For five freewheelin’ days, folk fans flocked in record numbers to the 2012 Ottawa Folk Festival, in its second year at Hogs Back Park. Headliners included Lindsey Buckingham, Bon Iver, Great Big Sea, Kathleen Edwards, Dan Mangan and Patrick Watson.
Executive Director Mark Monahan was happy to report that the attendance had doubled from the previous year to between 25,000 and 30,000 visitors. This was the highest attendance for the festival, and did not include the workshop-centred free programming that attracted an additional 4,000 to 5,000 visitors. The weather ranged from cloudless skies to cloudbursts and from warm to cool temperatures, but the spirits were not dampened by inclement weather on Friday and Saturday.
“The combination of free programming plus the major acts we brought in resulted in a very successful year,” said Monahan. “Fans really enjoyed the changes we made to the festival site, so we hope to continue to improve andto build on this success.”
A new presenting sponsor, TELUS, came on board this year. “TELUS is pleased to have supported such aremarkable event – from the tremendous fan turn-out to the incredible performances of all the talented artists,”said TELUS Vice-President Michael Sangster. “The Ottawa Folk Festival truly brought the community together in an unforgettable and enjoyable fashion. What a fantastic way to finish the summer.”
Admission was free on the west side of the park, which was the location of the food vendors, beer garden, the Artisan Village and the info tent. The free area also included the ever-popular Kidzone, the funky Dance Tentand the EnviroTent, which hosted informative presentations about all things environmental and living green. Performance spaces for workshops and free concerts included the PSAC-AFPC Stage, the Slackwater Stage, the Legacy Stage and the Workshops on the Point area. The free workshops in this area were programmed by the Ottawa Folklore Centre.
Tickets were needed for the east side, which included three large, well-equipped stages: the CUPE-SCFP Main Stage, the RavenLaw Stage and the Tartan Homes Stage.
Sustainability remained an important aspect of the festival, with green features such as reusable dishes, compost and recycling services, and a policy excluding the sale of plastic water bottles. You could fill your own water bottle at one of many water stations. At the EnviroTent, there were a variety of earth-minded workshops on topics such as natural cosmetics, wild edibles, solar power, natural healing and more. In the first-everEnvirocafe, festival goers relaxed in bistro seating and enjoyed refreshments from vendors such as B. Goods Bakery.
A Community Tent gave people a chance to learn about public awareness campaigns and not-for-profit organizations working to inform and improve the Ottawa community.
At the General Store, festival goers could pick up Ottawa Folk Festival souvenirs, as well as CDs, T-shirts and posters from performing artists. The Artisan Village continued to play a vital role in the festival, enhancing the atmosphere and giving people a chance to bring home hand-crafted treasures such as groovy tie-dyed T-shirts and custom-made jewellery.
The Legacy Stage hosted a variety of interesting hands-on workshops, including yodelling, breakdancing, beatboxing, and sessions on how to play the oud (a lute-type instrument used for Arabic music), mandolin andbouzouki. “Folk music isn’t just people playing banjos,” said Meredith Luce, coordinator of the workshop series at the festival during an interview in the Ottawa Metro. “Folk music is what grows out of community experience and the resources available.”
The times they are a-changin’ and the festival embraced the latest technology. Festival attendees shared theircomments and pics in an online blog on the festival website. There’s an app for that! You could download a freeapp to share photos and create calendars.
The Ottawa Citizen hosted The Digital Lounge, an online space that featured exclusive videos, interviews, reviews and live performances. On-site at the festival, you and your friends could have a photo taken at the Digital Lounge Booth and appear online as a daily front-page cover. What fun!
Many smartphones were raised high during the festival to record video and images as well. By comparison, at the first Ottawa Folk Festival mobile phones were bulky items about the size of a brick that had to be recharged constantly. And digital cameras were not yet widely available for consumers.
