Arts & EventsA Wild First Night at CityFolk!

A Wild First Night at CityFolk!

A Wild First Night at CityFolk!

cityfolk-day-1-16-of-28wcityfolk-day-1-2-of-28wAll photos by Andre Gagne.

Perhaps it was the appearance of a near Harvest Moon hanging above The Great Lawn at Lansdowne Park that created such a rambunctious atmosphere on the first night of CityFolk. Maybe, but I have to think it had something to do with kicking off your festival with the Dropkick Murphys!

“Ya’ warming up out there? It’s hard to be the first match in the box trying to start a fire,” shouted lead singer Al Barr to a 6:15 p.m. crowd that would only get larger (and colder) as the night progressed.

The Dropkick Murphys all bring the party!

Warming up, he asks? How about an early inferno? The Massachusetts Celtic punk band had no problem striking that match and igniting a blaze that would set the tone for the night, a good thing because the temperature tends to drop rapidly at this festival.

cityfolk-day-1-1-of-1wRousing anthems like “The Boys Are Back”, “The Gang’s All Here” and “Bastards on Parade” got the usual Dropkick mosh pit going passed the “No lawn chairs beyond this point” signs. The warning was headed, especially by those who remember what the pit was like the year the band played Bluesfest before Huey Lewis.

While the bodies were slamming and flailing near the front of the stage other danced dents in the lawn by the beer vendors, one rowdy patron miraculously pulling off a fit of spasms without spilling a single drop of his Heineken! Further on up the lawn patrons enjoyed picnics while kids took to the hill to roll down or dizzily do some moshing of their own.


As promised by festival Executive Director Marc Monahan, some of the congestion last year caused by repeatedly having to scan in tickets between the stages was elevated making for a better flow of people looking to stage hop.

“The main challenge last year was moving people around the site. The location of the Great Lawn worked really well but the fact that people had to stand outside the Aberdeen and Horticulture buildings, that was some resistance,” Monahan told Ottawa Life from his office last week. “This year we’re changing that.”

Other new additions include a curtaining off of the BMO Stage inside the Aberdeen and cushier seating areas scattered about the pavilion. The seats were a good place to take a load off and enjoy some craft beer. With selections from over fifteen brewers to sample, the craft beverage area was almost a festival onto itself.

There’s no better time to shop then when you’ve had a few beers in you, at least one Dropkick Murphys fan slurred at me. Artisans like the Strut Jewelry, Wunderkammer and Adorit were just some of the places you could go to accentuate your festival wardrobe. Near the entrance patrons could bid on silent auction items like autographed Dropkick Murphys memorabilia, dance lessons and a stay at the Arc hotel.

The Ramblin’ Valley Band were just one of the local acts shinning on night one of the festival.

Like that moon hanging above like a distant spotlight, it was a night for local acts to shine. The Ramblin’ Valley Band brought out the hootin’ and hollering to the Aberdeen while the psychedelic pop flowed out of Future States and over the crowd gathered at the Horticulture Building’s RavenLaw Stage. Outside back on the City Stage, Rolf Klausener (aka The Acorn), was dealing with some of the rowdy residue leftover by the Dropkick Murphys.

The Acorn perform on the City Stage.

“Here’s to onion rings,” Klausener said jostling with a marginally inebriated audience member who decided to loudly make known what he was munching on. Not to be outdone, the musician also would give a shout out to beagles because, well, it was just that kind of night.

With the mosh pit moving inside, English sing-songwriter –and ludicrously amazing guitarist– James Bay headlined an evening much to the elation of what appeared to be a crowd now solely populated by his fans. Considering the course he was on with the wall of screams he was about to hit, “Collide” from last year’s Grammy nominated Chaos and the Calm was a perfect show starter.

James Bay performs to a jubilant crowd for his Ottawa debut.

“So turn it on, we can go wild / If it's what you want, fire at me,” he sang, asking the audience if they were ready to sing. No problem there, James! The crowd hung on every word as though they were programed to be in sync with the singer. Popular tracks like “Best Fake Smile”, “When We Were on Fire” and “Sparks” continued to fiery motif.

“I don’t want to just see you, I don’t want to just hear you, I want to feel your fire,” bellowed Bay to a crowd who wouldn’t stop singing even when he intro’ed “Scars” with a little instrumental Elvis. The singer was clearly taken aback by the enthusiastic Ottawa crowd for his city debut, repeatedly thanking them for their adoration and backing vocals.

As mentioned, the more boisterous crowd had headed inside the Aberdeen for what may have been the wildest show of the night and, folks, when you’re on the same evening bill as the Dropkick Murphys that’s saying something!


What begins with the passing around of a large jug full of an unknown alcoholic beverage and ends with a song called “Let’s Get Wasted”? A show by Skinny Lister of course! The UK six-piece put on a show that really should have plummeted the crowd through the pavilion floor with the velocity of their foot stomping. It was the group’s first time in Ottawa as well and they weren’t holding anything back.

Skinny Lister's Lorna Thomas.

What started as a trickle soon became a torrent as curious people heading to their cars or for the bus after the James Bay show were detoured inside by the jubilant folk punk stylings of the Greenwhich group. With a sound that blends the best of the Pogues and Mumford & Sons with a stage presence that can only be likened to a prison riot, it was a perfect bookend, paired smashingly with the Dropkick Murphys, to night one.

“I joined this band to get into festivals for free,” said singer Lorna Thomas passing out the band’s jug of liquid madness. “The best thing about festivals is you share your drinks.”

They were dancing near the soundboard, they were dancing behind the curtain, they were making out in the crowd, they were passing out on the lawn and even when Skinny Lister took to the audience for their encore, Lorna standing amongst the raised cups of brew atop a base that read “Party to the People”, the crowd was still ready to go on. To think, tonight is the real full moon fever.

Bring it on CityFolk!

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