Last night kicked off the 20th Annual Ottawa Folk Festival, which acts as a sort of closing ceremony for the outdoor festival circuit in this area. It’s the last chance to see a great selection of musical talent in a short period of time. As has been typical lately, the festival opened with limited performances, not making use of all the stages on the first night. Despite the reduced number of acts, there was a little bit for everyone and varying styles. One thing I have learned over the years of attending festivals is that each one has its own vibe. The Ottawa Folk Festival, for example, is much more relaxed and low key than the Ottawa Bluesfest and definitely less so than Montreal’s Osheaga. As the festival season is coming to an end and having spent so many days out, it was a welcome change for this concert goer.
The evening started off with alternative rockers We Are Monroe, and although I really wanted to check them out, I only caught less than half of their set. They sounded very good and I would like an opportunity to see them again.
Next up was the much respected and critically acclaimed M. Ward. He’s best known for his work with Zooey Deschanel as She & Him and performed with Conor Oberst, Jim James, Mike Mogis, and Will Johnson on the super folk group Monsters of Folk. Solo, he is exceptionally talented both as a writer and as a performer. I’m sure he won over some new fans from the crowd last night.
Veteran blues-rockers Blues Traveler followed. If you didn’t get your fill of blues at Bluesfest, here was another chance to get some more. In one interesting moment, the band covered The Charlie Daniels Band’s “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”, replacing some fiddle with John Popper’s harmonica.
The rain finally started near the end of Blues Traveler’s set, thankfully never really raining too hard. The rain did not seem to dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd gathering for the headliners, Foster the People. The band exploded on the scene in 2011 with their pop hit “Pumped Up Kicks”. Their fame has grown with successive hits since, but this was their first chance since then to play to the Ottawa crowd. The rain added some atmosphere to the light show that accompanied their very solid and polished rock performance to conclude what was an excellent first day of the Folk Festival.
Although as mentioned there was no choice on this first day of the festival, I could see myself choosing the same acts anyway. All of the performers were very strong and provided an excellent diversity of styles. Here’s to Day Two today!
John Popper of Blues Traveler
Mark Foster of Foster the People
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