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Ottawa Bluesfest - Blueslog Part IV


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Blueslog Part 4

Ottawa Bluesfest - 2006 - Ottawa, ON

by: Todd Snelgrove

Jeff Tweedy - Wilco

photo: Mike Bouchard

On Friday I headed straight to the MBNA Stage for the Dog Day Afternoon new-rockstravaganza in time to catch Holy fu�k midset. Holy fu�k! I can't remember the last time I saw four guys so into what they were doing, and what they were doing was kicking out serious fu�king grooves with drums, bass and two guys on electronics. Just when live techno was starting to get old, here was a band with the vibrancy to make it sound fresh again. Their set was fantastic and I'd go see them again anytime. I only wish I had made it in time to see them start.

I heeded the advice of many and went to the Black Sheep Stage to see what Luke Doucet was all about. It was a good twangy sounding set that shared my attention with my friend's four-year-old daughter. I've been finding Bluesfest a very social event this year.

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I took off for a while to investigate a tour bus I had noticed earlier outside of the Black Sheep Stage that seemed suspicious. I've never seen a tour bus before where you could see in the windows. It said VIP Party Bus or some such thing on the side, and upon returning to it I noticed the door was open, so I walked on. I was immediately overly smiled at and greeted by young pretty girls dressed the same in t-shirts and track pants. The bus was all booths with a small kitchen and bathroom in the back, disco balls and flashing lights everywhere. I was offered a drink and accepting was handed a Red Bull. “This all you got?” “Yeah, that and water.” Sheesh. The deal is they are promoting some cell phone company by driving around and trying to start impromptu non-alcoholic tour bus parties. I asked one of the girls if she was local or traveled with the bus. “No, we travel on the bus all over the place, isn't that cool?” “That depends” said I, and I think I detected a trace of sadness in her twenty-year-old doe-like eyes.

I felt like my work on the bus was done. By this time we were halfway down Elgin Street. They looked at me darkly and said they couldn't turn the bus around so I had to walk back. So I went to Wendy's for a coupla cheeseburgers and got back to Luke Doucet in time to hear him close his set accompanied onstage by his very young relation and together they belted out a Tom Waits number that knocked ‘em dead.

I ran over to catch a bit of the Fiery Furnaces, and while they were original enough to hold my attention I opted to hang out with my friends back at the Black Sheep Stage, where Alejandro Escovedo was playing. I remember nothing of his set, but I did have a good time.

Junior Brown

photo: Mike Bouchard

Saturday was brain-bakingly hot, with the sun beating relentlessly on us as we waited near the front of the Blues ‘Til Dusk Stage for Junior Brown to come out and play. He has this contraption that is half electric guitar and half lap steel guitar. Eventually the man came out and balanced his guit-steel on a music stand, looking exactly as he does on the cover of the March, 1997 issue of Guitar Player Magazine in his suit and big white cowboy hat. Brown was joined onstage by an understated drummer and inaudible bass player, both also in suits, and he twanged and slid the hell out of that instrument of his while we all fried together in the sun. I eventually grabbed some ice from the lemonade guy and me and my friends saved ourselves from sure heatstroke be rubbing the glorious ice all over ourselves. I filled my hat with ice and put it on and went back to the front to marvel at Junior Brown, though while he is technically great I find he allows himself to be stylistically restrained. There wasn't a whole lot of variety going on, but I still couldn't bear to leave, despite Martin Sexton playing on the Main Stage.

When Junior Brown finished I hung out backstage like a goof and got my copy of Guitar Player signed. I even bought a new Sharpie for the occasion, I'm such a goof. Made it over to the Main Stage to find my friends and catch the last half of Roseanne Cash's set. We were squished a little too far forward for my liking, though Cash played a beautiful set, and when the set ended the most amazing thing happened. As soon as the last note was struck the whole crowd surged forward…it seemed nobody was leaving after Roseanne Cash, on the contrary, Wilco fans had been politely waiting on the verge with bated breath for their heroes to take the stage.

Rosanne Cash

photo: Mike Bouchard

Wilco fans are definitely in the ‘rabid' category, and as it was explained to me in the beer lineup, if you like one live Wilco song, you'll like them all. I'm not overly convinced that's true, as I found the second half of the set vastly more interesting than the first half, but to be sure the band delivered, and their fans ate it up like crack.

