Vancouver Folk Music Festival

I imagine there are few places as perfect in the world to hold a music festival as Jericho Beach Park in Vancouver - with the mountains across the bay and the sunset directly facing the stage. A bit more difficult for the audience, methinks, trying to decide what to look at: musicians or ocean sunset. We arrived on site with some confusion as to where we were supposed to set up but once that was sorted out we had a terrific little spot next to Nancy's Medicins Sans Frontiers booth. Once again there was a ton of interest from the public and musicians. We did close to 200 portraits over the course of te festival - including some completely brilliant shots of Kevin Breit. There is probably no better guitarist on the planet and he came back to play the guitar several times at the booth and backstage. What a completely lovely guy he is. Feist took a shine to it as well but had to cut it out of her performance when her set was cut by a few minutes (her guitar player Julian managed to teach me a few chords before the show - i've forgotten most of them already but seem to have at least two still in my head). Still, the guitar did have some wonderful onstage moments. Mario Vaira, whom I mentioned in my last post, used the guitar in both of the "Collaboratory" performances - most effectively in the second of those, where he played a beautiful piece he wrote on the Six String Nation guitar (the first person to have composed on it). James Keelaghan took another turn at it and I look forward to seeing him with it again in Edmonton. But the moment that really choked me up was yesterday afternoon with Madagascar Slim. Ben (his real name) has been a friend for many years and I've always told him i wanted to see him play this guitar when it was done. I sprang it on him on Saturday and he was so happy. I took it over to his performance with Ndidi Onokwulu on stage 3 and he just about choked up (that made me choke up) while he played a gorgeous Malagasy melody on it. It was a moment I'll never forget. He also said it was the best guitar he's ever played! Thankfully, the moment was caught on tape by CBC Radio's "The Circuit". Last night was a bit of a disappointment, though. Jane Siberry was ready to use it for a song in her finale set right after my good friend Popo Murigande, the Mighty Popo. Popo is currently touring with a troupe he brought over from Rwanda. You may recall that he played it in the song circle on Canada Day so he was looking forward to using it on the main stage in Vancouver for the title track from his new album "Muhazi". CBC tape was rolling in the truck and Popo made a beautiful introduction to the guitar but for some reason the front of house sound guy couldn't control the sound - in spite of it having worked just fine in the brief sound check. He valiantly tried a few times before finally giving up. Of course, by that time I had no doubt Jane Siberry would be thinking twice about using it as well so I went and retrieved it and thanked Popo for trying. We were both pretty bummed out. Still, it was a pretty great festival on a just-about-perfect weekend and lots of new people fell in love with the guitar so I can't complain too much. Trying to sort out some arrangement with Air Canada this weekend before I head off to Dawson City on Thursday. Talk to you then.
Posted at 12:43 PM

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Vancouver before the Fest – Radio Three

I know I've said it already but you have to love the way this guitar makes friends. I decided to come directly from Winnipeg to Vancouver and spend the days between those cities' folk festivals with my friends Paolo and Natasha. I'm going to miss their wedding in August because I'm on the road with the guitar so I thought it would be nice to have a little reception at their place in lieu. They invited a bunch of friends to come over for drinks and snacks last night and get familiar with this guitar. As much as I love seeing this guitar on stage and in the hands of famous Canadian musicians, I love the thought of it around campfires and backyard BBQs and living rooms. It is, after all, the peoples guitar. So last night was the first of those occasions. It was great. Jian Ghomeshi, Tarek Hussain, Chris Kelly, Don Pennington and Jon Siddall all took turns on it. And Grant Lawrence from Radio 3 was there too. We'd just missed each other doing emcee duty in Winnipeg so it was nice to catch up with him and meet properly. He was really moved by the story of the guitar and instantly invited me to come on his show on R3/Sirius. I've been to the CBC plant here in Vancouver before but never to these particular bowels of the building reminds me of my days at CKLN with the bunker-like studios but everyone totally into what they're doing. Very cool. Nice interview with Grant and he reminded me that I want to get A.C. Newman on this guitar and I want Douglas Coupland to do an essay for the eventual book. Maybe he can hook me up!
Posted at 12:41 PM

