Counter-Country: Great Big Sea at Ottawa Folk Fest

As part of one of our brand new features exclusive to Keepin’ it Country, we will be introducing country music fans to artists they may not have heard of from other genres. We believe that it’s important to get to know other genres in order to greater appreciate country music and find new, different acts that you should get to know better. Our first Counter-Country band is last night’s Ottawa Folk Fest headlining act Great Big Sea. The Canadian group is one of the best in the country, formed 19 years ago, and is the perfect fit for both the festival and for Keepin’ it Country.

The group grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland. They cut their teeth on Irish pubs in the province, playing for rowdy college students and off-duty fishermen. They formed their band trying to bring an innovative sound to Newfoundland folk music. The band hasn’t stopped touring since, and with eleven CDs and two DVDs under their belts they’re not going anywhere for a while, either.

Check out the details from their Ottawa show below. Tickets for tomorrow and Monday’s Folk Fest are still available at

They opened their set with “Donkey Riding,” which had the crowd up on its feet pretty much immediately. That’s what separates Great Big Sea from most other Canadian groups: you can’t help but dance along to their songs. It didn’t take long for Ottawa music fans to actually start jumping when the band played the first few notes of “The Night Pat Murphy Died.” That energy never left for the rest of the show.

They quickly followed up their energetic first two songs with “When I’m Up.” “It’s starting to feel a lot like a Saturday night, isn’t it?” lead singer Alan Doyle asked the crowd. Even with the chilly, windy weather the crowd wasn’t going anywhere until the last second of their encore. It was the first time the band has ever played Ottawa Folk Fest.

The band finished their set with crowd favourite “Ordinary Day” and “The Old Black Rum.”

The first time Great Big Sea ever played Ottawa was at the Newfoundland Pub on Montreal Road with 12 people, they admitted. They’ve come a long way since then – headlining the Saturday night of Ottawa Folk Fest. Their twentieth anniversary as a group is next year, and they told the crowd they’ll be back to celebrate it in Ottawa.  Chances are pretty good that they’ll get more than 12 people again.

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A 26 year-old Canadian girl currently living in England for a culinary career. Fell in love with country music and cooking at a young age, and looks for a way to do both.