Folk music festivals do change, but it's easy to imagine they don't. Going to the Vancouver Folk Music Festival last weekend, I told myself I wanted to check out new music, but I really wanted the sound of my own memories. Not to hear exact songs that I knew, but even better, new songs that sounded exactly like hearing a new song for the first time 30 years ago.
So I steered away from the big dancing stages with their rockish worldish electro folk, which were all in glaring direct sun anyway. The shade was set aside for the old fashioned stuff: men and women who dared to get onstage with nothing but a guitar. Nothing today comes closer to the cultural milieu of my childhood -- my memory's conflaton of art fairs and protest concerts. And while the politics could be sentimental at times, I knew without a doubt that if things got rough, I'd want to be with these people. I would rather endure their earnest impracticality than the efficiency of their enemies.
Jericho Beach is the perfect site. A north-facing beach, gentle in the summer, it looks across English Bay at the towers of downtown Vancouver, and above them the impossibly sheer mountains of the north shore, the beginning of a thinly inhabited glacier-and-fjord country that extends up the coast to Alaska. Gazing out on the water, most of inhabited North America is behind us. With home at our backs, we can all feel like exiles, even the Canadians, as we sing of our lost loves, distant battles, and dreams as persistent as weeds.