The Calgary Folk Festival – 16 of 100

This weekend, James went to his first music festival. The Calgary Folk Festival is pretty much the most baby/kid-friendly festival in the history of time–there are a lot of cool-looking fedora-sporting parents to be found. I think you could find someone of every age there – from in-utero to 90 or so. There’s something special about this festival and how they appeal to every age group…how they manage to be wholesome and cool at the same time.

How does a five-month-old have fun at a music festival? you ask. Well we just rolled around a blanket together like we always do – just this time in a beer garden with some blues or hip hop or indie rock blowing through the trees overhead.

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A few things made this music festival venture an even bigger success as new parents.

#1: We got a babysitter for the first time on Friday night. This was a big hump for me to get over. I don’t think it was seamless – from the report, James cried and he was wide awake at midnight when I got home. However, Dan and I danced with abandon and had a few cocktails like the good old days. We had fun – a lot of fun. For the record: you should really see Kid Koala’s Vinyl Vaudeville if you have the chance.

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Want to know a secret? There’s vodka in this lemonade.

#2: A sleep revolution is happening in our house. James has been waking up only once in the night to eat and sleeping until…wait for it…7 a.m. and sometimes later! This means that I have slept for five and even six hour stretches for the first time in five months!!!! He is also suddenly taking long naps – like longer than an hour long. Sometimes two hours.

I don’t want to go on about this sleep thing – but for a new mom, it feels like a miracle. So for all those new moms out there – I just want to tell you that with some dedicated work, this kind of thing is an actual possibility – not just the stuff of your wildest dreams. (And if anyone wants to talk to me about baby sleep and naps for hours on end, give me a call 🙂 No really, I’m serious.)

So, yes, after our big night out, Dan and I actually woke up before James on Saturday morning. Then we loaded him up in the stroller and off we went for a full day of folk festing.

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Back when I was pregnant, Dan kept talking about Folk Fest. It’s been our favorite Calgary event ever since we moved here. “We’re going to folk fest,” Dan kept saying – as if going to Folk Fest represented our ability to remain ourselves in the face of parenthood.

Does everyone considering parenthood fear the sacrifices they will have to make? I did. Before I had James, sometimes I would try to envision having a kid and think: A part of my life ends there. And something else begins. What exactly do you have to give up when this tiny being enters your life?

You’re going to have to give up some things- like sleep and your skinny jeans – at least for a while. You’re going to have to give up some of your independence and your space. You’re going to have offer up your very heart. It’s going to be hard sometimes. Some days you will want to cry your eyes out and some days you will. And sometimes, it will be transcendent.

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But if you’re willing to be a little bit flexible – if you’re willing to let your little one nap on the go (even if the sleep books warn against it) – and you’re willing to go home a little bit earlier on Saturday night – I’m here to tell you that the Calgary Folk Festival is not one of those things.

And at one point, when the little one is sleeping in the carrier against your chest and your bobbing up and down to the funk band on stage in the clearing behind the crowd, you’ll look around and see all these other parents throwing balls to their kids, chasing their kids and one couple standing beside a little pea pod while their toddler naps – and you’ll see how much fun they are having – being parents, doing what they love to do.

You’ll think: I get to share this life in a whole new way- I get to share what I love about this life – I get to discover through their eyes. And for everything I give up, I get all this crazy-making joy and love.

It’s not such a bad deal.

Bright shiny new things

It’s still dark outside. Cold. I’m tucked under a cozy blanket. I’ve always loved the lonely way of morning. Just me and the darkness and my coffee and the blanket. Somehow this time of day seems to belong to me a little bit more than the rest. 

Good morning. 🙂

This week I am thinking about doing new things. Things that drum up the heart. That scare us through and through.

On Sunday I hosted a two hour radio program. I spent all week preparing and got totally swept away by the project until I was lost. I literally could not tear my eyes away. Listening to music, watching videos, arranging the songs and re-arranging. I wish I felt like this more often–completely committed and immersed and just a tiny bit insane. Something to strive for, I suppose.

I found so many inspiring things. This video by M83.


M83 ‘Wait’ Official video from The Creators Project on Vimeo.

A group called The Wonder Revolution. “More than a band, The Wonder Revolution is a collective that features musicians and visual artists, all seeking a return to wonder.” I myself am concerned with wonder, so I really love this concept. (And do I adore the spazzy white-haired gnome man on the front page of their website? Yes indeed I do.)

Also, The Cinematic Orchestra put out an album called “In Motion, pt 1” that “provide[s] soundtracks to or musical re-imaginings of seminal work by great avant-garde film-makers.” This is really neat. The song (top) and video for “Manhatta” below. Mute the movie and then play them together.

Sometimes (often actually) people just amaze me.

We spent Sunday skiing at Lake Louise, a mostly-sunny day in the most spectacular setting you can possibly imagine. (You guys. The mountains…)

Our friend Cindy drove us out and we talked a lot about work, who we are, and how we’d like to be. It’s always refreshing to be around someone as self-reflective and honest as Cindy is.

I’ve learned a lot about myself this year. I realize that if there is an external deadline (like a two hour radio show I have to host) I will work my tail off to make it awesome. But if it’s just me holding myself to a deadline, I will procrastinate to holy heck. It takes a while to fully accept the things we’d rather not about ourselves. But I think we must so that we can figure out ways around them. Right?

