Date: August 23rd, 2003
Author: Denis Armstrong, Ottawa Sun
Headline: Folk 'n' Rock This Town
Ottawa Folk Festival
Thursday, August 21, 2003

OTTAWA -- Ask singing siblings Tegan and Sara if the old saying "the family that plays together, stays together" still holds true.

They'll tell you yes, but at Thursday's opening night Folk Festival gig, the twins didn't seem to be on the same page at all.

The now bicoastal identical twins (Tegan's in Vancouver, Sara's in Montreal) played dysfunctional family dynamics mostly.

They're The Smothers Brothers of a new generation, mixing politically volatile alternative folk, with an onstage comic rapport that only sassy twins could share.

Still, most of us who have siblings know what they're talking about.

Here in their "unplugged" acoustic set of last year's breakthrough, If It Was You, the siblings devoted most of their stage time to gossiping, kvetching and provoking no end of sister-power jokes and family feuding worthy, and about as real, as an episode of The Brady Bunch.

To their credit, their churlish, diva-ish personalities seemed more like clever comic characters that the earnest 4,000 or so alt-punk twentysomethings ate up.

But for those of us who prefer Tegan and Sara's pouty, grrl-power punk, the hour-long gig was a tad disappointing.

Most of their duelling-guitar show covered new material, songs with tumultuous titles of teen angst such as "Not Tonight", "City Girl", "Monday, Monday, Monday", "I Hear Noises", "Divided" and "Terrible Storm".

In the end, it waslo-fi monotony, scheduled dangerously close to curfew in dullsville. I left the gig wondering if they were singing sisters doing comedy or swinging comediennes.

That left me scratching my head after American singer-songwriter Dar Williams surprised no one with her headline worthy set to open for the twins.

Williams is a natural, cut from the same folksinging cloth as Joni Mitchell, with a knack for understated lyrics and a voice you want to curl up to.