After the weather-related challenges of last year, CityFolk organizers are counting on first-time Ottawa appearances by Jack Johnson, Father John Misty and Rodriguez to entice fans to buy tickets to the 2017 edition, no matter the forecast.
Last year’s CityFolk lost money due to a combination of poor weather and increased costs. An attendance-killing downpour happened Saturday, traditionally the busiest day, while a sharp increase in the U.S. dollar took an unexpected toll on the budget.
But organizers say they’re in good shape for this year. The festival takes place Sept. 13 to Sept. 17 at Lansdowne Park, with the main stage on the Great Lawn and the Raven Law side stage and craft-beer market returning to the Aberdeen Pavilion. Use of the Horticulture building is under review, partly because of the building’s harsh acoustics.
“We’re well funded,” said executive director Mark Monahan, who’s also in charge of the team that operates Bluesfest. “We had a challenging year last year, but we’re pretty confident we’ll have a successful year and hopefully put us on track for many more.”
This year’s lineup is a well-rounded affair that ranges from Canadians on the comeback trail — Amanda Marshall, Matt Mays, Broken Social Scene and the Philosopher Kings — to breakout Americans looking to expand their territories, including Syracuse rapper Post Malone, Nashville darling Margo Price, New Orleans’ rhythmic soul outfit Tank and the Bangas, Brooklyn’s Big Thief, indie-rock singer-songwriter Lucy Dacus, nu-soul man Son Little and more.
There’s also some more traditional folkfest fare, including the Alberta cowboy duo of Corb Lund and Ian Tyson, children’s performer Fred Penner, who will also do an adult show, and a tribute to the late, legendary singer-songwriter Jesse Winchester.
Another veteran musician is Rodriguez, the artist who was the subject of the 2012 Grammy-winning documentary, Searching for Sugar Man.
“We’re extremely happy with the lineup. It came together a lot easier this year, I think, because we started earlier and hooked up with some events happening around the same time,” Monahan said, pointing to the routing of the Jack Johnson and Rodriguez tours.
He’s also been scouting talent at other music festivals and conferences, and staying in the loop with booking agents and managers.
“A lot of the artists that we’ve chosen have come through some connection,” Monahan said. “I’m always asking agents, ‘What do you have that would fit with the current folk vibe?’ Most of these artists would never have played a folk festival like Mariposa but they would play Bonnaroo or Coachella.”
The trick, he says, is to follow the fans who are serious about music, rather than the ones who are serious about partying.
“There are the crowds whooping it up, going to the EDM stuff or catching the latest rock or pop bands, but you have to pluck out the ones that are the tastemakers. Where are the real music fans going? That’s really what we’re looking for, people who have some familiarity with an artist and know more than the one song on Top 40 radio.”
Monahan feels it’s important for CityFolk to forge a musical identity that’s separate from Bluesfest. At that massive summertime bash, “You can throw anything at the wall and there will be an audience for it,” but at the more intimate, accessible CityFolk, “We’re trying to give it an identity in that the type of artist will be more thought provoking,” Monahan said, holding up Father John Misty as a perfect example.
As for Marvest, the CityFolk side project that presents free music in the shops and venues along Bank Street, details will be announced next month.
Meanwhile, discounted CityFolk passes are available in a one-day presale, starting at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Prices range from $99-$129, while a VIP pass is $199. Surcharges are extra. Go to cityfolkfestival.com to purchase. Regular pricing begins at 10 a.m. Thursday.
Article written by Lynn Saxberg on the Ottawa Citizen Website. Follow the link here.