Published Oct 17, 2011Over the weekend, the first-ever Bloor Ossington Folk Festival was held in the thriving Toronto neighbourhood, bringing together a bevy of diverse Canadian artists and, in the process, unveiling an undeniably connected and creative community.
All-female trio Mothers of Brides got the festival rolling on Friday evening at neighbourhood cafe Saving Gigi with the first show of the weekend. Their set was short, sweet and filled with kind-of-dark, kind-of-poppy tunes that had the crowd smiling. The girls also get props for having some of the most inventive instruments of the weekend, which included a washboard and a wine glass.
Hosted in a backyard, outdoor sets from the charmingly eccentric Ronley Teper, acoustically inclined National Shield (aka C.L. McLaughlin) and Cuff the Duke frontman Wayne Petti helped fend off the night's plummeting temperatures. The Rheostatics' Dave Bidini closed out Saving Gigi for the night, while the hip-hop event at Lambadina fell flat due to some last-minute performer cancellations.
Things picked up again on Saturday afternoon, though, with an endearing performance from Nova Scotia-born Paul Kolinski and the Loneliest Monks. Switching between achingly sad and hilarious tongue-in-cheek lyrics, plus a flugelhorn, Kolinski delivered a set that showed both range and talent. Max and the Renegades taught the audience a thing or two about traditional Appalachian folk music, but also included a track from TV show Deadwood in their repertoire. Meanwhile, Pink Moth took over a local living room for their set of indie pop tunes, a setting that created an awesome sound and vibe.
The outdoor portion of the evening may have been freezing, but Schomberg Fair's raucous "folk punk" set got onlookers moving in their seats, while Woolly Leaves, Julie Doiron and a restaurant owner with a couple free bottles of Ouzo warmed everyone up on the inside. Woolly Leaves, the moniker of the Constantines' former keyboardist Will Kidman, impressed with his quiet acoustic songs, but Doiron really stole the show with her commanding performance and chuckle-worthy stage banter. Whether she was telling stories about her children (who were in attendance) or complaining about her haircut or inviting everyone to the yoga class she's about to start teaching, Doiron captivated the crowd with her earnest approach to live music.
Those who stuck around long enough on Saturday witnessed the folk festival transform into a thundering underground punk show at the Theatre of Human Health. Dirty Mags' garage-y sound and killer vocals got the crowd riled up for METZ, but no one could top the night's special guests, Cancer Bats. A couple crowdsurfers, one cover of the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" and probably a couple hundred F-bombs later, the night came to a swelteringly sweaty end.
The final afternoon of the festival kicked off with mellow sets at Saving Gigi from Timothy Moxam, then Barzin, whose set was capped off with a cover of Bob Dylan's "She Belongs to Me." The Done Fors kept things moving with their jazzy, upbeat set, followed by a guitar-heavy outdoor performance courtesy of Marc Morrissette's Octoberman.
The Skeletones Four closed out Exclaim!'s outdoor venue with a bluesy, hard-rocking set of tunes that had the audience stomping along. Finally, the festival came to an end down the street at Studio 835, where legendary producer, Michael Phillip Wojewoda, shared his project Faceless Forces of Bigness with the seated crowd. Wojewoda and co. created electronic sounds out of a daunting tangle of wires, which accompanied visuals on a laptop. The final performance of the night was certainly one of the most unique, leaving attendees hopeful that the neighbourhood festival won't just be a one-time thing.
For many more photos, you can see Exclaim!'s photo gallery of the Bloor Ossington Folk Festival here.