Folkfest Day 1: Patti Smith and City in Colour

Patti Smith at the 2013 Ottawa Folk Festival. Photo by Steve Gerecke
Patti Smith at the 2013 Ottawa Folk Festival.
Photo by Steve Gerecke (

Wednesday night, the Godmother of Punk, Patti Smith, called the class to attention as she opened this year’s Ottawa Folk Festival at Hog’s Back Park.

At the fine age of 66, Patti Smith, is still one of the greatest poets on the face of the planet. Her beautiful prose flowed endlessly over her killer band’s rocking jams.

From the delightful “Dancing Barefoot,” to the dark “Ain’t it Strange.” From the anthemic “People Have the Power” where she screamed not to bomb Syria, to the wonderfully romantic “Because The Night.” Patti was on her game.

Of course you can not write about her and leave out the wonderful banter between songs.  She shared her for love of pro golfer Tom Watson and let us know it was his birthday. She found toothpaste in her in pocket and held it up to the crowd for all to see, more than once, and said “it’s my toothpaste.”  At another point, while a low flying plane passed over the park making a lot of noise she paused and said, “It must be Edward Snowden. Hi Edward, we love you,’’. Oh Patti Smith, I love you.

There were two very special moments during the show.  The first one started when Patti left the stage and the guitarist Lenny Kayle said “I figure garage rock is just folk music that happened once those Appalachian kids found the electric guitar, so we’d like to play a few folk songs now.” The band launched into a garage rock medley.I was blown away by Patti’s energy as she ran around hugging people near the barrier and then down the fenced middle of the crowd hive fiving, dancing and posing for pictures.

The other cool moment I will not soon forget was how she worked in aspects of Ottawa into her song “My Blakean Years,” singing about coming to the capital, and of the geese on the canal.

It was an amazing show, the only problem was the ignorant youth (I’m only 26, I should not feel this way yet!) all around me who would not shut up for five seconds and realize the  musical history class they were chatting, tweeting and instagraming through. You all score an F+ kiddos, hopefully one day you will look back and be mad at yourself for missing out.

Closing out the first night, was City and Colour. “Last weekend I was sitting in a van in England driving to a show and I got a text,” said Dallas Green. “Neil Young can’t play Folkfest, would you like to? And I said ‘yes, thank you very much.’ ”

After a few songs with the whole band, Dallas foudn himself alone on stage with nothing but his guitar and a harmonica.  With bright gold lighting behind him, he asked the crowd to help him, and he played Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.” After a great rendition of the classic he told the crowd he hoped they were OK with City and Colour as the consolation prize.  The 10, 000 or so in attendance cheered and he smiled. He then rewarded the crowd by playing the song “Paradise,” off the band’s latest album The Hurry And The Harm.

I myself was very disappointed with the Neil Young dropping out as I am not much of a City and Colour fan, and more of a fan of Dallas Green as a complementary voice to George Pettit in Alexisonfire.  But I must admit he has surrounded with a very talented band and the crowd loved them.  There was some pretty sweet guitar throughout the set also, specifically on the song “The Grand Optimist.”

Keep your eyes peeled for coverage of the rest of the festival from the Ottawa Showbox team. But don’t simply settle for reading about it, get out there and folk it up!