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  1. More from Bill Burr Bill congratulated the crowd for "skating" their way to a "parking lot" to see him perform under the hot sun (his last visit here was in the winter and he commented in his podcast on how cool it was that the people of Ottawa go to work wearing skates along the canal). Of course he had to throw some hockey jabs out there and his disdain for the Habs overshadowed any cracks against the Senators. Around the 10 minute mark, Burr realized that he hadn't even started any of his material yet after just freeflowing up to this point, using inspiration from some of the audience. Bill politely reminded one guy who was capturing video with is phone from the front that he might like to put out another comedy special with material that isn't already all over youtube, while also surgically shaming him to bits. Another guy brought a homemade sign that read "Just Checking In On YAAAAA!!!" which is basically his podcast catchphrase at the top of each episode. While the sign was a funny lone prop in the crowd, Ol' Billy boy didn't hold back the jabs, while he was at least a little humoured over the fan effort. After entering into his material, he ran through current topical targets like Caitlyn Jenner, or his own personal life as a married guy, what he thinks of feminists and his take on racism. Anyone who might walk in on each of those bits, out of context, might walk away offended. Burr's material needs to be heard from start to finish. His views are usually a reflection of common ignorance, or general media perceptions on stereotypical behaviors. He makes fun of himself more than anyone else. It's really hard to describe, and it's much easier to direct attention towards one of his specials on Netflix, or even his podcast.
  2. More photos from the show By: Jay McConnery Wednesday night at the 2015 Ottawa Jazz Festival welcomed 80's stalwarts Huey Lewis and the News to the Main stage.. The performance opened with rising, pulsing throb of 'Heart of Rock and Roll' as members of the 'News' took the stage with dramatic accent. Appearing unweathered, both in attire and performance, hot-shot Huey swung across the stage pendulously, rising in unison with the show's choreographed energy. Predictable highlights included Huey's 'Power of Love' and Forefavourite 'If This Is It'. A new guitarist filled the Chris Hayes role competently, massaging Huey's thrusts while adding some textured groans and swells during the The crowd was somewhat sedate, cheering loudly when a few front row dancers were asked to sit by volunteer security, improving their entitled unencumbered view. They were, however, quick to rise up shortly thereafter, when cocky Huey called them hither. Who could resist such a beckon? Overall a fun set, with a breakout performance from the lighting director who was almost Farley-esque in his enthusiastic toe-tapping knob-twiddling behind the board. Some might question the integrity of a 80s hit-machine on this bill, but a legend belongs on any stage.
  3. More photos It seemed like a recipe for a perfectly combined set of music, a mashup of a New Orleans jazz brass band backing a southern gospel vocal group would be a no brainer but the production was a little unexpected. The show was split up like a showcase for bands, which placed the Dirty Dozen Brass Band at the start of the show on half of the stage, with 4 vacant chairs on the other half. It appeared like they would be joined by the Blind Boys after a couple of numbers, but this half of the bill were solo for around 40 minutes. They were warming up the audience, calling them to their feet and engaging them to sing along in numbers like "When the Saints Go Marching in". There was plenty of participation from the less than packed audience, and it still felt a little small mostly because the stage was only half occupied. A short break was announced as the Blind Boys would be arriving to the stage soon. When the Blind Boys from Alabama appeared on the stage to the welcoming audience, they also began to perform a set alone on their half of the stage. It seemed like all that warming up from the Dirty Dozen had dissipated and the Blind Boys would need to work the audience back up onto their feet. Eventually, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band exited the stage leaving the Blind Boys to finish the show. There was one of those predetermined encore fake-outs that is always part of the live music formula. Band leaves the stage, crowd screams out for more, band returns acting like the crowd willed them back for more. In this case, the Blind Boys were led through the curtain opening behind the drums and hid for about 20 seconds before reappearing, along with the Dirty Dozen Brass to play one more. This was a fun show loaded with great performances, and it could have hit a larger peak had both bands dominated the stage together for the majority of it.
  4. [caption id=" align="alignnone" width="1024.0] The Roots - Ottawa Jazz Festival 6-20-2015[/caption] More from The Roots The music schedule on Saturday night at Ottawa Jazzfest was one of those nights stacked with performances. Evenings like this can pull in alot of music lovers, and it was very obvious that it would be a busy night, while it was extremely difficult to find parking as early as 7pm within a 20 minute walk to confederation park. This was most definitely due to the fact that Bruce Cockburn was scheduled to play in the Laurier St. Music Tent at 7:30, which brought it one of the largest crowds that's been squeezed in to that stage area. The line to get in was shockingly long, and many people realized that watching from outside the boundary of the fences around the tent would be just as satisfying as being inside, where anyone who wasn't seated in a chair underneath the tent were standing in a crowd struggling to see who was actually playing on the stage. There are those moments where the taller people inhibiting the view would move their head just enough so one could see what kind of guitar Bruce Cockburn was playing. More from Bruce Cockburn He was backed by a percussionist playing some delicate snare with his soft sticks or brushes and an acoustic double-bass to fill in the lows. Bruce was on a resonator guitar, and producing music that is so specialized by his own sound that it is timeless. It was hard to get that intimate show feeling while not having a spot within the tent. There is an odd change this year to the atmosphere of that stage. The north side of the tent used to be wide open to allow people to spread outside of the tent perimeter on both sides, however this year, one side is closed shut which creates a very unbalanced overflow on the city hall side. Perhaps the sound of the cars on laurier are too distracting and affect the sound in some way, but it never appeared to be an issue in the past. With 20 minutes left in Bruce's set, the crowd was thinning out as many were heading over to the Main Stage to catch The Roots. The last time The Roots were here, they had put on a high-energy party at the Ottawa Bluesfest. From the moment Black Thought, ?uestlove, Captain Kirk, Tuba Gooding Jr. and the rest of the band picked up their instruments, sticks and mics, they didn't stop pushing the energy limit until their set ended at around 10:30. Their performance spanned quite a few musical styles. Offering up Hip hop, reggae, jazz, rock, and funk, they promoted alot of dancing, and it was great to see the lawn chairs abandoned throughout the set as everyone capable took to their feet. The energy wasn't just in their playing, but is was highly physical. Members shifting positions nearly non-stop around the stage or synchronized bouncing (no trampolines!) which showed off tuba gooding jr's physical conditioning. He must be skipping rope on his off days. More from Reuben and the Dark Following this heavy dose of energetic music, a pretty large crowd was forming in line outside of the Laurier stage while Reuben and the Dark were still working on their soundcheck. For some reason, this show was behind by about a half-hour. By the time they started their set, it was 11pm and they had a full tent, the crowd divided with chairs on one side and fans standing on the other. When people setup chairs in that tent at night, and pull them RIGHT up to the stage, it can really affect the vibe. The previous night, the Soul Rebels slightly shamed those sitting down and challenged everyone to get up. Reuben didn't really play the kind of grooves where sitting feels out of place, so the integration of both camps seemed fine. While Reuben and the Dark have some very well written songs, it was hard not to lock in on Indie band musical clichés. Their songs have many of the ingredients found in other acts. The pulsing rhythm, reverby supporting vocals, the guitarist/synth/banjo guy, and that "mumford and sons"-esque singing voice kept them from feeling unique and new. was played early in the set, and as an example of this working formula, it's hook is very memorable and will get stuck in one's head for hours after hearing it. Reuben Bullock (aka Christian Bale) is also a very good front man, and displays lots of charisma. They put on a wonderful well-rehearsed performance. and are certainly worth checking out live.
  5. More Soul Rebels Photos The Late Night tent at the Ottawa Jazz Festival is always worth stepping into at 10:30. Nearly every night, there will likely be something that will keep the curious around, wind them up and get them dancing until midnight. Last year a fine example of this experience was Lake Street Dive's set. They literally, not figuratively, promised to "come back real soon". It's been 1 year of that broken promise but don't be surprised to see a band from this intimate party turn up on the main stage on a following year. Snarky Puppy, another plywood-dancefloor shaker from last year's festival were slotted in the same tent, instigated a dance party, while this year they are elevated to the main stage. It's difficult to imagine a dance party anywhere close to what happened in the tent considering a large portion of the crowd have chairs or blankets to sit on. Smash cut to tonight where The Soul Rebels debuted themselves at the Ottawa Jazz Festival scene displaying their lung capacity and power with a full stage of horns. Their set was impossible to avoid dancing to, and those that weren't were encouraged with a few moves from the band. The set was loaded with their own tunes and a dusting of solid covers like the Beatles 'Come Together' the opening cover of while later on, they administered a dose of Daft Punk's . It's a strange feeling to have a deep bass loaded groove going when it's driven by a sousaphone (a tuba that you wear) and recognizing that there is a musician blowing air into it from his freaking mouth. For an hour and a half. How did he not pass out? Around midnight, it was time to say goodnight to the Jazzfest crowd but the audience would not leave without an encore. A few of the horns had already walked off of the stage towards the soundboard. That was a clue that more was in store. They launched into one more funky number, Uptown Funk, and the members who left the stage were walking through the crowd as they played their parts, enhancing the intimacy of the show, and landing a satisfying finish. The danger of missing a show like this is that they will likely be invited back and have their show escalated to the main stage. This is the kind of math one must consider when looking at multiple stages at any music festival. It's wise to pay attention to the side stage or the late show. Any of these acts could become the next headliner and become much harder to get close to.
  6. The Charlie Hunter Trio featuring Charlie (guitar, bass), Curtis Fowlkes (trombone), and Bobby Previte (drums) returned to Ottawa to play the NAC 4th Stage for the winter edition of the Ottawa Jazz Festival. One might assume a very stuffy and elegant affair because "jazz", this was a seriously groovy hour and a half that made sitting in chairs around candlelit tables very difficult for those locked in. It's also sometimes difficult to remember that this is a trio, when everything coming at the ears appears to be coming from a quartet. It's probably not inaccurate refer to them as a quartet because Charlie, in hipster formal attire ( over dress shirt, 4-inch cuffed denim and workboots), with his custom seven string guitar that features a fanned fret board that allows for multiple scales on each string. It's a bizarre concept to grasp and witnessing Charlie play leads, comps, bass runs AND vocalizing leads all at the same time, perfectly mashing (or 'mathing' ?) the scales into the right place is incredibly mesmerizing. Having seeing Charlie play as a duo previously (including a very intimate performance ), the addition of just one horn extended the range of the jams considerably. Albums like "Gentlemen, I neglected To Inform you You Will Not Be Getting Paid" combine a full horn section which fully punctuates the unmitigated talent happening on the 7 strings. Charlie Hunter is a guitar player's "sploosh". Incidentally, Charlie presents a much dirtier experience in his who should probably be reassembled for the summer time jazz fest…..in the late night tent perhaps! Since this show was the start of a tour, the band had literally just learned the songs together. There were a few moments where Charlie guided the band through hooks and melodies and he was so incredibly animated and vocal when things were on track, which was pretty much during every phrase. The looseness was evident as Charlie would just explode in joyous laughter as things just worked. Looking away or having eyes closed while taking in the live music, it was very easy to picture a bassist, standing behind Charlie, walking up and down the frets. In reality, he is covering that low end groove, completely synchronized with every single lick played with his remaining fingers. It's a fucking freak show of guitar. The trio each had their solorific moments in mostly standard jazz performance slices, but much shorter than one would expect. They always seemed to steer back and integrate into the main avenue of each tune without the focused musician veering off into some strange place and landing back with a big clear finish. That made for some moments of "do we clap for that awesome solo here?" which is never a question in standard jazz trio performances. Because the clapping would clearly interfere with the seque, and repositioning of the jam. It was much more welcome to just let things fall in place. When the trio completed their final piece, there was a ton of energy and an uproarious standing ovation which pulled them back for one more impromptu jam, a jazz standard dessert that provided the slowest and sweetest pace of the set.
  7. It isn't often a musical treat that can easily fit into a common curated list of "greatest live shows ever" comes to a smaller venue like the enduring 175-200 capacity bar, Mavericks in Ottawa. Yet somehow, magically, thankfully, Vintage Trouble were booked there, not long after 2 powerful performances at the Ottawa Bluesfest, by local promoter Spectrasonic . It was clear, after having seen those shows, viewed clips of their , on , or any of the others found on YouTube that picking up a ticket for the event would become a huge priority. The venue was packed already an hour before VT was set to start, while the crowd was being entertained by tourmate The Soul Selector, DJ Tom “Papa” Ray who played records. They were great records of course, but one collective question arrived later in the evening regarding merch, "Why didn't Vintage Trouble bring more than 100 copies of vinyl records into Canada?". There had to be a bit more room for more vinyl on that Tennessee-plated Prevost which was also towing a very large cube trailer for gear, parked along Cumberland. Hopefully next time, they will bring more because there were quite alot of people looking for vinyl. One girl in line said "No vinyl? That's not very Vintage of them!" Vintage Trouble in their very slick twill pants, matching vests and blazers made their way to the stage and were presented with epic cheers. Ty opened the show with enough power to energize the nearly 200 music lovers instantly. He manages to connect with a crowd from the start, kinda like a hypnotist that ensures he or she'll have complete control over their will throughout the show. There was a small verbal survey early on that compared the cheers of people who've seen Vintage Trouble before, and those that haven't. Ty thanked the experienced for bringing out the virgins and he was sure that there'd be another date in the future after 'popping your cherry'. After a few songs in, the band shifted gears, literally, from electrics and full kit to acoustic guitar, bass, and snare with brushes. Of course an acoustic set is incomplete without chairs. Now comfortably seated, VT played through perhaps the best sounding acoustic set ever performed at Mavericks. Apologies to anyone who has ever played, and ever will play, an acoustic set at Mavericks but that was it. It cannot be beat. The 20 minute set offered some of the crowd engagement that Ty is so adept at conjuring. It begins with quickly getting the audience familar with some lyrics in a chorus and he hands back-up duties off to the crowd for complete syncronicity with the band. The setup sequed back to their rocking arrangement of electrics while Richard the drummer slid back to his stool behind his full (mind you perfectly minimalistic) drum kit. This is where the show just goes complete haywire. It's very difficult to describe in any detail what happened for the last 45 minutes or so of the show because ALOT happened. It begins with Ty directing the crowd to follow certain metronomic arm movements like roof-raising, or waving-to-someone-far-away-that-doesn't-quite-see-you. Everyone was linked up for each one and continued to follow any moves tagged off to them for the rest of the night. Ty disappeared from the stage, and as the crowd parted it was clear that he was making his way to the service bar near the front entrance. He climbed aboard all while continuing his lead singer duties. Since Ty's all about being classy, that was as far as he took the mic to prove his multitasking abilities (it surely could have reached the washrooms) unlike . Remember that scene in Back to the Future where Marty McFly does that powerslide on his knees across the stage during his "too soon" guitar solo? Ty finished of the song with one of those along the freaking bar! Please let there be some decent video of that somewhere. Returning to the stage, Ty introduced the band to more backing vocals and as he got another round of interaction going, he returned to the floor and directed everyone to bring it to the floor. The majority followed and lowered themselves as close to the sticky mess that the floor had become at this point. Oh...yeah, many drinks were spilled, because lots of dancing. The same segment was pulled at bluesfest and it seems to be a success each time. Nearing the end of the set, Ty began to tease everyone with a crowd surfing motion. He eventually just went for it, and it started to look a little wobbly. Yet, he just kept singing and put all of his faith in that collection of wobbly puny arm pairs. There was a near spill, and it looked like he was saved by one extra arm that caught on his lower arse. Seriously, those must have been some sweaty chaffy pants at this point to be palming as it was super hot as evidenced by the soaked shirt Ty was wearing at this point. Some might say Ty has some solid balls, and those people were certainly supporting him during the crowd surf. He called for a return to the stage and the collection of arms and hands that may have touched Ty's nards obliged, so VT could finish their set, do a classic Beatle freeze bow, and feign going backstage. Incidentally, there is no behind the stage at Mavericks, so the crowd knew VT weren't getting out alive without playing another song or two. They returned for more and Ty taught the crowd even more backup singer lines to sing out. With that complete, Ty encouraged the crowd to continue singing, basically some very cool exit music, as the band made their way to their merch table for the high-five meet up session. They offer a meet-up after the show at their merch table, for high-fives, signing anything, and including lighting for any pictures fans would like with the band. Unfortunately tonight, there was only 1 vinyl copy of their current album that was quickly snapped up by an eagle-eyed vinyl collector early on. Apparently, at their show in Toronto, vinyl vultures bought up the entire lot. They had no problem selling CD's, t-shirts and posters, all ready for signing. That's a sure sign of a "greatest live show ever" experience in the audience and a successful sold out show for any band.
  8. Photos: Mike Bouchard Words: Jay McConnery Sunday, brought Folk Fest’s deserving fans some blue skies and the warmth of autumn sun, reviving weariness with a lineup spilling over with curiosities, sonic gold and various country flavours. Beginning to slip behind in real world responsibilities, I spent the majority of the day completing school work, but made certain to arrive on site in plenty of good time for Philadelphia band: The War on Drugs. Their latest album ‘Lost in the Dream’ has been getting a lot of play on my stereo, and I was ecstatic to hear the production of the live performance faithfully matched the sonic standard set on the record. Huge! The sound was colossal, with Charlie Hall’s killer Ludwig vistalite kit and deliberate groove playing treating listeners to drum tones immaculate, confidently escorting the psychedelic drone which magically entranced listeners young and old for the brief hour they were on stage. Offering tracks from their three albums, but focusing mainly on ‘Dream,’ frontman Adam Granduciel channels the desirable elements of Dylan’s vocal within spacey melodic progressions set to punchy driving beats. There are elements of Americana, and Space-rock, and stoner rock, which all sound exactly right in the WOD stew. Sounds pretty perfect to me, really. Often I found their most simple melodies and progressions became the most memorable. I realized part of the depth was derived from some backing tracks- but oddly, I didn’t give a shit. I’m by no means a purest, or consistent in my assertions- are you? Anyway- to avoid going all Blue Rodeo on them, I’ll admit they aren’t the most diverse act on earth, but they do their thing really really well. I took a brief break from the set to check out on the tiny hillside stage, which proved to be one the most confusing sets I encountered. I arrived to a downtrodden Wesley Willis vibe, with Murphy slumped over in his chair on stage, barely able to hold his guitar: kind of like he had just demo’d a flat of beers backstage. He was sloppily playing through pedestrian blues riffs which the average Blues-Dentist could surely have eagerly provided- while a concerned woman with very little charisma stood watching on stage, concerned yet annoyed. The keeper, we learned, was his wife and she was helping him through the set because he recently has had a stroke. It wasn’t clear how long ago this occurred, but it has robbed his ability to play. Matt broke up the playing with brief question and answer periods which were exceptionally awkward, as people approached him on stage with questions and kudos, which only Matt heard- leaving the audience with a broken response to unknown questions. I felt moved by the impermanence of things as Matt begged the crowd to ‘ .. as long as you remember that’- clearly these gifts are not ours to keep. As he broke into a downright terrible version of Stormy Monday, I felt like a bit of an a-hole creeping away from the stage, as I spoke with a friend of the incredible power of a successful brand. More photos on Flickr I left to catch the start of Joss Stone, an incredible talent, and after a few soulful tracks slipped down the hill to enjoy the country stylings of ‘Asleep at the Wheel’. Recommended by many dads, this old school swing country outfit brought a taste of authentic Austin Texas to the Valley stage, against the breathtaking backdrop of Heron Rd. Running into several friends, I spent the remainder of the night catching up, hanging out, and making plans with friends I’ve again come accustomed to see nightly. Hey Rosetta! closed out the MainStage with a huge performance, and though the cancellation of Gaslight Anthem was a hit for the audience, the Festival closed out a memorable if not a benchmark rendition.
  9. Photos: Mike Bouchard Words: Jay McConnery Cold as Folk Fest continued Saturday with another diverse line-up of exceptional talent and somewhat uncomfortable muddy, toe-freezing weather. The craft beer tent kept things toasty, as well as it's patron's insides tingly with tasty sample-beers and east coast revelry, but elsewhere on the site, crowds were left to huddle en masse and stay warm by jostling as much as possible. After a day of cold torrential rain, navigation on Saturday was a mucky challenge, but enthusiastic audiences kept the mood jovial and tolerable. As I entered, Seasick Steve entertained the main-stage area with a series of unique, hand-altered instruments set to thunderous bluesy back beat. After some wandering, I settled in to check out Elephant Revival on the Hill Stage. They are an eclectic folk grass group from Colorado with a phenomenally unique sound, marked by soaring harmonies, an electric guit-banjo and subtle washboard percussion. This was clearly a special opportunity to see this group on such a small, intimate stage- and the faces of the musicians suggested it was one they were enjoying as much as the audience. Lead female vocalist Bonnie Paine sounds like a cross between Edie Brickell and Sarah Harmer – charming my long johns partially off with her toothsome timbre, and Bridget Law entranced with her quick fiddle work and toothy grin. From here, I jockeyed for position at the Ravenlaw stage for Neutral Milk Hotel, along with a swath of dedicated fans and curious onlookers. In advance, spoken word poet Mustafa presented some interactive pieces both creative and thought provoking. Perhaps not a popular choice for those with four or more drinks in their system, but I felt his brief slam drew the audience into a reflective mode and propelled the NMH performance even further. Bearded Jeff Magnum emerged to begin the set alone. He picked up a beaten-up hollow body jazz box , 'I will bury you in time' and then 'Holland, 1945.' Regardless of one's familiarity with the singer (or band), it's impossible to not be drawn to Magnum's iconic delivery or his challenging, enigmatic lyrics- some of which paint immediate pictures in the listener's mind, and others of which are left to stew in a discomforting heap, somewhere in the upper intestine or esophagus. He was soon joined by the line-up which produced the group's legendary 'Aeroplane over the Sea,' and the band delivered a zealous reproduction of much of this classic material, manipulating the ebb and flow of their presentation with skill. The band employed an endless array of instruments and tools, as Cardigan wearing multi-instrumentalist Julian Koster shifted between bass, percussion, musical saw and keyboards where appropriate. I was definitely reminded how much I enjoyed this music, and plan to re-visit the recordings, um, now. The only draw back were the choruses of fanboys singing at the top of their lungs- but of course it's fun to feel like you are in your favourite band. After some recalibration, Blue Rodeo took the stage to blast through their ridiculous catalogue of hits with skill and professionalism otherwise unmatched. The sound for their set was fat and pristine, and although its not always cool to admit- I love Blue Rodeo. I really think they are arguably THE quintessential Canadian band, in theme, lyric and tone and in many ways narrative, having spent their early days slugging it out unsuccessfully in the US market. I laughed with a colleague earlier in the day that their low end authority, bassist Bazil Donovan, was genuinely born to play the instrument, or at least, born with the name of a bass player and realized at some point he had no choice. Cuddy and Keelor are so distinctly complimentary and oppositional as the central yin and yang of the group, it'll be hard to deny somewhere in the future that they aren't Canada's imperfect equivalent of a Lennon-McCartney, perfect storm partnership. The guitar work of Colin Cripps is tasty enough to keep the gear hounds interested, and the pedal steel and keyboard work finish a masterwork in rock performance. After seeing this band a dozen times, and never really going into it, I thought I should this time.
  10. Ten degrees C is pretty much the precursor to the feeling of winter. Cold, shivery times that aren't really great for standing around outside. Luckily, a music festival promotes motion to stave off the chills and "Ice Cold Beer" sounds great to the ears but ungloved hands prove that a hot chocolate with a bit of bailey's would be more satisfying (hmmm... hot chocolate and bailey's food truck...someone should write this down for next year) The Ottawa Folkfest, located at Vincent Massy Park, is clearly bigger than it ever was and the organizers seem to have found a great groove in the fourth year that the Ottawa Bluesfest entity has been running the shows. While the festival initially appears to be twice as large as it used to be, it actually feels like two self contained festivals that share common ground and two-tiers of service. Many people are surprised to discover that they could actually come without paying for a ticket and enjoy great craft beers, plenty of distinctive food trucks, vendors and charity driven craft tents and see live music in a dedicated music tent with great sound, lighting and tons of space. The side effect is pleasantly having the ability to listen to acts in the paid live music grounds from the free side of the bike path on the lawn. The likely promotional interest is selling tickets to the fully lined up main and side stages on the east side of the NCC bike trail since there's no way those acts could perform in a free model with the production that is constructed and presented. For example, tonights presentation by Lorde was pretty high on technology. 4+ very large screens, with a couple directly behind Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor which allowed her to sing in between herself and thousands of other people. Along with that, there were lights, but not obsene lights like the spaceship of Zedd that landed at Bluesfest this year, but enough to know this is more than a folk festival. However, since this is an expanded festival, acts that don't focus on live instruments and lean into pre-recorded tracks could eventually draw towards MacBook-playing DJ's creeping in and knocking out the guitars. Lorde was met with possibly and also declared later as the "largest attedance of Ottawa Folkfest History" yet the announcer didn't mention how many super sized lenses were pointed at her in the photo pit. It was thick with glass and shutter sounds. With having the opportunity for two songs worth of photos, Lordes crew made sure there was plenty of white light available yet the ambiguity of when the second song started was cause for some attention. The media concierges were in hysterics trying to backpeddle on their first thought that first song shooting was still in play and had to update every photographer to get ready to exit. Lorde seemed like a big karaoke show. One that sings in front of people while backed with recordings isn't far off. If there is a teleprompter in the mix, then it is basically professional karaoke. That's obviously stripping out any respect for the super talent and performance that she delivered, but that's an example of a gracefully lame narrative segue into the next act. Since it was chilly, and Lorde wasn't illiciting movement but rather a frigging shitload of screams from the incredibly large crowd that came to see her and the perfect-every-time hypothetical band, Serena Ryder's firey entrance on the Ravenlaw Stage was perfectly timed with the sharp temperature drop that was slowly coming into place. She had a very high powered attitude that instantly instigated toques to bounce up and down sympatico with her as she worked the stage in what could have been a trampoline. Winning minor Junos like "Artist of the Year" and "Album of the Year" (which is out of ALL the artists and albums btw) must gild an artist into a place where music fans can be guaranteed into seeing some professional action on stage. It must feel like winning the Lotto Max, because that's how Serena was projecting herself. Incredible energy, a glowing unforced smile that came without any effort while playing her gorgeous Gibson Flying V. The sound was very big despite being programmed at Ravenlaw and that immense crowd from Lorde had to realign with the shallow depth aspect of the relative side stage of the slightly muddy, thanks to big rain yesterday, paid grounds. Overall, this festival is a great experience whether or not one buys a very reasonably priced $100 pass or just comes to hang out for the day, paid or not. At this place, there's no need to pay to have a great time enjoying people, crafts, music, food, fresh air and familiar faces from other local festivals and live shows. Just be prepared for the unpredictably ranging weather. It's highly possible tonight that the folks selling the blankets in the tent in the craft area made a frigging killing.
  11. Blondie - Photo: Mike Bouchard - at Ottawa Bluesfest By: Jay McConnery Perfect weather and sunny vibes greeted my arrival Thursday afternoon to Bluesfest. The sun roasting my pink crown as I happily sashayed through security with an unwieldy can-shaped bulge in my pants. My clandestine refreshment kept axels cool as I motored between stages, mechanically harvesting as much musical fruit as possible before Blondie was scheduled to perform an hour later. First up, I enjoyed the unique voice of Gary Brooker and his band Procol Harum, accompanied by the NAC orchestra on the Bell Stage: an elaborate production of thoughtful scoring and spectacular execution. The proceedings were masterfully guided by conductor David Firman, in close proximity and communication with Harum drummer Geoff Dunn. The pair navigated the prodigious collective like a bloated hover craft meandering carefully over hot lava, while Brooker’s trademark voice acted as rudder, in this oddly imagined vessel metaphor. In quieter sections, the music’s affect fell victim to the festival’s oft-cited sound bleed from the River Stage, yet generally the orchestra powerfully bolstered the compositions, much to the delight of Brooker and his band-mates, who grinned to each other throughout the performance. Highlights included the closing pair of tunes ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ and ‘Conquistador’ – which are admittedly, the only tunes I was really sure I recognized. I also caught a few tunes from The Districts at the Barney Danson Theatre and was thoroughly impressed with their sweaty in your face rock-show. This incredibly young Pennsylvania band thrashed through some Americana tinted indie rock in front of a small crowd like they were playing for their lives, but weren’t too worried about it. Their compositions were unique, ragged, and exceptionally dynamic with impressive stops, howls and gritty delivery. I hope to catch this band again soon, because it’s clear they are already kicking a lot of ass. Careful not to miss the start of Blondie, I ran up into the pit of the Claridge stage and jockeyed for an atypically close spot. Being tall, I’m often either shamed aside, or discouraged from standing in certain places, but after a discussion about how large bearded men also have feelings, I befriending a group of middle-aged women who had brought their kids to check out Blondie- and allowed me to join their cross generational culture swap. Which I guess, really, is the crux of this whole thing anyway. My excitement was echoed by many, as I considered my childhood crush on Deborah Harry, and the unforgettable evening in 1979 when she appeared on the Muppet Show performing . On that same broadcast, she also performed ‘One Way or Another’ (which as a 3 year old was my favourite song, until I heard the Kink’s Superman Song) and much to my delight, they opened the show with this classic rocker. Harry, Chris Klein, and the guys performed well, taking my nostalgia train brightly through the past, looking pretty cool all the while. The set was peppered with newer unknown tracks, but their one-time vanguard themes of new wave, disco and rap, (now all entirely classic cannon), made up the majority of the show. Deborah Harry still has her knowing, mischievous glint, evident even behind her bleached hair and white glasses, as she pranced and twisted across the stage like everyone’s favourite eccentric aunt. Highlights of the set included ‘Rapture’, ‘Heart of Glass’ and ‘Hanging on the Phone,’ leaving this 70s kid satisfied and looking forward to some classic British Blues and some Indie rock. The Black Sheep stage was jammed for John Mayall, a legend of British Blues, and master bandleader. Mayall has mentored the majority of notable British rock guitarists, essentially giving legs to the British Invasion, and changing the face of rock forever. He’s a man who found his lot early in life, and still performs in the same basic context- dishing out contemporary renditions of classic American blues. His hot shot band of players was up to task last night, following Mayall’s brief direction and leadership towards hard rocking blues excursions. Although I am not typically interested in straight blues, I enjoyed this set and the pangy solos Mayall punched out on his eccentric guitar, but mostly the awe and respect on the faces of spectators. Over at the River Stage Young the Giant had another significant audience, and ended the evening jubilantly, while Perry the Band stunk it up on the main pitch.
