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Ottawa Bluesfest - Blueslog Part 3


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Blueslog Part 3

Ottawa Bluesfest - 2006 - Ottawa, ON


by: Todd Snelgrove

Dickey Betts

photo: Mike Bouchard

The big day at Bluesfest this year was arguably Wednesday, and with that in mind I switched around my work schedule as much as I could in an effort to get to the site as soon as I possible. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts I had to miss Hamell On Trial, arriving a few songs into Dan Bern's set. This was my first time seeing Dan live so I can't compare his regular band to the assemblage he was playing with here (The Slip minus Brad Barr), but it sounded like they've been playing together for years. I missed some of his more popular tunes but had a great time anyway; clever songwriting backed by great musicians is always a good time.

When Dan finished it was time to head over to the MBNA Stage for Dickey Betts & Great Southern. Made my way near the stage and hid under the cover of plumes of smoke emanating from a hundred joints. The band hit the stage with three Les Paul Standards right up front. I thought it was amusing to see that when they switched guitars it was to other Les Paul Standards as well. Love it. Dickey is a fine player, no doubt about it, and though I gotta say the band wasn't as tight as the Allmans, and the players aren't quite as hot as those in the Allmans, but boy, the set list was out of this world! It was like an Allmans greatest hits show, and it was great. Unfortunately, as a long-time Zappa fan I had to book it during the drum solo to catch as much of the Grande Mothers as I could.

With the exception of the guitarist (who was phenomenal) everybody on stage was a part of Zappa's band at one time or another, and they tore through a blistering set of their old bosses music with manic dexterity. The playing was out of this world, and one has to admire the amount of rehearsal hours it must take to get a show of that caliber off the ground. Purely on performance-based criteria, this set will be hard to beat at Bluesfest this year.

Then it was off to Mavericks for a booze-fueled aftershow with The Slip. The show was off the hook. Ironically the hands-down best set of Bluesfest wasn't at Bluesfest at all. Hopefully the festival booking people made it to Mavericks too.

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Thursday had Dan Bern playing again, and again with his pick-up rhythm section, only this time I managed to miss his set completely. I made it in time for another of Tony D's sets, which continued to be consistently great, and made my way backstage to try and scam some free beer. I ended up talking to the lead singer from Mofro, who was waiting for their second Bluesfest set this year to start after Tony. Nice guy, and he was really impressed with Tony's band. We talked about touring and borders and the usual, he told me some great stories from when they were touring with BB King and Jeff Beck. But the beers ran out so I went to see Etta James.

Now, Etta is a legend, there's no arguing that, and she can still pump the tunes out, and y'know, she's a little bit feisty for a lady of her age. It made for a fun show but I felt bound to ramble, so I headed to the Black Sheep Stage for some Konono #1. This is an African group that centers on three thumb-piano players. It's a great sound, very vibey and trance-inducing. As soon as I arrived I asked a friend how the show had been so far and the response was, “Great show so far, they've been playing the same groove for twenty minutes!” I stuck around for five more minutes of the groove and found myself drawn back to Mofro, which I drunkenly watched from sidestage. Man, I like Mofro. I suggested to them that they could include some Canadian dates in their northeast touring cycle. I was told they were looking into doing just that, hoping to play Montreal/Ottawa/Toronto fairly consistently, though I suggested they add Hamilton to that list. I got yer back, Hammertowners.

And just like that, closing weekend of Bluesfest is upon us.

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