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My Saturday afternoon at Folkfest: Blues, Mac Demarco and our favourite astronaut

By François Levesque on September 8, 2013

We headed to Hog’s Back early Saturday afternoon to catch Leif Vollebekk’s 2pm set. I have to admit, dear reader, that I have a total crush on Leif. He has a bit of history with Apt613. We had asked him to play our first anniversary show at Raw Sugar, but alas had a conflicting gig. When the gig fell through, he decided to come to the Raw and party with us anyway. Ever since, he’s held a special place in my heart. Plus, how can you not love this face.

I was looking forward to hearing Vollebekk play material from his new album North Americana. Along with a few covers, his set was mostly composed of songs from that album. It was my first time seeing him with a full band – saxophone, old school organs, drums and of course Vollebekk himself sometimes on guitar, sometimes on the keys. The full band gave a new dimension to his live show and the sound was more akin to the album – lush, full arrangements, songs filled with blues, sorrow and a touch of hope. The sprawling When the Subway Comes Above the Ground was a particular treat for the ears.

Following Vollebekk’s performance, we checked out local boys Winchester Warm’s set. I’m amazed at how they managed to squeeze two drum kits and sometimes up to six people on that tiny stage. Winchester Warm’s been working on a new album for quite some time now and they played a mix of old and new songs. The addition of 3 live musicians, plus Sarah Hallman on vocals for a few tunes, took the band’s indie folk sound to more of a mid-90s alternative area. For the most part, we liked it.

We ended up catching the end of the Mac Demarco set. I feel pretty unqualified to cover his music – many would call it slack rock. In any event, we caught an oddball rendition of Metallica’s Enter Sandman amongst a number of other covers. Not knowing his music at all, I wondered if he was just a cover man. Friends in the know assured me he wasn’t, and the number of Ottawa punk kids at the show made me think Demarco might be on to something. If you care, Pitchfork thinks highly of him too.

Aside from seeing Vollebekk, one of the most anticipated moments of the festivals for me was Danny Michel’s interview session with Commander Chris Hadfield.

The crowd gathered early at Legacy Stage and many of them caught a glimpse of the workshop featuring Hayden, Michael Feuerstack and Dave Norris. The intimate environment to see these three wonderful lyricists and guitarists was a rare treat. I was especially glad to catch Hayden since I would miss his evening set.

The Chris Hadfield event was billed as a talk, but of course everyone was going to bring out their guitars. And they did. Hadfield was accompanied by his brother Dave and all three played a number of space related tunes, as well as some songs Hadfield composed for family members while living far, far away. Young and old were awestruck by Hadfield’s stories from the space station. For example, did you know the space station revolves around the world 16 times a day, which means it takes only 10 minutes for the space station to cross Canada from Halifax to Victoria?

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I found it amazing how Hadfield managed to take the complex and explain in a way that all could understand. He also brought a message of hope – yes, maybe we’re a tiny part of the universe (and likely not alone out there) – but there we’re in this together and should appreciate and take care of what we have.