Winnipeg dispatch #3

Ah, the Winnipeg Folk Festival. One of this city’s true claims to fame, along with the Guess Who, Monty Hall, and mosquitos. I missed last year’s, which was a shame because pasties caught on like wildfire. Perhaps that’s not an apt metaphor. But the big news at last year’s four-day event was the number of ladies (girls, women, probably a few guys too) stripping down to their waists and donning the non-garment favoured by burlesque dancers to cover their nipples. This year however there is a general ban on pasties, or at least the people selling them weren’t invited back. My friend Linda, whom I found pouring beer in the beer tent, was there last year, and said that the first day, when it was mostly young nubiles, was fine. But by the third day when all the older granola-eaters were also letting it all hang out, things were starting to, er, get out of hand. Hey, she said it.

I must be out of touch with the Winnipeg scene since, among the thousands attending yesterday’s opening night festivities (including a soul-stirring, night-ending set by Michael Franti and his band), the only person I recognized was Linda–and even she I might not have seen were it not for my thirst for beer. Of course, I also knew E., whom I came with, and who true to form danced like a madman. With the end of his 12-year marriage he is back on the scene, going out nearly every night and dancing to any and all bands coming through town. He’s getting quite a reputation for his manic moves, to the point where I half-expected to see a picture of him in this morning’s daily rag’s coverage of the festival. At one point, a whole bunch of kids wearing these butterfly-antennae headbands were imitating his St. Vitus dance, so he came over and got them into the spirit of the thing, like a real Pied Piper. They were soon dancing with, not at him.

Speaking of Pied Pipers, I’m wearing my niece down. The 4-year-old Delaney (or Duh-Laney as I call her) has agreed, after much insistence on my part, to make lunch for me today–a tuna salad sandwich with, as I specified, little bits of dill pickle mixed in with the tuna. I consider this a personal triumph since, on my last visit, she would hide behind the nearest parental figure’s leg the moment I walked in the room. We’ll see how this goes.

But back to the Folk Fest. It was the 35th annual, and of those I’ve been to maybe half a dozen. The last time I went I shared a tent with my friend R., who got so tanked she threw up–outside the tent, sure, but still, not the first sight you want to come across in the morning. This time, no camping for this guy.

Last night was special for another reason–hometown heroes the Weakerthans played. One of the few local bands to get international recognition, their appearance at the Folk Festival was a bridging of generations, and genres, since their music is more rock than folk. Anyway, my point being, that lead singer John K. Samson came out for an encore of the tune “I Hate Winnipeg”, a love-hate letter to the city, that got everyone singing along. It was almost more inspiring than a field full of pasties-wearing folkies.

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