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Ottawa Folk Festival- Day 5: Go Long!, World Party, Gordon Lightfoot, and The Wailers

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Go Long!- Hill Stage

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Fresh from their first tour, Ottawa cover band turned songwriting folk/rock trio Go Long! graced the Ottawa Folk Fest’s free Hill Stage on Sunday afternoon. The Festival’s free stages were overrun with local talent all day, enticing even paying ticket holders to stay outside the gates to explore the up-and-coming Ottawa scene.  Go Long! was one such act.  Front woman Danielle Allard offered some of the best vocals I had heard all weekend–her tone was a mix of sweet and powerful, her range was unreal, and her vibe was very authentic (the next Sarah Bareilles, anyone?).  Go Long! crafted their set thoughtfully, moving from quirky, poppy originals to a (slightly boring) break up ballad to a hilarious TI cover. The spotlight was shared throughout the show, allowing the band to feature not only guitar solos, but also some mandolin riffing and awesome double bass picking. Unfortunately, the trio are officially “moving in new and separate musical directions” at the end of the month (their last public show is ELE Fest, September 20).  Based on this winning Folk Fest performance, however, I would definitely recommend keeping an eye out for Danielle Allard and Nicolas Crisafi (the awesome double bassist) in their new project Arrows and Anchors, which will be rocking the Ottawa scene very shortly.

World Party- CUPE-SCFP Stage

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World Party came on stage with a “Hey, we’re just hanging out” vibe. As fiddler David Duffy walked on stage sporting striped red pyjama pants, frontman Karl Wallinger warned the crowd “We don’t talk too much” before dipping into the first song. With some bands, this would have looked a bit crass and and lazy…but with World Party it instead felt (and sounded) fun and nostalgic.  Wallinger, a veteran songwriter with decades of tunes to pick from, featured his most radio friendly, Beatles-like music during the show. Thanks to David Duffy’s big smile, guitarist John Turnbull’s unexpected on-stage jests, and the incredible onstage chemistry, you couldn’t help but feel part of some sort of family while watching World Party. It was easy to forgive the occasional imperfections, including a couple false starts, with the jokes and calmness that Karl Wallinger brought to the stage.   Such a casual attitude doesn’t always make for the best show, but watching musicians that talented have such a genuinely good time playing music together was a treat.

Gordon Lightfoot- RavenLaw Stage

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When Gordon Lightfoot stepped onto the stage at Ottawa Folk Fest, he was greeted with an interesting combination of excitement and reverence from the massive crowd. Looking sharp in a bright red suit jacket, the 74-year-old Canadian folk legend seemed to glow on the outdoor festival stage–an interesting sight, as Lightfoot usually performs at more classic, indoor venues like the NAC. As he began to play, it was clear that Lightfoot’s nimble, guitar strumming fingers were in fine form.  His voice sounded a bit tired at first, though it picked up when he finally introduced himself with a spirited joke: “Hi, I’m Gordon Lightfoot… and rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Lightfoot’s banter between songs stayed lively and crowd members eagerly whooped and hummed along to their favourite songs. After hosting such an eclectic line up throughout the week, Ottawa Folk Festival organizers made a great decision to end the five day bash with such legendary, guitar heavy, storytelling style Canadiana as Gordon Lightfoot.

The Wailers- CUPE-SCFP Stage

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Okay, I lied. Technically, the festival ended on an international note with Jamaican reggae group The Wailers, who kept the party going into the cool fall night. Best known for their early work with Bob Marley, The Wailers have continued touring and making music for the over two decades since Marley’s 1981 death.  There was something incredibly spiritual about the performance Sunday night, with its themes of peace, love, and many references to the Rastafarian tradition. It served as a dynamic contrast to the Avett Brother’s Christianity-tinted show the night before, and had the same result, capturing a free moving audience who were clearly feeling both the themes and the music. The most striking thing about The Wailers’ performance was the mixed crowd they drew. It has been over four decades since Bob Marley and the Wailers first introduced the world to the power of reggae music, and clearly this musical revolution has transcended both generations and borders. Seeing Ottawa music lovers young and old get together to move to the island sounds and shout, “Every little thing, is gonna be alright!” back at the stage was an amazing experience.

Review by Shauna Vert

Photos by Judi Zienchuk

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