Stream Team: Reviews May 25 - June 7

Fred Penner + PIQSIQ @ Folk On The Rocks
May 30

The 40th anniversary of Yellowknife’s Folk On The Rocks was postponed until 2021, but its presentation of Fred Penner and PIQSIQ proved why it is regarded as one of Canada’s top festivals. Hosted by CBC’s Loren McGinnis and expertly moderated by the FOTR admin team, the show was seamless and charming—the audience was encouraged to interact with the performers, and were occasionally featured on the “big screen,” much to the delight of those selected. It was, by far, the best virtual music experience I’ve had thus far. 

And the music was off the charts. Penner weaved his magic from a cozy room in his house, playing all of his favourites (“The Cat Came Back,” “Sandwiches,”“I Hear The Music”) while charming the young audience (including my five-year-old son) with harmonica and jaw harp demonstrations. The highlight of the event was Yellowknife duo PIQSIQ, who enchanted everyone with their hypnotic loops, movement-inducing beats, and incredible throat singing. World-class entertainment, hosted by a world-class festival, zoomed into the comfort of your living room for less than a ten-spot. More of this, please. —Chuck Teed

Screen Shot 2020-05-30 at 4.29.15 PM.png
Screen Shot 2020-05-30 at 4.44.57 PM.png

Hey Ocean!
May 30

Returning to its early days starting out as part of a songwriters circle, the trio of Hey Ocean!—Ashleigh Ball, David Beckingham, and David Vertesi—shared songs and stories in this relaxing Saturday matinee. Going song-for-song through all the band’s records—and their respective solo efforts—the two-plus-hour show really captured what makes Hey Ocean! special. While no stranger to acoustic shows, hearing their classic upbeat pop music stripped of all other instruments and harmonies offered a different take on the band’s classics. Taking breaks to answer fan questions and tell some favourite moments from their 15-year career, it was the perfect soundtrack to cuddle up and while the afternoon away to. —Oliver Crook

Virtually Live with Charlotte Cornfield & Michael Bernard Fitzgerald
May 30

Calgary Folk Music Festival’s Virtually Live showcase on May 30 was a true festival experience, complete with exceptional performances, new discoveries, and a surprise or two along the way. Calgary’s Michael Bernard Fitzgerald kicked off the evening with a performance live from Festival Hall, quickly warming to the online environment after an initial set of Zoom nerves to deliver an intimate set of songs. Fitzgerald was followed by Toronto’s Charlotte Cornfield, who lived up to her billing as a songwriter to watch, delivering stripped down songs that accentuated her vulnerable lyrics and laid back, conversational vocals. The 150+ people watching home were also treated with a song by surprise guest Terra Lightfoot, who appeared in support of her upcoming Virtually Live performance. While the Calgary Folk team is still finding its feet in terms of overall show direction and pacing, Virtually Live has all the makings of a must-see music series. —CT

Screen Shot 2020-05-30 at 9.06.11 PM.png

Tim Baker
May 30

Playing his second night in a row, Tim Baker opened with his uplifting new track “Survivors” before running through a joyous set of piano ballads, acoustic rockers, and even a banjo duet with the extremely talented Nico Paulo. In lieu of leaving for an encore, Baker played his beautifully self-shot “Survivors” video before returning for three more songs. Most touching was the last track—“All Hands”—as Baker seemingly held back tears while video feeds of dancing fans crossed the screen. Once the charming hour-and-a-half was over, we were reminded why the former Hey Rosetta man is one of Canada’s most underrated artists. —OC

Screen Shot 2020-06-08 at 2.10.30 PM.png

Virtually Live presents Terra Lightfoot and Josyara
June 6

The Calgary Folk Music Festival cancelled the 41st edition of its event, but it hasn’t stopped the organization from bringing musicians together from around the world. The second edition of its Virtually Live series featured Hamilton’s Terra Lightfoot, who lived up to her billing as one to watch by delivering a powerhouse performance from the cozy confines of her apartment. She was joined by Sao Paulo’s Josyara, who put on a virtual guitar clinic while featuring songs from her 2018 album Mansa Fúria. Calgary hip-hop duo Dragon Fli Empire even popped in for a special guest appearance. It won’t fully replace wandering the festival grounds to seek out new music, but it will definitely hold us over until Calgary Folk returns in earnest. —CT

Screen Shot 2020-06-06 at 9.49.36 PM.png

Communism dance party
June 6

Saturday night’s Communism dance party was all about spreading love. Sprinkling their own feel-good psychedelic songs into medleys that covered everyone from Donna Summer to Gord Downie, Elvis Costello to Alabama Shakes, it was impossible not to forget the world and dance. Where the show truly took off was the visual effects, which completely recreated the live experience. Beamed onto a projector screen, the trio was playing in separate locations but perfectly on beat. Lights spun on the walls and mesmerized. The camera rotated and moved. Images and shapes flashed over the band as they rocked. It was spectacular. Communism promised a party, but what stood out was the free-flowing love. —OC

Screen Shot 2020-06-08 at 9.53.20 AM.png

Beau Dixon
June 7

Technical difficulties and performance nerves are the new norm for artists in this era of online shows; the true test is how one adjusts to the technology, and captures the audience’s attention and imagination. Beau Dixon rose to the challenge, and in the process, put on one hell of a show. Performing his 2002 release From Here To East City in its entirety, Dixon quickly settled into a comfortable groove after a few glitches, combining his effortless vocal delivery with an intense energy that radiated from the screen. Songs such as “Hangin On” and “Let’s Start Over” jumped from the speakers as Dixon pounded his keyboards (he also played guitar and harmonica), leaving him drenched with sweat by the end of his 75-minute set. Once he harnesses the full potential of the digital realm, Dixon will be one to watch. —CT