It had been a good eight years since the last time I'd been to the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. I don't remember much about that night; I was given a ticket at the last minute by an acquaintance of mine because her whole family had passes but her older sister couldn't make it. I huddled under a makeshift shelter of a tarp and two metal posts, and in the cold I made small-talk and munched on a few snacks. The only musical acts I can remember were Russian folk musicians with giant, colorful, oversized instruments - there was a man with a triangle-shaped guitar that would have been larger than him if he had stood it upright - and Long John Baldry, who I remember a few people jeering at when he had the nerve, the outright nerve to play "In The Pines," which had recently been on the post-mortem Cobain effort, Nirvana Unplugged. I enjoyed myself, but I can't recall much else about that evening.
This year, my two brothers and I went as my younger brother's birthday present, to see Ani DiFranco and David Byrne. They were late arriving; I sat on the curb and pretended to read a book as I waited for them. When we got in and finally settled at the very top of the hill, with plates of pyrogi and cabbage rolls, I had already missed one of the people I was excited to see. When Ani DiFranco came onstage, just her and a stand-up bass player (whose name, while very amusing, currently excapes me). It was good, and I enjoyed myself, but there were times when I found my mind wandering after the third or fourth song in a row with the standard Ani guitar riff and similar syllable stresses.
When it got darker, my youngest brother and I huddled under the blanked I'd packed in, and we sat and watched as David Byrne took the stage in a set of blue coveralls, with a string section to his left and what looked like a regular rock band to his right. The music he played for us that night was so varied and so rich, and it included: a Verdi tenor piece; Spanish, French, and Italian songs; a version of The Talking Heads' Psycho Killer done only with strings and a xylophone to back him up; and a "live interpretation of a remix" he'd collaborated on with two London djs. The best part of the night for me, however, was when he pulled out all the stops for "Once In A Lifetime," and all three of us boys were singing along, even the one who can't sing very well but damned if he's not going to have fun trying.
It was incredible; it shot a good ways into my All-Time Top Ten live performances. I can barely resist the urge to get my hands on a bootlegged copy of the performance, to play whenever I want to relive it. And when I want to rub it in to Jago.