by: norm nelson
Guests and vistors at the downtown Delta Chelsea Hotel might be forgiven over the Family Day weekend for thinking a summer folk festival has broken out. And they won’t be too far off the mark with Winterfolk – Toronto’s unique winter roots music festival now in its 10th year – literally taking over the hotel.
Conveniently located a block or two from either the College or Dundas subway stops on the Yonge Line, the music festival runs Friday night and continues throughout Saturday and Sunday (Feb. 17 to 19). It’s a mostly free festival, with just a couple of ticketed shows – and even those events won’t set you back much ($10 at the door, $8 in advance).
The new format – it was held in several adjacent Danforth Avenue venues the past several years – is just about as weather proof as you can get. Once you tromp into the venue from the nearby subway, you don’t have to worry about rain, snow, cold or wind. It’s guaranteed t-shirt weather inside the hotel. Venues will be set up in four spots throughout the hotel – including their main night club (Monarch’s Pub) and restaurant (Market Garden) on the main floor, each with room for about 200 people, as well as the 100-seat Community Club located on the third floor and the more intimate Listening Room located in Deck 27 on the 27th floor.
As for the artists, if you’re familiar with Toronto’s vibrant roots scene, you will be pleased to recognize many familar names and acts. In fact this year’s theme is bringing back several of the artists who helped kick off the very first Winterfolk 10 years ago. If you’re not quite so familiar with the roots scene, you won’t find a better opportunity to check it out – at least in Toronto. And chances are you’ll be able to find a style to suit your tastes, whether it leans to pop, blues, jazz, folk, gospel or every kind of amalgam possible. There are few rules in roots music.
Whether you’re a longtime fan or just checking out the scene for the first time, you might want to navigate to the festival website to see what artists or workshops might interest you and to create your own itinerary. The complete festival schedule has also been published in the Feb. 10 issue of one of our publications, The City Centre Mirror which is delivered throughout midtown, which is handy to carry around during the event. Or you might want to throw caution to the wind, just show up, wander the four venues – and be surprised.
I’m not even going to list all the artists and groups, and all the workshops, here, because:
a) they’re all conveniently listed on the festival website, complete with bios;
b) and because I’m going to reprint, in my very next blog, a press release from the festival which has it pretty nicely summed up.
Typical for a festival, you can find the artists or groups sometimes in solo performances, sometimes sharing the stage for special themed concerts (such as ‘Songs that Tell Stories’ with Howard Gladstone, to name one) and sometimes in workshops (such as ‘Not Just Another Guitar Worksop’ with Alastair Artingstall, Margaret Stowe and Maneli Jamal). But again that’s why, for festival veterans and newcomers alike, it’s probably best to check out the festival schedule.
As for myself, I see that I have CDs from three of the acts which I actually apologize for, as my goal is always to greatly increase the number of local live acts and recordings I get around to, but as most folks can relate to, we could all use a few more hours in the day, another day in the week, another month in the year.
I really, really enjoyed the three CDs by Brian Gladstone, Hotcha and Phillip Brown, as I recall. Actually just that trio, for me, would be a heck of a show – and therein lies my problem, which I must confess drives my family nuts. And it’s that if I like something I keep going back to it, hence why I’ve sipped the same brand of orange salada tea from the exact same tea cup just about every night for a decade and why I eat the same veggie subs with the exact same ingredients for lunch day after a day – okay, too much info. Anyway, as my family likes to remind me, if you try something else, you might like it, too. But, gosh, i’d surely like to hear that trio, and another act that I’ve been meaning to listen to for ages now, who are from around my east Toronto neighbourhood – Whiskey Jack.
Any way, I’ll leave you with links to my pevious blogs on the above trio’s CDs that I liked so much (and which I will reacquaint myself prior to Winterfolk). In an upcoming blog, I will investigate on YouTube some of the other artists playing at Winterfolk – which, of course, is something that fans who plan on attending the festival can also do.
* the following link will actually take you to a blog about Brown appearing at the 2010 Winterfolk, and the link includes three YouTube songs you have to check out!
* this link takes you to my review of Brian Gladstone’s A Time for New Beginnings (which he released in 2009 and I reviewed in 2009). This link will take you to his website where you’ll also find a selection of his music. His A Day in the Park, done live, is an excellent example of why I love his CD – not just great finger picking, but a great song in its own rite.
* this link will take you to my story on Hotcha’s debut CD, Dust Bowl Roots: Songs for the New Depression, inspired by the iconic depression of the 1930s. This link will take you to Hotcha’s facebook site where there’s five songs queued up for you.