The Festival is Tim Baker’s hope and prayer that the days ahead will reconnect us with old friends and introduce us to new ones.
What does “festival” mean to you? A gathering of plenty? An event where many congregate for independent yet similar purposes? I had a moment earlier this year, once restrictions began to lift, where I was walking to work and passed several people through a crowded intersection who looked at me and flashed a grin. To me, those smiles signified that we had overcome an obstacle and were once again cruising ahead. Even amongst this small group of people walking in the middle of the road, that warm feeling bounced from stranger to stranger in the same way that good vibes infuse the atmosphere at your favourite communal gathering.
This feeling has been a long time coming for Tim Baker. With his sophomore solo album, The Festival, the former Hey Rosetta! frontman gifts listeners a chance to join the party brewing on the festival grounds. “The Lucky Few” sets the tone quickly and finds Baker inviting everyone he’s been missing to join him in marking the end of our collective darkened slumber. He’s been missing life and his friends from before the pandemic. Most of all, Baker misses the people that he has yet to meet, friends of friends that instantly become family.
“The Lucky Few” crescendos into “The Shield,” a tune best blasted from car speakers on casual countryside day trips. On it, Baker explores oft-ignored highs and lows while cleverly pointing out that memories and places can be left behind, but you can never truly escape who you are or from where you have come. It feels like driving back into your hometown after an extended absence, a long single-lane highway constantly whispering memories into your mind of those you left behind and with whom you’re anxiously looking forward to falling back into old habits.
“My Kind” and “After the Storm” are both thoughtfully rendered tunes that effortlessly dispel the sour tones we’ve all felt since the pandemic’s early days. Baker’s words make me reflect on all those I carried, who in turn carried me through the rough times: “Thank you for coming, for bringing all of your pain and suffering. How else could you show me how we need to love”.
The Festival ends just the way a festival should — with a bang. But also with questions to ponder once it’s over. Allowing us a moment before the celebration concludes to acknowledge those we’ve lost and recognize how special our connections are, Baker asks of the dead: “Can you see inside my heart? / I hope you cannot / The hollow is deep / The canyon dark / Just see us from above / hair cut in the summer / Toque in the fall… Just see me nod / As I walk around the festival.” He speaks for those of us who don’t want our departed to bear witness to our tough days but instead celebrate with us as we reconnect with long-lost friends and meet strangers who’ll soon become our familiars. The Festival is Baker’s hope and prayer that the days ahead will bring us less of the former and more of the latter.
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