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Check out what is happening at the 20th annual edition of the Folkfest which will be taking over Hog’s Back Park starting today.

The festival runs from September 4th to the 8th at Hog’s Back Park.  And even though Neil Young is no longer playing, there is plenty to see and do.  Here are some of Ottawa Showbox’s daily recommendations.

Day 1: Wednesday September 4th

The first day is your chance to see one of the most influential female performers of all time, the ”Godmother of Punk,” Patti Smith.  She is also a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and holds the title of “Commandeur des Arts et Lettres” from the French Ministry of Culture. Her amazing fusion of rock and poetry is not to be missed. Patti and her band take to the stage at 7 pm.  Here is a taste of what you can expect Wednesday night, aka tonight.

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Day 2: Thursday September 5th

Thursday is the tale of local vs big name.  There are four great local acts rocking the park that day; Little Stella (6-7 pm), Three Little Birds (6:30-7:30 pm), Shannon Rose & the Thorns (7-7:45 pm) and Amos the Transparent (8-9 pm).  I have seen all of these bands several times and let me tell you, you are in for a treat with each one. Also you can feel good about supporting local, as it is always a great decision. Therefore I would recommend stage-hopping from local to local and then cap off the night with Vampire Weekend, who take to the main stage at 9:30pm.

Day 3: Friday September 6th

Friday is a battleground which will see folk and hip hop thrown down.  First the challenger, hip hop, will be represented by the ridiculously talented Canadian rapper Shad and Compton, California’s amazing Kendrick Lamar. Folk is firing back with Ottawa’s Amanda Rheaume (6-6:45 pm), Canterbury High alumni Tall Trees (6:15-7:15 pm) and Canadian singer-songwriter-guitarist Matt Andersen (8-9:15 pm).  Also worth noting, the referee for all of this is indie-rock, championed by Toronto’s Born Ruffians (6-7 pm).

There is a lot going on over the weekend portion, with over 18 bands a day and a bunch of workshops.  I picked out three or four artists a day and a few workshops I would recommend.

Day 4:  Saturday September 7th

Music-wise I would strongly recommend finding the time to check out 21-year-old Mac DeMarco from Montreal.  His smooth-flowing rock sound will be just what the doctor ordered for your late afternoon.  He goes on at 4 pm. The next must-see is Vancouver’s Hey Ocean! They are touted as one of Canada best up-and-coming bands and they play with a ton of dancy energy on stage. Lastly, The Avett Brothers are closing out the night, and will be the perfect period to the sentence. Two of the members, Scott and Seth Avett, are actually brothers, and there is something very special about watching two brothers harmonizing on stage. The boys are a blend of folk, country, bluegrass, rock and pop, check them out at 9 pm.

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Two of the workshops that I would recommend on the Saturday are Femme Fatale, with Ottawa’s own Shannon Rose and Catriona Sturton. A group of fabulous female artists share stories and songs in an intimate workshop setting. Second, although it is not really a workshop, but rather a freaking cool opportunity, check out an interview with Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. Listen in on a conversation between Danny Michel and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield as they discuss space and music. The conversation will be accompanied by music performed by Danny, Chris and his brother Dave.

Day 5: Sunday September 8th

On the last day of the festival there are some delicious treats lined up for you.  I don’t really need to convince anyone to go see Gordon Lightfoot or The Wailers, because it’s freaking Gordon Lightfoot and The Wailers!  So here are some other bands you should definitely check out. Ottawa’s Dave Norris & Local Ivan kick off the day at 1 pm and have been described as ”sublimely jangles its folk-pop cacophony of organ, wind instruments, percussion, and perfectly-layered vocals” by Amanda Putz of CBC Radio 3. Not much else to say there.  Also from Ottawa, Claude Munson and the Storm Outside will be serenading you with ambient folk-rock at 2 pm. Another Ottawa great, singer-songwriter Lynn Miles plays at 7 pm. My final musical recommendation is Carolina Chocolate Drops, winner of the 2010 Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album. If you don’t believe me, take a look at what the New York Times said about them: “They dip into styles of Southern black music from the 1920s and ‘30s—string-band music, jug-band music, fife and drum, early jazz—and beam their curiosity outward. They make short work of their instructive mission and spend their energy on things that require it, like flatfoot dancing, jug playing, and shouting.” You will thank me after you see them.

Workshop-wise, I would suggest Guitar Masterclass at 4 pm with Ottawa’s John Carroll. The workshop is a combination interview / workshop highlighting the masterful guitar skills and songwriting of Chris Smither. And lastly, The History & Evolution of Reggae Music at 5 pm, hosted by Danny Michel and members of The Wailers.

I hope this helps you all figure out what to do this week, for the complete schedule click here, and if you are looking for tickets please follow this link.