Home Feature Dispatches from the Ottawa Grassroots Festival day two: Friday

Dispatches from the Ottawa Grassroots Festival day two: Friday

Ken Yates. Photo by Marcus Mitropoulous.

Two award-winning Canadian folk artists, Mia Kelly and Ken Yates, played for a large crowd Friday night at the Ottawa Grassroots Festival.

Day two took place at the same venue as the previous night, St. Michael’s Presbyterian Church.

The night’s focus was on songwriters and lyricists, artistic director Ian Tamblyn said.

This years festival is following a “river” theme, encouraging artists to flow on stage like water ebbs and flows.

At 7 p.m., Mia Kelly took the stage to open the evenings festivities. Mia is a singer-songwriter from Gatineau, QC who performs in both French and English. She enthrals listeners with her blend of folk and blues, bringing along two familiar companions: a piano and guitar.

Last year, Mia won the Emerging Artist award at Culture Outaouais and was labeled as one of the city’s top artists as per the Ottawa Citizen. At just 19, Mia is definitely a prospect to watch!

Friday night’s crowd was nearly double the size of Thursday’s. Photo by Marcus Mitropoulos.

Her performance was easily digestible and thoroughly enjoyable. In between songs, Mia would tell the story behind the track, further piquing my interest as the night went on. She has a droning belt that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand-up.

Mia played a mix of songs, ranging from slow tracks with an emphasis on guitar to faster paced tunes, which had the audience smiling and nodding along. Friday’s crowd was an estimated double the size of Thursday’s, and that energy of that density could be felt throughout the venue.

After Mia walked off stage, Ian quipped, “If I had even half the charisma of her, well, I wouldn’t be in my 70s anymore.”

He added later, “She’s an extreme extrovert. She’s surfing the Ottawa River and traveling everywhere. She’s truly special.”

Even Mia was excited to hear the night’s next performer, Ken Yates.

Enraptured by Ken Yates’ ballads

Ken was born and raised in London, ON, and has won English Songwriter of the Year and New Emerging Artist of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards.

Ken performed a much more somber set, which kept the crowd enraptured by his ballads. The set-list spanned his discography, ranging from his recent release titled “Quiet Talkers” to some of his early tunes. Ian described Ken as “a songwriter’s songwriter,” and that title couldn’t have been more apt.

Some people in the front row had to cover their faces as Ken’s chrome-finished guitar reflected a light into the crowd.

At one point, it appeared as if they were fighting tears.

However, I believe that was due to Ken’s powerful lyrics and the bravado in his voice. Ken was a captivating performer, especially for those who prefer to connect with lyrics.

In its totality, Ken’s set was laidback and powerful.

Tomorrow night is the Ottawa Grassroots Festival’s final night at St. Michaels Presbyterian, featuring Alireza Tarviji Ensemble at 7:30 p.m. and Polky at 9 p.m.


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