Co-authored with Chris Cline, photo by Yasmin Nissim
Patrick Watson is a benevolent mad scientist. All you’ll need is one listen to his cathartic cabaret melodies and you’ll be convinced of this fact. Sunday night’s Folk Fest attendees certainly were.
Watson was in Ottawa with his band in support of their new album, Adventures in Your Own Backyard. A peek at the stage setup, which included a grand piano, various percussive instruments and a saw, gave hints that this wouldn’t be a pared down show for the road. And for the first few songs, the band made full use of their musical playground, opening with several incredible pieces from Adventures. After successfully blowing the audience away, they ditched the toys and all gathered around a single microphone to perform (nearly) a capella. It was a quiet moment that seemed entirely fitting for Folk Fest. But they soon returned to their instruments to continue making their trademark big sounds.
Fans hoping for some material from previous albums were certainly not disappointed. For us in particular, Big Bird in a Small Cage and Where the Wild Things Are were happy additions to the set list and definitely excited the crowd. Watson’s easy going nature and sense of humour kept things light-hearted, even when drum techs on the adjacent main stage drummed over one of the band’s particularly quiet, acoustic songs. Watson’s demeanour made the show enjoyable not only for the music, but for the sense of camaraderie he easily built with the crowd. A particularly awesome sing along during Big Bird got everyone singing in their most weird and wonderful voices.
Though Watson and company managed to pack a relatively short set with some amazing music, the crowd inevitably demanded more when the set finally wound down to make way for Dan Mangan on the main stage. Watson did return to the stage briefly with a promise to return to Ottawa soon. It’ll have to do. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a crowd leave a show looking so visibly exhilarated. Judging by the hordes of people we saw grabbing the band’s records in the merch tent (some of whom approached us for purchasing advice), Watson has made himself a huge new local following.