  12. More Photos By: Jay McConnery Perfect, unusually temperate July weather greeted the teeming masses for Bluesfest’s annual hump-day spectacular, as the well-oiled festival continued crushing expectations and like so many over-priced hintonburgers. Far busier than I expected, the site filled steadily as Cypress Hill’s chronic disciples amassed at the Claridge Stage, and I took the opportunity to check out some new music over at the River Stage. The No BS! Brass Band was a surprisingly entertaining and accomplished 10 piece from Virginia- which dropped some funky originals, and contemporary interpretations of New Orleans Brass band music. An odd-looking rag-tag of trained musicians, the group worked through some funky arrangements with fast changes and super funky breaks from punk-styled drummer, and apparent band-leader, Lance Koehler. The band took turns passing the lead, and each member individually impressed, but again I felt Koeler’s tasty kit-work stole the show. It was a damn near perfect experience in the bright evening sun, until a slightly hesitant and bookish vocalist with an awkward hairline strode out for a tune with painfully repetitive lyric, initializing what my colleague referred to as ‘the Houseman effect’- wherein subpar, unwelcome, or slightly annoying vocals undermine the overall vibe or consistency of an otherwise instrumental/funk band’s performance (for a portion of the show). This wouldn’t be the only time this phenomenon played out over the course of the evening either, as fans of Trombone Shorty might agree. After a few minutes of grinning and bearing, it was back to the funk- and we were soon headed over to catch the opening of Hip-Hop- Heady Crop heroes, Cypress Hill. In the jovial crowd of current, former and future potheads, red security shirts circled like slobbering jackals as the fat beats and nasal vocal delivery of B-Real and Sen Dog inspired increasingly thick plumes of inspiration and cautious tomfoolery. The performance opened with some glaring sound issues which seemed to belie the essential upper low-end of live hip hop, creating an odd mix of extremes which initially made the set a little difficult to enjoy. It was thankfully remedied in time for ‘Insane in the Membrane,’ as the MCs stepped into full swing, puffing oversized doobies and praising the potency of Canadian bud. The group engaged the audience with typical call and response exercises, as well launching into a classic inter-crowd diss-off, which devolved comically. It was a fun set, which didn’t offer a lot of surprises or innovation, but delivered the classics in a smoked out environment, as the impressive crowd surely hoped. Though a separate musical era and vibe altogether from acts such as STYX or Foreigner, Cypress Hill was a booking which arguably fits firmly into the growing tendency towards nostalgia at the Bluesfest, as many among the audience appeared to be checking out their leafy passions of yesteryear. The rest of the evening was rather scattered for me, significantly spacy even, after the Cypress Hill experience. I did check out a portion of ‘Bombino’ on the Black Sheep,( the only outdoor alternative to Cypress Hill, for a full 45 minutes of the evening schedule!). As a result of what felt like a booking oversight, a fair number of people were subject to their set, which at times felt like Afrobeat on speed. Bombino certainly sounded great on their web and NPR clips, inspiring my visit, but seemed like a different, unrecognizable band on stage that night. It appeared that the drummer and rhythm guitar player were possibly new, definitely white, and maybe last minute replacements who didn’t quite have the intricacies of the rhythms entirely worked out. As a result, their overall sound could be described as confusing, especially with the donning of their uniform afghan scarfs and black terminator sunglasses. Their cacophony of rhythmic confusion had me camped-out early for Trombone Shorty, which is saying a lot, as the last time I had seen him thought was trombone shitty. It wasn’t long before Shorty’s band ‘Orleans Avenue’ came out full force on the River Stage, blasting tight aggressive party grooves, as Shorty danced across the stage leading the action with his impressive bone. It was quite enjoyable, but I meandered to the Killers, and soon after my search for vibe ended with Phantogram. Atmospheric, hip-hop inspired, ambient trip hop would be my best description of what unfolded on the Blacksheep stage- in what I would consider one of the better sets I’ve seen this so far this year. Recommended by a wise friend, this four-piece led by the guitar and key duo of Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter, dropped some engagingly moody pieces, with in combination with their dense brilliant arrangements and thoughtfully produced light show worked with bone-chilling effect. The beats were a mixture of programmed backing tracks and live kit drummer creating a potent, at times dizzying groove. Bathel’s vocals drift between trippy and dreamy and her pouty steel-toed stomp commanded the audience’s attention like so many lost children. The density of their arrangements and the crisp sound created an irresistible scene for this reviewer, one which easily eclipsed the rest of the evening. Phantogram were the first band of the day that felt relevant and original, and I really enjoyed the entire set- including some bargain bin stage theatrics which though lo-fi, were somehow quite impressive. I’m reminded consistently that the best and most satisfying experiences remain on the periphery.
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