Steve's Blog
Fast Times at Rogue Folk "High"! (and my latest Celtic Connection article)
Thursday March 5, 2015

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Across The Universe to Planet Folk and back (Celtic Connection article March 2015)

Star-date: 20150221. Planet Folk. Somewhere a long way from here. A darkened room full of expectant explorers, all a little groggy from traveling in space and time - and with their ears brim full of music, music, music. The lights come up, our intrepid Canadian leader - one Aengus Finnan - reaches the podium and introduces his fellow country man, Col. Chris Hadfield, NASA Astronaut, Engineer, and Musician. Chris takes the assembled "chosen" on a remarkable journey, from launching pad at Cape Kennedy, through the stratosphere and out into space. Floating in a tin can, as the David Bowie song goes. Chris recorded that song - Space Oddity - inside the International Space Station. Bowie told him later that it had him in tears, and that it was the most moving rendition of the song he'd ever heard. (Chris had been taught the chords by PEI singer Lennie Gallant  a few weeks earlier, according to Lennie's nephew, Rowen, who mentioned this during the official showcase of his band Ten Strings & A Goatskin the night before Chris' keynote address. You can catch this fine young trad trio at The Rogue on May 30th, by the way.) Chris repeatedly emphasized the importance of music as a communication medium across time, space and language. "Give me a guitar and within ten minutes I could have any people anywhere on the planet smiling and joining in with a song," he quipped. With his faithful hinged-neck Larrivee travel guitar velcroed to his space "bunk", he would compose songs, sing and share music with Russian cosmonauts aboard the I.S.S. Back on earth he frequently teams up with Col. Kady Coleman on flute in his acoustic quartet, which showcased later that day. Kady plays on The Chieftains' 50th anniversary CD / DVD Voice Of Ages, playing a slow air on flute while floating around that tin can, before Paddy Moloney joins in and the band takes over. It was a magical, inspirational keynote address, illustrated with slides and movies and anecdotes - and a little music too. It made our 1,500 mile journey thoroughly worthwhile - even if we hadn't heard any great music! But of course, Margaret & I heard heaps of great music that weekend, from Quebec, Wales, Tennessee, PEI, Teesside, Vancouver, New Zealand, and even Estonia (oh, those Estonian bagpipes!!)

