem to gel. They didn’t make it this year, but hopefully we will see them back again. 

          Then members of The Rucksack Willies started to set up their gear, from a first glance I just knew that we were in for a real treat from them, and they didn’t disappoint. As I sat their listening to this mix of country/rock/bluegrass/folk/Gin Joint.... I was trying to come up with a description for what style they were playing and all I could conjure up was Dirty Bluegrass (Does it fit? If you were there tell me), this description just seemed to fit them, but they strike me as a group of musicians that don’t really like to be pigoned holed into a category. As they played they wiped the rain from the Saturday skies and sent this relatively calm audience to hoot and howl...I knew we had a winner, please welcome The Rucksack Willies to the 2011 Mariposa Line-Up.

           The Wanted were up next in the showcase. I really have nothing negative to say about this five piece, but when you come up on stage carrying a washboard your expected to give it out at full tilt old school style and they just seemed to be pretty guarded and laid back, great for maybe a workshop but not for a late night beer tent rouser.

             Some local talent was next by way of Exxxtra Juicy. The guys in Exxxtra Juicy are a very talented group of young musicians, and they obviously love what they are doing , you can tell they have lots of fun playing together, but as I sat there watching them onstage I just didn’t see them playing Mariposa, but like everyone else there that was just my opinion and I could be wrong,  but unfortunately for them they were not choosen this year, but to be picked from a group of approximately 500 others to perform at this years showcase was a feet unto it's self.

       Up next where Graydon James & The Young Novelists. Now these guys (and girl) hit a real nerve with me. I was a real fan of the Alt-Country genre 10 years ago or so and at the time if this band had been around I would have bought, listened, watched, read anything and everything they did….what I’m trying to get across is they awakened a Alt-Country fire inside of me that I thought had been extinguished years ago, unfortunately they were not one of the chosen few that are getting their chance at the Grande Dame this year…I just hope that they come back next year and take another shot at it.

        Before this next performer had even started his set our wonderful MC Amy Mangan declared that Mike had “downgraded” his band to a 2-piece…which Mike's partner and violin player Blaise pointed out that just didn’t sound right...Amy than realized what she had said and quickly corrected herself and everyone in attendance had a good laugh, another reason why I love going to Mariposa year after year, mistakes are made and that always brings the performances down to the ground with the audience . I always love it when a performer connects with an audience and they don’t’ need that large band behind them they just keep it simple and real, well Mike Celia did just that today. When Mike and his partner on stage Blaise Alleyne played they hit all the right notes with the audience, they made us “their” audience and that’s what a lot of musicians don’t seem to understand, you have to win over the audience and make them your own...Mike and Blaise did just that and that’s why they will joining us the weekend of July 8th, 9th and 10th at Mariposa.

        A four piece from Midland was the next group to take the stage, and they were Calvin James. A great Blues/Rock/Soul combo with tons of energy, Calvin James proved that they would make a great fit into the Mariposa line-up (Maybe the Pub Tent)…maybe next year guys

        The final act of the afternoon was Lauren Campbell & The Dusty Figurines. Lauren is a true local originally hailing from Orillia, so I think we were all hoping they would make the cut just to have that Orillia blood mixed in with all of the other great artists on the bill this summer. This young and very tight four piece held my attention throughout their whole set, and that’s a very hard thing to do, also I don’t normally like to compare artists to other artists but Lauren’s voice conjures up images of Neko Case, it tells a story as it harmonizes throughout the room. I proclaim here that Lauren Campbell is a name that you will here on a much larger scale in the years to come, sadly just not this year at Mariposa. 

         So the 3 finalists that are going to be playing this year’s Mariposa Folk Festival are Brett Caswell & the Marquee Rose, The Rucksack Willies, and Mike Celia…Congratulations 

      I just want to take a moment to sum up what I believe is the true spirit of Mariposa, and it goes a little something like this…as the band Calvin James where just starting into their 3rd song of their set their guitarists amp just stopped working, you could see him bend down and look at it like “what’s going on”, he then stood up took his guitar off from around his neck and just started to sing, you could just see in his face this look of “What else am I going to do” and the audience played off of it, it was great, then a member of Marquee Rose ran up and handed him a pink my mind that moment said Mariposa, musicians helping other musicians and just not giving up. 

        Shout Out's go to Amy Mangan and the volunteers for all of their hard work on the afternoon's Showcase and particularly Amy for doing such a great job as MC, it's a lot harder than it looks ...Congrats Amy and Crew ,we all can't wait for July!!

Below are some pictures from the Showcase

Joe Cornelisse-SSGS

     Here is a video I shot this afternoon of Lauren Campbell & The Dusty Figurines

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