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  1. Josh Homme, QOTSA - Photo: Mike Bouchard More Photos By: Jay McConnery After the perfect weather of opening weekend, warm summer rain greeted Bluesfest patrons Tuesday evening, and surprisingly didn’t damper attendance or enthusiasm. At times torrential, the downpour delayed show-times and soaked thousands of rockers with often hilarious and/or unfortunate results. A different kind of wet t-shirt contest, you might say. I arrived over-prepared with rain gear, umbrella and gumboots enabling fast convenient positioning in the muddiest sections of the concert bowl, as well as glances of disdain from wet longhairs attempting to spark their damp smokes. Unfortunately missing Jenny Lewis and Brody Dalle, my evening shift began with STYX and their immaculate spectalica of fromage-a nostalgica, forcefully delivered without a sniff of irony, no matter what the liberal use of hairspray or masculine-purposed spandex attire might normally suggest. Unapologetically, they are STYX. STYX, featuring Gowan, (so ya know!), prove their credibility by delivering their numbers fast and hard, just like STYX likes it. Spread across the stage in well-choreographed interplay, the band deftly blasted through their notable catalogue with precision, highlighting their alarmingly well-maintained chops and seemingly immortal bouffant lids. Their visual production was slick, shiny, and careful to avoid extreme close-ups of the ageing band members. Instead, the sizeable screens focused on blinding, somewhat dated, accompanying imagery, like shifting patterns of digital primary colours, and images of some kind of confusing flag-waving patriotism. Anyway. Predictable highlights included ‘Lady,’ and the solo Gowan medley of hits which riffed on ‘Moonlight Desires,’ ‘Strange Animal,’ and ‘Live and Let Die.’ This sing-along culminated in the end of the rain showers and emergence of a huge rainbow across the festival sky which inspired many bright eyes and poor photographs. The set wrapped with a show-stopping ‘Come Sail Away’ which filled my sails taut with smiles, on course, across the bowl for Queens of the Stone Age. QOTSA emerged from the shadows of a backlit fizzling countdown to a lively set, opening with one-two punch of ‘You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar’ and ‘No One Knows’, much to the young crowd’s delight. Performing as a 6 piece, the band delivered the best of their catalogue, with all the bells and whistles of the albums maintaining the raw emotive punch stoner rock requires to thrive in the live. Although the set drifted towards the flat-lands at times, the band kept the head-bobbing crowd stationary for their 70 minute set, even adding some new words to fan favourite ‘Feel Good Hit of The Summer’. Homme’s energy and voice started out spotty, but improved in collusion with the imbibition of his wide stiff drink. He remarked candidly at one point how impressed he was with the diversity of the day’s line up and mused that he thought that this, Bluesfest, is what a music festival should be- in reference to the diverse, if not random inclusivity of the programming. Like all of our uncomfortable cultural representations, I began to wonder if this festival really does tersely symbolize the fragmented artistic landscape and diversity of culture we enjoy/confound here in Canada, and especially Ottawa. Everyone has got something different in mind, and difference becomes homogeneity. As well, the reason some like it less, is often the same reason most like it more? Oh, Man. I pounded my beer and and shuffled through the war museum to check out the EDM night at the Blacksheep, and was surprised by the scant crowd of tanktops. I decided to go back and check out the opening of Foreigner, whose hits have filled radios for the last thirty years, against my better judgement. Every Foreigner track is immediately recognizable, although the same cannot be said for any single members of the group onstage- who look more like a parody. Ostensibly a cover band which covers material I’ve never really connected with, I hit the River stage to see Jake Bugg. Jake Bugg - Photo: Mike Bouchard Shaggy twenty year old Jake Bugg, is a well hyped Brit singer/songwriter, who again came highly recommended from several people, who had warned me to ‘see him while I can’. I immediately liked his simple black t-shirt style, basic rock trio set up, and the jangly tone of his resonant mahogany folk guitar. His songs were catchy, bearing the influence of Dylan and the Beatles unabashedly, and his voice reminiscent of a young Ray Davies- though without the grit and hardship. Or maybe a better comparison would be Deer Tick’s John McCauley without the perspective, heartache and booze. I enjoyed his set until his lyrics began to annoy- not surprising for a singer who is half my age, I just wasn’t buying it after a while. I left looking forward to a more promising tomorrow.
