Four great days of glorious sunshine, fantastic food, packed beer gardens, and incredible music, the Calgary Folk Music Festival has always been a highlight of the summer (really, of the entire year!).

The 33rd edition of the annual festival was no exception. Four sold-out days means over 60,000 fans, volunteers, artists and staff took to Calgary’s Prince’s Island Park for the city’s favourite music event.

The best part of the festival for me has always been the side stage workshops, where artists from all different backgrounds and genres come together to collaborate and jam on each other’s songs. How often do you see an artist rapping over celtic fusion?

As these workshops often standout as the weekend highlights, this “Best Of” offers my favourite moments (be it concerts or workshops) from the 2012 Calgary Folk Fest.

 

Who: Blitz the Ambassador (Ghana/Brooklyn)

When & Where: ‘Funk and Disorderly’ workshop, Friday, 4:30pm, Stage 4

Blitz the Ambassador was all over the festival, including the after-parties, but the stand-out performance was playing lead role at the Funk & Disorderly workshop with Shad, Shakura S’Aida, and Melvin Gibbs. Smooth flow and high energy had the crowd rightfully riled up. A killer choreographed horn section and triple-time verses put Blitz the Ambassador on the “surprise discovery” list.

 

 

Who: Shad (London, ON) & Shooglenifty (Scotland)

When & Where: ‘Tech No Prisoners’ workshop, Sunday, 12:55pm, Stage 5

Credit to Rae Spoon and Mercedes Peon who filled out workshop, but this one was stolen by Scotish veterans Shooglenifty and Canada’s hip-hop star, Shad. It’s not often that celtic alt-rock and hip-hop come together; let alone in such seamless fashion.

Shad jumped in effortlessly on the Shooglenifty songs (to overwhelming approval of the audience), before teaching the scottish band the rhythms and melodies to his hip-hop tracks. Extra points to Shooglenifty for their versatility. As far as genre-blending jams, this one got two-thumbs.

 

Who: Sarah Jarosz (Austin)

When & Where: Everywhere. Seriously.

From her side-stage concert to her main-stage slot (opening for Randy Newman), to the incredible workshop with Abigail Washburn, Junior Brown, and Joy Kills Sorrow, Austin’s rising star Sarah Jarosz was on fire. The multi-instrumentalist Jarosz traded easily between mandolin, guitar and banjo, with a powerful voice and old-time folk sound.

Her accompanying band Alex Hargreaves (violin) and Nathaniel Smith (cello) were equally as talented, as the young trio played with precision beyond their years.

 

Who: Gillian Welch & David Rawlings

When & Where: Saturday, 9:15pm, Main Stage

Not much needs to be said about the songwriting talents of these two. Welch charmed the audience with her southern accent and soothing country songs. Rawlings impressed with some of the flashier acoustic country guitar solos I’ve ever witnessed.

With the two dressed up in their sparkling white outfits it felt like a shot 50 years into the past;  and how I imagine a Woodstock-era Ian and Sylvia show might have been. Welch and Rawlings proved why they’ve been at the top of the Americana game for quite some time.

 

As always, a big thank you goes out to the wonderful people at the Calgary Folk Festival and all the volunteers for putting on such an incredible festival. Keep up with the Calgary Folk Fest on Facebook and Twitter.

Were you at the Calgary Folk Festival this year? Have any highlights that impressed? Post them below!