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Music festival worth a long weekend in Vancouver
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Music festival worth a long weekend in Vancouver

by E. Joyce Glasgow - SGN A&E Writer

Vancouver Music Festival
Vancouver, BC
July 17-19


Luckily for Seattleites, when we need a long, weekend break from the crazy politics of the U.S., a whole new perspective awaits in a different country only a three-hour car ride away, in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. Any time of year, one can find stimulating arts and cultural events going on, and this scenic, multi-cultural melting pot offers amazing restaurants featuring authentic cuisines from around the world.

I usually take advantage of attending the Vancouver Folk Music Festival (www.thefestival.bc.ca), which is entering its 32nd year in 2009. The festival features a combination of folk, world, blues, reggae, hip-hop and bluegrass, and draws a loyal following of thousands from the States and around Canada. It is held each year in mid-July at Jericho Beach Park, which has one of the most breathtaking vistas in Vancouver - positioned on English Bay, it boasts views of the mountains rising from the water, downtown's skyscraper skyline, and inspiring sunsets.

The festival, historically, has presented powerful and politically-oriented Lesbian singer/songwriters as part of the mix of international performers, and has drawn a wide audience of Lesbian regulars. 2008's festival featured Lesbian folk icon, singer/composer/guitarist Ferron. The whole festival is laid-back, open, festive, and casual.

Last year's festival highlights included the mystical, healing trance music of Bachir Attar and the Master Musicians of Jajouka, Morocco, an audience-rousing, energetic set by Michael Franti and Spearhead, the beautiful, heartfelt singing of John Boutte from New Orleans (check out his moving version of Randy Newman's, "Louisiana") and memorable performances by Latino L.A. rockers Ozomatli, Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet, featuring Grammy-winning Bela Fleck, among many others.

The 2009 Festival, to be held July 17-19, has a great line-up and will feature over sixty fabulous acts from 14 countries and is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy familiar favorites and discover some really terrific performers for the first time. Performers this year include gospel and R&B diva Mavis Staples (U.S.); eclectic acoustic folk by Darol Anger, Mike Marshall and Vasen (U.S. /Sweden); Grammy winning hip-hop pioneers Arrested Development (U.S.); Bellowhead (U.K.), a theatrical 11-piece, world-folk big-band and three-time winners of BBC Radio's "Best Live Band" award; Venezuelan-born world jazz singer/songwriter, Eliana Cuevas (ON.); Hapa (U.S.) performing pan-Polynesian music and sacred Hula dance from Maui; new folk sensation Iron and Wine (U.S.); singer/songwriter Patty Larkin (U.S.); Tibetan nomadic singer Jamyang Yeshi, (B.C.); lusty Celtic dance music favorites The Paperboys (B.C.); Haitian singer/dancer Sara Renelik (P.Q.); Umalali (Belize), women's voices of the Garifuna people of Central America; Tarhana (Netherlands/Turkey), Amsterdam-based musical nomads who blend Sufi, Gypsy and Afro-Anatolian grooves; Jorge Miguel Flamenco (ON.) performing Flamenco music, dance and song, and many more varied and exciting acts.

While visiting Vancouver, a trip to the Granville Island Public Market (www.granvilleisland.com) is a must. There are food items available there that we never see in our own Pike Place Market, here in Seattle. There are the most amazing and delicious exotic cheeses, meats, and other specialty items from Europe, a wide and varied selection of fruits, vegetables, fresh fish, flowers and wonderful baked goods and prepared foods. If it's a nice day, pick up your food supplies, go outside to the deck and have a leisurely lunch over picturesque False Creek. The Market is filled with open artists' studios/shops, where artists create and sell their goods. These studios are subsidized by the government, allowing artists to thrive, with affordable rents. How enlightened! I wish our government would value the worth of artists with such importance and commitment. It's wonderful to visit these studios, meeting the artists and seeing their workspaces filled with fine crafted and unique goods and to wander through all the other small shops, listening to busking musicians along the way and spending a whole relaxing day at the market.

A trip to the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia (www.moa.ubc.ca) is in order. This beautifully designed, contemporary building, set on a cliff, with a breathtaking view over the sea, has one of the most stunning and comprehensive permanent collections of Northwest Coast Native art work, including majestic totem poles set outside the museum.

Another destination for leisurely meandering in Vancouver is along West 4th Avenue, down the street from Jericho Beach Park. Head down this street, eastbound from the park, and check out all the interesting small, independently owned shops, cafes and restaurants in the arty Kitsilano neighborhood. Banyen Books and Sound, 3608 W. 4th Ave., (www.banyen.com), in business since 1970, is a wonderful, spiritually-oriented bookstore filled with books, CDs, DVDs, and beautiful goods to refresh the soul. It is also a community hub, where you can find lots of information about workshops, concerts and other events going on around Vancouver.

Amethyst Creations, 2746 W. 4th Ave., with its purple storefront and charming, handmade sign, is a great find for crystals and an exotic array of other minerals in their natural form, as well as stone beads and jewelry and has been an integral fixture in the neighborhood for years. The Naam Restaurant, 2724 W. 4th Ave. (www.thenaam.com), one of the iconic community businesses in Vancouver, is the oldest natural foods restaurant in the city, serving delicious, reasonably priced vegetarian food for over 40 years. The Naam is open 24 hours a day, every day except Christmas, has a wood burning fireplace, a garden patio (enclosed in winter), and features live blues, jazz or folk music seven nights a week. Head to Raviolino, 2822 W. 4th Ave. (www.raviolino.shawbiz.ca) for a delightful and scrumptious lunch or early dinner of fresh, homemade ravioli, cannelloni, mezzaluna, pasta or tortellini with delectable sauces. This place is a real find and I never leave Vancouver without eating here! Run by a lovely couple, Giuseppe and Maria Frasca - he an Italian, she a Peruvian - their business first got started in Lima, Peru in 1982. They have been serving the Vancouver community since 2002. Maria brings a Peruvian touch, creating delicious, unusual desserts/baked goods from her culture, rarely available in the Northwest. You can eat in or take out at Raviolino.

A long weekend in Vancouver, B.C. is recommended. It is simple, easy and inexpensive, yet rich and full, with a diverse variety of new, exciting and satisfying experiences.

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