Music fesivals in Manitoba seem to be universally laid back. There are seldom lineups -- even for the bar -- and an amazing variety of people get along well in very close quarters. The Harvest Moon Festival, held for the tenth time this year in Clearwater, brought together an audience of urban hipsters, rural homesteaders, and local farmers to wander and dance and learn from an equally diverse set of entertainers and educators.
The musical offerings ranged from roots music in all its forms to bangin' late-night DJ sets. Some random hightlights of the weekend:
The Deep Dark Woods. The band members are split about evenly between bearded hipsters and bearded mountain men. They play some rocking country-style folk music, but really excel at haunting atmospheric songs about loss and loneliness. They were among the best acts musically, and show remarkable skill in singing in effortless harmony, song after song. They were also noteworthy for the lead singer getting the crowd to cheer for "deer meat!" after noticing blood stains on his hunting coat, which pretty much sums up the conjuction of popular enthusiasm, great roots music, and locavore food politics that defines Harvest Moon.
Bog River. This young Winnipeg three-piece has been playing together for years informally, but wrapped up their first ever tour as Bog River with an energetic and impressive show at the smaller restaurant stage. All three musicians are excellent singers and talented multi-instrumentalists, and they write both heartbreaking and foot-stomping songs about traditonal themes such as unrequited love and the sufferings of the working class.
The weekend was chilly. There's something very Canadian about looking around you at an outdoor music festival and seeing a sea of plaid woolens, puffy vests, and chunky sweaters, all wreathed in smoke and floating cinders from nearby bonfires. The single image from the weekend that nails its overall character, though, was a guy crowd surfing wearing a touque and a flashing headlamp. This is a festival that revels in defying the coming winter with sheer exuberance and communal joy.
And it was a fun festival to photograph, despite the cold and wet: