CityFolk 2017: Some “thinking person’s music” with Ruth B, Rodriguez, Jack Johnson, Father John Misty, Ian Tyson and Corb Lund

CityFolk at Lansdowne Park in 2016. Photo: Steve Gerecke

Everything from budgets to artist availability mean music festival lineups can be as much a matter of serendipity as of intention.

But CityFolk executive director Mark Monahan does spot a theme running through this year’s event, which runs Sept. 13-17 at Lansdowne Park.

Father John Misty offered up his brand of humour and song on Sept. 16.

“It’s the evolution of the modern folk festival,” he says. Eco-conscious acoustic musician and one-time surfer boy Jack Johnson, for example, is the mainstream headliner. The enigmatic Father John Misty is “the commentary on current society.” Rodriguez — who debuted in the 1960s, subsequently vanished from site, and re-emerged decades later, even enjoying celebrityhood as the subject of the 2012 Oscar award-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man — is “the legend recently discovered.” Plus, says Monahan, “there’s a whole host of great support acts.”

Jack Johnson will perform Sept. 14.

“When we book, we try to create what you see. The music is the thinking person’s music; it’s for music aficionados.  Hopefully, fans of these artists will know them for more than just one hit on the radio.”

As always, CityFolk gives a sizeable tip of the hat to Canadian artists. They range from the intimate sounds of Bahamas and emerging artists like singer songwriter Ruth B to Amanda Marshall, the big-voiced pop hit-maker from the ‘90s whose legal battles with the music industry sidelined her career until she re-emerged about seven years ago.

Ruth B sings opening night Sept. 13.

East coaster Rose Cousins, whose folk-pop ways have earned her a devoted following, is also on board.

And for baby boomers and lovers of hip Canadian country, the festival has teamed up the legendary Ian Tyson (83 and still eager to perform) in a show with Corb Lund (48 and a multi-award winner).

With close to 30 acts already signed on and another dozen or so expected, the festival offers something enticing for almost everyone.

Ian Tyson and Corb Lund are on stage Sept. 15.

But, notes Monahan, who’s also executive director of long-running Bluesfest, “There’s never a perfect lineup formula. You think you have it sometimes, but then it’s, ‘Oh s***, that (act) wasn’t good as I thought.’ Or, ‘That was amazing. I never thought that guy was going to be as popular.’”

This year’s formula includes a couple of acts, both Canadian, that are back after a long hiatus. Broken Social Scene laid low over the past few years but regrouped – and that’s saying a lot, since the band can range anywhere from six to 19 members – for their upcoming album Hug of Thunder. It’s the first record in seven years.

Also back in harness: pop-rockers the Philosopher Kings. They’ve been out of the picture for over a decade.

Broken Social Scene emerges for a show on Sept. 15.

There’s much more, from Louisiana’s popster upstarts Sweet Crude to Denver, Colo.-based blues/folk rockers Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, whose subversive S.O.B. on YouTube should be played with earphones on and the volume jacked to the max.

At the other end of the spectrum, and back for the fourth year running, is children’s performer Fred Penner.

Amanda Marshall will rock the stage Sept. 15.

Monahan says, “He’s one of the most-loved artists every year. He plays so well to the young kids and those of us who think we’re young and remember him.”

This is the third time that Lansdowne has hosted CityFolk, and Monahan says this year is more a matter of tweaking than overhauling proceedings. The black box performance space inside the Aberdeen Pavilion, for instance, was “a great success” and will be back with a few adjustments.

Also returning is Marvest, with free, off-site programming. That lineup is still pending.

Monohan created CityFolk in 2011 from the Ottawa Folk Festival when that event ran into financial problems. Last year’s CityFolk attendance was around 40,000, and Monahan expects a similar turnout this time.

Festival passes go on sale at 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 17 at an early-bird price of $99 for the full festival. Regular-priced passes and tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Thursday. For tickets, visit

Here’s the lineup so far:

Wednesday, Sept. 13

Post Malone

Allan Rayman

Ruth B

Thursday, Sept. 14

Jack Johnson

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats

The Suitcase Junket

Friday, Sept. 15

Amanda Marshall

Broken Social Scene

A Tribute to Jesse Winchester

Big Thief

Son Little

Dead Flowers

The Suitcase Junket

Saturday, Sept. 16

Father John Misty

Corb Lund & Ian Tyson

Royal Canoe

The Philosopher Kings

Matt Mays

Fred Penner

Lucy Dacus

Common Deer


Sunday, Sept. 17


Margo Price


Scott Helman

Tank and the Bangas

Rose Cousins


Sweet Crude


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Patrick Langston covered English professional theatre for the Ottawa Citizen from 2008 to 2016. He also wrote about music, travel, the local housing industry and other subjects for the paper. Patrick continues to contribute to Ottawa Magazine, Diplomat and International Canada Magazine, and other publications.