The Wilderness opened the bus’s night at CityFolk on the Ravenlaw Stage in the Aberdeen Pavilion, which has housed a wide variety of events over the years. Clearly appreciating the amount of people who made it out for their set, they said “we just came off of an 11 show tour and there are more people here than at all of those shows combined. We love these small, but when but together, mighty crowds. Thank you guys!” Their strong electric presence combined with their chilling, vibrant, echoing vocals, and their use of chains on congas and tambourines made for a beautifully drawing experience – visually, as well as sonically. Their voices blended so well together that if you weren’t looking, you almost wouldn’t be able to tell it wasn’t just one person on vocals until you heard the echoes of the other voices. Titling themselves The Wilderness is also clearly not just declaring them outdoorsmen, but made obvious to be a node to their love for the environment, with songs about hurricane Irene and Georgia is burning.
Over at the City Stage, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats shared their unmistakable soul with Ottawa for the first time ever. With black and white screens on either side of the stage, that old school feel was given an extra push. The presence they had at the festival was reminiscent of what Bluesfest used to be, before they strayed away from the true Blues acts and went more mainstream. Open air, sound travelling all around, foots stomping wherever you looked, their set was equally as energetic as it was soothing. The instruments and amps they use are clearly carefully chosen and the keyboardist also using an organ keyboard shakes you right down to the soul and pulls on your heartstrings. Their set was full with hits, songs people had never heard, and of course closing out with their well-known song, S.O.B..
Opening his set up with his hit, ‘Sitting, Waiting, Wishing’, Jack Johnson never disappoints in his live performances. While many people find him a bit mundane, because he tends not to shake up his sound much, the covers get you singing along. Covering songs like the Steve Miller band’s Space Cowboy and Sublime’s Badfish, Johnson had the whole crowd singing along. From afar, you’d think it was solely him and his acoustic guitar on stage, but the band supporting him was equally as much to thank for the outstanding ambiance throughout the performance. Most concerts are filled with overwhelming light shows, but Johnson’s set didn’t need it. There was a psychedelic backdrop in place for a lot of the show, but nearing the end it was mostly just lights coloring the dissipating smoke. Resembling a softer version of Sam Roberts, it’s to no surprise that the set included his track, ‘Good People’. Many signs were raised in the air, but the one Johnson decided to put a spotlight on read “Ohana is one word for family,” leading him to play his song ‘Upside Down’, because he said that he wanted to play it before anyone who brought their kids had to leave to put them to sleep.
Most festivals save the most electric sets for last, but CityFolk took the opposite approach, amping you up at the beginning and cooling you down by the end. A perfect festival to bring your children to. The beautiful thing about this venue is that there’s a place for everyone. Whether you want to get as close to the stage as possible, if you’re a crowd goer, someone who likes to stand off to the side and observe, or you prefer to roll out your blanket and relax on the grass while soaking up the live music, there’s a spot for you at Lansdowne. I can’t think of a better place for a festival like CityFolk in Ottawa.
Thursday Night @ CityFolk was incredible!