Home Concert review Ottawa Grassroots Festival Day 4 – Lucky Ron, Vince Halfhide, Irish Millie,...

Ottawa Grassroots Festival Day 4 – Lucky Ron, Vince Halfhide, Irish Millie, and more!

Lucky Ron. Photo by Audrey Pridham.

The last day of Ottawa’s Grassroots Festival included a line-up of six local folk artists, hosted once again at Irene’s Pub on April 28. The day of festivities was free for anyone to attend. Artists who took to the stage that afternoon included Ball and Chain, Christine Graves, Vince Halfhide, Irish Millie, Crop Circle Catalysts, and Lucky Ron.

Ottawa-based Ball and Chain were a delightful trio who treated the audience to some wholesome gospel tunes. They performed some classic covers of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” “How Great Thou Art,” “Turn Your Radio On,” and “Keep on the Sunny Side,” to name a few. Their rustic melodies consisting of the banjo, harmonica, violin, and guitar blended together nicely with their voices, and the audience was even singing along to their favourite songs.

Ball and Chain. Photo by Audrey Pridham.
Christine Graves. Photo by Audrey Pridham.

Next up was Christine Graves, who performed some contemporary folk. With songs such as “Some Old Things,” “Santa Maria,” and “Keep this in Mind,” Christine’s poetic lyricism and mellow performance captivated the audience. During “Let it Go,” Michael Ball from Ball and Chain joined Christine on violin, which resulted in beautiful acoustics that echoed across the venue.

Vince Halfhide. Photo by Audrey Pridham.

Veteran Ottawa musician, Vince Halfhide, performed a soft-toned set with songs that drew from themes of heartbreak and pushing forward. “Kingdom Come,” “Devil Made Rock n’ Roll,” and “If You Break Her Heart” were full of powerful lyricism and emotion. Getting to hear Vince sing these with just the acoustic guitar instrumentals brought a whole layer of raw authenticity behind his performance.

Following Vince was 17-year old Irish Millie from Peterborough, along with her father, Murray. Millie’s impressive violin skills blew the audience away, and together with Murray’s cheerful guitar strums, their performance of various Irish fiddle tunes were delightful from beginning to end. Songs such as “Big Red,” “So Gone,” and “The Hat” were captivating and energetic in tone. They even performed their own rendition of “The Devil Went Down to Ireland,” showcasing the duo’s dynamics.

After the show, Millie spoke with me about her future plans as an artist and what it means to her to be able to pursue her passions at a young age. She will be attending the University of Toronto in Scarborough to study in their Music Industry and Technology program, and release another album later this year.

Irish Millie and her father, Murray. Photo by Audrey Pridham.

“I find I get to be a role model for a lot of younger people, which is really great. And I get asked often to teach younger kids as well. My hope for that is to have them find the same love of music as I did when I was really young,” she said.

Jazz-folk band, Crop Circle Catalysts, brought forth a groovy atmosphere to the festival with electric guitars and a drum set. Joe McDonald, who was lead vocalist, had a very soothing and laid-back presence throughout the set. “Catfish in a Pan,” “February’s End,” and “Freckles,” to name a few, were said to have taken inspiration from different folk artists such as Gordon Lightfoot and Bruce Cockburn. The band overall delivered a pleasing and rhythmic tune that had the audience moving to the beat.

Crop Circle Catalysts. From left to right: Chris Pond, Joe McDonald, Jose Garcia. Photo by Audrey Pridham.

Closing off for the festival was Ottawa folk-legend Lucky Ron, who is best known for performing weekly at the Chateau Lafayette. The country-folk singer swayed the audience off their feet with fast-paced and spirited songs inspired by classics from the 40s and 50s, and even covered a few Hank Williams songs such as “You’re Cheating Hard” and “Help Me Get Over You.” His quick-witted and zestful personality charmed the audience, with many of them singing along or repeating call outs during a certain measure or chorus. “My Sweet Kathleen,” “Irish Whiskey,” “Waltz Across Texas,” and “Hot Rod Man” were full of spirit from both himself and the audience’s participation. To end off his set, he impressively sang a short chorus from one of his songs while playing the guitar backwards over his head.

In the end, the day was filled with lively performances to close off this year’s Grassroots Festival. Fans who travelled near and far to watch their favourite artists, or even discover new ones, were left with their spirits lifted and hopefully felt a greater sense of community within the Canadian folk music scene.


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