2018 is the year that CityFolk celebrates its 25th anniversary, and this year’s lineup pulls no punches. There’s a mix of old and new, rookies and veterans, old dogs and fresh blood. Even more, there is something for everyone in terms of genres. The organizers reeled in big name acts such as David Byrne and Hozier, which will be sure to draw big crowds.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the top acts to check out at the main festival over the coming days, and this can serve as a primer for you going in. Have fun exploring!
Sunday, September 16, 9:00pm – 10:15pm — City Stage
Portland, Oregon’s The Decemberists have been active for nearly two decades. Over that time the group has released eight full-length albums, all of which are distinct in sound, concept, and approach. Principal songwriter and frontman of the group, Colin Meloy, has waded through changing tides and been the cohesive element throughout the years. The Decemberists are known for their rambunctious live performances, and seeing their expansive catalogue played on stage is one opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.
Friday, September 14, 8:00pm – 9:00pm — RavenLaw Stage
William Prince is a JUNO award-winning singer-songwriter who has made a name for himself by composing raw, emotional songs that are rooted in memories and stories from his past. Raised on the Peguis First Nation of Manitoba, Canada, Prince picked up the guitar and piano at age nine and hasn’t looked back since. His debut album Earthly Days won “Aboriginal Artist of the Year” at the 2016 Western Canadian Music Awards and “Contemporary Roots Album of the Year” at the 2017 JUNO Awards. With his unforgettable baratone vocal timbre, Prince’s music is quickly becoming part of the story of true Canadiana folk.
Friday, September 14, 6:30pm – 7:30pm —RavenLaw Stage
Flint Eastwood is an indie-rock brother-sister duo from Detroit, and the past year has been a whirlwind of successes for them. They released their Broke Royalty EP on Neon Gold Records, and garnered a significant amount of critical praise as well as spots on key festival lineups such as Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. One gets the feeling that this energetic young group is just getting started on their road to stardom, so better catch them now before they blow up.
Saturday, September 15, 9:15pm – 10:30pm—City Stage
This list would be incomplete without the inclusion of Andrew Hozier-Byrne, a.k.a. Hozier. His debut EP came out in 2013, and featured the smash-hit anthem “Take Me to Church.” Not bad for a 23 year-old. The mild-mannered Irishman (and son of a blues musician) has taken his time releasing new music, and his new EP Nina Cried Power is the first release in four years. His deep, rich vocals explode in songs such as “Rose Wine” and “Like Real People Do,” and it’s no wonder why Hozier one of the most anticipated acts on the CityFolk lineup this year.
Thursday, September 13, 9:00pm – 10:30pm—City Stage
This man needs no introduction. David Byrne has had an undeniable impact on the course of music history, primarily as the gonzo lead member of Talking Heads in the 1970’s and 1980’s. But he has also distinguished himself apart from the band in more recent years, and collaborated with the likes of St. Vincent, Brian Eno, among others, to create truly unhinged music like no one else. 2018’s American Utopia is Byrne’s first actual “solo” album in 14 years, and delves into the American consciousness as it stands in these turbulent times. You can’t miss David Byrne—his live performances are simply legendary.
Thursday, September 13, 7:30pm – 8:40pm — City Stage
Ani DiFranco is an American singer, musician, poet, songwriter, and activist. Her music has always reflected her socially progressive core values (she has backed grassroots cultural and political organizations supporting causes including abortion rights and LGBT visibility, among others), and she’s always maintained an arms-length relationship with the corporate side of the music industry. In fact, she created her own record label called Righteous Babe in 1990 to give her more creative freedom and flexibility. DiFranco’s music draws inspiration from jazz, punk, folk, and funk, and she’s released twenty albums independently and sold over four million worldwide. But you probably won’t be hearing her on mainstream radio anytime soon, so be sure to catch a rare glimpse at Ani DiFranco live at CityFolk this year.
Steve Earle & The Dukes
Wednesday, September 12, 6:00pm – 7:15pm—City Stage
Let’s be clear—Steve Earle is a songwriter that transcends generations. As a three-time Grammy Award recipient and 11-time Grammy nominee, Earle could very well be the epitome of modern Americana music. Not only does his music career span over 40 years and 20 albums, but he is also known as a novelist, a film/TV/stage actor, a playwright, an author, a record producer, and a radio host. Catch him and his band live to see history in action.
Thursday, September 13, 8:00pm – 9:00pm — RavenLaw Stage
A short, soft-spoken, long-haired dude from Regina, Saskatchewan? Not exactly who you thought would make this list. But let’s be honest—his third album The Party was one of the best albums to come out of 2016. It was shortlisted as a finalist for the Polaris Music Prize that year. It’s the kind of record you put on while looking out the window on a rainy day. The thorough instrumentation and delicate vocals are just the beginning of what make The Party so magnificent, and Shauf translates the ornate arrangements and emotionally-driven songs perfectly on stage.
Saturday, September 15, 6:00pm – 7:00pm — City Stage
Say what you will about modern country music, Canadian artist Lindi Ortega is one who demands to be heard. Ortega’s music is somewhere between Lana Del Rey and a Quintin Tarantino soundtrack, with a bit of Dolly Parton thrown into the mix. Although she’s originally from Toronto, she lived for some years in Nashville, TN, and cut her teeth in the land where country music thrives. She’s released seven full-length albums, the latest of which came out in March of this year. There’s a narrative to her music that makes it undeniably attractive, and she’s an artist that those who don’t normally appreciate country may actually fall in love with. Worth a try, that’s for sure.
Sunday, September 16, 6:00pm – 7:00pm — City Stage
If you’re a couple of talented musicians who end up getting married, why not just start a band? That’s what Luke Ducet and Melissa McLelland did. Whitehorse is a beloved Canadian indie-rock duo that is rooted in marriage but known for their explosive music. They won a JUNO in 2016 for their album Leave No Bridge Unburned, and have been nominated for CFMA’s and the Polaris Music Prize. Check these guys out to see why they’re a staple Canadian band to see live.
Tedeschi Trucks Band
Wednesday, September 12, 9:30pm – 10:45pm — City Stage
The Tedeschi Trucks Band is one of the biggest and best live touring bands going right now. The 12-piece ensemble—led by the husband-and-wife team of guitarist Derek Trucks and guitarist-singer Susan Tedeschi—takes the stage by storm and doesn’t let up until the last chord is struck and final note is sung. For blues rock enthusiasts, this band is pushing the envelope and exploring new horizons of improvisation and collaboration that the world of blues music has never seen. Strap yourselves in—the guitar solos will blow your hair back.