Winnipeg Folk Festival Birds Hill Park, Winnipeg MB - July 10 to 13, 2003

Winnipeg Folk Festival Birds Hill Park, Winnipeg MB - July 10 to 13, 2003
The big guns were pulled out as the Winnipeg Folk Festival celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. With big name acts from all over the world, including Ani Difranco, the Waifs, and Buddy Guy, the festival was packed with amazing music for the entire weekend. Kathleen Edwards celebrated her 25th birthday on the Friday night stage, playing songs off her successful first album and commenting on how her application was once rejected by the festival years ago. The tall, kind cowboy Corb Lund also shone throughout the weekend, first in a Carter/Cash workshop doing a fabulous version of "The Hockey Song," (Stompin' Tom, he noted, is Canada's Johnny Cash), and then later in the weekend with his band on a stage all to themselves. Captivating to watch and listen to, Mexico's Son De Madera brought their fabulous blend of world rhythms to the main stage, showcasing not only their musical abilities but also their dancing capabilities as they pranced their way through their performance. Eccentric folk legend Leon Redbone put on a weird and wonderful set on Saturday evening's main stage, with a grace that appeared as if he was playing for an intimate group in his living room. The most anticipated act of the weekend was Billy Bragg. With his easy charm, smart political messages and witty stories, Bragg eased through his set, winning the crowd over with his obvious excitement for playing the festival. Some of the best music however, was coming from the festival's own backyard, as local favourites Nathan and the D-Rangers both put on a few fantastic sets throughout the weekend. Possibly the best thing to come out of Winnipeg in a while, Nathan played wonderfully each time they graced the stage. Lead singer Kari McTighe and back-up vocalist/accordion/banjo player Shelley Bilwitch's curious lyrics, in combination with their powerful high-ranged vocals, made each performance more engaging than the last. In the last set for the day stages on Sunday afternoon, and the definite highlight of the entire weekend, Peterborough's the Silver Hearts took the stage. They entertained the hot humid crowd with their captivating blend of Dixieland meets Jim Jarmusch music, making for a strange, splendid set and also the perfect ending to a wonderful festival.