2018 Calgary Folk Fest Awards

WORDS: BRETT FILLMORE
PHOTOS: CLAIRE BENNETT

Calgary Folk Music Festival wrapped up on Sunday, complete with an obligatory Nenshi sighting and everything. Last year’s awards were called inaugural, and traditions have to start somewhere, right? So, for the 39th annual Calgary Folk Fest, here are the 2nd annual B&K Calgary Folk Fest awards.

Best Cover – Spencer Burton
Burton took the audience’s breath away with a stinging version of “Last Thing I Needed First Thing This Morning”. Honourable mention to Felicity Williams of Bahamas and her gorgeous take on Curtis Mayfield’s “The Makings of You”.


Highest Energy – A Tribe Called Red
No act came close to making people move like A Tribe Called Red. The climactic hoop dancer finale was electric.

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Lowest Energy
– Destroyer
Enigmatic Dan Bejar strummed his way through a solo acoustic set like it was a contest to be as subdued as possible. The time between each song turned into a staring contest while he sipped whiskey and gazed silently at the crowd for minutes at a time.

Charmingest Maritimers – Alvvays
Come for the catchy songs, stay because they’re so damn likeable.

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Best Horn Section – Barr Brothers
The brass ensemble that joined them for their Saturday night set, enmeshed with the stand-up bass and pedal steel, created the best crescendos of the weekend.

Best Voice – Ben Caplan & The Casual Smokers
Caplan’s inimitable baritone boom is captivating, especially in his storytelling spoken word pieces.


Best Homemade Instruments – Chad VanGaalen
True to form, hometown boy Chad VanGaalen played an entire set with only instruments hand built by himself.

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Biggest Mystery – Neko Case
Case was in the midst of a killer set, but confusingly cut it short by a half hour. To add to the intrigue, none other than K.D. Lang was present at the side of the stage, unseen and unannounced. There’s a lot of unanswered questions here.


Chillest Afternoon Vibes – Sudan Archives
If you were nursing a hangover, Sudan Archives’ 90s R&B grooves were going to cure what ailed you.

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Least Shit Taken
– Sarah Shook and The Disarmers
She wielded her left-handed hollow body Gretsch like a weapon, and commanded the stage for some boozy old school country like a total boss. Ice cold.

Best Leisure Suit – Damien Jurado  
Sure, his cutting acoustic songwriting was on point, but how could you not be distracted by his fashion choices? Was he going to pop up and do the funky chicken? Or was he going to repair somebody’s carburetor?  

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Best Protest Music – Saul Williams
This guy’s the real deal—a rapper, a slam poet, and an activist in all the best ways.

Funniest Inter-Song Banter – Bahamas
Afie Jurvanen was a crowd pleaser extraordinaire not only because of his ultra-smooth, feather-touch guitar playing, but because he is downright hilarious on the mic. I want to have a beer with this guy so bad.


Best of Thursday – Land of Talk
Limited and under-attended, Thursdays at Folk Fest feel a bit stilted. Those sleeping on Thursday’s lineup, however, missed a scorcher of a set from Land of Talk, with Elizabeth Powell playing the role of show stealer.

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See you next year, Calgary.









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