Six acts to see at this year’s Vancouver Folk Music Festival

Sarah Shook. Cowtown Chad photo.

Locals know that one of the city’s best summer weekends is the weekend of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. Thousands gather in Jericho Beach Park, near the beach, to watch hundreds of performers in a variety of genres. Here are a few acts we think are worth checking out during the festival, July 19-21 (click on band names for video link). For a full schedule and ticket info visit

Sarah Shook and the Disarmers—Sarah Shook is self-defined as a vegan, pansexual, atheist mom in a country band from the South. She was home-schooled and raised in a strict, religious family who didn’t allow her to listen to any sort of secular music. Years, the recent album by Shook and her band, “is about overcoming life challenges and getting people to listen and understand those who are different than themselves,” according to a media release. Years has received recent attention from New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Noisey, Rolling Stone Country, Slant, QNotes, News & Observer, Paste, WellRed Comedy Podcast, WUNC Morning Edition, and many others.

Steve Dawson—Originally from Vancouver, guitarist/songwriter/producer Dawson currently resides in Nashville. In the last 20 years, he has produced and/or played on more than 80 albums, seven of which have won Junos. John Hammond, Sonny Landreth, Van Dyke Parks, Dave Alvin, Bob Brozman, Long John Baldry, Bruce Cockburn and Alvin Youngblood Hart are among the many artists with whom he’s worked. He’ll perform a special set with David Hidalgo (Los Lobos) at this year’s fest.

La Mexcalina—Formed in Guadalajara, Mexico in 2012, La Mexcalina fuse traditional Mexican music (canto cardenche, pirekua) with rock, punk, rockabilly, country, swing, folk, surf, and more. Vocalist/guitarist Jazz Díaz fronts the quartet, which has released two albums.

Zaki Ibrahim—The South African-Canadian artist collecting two Polaris Music Prize nominations (Canada’s version of Britain’s Mercury Prize) and a Juno nomination for R&B/Soul Recording of the Year (in 2009). According to the Folk Festival website, Afropunk has called Ibrahim’s music “futuristic soul at its best, blending retro R&B vibes with electronic production that will take you out of this world.” Pitchfork has said: “Zaki Ibrahim has gathered new methods, sounds, and communities, recombining old ideas to make something all her own. This analog/digital, past/future, sensory/tactical approach to music-making is her hallmark.” Ibrahim has opened for Erykah Badu, Saul Williams, and the Roots.

Le Vent du Nord—No folk festival is complete without some Quebecois music. Le Vent du Nord (North Wind) is a leading force in Québec’s progressive francophone folk movement, and draws from both traditional sources and original compositions. The award-winning group appears regularly on Canadian, American, French, and UK television and radio and has collaborated with the Chieftains, Breton musical pioneer Yann-Fañch Kemener, Michel Faubert, Breabach, and trans-Mediterranean ensemble Constantinople.

Oktopus—Maybe it’s cheating, but we couldn’t resist throwing in another Quebec band. But though it draws on some francophonie music, Oktopus is an instrumental group exploring East European music with new and reinvented elements. According to the Folk Fest writeup, “An Oktopus performance whisks audiences away on a vibrant journey… Seeing Oktopus perform live will transport you, transform you, entrance you, and enhance your desire to dance on and on.”

For more tickets and info visit

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