A few years ago the Winnipeg Folk Festival started programming a second evening stage. This is something that other festivals do, but it was always one of Winnipeg's charms that the whole audience came together for the evening concert. I've had mixed feelings about this second stage and I know that some of my festival diehard friends did was well. But, this year, I checked out the alternative stage at a very specific point in the festival and the experience made complete sense to me.
The headliner at the festival this year was Ray Davies, former frontman of The Kinks, a huge figure in the landscape of popular music and a hero and idol for many. On the festival mainstage, however, he mostly plays the role of a heritage act. People loved this show because of what they were doing when they first heard these songs, and because it allowed them to relive those formative years. For those of us who just missed this period of pop music history, this show is a guy playing quaint, outdated pop songs. These songs were important at the time, but do they stand up as songs against all the great songwriters we just spend three days listening to? "You really got me, You really got me" - hardly.
However, the aging festival audience has come to expect that part of the programming at a folk festival is an act like this - a nostagic aging rocker playing acoustic renditions of the songs the audience got high and had sex to: Nick Lowe, Bob Geldof, Chris Isaak, Jonathan Edwards, Ray Davies...
So, we went to the alternative stage. And what we didn't find there was a bunch of tripped out kids dancing to electronica. We found a group of 20 and 30-somethings, sitting, listening appreciatively to The Acorn. The Acorn are a great young band. They aren't nearly as important to the music world as The Kinks, and they wouldn't have sold the record breaking number of tickets that Ray Davies sold for the Sunday night mainstage. They wouldn't have caused
my friends who are just a bit older than me, the youngest of the boomers, to charge the stage [Update: maybe my young boomer friends weren't that into it either]. I was happy that they were happy, happy to see Ray Davies on the bill, but this time around, I was glad that I had an option to skip the nostalgia and see something that resonated.