Edmonton Folk Music Festival Gallagher Park, Edmonton AB August 9 to 12

The Edmonton Folk Music Festival always brings out the best in the city, but this year that warm, fuzzy sense of community was even more apparent. Celebrating 28 years of hip-grinding, bare-footed hoe-downs, the Folk Fest made a particular effort to get back to its free-lovin’ roots. Even the wide array of country, bluegrass, folk, roots and blues artists couldn’t help but preach the word of the multi-coloured hippie flower, including L.A. based Bush-bashing Ozomatli, and the "turn-and-hug-your-neighbour!” friendly giant Michael Franti. Of course, it sounds cheesy, but the effort was worth a shot, even though it might have been lost to modernity at some points. To be perfectly honest, many of the main acts were boring in comparison to the brilliant, multi-talented artists found stomping the side stages. City and Colour’s Dallas Green was a wonderful performer, but when it came to chatting up the crowd, his somewhat banal personality just couldn’t arouse an uplifting smile, except maybe on the faces of pubescent hipsters. Mary Margaret O’Hara sounded like the annoying, hyperactive and jealous younger sister of Janis Joplin; Jim Byrnes and the Sojouners lost their colour over time as audiences lost their patience; and Buffy Sainte-Marie, well, we’ve just heard her too many times to take notice. But that’s not to say the Folk Fest wasn’t wholly enjoyable. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Organisers did a fantastic job of putting together some gutsy, engaging and fun-filled sessions. Buck 65 did his wicked and weird thing, and was as entertaining as ever; Crooked Still awed everyone with their cello-fuelled bluegrass; and Justin Rutledge, T. Nile and Tanya Tagaq Gillis all left audiences wanting more. The most notable acts, however, were Vieux Farka Touré, whose Mali-inspired funk had people dancing so hard they’re probably still picking grass out from between their toes; Kim Beggs, who proved herself to be one heck of a Yukon gem, as her sweet, sultry melodies echoing throughout the park; and Halifax’s Jenn Grant with her wispy, moon-gazing tunes giving everyone something to dream about. Needless to say, anyone who attended the Edmonton Folk Festival didn’t leave without feeling a bit nostalgic. Despite its slightly mainstream, now-go-out-and-buy-organic-granola feel, the Fest was as successful as it always is, giving us city folk four precious days to kick off our heels and dance in the chilled air without consequence.