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The St. Boniface Connection

Of course it was amazing to be at the venerable Winnipeg Folk Festival this past weekend but Winnipeg is also a tremendously important part of the guitar and there was no way we could be in town and not think of some way to acknowledge the extraordinary relationship between Six String Nation and the St. Boniface Museum. Many months ago, the museum's director, Philippe Mailhot, was on the horn within minutes of me announcing on the CBC Winnipeg drive time show we were looking for materials that would tell great Winnipeg stories that he wanted to contribute something. The spalted oak that forms most of the back, sides and neck of the guitar (as well as a couple of ornamental details) is part of one of the timbers that makes the museum - originally built as the Convent of the Grey Nuns of Montreal - one of the city's most treasured and important buildings.
Philippe organized a small concert in the gorgeous little chapel of the building. Our dear friend from the Wailin' Jennys, the lovely Nicky Mehta (pictured), was one of the performers. Justin Lacroix also played as did Serge Carriere - a young man whose great-great-uncle had fought alongside Louis Riel at Batoche – performed a song he had written to honour his relative. And to do it there in that building so intimately tied to the history of Riel on a guitar made from part of the building itself, was a tremendously moving experience.
Posted at 12:21 PM

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At the Winnipeg Folk Festival

An amazing reception for the guitar here in Winnipeg all weekend long at the famed Winnipeg Folk Festival. Performances by Justin Rutledge and others were just brilliant, encounters with Don Freed and Hawksley Workman were a treat and the line-ups for portraits were extraordinary.
Favourite moments: a young boy about 11 years old was very enthused about the guitar and wanted to get his portrait taken. We told him we'd be delighted to do that but we needed his parents' permission first. He went off to find them and I guess they were watching a performance so they told him they'd come by to sign afterwards. The kid just came back and hung around with us studying our materials and asking questions and by the time his parents arrived he was guiding other visitors through the intricacies of the guitar. Amazing.
Bruce Cockburn invited he into his dressing room so he could get a good look at the guitar and a chance to play. I got an up-close-and-personal concert there in the backstage trailer.
And the final honour saved for the final hour. The amazing James Keelaghan took my guitar onto the main stage and played it to lead the whole festival in the finale sing-a-long of Stan Rogers' "Mary Ellen Carter". Mind blowing. Thank you Winnipeg!
Posted at 12:20 PM

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Mariposa Pit Stop

I never imagined a "quick trip" to Orillia but that's what we had. Gabriel Dube drove us up with the guitar to the venerable Mariposa Folk Festival. Really just wanted to make sure the guitar got to put in an appearance there. Arrived and did a whole bunch of media with Stephen Fearing, who was sticking around for the rest of the festival. We, however, had to head back to Toronto to catch a plane to Winnipeg. But not before the wonderful Danny Michel spent a little time with the guitar. I've been dying to put it in his hands so it worked out great - not a full performance yet but that will come. He's a great guy and a great musician.
Thanks to Gabriel, Chris Lusty and the Mariposa staff.
Posted at 12:15 PM

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Farewell (for now) Matty Powell

Last night was Matty Powell's last night working at Mitzi's Sister and he used the opportunity to mount a send-off concert. Matty is a singer-songwriter from Saskatoon and Mitzi's Sister is a great bar on West Queen West in Toronto. Matty has been living in T.O. and playing regularly but also bartending at The Local on Roncesvalles and at Mitzi's Sister. Matty and his girlfriend just had their first child and they've decided to raise the kid in Saskatchewan so they're packing up the U-Haul this week. We've talked about the guitar a lot so I wanted to make sure I got it into his hands while he was still in the neighbourhood. It was a gorgeous performance of several songs and the feeling in the room was very special. Thanks for everything, Matty - hope to see you again soon!
Posted at 12:12 PM

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Holy Canuck – what a debut!

We arrived at Parliament Hill in Ottawa on the evening of the 28th in time for our first tech rehearsal. Unfortunately, the guitar didn't! It was lost in transit from Halifax along with George's wife and kids. The guitar arrived 6 hours late, the family about 20 hours late. After that, things improved. Once the guitar was out and into the hands of artists for rehearsal, everything was fine. Jean-Francois Breau was the first up on Thursday morning followed by Aselin Debison and Colin James. Kyle Riabko's flight was delayed by bad weather so he didn't appear until the next day.
Posted at 12:14 PM

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