CityFolk Folk Music Festival


Post Malone, Jenn Grant, Jack Johnson, Broken Social Scene, Dead Flowers, Royal Canoe, Father John Misty, Matt Mays, Scott Helman, Rodriguez, Bahamas

Ottawa’s upcoming CityFolk festival is shaping up to be one of the most intriguing festivals in the city this year. While it may not have the same massive headliners as Bluesfest, it still features a tasteful and broad selection of artists from Canada and abroad showcasing quality and thoughtful songwriting.

Opening night features one of the bigger name headliners with Post Malone. He’s an R&B/hip-hop artist from Austin, Texas whose latest album Stoney has taken the R&B and hip-hop world by storm. While he may be one of the newer artists on the roster, he will generate a lot of buzz among the first week performers.

On Thursday there’s some lower key performances, Jack Johnson being the big name for the night, known for his soft, delicate and mostly acoustic songwriting. However, don’t hesitate to show up a little earlier to catch Jenn Grant. I had the pleasure of watching her perform a few songs on David Suzuki’s Blue Dot speaking tour and she’s a top-tier songwriter from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Grant is not a performance you want to miss.

On Friday we start to get some variety with Broken Social Scene and Dead Flowers. Broken Social Scene has just released their fifth studio album Hug of Thunder in July. It’s a band comprised of a rotating cast of members from other mainly Canadian acts. Their performances can have as few as seven members or up to nineteen at a time. They’re one of the more unique indie acts in the week as their constantly rotating star-studded lineup of members makes every performance different. Dead Flowers are closing out the evening with classic country inspired songwriting helping to bring the classic earth ‘folk’ elements infused with twang to the week.

The Saturday headliners bring Father John Misty and Matt Mays. Earlier in the day though Royal Canoe, an eclectic group of Winnipeg musicians will be playing. Their live shows feature thoughtful light and visual elements to help create an intriguing live performance. Be sure to come early in the day for their set.

The two headliners though pose as similar yet opposite groups. Father John Misty, a fun yet deep songwriter, tends to stay on the lighter and even funnier side of music. His style is reminiscent of dreamy 70’s rock infused with Simon and Garfunkel.

Matt Mays is another Canadian rocker from Halifax who plays a modern take on rock music. Although the level of aggression in his music has reduced it still has grit and edge. His latest release Songs from Once Upon a Hell of a Time has more of a Springsteen vibe which is a great compliment his already strong songwriting and storytelling skills. If there’s one night to not miss, it would be Saturday night.

Sunday night though has its own level of intrigue. The two main headliners are Scott Helman, a young songwriter who is blending elements of electronic music, country and indie into his style which is sure to make a fun to watch performance. However, the main headliner is Sixto Rodriguez who gained a lot of notoriety with the documentary “Searching for Sugar Man”.

In the 70’s he had no success with his career in music. He lived in Detroit and worked in demolition mainly. Unknown to him personally, his albums went on to outsell Elvis Presley in South Africa and was an international sensation without him being remotely aware until the late 90’s. Since his discovery of his belated success he has begun to play internationally and after the release of the documentary, he found success here in North America. Be sure to watch the documentary before watching his captivating performance Sunday Night.

CityFolk has certainly prepared an interesting and broad selection of artists for the week. It’s great to see an event bring such quality acts from across the world and within Canada. Be sure to catch as many shows as you can as this will be one of the last festivals of the year in Ottawa.

By Dylan Lenton

Dylan Lenton