With 2020’s festival cancelled, the Folk on the Rocks crew is hosting a series of online concerts. Fred Penner and PIQSIQ are first to hit the virtual stage on Saturday.
Folk director Carly McFadden told Cabin Radio: “We’re obviously so sad we couldn’t hold the festival and we wanted to find some way to continue to connect with our community.”
Music fans and performers have looked forward to the music festival every July for almost 40 years. This will mark the first time in those four decades that it’s not happening.
While the online performance – happening from 1pm to 2:30pm MT on Saturday – might be different than what the Folk audience is used to, it will “kind-of keep the ball rolling but provide a little bit of entertainment during this time of staying inside,” said McFadden.
The concert is being broadcast using Side Door, a web platform (co-founded by well-known BC musician Dan Mangan) that matches artists with venues across Canada. In the age of Covid-19, they’ve transformed their services to host online performances, too.
Tickets are $7 each and are available on the Side Door website, with all proceeds going directly to the musicians themselves.
Fred Penner, a seasoned performer known for family-friendly tunes such as The Cat Came Back and Take Good Care of Each Other, said he is looking forward to the show.
He was scheduled to perform at the festival this year and was disappointed when it was cancelled, so he’s happy he can still play for northern audiences.
“I love performing, and I love the audiences that are there and are connecting with me now,” he said.
Penner’s also excited to use Side Door. He is good friends with Mangan and impressed with opportunities the platform has provided for Canadian artists.
“It’s built into a very strong operation that many, many musicians are taking advantage of,” he said. “So, I was thrilled.”
A show for families
According to McFadden, the Folk team wanted to do a family-friendly show for their first virtual endeavour so they could remain consistent with what the festival normally offers.
“A lot of our audience members have been attending the festival since they were children and now bring our own children there,” she said. “So that family component is really, really important to us.”
Festivalgoers were excited to see Penner’s name when he joined the 2020 line-up, McFadden said. This online show is for those fans.
A publicity photo of PIQSIQ.
Opening for Penner is PIQSIQ, a duo comprised of sisters Tiffany Ayalik and Kayley Inuksuk Mackay. The pair have a longstanding connection with Folk on the Rocks, having previously performed as throat-singers and members of another band, Quantum Tangle.
Like Penner, Ayalik and Inuksuk Mackay said they were “bummed out” when the physical festival was cancelled. Not only would they have performed at a venue they love, but it was their opportunity to network with other another musical sister duo, Tegan and Sara, they joked.
Nonetheless, they were thrilled to be asked to play in the online show on Saturday.
“We’re really so grateful when presenters and festivals are thinking creatively and thinking outside the box and finding ways to still keep the music alive, as it were,” Ayalik said.
“So we’re really, really happy to be able to at least give a little bit of a show for folks who were really excited to go to Folk on the Rocks, as we were.”
‘A new sound’
The sisters have ventured into blending traditional styles of Inuit throat-singing with newer technologies to create rich compositions and soundscapes. Each time they perform, their sound is unique.
“I think one of the things that makes me feel good as a performer is when somebody has come to three shows and says, ‘Oh my God, they’re different every time!'” said Inuksuk Mackay. “So, this will be one of a kind, like they always are.”
This will be their first time performing as PIQSIQ for Folk audiences.
“It’s a new sound for them, which we’re really excited about,” said McFadden. “This was a really great way to bring sort-of a northern connection to an online show and celebrate the arts that do come out of our territory, which are beautiful.”
Ayalik and Inuksuk Mackay are encouraging fans to keep up with their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts. They’ll be posting information about their new merch, which they were hoping to sell on the festival circuit this summer.
As he gears up for the show on Saturday, Penner’s hoping his performance will offer families some levity as everyone is sequestered from one another.
“[I like] knowing that there is an audience out there, singing along with me, even though I can’t hear them,” he said. “They are feeling the connection even though we can’t see them and that we are trying to deal with this very strange Covid time together.”
Singing the closing song from his former CBC kids show Fred Penner’s Place, he offered this advice: “Take good care of each other.”