  2. St. Vincent - July 6, Ottawa Bluesfest - photo: Mike Bouchard More Photos By: Jay McConnery Summer breeze cooled the trademark dusty summer haze of Lebreton Flats, as Bluesfest wrapped its opening weekend with a musically overwhelming afternoon of typically incongruous scheduling relentlessly entertaining throngs of contented, weary Sunday revelers. Mayo soaked were savoured and the sugary grease of Beaver Tail sleeves licked, as gangs of celebratory seagulls dotted the dramatic sky scape of pink, idly-threatening clouds, as some phenomenally diverse music entertained the increasingly mixed social demographic of Ottawa’s biggest festival: The Festival of the Blues. Afternoon sets from Langhorne Slim and Caitlin Rose were discussed enthusiastically as crowds began to gather in earnest over the dinner hour for the musical meat of the day, one which I felt contradicts this year’s tendency to focus succinctly on the interests of a mass, culturally conservative audience. I settled in at the Claridge stage to check out the Drive By Truckers, enjoying a hot contraband banana from my pocket, sneering widely at the huge concession lines. The Truckers rolled out the loose southern rock as only they can, trading solos at the foot of the stage, and inviting the Texas horns out for a good portion of the set. They keep things informal and playful, and have built a dedicated following who expect this. I noticed the sound to be a little uneven, and was confused by the grinning two-step of the androgynous bass player. I was also increasingly intimidated by a burgeoning group of teenaged cowgirl clones who gathered around me in a storm of curls, beauty products and sexual confusion. They produced embroidered flasks from somewhere within the folds of their sundresses, dripping the boozy contents into their diet Pepsis and over their stiff new brown leather boots. Swarming the site like locusts, these hybridized Daisy Dukes seemed, to me, to represent a new Bluesfest archetype, fitting into the discourse of festival’s increasingly eclectic cast of stereotypes nicely alongside the recent addition of ‘EDM guy’ in 2011, ‘Hipster extreme’ (est. 2006), and ‘Rock-a-Billy man’ (from the way old school, primordial). Socio-Cultural reminiscing at the Blues fest is, of course, as natural and satisfying as complaining at Bluesfest. From the main festival bowl, I zipped over to the River Stage to check out the talented Ty Taylor lead his band like a fashionably young Al Green, engaging the crowd like a less young Michael Franti. Taylor ran every square inch of the pitch coming face to face with unexpecting audience members and staff, even climbing the lighting tower to the cameraman’s delight. The group was made up of immensely talented (and well dressed) players, who had no trouble getting the audience worked up like a well-shook bottle of hot ginger ale with their tight chops and dynamics. I couldn’t help but wonder, however, what (who?) allowed them to settle on the name ‘Vintage Trouble’- which quite frankly, I think sucks. They’ve opened for the Who- so I guess, it’s working. I figure they want people to know they are old school, and badass- but c’mon guys. As the catchy talent of the bandleader drew more spectators, I waltzed over to the Barney Danson Theatre to check out New Country Rehab who were stunning in their unified dynamic delivery. The group’s interplay and virtuous fiddle and guitar solos kept the audience rapt, though in trying to consume as much as possible (I think this might be the permanent theme now), I continued out to check out the weird Blaster blues of the Alvin Bros- and ultimately back to the River Stage for Mac DeMarco. Mac and his band dropped some awesome lo-fi stoner rock, with songs named after cigarettes, sleep and love. The band cracked me up with their slacker aesthetic and humour- discussing the colonial significance of festival sponsor RBC in pompous British accents. They also grinned through some original and somehow timeless numbers which drew from the best and worst of the 80s and 90s, underneath some of the most impressive flattened neon hats I’d seen since 1992. I definitely plan to get my hands on some recent material. Next up, while sadly missing Pokey Lafarge, The Violent Femmes, tore into their set with the two songs everyone wanted to hear, and then seemed to flounder in front of the enormous audience. Instead, I rushed to Black Sheep to check out the bulk of Shovels and Rope- a husband and wife duo from South Carolina who blew everyone’s socks clear off. Performing face to face in a rotating guitar and drums format- they reminded me of an organic diversified White Stripes, with Dolly Parton’s evil semi-twin in place of quiet Meg. They howled over incredibly thoughtful arrangements enbeefened by the addition of a keyboard in place of hi-hats for whoever sat in the drum throne. This duo had come highly recommended, and I really enjoyed their energetic set, as did most that were able to check it out. I decided to forego the new country (with a twist!!) of Lady Antebellum, after discovering that I knew their recent single. On the River Stage, St. Vincent held the crowd in the palm of her ivory-skinned hand dropping huge intricate riffs and performance theatrics in abundance. Rich with artistic intention and some hot backing tracks, long-legged Annie Clark dropped irresistible future-rock on the crowd slathered in her eclectic brand of guitar work, which is nothing short of awesome. Every aspect of her show exudes deliberation, and thoughtful planning, a quality surely driven home by her work with David Byrne, and as a result her performance was surreal and perfectly paced. All in all, an incredibly busy evening stuffed with talent, delight and not a drop of rain.
  3. More Photos Considering this arrangement that Jeff Tweedy put together that includes his son on drums is relatively new news, not many people knew what was in store for tonight at the Ottawa Bluesfest. The Chicago frontman and primary songwriter for Wilco made a rare stop in Ottawa to play the Blacksheep stage. This is THE most intimate outdoor stage of the Ottawa bluesfest. Revisiting the sound bleeding challenge, Tweedy was scheduled on Blacksheep Stage at the opposite side of the museum from A few minutes before Tweedy's setup was ready, Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" was crawling over the museum so what was going to happen when Zedd turns his Macbook volume up during one of Tweedy's solo acoustic moments? This was another example of excellent planning. The museum is a great barrier to low end, because physics. It's made of concrete after all. Z barely made a dent in Tweedy's show, but Tweedy couldn't help but comment on the beats, or even try to play along. Aside from the light-hearted poking, it wasn't distracting at all. Tweedy, as graceful that he is, commented on Ottawa, declared his love for the Canadians in attendance and then described catching Journey on the way in by trying to sing what he'd heard. He continued to interact responding to requests during his solo acoustic segment and called out a heckler who was actually trying to be complementary about the US. The likely loaded dude was no match for Tweedy's onstage wit when the guy declared how great it is that the US now has free healthcare for all now. Tweedy corrected him "It's not FREE healthcare... you don't know what you're talking about.". Crowd laughs. Dude now has a story to tell his friends. The band that Tweedy has put together were supporting his upcoming album, Sue-key-ray. The tunes and sound was very reminiscent of the Wilco feel. This could be described as Wilco lite. These songs would fit well in any Wilco show and it will be interesting to hear how they extend them. The solo segment covered a few of Wilco's songs to unanimous joy and it ignited more audience interaction with some of the classic Wilco sing-alongs. Jesus etc., I am Trying to Break your Heart, I'm the Man Who Loves You were included in the 9 or 10 song mini-set. During this though, a pair of really bright white spotlights were blasting the audience. It left spots on retinas, even just looking at Tweedy. It was odd how they came on at this point and how they only appeared when cellphone screens lit up. They went off after the smartphone holders realized they couldn't capture anything in this light. It screws with the image. But...magically as phone screens popped back up, the lights re-ignited. Eventually they were just left on. This is a solid theory because camera phone usage limitation was being enforced by Tweedy, following Wilco's policies. Another photo/video discouraging conspiracy theory possibly employed by Wilcoworld was a video striped test pattern displayed behind the entire band. Those bands of cyan, magenta, red, green, blue, yellow tends to mess with a cellphones ability to adjust nicely so focused listening and engagement becomes the priority. The band returned to the stage to blow past the 10:45 posted finish time for a couple of more songs. Tweedy wondered if he should twist the title lyric of California Stars to be more canadian. The crowd agrees. Since it was the US independence day, why the hell not eh? He turned it into Can-a-dee-ah Stars, the audience joins in and he eventually reverts it back after not being able to keep a straight face while declaring he's temporarily forgotten the words after screwing with the lyrics. They finished at 11, and many people couldn't let go of a possible extra song or two even though the crew was already tearing down the gear. While a setlist isn't yet handy on the innernetz, there's a comparable setlist right here from a previous show.
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  7. MORE PHOTOS It can be a very satisfying experience to catch a live music act like Lake Street Dive in the OLG After Dark series tent at the Ottawa Jazzfest, and this night blew way past any expectation or anticipation held from checking the band out on Youtube, or even listening to their tracks on services like Rdio in advance. Simply filling up a tent to near capacity might seem like a success, but numbers aren't necessarily important for repeat customers. By the end of the show, everyone was interacting with the band and experiencing the same effects of an incredibly well-practiced line-up of talent performing before their eyes. This was evident in the dancing, bouncing, beat clapping in-concert as directed by the sultry vocal lead Rachael Price. Of course at the bitter end, when she offered her thanks to the energetic crowd and promised to return, everyone pleaded to make it happen, with a few ready to throw in the money to book the show. If you have a listen to some of their motown influenced, soul-driven tunes without ever seeing them, you might just think the band would have a set of backup singers, a horn player and one of those drum assistants that cover things like tamourine and cowbell. Seeing them live, you'll quickly find out that every musician is multi-talented and all of the vocal backups are all done by the supporting drummer (Mike Calabrese) and acoustic double-basser (Bridget Kearney). These aren't simple harmonies, , they were a bit busy being the band and are also the kind that separate simple four-piece bands and superhero style talented musicians. Early in the set, it appeared like a few people knew of the band well while the majority were there to discover. When the band attempted to get some crowd clapping going, it didn't pay off right away, but a few songs later, they had everyone at their beckoned call for interaction. There may have been some sing-a-long action too, but seeing alot of live music at Jazzfest in the span of a week starts to play mind-tricks Price had most people melting with her incredibly sexy voice and style, and basically fixated on her while she moved to the music around the stage. One guy compared her to Scarlet Johanssson (probably without ever hearing SJ sing and was actually just referring to a similarity in complexion). This kind of scientifict data was collected under strictly controlled conditions obviously. If the guitarist, Mike "McDuck" Olson, were a super hero, his super power wouldn't be playing guitar, then trumpet, then guitar again, but keeping his sk8tr dude cap on perfectly adjusted to the right without it EVER MOVING ONCE. He may have had on of those food stylists in beforehand to keep it in place, much like they do when they pin burger toppings to the meat for a mouth-watering photoshoot. He had some well placed tasteful licks, while not really needing to be a fancy-pants speed demon. He stayed between the lines expected and needed by the tunes. Calabrese's drumming and vocals were really impressive due to his perfection. His super power would be the ability to continue playing the drums with one arm and his feet, while beating the tambourine with this other hand to his chest, WHILE singing. Maybe that's not a super power yet, but it came to be quite handy. Kearney's Bass and vocals squared off the quartet, and she was equally impressive. A double-bass can seem gimicky to some, but they are usually matched up with a musician that can make them sing, which she did figuratively and literally. While the sound of the bass had those tonal qualities of the acoustic, it was rightfully heavy for the soul induced grooves that got people dancing. It was nearly a two-hour show since they provided an encore until about 12:20 am which included their slowed-up rendition of " ". That song has a very identifyable and hook-important bass line and Kearney pulled it off really nicely for this. Since this was the end, it will hopefully go down as the epic first show that Lake Street Dive performed in Ottawa. It might be lip service to promise to be back, and how great the crowd was, but they will certainly have a guaranteed 200 of everyone there, plus all of their friends, show up at their next Ottawa gig.
  8. MORE PHOTOS Imagine arriving at one of 2 top chefs restaurant with sought after seating and with no idea what you're about to taste for the next hour and a half. The 12 course menu starts with an amuse bouche. One with flavour notes you're not heard in a while and includes a satisfying crunch. The meal continues with some eclectic charcuterie, old moldy cheese and some veggies or flowers or herbs that you've only heard about in passing. Eventually you're led to a dessert that envolopes your tongue and slides graciously down your gullet. That's a long winded way to describe what Nels Cline ( ) and B.J. Novak's dopalganger, co-guitarist Julian Lage's set was like. These two guys pretty much ignored all melodic musical hook rules, meaning they seemed to favoured to play the notes and clashing harmonies that most aren't used to. Something amazing about this was knowing that this wasn't improv, it was composed songs that are difficult to imagine as being repeatable. Yet they are. Nels brought an impressive 16 CD's to sell (come on management! Only 16?) related to this show. It was surprising how little merch there was, but probably couldn't be matched to the live version which really was an illusion of uncomposition. They were amazingly tight considering how many uncovential movements that were happening. There were very rare moments where their eyes met, but they were always musically locked, with the four of them. At least with Julian's eyes, feverishly enjoying what his compadre was doing while he accompanied. This is going to get guitar nerdy. You'd better be sitting down. So for the amuse bouche, they appeared to be screwing around with . Inversions were turning around each other. As they work with the guitar, you just mathematically work out if you hold the pattern. They were embedding the diminished pattern in different ways against AND along each other. It's kinda hard to explain, right or wrong. Just think of how complicated quantam physics are and there you have it. The show escalated to a set of tunes, with names that everyone would want to know where the name came from, on account of them not having any words. They clearly have meaning, you'll never know what they are. All that mattered was that they were pretty much using every dissonant chord, and clashing note they could put together in a string that made sense overall. Every triad had at least one flattened 5th or sharpened 9th, with a smattering of 7ths and thirds both ways. This was a huge main course with lots of flavourful moldy cheese and aged cured charcuterie from parts you normally don't want to know about. Things may clash, but there's always satisfaction. Sorry about the food simile again, but it was palatable. (yeah, that word is a bit of a twist on palpable -- on purpose but with real intention). Nels had found a resonating sound artifact disturbing the moments where silence was part of the recipe and removed a reverb pedal to use the internal amp reverb. It was an 'E' by the way. They had discovered it in sound check earlier, identified the actual note using harmonics on the guitar and rejigged the plugs to get rid of it. It found it's way back and they adapted. The new silence, during the quietly decading finishes became brilliant. Seriously, when it got quiet, anyone in the 100ish crowd sniffing was heard. Oh, and here's a tip, lay off the farting in shows like these. As any good meal eater knows, a great feast includes a sweet, sweet desert. Nels and Julian served that up with completely harmonically satisfying natural notes. This included everyone's favourite C, G, D...you just can't get any better than that. This was the crème brulée of chords and melodies. It's obvious this simile is ridiculous however, it's all about taste. Some dishes taste great to some, and not as much to others. There is no denying that the same is true for music at festivals like all three Ottawa music festivals that take over the entire summer. You never know what you might be missing if you don't at least look at the menu. And here is the carmelized (why won't the simile end?) sugar on top of that extra dessert. Bill Frisell later played the late night super fun happy tent providing the soundtrack to an old Buster Keaton film, Go West. This is absolutely a great trend that started with the performance last year, with With every musician having a display in front of them, they perfectly timed every comedic fall with bass drum hits, or simulated a trianluar dinner bell with cymbal rings. At the same time superfluous harmonic overtones filled the tent. There was one scene where a firetruck was called for and at that very moment, no shit, a siren swelled by, lighting up the tent in red white and blue lights as it continued down laurier street. Isn't it possible that was planned? Syncronicity managed to dominate the stage from this point on. Watching a silent film that the Frisell ensemble pretty much directed the audience to, told a story. A dufus who finds his way onto a ranch before the internet, seems to be looking for something, falls over shit, told to brand a cow to which he magically pulls out a shaving kit (did people carry those back then?) and SHAVES the brand into the cow (ok for you PETA?) and continues his way through his adventure, leading an unwilling herd and mutherfucking soundtracked by Bill Frisell....Live, ultimately getting his reward. His cow. Not Bill, the dude in the film.
  9. More photos on Flickr Live recording here It's been 7 months since one of the best local venues in Ottawa for live music, the Elmdale Tavern, changed ownership into the hands of the Whalesbone restaurant. This shift worried a number of local music fans who considered the fact that a restaurant that provides top-notch service might not continue to host live music. Tonight was a great example that proved they have continued the experience of super-talented musicians, that likely would not have found a venue in Ottawa in support of their tour across the border. It was one of those "I'm so fu@king amazed I'm seeing this at the Elmdale Fu@king Tavern" nights. It was on par with Marco Benevento, , and especially ( ). How would one describe the band in order to get folks out? The Elmdale Tavern made a simple post on Facebook today, highlighted by the previous owner, pointing out that a secret last minute booking by a band would be playing this evening. (Alright gang, the cat is out of the bag! Pokey LaFarge is playing TONIGHT. $15 is a small price to pay for the best night of your life.) It was enough to fill the joint, especially after their follow-up post about Pokey on Letterman the week before. The dinner service was finishing as the staff started clearing out tables. There was a birthday girl there who stuck around after her oyster party and walked away with a fantastic live music party that anyone might wish for. There's some captured vids, photos and audio that are integrated in this post since there were a few super fans that brought gear out to document one helluvafuckinevening at the Elmdale Oyster House and Tavern. A set-break debate tonight ended with just branding it the Elmdale Tavern (with Whalesbone Oyster House) This was another band (much like the gig) where the member's all exclaimed how much they loved playing at a tavern filled with super engaged people ready for some whiskey and dancing. Pokey and the band tonight showed off their Gibson's chugging skills. Benevento and the various Slip boys made sure there was lots of Jameson's flowing when they played. The Elmdale Tavern is a unique place in Ottawa that not only continues it's tradition and spirit but has been enhanced by the new Whalesbone owners. Here are a couple of videos from the Elmdale captured by TeamCanada2012 Set 1 Set 2 Update on 2013-07-27 22:53 by bouche Here's another video from a different perspective.
  10. Henry Garza - Los Lonely Boys More photos on Flickr - Alejandro Escovedo - Los Lonely Boys - Los Lobos The Ottawa Bluesfest's River stage tonight had a very unique trifecta set-up yet missed in the promotion of the connections. Alejandro Escovedo, who couldn't be missed after stumbling into his just-started set a few years ago at the old Bluesfest site at City Hall, started it out early in the hottest festival day so far at 5:45. He's really too great of a performer to be playing that early to people that are shielding themselves from the sun. There wasn't much he could do to make them respond. But enough did and I'm sure they got it. They're from Texas,the audience was mostly from Ottawa. His band was followed by Los Lonely Boys, who launched into serious guitar chops with a cover of Hendrix's Voodoo Child (Chile? Can someone explain the difference?). While the three Garza brothers (Henry, Jojo, and Ringo) were going apeshit, and if you were there, you'd have seen Henry going serious apeshit on his guitar, there was a huge crowd forming in the main area for B.B. King at the secondary Main stage. It's clearly secondary, so why put a majorly reknowned act there and hope people fit in? The MC had to ask people to put away chairs in order to fit more people in. As well, word was the scanners were down at the main entrance, but conspiracy theorists guessed that this was a ruse to redirect the crowd to another entrance where there was actually room to breath. The real musical comfort was all happening again at the River Stage tonight, and since B.B. King was over at 9, a crapload of people that felt musically robbed headed over and filled that stage for Los Lobos. They started out to plenty of cheers, but the crowd engagement built as the night went on as the band started adding more energy to their performance including inviting out Henry Garza from Los Lonely Boys to add to the already, almighty guitar work of Cesar Rosas. Along with an on-stage-dancer-vocalist, there was an amazing energy that compelled people dance and party knowing it was the end of another year. PS Some people noticed that the Skrillex thing on the main stage during Los Lobos was a bit distracting. It wasn't evident during tunes, but it's still funny.
  11. Ra Ra Riot - Ottawa Bluesfest - photo Mike Bouchard More photos on Flickr While 10 straight days of music (practically anyway) can be exhausting, festivals are also exhilarating. The challenge to hit all the stages, balancing the desire to dance with the need for more beer, opting to endure the scorching sun to get the best view. This was Saturday night’s Bluesfest. It started with Austra, Canadian electropop darlings who made critic’s lists across the board with their dark, pulsating debut, Feel it Break, in 2011. A trio pulled from the wreckage of other Canadian indie bands, Austra’s driving songs haunt you, as lead singer Katie Stelmanis’ voice gets into every corner of your head. Not so Saturday unfortunately, as the bass was turned WAY up. It was especially unfortunate for those unfamiliar with their new album, Olympia, released mid-June, since I doubt they could’ve picked out any of the songs. I almost couldn’t make out “Painful Like”, but it might’ve been because I was listening to my heart rattle around in my ribcage. I’ve seen Austra thrice and know they put on a glorious show, but this was lacklustre. It might’ve been the heat, it might’ve been the sparse crowds, it might’ve been the inability to figure out which live versions matched which studio versions, but nobody really seemed to be into it. There was lots of running to and from the beer tents. Until “Lose it” came on, and people stopped in their tracks, finally able to get a sense of Stelmanis’ amazing vocal range. Thankfully they kept it up, finished strong with “Beat and the Pulse” and I left remembering why I’d wanted to catch them in the first place. Next up was Death Grips on the Bell Stage, an experimental hip hop group consisting of Stefan “MC Ride” Burnett (vocals), Andy “Flatlander” Morin (keyboards/sampler), and usually, Zach Hill (drums), but Bluesfest crowds missed out on Hill. Too bad, because apparently he’s a phenominal drummer and the biggest reason we wanted to watch the show. While many of the crowd was probably wondering how this amped up MC and Count Dracula-esque keyboardist (I swear he could’ve been playing at a Transylvanian wedding) managed to make the main stage, but Death Grips are a big deal in their scene. Oh, and they’ve also remixed a couple of Bjork tracks, so that might’ve played into the programming. It wasn’t enough to keep us though, and we moved on to a stage where we could make out the words being said. Lucky us, we landed at the Black Sheep Stage for King King, a kilt-sporting British blues band that’s been racking up accolades in Europe. Thank you, Bluesfest, for including some blues in the programming, because these guys were stupendous! Such a pleasure to have come across them, lay on the grassy hill and be treated to guitar solos that made my heart sing. Someone somewhere must’ve known they were going to be a hit with festival-goers, because they were scheduled to appear again on the River stage on Sunday! Hope you didn’t miss them twice. We decided to fill the next bit of silence with whatever was on the River stage, and found ourselves with Phosphorescent. We walked in on “Song for Zula” and that was it. I was hooked. I’m listening to it right now. Smooth vocals, graceful keys, a perfect summer song, the sort of thing you want to listen to as you speed along the highway, windows down and radio up. If the few songs we heard are any indication, the entire album Muchacho seems to fit that description, and I hope Phosphorescent comes back to Ottawa for a visit after I’ve had some time to practice road crooning. Oh the joy of mixed festival programming! Not everyone is keen on "festing" though, and the crowds on Saturday were light. Great for those of us who were stage hopping, and it was a breeze to float up to see Stars. Normally described as an indie pop band, we found Amy Milan (vocals, guitar) belting a rocking version of "Fixed" from The Five Ghosts. Not to be outdone, Torquil Campbell took the mic next and sang his face off to "A Song is a Weapon" from their newest album, The North. Jam band fans would've surely been impressed by their hard hitting rendition of "Ageless Beauty" with Milan, an ageless beauty herself, taking the lead on a huge jam at song's end. Stars are definitely indie pop in studio, indie rock on stage. They also showed some great versatility with songs like "Midnight Coward," pushing through with hard, fast, can't-help-but-dance-to-them drums, making the descent into the bridge even more impactful than ever...making Milan's voice sound ever more lovely. It plays so well off of Campbell's, and they got us dancing, finishing with crowd pleasers "Take Me to the Riot" and the (ridiculously) named "Hold on When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It." Oh, but they're a good Canadian band, and had 8 more minutes left, so they came out for an encore (according to Campbell anyway). It was an interesting version of "Walls" that many might have enjoyed, but not as an epic show closer. At least the night wasn't over. After we were unable to figure out what Bjork was wearing, we took ourselves to see Ra Ra Riot. If you were to guess their genre, what would you guess? Metal? Punk? Well you'd be wrong, because these talented New Yorkers play indie rock. They've also been said to play "baroque pop," most likely thanks to the talents of violinist Rebecca Zeller. I was mesmorized watching her play, her hair moving gently in the breeze as she ran away with "Run My Mouth." I can't imagine Wes Miles sing anything but indie rock, and his performance was stellar on "Each Year," from their first studio album The Rhumb Line. It felt like the crowd was having a bit of trouble getting into it, but a full snap-along for "When I Dream" took care of that. Followed up with the synthy, upbeat "Beta Love" we had ourselves a proper dance party. Play more songs off the short and sweet Beta Love released in January, the party went right through until the last notes of "I Shut Off" reverberated across the water. So early on a Saturday night, energy like lighting through the crowd, there was certainly enough excitement to warrant an encore. Ra Ra Riot was happy to oblige, and delivered a version of "Ghost Under Rock" that I'd dance to every night given the opportunity. Hmm, 10 days doesn't seem so long after all...
  12. More photos on Flickr Having seen the Tragically Hip perform a poorly attended concert in Kingston at Frontenac Secondary School in the 80's, it's safe to say that they actually had one helluva show tonight at the Ottawa Bluesfest with an incredibly engaged and packed audience. A major highlight at the time was their cover of "Money" by the Beatles since no one knew their soon to be legendary tunes yet. The contrast between the two shows is astounding. One was partly filled with under-age drinkers, and this one was fully completely filled with both young and old drinkers. Lets face it, the chances are that the teachers who were supervising were probably drinking too Some kidding aside, the Hip have lasted this long and are still going strong. Their 8-bit three panelled light board was used as much as possible to highlight elements of the show from flashing "100" for "At The Hundredth Meridian" to spelling "HIP" that wasn't even needed to remind people to chant it for an encore. While there was quite possibly nearly the same sized crowd out for the other prog-country nights like the Dixie Chicks and the Zack Brown Band (a quick head count confirmed), this mass of fans seemed to feel like they were being played for by old friends. There were so many people who had something to say tonight in the crowd, who had a story about seeing The Hip years ago in some pop-up show back in Kingston, previous Bluesfests in Ottawa and other intimate events (like the NAC - Who holds a camera for an entire Hip show? Glad it was done though). Having photo access tonight challenged any photographer to keep up with Gord Downie for the allotted 3-song window. The guitar techs were doing a final tuning while an upbeat arrangement was slowly building through the sound system. It was a seriously last second thing because as those guitars were placed back on their pedastels, the Hip rolled out, and Gord Downie obliged the crowd with a very thankful pose. From there, the lights exploded (which made every photographer's lens happy) and then Gord began. While he was belting through "Grace Too", his poses started popping out. Without knowing how long he's been doing that for, it's at least clear that he's doing it for the benefit of all of the iPhones, Androids, point-and-shoots-, and SLR cameras pointing at him. But they had to be quick because he was firing off Bluesteel's without warning. Gord isn't the only bandmember aware of how cool they can look in photos. Bobby Baker, held some very elegant stature while landing his guitar solos and riffs without overdoing it like some other bands. Having 12 albums to choose from, it was great to hear a couple songs from their second album, yet the one that seemed to launch them, "Up To Here". "Blow at High Dough" and "New Orleans Is Sinking" are both great evidence of how far their professional performances have come. They rocked the fu@k out of those too. From being a bar band to a full on international festival closer, The Tragically Hip have already built a fantastic road story and history. The Tragically Hip RBC Ottawa Bluesfest Ottawa, ON 2013/07/11 Setlist: At Transformation Grace Too Escape Is At Hand For The Travellin' Man Man Machine Poem, Gift Shop Ahead By A Century Streets Ahead Poets We Want To Be It In View NOIS > Nautical Disaster > NOIS Bobcaygeon Courage Blow At High Dough Encore: At The Hundredth Meridian Little Bones
  13. More photos on Flickr What happens when you put sad lyrics to happy, synthpop music? You get “The Reeling,” or the song Passion Pit opened their Bluesfest set with. Off their first album Manners, the crowd was more than ready to watch lead singer Michael Angelakos bop around the stage. Maybe because they were 10 minutes late, something that’s been rare at this year’s festival. Something that hasn’t been rare, however, are the issues with sound, and the ever-patient crowd danced through gravelly renditions of the first few songs before it crisped up. Too bad, since that part of the set included “Carried Away”, the super catchy single released early this year off of their second album Gossamer. No matter, everyone was happy to dance like it was a new moon. Since both albums are equally good, the set generally bounced back and forth between them until they finally played “Little Secrets.” People love to sing easy choruses, and Angelakos zipped around the stage to hold his mic for each “higher and higher and higher/higher and higher and higher.” After that the boys gave their thank you waves, and new fans started to walk off. Encores aren’t generally the norm at Bluesfest, given the schedule and curfew. The rest of us? We cheered. We waited. Something was missing. We knew there was going to be at least one more song, and by golly we were right. The band came on and gave a huge rendition of "Sleepyhead" and everything in the summer festival world was right again. Passion Pit RBC Ottawa Bluesfest Ottawa, ON 2013-07-10 Setlist: The Reeling Carried Away (Unknown) Love Is Greed It's Not My Fault, I'm Happy (Unknown) Constant Conversations Take a Walk I'll Be Alright (Unknown) Eyes as Candles Cry Like a Ghost Little Secrets Encore: Sleepyhead
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