Concerts

Iggy Pop and NOBRO at the CityFolk Festival in Ottawa: Photos and a review

[More from Ottawa photographer Ross MacDonald. Review and Iggy photos–taken on an iPhone because no pnotographers were allowed in the pit–by Dave Lee. – AC]

There was a weird energy in the air Wednesday night in downtown Ottawa as day one of Ottawa’s CityFolk festival was about to unfold. The city was abuzz with excitement at the chance to see a living legend that not too many people thought they would ever get to see perform live in 2023.

The 29th annual Ottawa CityFolk Festival started off with the electro-funk soul grooves of Montreal-based Busty and the Bass. Drummer Julian Trivers and Bassist Milo Johnson locked down the funk groove and had everybody dancing from the first beat to the last. Original singer Alistair Blu was joined onstage by Mel Pacifico and Wayne Tennant that produced three-part harmonies that had the crowd grooving and Busty fans singing along. Both Tennant and Pacifico had solo segments in the show that truly showcased their unique styles and phenomenal voices. The three singers never stopped grooving and dancing while they performed their one-hour set. 

Busty and the Bass.

You can’t talk about a Basty and the Bass live show without mentioning the tremendous horn section of Chris Vincent on trombone and Scott Bevins on trumpet. Vincent and Bevins played off each other seamlessly on a number of songs. Louis Stein on rhythm and lead guitars had some searing leads in the set while Eric Haynes pounded out soulful melodies on the keys. 

Busty and the Bass.

Highlights of the evening included Common Ground, Wandering Lies and Out of Love that received a huge reaction from the audience. The people around me danced and sang for the entire set having the best time of their lives which is a testament to their energetic live performances and catchy groove-filled tunes.

Busty and the Bass.

Meanwhile on the side stage were Montreal punk-rockers NOBRO. Their name is a clever play on the fact that it is an all-woman band, no bros. They wasted no time at all as they kicked off their set on overdrive with lead singer/bassist Kathryn McCaughey’s fast-paced lyrics.

NOBRO

They didn’t let up at all throughout their set. Even when chatting to the audience between songs it was quick and to the point. And the concert was reminiscent of the CBGB scene of the 70s and 80s.

NOBRO

The four ladies had a perfect balance of fast guitar from Karolane Carbonneau, and a fullness added by Lisandre Bourdages on keys. But there was no mistaking drummer Sarah Dion’s presence on drums: hard and fast, punk perfection.

NOBRO

Many questioned why NOBRO were tucked away on the side stage. The crowd was packed tight, and the band was more in line with the style of Iggy Pop; they should have been playing for the crowd on the main stage just before Iggy, that would have made for a perfect evening.

NOBRO

The Folk-fest crowd was vibrating with excitement as the roadies began setting up the stage for Iggy Pop. The now white-haired middle-aged men who grew up listening to the Stooges in the late 60s and early 70s made their way to the front of the stage. Never in their wildest dreams did they think they would be able to see the Godfather of Punk Rock play live in 2023. Iggy was the creator and innovator of the punk movement as he introduced stage diving and crowd surfing to the masses. 

iggy pop

At precisely 9pm, a black and white image of Iggy in the early 70s popped up on the back screen as his band took the stage. The legend himself appeared in his classic tight black pants and leather vest, The vest lasted only about 5 seconds as he flung it off to the side of the stage and became the shirtless icon we have all been accustomed to seeing for over five decades. 

The strut. The defiance. The arrogance. The rebellious spirit. It was all there. The fans couldn’t be happier as he launched into Five Foot One followed by the old Stooges tune T.V. Eye that featured a blistering guitar solo. His 7-piece band was rock solid featuring drummer, bassist, rhythm and lead guitars, keyboard and a two-piece horn section that served double duty as backup vocals.

iggy pop

At age 76, there were no signs of slowing down as he pranced around the stage non-stop assuming all his iconic poses. Iggy had the crowd in the palm of his hands from the first song on and never let go. If there was any doubt if a bunch of old boomers still had it in them to start ‘moshing’, it was quickly answered as Iggy powered through Stooges’ classics Raw Power and Gimme Danger.

The highlight of the evening was having Iggy go back-to-back with Punk anthems The Passenger and Lust for Life. The Passenger featured a soaring keyboard solo followed by a breakdown with Iggy urging the crowd to sing the La la la lalalalala chorus. The crowd could not be happier singing along. Iggy responded by saying ‘Beautiful’.

If Passenger brought the crowd to the edge, Lust for Life pushed them over the top. The crowd up front was in a frenzy as the mosh pit churned. This was when we had our first crowd surfer. Just when you think you’ve seen everything, a middle-aged man in his early 60s rode the wave to the front of the stage where the young security guards gently ushered him away to safety.

After playing the slower Endless Sea off his New Values album, Iggy addressed the crowd by saying: ‘Well I feel like we’re getting to know each other a little better. So what do you say we go on a trip together. How about a Death Trip!’. This catapulted the crowd into another frenzy as the mosh pits started up again. Amazing!

Iggy followed that up by introducing the next song by stating ‘I grew up in a dirty little town near here. We were always poor. We were also fucking sick. So in honour of that memory… this is called I’m Sick of You’. This was accompanied by some soulful trombone playing and a scorching guitar solo. Before the song was over, Iggy started barking and rolling around the stage as the band went full on into I Wanna Be Your Dog. Making sure there was no energy drop, Iggy concluded the set with Stooges hit Search and Destroy.

The encore featured Iggy in a long sleeve black leather jacket with metal studs as the band played the bluesy Down on the Street, Loose and Frenzy to finish off a frenetic day one of Folkfest. The jacket did stay on for the entire encore as it was getting a little chilly in Ottawa. 

Let’s just say that at age 76, Iggy still has the energy of a man half his age. The man literally did not stop for the entire 90 minute set. I asked a 16 year old kid who was standing beside me – who knew the words to almost every song – how he became an Iggy Pop fan. He responded, ‘I just love this kind of music’. 

Do yourself a favour by seeing Iggy live if you get the chance. You won’t be disappointed.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38165 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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