Canadian Musician @ The Ottawa Folk Festival 2014, Day 2Wednesday, September 17th, 2014
Samantha Everts, founder of YouRockRed, represented Canadian Musician at this year’s edition of the Ottawa Folk Festival, with an impressive lineup of performers that included the likes of Lorde, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Foster the People alongside Canadian talent like Blue Rodeo, Serena Ryder, Hey Rosetta! and many other acts. Here are Sam’s thoughts on the Sept. 12th bill and some more great photos.
This review may come off as a love letter to The National. The National is like a lover who seduces you with beautiful words and sounds only to inexplicably disappear for weeks; you’re angry, you’re hurt, your heart breaks just a little bit every time they return to reassure you of their devotion in songs like “I Need My Girl,” but you know the intensity and passion cannot last. They cannot be contained to your ear (phones) alone. There are others that are seduced by their poetry and presence across the globe. They can’t be true to just you, and on Friday night, they reminded me of all the broken hearts and loneliness in an hour-and-a-half-long set at the Ottawa Folk Festival with another 10,000 of the heartbroken.
In the frigid September air, the band came out to “Riders of the Storm” by The Doors, waving at the audience and jokingly calling Ottawa “the Miami of Canada” before launching into “Don’t Swallow the Cap” from their most recent release, Trouble Will Find Me. The Grammy-nominated band focused primarily on that album and its predecessor, High Violet. They also threw in some older material from Boxer (“Fake Empire,” “Ada,” “Slow Show,” “Squalor Victoria”) and Alligator (“Mr. November.”)
It was impossible to take my eyes off the stage as the band ripped through songs like “England” and “Blood Buzz Ohio,” especially with the band being lit all in red for the latter. The flashy lighting behind the band definitely added to the stadium-worthy performance. Unfortunately, for the first six songs, the monitors rang with feedback and only on the seventh did the vocals and guitars ring true to their album sound. The band didn’t let it phase them, though. Matt Berninger’s charisma drew in and captivated viewers as he mumbled then shouted lyrics to songs like “Squalor Victoria” that ripped at the ethereal gut.
Dressed in an all-black suit, he stepped towards the back of the stage at times letting the other band members step into the spotlight and encourage the audience to clap along and show off their guitar skills. He soon stepped back into the spotlight, dropping to his knees for “Graceless.”
Known for their controlled yet dramatic performances, people around complained that The National had been boring to watch, but having seen the band at NXNE in 2013 and Osheaga years ago, I knew what to expect. It’s Berninger’s abilites as a front man that are able to capture your attention and the Bessener twins’ energy moved the audience in the cold night air. Couples around me were seen holding each other that much more tightly and swaying slowly to “Pink Rabbits” and a truly haunting version of “Fake Empire.”
Some favourites I missed were “Lemon World” and “Mistaken for Strangers,” but with such an extensive catalog and an incredibly emotionally-charged performance, it was forgiven. The band closed off with “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” with Berninger jumping into the audience sending Ottawans home with a new favourite band.
I’m willing to bet no other folk festival in Canada had a blue-beehived singer this summer. The eight-piece theatrical rock band from Ottawa was decked out in classic ’50s and ’60s garb with PVC garter belts and corsets over top. On a smaller stage on the free side of the festival, the band performed songs from their past Love album and offered glimpses at what they’ve been working on in the last two years, all while performing synchronized dance moves and alternating microphone locations so each singer could step forward and shine with their remarkable vocal abilities.
Art-rock group Pony Girl just returned from an east coast tour and was eager to play for their hometown audience with good reason. The 6-member band drew in a crowd of several hundred with their gorgeous vocal harmonies and layers of post-rock instrumentation capable only of artists that have studied music classically for years. They focused on numbers from their Winter 2014 LP Show Me Your Fears.
YouRockRed is the brainchild of experienced artist consultant Samantha Everts, whose music industry insights are built on more than 10 years working in the Canadian music scene. They provide comprehensive promotion and growth strategies for musicians and their work from grant writing, marketing and promotion to running kick-ass events across Canada. Clients include Kalle Mattson, Amos the Transparent, and Sunparlour Players. www.yourockred.com.