Cindy’s the bomb!

 We got back and ate our weekly batch of pho (little bowl of heaven from the Vietnamese restaurant down the street) and then my calm ski-pho bliss rapidly disintegrated into a hummingbird-paced heart and a crazed bundle of nerves. I mean… what business do I have being on the radio?

I used to host a reading series in San Francisco, and about an hour before the show this always happened to me. I would turn into a crazy person. Dan would patiently help me gather up my things, complete last minute tasks, tell me I looked pretty. And on Sunday it was the same. Me jumping in and out of the shower commanding him to Turn on the computer! Hook up the printer! Print that! No not that–get out of the way–let me do it! 

I don’t know why he puts up with me.


You’re going to be fine, he said. You worked really hard on this. (It’s moments like this–when you’ve gone out of your damn mind and your partner still loves you–that you fall in love a little bit more.)

I made it through. I spoke, I played the music. There were a few glitches, but mostly, it was pretty great.

That night I was exhausted, but I couldn’t sleep. All the adrenaline still pumping through my veins.

I have learned that fear can really mean you’re on to something good. But I’m still figuring out how wander in the direction of fear and wrestle with it. That’s another thing I’ve been thinking about: how to be brave.

I’m leaving you with my very favorite song from Sunday’s show. Antony and the Johnson’s Swanlights. It’s heartbreakingly beautiful.

“Living is a golden thing. It means everything.” Is anything more true?

(Note: this is the video I could find. The track I played is from their new live album Cut the World, and I highly recommend tracking down that version if you can.)

The Calgary Folk Festival

Today I am thinking about all kinds of things. I’m thinking about the random things I really love, like podcasts and movie trailers and bar-noculars.

Dan and I were gifted our own pair of bar-noculars on our recent trip to Ontario by Nate and Dana, (who are basically the best people in the world.) Dana found them while going through her grandmother’s estate. 

We took the bar-noculars on their virgin run this weekend to the Calgary Folk Festival.

We sat next to what turned out to be a really great couple and (I hope) new friends. Their names are Cindy and Roger, and they are rad. We saw The Barr Brothers, Charles Bradley (the Screaming Eagle of Soul) and his Extraordinaires, Beruit and Chris Isaak.

Chris Isaak wore a bright red suit with sequins and sang Wicked Game. Charles Bradley actually flapped his arms like eagle wings at the end of every song, then got down in the crowd delivering hugs all around. And I heard that The Barr Brothers and Beruit dropped acid later that night and rode a mechanical bull. (Can’t confirm it. But I heard it.)

Anyway. This is a really neat festival. At the smaller stages, you can catch “workshops” where musicians are paired up with each other, and they all kind of riff and jam off of each other. One of our favorites was Shad, Mercedes Peon, Rae Spoon and Shooglenifty (does a band name get any better than Shooglenifty?  Shooooooglenifty.) These were radically different artists (from hip top to Scottish fiddle music, to indie rock-ish) so you can imagine how surprising and awesome it was. That was the fun. Just stumbling upon things…. like these chaps:


(we danced a lot)

I also saw Gillian Welch perform White Rabbit. Which kind of blew me away.


I walked home alone (Dan didn’t come that night), thinking about all the things I’ve seen in this life. On Friday night a new acquaintance asked me what the best live show I’ve seen was. My immediate answer was Sigur Ros. And then I had ten more answers on top of that. And then there’s all the non-musical wonders. Those stories are for another day.  I was just all filled up with it. How our world is full of things to see. Things that will lift you, astound you, inspire you. They’re all around you, there for the taking, if you just step out and look around…

Girl Crush: Merrill Garbus

Yesterday, the tUnE-yArDs tweeted their new video for My Country.

The tUnE-yArDs are so awesome just thinking about them makes my heart thump harder in my chest. Their album Who Kill is a powerful thing, and they are even mightier live. Merrill can sing like a warrior. I’d say their music is not always easy to like (Dan says it makes him anxious) but I feel like it’s daring me not to like it, and then throwing its hands in the air and saying I don’t give a f*ck what you think! this is what I am and I love the tUnE-yArDs for making no apologies.

Their music is like a call for freedom and expression–and they are not always pretty about it. I find that refreshing.

The video is so defiant–from the fierce looks on the kids’ faces to the warpaint smeared over their noses. Just try and stop us! they seem pound out on the drums. I’ve always loved this song (once submitted it for Song of the Month) and the video raised it to the level of empowering battle cry. As Merrill reclaims the lyrics from My Country Tis of Thee, she sings about living in a country that is anything but a Sweet Land of Liberty.

“How come I cannot see my future within your arms?…
…I never told you what to do
but then you put me in some box.”

So Merrill takes her own words and turns them on their heads. Kids trapped in boxes, and yet shouting, banging, dancing, sticking their tongues out at us. They create their own world in that box. And it’s colorful and strange and beautiful, isn’t it? Of course at the end, they shake themselves free, pick up their heart and walk out the door. Merrill seems to want to challenge us all to do the same. After all, The worst thing about living a lie is just wondering when they’ll find out.

(another one of her this-is-who-we-are-we-don’t-care-what-you-think videos. I love the aesthetic she’s created.)