After my trip to Yellowkinfe for Folk on the Rocks, I had caught a little bit of the folk fest bug (which was crazy since I already suffer from a chronic travel bug infection). This lead to excessive amounts of time spent Googling other Canadian Folk festivals and sadly realizing I was going to be over 1000km away from pretty much every single one for the rest of the festival season. Note that “pretty much” were key words here though. I eventually found the Ottawa Folk Festival – a massive 5-day event of folking awesomeness.
It was also taking place during a time I’d actually be living in Ontario and was located in the home city of my lovely friend Shauna, who, in addition to putting me up for the week, was able to hook me up with a job with The Scene Magazine in Ottawa as a photographer for the festival – hello line cutting, press pit access, ego over-inflation and a major intimidation factor from the size and importance of the assignment (I had about 20 bands and artists to take photos of and would be sharing the space with photographers from big publications like the Ottawa Sun and Ottawa Citizen)!
Wednesday: Day 1
Under a haze of emotions, I arrived in Ottawa Greyhound Bus style (read: an hour and a half late) JUST in time to catch City and Colour’s first-day performance. When Neil Young cancelled his tour last-minute (because a touring guitar-playing member of Crazy Horse was having hand-issues), Dallas Green took a call from his tour in England asking if he wanted to fill in, to which he responded “yes, thank you very much”!
Despite the fact that the crowd was noticeably smaller for his performance due to the last minute switch up (some people even showed up wearing Neil Young sweaters), City and Colour played a solid gig, even paying tribute to Neil Young with “Heart of Gold”.
Day 1 Summary: I was pretty disappointed in Neil Young for cancelling his tour, especially since it was rumoured to be his last. However, I like City and Colour better than him anyways, so I wasn’t really complaining.
Thursday: Day 2
Not gunna lie, this was the day I was most looking forward to coming into the festival. Vampire Weekend was going to be playing and I was a huge fan (note the keyword “was”). I had also fallen in love with Amos The Transparent’s video and was pretty pumped.
The day kicked off with Little Stella who weren’t terrible, but sounded a little pre-pubescent. I would definitely listen to them, but wouldn’t go out of my way to see them perform live kind of thing.
After seeing Amos the Transparent, I had to admit I’d fallen into an unfortunate Video Saved the Radio Non-Star-itis (it’s a thing everyone)! The same thing had happened to me with Matt Costa, its where a band makes a fun video of them doing awesome things that don’t involve a huge focus on singing. As a result, I don’t really listen to the music in the actual video and end up (falsely) thinking I like the band. Then, I download their songs, listen to them without the video and realize I’d been listening to lies. This is the reason I don’t usually watch music videos folks – THEY’RE LIES AND PROPAGANDA!
I wasn’t too concerned about all this conspiracy however, because I was pretty certain Vampire Weekend would make up for things. Unfortunately, the disappointment continued even before they came onstage: they were only letting photographers from daily Ottawa newspapers into the press pit. Undeterred, I shoved my way as close to the front as possible and got poised to (attempt) some photos. My enthusiasm proved to be a bit over-rated however, as once the band finally came on, their sound was a bit more Justin Beiber-y than I would have liked and was backed by recordings of people cheering them on in the background.
Day 2 Summary: Video Saved The Radio Non-Star-itis is terrible; almost as bad as seeing Vampire Weekend perform live.
Friday: Day 3
Maybe it was all the disappointment from the previous day, but I didn’t go into day 3 of the festival with high hopes. Luckily though, my music-seeing luck was about to change and I was pleasantly surprised with the Born Ruffians – both my their music and by the fact that the bassist and his constant hair flipping was a ton of fun to photograph.
Up next was Shad, another awesome discovery. While hip-hop isn’t always my scene, Shad is a great performer, busting out freestyle rap and playing into being in Ottawa, which the crowd loved.
Keeping with my mixed findings though, I wasn’t as impressed with Kendrick Lamar. While most of the people in the audience would probably have disagreed with me, I found an entire song that consisted basically JUST of the lyrics “pussy and patron make you feel alright” a little tiring. I wouldn’t doubt that this (one) verse came straight from the heart, but I literally can’t even think of anything else I could possibly say about the song.
Day 3 Summary: The Folk Festival has been full of surprises so far, which I’m kind of loving (a lot).
** Just to avoid any issues, all of the photos I’ve posted here weren’t taken from inside the press pit (because I’m not allowed to use them anywhere other than with The Scene Magazine, so you’ll have to check them out for yourself)!