Monday, July 19, 2010

got the post-festival blues .....

lots and lots of photos (some of them REALLY good) are here. you're welcome to take some and if you can donate, say, 5 bucks for each (three for $12 ) or whatever you can afford, that'd help me survive the hst. just don't claim them as your own. thanks.

A weekend at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, and it’s almost possible to believe that everything will be right with the world, that all people of all nations can learn to live in peace and harmony with respect for diversity of gender, sexual orientation, size, age, ethnic and cultural diversity. There’s music and musicians from all over the world in a beautiful park setting with oceans and mountains nearby, but more than that there’s a spirit of co-operation, of watching out for each other, and a rare feeling of satisfaction that results from such a shared experience. Those who’ve arrived early enough to stake out turf for the evening mainstage performances get to know their new neighbours, and there’s an unspoken agreement to watch out for each other’s stuff as folks wander around the other 7 stages throughout the day. Kids are safe and cared for – there’s an entire musical stage and fun play area designated just for them with face painting, clay making, arts, crafts, and this year a climbing wall. It’s as if we really can create paradise on earth.

Then comes Monday, and the harsh reality of a world whose gears spin entirely the opposite way. Getting to work on time to make the paycheque to pay the bills takes precedence over the weekend stresses: finding the right stage at the right time with adequate lawn space to experience your favourite musician or wondering what’s going on at the other stages and whether you’ve got time to run across the park to catch the last few minutes of a set that’s ending ten minutes after the one you’re listening to.

Even if you don’t work a nine to five job, I’ll bet that whatever you had to concern yourself with on Monday morning after the festival wasn’t nearly as much fun as whatever you dealt with over the weekend.
My main concern, at the moment I write this, is two-fold. One - isn’t it illegal, or at least ignorant and cruel, to allow a BC Ferry to leave the dock only moments after it’s been announced that a pod of Orcas has been sighted on both sides of the boat? And secondly - while I appreciate the new wifi experience that BC Ferries offers (though for the life of my I can’t understand why the Germans who built this ship didn’t put electrical outlets in the area designated for people who want to work, or why Germans rather than Canadians built this ship), why are there absolutely no email addresses listed for those of us concerned about such things?

Thank goodness there are folks with Monday to Friday jobs so that EVERYTHING is about making sure the gears run smoothly (we’ll clean the Killer Whale blood off the ship after we make sure our paying customers, who are a captive audience anyways), get their money’s worth and don’t clog up our email with complaints about vessels leaving ten minutes late. Ah, the Profit Motive. Isn’t it grand.

While it’s lovely to escape, for a weekend, into a world that promises so much, at the same time it’s frustrating when such an opportunity, with tens of thousands of people present, doesn’t include any acknowledgement of some really really important things.

One – WE ALL LIVE ON STOLEN NATIVE LAND. There are very few celebrations, events, or ribbons cuttings that don’t invite representatives from the First Nations, whose unceded territory we are all guests upon, to perform some sort of ceremony acknowledging that fact. Heck it happened at the national radio conference I recently attended, I mention it with every introduction to my radio show, and we have Rose Henry or someone acknowledge it as we commence the annual Golden Piggie Awards. Just a simple acknowledgement will do, a show of respect for the history of this land and its peoples, though one would of course expect much much more from the Vancouver Folk Fest.

Two – Why were there no Canadian indigenous performers in the line-up with the exception of Elisapie Isaac, from the Nunavik region of northern Quebec? There are many vibrant and colourful indigenous musicians in this province, on this west coast. Why couldn’t our fabulous, world class, international music include them?

Three - I’m not thrilled with the beer garden – not because I have any aversion to beer, but just because some people shouldn’t drink it in public. I appreciate that the festival needs money, especially since it depended on gambling money that’s no longer available, but the beer garden is just another form of gambling really, isn’t it? With the beer garden comes an entirely new level of security – professionally trained guards and, for the first time in about 15 years of working this festival, actual real live cops in the field, and even backstage in the kitchen.

Four – In case anyone hasn’t noticed, we’re living on a planet with a Gulf of Oil explosion that threatens to destroy all the earth’s oceans eventually. It’s six months after the Haiti earthquake and nothing has really changed there except the vampire capitalistas have moved in to capitalize on the disaster and re-enslave the first nation of slaves that freed themselves. The people of Gaza are being starved to death, and tortured. And the 21st Humanitarian Aid mission to Cuba is preparing to challenge the US blockade on Wednesday, in an act of civil disobedience that’s most remarkable. Closer to home, the Jericho Beach park pond is looking small and lacking in oxygen. The mountains are carved with new cutblocks for yet more monster homes that will require more than their fair share of earth’s resources. Our provincial coffers have been robbed to pay for the Olympics, and there are more and more homeless people every day because the minimum wage is still 8 bucks an hour (6 if you’re new on the work scene) and rental housing is at a premium. Any or all of these might have been discussed from the mainstage, or indeed any of the stages, over the course of the weekend. Of course folks like emma’s revolution, Tao Seeger, and the Haitian band Boukman Eksperyans made some references to some of the many crises we humans face, but I remember much more critical banter from the hosts on the main stage during the comparatively benign years of the NDP than these past fascist years of the BC Fiberals. What are you afraid of, festival staff, that people might ask for their money back or not return next year? Get real – politicians know all about short memories, and those of us who really do care will be drawn to re-invest in the folk tradition of constructive criticism and world awareness that has presumably given way to some crazy attempt to please everyone. An impossible task at best. Silence IS complicity.

It’s kinda too bad that the truly free-market craft sale, a tradition of the folk fest that’s grown increasingly over the years to occupy more and more space along the outside of the festival fence, was adopted as part of the festival. Vendors now pay $280 for a weekend stall space, and mostly they seem happy about that. They’re set up in an alley way created on the grass that’s between two fences, vendors on each side along the fence and a walkway in between. There’s even an ATM and porta potties in their area. They don’t have to pack up all their stuff every night, festival security watches over it. And they’re not on the dirt pathway anymore. But their anarchist free market has been reigned in, they’re minus the grassy knoll at the west end of the park where the drummers used to gather (and maybe they did this year, I didn’t check, but certainly the atmosphere is different). Capitalism, eh?

That’s about all I have to complain or otherwise rant about. The festival is a truly wonderful experience where we’re all encouraged to reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost. Those of us who volunteer at the festival learn about team spirit and the importance of cooperation and communication. We’re backstage mingling with the musicians, standing in the same lineup for the same food. We know that it’s our work that keeps the festival going. We provide a sense of security, we do our best to make sure your children and possessions aren’t subject to just anyone who happens to want to hop the fence on a whim. We sort through your recycling, we clean up the site, we answer questions, share our programs, watch your children.

The festival was one of the first experiences in my life where I learned that another world is possible. It always takes me a day or two to adjust, to re-enter a world where ferries must run on time – killer whales be damned.