The Ottawa Folk Festival was grateful for the support of TELUS as well as two major sponsors, 14 official sponsors and suppliers, five hotel partners, an environmental partner and six government funders.
This year’s sponsors included TELUS, CUPE-SCFP, PSAC-AFPC, Aerographics Creative Services, Auto Trim and Signs, BOB-FM, Carleton University, Carleton University Students Association (CUSA), Galaxie, Live 88.5 FM, MediaPlus, Mill Street Brewery, the Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Folklore Centre (a founding sponsor),RavenLaw, Steve’s Music Store, and Tartan Homes. Our environmental partner was Arbour EnvironmentalShoppe and hotel partners included Albert at Bay Suites Hotel, ARC The Hotel, Best Western Plus Victoria Park Suites, Delta Ottawa City Centre, and Lord Elgin Hotel.
I was assisted in the information gathering for this year’s festival history by my dedicated note takers: Corinne Baumgarten, Elizabeth De Castro, Roberta Della Picca and Mary McHale. Thanks for helping out and hanging in there through the downpours and sunshine!
Thursday, Sept. 6
The festival opened on a beautiful sunny evening with a soft breeze that carried aloft the acoustic guitar strains of“O Canada” played by Arthur McGregor on the RavenLaw Stage. Thanks to Arthur for opening the festival on various stringed instruments each year for the past 19 years!
On the RavenLaw Stage, singer-songwriter Danny Michel, who attracted an enthusiastic crowd, sang and performed with his band and guest Quique Escamilla. Many audience members, ranging from a seven-year-oldboy to a senior citizen, sang along on lively tunes such as “Feather, Fur & Fin”.
Matt Mays & El Torpedo enthralled the audience gathered at the CUPE-SCFP Main Stage with a rock- infused performance. Mays is a recipient of multiple Juno Awards and East Coast Music Awards, and has beendescribed as “a cross between Rod Stewart, Leonard Cohen and Mike Reno.” The band included four guitarists,a drummer and a keyboard player. Maritimers in the audience were particularly appreciative when a song was dedicated to them!
Matthew Good performed solo for more than an hour, accompanying himself on a 12-string guitar. He was very well received by the youngish crowd, some of whom knew his music from the days of the Matthew Good Band. Several audience members waved their cigarette lighters high in the air during his performance.
The sole performer on the Tartan Homes Stage was Mirel Wagner, a twenty-something blues-folk singer born in Ethiopia and raised in Finland. Her angelic voice and poetic lyrics mesmerized the intimate crowd.
The setting for the PSAC-AFPC Stage was idyllic, being fringed with fir trees set against a cloudless blue sky.Kelly Sloan, the winner of the Galaxie Rising Stars Award, delivered a 45-minute set of jazzy folk/soft rock music. This award is presented to local, emerging Canadian performers. Past recipients include Megan Jerome, The Musettes and Joe Grass. Ottawa singer-songwriter Missy Burgess was in fine voice and was accompanied by Todd Snelgrove on acoustic guitar. She gave a splendid performance of her evocative tunes of love and life.
The beautiful evening ended with a spirited performance under starry skies by Ben Harper on the CUPE-SCFP Main Stage. The charismatic American singer-songwriter and activist attracted a crowd of about 10,000 who stayed to dance and sway to his blend of folk, blues, funk and reggae.
Friday, Sept. 7
The entertainment on the CUPE-SCFP Main Stage opened with popular Ottawa singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards, clad in a striking orange dress. Her sweet, country-tinged vocals were complemented by her band, which included Jim Bryson on guitar and keyboards, Julie Fader on backup vocals and Gord Tough on guitar. A large and enthusiastic crowd assembled under overcast skies to listen to her personal and heartfelt songs that ranged from mellow to upbeat.
Fans of classic rock band Fleetwood Mac were thrilled with the performance of Lindsey Buckingham. The 62- year-old American musician appeared solo, and easily won the crowd over with his personal stories, originalmaterial and Fleetwood Mac numbers. Hearing Buckingham play hits like “Go Your Own Way” made it hard tobelieve that the Fleetwood Mac Rumours album came out in 1977! Buckingham’s amazing guitar playing wowedthe ever-growing crowd and his charismatic performance closed the evening on a high note.
Alberta Cross was first up on the RavenLaw Stage. This Brooklyn-based band rocked out to an animated crowd. Then came the upbeat acoustic solo musician Old Man Luedecke, who charmed the toe-tapping crowd with homegrown banjo-led tunes like “I Quit My Job”. Despite his stage name, this native of Chester, NovaScotia is in his mid-thirties. This is Old Man Luedecke’s third year at the Ottawa Folk Festival and hopefully willnot be his last.
On the Tartan Homes Stage, solo performer Joe Horowitz opened. Although sound bleed interfered somewhat with his music, the New Yorker persevered with songs of love, politics and social commentary while accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. Canadian folkies Timber Timbre followed with an interesting set froma group whose music has been described as “beautifully restrained blues from an alternate universe, which createsan atmosphere that is cinematic and spooky.”
The Pat Moore Trio opened the evening’s musical entertainment on the PSAC-AFPC Stage. Singer-songwriterPat Moore appeared with her band, including amazing guitarist Pat McLaughlin, fresh from a Gram Parsons tribute concert tour of Australia, and veteran bass player Ann Downey. Moore’s music melds elements of folk, bluegrass and country. Her beautiful voice was showcased in original tunes such as the fast-paced “Wrong Train”, and an inspired cover of the Warren Zevon song “Carmelita”. The four-piece band the Kingmakers next performed a rolicking rockabilly set that had everyone dancing in the rain. A trumpet player named Miko added pizzazz to some of the numbers. Brock Zeman, an Ottawa Valley alt-country performer from Carleton Place, appeared with a tuneful three-piece band. His set was punctuated with intriguing lyrics and great storytelling.
Saturday, Sept. 8
Saturday and Sunday featured four stages of free programming that attracted impressive crowds of 4,000 to 5,000 people over the weekend. That is a larger attendance than we had at the first Ottawa Folk Festival in 1994!
Saturday was a rainy day at Hogs Back Park, but the crowds still came and braved the wet weather, which ranged from a drizzle to a heavy, pelting downpour. Folk fans dancing in the rain were as common a sight as those taking shelter under the colourful umbrellas dotting the crowds.
There were many ways for the community to participate in free activities this year. Workshops on the Pointwere programmed by the Ottawa Folklore Centre. Anyone could participate in themed jam sessions, hosted by individuals or groups from the Ottawa music community.
The Kidzone returned as it had every year of the festival’s history, to offer all-ages interactive workshops, and specialty programming for children and youth. A musical petting zoo gave kids of all ages a chance to try outmore than 100 instruments, including ones most people don’t have a chance to experience, such as dulcimers andautoharps. Another fun venue, the Dance Tent, allowed participants to free form dance to musical accompaniment or learn styles ranging from breakdancing to Bollywood during short demonstrations.
CUPE-SCFP Main Stage
First up was Joe Horowitz in his second appearance at the festival. This American singer-songwriter who is also a professional golfer, performed his bluesy, acoustic songs. One memorable number was “Daisy’s Diner” a tuneset in small town Louisiana. With the rain over, Albertan Corb Lund followed with a country-flavoured set. Lund, who was accompanied by his band, was happy to announce that his latest album, Cabin Fever, was number one in Canada. His music drew an enthusiastic response from the huge crowd. Yee haw!
Wind and rain preceded a performance by the Great Lake Swimmers. The Toronto band drew a large crowdthat didn’t run for cover despite the weather. Their melodic rock charmed the onlookers, who enjoyed listeningto material from the band’s last two albums. The Great Lakes Swimmers were a prelude to a natural wateryprogression, the closing act of the night, Great Big Sea.
The rain had already stopped when the hugely popular Newfoundland band Great Big Sea was greeted by agreat big audience of about 7,000 for their first Ottawa Folk Festival appearance. “We finally made it to the Ottawa Folk Festival,” proclaimed lead singer Alan Doyle, as the band has performed to large crowds at manyother venues in the nation’s capital. Great Big Sea was in fine form and the audience danced and sang along totheir interpretations of traditional East Coast music till the park closed for the night.
The fun began with Nudie and the Turks. This P.E.I.-based band specializes in tunes with a classic country sound and a contemporary spin. The band is led by a fully-clothed guitar player and lead singer named Nudie, who spins amusing yarns between songs. The set included songs about small-town P.E.I., a yodelling tune and even a ditty about Ottawa. The pedal steel guitar was an especially appealing element of the music.
Also appearing was American Kina Grannis who is known for her sensitive lyrics and emotive vocals. Her straight-ahead folk was accompanied by a cello player. She amused the crowd by taking a video of the audience.Her closing number, “Message from the Heart,” was sweet and philosophical. Paul Langlois, who is also a guitarist with The Tragically Hip, performed a rocking set with his band consisting of two guitarists and a drummer. A few of the songs, however, veered into folk territory.
There was a huge buzz before the festival about the artist known as LP (Laura Pergolizzi). She is a songwriter and recently turned performer who has penned material for Rihanna and the Backstreet Boys. At the festival she lived up to all the hullabaloo. A small woman with a mop of dark curly hair, this New Yorker who lives in L.A. was accompanied by a six-piece band as she sang and played a ukulele. LP easily won the audience over with her incredible voice and high-energy vibe as she worked her way through original material such as the monster hit“Into the Wild” and awesome covers from artists such as Roy Orbison and Beyonce.
Tartan Homes Stage
The day’s festivities began in the mid-afternoon under heavy rain. Umbrellas were open across the audience as hardy festival goers hunkered down to hear Newfoundland band The Once. This popular Canadian trio includes a female vocalist and two musicians who play acoustic instruments (guitar, mandolin and violin). Their repertoire spanned traditional Maritime music, original tunes and inspired covers, and was warmly received by the audience.
Next up were the Abrams Brothers, two Canadian siblings who sang and played a variety of instruments. The duo included John on guitar, mandolin, keyboards and percussion, and James on violin. The crowd loved their mix of bluegrass, country and folk.
There were also blues-inspired sets that afternoon from Texas performer Guy Forsyth and American singer- songwriter Cassie Taylor. Forsyth performed solo, and played a vintage guitar with internal amplification. He really shone with numbers that had a bluesy, gospel feel. Taylor is the striking, red-haired daughter of blues musician Otis Taylor. She played electric bass guitar and sang, performing with her band in an inspired rhythm- and-blues influenced set. For the finale number “Iko Iko”, a traditional News Orleans song, Taylor and her band were joined by the Abrams Brothers, and members of the Rag and Bone Puppet Theatre.
In the evening, the music was rockier. Hooded Fang proved themselves to be masters of indie pop. The Toronto-based group energized the audience with a frenzied guitar-driven set. The alternative four-piece rock band Yukon Blonde drew a mostly young crowd that thoroughly enjoyed their high-octane performance. The set from this B.C. band was punctuated by soaring four-part harmonies.
TJ Wheeler & James Cohen, acoustic guitarists who combine influences spanning blues, jazz, flamenco and
rock, were up first. They were followed by a set with influential English folk guitarist and singer John Smith.Slackwater Stage
The performances included a set by Sincerely Yours. The Guitar Hero session was hosted by Ottawa blues musician John Carroll, who traded licks with an impressive group of guitar heroes: Danny Michel, Michael Jerome Browne and Luke Doucet. The group also shared stories about their musical adventures. The sessionSomebody Else included sets by LP, Danny Michel and Brock Zeman. The day wound down with a set fromLes Stroud, a blues-influenced singer-songwriter and environmentalist, who is well known for his television show Survivorman.
On Saturday morning and afternoon there were live broadcasts of two long-standing CKCU-FM radio shows:Canadian Spaces and The Back 40. Chopper McKinnon, the creator and host of Canadian Spaces, hosted a live version of the longest-running folk show on Canadian community radio. His guests included Ottawa Folk Festival co-founder Chris White and Mark Delorme, a long-time production manager of the festival.
Chopper interviewed White about his exemplary contributions to Canadian folk music as White was receiving the2012 Helen Verger Award. White chatted about the origins of the folk festival and the impact that three major influences, Canadian Spaces, Rasputin’s and the Ottawa Folklore Centre, had on the local folk community.
In 1993, White co-founded the Ottawa Folk Festival with Max Wallace and was the festival’s Artistic Directorfor 16 years. In a news release, White said he had “met an amazing number of talented and really nice people along the way, and I dedicate this award to them.” Chris was involved in countless musical and community events in Ottawa, and in recent years served as the co-host of Canadian Spaces.
This was Chopper’s last appearance at the Ottawa Folk Festival. Sadly, Chopper passed away in March 2013 after hosting Canadian Spaces for 33 years. Many people believe the Ottawa Folk Festival would not have come to fruition without his unfailing support and encouragement. Chopper hosted many live broadcasts of Canadian Spaces over the history of the festival. He co-hosted the evening main stage with Karen Flanagan McCarthyfor 15 years and was well loved by folk festival audiences.
It was a testament to Chopper that he was able to continue with the show on a volunteer basis for over three decades. He hosted Canadian Spaces right up until his death in 2013 in what would have been the 33rd year of the show. Luckily the show lives on with host Chris White and guest hosts.
At noon, The Back 40 live show was hosted by Ron Moores. The long-running show features traditional country, western and bluegrass music. Moores supplements the tunes with live performances and plenty of interviews, taped live in the studio or on location at musical venues across North America.
In the afternoon, people took part in participatory workshops including Beatboxing Basics with Julie Dales;Rise Up Singing (the title is taken from a popular book of singalong folk songs), led by Arthur McGregor; Storytelling with Ruthanne Edward; and Harmonica 101 with Catriona Sturton.
The Appalachian Jam was cancelled due to rain, but there was a Celtic Jam and the Terry Penner Festival Choir came together for a rehearsal.
In the EnviroTent, workshops were provided on topics including German New Medicine, The Otesha Project (a charity providing bicycle tours for young people), Wild Edibles, and Healing & Singing Folk Music.
Crafts, games, performances and workshops were available for kids of all ages.
During the day, sessions were provided on two divergent art forms: breakdancing and step dancing. Saul Williams, the American singer, musician, and hip-hop poet, was interviewed by journalist, musician and poet Ian Keteku, and performed some of his riveting poetry.
Gordie MacKeeman & His Rhythm Boys provided a stellar set in their second festival appearance. They were later presented with the Galaxie Rising Stars Supernova Award for outstanding live performance at the festival. This P.E.I. band of four seasoned performers combined bluegrass and country influences with excellent showmanship and lots of fun. This session, originally planned for the PSAC-AFPC Stage, was moved due to the rain.
The entertainment ended with a set from the American singer-songwriter and guitarist Raúl Midón whose music reflects jazz, blues, R&B and folk influences.
Sunday, Sept. 9
Sunday proved to be mostly overcast and cool but the crowds came in record numbers and enjoyed all the festival had to offer.
CUPE-SCFP Main Stage
The Terry Penner Festival Choir is named for the late Terry Penner, who cofounded of the Ottawa Folklore Centre with her husband Arthur McGregor. The choir is made up of volunteer participants who unite to celebrate the sheer joy of singing. This year’s repertoire included “Wake Up” by Arcade Fire. The enthusiasticcrowd loved the performance. The choir was sponsored by Arthur McGregor and Hollis Morgan who also provided acoustic accompaniment on guitar and dobro respectively.
Amy Helm, daughter of the late music legend Levon Helm, is an accomplished roots musician and vocalist in her own right. She performed a set infused with country and blues that included standards such as the Muddy Waterstune “The Life I Want” and original compositions like “I Lay Down”. Helm’s band, including members playing acoustic and electric guitars and drums, provided the perfect accompaniment for her gorgeous voice.
Double Juno Award-winning singer-songwriter Dan Mangan, who had recently returned from a tour in Europe, received a great response from the crowd. His band instrumentation included three electric guitars, an electricviolin, drums, trumpet and saxophone, while Mangan played acoustic guitar and sang. Mangan’s set made it easyto see why he is becoming increasingly popular in Europe as well as in Canada.
The Galaxie Rising Stars Supernova Award was presented to Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys. The four-member P.E.I. band was given a $1500 bursary, as well as potential airplay on the Galaxie musicchannels. “The competition for this award included some amazing talent,” commented Ottawa musician and folkfestival staffer Ana Miura. “Having seen Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys at this year’s Ottawa Folk Festival, I would say the jury got it right.”
Singer-songwriter Kelly Sloan was presented with the Galaxie Rising Stars Award, which is presented annually to a local, emerging Canadian performer. Sloan is a classically trained singer with roots in the Ottawa Valley and has released two successful albums. Her music has been described as soul-infused folk, and country- roots rock. She is well-known for her expressive voice and riveting live performances.
An electric violin punctuated the edgy country rock set of Fiftymen, adding to the band’s sonic landscape ofelectric guitar, keyboards, banjo, drums and vocals. Mark Michaud was featured on electric guitar as the bandperformed catchy songs like “Let Me Not Be Forsaken”.
Bombino, led by Oram Moctar, provided an upbeat world music sound. Moctar is a young, Tuareg guitarist born in Niger who was influenced by Saharan rock bands. To the delight of the audience, his band of three electric guitar players and a drummer (all dressed in traditional robes) really rocked out.
Said the Whale attracted a large, youngish audience that had a whale of a time. The Vancouver-based indie band entertained with a selection of memorable songs such as “Setting off Some Fire” and “Addicted to Technology”. The audience was treated to great vocals and spellbinding storytelling, demonstrating why thegroup won a Juno Award for Best Band in 2011.
Montreal singer-songwriter Patrick Watson performed with a large ensemble that included brass instruments, electric violin and keyboards, and exotic percussion instruments. The band’s folky indie rock songs and Watson’sappealing vocals were greatly appreciated by the large crowd who assembled to listen and dance along. Diverse elements included music from cowboy movies, choir boy-like backing vocals, Jimi Hendrix-style guitar riffs and classical violin!
The first performers were Gavin and Will of the Black Dogs, two Ottawa lads who both sing and play stripped- down acoustic guitar. The songs were haunting, with shades of early Dylan and lovely arrangements. Theaudience included both of the performers’ parents!
The world music set of Haram was heady Middle Eastern-jazz fusion music that attracted a large group of people who clapped to the rhythms and danced along. Soaring vocals were supported by an amazing array of instruments including doumbek (African drum), saxophone, trumpets, clarinet, fiddle, flute and lute.
Michael Jerome Browne opened with a wailing traditional Delta blues song that he co-wrote with his partner,Bea Marcus. Born in the U.S., Browne moved to Montreal with his parents and grew up immersed in the coffee house scene. He eventually mastered several instruments and attained an encyclopedic knowledge of Americanroots music. Browne’s set encompassed original songs such as “Low Tide”, written on Hornby Island, B.C., andtraditional blues, jazz, Appalachian and Creole tunes.
Winnipeg singer-songwriter John K. Sampson is a member of the folk-indie band The Weakerthans. In this solo outing, he appeared with a guitarist/backup vocalist. Many in the crowd were familiar with his material and enthusiastically sang along to tunes such as “I Hate Winnipeg”.
