"Each soft brush of the crash cymbal and each subtle tap of a bass string felt as light as air, and only Lindeman's voice kept everything from dissolving."
The crowd waddled in from the rain. We'd been standing in a makeshift queue while the staff struggled with a new ticketing system. Most of us had umbrellas. Most of us. The Festival Village was quiet and largely empty, the scattered lawn furniture waiting patiently for good weather to give them appeal. Food truck staff made themselves busy behind their counters, arranging their own brands of kitsch as they saw fit. It was an inauspicious start to the Festival. The rain had soaked into the city, muting its rhythm, and in the tent under the old trees in the park it felt like the den of a sleeping bear.
The Weather Station's Tamara Lindeman glided on stage carrying her enormous guitar, the ghost of Joni Mitchell following her. Her songs were astonishingly delicate constructions of balletic finger-picking backed by an almost non-existent rhythm section. It was anti-music, mere suggestions of sound that almost had us convinced that we had imagined the songs into being. Each soft brush of the crash cymbal and each subtle tap of a bass string felt as light as air, and only Lindeman's voice kept everything from dissolving.
Modern folk music is often concerned with intense intimacy and personal exploration, and Lindeman's ideas cling closely to this tradition. Hidden meanings in banal conversations, long drives into the Canadian wilderness and connecting past with present fuelled her performance. Not everything was decipherable, but we absorbed the broader ideas, and the music was so lovely it didn't really matter.
The romanticism of folk can make a performer seem distant or quixotic, their human concerns lost in the ether. By waxing lyrical on her love of mangoes the mask slipped and Lindeman forced us to reconnect with her and her band. It was a nice moment.
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Through panels you could see water dripping from the eaves. The perpetual motion of each drop growing fat and letting go mirrored Lindeman's steady patterns as her hand hovered patiently over the strings, strumming and plucking with unconscious poise.
It was a quiet start to the festival, but not a lifeless one. When we left the tent, the rain had stopped. Even the weather approved.