The heat was on for the final night of Ottawa CityFolk 2018, and the crowd was just as ready for the more folk-focused content on this night! With upbeat pop and country from Whitehorse, the dynamic fury of Mt. Joy and the wise eclectic music of The Decemberists, it was impossible not to get into the shows as the festival wrapped up.
There was an instantly contagious energy between Melissa McClelland and husband Luke Doucet that kept their Whitehorse set lively and fun to watch. The duo leaned into any riff they could during “Broken” as the song’s country overtones only seemed to ooze a warmth for them to play with. Doucet gave a call-out to his sound-tech, reminding the CityFolk crowd that this was also the tech’s hometown show as an Ottawa native. Remarking on how great it is to see people coming together to enjoy time together, Doucet reflected on how cities can do this as he segued into the band’s closer. “Downtown” proved to be the set’s biggest banger as the pair really upped the intensity of their individual performances. Even the song’s signature stops went from satisfying to small-fry as they cut into some ballistic solos. Luke & Melissa each shredded like mad and closed the song in a wave of feedback, but it was their keyboardist’s hilariously casual demeanor through her unbelievable solo that earned one of the few rounds of applause in the set for any one section of a song.
Despite a few jokes about how hot Ottawa was compared to Portland in mid-September, Colin Meloy seemed to be having a genuinely fun time returning to CityFolk (especially since it was Folk Fest last time he’d seen it). The Decemberists wasted no time bringing new tracks like “Severed” and the wonderful “Sucker’s Prayer” out right away, and get the crowd moving along. Right as the steady but rustic tones of “Cutting Stone” finished out, the set turned to what Meloy deemed as the folk side of the show.
Meloy once again recalled how much it felt like a sweaty rock club in the 20+ degree weather, “Not that sweaty rock clubs are a bad thing.” As he readied himself for solemn tracks like “Lake Song” and “Rox In The Box” Meloy said “Shed a tear for the beer sherpas wandering the crowd.” As he offered a moment of what he called “Dad rock” the band all whipped out a different drum to thump and sing along to “The Rake’s Song” for one of the sets highlights.