Crash-landing back on earth was - thankfully - a lot less traumatic than Chris' customary descent into the desert of Kazakstan (a soft landing in Seattle and a drive up I-5 is much easier to bear!) Like Chris, we brought home musical memories and new friendships from Folk Alliance 2015 (subtitled, Planet Folk.) But we were soon thrust back into the maelstrom of life on The Edge, with stellar concerts featuring some of the finest musicians on planet earth at The Rogue - and stages beyond - a radio Fundrive and festivals of Quebecois and Celtic music - enough to fill a space flight journal or two! Within 36 hours of "splashdown" we were hosting the marvellous soul singer Karen Savoca and BC's Shari Ulrich at The Rogue. The next night Lunasa introduced their new fiddler, Colin Farrell (not that one! This guy is from Manchester, and he's brilliant!) at the Blueshore Stage at Capilano University. Next came two extraordinary nights with Canadian songwriter Fred Eaglesmith and his travelling roadshow - with my CiTR Fundrive edition "live" on the morning between. The next day we set out for Festival du Bois in Maillardville, with great sets by the aforementioned Lennie Gallant, by BC fiddle prodigy Jocelyn Pettit, and Quebec's wonderful "gold diggers" Les Chercheurs d'Or, and more. There was also a lovely rolling session involving - amongst others - Michael Viens and Rosie Carver from Blackthorn with local accordionista John Krieger, fiddler Deborah Jackson, two visiting Breton musicians from Seattle, and the wonderful young fiddler Michael Burnyeat
Now I'm writing this column in the lobby at Cap, listening to Welsh troubadour Martyn Joseph through the in-house speakers. Tomorrow it's Craig Cardiff's sold out show at CBC Studio 700, then another 4 hour radio show on Saturday on  a contra dance that evening, and the unlikely yet wondrous blend of Brazilian and Appalachian music concocted by Matuto from NYC at The Rogue the next night! A "diet" of (ArrogantWorms on March 13th at St. James Hall (3214 West 10th Avenue) heralds the arrival of the heart of Celticfest Vancouver, with a Ceilidh at The Imperial on Main Street on the 14th featuring The Paperboys and Mark Sullivan and co., and the St. Patrick's Day Parade on the 15thRoguelele (shillelagh?) night is next, on the 17th, with 150 ukulele players jamming and singing along.
On March 19th Donegal's magnificent Altan make a welcome return to these parts - at North Vancouver's Centennial Theatre, where they last played here in 1999! Their brand new CD, The Widening Gyre, is named after a line from a Yeats poem - sung on the new record by guest vocalist Mary Chapin CarpenterAltan have played at The Rogue 7 times, dating back to 1989 at the Wise Hall. Mairead ni Mhaonaigh stills sounds impeccable on fiddle and her gorgeously delicate voice has lost none of its resonance and beauty lo these 26 years. Ciaran Tourish adds fiddle and Martin Tourish is the new accordion player in the band. The rhythm section is Ciaran Curran on bouzouki and Daithi Sproule on guitar (and vocals). The new CD may have been recorded in Nashville with such luminaries as Tim O'Brien, Alison Brown, Darol Anger & Jerry Douglas joining them to explore the common musical ground between Ireland and Appalachia, but it still sounds quintessentially Altan - honed in the hills and loch shores of Co. Donegal. Come and feel the Emerald Isle filling the sonic landscape of the Centennial Theatre on March 19th! Tickets are available from their Box Office 604-984-4484, as well as at Prussin Music on Broadway & Dunbar and at all Rogue events.
Old Time music with deliciously beautiful harmonies will fill St. James Hall on March 20th with Victoria's The Sweet Lowdown - three lovely young women who were a big hit at The Mission Folk Festival last summer and who have become the darlings of the BBC since then. On Sunday March 22nd come and hear the new sound of Irish trad. with the Limerick quintet Goitse at The Rogue at St. James hall. Kevin Crawford of Lunasa assures me that it's pronounced "g'witcha"; it means "come here" in Gaelic, apparently.) This superb young band recently won Trad Group of the Year in the Live Ireland Awards, and was voted Group of the Year by the Chicago Irish American News. Based on the powerful rhythms of All-Ireland Champion bodhran player Colm Phelan and the driving guitar of Colm O'Kane, the band features Aine McGeeney on vocals and fiddle, accordionist Tadhg O'Meachair and mandolin / banjo virtuoso James Harvey. Their 2012 CD Transformed was produced by Irish legend Donal Lunny and met with worldwide acclaim. Their follow up, Tall Tales & Misadventures, has just been released. I'm really looking forward to seeing them on their first Canadian tour. 
It's certainly going to be a wild ride this month! Fasten your seat-belts and come orbit the musical globe at The Rogue - and the Celticfest - in the green month of March in this green and pleasant land on the left coast of Canada! 
Big thanks to NASA Cols. Hadfield and Coleman for casting planet earth in such a fascinating new light, and for underlining the incredible power and universality of music. In these often troubled times music has the power to heal and unite and inspire us. I'm listening now to the audience singing along with Martyn Joseph: "there's still a lot of love around here." There sure is!



That Was The Week That Was!

Wow! What a week we had last week! It started in Kansas City at the Folk Alliance wrap-up party on Sunday night, and Monday was a travel day. Tuesday was a rare night off. Wednesday we had the very wonderful Karen Savoca & Pete Heitzman in a double bill with Shari Ulrich at St. James Hall. Only 100 people in attendance, unfortunately. The first time we’ve gone below 200 in 2015!  Then Lunasa played the Blueshore Stage at Capilano University on Thursday with their new fiddle player, Mancunian Colin Farrell. What a performance! We followed that with two nights with Fred Eaglesmithand his band, featuring Tiff Ginn, Mattie Simpson, Justine Fischer andKory Hepner. Both shows sold out. Friday was slightly marred by a heckler, but Fred was handling him well until an audience member decided he’d had enough and tried to evict the noisy guy. Yikes! Luckily, Shauneen Clarke, one of our trusty volunteers and a former rugby player, stepped in to make the peace. Nice work, Shauneen! Saturday was calmer and Fred was in stellar form both nights - both musically and comedically! On Saturday morning I hosted The Edge On Folk on CiTR fm 101.9. It was the annual Fundrive edition, so pretty intense with heaps of spruiking (look it up!) Thanks to everyone who pledged - and received great premiums - to help us move into new studios in the brand new Student Union Building at UBC next month! On Sunday we ventured out to Maillardville for Festival du Bois, and witnessed fine performances by Lennie Gallant and his trio, and a few excellent bands from Quebec, most notably Les Chercheurs d’Or, whose blend of bluegrass, country and acoustic rock and roll - in French - was most appealing!


This Is The Week That Is Now!

Tonight we head back to the Blueshore Stage at Cap for an evening with Welsh troubadour Martyn Joseph, an annual visitor to these shores. His latest CD, Tires Rushing By In The Rain, is a collection of Bruce Springsteen songs delivered in his distinctively emotive style. Tickets are still available at 604-990-7810 and at the door.




