Ottawa Folk Festival is upon us once again, and that means that the summer festival season is drawing to a close. But that doesn’t mean we can’t hold onto every last bit of what’s left of summer… even if it’s a little nippley out. You may have heard people complain about Folkfest not being “folk” enough – much like how Bluesfest isn’t “blues.” Well, they need to get over it. This year the festival has offered up a stellar lineup of music of all kinds – from a local DJ crew TIMEKODE to soulman Lee Fields. Kudos to the programmers for getting some great talent on board!
I only caught a couple acts on day one, as the first day didn’t have too many bands playing. A new addition to this year’s fest was the Craft Beer House, which was a large tent located just outside the actual grounds that are fenced-off. Not only are there plenty of craft beer options to indulge in, but also because there is free programming happening throughout the festival there. I treated myself to a beer from the Whitewater Brewing Company, another small Ottawa Valley craft beer company delivering some of the finest quality liquid in the country. I tried their Class-V IPA, a hoppy 5.5% beer that goes down smooth and has a hell of a bite to it. I highly recommend the Class-V to anyone who can appreciate full-flavoured, bitter beer. I think I fell in love that night, forever.
Our little group skipped on Blues Traveller, because, well… none of us really know them that well. However, I did hear that they played a cover of Sublime’s “What I Got,” which would have been a good one to sing along to. In any case, Ottawa DJ crew TIMEKODE were playing in the Craft Beer House and they are always a hell of a good time. Earlier this year, TK lost their home base at Eri Cafe but are still carrying on strong. They made their new home at Folkfest this night, and had a nice little crowd up dancing on the wood floors.
I love TK because they play whatever they feel like, and it’s always good. Really good. DJ’s Zattar and Memetic were representing, as Eric Roberts wasn’t around for the set. The two held down the fort and played a wide range of material, including some samples from producer David Axelrod’s “The Edge,” popularized by Dr. Dre’s song “The Next Episode“. From there they played a little remix of Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On,” as well as my absolute favourite of the night – a medley of two different versions of “Guns of Brixton.” The first was a really funky dub/reggae version that took the baseline and lyrics of the original and made everything a little easier for people to get their groove on to. Then Memetic came on the mic and told us that he was going to play the best version, which of course was the original by The Clash off of London Calling (composed & sung by bassist Paul Simonon). It’s as if they could read my mind, because I totally fan-girled it when the song came on (but I kept it mostly inside, so as to not completely embarrass myself). TK stayed on the decks until about midnight, keeping people sheltered from the rain with some great tracks.
We then headed to the main stage area to catch Foster The People from Los Angeles, CA. Around 10,000 people showed up to witness the final event of the night, which was headlined by Mark Foster and his band of talented freshmen. We braved the rain and got there just in time for “Helena Beat,” one of the many catchy songs off their 2011 album Torches. Their anthemic, dance-inspiring tracks are along the same lines as bands like Passion Pit or Cut Copy – synth-laden songs with relatively simple arrangements but structured with layers of captivating instrumentation and textures. Foster’s falsetto vocal parts were right on, and the band sounded extra good with a few new supporting bodies on stage for the tour. One of the band members even joined drummer Mark Pontius for a little extra beat. A few others from Torches, such as “Houdini,” “Call it What You Want,” “Don’t Stop,” and “Pumped Up Kicks,” made the rain-soaked crowd forget about their current state of discomfort in the name of music. Although the radio played most of their 2011 singles to death, the positive response from the audience was proof enough that their songs were not simply fleeting hits on the airwaves. Hands raised in the air, and smiles were seen all across the crowd as these foundational songs for the band kept the crowd singing along.
They also played a lot of songs off their newest album Supermodel, released in March. Although I was not as familiar with the album, I did enjoy their live performance of the new songs such as “Coming of Age” and “Are You What You Want Be?” It has to be said that none of their newer songs have the same power as the singles from their first album, except for one (and for a different reason). A new song that really caught my attention was “A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon.” It’s robust, distorted baseline, heavy percussion, and Foster’s relaxed vocals differentiated it from the rest. I liked it because it had some grimy elements in it, and diverged significantly from the lighter, electro-pop band they’re known to be. Even the lyrics are darker than we normally hear from Foster The People:
“Now I’m staring at the moon wondering why the bottom fell out
I’ve been searching for answers and there’s questions I’ve found
Open your eyes and share this burden somehow
Are you ready to drink
Or are you waiting to drown?”
Still, the majority of the songs played were from Torches, to which they owe their fame and fortune. A good mix of new and old never hurt anyone, as everyone left the show pleased. The rain pelted down hard, and noise complaints were made to the City by crotchety assholes miles away complaining about strange sounds coming from somewhere, but damn them both. People of all ages came and danced in the rain until late at night, which is what this city needs.