Folk Fest ends on a high note

Nathaniel Rateliff GigCity EdmontonThat’s it, that’s all, folks. Here we are at the end of another iteration of the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, and Sunday certainly closed out the weekend on a high note. There was an undeniable current of excitement resonating throughout the crowd on what turned out to be an ideal summer evening, with not a storm cloud in sight.

LP GigCity Edmonton folk fest

First up on the main stage was LP, an artist whose name may not be immediately familiar, but her work certainly is. LP – also known as Laura Pergolizzi – is a talented songwriter who has penned hits for Rihanna, Cher, Rita Ora, and Christina Aguilera, to name a few. As impressive as her songwriting credits may be, LP holds her own as a performer. She kicked of Sunday night’s set with a captivating performance driven by powerhouse vocals and infectious tunes. If you haven’t listened to her latest album, Death Valley, do yourself a favour. LP may not have been the headliner, but she no doubt left an impression. She also wins for best audience interaction, even leaving the stage at one point late in her set to shake hands with excited fans in the front row.

Seattle’s The Head and the Heart  (below) followed, appealing to the younger crowd with a fun blend of folk and pop. The six-piece, which was recently featured Cameron Crowe’s Roadies, was certainly entertaining to watch, exuding abundant energy and making it evident from the get-go they were enjoying themselves – which is always a plus as opposed to watching a band that appears to just be going through the motions.

The in-between acts, the “tweeners,” on the main stage are easily overlooked, but Sunday night’s deserve some recognition. The Pines, a trio from Minneapolis, delivered a short yet strong set of tunes billed as “country noir” that was enough to prompt further research on the group. The other tweener, and winner of the Cruz 95.7 Emerging Artist Award, was The East Pointers from Halifax, a trio with some serious chops. Banjo player Koady Chaisson even busted out some fancy jig footwork during the final song to cap things off.

And then came the headliners.

“Ladies and gentlemen, get ready to have your asses blown off and your faces melted!”

The Head and the Heart GigCity Edmonton folk festThat’s a strong statement before a performance, but Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats lived up to the claim. Anyone who attended last year’s festival will remember Rateliff and company, not to mention the mega-single S.O.B that hit radio airwaves around the same time, bringing the band’s bombastic folk-rock-soul hybrid to the mainstream crowd.

The octet wasted no time getting the audience riled up, each band member displaying an impressive amount of skill and enthusiasm, with the charismatic Rateliff leading the charge – bonus points to the roadie who ostensibly appeared out of nowhere to catch the guitars the frontman hurled to the back of the stage whenever he needed to swap instruments. Each song the band delivered was strong and polished, with S.O.B served up as the big finale. The crowd was still singing the song’s refrain even after the band left the stage, anxiously waiting for the encore that inevitably followed – at which point Rateliff professed plenty of love for Edmonton and the dedicated fans who continue to support the group.

My ass is still firmly attached and my face is intact, but it was one hell of a show.