Saturday, October 3, 2015

Festival: Bloor Ossington Folk Festival 2015

Bloor Ossington Folk Festival V (Friday–Sunday, September 18–20, 2015)

Saturday Main Stage feat. The Idaho Stop / Tokka / Asiko Afrobeat Ensemble

Saturday Garden Stage feat. Chris Ladd / Construction & Destruction / Weird Lines / Sandro Perri / The Holy Gasp / Fiver / The Burning Hell / Cousins

Sunday Main Stage feat. Sebastian Brown / Shi Wisdom / Lindy Vopnfjord / Blonde Elvis / Absolutely Free

Saturday Garden Stage feat. Nick Ferrio / Walrus / Overnight / Stanley Brinks & Freschard / Crosss / Julie Doiron & Friends

Here's a few thoughts about the event in general. Click on the names above to check out my recordings from the day.

Now in its fifth year — and third based in Christie Pits — the Bloor Ossington Folk Festival has the basics down, even as it continues evolving. The core idea is to present a free weekend of music for (and by!) the residents of the Bloor Ossington zone — and although the festival wears its "folk" tag quite lightly, there is a consistent sort of curatorial logic in the music it brings.

After a multi-venue night of free shows on Friday, there were new plans this year for some Saturday spin-off performances in Mirvish Village. I didn't head over to check 'em out, but from what I heard Saturday's weather kept that fairly low-key. End-of-summer grey skies have featured in each of the last couple years, though, so the organizers showed they'd learned some lessons by planning ahead for the possibility this year. The second stage off in the park's south-west corner disappeared this year, with the park events concentrated on the main stage as well as a ramped up beer-garden stage, which was under the big tent and a viable fall-back position for when the rains came. In fact, when Saturday brought a short but rather intense storm, the organizers were able to roll with it, shuffling a couple bands between stages and leaving very little unplanned deadtime in the day. (Sunday, with some totally delightful weather, went off without a hitch.)

The programming once again drew on old friends who were long-time festival participants. Julie Doiron headlined for the third straight year, and the spin-offs from her presence (such as her partner C.L. McLaughlin's Weird Lines, and fellow Sackvillian Jon McKiel) rippled through the festival. But the music went beyond the indie rock consensus to put other sounds (afrobeat, ragtime, r'n'b, singer-songwriter) on stage to draw in passers-by. The amiable Dave Bidini was once again the weekend's MC, also helping to draw things together.

The festival's traditional cross-town neighbourhood-based rival has been The Junction Music Festival, which has fallen on the same weekend for a couple years. They took the year off this year, having surveyed the weekend's increased competition. The summer glut of music festival in general (and the Pan Am-related festivities in particular) pushed Collective Concerts' TURF to this same weekend, which also saw Riot Fest (with its long history of flooding the city with free tickets to pad its attendance numbers) descend on Downsview Park. I don't what the venn diagram between these three events would be, but it's safe to say some people were drawn away to the bigger festivals, even if that meant patrons would be caged in and gouged for beers.

Family friendly, with chill security and a diversity of park users sharing the pleasant space, BOFF is going to win on vibe points every time over those big, slick events. Thanks are kudos are due to Kristjan, Amelia and Roberto for hustling to put it together. Given the options, I'm glad there's a low-key, community-based alternative.

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