By: Calum Slingerland –
The city of Ottawa’s annual Folk Festival kicked off its 2013 edition Wednesday night with a double bill lending many a nod to both folk and punk music. Canadian music icons and festival headliners Neil Young and Crazy Horse were scheduled to perform in the headlining slot to open the festival, but were forced to cancel due to guitarist Frank ‘Pancho” Sampedro’s broken hand. In his stead, the headlining spot was given to City and Colour, seeing Dallas Green and his band return to the festival for the first time since 2011.
City and Colour
To close out the opening night of the festival, Dallas Green brought his City and Colour project to the stage. Green’s punk roots run deep within Canadian music, having been a member in popular St. Catherines, Ontario hardcore outfit Alexisonfire. Having recently released a new album, The Hurry and the Harm, Green made sure to play a few select cuts from it, opening the show with the dreamy “Of Space and Time”. “The Lonely Life” and “Thirst” were also included. Of course, none of the hits were forgotten about either. Donning a large white hat and denim jacket, Green performed a powerful version of “The Grand Optimist”, a song written about his father from 2011’s Little Hell.
It wasn’t long before Green went solo, performing a cover of the Neil Young classic “Heart of Gold”, perhaps giving the Young fans some redemption. What was most satisfying was that Green, and the musicians that he surrounded himself with onstage, including Raconteurs bassist Jack Lawrence, Constantines drummer Doug MacGregor, Yukon Blonde’s Matt Kelly on pedal steel, organ and pianos, and Hacienda’s Dante Schwebel on guitar, managed to take every song in the set to new sonic heights.
Each song felt more vibrant and engaging than the recordings, a key asset to any live performance. Fan favourites such as “Waiting…” and “Fragile Bird” were given new energy, with audience members singing along word for word. They performed a three-song encore, much to the crowd’s delight, with Green and the band playing an energetic version of “The Girl” from 2008’s Bring Me Your Love, and a slow, introspective rendition of “Comin’ Home” from his 2005 debut album Sometimes. He surprised the crowd with one final Neil Young cover, the ever-emotional “Like a Hurricane”. “This last one’s for those who had a ticket and kept it anyway,” he said, making light of his fill-in spot. “I couldn’t have had a better Wednesday with this crowd here tonight.” With or without a storied Canadian music legend, the crowd still left happy.
Patti Smith & Her Band
As the cold late-summer air began to settle in amongst festivalgoers in Hog’s Back Park, Patti Smith & Her Band arrived on stage to raucous applause. Often referred to as ‘the godmother of punk’, she put on an enthusiastic set which kept the crowd a bit warmer on the cool evening.
With her flowing grey hair concealing most of her face, Smith danced around stage and brought an endearing quirkiness to the performance that engaged the audience. In breaks between songs, her on-stage banter was highly enjoyable. As a large airplane roared over the festival grounds, Smith pointed up and said “It’s Edward Snowden!” Another instance involved her producing a small tube from her coat pocket, proclaiming “Look, it’s my toothpaste!”.
On the musical end of things, Smith and her band were just as impressive, putting on powerful renditions of “Pissing in a River” from her 1976 album Radio Ethiopia, her co-written song with Bruce Springsteen “Because the Night”, and her wonderfully reinterpreted cover of Van Morrison’s “Gloria”. A nice moment occurred when Smith let the band take over with a cover “Night Time” by The Strangeloves. She then proceeded to hop off the stage and walk down the center aisle of the crowd, shaking hands and thanking people for coming to the show. She finished her set with an especially riveting version of “People Have the Power” from 1988’s Dream of Life. “Remember everybody, use your voice!” she instructed the crowd as the song concluded.