the festival experience

Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend says goodnight to an appreciative audience.

I love a good Festival, the chance to hang out with a bunch of people and friends who love music. I’ve been going to concerts all my life, back when I worked in the music industry I’d often get free concert tickets, and also buy tickets when freebies weren’t available, so it wouldn’t be unusual for me to go to a couple of concerts a week. With a festival you automatically have from one to ten days of concerts… what’s not to love!

As a photographer I’m hard to keep up with at a concert or festival, so whether I go with friends or go on my own, I’m often in the thick of the crowd alone, yet not alone… and it’s a great place to be, as it’s the only place where you can be fully immersed in the experience. It can be difficult to shoot from that viewpoint though, as a perfect shot may be blocked by the sudden movement of someone in the crowd.


But even when you have the perfect shot lined up, you might not be able to see the artist as she may be having a bad hair day, or… at the very moment you take the shot, a blinding light finds you in it’s path. It’s all par for the course though, and the resulting shots better reflect the experience of the festival. That said, I do envy my friends and fellow photographers who get to shoot from the stage or from the pit.
Patti Smith

Patti Smith opened the Ottawa Folk Festival

Dallas Green of City and Colour

Dallas Green of City and Colour agreed to replace Neil Young


It’s always fun going through my shots after the show, and finding  I caught one of my friends in a shot… now that’s a photo bomb Steve! And I do sometimes try for “on the job” shots of these photographers enjoying the camaraderie in the pit.

And there’s so much more to enjoy at a festival, that moment when the artist on stage that you’ve never heard of totally blows you away.

City and Colour

Photographer Steve Gerecke shooting City and Colour.

John Rowlands

Photographer John Rowlands in the pit at Emmylou Harris.


There’s also a shared excitement with the crowd when a performer plays something or says something that takes the audience to a higher level of appreciation, like when Canadian Astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield answered a question from Danny Michel asking if he missed being in space, and talked about how he prefers to look forward to what we can all do on this planet and move forward as a species.

Ottawa Folk Fest

Audience for Chris and Dave Hadfield and Danny Michel

Ottawa Folk Fest

A young girl in the audience sporting a fine moustache.


Amos the Transparent

My daughter Caitlin enjoying Amos the Transparent.

And I love how some people come to a festival as a participant, showing their love for the artists by dressing up, creating a poster or growing a moustache!

And then there’s going to a festival with your friends or loved ones that have that same love of music and how it has a combining effect where your enjoyment is multiplied by the act of sharing. It was great sharing this Festival with everyone… and seeing friends and fellow photographers and music lovers!

Click on any photo here to view all of them larger… you might be in one.

The Ottawa Folk Festival wraps up tonight, but I won’t be sad about it for a while as I have a lot of photos to go through that will keep the experience alive for a while longer. I hope they keep it alive for you as well and you’ll come back to check out the rest of my photos, who knows – you might be in one too!

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