I had the exciting opportunity to check out City Folk Festival in Ottawa this past weekend at Landsdowne Park. The festival featured a diverse mix of artists ranging in genre and popularity, bringing the Ottawa community together in a celebration of music and the arts.
Despite being a Thursday afternoon, the Celtic-punk band Dropkick Murphys brought an impressively decent crowd out to kick off the four-day-long festival. Die-hard fans gathered around the front of the stage, eagerly awaiting the energetic performance that Dropkick Murphy’s never fail to bring. Lead singer Al Barr probably covered every inch of the City Stage; jumping from platform to platform, growling out the lyrics to hits such as The Boys are Back and Rose Tattoo. He acknowledged the idea that, “It’s hard to be the first match in the box, trying to start that fire”- referring to opening the festival. There was no doubt that these guys were a great choice to start off the weekend on a lively note, and the perfect kindling for a fire that would be the music of City Folk.
Later in the afternoon the Kingston-born band, Lost Cousins hit the BMO stage with a smooth, indie-rock performance. Although I had not listened to much of their work before this set, the group pleasantly surprised me with a vibe that said “Let’s start a band in our parents’ basement” while having a jazzy characteristic to their music as well. I was impressed by the whole band’s capability to harmonize with such ease, the bright guitar elements, and the sultry saxophone featured on many of the tracks. They even threw Tears for Fears’ Everybody Wants to Rule The World cover into the mix. Overall, a great performance.
Closing off the first night with a spine chilling performance of familiar songs, James Bay was welcomed by Ottawa with open arms. The British singer-songwriter brought out a large crowd just as expected. His performance included the hits from his debut album Chaos and the Calm. He laid out subtle changes in his well-known hits, teasing the audience with pauses in the melody of songs like Let it Go, Scars and Craving. He included the sweet intro of Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling in Love with You and watched as the audience sang the timeless lyrics by themselves. The performer had me, along with arguably everyone else in the crowd swaying to the gentle melody his lone guitar played.
After his main set, the artist came back for an encore performance, which included a dynamic version of Proud Mary that smoothly transitioned in to his hit Hold Back The River for the finale. It had the audience more than satisfied and excited for what the rest of the weekend had to bring.