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Photo of Mac Demarco by Saskia Rodenburg.

Folk Fest 2013: What the folk is going on with the music of today’s youth?

By Saskia Rodenburg on September 15, 2013

The Ottawa Folk Festival, a longstanding tradition here in the nation’s capital, proved once again that people still yearn for the folk music of long ago and of the present. Taking place in Hog’s Back Park, the five day festival boasted some much sought after artists such as City and Colour, The Sheepdogs and other acts all of which thrilled audiences young and old. Though some critics argue that the Folk Festival can hardly contain the word “Folk” in its name, I found myself instead wanting more of this wonderful festival – and wishing that more people my age shared my enthusiasm.

Saturday featured the likes of Mac DeMarco and The Belle Game, two acts with very different sounds that I couldn’t get enough of.

Though the sky was gray and overcast, I attended the festival intrigued at the festival’s exciting line up. Quite a few people gathered around the Ravenlaw stage as Mac DeMarco, the gap toothed 23-year-old, began his set at 4pm. The seemingly hip 20-somethings around me sung right along with DeMarco as he belted out songs from his latest album “2.” We were treated to a hilarious performance and energetic songs as DeMarco and his band mates belted out “Little Drummer Boy” in between one of their numbers. Everyone danced the hour away during DeMarco’s most popular song to date, “Viceroy”, and a personal favourite of mine, “The Stars Keep On Calling My Name.” The singer ended with a much different vibe, a sweet rendition of his song “Still Together.”

Photo of The Belle Game by Saskia Rodenburg.

Photo of The Belle Game by Saskia Rodenburg.

Following this, and considering it was my first time at the festival, I walked the few feet to get to the CUPE-SCFP stage where I heard the sweet sounds of a band that I knew nothing about. “We are The Belle Game,” proclaimed the curly haired, Ray Ban wearing guitar player as they began to belt out words to a song they called: “Blame Fiction.” Within the first few seconds, I fell in love with them all: the drummer who had amusing problems with the back track, a singer who boasted an impressive range and three other clearly talented musicians. The song reminded me of Tegan and Sara, and their numerous other easy listening tracks kept me riveted in my seat in the grass. The band played to a fairly energized crowd (which I was dismayed was not large) and were clearly just as excited as the audience to be there. They continued on with song “River” and many others, all of which were handled with ease by the smooth voice of Andrea Lo. I was sad to see them go after what felt like such a short hour, but this prompted a train of thought within me as I set off for home.

Now in my teenage years, I find myself saddened every day at the lack of new, fresh tastes bursting out onto the music scene. Today, it seems as if no one can carry a tune unless “auto” is inserted in front of it to help him or her along. Ask anyone around me, and they can sing the chorus to Justin Bieber’s previous chart topper “Baby” in a few seconds flat. Ask them to sing the chorus to a song by my favourite band, Snow Patrol, and you will get more than a few head scratches and “Huh’s?” Such is the state of music instilled in today’s youth.

In this generation that depends so much on electronics, it would seem that this only carries over to much of our taste in music. Bands who can barely carry a note when they are on a real stage rule, and the bands of the past are exactly that: in the past. My somewhat interesting musical taste of the likes of Death Cab For Cutie to Taylor Swift to Jack Johnson is not unique, but wide-ranging musical tastes seem to be a dying breed in today’s youth. For me, the Ottawa Folk Festival is a way of attempting to change this, and drawing in even more youth could influence some to be able to branch out from the Top 40 hit makers to the hit makers trying to get by on an EP. One can only hope that someday, the youth of today can be able to name more than one band who hasn’t had a top ten hit on the Billboard charts and we can all come “together” as Mac DeMarco would say, and try to broaden all of our musical tastes.