This weekend, the Peterborough Folk Festival returns for its 24th year, with new events, a more diverse, exciting lineup, and a new creative spirit, thanks in part to the festival’s new Artistic Director, local musician Nick Ferrio. In this article, find out what Ferrio has to say about this year’s Festival, see the full schedule of performers and events, and get a sneak peak at what’s being planned for next year’s 25th anniversary.
The Peterborough Folk Festival has long been a summer institution in this town, an all-ages showcase for local crafts, food, art, and of course, music. It’s one of the largest and, now in its 24th year, longest-running music events in town. “I think it’s great that the festival has strong emphasis on being local,” says Ferrio. “And it’s always been free, and I think that’s incredible.” But, as the Folk Fest nears the quarter-century mark, there’s an opportunity to reflect on what’s come before, and to forge a new road ahead. That’s where Ferrio comes in.“This is an incredible opportunity to really change the vision of the Festival a little bit – to really hop in, get my hands dirty, and get things going.”
Even though he only entered the position a little over a month ago, Ferrio’s influence is already evident in this year’s Folk Fest – first, in the lineup. “In terms of bookings, I think it’s been fairly conservative over the years,” Ferrio admits. ‘Folk’ is a much wider concept that a single style of playing, Ferrio points out, and people can enjoy listening to more than a single genre. “You know Ottawa Bluesfest had Wu-Tang Clan this year? They’re not a blues band at all! But at the same time, why shouldn’t they be there? I want to see an old blues man play, and I want to see Wu Tang Clan at the same time!”
And we are seeing a significantly more diverse, interesting lineup for this year’s festival: LAL, a Toronto group with influences ranging from hip-hop and electro to jazz and world music; Rae Spoon, an songwriter who plays indie-rock with electro and punk influences; local group The Charming Ruins, who play straight-up garage rock; etc. Ferrio is also putting his time as a nationally touring folk/country musician to good use as well, inviting a number of fantastic and exciting artists that he’s befriended on the road to the festival: The Wooden Sky, Daniel Romano & The Trilliums, Olenka & The Autumn Lovers, Grey Kingdom, and others. And, as always, this year includes a great group of local musicians on the bill, too: Jos Fortin, Michael C. Duguay, Sean Conway, Blues In A Bottle, and more.
And just as this year’s festival is pushing the envelope with genre, it’s also pushing the envelope with concert formats, with two new and intriguing events. On Friday evening, the festival steps outside traditional venues with ‘pop-up concerts’ at a number of downtown businesses (Sympathy For The Rebel, Bluestreak Records, and the like). And then, during Saturday’s all-day festival, there will be ‘scavenger hunt shows,’ which challenge festival goers to solve riddles in order to find small, intimate shows by big-name artists, scattered throughout Nicholls Oval. “It’ll be really fun, I think,” Ferrio says with a smile.
Here’s the full schedule for this year’s Folk Festival, and then further down, I ask Ferrio about plans for next year’s 25th anniversary festival.
Friday, August 23
6:00pm to 8:00pm, various locations (more info)
Visit local businesses and hear fantastic music in a series of short, intimate, and free shows. Meet at Bluestreak at 6PM and then follow the tour group through the downtown, winding up at Market Hall at 8PM for the Kick-Off concert.
1. Hollow Hills at Bluestreak Records (444 George Street)
2. Dave Tough at The Barbeside Salon (131 Hunter Street)
3. Michael C. Duguay at Le Petit Bar (399 Water Street)
4. Jos. Fortin at Sympathy for the Rebel (387 Water Street)
8:00pm to 11:00pm, Market Hall (more info)
The festival officially kicks off with a show by acclaimed Canadian rock singer-songwriter Joel Plaskett, who’s had a number of hits on his own and with his bands, Thrush Hermit and the Joel Plaskett Emergency. Also on the bill is this year’s Folk Festival Emerging Artist Award winner, Dylan Ireland, from local folk/roots band The Express And Company. Tickets are $25, available from Moondance Records, the Market Hall box office, or online.
Saturday, August 24
12:00pm to 11:00pm, Nicholls Oval Park (more info)
Saturday, as always, is the festival’s main event, with music, food, crafts, artisans, children’s activities, and more at Nicholls Oval throughout the day. There will be music across three stage today, featuring a number of fantastic performers.
