An Ottawa Folk Festival Preview/Review – M. Ward and What to See on Friday

featured photo taken by Steve Gereke

The Ottawa Folk Festival kicked off Friday night, and although I was unable to attend the full evening, I was able to catch the highly-anticipated performance from M. Ward. This particular American indie-folk musician is well known for his raspy voice, his abrupt but delicate guitar style, and his ability to adapt old rock and roll stylings to the modern musical era. Going into this show I was expecting a full-band, but I was hoping for at least a couple of tunes with just M. and his guitar. Perhaps it was due to his current performance style, perhaps it was due to a shortened festival set, but I was let down in this respect. That, however, was the only drawback of this show. M. Ward still had plenty of time to display his incredibly hoarse but somehow soothing voice and his unique guitar work. At times he sat back with some intricate finger-picking, at times he chose to wow the crowd with blistering blues solos. I would have like to watch the band explore their songs and jam a little more, but a festival set only allows for so much playing time, and the band chose to deliver quite a number of songs in their brief 45-minute set. The band mixed M. Ward originals with some real classics, including hard-hitting and fun covers from the likes of Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry. M. Ward is rather exceptional on his own, but his supporting cast was nothing exceptional.

Tonight I am missing out on the likes of Lorde and Dailey & Vincent. so there’s nothing for me to do but look ahead to Friday and bring you my picks for the night. I know almost nothing about Wake Owl. The name seems to pop up rather often, and I have been curious for quite some time. They play a relaxed brand of indie folk-pop with a surreal atmospheric quality. The band members have mentioned that their live shows have a large visual component. Judging by their videos, I am expecting something rather psychedelic. I definitely won’t be missing out on this chance to check these guys out.

Wake Owl will be followed up by one of the biggest names in indie rock, The National. I am a relatively new fan of this band, but I have had enough time to get fairly familiar with their catalog. They are immediately identifiable due to the surly baritone vocals of Matt Berninger. I certainly wouldn’t call this band uplifting, but they have a stellar live reputation. They are powerful, emotionally charged dramatic, and their writing is filled with subtlety and remarkable detail. Their most recent album, Trouble Will Find Me, was widely regarded as one of the best of 2013. For more info on that, you can take a look at Eric’s take on the album. The National has to be my second most anticipated act of the festival, only behind Neutral Milk Hotel (playing Saturday). Friday night will be a good one for us Ottawa audiophiles, so don’t miss it!

Much Love,


PS. The Gaslight Anthem had the headline spot for Sunday, but unfortunately they were forced to drop out of the festival. On the very, very bright side, Hey Rosetta! will be assuming their spot. I adore Hey Rosetta!, so I’m certainly not about to complain.

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