CityFolk III – Why Bother?

Maybe it’s being in a crowd that does it. Or a general narcissism in our culture. But it was definitely in evidence Friday as Van Morrison delivered a strong set at CityFolk 2015.

This was the big event of the festival. There were more people there than the previous two nights combined. Anticipation was high, but I got the impression that for many people the anticipation was better than the experience. And that is sad.

Van Morrison delivered an excellent set, great music with a great backup band. He has a reputation as a bit of a curmudgeon, and never does interact with the audience, but he seemed to be enjoying himself. There was nothing wrong with the music. Okay, there was – it wasn’t loud enough for my taste. No, that’s not quite true – it wasn’t loud enough to drown out all the people around me who had decided their conversations were more interesting than what was happening on stage. It seemed no matter where I moved the volume of the people talking was at the same level as the music.

I can’t figure out why people would pay to go to a concert and then not listen. Tickets were $60, plus surcharges. I can talk with my friends at home for a lot less than that; why do it at a music festival? I can understand conversation between songs, but all through the set? When you have to shout to be heard over the music? What’s the point of that?

The conclusion I came to was that it wasn’t about the music, it was about the event. There was a lot of hype surrounding Van Morrison’s appearance at CityFolk, so people bought tickets even though they really didn’t know his music. They stopped talking for the songs they knew, like “Brown Eyed Girl,” “Moondance,” “Domino” and “Gloria,” but the rest of the time they ignored the stage until the next hit came along. The event wasn’t about the music, it was about them being seen in the “cool” place to be.
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Too bad really because they missed an excellent show.

If Van Morrison returns to Ottawa at some point I do hope he is booked for an indoor show with more limited capacity. Maybe then he will get the respectful audience his music deserves.

This song was perhaps my favourite from the show. Cliff, of course, was not there for it.

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