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Ottawa Bluesfest - Blueslog Part I

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Blueslog Part I

Ottawa Bluesfest - 2006 - Ottawa, ON


by: Velvet

Joey Burns - Calexico

photo: Mike Bouchard

Perhaps it's prophetic that I'm starting my Bluesfest by the canal, avoiding the lineup waiting for the gates to open, sitting with my bowl beside a garbage can with a destroyed ghetto-blaster in it. It just feels right being nice and relaxed and feeling a bit of freedom to party in the beautiful downtown core of our nation's capitol, and the smashed stereo just seems to add to the poignancy.

So after a cozy start I end up at James Cohen's killer flamenco set. James teaches in the room next to me at work, and it was nice to hear him unfiltered by drywall. Met some friends and headed over to the Blues Stage for a little Tony D and a big dirty hot dog. He's an impressive blues guitar player and I'm overjoyed that he'll be playing so many sets at Bluesfest this year. Made a point of checking out Quebec's newest indie sensation MALAJUBE, who were really good, at times sounding like The Golden Dogs. The rest of the night was spent socializing with tons of folks at the Black Sheep Stage, first to Seu Jorge, who disappointingly only did one Bowie tune, and then to Calexico. Sure, Calexico was cool, if not a wee bit boring, but a walk over to the Main Stage was definitely in order. You can be as jaded as you wanna be, but c'mon, Great Big Sea is a hell of a fun show. Big old east coast guitar strumming and every bloody song is a sing along; the crowd was huge and the crowd was happy. It's too bad the moody dance party at Calexico kept a lot of people from the Main Stage, but at least Bluesfest was keeping everyone happy, right from day one.

Then before you know it comes day two. The weekends at Bluesfest can get tiring, as they are all-day affairs. I got down to the site as early as I could and caught a bit of Kelly Joe Phelps, who alone with his acoustic guitar rode the fine line between mesmerizing and boring. Then I headed over to the MBNA Stage for the Brazilian Girls, who are not Brazilian and are 75% not girls. They were really good in a 4am-dark-Berlin-nightclub-on-E kinda way, but unfortunately they were playing a 3pm-sunny-field-in-front-of-an-apartment-building kind of venue, so the spatial/aural disconnect prevented them from being great. That said the new MBNA Stage area is a clever addition to the Bluesfest site, if a bit far away when you're feeling drunk and lazy. Made my way to the Blues ‘Til Dusk Stage for the Deadstring Bros. who were remarkably well described as an Exile-era Stones sounding band. They were really really good and you should check them out if you see them coming your way.

A little timeout to mention another bit of Bluesfest cleverness this year. I am of course referring to the Cupsucker, a wonderfully named enviro-invention that is as wonderful as it is simple, and it originated right here at Bluesfest. They've taken a length of PVC tubing, added a bottom to it and attached one to every garbage can on site. The idea is that used beer cups can be discarded into these tubes taking up dramatically less space than if they are tossed into garbage cans. Compound that with the fact that they are using biodegradable cups made from corn that break down in 45 days and you've got 200,000 less beer cups kicking around after the festival.

Now you can drink your beer guilt-free! Beer cups are just a fact of life for many popular gatherings. But there is one group that is trying to change that. Daniel Spence became frustrated with how much garbage was produced every year and got the right asses in gear to solve the problem. This year Molson agreed to provide compostable beer cups and Spence has developed a cup stacker, or as he calls it, the Cupsucker. The contraption is mounted on the side of the garbage barrels; volunteers then take the stacks and put

them in a separate dumpster to be sent to a composter. So if you see Spence or any members of his Green Team rooting around collecting cups, give them a big ol' hug.

From Ottawa Xpress

I must say I found the concept of beer-sized PVC tubing very hard to resist, so I went to the hardware store Saturday morning and got me one and stuck it down the middle of a lawnchair. It holds four tall-boys and one regular but it's quite heavy when it's full. So I had intended to see Walter Trout next but my lawnchair was empty and I had to go home to reload. I made it back for his last chord.

I glanced at Torngat with their French horns and melodic niceness on the way over to the Keb' Mo' set, and shoulda turned right back around. I wanted to make a point of seeing lots of the actual blues acts at the festival this year, but man, Mr. Mo' just doesn't do it for me. His guitar playing is adequate but nothing to write home about, and his lyrics are sometimes hard on the sensibilities (isn't it a little weird for blues tunes to find rhymes for phrases like “cellphone” and “ipod”?), and it's blues, so there's no real reason to comment on songwriting.

With that as a warmup, and with the thought of not being at the CSNY show looming over my head, I was perhaps not in the best frame of mind going into the Bonnie Raitt set, which seemed way too adult-contemporary for my tastes. My geography could have been to blame as well, as it is very hard to really get into a show from a half a kilometre away from the stage. She did pull off a stunning solo version of John Prine's Angel From Montgomery though. All the same, it's easy to have a good time at Bluesfest with so many beers and friends.

So we're off and running, with nothing but more musical yummies ahead of us. Eight more glorious days of music to come.

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