Every year since I was 5 years old I’ve looked forward to attending the Mariposa Folk Festival in Orillia. The reasons for excitement used to be different: back then it was all about the face painting and crafts in the kids’ area. Now it’s because, well, there are 50 bands on 11 stages over three days and there is always at least one show that absolutely blows my mind. What’s not to love?
The band that took my heart this year is actually the first one I saw when I entered the show: Reuben and the Dark. I was hanging out in my family’s tent when I was summoned by a majestically powerful voice coming from the Barnfield stage. Reuben and the Dark’s sound captivated me immediately: a mellow folk-rock with a strong sense of harmony and introspective lyrics that would sometimes jump out at you. Even after the three songs I caught I could tell that I had just discovered something special.
Later I got to see their set in full and was once again blown away. The whole band passionately performed songs off their latest album Funeral Sky and even a couple new ones. It seems the whole crowd shared my enthusiasm because after their last song they got a standing ovation and sold out of their album at the emporium. As someone who’s been to a lot of folk festivals I can say that this was probably my favorite set I’ve seen so far. There is nothing like the excitement of finding a new great band and the feeling is especially powerful when you find them through live music!
Some of my other favorite finds of the weekend were the wonderfully quirky Ever Lovin’ Jug Band (who performed 20’s style jug band music), Turbo Street Funk (Who played upbeat jazzy funk rock that included four brass instruments), the East Pointers (classic fiddle stomp band), Taj Weekes and Adowa (a reggae band from Jamaica), and Gordie MacKeeman and his Rhythm Boys. Gordie MacKeeman’s fiddle playing was absolutely phenomenal as was the fact that he could tap dance at the same time. He even played the fiddle behind his back like a true rock (or folk) star! Effortlessly confident showmanship made this one a show to remember.
The Mariposa Folk Festival will be back next year for their 56th anniversary. It’s always a great time so if you can make it, go!