Eclectic mix of artists performs during five-day festival
CityFolk took over Landsdowne Park from Sept. 13-17, a festival of eclectic music ranging from traditional folk to hip-hop and indie rock.
CityFolk was a prime example of the “urban folk” boom that everyone at least feigned an interest in during 2010—the urbanized, educated, middle-class folkiness of Mumford and Sons, et al. The festival was dominated by major indie folk acts like Father John Misty and Canada’s own Broken Social Scene, while more authentic folk artists included Rodriguez and Fred Penner, but most fell in-between—very coffee shop music.
It was the folk festival of $9 Mill Street, and that tells you everything you need to know.
CityFolk started positively un-folky, with performances by Juno Award-winner Ruth B, and hip-hop artist Post Malone.
Though Malone is the furthest thing from folk music, he was a crowd favourite, drawing in a huge audience. With only him and his DJ on stage, Malone continually interacted with the crowd, and played other popular music besides his own.
The audience responded to Malone’s energy, with mosh pits forming and people crowd surfing throughout the set.
—Parker Townes, staff photographer
On CityFolk’s second night, Nathaniel Rateliff and The Nightsweats delivered an energetic performance that left the crowd out-of-breath, with their upbeat folk-rock hits.
It was a good pairing to have soft-rock artist Jack Johnson follow such a performance. While the crowd was still getting over the last act, Johnson was able to fill the venue with his humble and calm demeanor. Even when his show was put on hold to fix some technical difficulties, he, in his plain grey t-shirt and jeans, took the time to thank the stage crew for their work.
Friday kicked off with performances by R&B artist Son Little on the City Stage, and the folky one-man band act of The Suitcase Junket on Ravenlaw Stage.
Both managed to attract good-sized crowds for the rather early 6 p.m. start time, though the crowds were rather quiet. Not even the emotive soul music of Son Little could elicit much of a response from the crowd, though The Suitcase Junket received some recognition for his driving chords and insistent drumbeats.
Surprisingly, Broken Social Scene (BSS) didn’t fare much better in terms of audience reaction, though most may have just been too awestruck seeing the beloved act return after a seven-year hiatus to dance.
In total, 10 members graced the stage, with founder Kevin Drew, Stars vocalist Amy Millan, and Ariel Engle leading the vocals.
The crowd consensus was that the show was great, though BSS lacked any transcendent song that the audience could lose itself in. The song “Anthems for a Seventeen-Year Old Girl” was the closest they came to a truly transcendent moment.
—Ryan Pepper, Arts and Culture Editor
CityFolk’s fourth day cemented the festival’s status as an event for all ages, with a diverse line up on both stages. Even after 40 years, Fred Penner’s unyielding optimism was contagious for grandparents and children alike. Meanwhile, The Philosopher Kings serenaded the crowd on the outdoor stage with a nostalgic set of ‘90s-style soft rock.
The night was headlined by Father John Misty. His famously eclectic indie-folk style, coupled with a beautiful Saturday night sky, drew one of the largest crowds of the weekend. It was a rousing set, and no song captured Father John Misty’s paradoxical style better than the playful, yet melancholy, lyrics of “I’m Writing a Novel.” He managed to pull a surprising degree of complexity and excitement out of just a small ensemble band.
But the most moving part of the day didn’t come from a headlining all-star. It came from Common Deer, a breakout indie band that played an intimate and emotional performance tucked away in an awkward afternoon slot. A fusion of traditional instruments and modern synths combined with some phenomenal vocals, making Common Deer a must-see act and a group to follow as they launch their national career.
—Eric Davison, staff contributor
CityFolk ended with a good contrast—heartthrob Scott Helman brought good, clean fun to an audience packed mostly with teenagers, while Sixto Rodriguez laid out some mellow and relaxed folk music. The former cut his teeth on YouTube videos, while the latter started out in darkened bars in 1960s Detroit.
Rodriguez may be near-legend by now, but he had a quietness and humbleness that seemed so authentically folk. He was a man who spent most of his life thinking he had failed at music, and only relatively recently has experienced the popularity he so deserves.
Helman roared out of the gate as a teen heartthrob, and every song he played—such as hits “PDA,” “Kinda Complicated,” and “Bungalow”—elicited huge applause from the lovestruck crowd. The only time he fell flat was his driving-rock cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire.” It wasn’t sacrilegious, per se, but it was, at the very least, quite unnecessary. At only 21, though, and with two popular albums so far, he’ll be fine.