Tuesday, 17 September 2013

A Look Back: Ottawa Folkfest

This past weekend, I went to the Ottawa Folk Festival. Weather-wise, it was a pretty cold weekend. However, I was officially on assignment so I put on some layers and got my butt

Wednesday evening, only two artists were on the bill: Patti Smith and City and Colour.

First up, Patti Smith and her band. Honesty time: Although I had heard of Patti Smith, I never actually listened to her music. I didn't really know anything about her and her music. I knew that she was a legend in the punk movement. I had also heard that Smith didn't like much attention being placed on her, especially in the media. Because of this, I was expecting a very shy performer.

Was I ever surprised! Smith is fantastic on stage. So much energy! I was so impressed; she is very charming and likes to interact with the crowd. She won me over instantly.Overall, it was a great introduction to Patti Smith.

Then, the headliner of the evening, City and Colour. Dallas Green's solo project wasn't originally on the festival lineup. The evening's headliner was supposed to be Neil Young and Crazy Horse.

Although I've seen Green play several times, it was a really good show. I really enjoyed the setlist. He played a lot of new material from his latest album, "the Hurry and the Harm". However, I was a bit disappointed that he only played one song from his debut album "Sometimes", a slowed down (kinda boring) version of "Comin' Home".

He played a cover of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold", which was really beautiful. I was really hoping for a cover of Young's "Cowgirl in the Sand", which Green has performed at his live shows in the past.

Overall, a really great night to kick off the festival. Take a look at my French review here.


Thursday evening, I decided to take a break from Folkfest and check out another show. Friday, I was back at Hogs' Back Park for an evening filled with rap and hip hop. Yup... Rap and hip hop at Folkfest. Makes total sense... right?

Before the hip hop took over the Folkfest, Born Ruffians was playing early in the evening. I had heard lots about the band, and I was really pleased with their performance. 2013 has been a big year for the group. Their last album "Birthmarks", released earlier this year, has been getting a lot of buzz.  They put on a really great performance, although there wasn't many people there.

Then it was time to check out Shad, the Toronto-based rapper. I had heard of Shad before and was excited to see what he was about. His show was great! I really enjoyed it. He had a great stage presence and his lyrics are very socially conscious. Definitely exceeded my expectations. Be sure to check him out at Ritual Nightclub on November 8th.

Between the two hip hop headliners, there was Matt Andersen. I knew nothing about the maritime based musician. Walking around the site, I was captivated by his larger than life voice. He stayed on the stage alone with this guitar, but his presence was overwhelming. He is an amazing blues guitarist, and his voice is so powerful. Check him out!

Finally, the moment all the 21 year olds at Hogs' Back Park were waiting for: Kendrick Lamar. I knew next to nothing about the young rapper. What I did know is that he is considered the next big thing in the hip hop scene.

The crowd was absolutely insane. Although I'm not a huge fan of Lamar's style of music, I couldn't help but move. The energy at the show was especially contagious. I couldn't help it...The crowd seemed to be enjoying themselves, and Lamar gave a good performance. Although I was impressed with the show in general, it definitely wasn't my favourite style of music nor was it my favourite crowd of people at a concert.

Here's my review of the evening  (en français).


Then comes Saturday. First full day of music at Folkfest.

The first band I checked out in the early evening was Hey Ocean! The indie pop group is based out of Vancouver, BC. Not sure exactly what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised with the performance. The group had a great presence on stage and really great energy. There was an overall theme of the band's music is the sea. It's very obvious that being from the West Coast is a huge influence on their music. They played quite early in the evening, so the crowd was not yet warmed up but they did a great job of doing just that. By the end of the show, they got the crowd dancing and singing along.

Then, it was time for the Sheepdogs. I had seen the band last year at Bluesfest, and they sounded great so I knew that it would be a good show. The group put on a good show. It was a standard rock show. Nothing really stood out about the show, but it was a solid performance.

Then, the big headliner of the evening: the Avett Brothers. A friend of mine had asked me if I would check out the show with her, and I agreed. I knew nothing about the band... For some reason, I assumed the group was from the '70s and I expected some old guys rocking out on stage. Boy, was I ever wrong! Their performance was phenomenal and they blew the Sheepdogs and everyone else out of the water. By far the best performance of this year's Folkfest. Yes, these guys were THAT good.

These young musicians from North Carolina really know how to rock. Their blend of folk rock was contagious. The energy from these guys was surreal. They were also great musicians. The band members often changed up instruments but still kept rocking out. Although I hadn't heard of these guys before, turns out they have 8 studio albums under their belts (the new one comes out October 15). Insane! Trust me, do yourselves a favour and check out these guys. You will not be disappointed!

You can read my review for Sorstu.ca here.


Overall, the programming wasn't as impressive at this year's festival compared to last year's. However, I did manage to discover some great music. All in all, not a bad festival but definitely not my favourite of 2013.

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