Belle Starr featured three beautiful women fiddlers/vocalists who are “a whole lot country”. Stepdancer, fiddlerand singer Stephanie Cadman hails from Ottawa. The trio is rounded out by Miranda Mulholland (a member of Great Lakes Swimmers), and Kendel Carson, who also plays guitar. This incarnation of the band included two male instrumentalists. Belle Starr was the belle of the festival, entrancing the audience as the band members worked their way through a set that included original tunes and covers from artists such as Lynn Miles and Dolly Parton.
The highly anticipated indie folk act Whitehorse closed the evening on this stage. Whitehorse is husband and wife duo Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland. They nimbly accompanied themselves on guitars, keyboards and percussion, frequently switching instruments. Quite a logistical and artistic feat! They delivered a lively andmoving set of original tunes such as “Get Me Through December” and covers like “I’m on Fire” from BruceSpringsteen.
Sessions on the PSAC-AFPC Stage included Ottawa alt rockers Full Tipped Sleeve, beat box specialist Julia
Dales, and popular Ottawa Valley bluegrass band Jan Purcell & Pine Road.
The Kitchen Party session was a hoot, and showcased “down home” songs from bass player Ann Downey, harmonica whiz Catriona Sturton, folkie Birdie Whyte and her husband, blues singer-songwriter John Carroll.
The audience was thrilled to see the American folk supergroup Red Horse (John Gorka, Eliza Gilkyson andLucy Kaplansky) perform.
Musician Jill Hennessy is well known as an actress in Law & Order, Crossing Jordan and Robocop 3. In an interview session, Hennessy spoke about her early career in Edmonton where she was a busker, her recent projects, and her twin sister Robi who is also a musician. Hennessy’s career has led her to live in the U.S. but she still enjoys working as a musician and performing in Canada when she can. “Music is a joy,” said Hennessy whobelieves social media has opened up a whole new world for artists because they can receive immediate feedbackfrom fans. She accompanied herself on acoustic guitar and performed songs such as “Ghosts in My Head”, thetitle track of her 2010 CD.
Arthur McGregor, Nudie of Nudie & the Turks, Eliza Gilkyson and The Once participated in Any Way You String It. The stringed instruments included guitars, banjos and mandolins. McGregor opened with an instrumental banjo tune and later played an acoustic version of the American national anthem. Nudie countered with a Sam Cooke folk/gospel number. Gilkyson asked John Gorka and Lucy Kaplansky to join her on “Death in Arkansas” and later played the title track from her album, “Roses at the End of Time”. Three members of The Once demonstrated their mandolin and guitar skills and were joined by Nudie on “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight”. The session wound down with Kaplansky leading a sing-along song, “Slouching Towards Bethlehem”.
Hellos & Goodbyes was a session chronicling songs depicting beginnings and endings, and featured Said the Whale, John Smith and Lucy Kaplansky. Tunes included “I’ll Be Saying Farewell” from Said the Whale, aScottish folk song from Smith, and a Mother’s Day ditty from Kaplansky.
The City Slickers, Country Songs session was hosted by Ottawa’s Pat Moore, who summed up things nicelywhen she said “Just because we live in the city, doesn’t mean we don’t have country in our blood.” She wasjoined by city slickers Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys, Pat McLaughlin, harmonica playerCatriona Sturton, Amy Helm and Don Littleton. Highlights included Moore’s “Take It to Heart”, Helm’s Woody Guthrie cover “I Ain’t Got No Home” and a humorous ditty about the Wheel of Fortune television showby Sturton.
The Wild Things session featured the wild sounds of Yukon Blonde, Black Dogs and Belle Starr. According to workshop coordinator Meredith Luce, this session was overflowing with talent. It featured all three members of Belle Starr, a group of Ontario women who blend exquisite harmonies and pop sensibilities into their folk music, and the serene songs of Ottawa duo Black Dogs. They were joined by three members of Yukon Blonde, who performed acoustic versions of their raucous and danceable music.
