1. Alejandro Escovedo, Townes van Zandt, and Fortune Block
Escovedo knew Townes, and was also awarded the Townes van Zandt songwriting award awhile back. We didn't get a chance to interact much - so I didn't get to ask for some Townes stories from him - but maybe someday?
While it is no secret that Townes had played the folk festival himself in the past, I think if anyone realized that last Sunday, when all this was taking place, was the 40th anniversary, to the day, that van Zandt appeared there, on July 17th, 1982, they would have mentioned it. Vancouver cultural treasure Bev Davies was there - the first Folk Festival she ever shot - and took photographs.
At their main stage tweener on Friday, Fortune Block - who also did a concert of their own, and a workshop, and apparently sold a ton of CDs at the Neptoon tent (suggesting that I wasn't the only one taken by them) - told a story about getting drunk together the night after Prine died (of COVID, in 2020) and writing the tune.
Borrowing a table in the media tent during one of the festival's mild showers, I asked Inman to elaborate on the influence of Prine. Inman - as imposing in his bulk as Amber is diminutive - sat to my side, still wearing his cowboy hat, while Amber sat across from me. “If you’re a songwriter, doing the singer/songwriter thing, and you don’t know who John Prine is, you probably just don’t get it,” Inman says.
But Inman bristles - grins, but you can tell some part of him is serious, too. “He’s Johnny Cash. You’re not allowed to say that."
While most of the festival's acknowledgements of fallen comrades took in country music, Ford Pier, also part of the same workshop, made sure Kendall Chinn – known to the bulk of us as Mr. Chi Pig of SNFU – also got represented (punk is a sort of folk music, after all, in the truest sense of that word - a music of the people). Chi died two years ago, on July 16th, 2020, the anniversary being the day of Ford's solo concert, after years of health problems brought on by hard living, which gives him something in common with Townes. (He also was known to do a karaoke version of Johnny Cash's interpretation of "Hurt," though I'm not sure how that will play to someone who was more of a Johnny Cash fan than an SNFU one). During both his Saturday solo set and the workshop, Ford spoke from the stage about his history with Chi, whom he had called Ken, and roomed with in Edmonton very early in the start of his career. He also played two songs in respect of his departed friend: "Boyfriend" (a song told from the point of view of an exploited sex worker in the DTES, which he played during his Saturday concert "for no reason other than that he [Ken] liked that one"), and the song "Thursday" at the Sunday workshop.
Ford rallied well enough, shooting a goofy double thumbs up to the audience but being no less Ford Pier-like in his next two songs (why would we want him to be anything but?). But I was in real suspense, waiting to see what he would do: "Oh no, will Ford crumble under pressure? How will he rally? Ouch!"