The Mariposa Folk Festival got off to a surprisingly good start at Centre Island last night before a capacity audience of more than 5,000 fans. It was surprising because of the confusion which reigned at the docks at 7 p.m., an hour before the concert began. At that time, there was only one ferry in use and four times as many people as it could hold waiting to be transported to the island.
The difficulties in reaching the islandI waited an hour to cross the one-mile stretch of waterbrought an early sour note to this ninth Mariposa Festival. Hundreds of people waiting for the ferry were less than politely told that unless they had tickets they might as well not make the voyage, if in fact they had been able to scramble aboard.
The ferries were run in a highly disorganized manner. It was evident that they weren't carrying as many passengers per crossing as they have done on an average summer weekend. A ferry official was overheard informing a member of the crowd that the reason for this was "kids do not congregate."
On reaching the island, it was clear that conditions were not going to be as good as last year, when Mariposa made its first appearance within city limits. The ground was soggy from Thursday's rain and the island was buzzing with bugs.
The evening concert consisted solely of Canadian talent including international stars such as Joni Mitchell and Ian and Sylvia. One of the best received performers was French-Canadian chansonnier Gilles Vigneault, who was making his second successive Mariposa appearance.
Vigneault has an enviable knack of communication although the use of his vocal equipment often leaves something to be desired. Vigneault was backed by drums, piano, violin and bass, and at the end of his six-song set received a standing ovation.
Although he was a long way from being way out in grey suit and white shirt, Vigneault managed to capture the audience, which ranged from toddlers to some of the oldest teeny-boppers ever seen in Toronto.
At times the folksy quality of Mariposa became just a little too folksy. Bruce Cockburn, an Ottawa folk singer, arrived on stage breathless and announced that dew was falling all over his guitar. Then he added: "It's very natural."
Nevertheless, Cockburn found an enthusiastic response and his act came close to receiving yet another standing ovation.
Joni Mitchell, the dainty darling of the international folk set, gently tip-toed onto the stage in a long, green dress and a gold crucifix around her neck. Miss Mitchell sang a long set of her best-known works, including Both Sides Now and Chelsea Morning. She also offered a new song which she dedicated to her man, Graham Nash (of the Crosbys [sic], Stills, Nash and Young pop group).
Nash, who had accompanied Joni from Los Angeles, sat in front of the stage, a camera in his hand and with his eyes closed.
Ian and Sylvia, who closed the show, gave their usual polished performance.
Festival organizers are confident that last night's transportation hangup will not be repeated today and tomorrow. Nevertheless, my advice to would-be Mariposa-goers is as follows:
Bring a boat or swimming trunks, a reliable aerosol can of pesticide, double rations, a blanket, a coat and plenty of patience.
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Added to Library on August 16, 2008. (3429)
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