Julie Doiron & the Wrong Guys Main Tent, Toronto ON, September 17

Julie Doiron & the Wrong Guys Main Tent, Toronto ON, September 17
Photo: Cosette Schulz
"I wasn't planning on wearing my pink running shoes, they're so comfortable but… they're so not ready," said the endearing Julie Doiron, referring to her bright pink New Balance sneakers. It's a guarantee at this point that Doiron sets will include many an honest and refreshing remark, unabashedly delivered and always beyond charming.
Everyone was on their feet as Doiron and the Wrong Guys capped off Saturday at the very last Bloor Ossington Folk Festival (BOFF) at Christie Pits. And yes, Doiron did take off her shoes.
The Wrong Guys are Eamon McGrath, drummer Mike Peters and bassist Jaye R. Schwarzer of Cancer Bats — quite a mix. ("As if I could like this band even more, here comes a Constantine," said an audience member when Will Kidman joined in for a spell on stage, leaving Doiron with just the microphone, eyes closed and barefoot as she sang, making childlike leaps).
The contrast of Doiron's vulnerable and sincere voice with the Wrong Guys' heavy delivery is a perfect pairing — when the band hits, they really hit. McGrath and Schwarzer are a force, guitars slung low, distorted and rumbling, kicking and taking over the stage but never overbearing. Peters kept it all together as McGrath really made the most of his space echo pedal.
Then there were the softer moments, when somehow all was still, and Doiron's isolated voice was a little shaky, almost too hushed, and your heart broke just a little when she sung "Homeless": "Oh, I used to be good, I had people, good people to love me." The meekness, sensitivity and exposed nature of Doiron worked so well with the absolute havoc-wreaking Wrong Guys, punk meeting poetry in the most satisfying way. Doiron sings of heartbreak and disappointment, and the Wrong Guys translate that anger that she humbly brings with such ferocity; it's a little devastating to witness.
"Dark Horse," "Heavy Snow," "Swan Pond" and "Heartbeats" all seemed to take on new meaning when played in this way, like a sailboat alone on the rockiest sea, determined, dramatic and destined to sink, one would think. Yet it doesn't — the two worked harmoniously together, one never overpowering the other.
"I started crying the other day thinking about how much work this is — it's a free festival, what a crazy concept," said Doiron. "Everyone on this stage — we all played the first one," said McGrath, referring to all the band members having played the inaugural BOFF. "Eamon, have you played every one?" asked Doiron, "Because I have."
Feedback screeched when Doiron's partner, C.L. McLaughlin, yelled "Tomorrow!" to remind the crowd that Sunday would be the festival's very last day. What a way to end day one.