I’ve been hearing a lot of mixed reviews in the media about the recent CityFolk music festival at Lansdowne. At times, the promoter has made it sound like an unmitigated success (this is clearly false, and at other times he has given a more nuanced view, but I think we can understand why he might feel pressure to focus on the positives).
A lot of the negative reviews are rather predictable – space issues, not enough port-a-potties and poor transportation to and from the park. Some of this is likely just growing pains. It’s the first year at Lansdowne, and Lansdowne, itself, is still figuring a lot of this out. (In the future, these festivals shouldn’t be allowed to hi-jack a public park for weeks at a time.)
The city, OSEG and OC Transpo need to figure things out. Outside of RedBlacks games, there are never enough buses running along Bank Street. This problem pre-dates Lansdowne, but it has become more acute as more and more special events move into the park.
But let’s put all that aside. Coming in, I was most worried about the disruption to the neighbourhood. Bluesfest is known for ignoring the concerns or comfort of the Lebreton community, and last year, CityFolk was ridiculously loud, prompting a number of complaints from various neighbourhoods, including (but not limited to) Old Ottawa South and the Glebe. CityFolk responded by trying to mitigate the sound at first, then cranked the volume for the final Sunday.
So I was ready for a festival that would be a giant middle finger to the neighbourhood.
On the first night of the festival, I heard nothing. I’m a few blocks away, and I can usually hear the crowds cheering at RedBlacks games, so I was ready for a bit of noise, but, no, nothing. Still, I wasn’t ready to commend CityFolk on their sound…not even when Thursday night was quiet, too. I knew, these festivals sometimes turn it up on weekends. So I was prepared for a disruptive weekend.
But it never materialized. I heard a bit one evening when I was outside, but I really had to listen for it. It wasn’t disruptive at all*. There were the usual disruptions of drunks pouring out onto Bank Street (after being over-served at Lansdowne, as per yuse), but that’s as much on the city and OC Transpo as it is on CityFolk. Hell, the AC DC crowd was much worse.
So, to my pleasure and slight surprise, I can say that none of my major worries about CityFolk materialized. Good on them.
This doesn’t mean CityFolk should come back next year. It may not be the best spot for them, and Lansdowne needs fewer special events and more everyday draws. However, if they are back, I certainly won’t be too concerned.
*It is quite possible it was disruptive for those living closer, or in a different direction from the park. I can’t speak for them.