Bry Webb and the Providers

Main Tent, Toronto ON, September 18

Bry Webb and the ProvidersMain Tent, Toronto ON, September 18
Photo: Cosette Schulz
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After six years of free music in the park, Bry Webb and the Providers played the final set of the final day of the final Bloor Ossington Folk Festival. Under a starless sky (this is Toronto, after all), folks sat at tables on white chairs, stood close to the stage and spread out on the steep hill to the right to catch Bry Webb and the Providers' (Rich Burnett, Nathan Lawr, Tom Hammerton and guest Jeff Bird) fond farewell.
 
Eyes averted downwards at his guitar, his focus unwavering, eyebrows expressive and arched, Webb played from the heart, imbuing each song with more pep and playing with more vigour than on record. He may have been avoiding the audience's eyes, but there can be no denying that BOFF goers felt each and every groove and feeling that Webb was sending their way. "Fletcher," "AM Blues," "Rivers of Gold" and "Receive Me" all seemed to roll off of the stage and into the audience's ready and welcome arms. The Providers are top-notch musicians; "That was the stuff!" someone yelled from the crowd after "Ex Punks," from 2011's Provider.
 
And how marvellous it was when Webb and the band burst into David Bowie's "Memory of a Free Festival," truly an ideal song to cover on a night like that. "Scan the skies with rainbow eyes and… something, something, something," Webb sang, forgetting the lyrics but that having little effect on the impact and charm of the song. He could have ended it there, with the repeated mantra of "The sun machine is coming down, and we're gonna have a party" amidst the cacophony that the band was brewing onstage, but came back on his own to do a solo rendition of the Constantines' "Soon Enough," providing an immersive clap-along and sing-along (and shout-along, for some) moment.
 
"This is a festival that has been so close to our hearts, so heartbreakingly so…it really is… it's something that we wanted to do, and we got people to do the best thing that they could ever possibly do," said C.L. McLaughlin, half teary-eyed, half-inebriated (BOFF's beer tent was certainly a well-frequented spot for most festivalgoers) before hugging various band members and festival organizers. Thank you, Bloor Ossington Folk Fest. It's been a time.
 
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