I’d say I went to Cityfolk, the modern version of the Ottawa Folk Festival this weekend, but that might be overstating how long I was actually there; reality is I had a $7 beer at Cityfolk and fucked off. I’m not a festival guy (If you haven’t read JP’s article on festivals, you probably should, because he does a fantastic job at explaining why they suck), and in the long run Ottawa crowds kinda sicken me.
Cityfolk’s layout was completely functional, well beyond it being located in that abomination of a box store hell that never should have been built, or at least what I bothered to wander through. I showed up late and didn’t bother checking out the indoor part of the venue. I honestly meant to get there earlier, but I spent my afternoon trying to find a ride to Pop Montreal to see Stars of the Lid. Anyway, the layout reminded me of Bluesfest, same vendors, same layout, same questionable food (being a vegan at a festival in Ottawa basically means not eating unless you enjoy getting sick from cross contamination), same overpriced beer. It’s like lameness Deja Vu. Still, I had no issues finding where to buy alcohol and where the blue rockets were so the important things were taken care of.
This is when things turned into typical Ottawa Festival bullshit. I wonder in, get my ID bracelet, grab a beer and head towards the field to watch Wilco. I actually like one Wilco album (“Being There”, which is nearly 20 years old), and I respect Nels Cline as a guitar player and like his tone, even though interviews with him kind of drive me nuts. No Nels, keep making fun of prog rock; seriously, you NEVER sound like you should be playing guitar on a Magma record. They come out to a cool angular instrumental number that sounds kinda like a NIN instrumental meets sonic youth (I have no idea if it was a loop, someone tracks or made by Nels on the spot I was in line). Wilco would probably hate that description of it; I don’t fucking care. Anyway, the sounds is totally fucked. The guitars sound good, the drums sound like complete shit; over compressed and the kick mic sounded broken. Not really a great start.
I grab another overpriced beer in hopes that they will fix the sound issues while I am gone or that i can wander around and find a “sweet spot” which obviously doesn’t happen. So I do my usual trick and park myself next to front of house; it’s often a safe bet. Not only does the sound still suck I encounter the ultimate issue with these festivals in Ottawa; the reason why I rarely bother with this kinda shit: The talkers.
See, Ottawa crowds fucking talk their way through sets. We are renowned for doing it. People from Montreal and Toronto always mention the rudeness of the average music fan in Ottawa. How are the people are more interest in being seen and heard than the music itself? A few years ago, I was at an unmic’d show with a friend, and he commented on how obnoxious the crowd was, how they just kept fucking talking as the band played quietly and how rude they were and pathetic it was. I couldn’t say shit to defend Ottawa, because it was also driving me fucking insane. I was there to watch a band not to overhear a conversation on how your fucking day was or listen to you read off incorrect wikipedia facts about Batman comics and Sci-fi films you clearly had no idea about till that stuff became popular, and only have a passing interest in now because you think it will get you laid as “geek is in”. I don’t give a flying fuck how your pickup hockey league is doing or the fantastic new Tapas place that just opened that will be out of business in 6 months. I want to watch the fucking show without you constant chatter, and the band wants to play a fucking show without hearing your bullshit.
Does this happen in other towns? I know both Montreal and Toronto are far more respectful to bands. The handful of shows I saw in NYC, people seemed to pay a lot more attention. It’s just fucking Ottawa man. When I smoked I used to just go outside and have a dart or four if I wasn’t feeling the band. It just felt less rude to quietly excuse myself. But this is a festival headliner. I assume people are actually there to see them and not there to just shoot the fucking shit. Like, am I wrong? I actually find people checking their cellphones less rude than this; at least they have the fucking dignity to shut the fuck up.
I ended up leaving a half hour into the set. Saddest part is it sounded better from the patio area outside of the venue than it did anywhere inside the gates. I sat outside and listened for a bit. Someone sat down beside me and offered me a free ticket for the same reason. I politely declined.
Cityfolk is another Ottawa music festivals offering the same options as every other music festival; non-offensive (read that as boring) bands, dull food, overpriced beer, and a crowd of indifferent “music fans” that appear to be there to be seen and hear not to listen. Unless there is someone exceptional playing (the only other time I went to anything to do with Folkfest was to see Thurston Moore, but that is an entirely different story) I probably won’t bother. I can get a 6 pack and listen to records in the comfort of my own home. Or better yet, I can plan ahead and book the time off well in advance and hit up quality shows at Pop Montreal. – SHANE