Friday March 6th

Craig Cardiff

Two shows: Railway Club at 6pm and CBC Studio 700 at 8pm

 I cannot think of anyone else who could pull this off, folks! Craig’s show at CBC Studio 700 is sold out. Yesterday he took it upon himself to book an early show at The Railway Club (579 Dunsmuir) the same night! So, if you haven’t got a ticket for the CBC show then head down to the Railway Club for the 6pm show! Craig will sound check at CBC first - he’s also being interviewed on CBC Radio One at 1pm, by the way. Then he’ll trek over a few blocks to the Railway Club and perform on a duplicate set of equipment. Then he’ll head on back to CBC Studio 700 for the “official” Rogue show! Tickets are already selling fast for the Railway Club show, and can be purchased at the door and also on his website 

Please note: tickets for the CBC Studio 700 Rogue show are NOT valid for the Railway Club show - and vice versa! Vancouver songwriter Colby Ramsay will open the CBC show at 8, by the way. We’re looking forward to hearing him; he’s getting rave reviews across Canada these days.


Saturday March 7th 8pm

Contra Dance with The Sybs

St. James Hall (3214 West 10th Avenue)

Our series of First-Saturday dances resumes after taking place on a Friday last month. Admission is $15 at the door ($10 for unwaged or if you have a dish of home made goodies to share) All dances are taught on the spot. No experience necessary. Come alone or bring a partner or a few friends. It’s lots of fun and the music is lively and fun, played by the excellent Sybaritic Stringband - whose lead instruments are infact the saxophones and flutes of the amazing Claire McCague.



Sunday March 8th


St. James Hall (3214 West 10th Avenue)

Last March Matuto brought their unique fusion of the dance music of rural Brazil and Appalachian and Bluegrass to The Rogue - and we have never seen so many people have such a joyful time dancing and swaying as they were to this incredible band from NYC. Rob Curto (accordion) and Clay Ross (guitars / percussion) first met in Brooklyn and discovered a mutual love of Brazilian music. They headed down to Recife in NE Brazil, a hotbed of forro music, and decided to form a band. Matuto is a Brazilian slang word for “country bumpkin”, and the quintet whips up a delicious concoction of dance music from both American continents. Come on down to The Rogue and join the fun when Matuto take the stage again this Sunday! Bring a friend or three. They will thank you! A lot!


Tickets for all Rogue shows can be purchased on our website and also at Highlife Records, Prussin Music, Red Cat Records, and Rufus’ Guitar Shop


Radio Waves

CiTR’s Fundrive continues until tomorrow, and you can still send in your pledges online on or by calling 604-822-8648 (please mention that your are supporting The Saturday Edge On Folk!). On this week’s show I’ll have new music from Louisiana’s The Revelers, Nashville’s The Show Ponies, Saltspring’s Harry Manx, Quebec’s Chercheurs d’Or, and Melisande [Electrotrad], New York’s Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem, Mali’s Boubacar Traore, England’s Hannah Sanders, New Zealand’s Aldoc, Portland’s Tillamook Burn, Ireland’s Bernadette Morris, Estonia’s Trad. Attack!, Ontario’s Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar, Teesside’s Young’uns, and Denver’s Mollie O’Brien - amongst others! I’ll also feature the latest CDs by Tom Russell, Altan, Matuto, Arrogant Worms, Goitse, Sweet Lowdown and more from the Rogue concert series. Please join me on CiTR fm 101.9 on Saturday from 8am to noon and 


Radio Rogue streams live 24/7 and can be accessed on our website. I’ll update the playlist in the next day or two. Meanwhile you can tune in to hear heaps of Rogues and new releases.


Celtic Festival 2015

CelticFest Vancouver is 12 action-packed days of free and ticketed concerts and events March 6-17! 


See Great Big Sea’s Alan Doyle (Vogue Theatre, March 6), A Tribute to The Pogues (March 7, Imperial), Delhi 2 Dublin (March 15, Imperial), Vancouver Welsh Men’s Choir (March 13, Christ Church Cathedral), CelticFest Ceilidh with The Paperboys, Mark Sullivan & Andy Hillhouse, and Fásta (March 14, Imperial), and April Verch(March 16, Annex). 


There are two sessions of The Belmont Whisky Tastings, one for beginners and one for connoisseurs (March 11, The Belmont), concerts in participating festival pubs, and performances of the award-winning Irish play The Weir. Free events include the Celtic Village with live Celtic music, street entertainment, workshops, food booths and a street market on Granville Street downtown on the weekend of March 14 & 15, and the grand St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Sunday, March 15 starting at 11am. 


Full event info & tickets are at: