Folkies Storm Unsuspecting Hotel

Categories: Folk Music Ontario,Performance


Q: What feels like a folk festival but looks like a hotel?

A:  The Folk Music Ontario Conference 2013


How do you make the familiar strange?  Invite hundreds and hundreds of musicians to spend a weekend in a Delta Hotel.  Picture the last hotel lobby you visited.  The revolving doors that lead into a large and welcoming space.  A place that says, “Welcome Dear Traveller.” Take respite from your journey. Rest here.  Note the registration desk and its quiet efficiency.  The comfortable lobby furniture that no one actually ever uses.

Now go back outside.  Close your eyes.  Open them and come back in the revolving doors. There are stacks of equipment and instruments scattered about the lobby: guitars, amps, tubas, accordions, microphone stands.  There are a bunch of fiddle players jamming beside the registration desk.  You make your way past groups of people hugging and looking far too happy.  Someone is showing off a new 5-string banjo. There is a Hum. Every poster and sign points you toward a musical encounter of one sort or another:  a musical showcase, a Q & A panel discussion for artists and industry types on how best to place music in film and T.V. And it’s only 2:30 PM on a Friday afternoon.

Fast forward 12 hours.  It’s 2:30 AM and the hotel floors hosting Private Showcases are in full swing.  Every door is open.  A different type of music pouring out of each room as you squeeze your way down the hallway looking for The Bohemian Roots Showcase.  You don’t make it because you follow a tuba player who appears to have a plan.  (Do you know how much headroom a tuba has in a hotel corridor?) (Not much.)  The elevator appears to be out of service but that’s only because a trio featuring upright bass, accordion and trumpet have set up shop and are taking great pleasure in going up. And down.  And up. As the cliché goes, “It’s pandemonium.”

By Sunday morning, nothing really surprises.  There are over 50 people in the lower lobby by the fake fireplace singing gospel songs.  People are tired.  People are happy.  People are playing.  People are working.  Making music is their job.  This is what they do. The familiar becomes strange.  The strange becomes familiar.

It’s carefully choreographed chaos.  If you’re the Artistic Director of a Summer Music Festival this is your Big Chance to see dozens of acts in the space of 3 days.  I was there looking for work.  Showcasing The Big Idea. When I wasn’t showcasing, I was checking out other showcases.  Too many to even mention.  But in the interest of giving you a sneak peak here are 2 of my favourites from the weekend.  Each one Completely Different than the other. Worlds apart, one might say with both geographical and musical accuracy …




I met AVIVA the first night of the conference at a reception.  She described her music as being devotional. World music sung in Hebrew, Ladino, English and French.  Saw her the following evening at her showcase.  Beautiful.  Soulful. Real.  Check out a rehearsal clip on youtube:


The Lemon Bucket Orkestra



I was in a panel discussion with Mark who is the Brave & Courageous ‘Leader’ of the Lemon Bucket Orkestra.  A very interesting and articulate guy who plays and also manages this 17-piece group.  Wow.  They are wild and beautiful and outrageous. I dare you to watch this Youtube clip of the LBO in Slavakia!

As Neil Young says,  Live Music is Better.  Bumper Stickers Should be Issued. 




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