I must admit by the final day I was so exhausted I was unable to drag my ass down to the site until after 5pm, missing what was apparently an amazing set by Natalia Zukerman. I was happy to get to hear the Kentucky Headhunters for the first time, and I must say I was very impressed. Their music is a lot ballsier than I had expected, leaning more to the raunch than to the twang. It was a good warmup for the discorama that was KC's Boogie Blast. Here was a big Vegas show to close the festival, a stage full of guilty pleasures, and they did it up exactly as you would expect. Hot dancing girls, smash hit after smash hit, guest performers leading audience singalongs to their near-ancient hits and I loved it. When I wasn't mumbling half-remembered lyrics and shaking my booty whilst biting my bottom lip I was concentrating on the bass player, who I'm sure loves this gig. Overall it was an opportunity to have a good time with friends outside grooving to some pretty good music.

Which, unfortunately sums up the Ottawa Bluesfest this year. Now that it's all over I think I can say that the lineup, though not without its gems, was fairly weak this year compared to years past. I wasn't surprised that the disco night drew the biggest crowd of the week. There was very little to truly get excited about, and though there were many great sets there was a distinct lack of jaw dropping going on. Of course the festival was a great time, you can't go wrong with so much live music and so many good friends in one of our countries finest cities, and I maintain that it's one of the most economical events you'll find. For example, this year I saw:

James Cohen Caravan

Tony D

Broken Social Scene


Great Big Sea

Seu Jorge


Keb' Mo'

Black Merda

Brazilian Girls


Jake Shimabukuro

Kelly Joe Phelps

Bonnie Raitt

Walter Trout & The Radicals

Ani DiFranco

Michael Franti & Spearhead

Jamie Lidell

Detroit Women

Soloman Burke

Amadou & Mariam

Sam Roberts Band

Rickie Lee Jones

Son Volt


Dickie Betts & Great Southern

Dan Bern

The Grande Mothers

Etta James

Konono #1

Holy fu�k

Luke Doucet

Alejandro Escovedo

Kathleen Edwards

Junior Brown

Roseanne Cash


Mel Brown

Chicago Blues Reunion

Fiery Furnaces

The Kentucky Headhunters

KC's Boogie Blast

Not too bad for a hundred bucks. I still love the Ottawa Bluesfest. Hopefully next year they will go back to outdoing themselves.

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Thanks for the 'logs' Velvet- I always enjoy the opportunity to see more of you- during Bluesfest. You should be the festival mascot. You actually turned us onto it, I think, when it was at Lebreton...

Quite a few folks seemed to think it lacked star power this year- I thought it was a good consistent lineup. Mainstage had a lot of crap I guess and I certainly wasnt hard with anticipation for certain bands like in previous years, but the whole experience definitley kept me semi-stiff the whole time.

re; Alejandro Escova- he closed with a sweet 'powderfinger' with Danny Michel!! That was great.

I think we should pick a couple bands we'd all like to see at Bluesfest and campaign the hell out of Monohan!

I would LOVE to see:

moe. on the MBNA or main stage!!!

WEEN on the mainstage!

There are lots of things I'd like to see... but I'll start with those 2.

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re; Alejandro Escova- he closed with a sweet 'powderfinger' with Danny Michel!! That was great.

I think we should pick a couple bands we'd all like to see at Bluesfest and campaign the hell out of Monohan!

I would LOVE to see:

moe. on the MBNA or main stage!!!

WEEN on the mainstage!

There are lots of things I'd like to see... but I'll start with those 2.

Yeah, that powderfinger was awesome. I really enjoyed Alejandro's set...actually, quite alot. ON the final night, I was really really impressed with Rosanne Cash's set. I didn't think I'd like it, and assumed it would be cheese, but it was edgy and I could see how Kevin Breit would fit in her band.

The Slip on the Blacksheep stage. Then Surprise Me Mr.Davis!

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Re: Roseanne Cash.. Saw a bit of it, at one point someone was calling out for 'Ring of fire' or something and she was totally like 'Oh real orginal- you want to hear my dad's songs. greaat..' all surly like, I enjoyed that. But I couldnt help but wonder if she would be on that stage without the iconic family name..

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