September 16th, 2015 was day one of Cityfolk, Ottawa’s newly rebranded and twice-relocated folk festival. Now that the fest was about as close to my house as a festival could get there was little reason for me to skip it (Lansdowne Park is exactly one mile from my front door, and a nice mile it is too, along the Rideau Canal the whole way).
Opening night of the fest would keep me at the mainstage throughout the evening for a pair of classic folk heroes from the ’80’s, The Tubes and UB40.
Just kidding of course. Setting aside Louis Armstrong’s extremely wide definition of the genre (“All music is folk music. I ain’t never heard a horse sing a song.”) these two acts are about as folky as Kanye West is bluesy. Which is to say there’s a smidgen in there, but c’mon, there’s a reason we’ve come up with names for all these other genres.
Anyway, to me The Tubes were nothing more than a name from rock history that was barely (though somewhat) familiar to me – they must have had a song on some K-Tel collection back in the day that I owned – though idle pre-show chatter informed me that Vince Welneck (one of several late Grateful Dead keyboardists) was a founding member, so there’s that. I don’t remember thinking much about their set either way; I’m sure I used the band mainly as wallpaper music while I kept busy meeting and greeting a pile of friends on the Great Lawn.
(The Great Lawn is what the backfield of Lansdowne Park is called. It’s very appropriately named.)
Next up was UB40 and really, if anyone claims to know more than just their hits rest assured – they are lying. Heck, in some circles the band is more famous for being half the lyrics in Phish’s song David Bowie than for their music. Fun band though: reggae infused light funk renderings of (mostly) semi-obscure cover songs…quite a brilliant concept really. I grooved my boogie-lite shuffle for seventy-five minutes under the stars pleasantly waiting for Can’t Help Falling In Love (the set closer) and of course Red Red Wine (the show ender).
And then I cycled home in no time, flat.