Published Sep 22, 2013The second day of the Bloor Ossington Folk Festival was a textbook example of how a day of outdoor music can be hampered by steady and unrelenting rainfall. Despite obstacles, the bands more than made up for the unfortunate circumstances. The lineup began with Guelph collective Minotaurs, which featured eight players on stage, including two drummers, a trombone and a saxophone. Their long, sprawling numbers brought a real groove to the handful of people who braved the pouring rain. The first half was reminiscent of a jazz performance, while the second half had a definite reggae influence. Nathan Lawr was a treat to watch as he switched between keys, percussion and vocal duties, even heading out from under the protective tent during the last song to dance.
Though they played only four songs, Toronto hip-hop act Grand Analog continued the good vibes. They opened with a spot-on cover of Maestro Fresh Wes classic "Let Your Backbone Slide" before moving onto "Rap Sheet (This Day On)." Their rendition of "Howl (Like Wolves)" was so sunny that it should have had the power to end the rain (though it did have the audience enthusiastically howling on cue), and the band closed off their set with Calligraffiti's "Around This Town."
Kevin Kane of the Grapes of Wrath played a sparse guitar-and-vocals set, featuring some of his own material and some newer Grapes of Wrath tunes, and he never let his guitar overpower his expressive voice.
The dreamy soundscapes of Memoryhouse fit well with the setting sun. Though the band have been relatively quiet as of late, their performance showed that they haven't been accumulating rust. Opening with "Sleep Patterns," Denise Nouvion's clear voice rang out over the synthesizers and Evan Abeele's guitar, even as the song grew in volume. They eventually ended their set with the affecting "Lately (Deuxième)."
Pick a Piper opened with the hypnotic "Cinders and Dust" and had the audience in a dancing frenzy from beginning to end. Their multi-layered music is dominated by percussion and augmented by synthesizers, occasionally assisted by vocals. The combination of the three elements is spellbinding; the percussion was at its most impressive when three of the four band members were drumming as they played an extended version of "Once Were Leaves." By the time they concluded with "Dinghy in a Quiet Cove," the audience (which had considerably grown in size since the rain let up) was begging for more.
Finally, the day at Christie Pits came to an end with a headlining performance from indie darling Julie Doiron, who said early on that she had considered quitting music entirely after the birth of her now seven-week-old daughter. She was playing with an entirely new band, who also happen to be Jenn Grant's current backing band, and though she repeatedly mentioned not practicing enough ("I spent more time breastfeeding than practicing," she said at one point), her apparent nervousness didn't show. Her banter was endearingly awkward as ever, and it's always a highlight (along with the music, of course) of a Julie Doiron show.
Doiron's set consisted of a wide breadth of her solo material, including newer songs like "The Gambler" to older tracks like "Borrowed Minivans" and "Swan Pond." Impressive about Doiron is her ability to be a quiet or forceful stage presence depending on the song. When quiet, her band would be much more subtle, but as the set went on Doiron became more and more emotional while delivering her songs, and it showed as the volume got louder and her voice began to crack.
It was a day full of solid performances that ran the gamut of genres but managed to consistently impress.