I went to bed on Saturday night drunk and dreaming of the sunny skies and white fluffy clouds that the Weather Network predicted for the following Sunday. Sure enough, 8am brought a backyard full of sun-soaked chirping birds and cooing pigeons. This only meant one thing for me: Country En Ville’s 7th Edition of their folkfest. Playing alongside multiple local country ensembles was Montreal old timey favourite: Pointer’s Crossing.
Virginia Dipierro and Dan Hektic founded the classic country duo in June of 2012 and performed their first show in a small garden in Point St. Charles literally half a block from my own backyard. Not knowing it until much later, I learned that I had actually missed that performance by an hour when I walked by with my groceries in tow and politely shrugged off an invite from the event organizer.
Imagine. It’s Sunday afternoon. You’re walking through the greenery-laden paradise that is Girouard Park. The sun is beating down and possibly burning your sensitive and already freckled skin. You see red tents in the distance and you continue walking up the path to where the sound of a banjo twangs away in your ear. You’re there. You’ve made it to Country En Ville.
According to the originally posted schedule, Pointer’s Crossing was due to play at 12:15pm and I was sure I was going to miss them because well, let’s face it… Montreal’s transport system just isn’t what it used to be. Luckily, I ran into Dipierro and she let me know that they’d be going up after another band. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the duo’s performance on multiple occasions and their light-hearted yet meaningful country croons always have me looking forward to the next one.
A cover of Uncle Dave Macon’s “Don’t Get Weary” opened the set and can be found previously recorded on the band’s self-titled EP as well as on the compilation CD Dan le
Patte. Both Dipierro and Hektic have voices that mesh so well together and the notes that take a higher range instantly made me think of a younger Dolly Parton. Following was “Undone in Sorrow”, a cover by Crooked Still. While I had hoped for more people at the outdoor event, those who were there watched intently as Hektic plucked at his banjo in the same manner as the great Old Timey-s before him.
The last performance that I saw was earlier this year at Le Mariposa Cafe in NDG. The intimate venue brought everyone together and even brought tears to my eyes when the two serenaded the crowd with the famous “Where we’ll Never Grow Old” by the Carter Family. And while I understand it may not be the kind of upbeat tune for an outdoor festival, I look forward to hearing it again.
For the shorter five-song set, Pointer’s Crossing knows how to engage their audience. To be utilized alongside their original song “Old Rivers” was the band’s homemade cranky. For those of you not familiar with the term, a cranky is a wooden box adorned with well, a crank that basically moves a picture reel across the front of the box that ultimately accompanies, through hand-painted pictures, the song that is being performed. This particular cranky was made by both Dipierro and Hektic and took about 30 hours to complete. It was easily the highlight of the set because it’s hilarious to watch a chosen audience member wind the cranky as the band plays and actually make sure that the right image is being displayed at the right time.
Another cover also found on the duo’s EP was “Waited as Long as I Can” by Tony Rice and its live performance incited a little toosh shakin’ from a few of the young children watching nearby. It was gratifying to watch as a community of people with same mind and purpose gathering together to pay homage to the great musical inspirations of the past. Before the last song of the set, they invited Stephanie Flowers on the fiddle, Terry Joe Rodrigues on the banjo, and Tyler Parent on the upright bass to the stage to share in the glory for “The Wreck of Lucy Walker”. Another original tune and also recorded with Dipierro’s previous band Virginia’s Folly in 2010, the chorus had close to the entire crowd up and singing along to “…show Jessie to the waterrrr…” and garnered heavy-set clapping to usher them from the stage afterwards.
On the band’s Facebook page, it’s made clear that “…It has hit home that playing old timey music as well as delving into its roots and celebrating its spirit and history is a full time mission”. As a music lover, I constantly find myself gravitating towards genres, and more specifically bands, that understand the importance of how music sounds but also where it comes from. Pointer’s Crossing is an inspiration to the local music scene by protecting the history that is so dear to country and bluegrass.
Written by Robyn Smith