CityFolk is marking the 25th anniversary of the Ottawa Folk Festival with an expanded edition of Marvest and a concert series that draws two Bank Street churches into the area’s hotbed of live music.
Marvest is a free festival, an offshoot of CityFolk, designed to showcase Ottawa-area talent in non-traditional venues in Bank Street’s Glebe neighbourhood, most within walking distance of the main CityFolk site at Lansdowne Park. The word itself is a mash-up of “music” and “harvest.”
The fourth edition of Marvest runs Sept. 14-15, featuring 87 performances by 70 bands in 24 venues, up from the 52 bands and 19 venues that were involved last year.
Some of the new venues include two restaurants, Mad Radish and Banditos, a hair salon, Studio B Urban Hair, the Mrs. Tiggy Winkles toy store, and The Element, a Montessori-based high school.
Among the dozens of local artists selected are singer-songwriters, bands and hiphop-inspired acts, including a growing contingent of young performers. Emma Francis, who’s part of the festival’s programming team, estimates that about 18 per cent of Marvest performers this year are between the ages of 16 and 25.
“The trend seems to be that a lot of youth are putting themselves out there,” adds executive director Mark Monahan. “We used to get submissions from a lot of established bands or cover bands or part-time bands. It’s refreshing to see young people do their own music. Innovation and original content are a top priority in our selection.”
Included in the Marvest program are several showcases of female-fronted acts, with The Opposite Point of Life, Lake Urmia and Alexis Neon performing Sept. 15 at Studio B, and R&B singers Remaclara and Muzzy Legault doing their thing on Sept. 15 at the Capital Barber Shop. There’s also a Saturday afternoon show by children’s performer Derek McKinley and Sing Song Party Time at Mrs. Tiggy Winkles, and a Saturday-night rock blowout with Dube, All Day Breakfast and Nebraska at the Clocktower Brew Pub.
Despite the extra musical activity, Monahan isn’t worried about luring music fans away from the main event at CityFolk. “A lot of the Marvest bands are emerging artists and they’re going to bring some sort of audience, but we find that for people who go to Marvest, it’s more of a casual decision,” he said, noting that efforts are made to program Marvest shows before or after the CityFolk performances. “Overall, we think that more music is better because we have more people coming down.”
Also recently announced is a series of four ticketed concerts programmed by Chris White, the former artistic director of the Ottawa Folk Festival. The series starts Sept. 7 with a concert by Ottawa’s Jack Pine and the Fire ($10) at St. Giles Church, 729 Bank St., followed by an acoustic performance by The Trews ($25) on Sept. 8 at the Fourth Ave. Baptist Church.
Ottawa Valley sweetheart Kelly Prescott plays a Country Gems ($10) concert on Sept. 14, along with the old-time sounds of Ball & Chain and the off-grid tunes of the Lioness of Lanark, Ali McCormick. The Folk Gems showcase on Sept. 15 ($10) features folk trio The Finest Kind, with fingerstyle guitarist The Welsh Tornado, fiddler James Stephens, bilingual duo Moonfruits and singer-songwriters Julie Corrigan and Campbell Woods. Both Gems concerts take place at St. Giles Church.
Another 25th-anniversary event is the Founders’ Forum, featuring a conversation about the early years of the Ottawa Folk Festival with folkfest founders Max Wallace, Chris White and Gene Swimmer. It takes place in Aberdeen Pavilion at 5 p.m. Sept. 15.
CityFolk, you may recall, is descended from the Ottawa Folk Festival, which took place at Britannia Park until 2010, when the Bluesfest team added it to their roster and moved to Vincent Massey Park. In 2015, they moved it again, to Lansdowne this time, and changed the name to CityFolk to reflect the urban setting.
This year’s CityFolk runs from Sept. 12-16 at Lansdowne Park, with a program of headliners that includes Tedeschi Trucks Band, Steve Earle & the Dukes, David Byrne, the Decemberists, Lindi Ortega and more.
Go to www.cityfolkfestival.com for details on the lineup, tickets and passes