Only at a folk festival would you see the biggest acts of a weekend playing together on a side stage for an afternoon concert on the last day.
The Ottawa Folk Festival wrapped up last night with a concert from Nova Scotia folk/pop singer Joel Plaskett.
But before he took to the main stage, Plaskett played at an afternoon workshop with former Barenaked Ladies lead singer Steven Page, Canadian folk legend Bruce Cockburn and Ottawa singer songwriter Ana Miura on the Hill Stage to a crowd of around 1,000 people.
Page was the headlining act for the festival’s opening night and Cockburn headlined on Saturday. Both drew audiences of around 7,000 people, according to Folk fest spokesman Denis Labossiere. Plaskett was expected to attract the same, But early festivalgoers were able to catch Plaskett, Cockburn and Page in a much more intimate setting.
“It’s a different rhythm,” said Plaskett. “When you’re playing on your own, you step into rhythm differently. You don’t get the same momentum that you do on your own, but you have a different experience.”
Cockburn said the great thing about the workshops is the mix of ideas, sensibilities and talent that is kind of “abnormal.”
He knew Page from his time with the Barenaked Ladies, but he didn’t know Miura’s or Plaskett’s music, which made the workshop more interesting as an artist and more entertaining for the audience.
The proximity of the audience, who were sitting on grass only a couple feet away created a sense of intimacy that Cockburn said sets the workshops apart from other performance.
“You lose that entirely if it’s on the main stage,” he said. “It wouldn’t be as much fun for everybody as this.”
The intimacy of a small venue is a defining characteristic of folk festivals said artistic director Chris White, who had to fight to keep the workshop off the main stage.
“This is a 50-year-old tradition of being inclusive. It’s not just about shows. It’s about getting everyone involved,” he said.
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