Festival-goers showed up in large numbers at Hog’s Back Park on a chilly September evening to attend the opening night of the 2013 Ottawa Folk Fest. American singer-songwriter and multi-disciplinary artist Patti Smith and Her Band opened the festivites on the occasion of the festival’s 20th edition.
A sizeable yet tame crowd was gathered in front of the Main Stage to see the once-punk rocker perform live. Smith, who in her heyday was an influential component of the NYC punk rock movement, appeared to be in great shape as she humored the public on numerous occasions and moved across the stage with energy. Smith performed Pissing in a River, after which she got the crowd to howl like hounds, declaring the festival officially open with the song People Have the Power.
Smith and Her Band concluded the 75-minute set with the hit song Gloria, in which she famously declares “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine” to which the crowd happily sang along to. The 66-year old gave a lively performance and entertained the crowd with her fun stage presence and words of wisdom.
A 45-minute break followed Patti Smith’s set to allow for a change of scene. By then, some fans of Patti Smith were leaving the site while many other festival-goers were arriving to catch the night’s headliner City and Colour.
By 10pm, people had packed in front of the CUPE stage to experience the anticipated performance by Canadian singer-songwriter Dallas Green, who goes by City and Colour. Joined by musicians Jack Lawrence on bass, Doug MacGregor on drums, Matt Kelly on peddlesteel and piano, and Dante Schwebel on guitar, Green took to the stage right on time doning a white cowboy hat and jean jacket. He jumped into his set with the opening track Of Space and Time, a new tune found on his latest studio album The Hurry and the Harm. He and his band continued with The Lonely Life, The Grand Optimist, and As Much As I Ever Could interacting with the audience between most songs.
City and Colour then performed Weightless at which point a technical problem with the stage lights ensued, forcing the group to continue playing in the dark. This actually made for quite a beautiful moment of intimacy between the crowd and the music but the technicians soon resolved the issue, allowing Green and his band to continue with lighthing. As per usual, Green’s soulful voice sounded perfect and hearing him play in such a picturesque outdoor location couldn’t have been better.
Happy to have been asked by festival organizers to replace Neil Young and Crazy Horse due to their cancelled performance, Green delivered a lovely cover of Heart of Gold as a consolation prize to the crowd’s delight. Everyone loved it and sang along. After this, the band members temporarily left the stage to allow Green to perform solo acoustic material namely Paradise and We Found Each Other In The Dark. The bunch then carried on with Sleeping Sickness, Harder Than Stone, Thirst, Waiting, and Fragile Bird, finishing with Sorrowing Man. The material performed from City and Colour’s different albums was nicely dispered throughout the set and this ensured that there was something to please everyone.
In response to the crowd’s incessant cheers and applause, City and Colour came back for an encore with The Girl and an original rendition of Comin‘ Home concluding with his version of Neil Young’s Like a Hurricane as the cherry on top.
At the end of it all, Green not only got the delicious-smelling popcorn that he had requested all night, he also wooed the Ottawa crowd which left Hog’s Back Park satisfied with the night’s generous performances.
The 2013 Ottawa Folk Fest continues today with performances by Shred Kelly, Amos The Transparent, Colin Meloy and Vampire Weekend. For the full festival lineup visit http://ottawafolk.com/.