The 2013 version of the Ottawa Folk Festival ‘Adventures In Folkland’ kicked off on September 4th with the reigning godmother of punk Patti Smith opening the event.Accompanied by a five piece band, including long time guitarist Lenny Kayne, Smith opened the festival with “Ghost Dance.” As she came to the climax of “Southern Cross”, with all of our hands in the air, she reminded us all that “we are free.”
Smith then introduced her band and exited the stage. Kayne took to the mic, saying that they were going to play some folk for us, and then broke into some good ol’ rock and roll. As the band rocked along, Smith was on the grass reaching across the fence and personally greeting her fans.
Shortly after returning to the stage she dedicated a song ‘to the man it was written for, Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith‘ (her late first husband) and then tore into “Because The Night”. Smith at times seemed to be in a trance while singing, as she went through other fan favourites like “Ain’t It Strange” and “Pissing in the River”, but also kept her humour (and toothpaste) in her front pocket declaring, “‘This is a composition in D major,” before the band started “Banga”
When “People Have The Power” came to an end she urged us not to forget the message, and “use your voice.” Then ended her set the same way her her 1975 debut album Horses began, with her take on the Them classic “Gloria”.
City and Colour were next on stage to close opening night. The first thing I learned is that they pulled a reverse Alice Cooper, as City and Colour is no longer the name of Dallas Green‘s solo career but are, as he put it, “a band from North America.”
This six piece group, fronted by Green, quickly broke into “Space and Time”, and through out the evening ran through a combination of the new (“Harder than Stone”, “Thirst) and the familiar (“Sleeping Sickness”, “Waiting”), some of which was played in the dark due to a brief technical problem with the lights.
Early in the set Green mentioned that while in Europe, last week, he received a text saying Neil Young had to pull out of the festival and asking if he would be interesting in replacing him “…and I said yes, thank you very much,” Green laughed.
There were a few tributes to Young though out the evening too. A half an hour into the set the band left the stage, leaving only Green his acoustic guitar and a harmonica around his neck, and Green pulled off a very convincing cover of “Heart of Gold”. During the encore the band played “Coming Home” to the tune of “Cortex the Killer” and then ended with the Young penned “Like a Hurricane”
City and Colour brought enthusiasm to the opening night of the festival (“Everybody snap, now everybody clap”), humour (‘…all I can smell is kettle corn. Delicious kettle corn”), and skill ( covering Neil Young, while replacing Neil Young, AND pulling it off takes a lot of that !).
The Ottawa Folk festival as well as the city of Ottawa was very lucky that they said “Yes, thank you very much.”
Photos by: Brennan Schnell / DevelopNegative