Block Heater: Five to see at Calgary Folk Fest's winter festival

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Not unlike its Prince’s Island festivities in July, the Calgary Folk Music Festival’s Block Heater offers a feast for the musically curious. It also offers (mostly) indoor venues, which is a nice touch in February. Twenty-seven artists from four continents and eight countries will play Thursday to Saturday in Inglewood and downtown spots, including an outdoor tent at Olympic Plaza.

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The lineup includes headliners such as Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq, Santa Cruz Americana trio The Devil Makes Three, Toronto’s Daniel Romano’s Outfit and Halifax singer-songwriter Rich Aucoin and Calgary folk fest favourites such as Montreal’s Dominique Fils-Aime and folkie mainstays such as Quebec’s Le Vent Du Nord. But that’s just the tip of this musical iceberg.

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Here are our picks for five to see at the Calgary Folk Music Festival’s Block Heater.

MOONRiiVR
Moonriivre is playing the Calgary Folk Music Festival’s Block Heater. Photo by Colin Medley cal

Who: MOONRiiVR

When: Thursday, Feb. 15, 9:20 p.m.

Where: Festival Hall

Who says the day of the supergroup is over? Granted, Toronto’s MOONRiiVR is of the indie-band variety but benefits from the combined talents, history and efforts of Wooden Sky frontman Gavin Gardiner and Lindi Ortega/Dwayne Gretzky guitarist “Champagne” James Robertson. The two got together during the pandemic to pen songs that, while perhaps not completely retro, show deep reverence for strains from the past, including 1950s rock ‘n’ roll. They are joined by Corb Lund/Kathleen Edwards percussionist Lyle Molzan and The Weather Station/Basia Bulat bassist Ben Whitely.

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Jolene Marie
Jolene Marie is playing the Calgary Folk Music Festival’s Block Heater. Photo submitted cal

Who: Jolene Marie

When: Friday, Feb. 16, 8 p.m.

Where: Central United Church

On her stripped-back 2023 EP Honey, Calgary’s Jolene Marie offers haunting singer-songwriter fare that highlights her accomplished vocals and understated roots, dream-pop accompaniment. It all works exceptionally well on the smoky, banjo-fuelled ballad So Cool and the sad and delicate Greyhound Station, which are both mesmerizingly quiet and powerful.

This is the Kit
This is the Kit is playing the Calgary Folk Music Festival’s Block Heater. Photo by Cederic Oberlin Photo by Cedric OBERLIN /cal

Who: This is the Kit

When: Friday, Feb. 15, 10:15 p.m.

Where: Central United Church

The domain of British songwriter Kate Stables, who currently resides in France, This is the Kit have been alt-folk critics’ darlings long before their breakout third album, Bashed Out, which was produced by the National’s Aaron Dessner. Released last year, Stables’ sixth outing, Careful of Your Keepers, continues to showcase her knack for penning sparse, hypnotic unhinged folk stunners such as Take You To Sleep and the dreamy, deceptively sweet-sounding Doomed or More Doomed.

U.S. Girls
U.S. Girls is playing the Calgary Folk Music Festival’s Block Heater. Photo by Emma McIntyre cal

Who: U.S. Girls

When: Saturday, Feb. 17, 6:30 p.m.

Where: The Palace Theatre

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Toronto’s Meg Remy, who performs under the moniker U.S. Girls, dropped a surprise live album that kicks off with a highly disco-ized 2018 track M.A.H. before launching into the endearingly funky Pearly Gates. Both are highly danceable, as are a number of the tracks found on her hook-filled 2023 album Bless This Mess, and should give some indication of the energy levels the Palace’s audience will witness on Saturday night.

Vieux Farka Toure
Vieux Farka Toure is playing the Calgary Folk Music Festival’s Block Heater. Photo by Kiss Diouara cal

Who: Vieux Farka Toure

When: Saturday, Feb. 17, 10:15 p.m.

Where: Central United Church

As the son of one of Africa’s most renowned musicians, the late Ali Farka Toure, Vieux Farka Toure comes from Malian music royalty and doesn’t shy away from his rich family history. His most recent record, 2022’s Ali, had the guitarist join forces with internationally spiced American psych-rock trio Khruangbin to pay tribute to his legendary father by revisiting eight of his songs. The results are both trippy and reverent, highlighting Toure’s astonishing, fleet-fingered guitar runs.

The Block Heater runs from Thursday to Saturday. Visit calgaryfolkfest.com.

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