Legacy StageIn the Guitar Masterclass, host John Carroll and Michael Jerome Browne discussed blues and country music artists such as Robert Johnson, Leadbelly and Big Bill Broonzy. Carroll, Browne and guests showcased their guitar skills.
Jodie Benjamin led the Yodelling session, discussing techniques and tricks, and encouraging the crowd to participate. Benjamin enlightened the curious crowd about the Jimmie Rodgers style of yodelling, cowboyyodelling and the “epiglottic click”. People bravely yodelled along while Benjamin performed songs like “Country Sweetheart”.
During the Mandolin & Bouzouki session, members of Newfoundland’s The Once provided a thoughtful seminar on these two closely related instruments. The session combined instruction and information with demonstrative performances.
A Bytown Ukulele workshop was held in the early afternoon. The Terry Penner Festival Choir had its final rehearsal.
In the EnviroTent, there were talks including Fair Trade Ottawa, Earth Quilt: Mother of Makers, Saving Ottawa’s Ash Trees, Going Solar, and Natural Cosmetics.
KidzoneMore crafts, games, performances and workshops were available for the little ones and their companions.
People of all ages participated in the Bollywood Dance session led by Kuljit Sodhi of Galitcha. The session featured a rousing, hand-clapping, foot-stomping hour of fun set to Bollywood music sponsored by Studio Mouvement in Gatineau, Quebec. An Elaborhythm Dance Session was also held later in the afternoon.
Monday, Sept. 10
The entertainment began in a big way with The Low Anthem, a six-piece indie folk ensemble from Providence, Rhode Island. It featured male and female vocals and an eclectic array of instruments including guitars, trumpets, unusual string and percussion instruments, and drums. The band opened with a slow ballad featuring New Orleans-style trumpet and progressed through a very interesting set of traditional and contemporary numbers,such as the eerie “Ghost Woman Blues”.
The Big Dipper shone softly in the sky during the performance of Hey Rosetta!, a popular indie band from St.John’s, Newfoundland. The Lumineers were scheduled to perform but had to cancel. Luckily, Hey Rosetta! was able to fill in on short notice. The band has a reputation for great songwriting, and layered instrumentation that includes keyboards and a variety of stringed instruments. This incarnation included three guitarists, a fiddler, cello player and drummer. The set inspired many moods via poetic lyrics and tunes ranging from dreamy to rocky. A colourful light show that would have been right at home in a stadium served as a backdrop. Confetti rather than rain showered down at the end of the concert!
CUPE-SCFP Main Stage Anaïs Mitchell
It was refreshing to hear the deceptively sweet and simple music of Anaïs Mitchell who performed with a small ensemble. Her performance contrasted nicely with the large, mostly male bands performing the rest of the evening. In her early thirties, the American singer-songwriter has four successful albums and has been described as the queen of modern folk music. This was Mitchell’s first date as the opening act for Bon Iver. The two groups also performed together in other venues over the following week.
Bon Iver was the band many of the festival goers were itching to see. By the time the American band hit the stage, the crowds swelled to become the festival’s largest-ever audience, an impressive 12,000. Mysterious burlap-type material was draped in unusual shapes over tall columns on the stage, which created interesting patterns during the light show. Front man Justin Vernon created the first Bon Iver album by himself in an isolated Wisconsin cabin, but he soon found musical comrades to help him create a lush, layered sound. At the folk festival, Bon Iver gloried in instrumentation including brass, woodwinds, a variety of stringed instruments and percussion. The songs were interesting but not always easy to understand on first listening. Many in the crowd seemed familiar with the music and sang along however. The set concluded with a cut from Bon Iver’sfirst album, For Emma, Forever Ago.
And so ended the most highly attended Ottawa Folk Festival to date!