Ten degrees C is pretty much the precursor to the feeling of winter. Cold, shivery times that aren't really great for standing around outside. Luckily, a music festival promotes motion to stave off the chills and "Ice Cold Beer" sounds great to the ears but ungloved hands prove that a hot chocolate with a bit of bailey's would be more satisfying (hmmm... hot chocolate and bailey's food truck...someone should write this down for next year)
The Ottawa Folkfest, located at Vincent Massy Park, is clearly bigger than it ever was and the organizers seem to have found a great groove in the fourth year that the Ottawa Bluesfest entity has been running the shows. While the festival initially appears to be twice as large as it used to be, it actually feels like two self contained festivals that share common ground and two-tiers of service. Many people are surprised to discover that they could actually come without paying for a ticket and enjoy great craft beers, plenty of distinctive food trucks, vendors and charity driven craft tents and see live music in a dedicated music tent with great sound, lighting and tons of space. The side effect is pleasantly having the ability to listen to acts in the paid live music grounds from the free side of the bike path on the lawn.
The likely promotional interest is selling tickets to the fully lined up main and side stages on the east side of the NCC bike trail since there's no way those acts could perform in a free model with the production that is constructed and presented. For example, tonights presentation by Lorde was pretty high on technology. 4+ very large screens, with a couple directly behind Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor which allowed her to sing in between herself and thousands of other people. Along with that, there were lights, but not obsene lights like the spaceship of Zedd that landed at Bluesfest this year, but enough to know this is more than a folk festival. However, since this is an expanded festival, acts that don't focus on live instruments and lean into pre-recorded tracks could eventually draw towards MacBook-playing DJ's creeping in and knocking out the guitars.
Lorde was met with possibly and also declared later as the "largest attedance of Ottawa Folkfest History" yet the announcer didn't mention how many super sized lenses were pointed at her in the photo pit. It was thick with glass and shutter sounds. With having the opportunity for two songs worth of photos, Lordes crew made sure there was plenty of white light available yet the ambiguity of when the second song started was cause for some attention. The media concierges were in hysterics trying to backpeddle on their first thought that first song shooting was still in play and had to update every photographer to get ready to exit.
Lorde seemed like a big karaoke show. One that sings in front of people while backed with recordings isn't far off. If there is a teleprompter in the mix, then it is basically professional karaoke. That's obviously stripping out any respect for the super talent and performance that she delivered, but that's an example of a gracefully lame narrative segue into the next act.
Since it was chilly, and Lorde wasn't illiciting movement but rather a frigging shitload of screams from the incredibly large crowd that came to see her and the perfect-every-time hypothetical band, Serena Ryder's firey entrance on the Ravenlaw Stage was perfectly timed with the sharp temperature drop that was slowly coming into place. She had a very high powered attitude that instantly instigated toques to bounce up and down sympatico with her as she worked the stage in what could have been a trampoline.
Winning minor Junos like "Artist of the Year" and "Album of the Year" (which is out of ALL the artists and albums btw) must gild an artist into a place where music fans can be guaranteed into seeing some professional action on stage. It must feel like winning the Lotto Max, because that's how Serena was projecting herself. Incredible energy, a glowing unforced smile that came without any effort while playing her gorgeous Gibson Flying V. The sound was very big despite being programmed at Ravenlaw and that immense crowd from Lorde had to realign with the shallow depth aspect of the relative side stage of the slightly muddy, thanks to big rain yesterday, paid grounds.
Overall, this festival is a great experience whether or not one buys a very reasonably priced $100 pass or just comes to hang out for the day, paid or not. At this place, there's no need to pay to have a great time enjoying people, crafts, music, food, fresh air and familiar faces from other local festivals and live shows. Just be prepared for the unpredictably ranging weather.
It's highly possible tonight that the folks selling the blankets in the tent in the craft area made a frigging killing.