Day two at City Folk for the bus was so full of spirit that anyone coming off of a long work week would have quickly forgotten just how tired they were before they arrived at the festival.
Both stages were jam packed with loud, energy fueled acts that took the stage by force. If you spent most of your night at the City stage, it’d be hard to differentiate between who the true main act was.
Amanda Marshall herself could have powered a small city with the amount of energy that she had. Running onto the stage with her big hair and big personality, her return from a 16 year hiatus was nothing short of triumphant. “It’s been a long time, Ottawa,” she said, reminiscing. “Last time I was here there was no Uber, there was no Snapchat, there was no Netflix… What were we all doing with our spare time?” As she continued on, transitioning into song, she talked about how “the world has changed… the world has gone crazy” and sung of world changes – Trump being in the white house, the world thinking that our Prime Minister is hot and almost having legalized pot – as the beginning of a set that you could barely take your eyes away from. Dressed head to toe in fire-engine red, Marshall looked as much on fire as her presence was. The crowd howling, she asked, “tell me honestly Ottawa, is the humidity affecting my hair?” Her humor and her breathtaking stage presence made it apparent how at home she is on stage and how happy she was to be back. Seamlessly transitioning between ballads and songs that even the timid would feel the need to dance to, there was not a dull moment during Marshall’s act.
While she was the headlining act, Broken Social Scene put on a show that was just as enthusiastic, having also been away from the stage for quite some time. For some reason the acoustics on the stage were not on par with the level of crispness that was afforded to the other acts and there were a few technical glitches, but that didn’t stop them from coming out in full force. With 10 members in total, the band was just as much fun to watch as they were to listen to – with more and more musicians joining in throughout the set. Every member as exuberant as the last, they opened up with World Sick, from their last album before their seven year release hiatus, Forgiveness Rock Record. “We came here to rock our guts out for the next hour,” frontman Kevin Drew said before leading into what their fans love best, rockin’ guitar riffs galore. The beloved Toronto band’s absence was quickly forgiven, as they hit the Ottawa stage with force, before going into a major North American tour. “This is the first day back at the office, folks,” they said, leaving the stage seeming like they had just begun. Ottawa got the first taste of what is sure to be a killer slew of live shows.
The Ravenlaw stage struggled with some serious technical difficulties throughout the night, mostly affecting the Jesse Winchester tribute band featuring Winchester’s son on vocals, who took over 20 minutes to get going. However, the eight person band didn’t let that affect their spirits whatsoever and came on in full force after overcoming the hurdle. Unfortunately, this cut their set almost in half and robbed the bus of seeing it, as Marshall’s set started just seven minutes after the band got going.
Another set that the bus missed out on getting the full experience of was the Suitcase Junket – the one man band that had the room fuller than a lot of the other shows, even though he played two nights in a row. The Aberdeen pavilion was packed up to the front with as many people standing in front of the stage as there were filling the seats. While we may not have made it for the full set, what we did get to experience was well worth the hustle. The epitome of a garage band, Matt Lorenz is really quite astonishing to watch. Doing more with his voice than most people can with multiple instruments, Lorenz said that he learnt to use his vocal chords as an instrument thanks to the sheer amount of time that he spends in the car, practicing different shapes with his mouth. His creativity is unmistakable and if you don’t notice that in his character, all you have to look at is his stage set up. Empty gas cans, pots, a shoe hitting a drum, you name it and he’s got it up there contributing to a truly unique sound. Before closing his set off with Eileen, he made a point to let a little more of his character shine through, saying “I’ll sign anything, anything. I’ll sign your hairy back, sir,” leaving the crowd in good humor.
Closing out the night on the Ravenlaw stage, was the Dead Flowers, and what a great closing act they were. Reminding us that the night wasn’t over yet, they said “are you tired? Don’t be tired Ottawa. I promise we will play a lot of songs that you can drunkenly sing along to.” Doing true justice to Rolling Stones songs like Honky Tonk Woman, Beast Of Burden, Let It Bleed, Wild Horses, and of course, Dead Flowers, they treated a newer generation with a taste of the true Rock N’ Roll era of the 60’s and 70’s. People were dancing arm in arm to what was despite the issues with the stage, a phenomenal sounding performance. Encouraging more people to get up and dance, they said, “thank you folks! Especially those up front drinking and dancing. Still love you folks sitting and bobbing your feet, but those up front dancing and drinking are getting right into it.” Nearing the end of the set, they played a ballad, but immediately after said “alright, no more crying songs. Only drinking songs for the rest of the night” and left the crowd chanting for more at the end of the set.
It was an outstanding night at City Folk festival, but there’s still much more to come. Tomorrow night Father John Misty headlines and Fred Penner is there to play a set for the kids, and another for the adults later on.