Of particular note: The Wooden Sky, a Juno-nominated folk/rock group and the night’s closers, who have played a number of great shows in town before; LAL, a fascinating collective of international musicians who play something part way between hip-hop, electro, jazz, and world music; Daniel Romano & The Trilliums, an alt-country group who’ve twice been longlisted for the Polaris Prize; and Jos Fortin, a talented young local singer-songwriter returning to the festival after winning last year’s Emerging Artist Award.
12:00 – 12:45pm: Blues In The Bottle
1:00 – 1:45pm: Hollow Hills
2:00 – 2:45pm: Charming Ruins
3:00 – 3:45pm: Sean Conway
4:00 – 4:45pm: Songwriter’s Circle (Daniel Romano, Dave Tough, Charlie Glasspool)
5:00 – 5:45pm: LAL
6:00 – 6:30pm: Sheesham and Lotus and Son
12:15 – 1:00pm: Leanne Simpson
1:15 – 2:00pm: Jos Fortin
2:15 – 3:00pm: Olenka & The Autumn Lovers
3:15 – 4:00pm: Michael C. Duguay
4:15 – 5:00pm: Grey Kingdom
5:15 – 6:00pm: Rae Spoon
6:15 – 7:00pm: Jennifer Castle
7:00 – 7:45pm: The Express And Company (featuring Dylan Ireland)
8:00 – 8:45pm: 24th Street Wailers
9:00 – 9:45pm: Daniel Romano & The Trilliums
10:00 – 11:00pm: The Wooden Sky
Scavenger Hunt Shows
5:15pm to 8:30pm, Nicholls Oval Park (more info)
Something new this year: check your festival guide for a map and a list of clues that will lead you to special, secret shows taking place throughout the park in the evening. These 20-minute shows will feature some of festival’s biggest and best, in quieter, more intimate settings. Featured performers include Gavin Gardiner from the Wooden Sky, Rae Spoon, Jennifer Castle, The Grey Kingdom, and Dave Tough.
Sunday, August 25
12:00pm to 5:00pm, Millennium Park (more info)
And finally, Sunday afternoon, join local artists, artisans, and musicians at the Silver Bean Cafe in Millennium Park for workshops on a variety of topics.
12:00pm: Michael Ketemer – Celtic Jam
1:00pm: Greg Roy – Hand Drumming
1:00pm: Laura Murray – Felting
2:00pm: Alissa Paxton – Crochet
2:00pm: Lester Alfonso – Ukulel
3:00pm: Janel Jarvis – Belly Dancing
3:00pm: Monica Williams – Knitting
4:00pm: Curtis Driedger – Instant Choir
4:00pm: 24th Street Wailers – Blues Jam
Next year is an important one for the Peterborough Folk Festival: it’s the 25th anniversary! “I’m really glad to be coming in on an anniversary year,” says Ferrio. “It can be a really great opportunity to reflect on the first twenty-five years of the festival, and also to show where the Folk Fest can go.” As of yet, no specific details have been released, but Ferrio says the plan is to seek major funding that would allow the festival to mix the smaller, local acts that have made the festival so special in the past, with some “larger national or international acts.” The 25th anniversary is “a chance to turn over a new leaf and go in a new direction. We’re going to be a stronger, more innovative, and more eclectic festival.”
And then, in addition to his Folk Festival responsibilities, Ferrio also recently took on yet another central position in the local music community: Managing Director of the newly formed local industry group, Music Peterborough. The group, which includes musicians, business people, community members, and politicians, seeks to promote Peterborough as a music tourism destination (we previously wrote about their work here). “I just started this week, and it’s going really really well,” said Ferrio. “We’re just getting going there, trying to define where we want the organization to go, and what kind of work we’re going to be doing. It’s very much in an infancy stage. It’s fun – but it’s a lot of work.”
And then of course Ferrio is also an active musician himself. “It’s funny when your passion becomes the thing that you’re getting paid for, even though it’s not directly the way you envisioned it,” Ferrio muses. “I love music. The only reason I enjoy working for the Folk Fest and Music Peterborough is because I make music, and the only reason I would have ever been on their radar is because of what I’ve done as a musician.” His band, Nick Ferrio & His Feelings, are currently working on a new album and getting ready for some touring. They have a couple dates coming up in Toronto in September, and will likely be playing some winter festivals as well. Keep an eye on Ferrio’s website for updates.
Dylan Ireland photo by Scott Dancey. Joel Plaskett photo by Ingram Barss. The Wooden Sky photo by Justin Broadbent. Other images courtesy the artists.