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  1. More Photos on Flickr (photos: Mike Bouchard) That's right folks, we're well into festival season now, and arguably the biggest of the O-Town fests got off to a nice, sweaty start last night. Getting from work to the festival is sometimes a bit of a struggle, so the first thing we managed to catch was a short snipet of the Bahamas set. If you walked in when we did, you might not have recognized that it was Afie Jurvanen up on the Black Sheep Stage. Instead of his usual, laid back style of indie-rock, him + band were adding to the sweatfest with a bumping cover of Outkast's "Hey Ya!" Proving he's got confidence for days, next was a twangy, upbeat-take on Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight" which the crowd seemed to really enjoy (something about that guitar riff gets people going). Unfortunately that's all we really got to sample, since it's a fest after all, and other stages were calling our name. Fortunately Bahamas is Canadian, and with any luck we'll catch their next Ottawa show. Down a stage this year, strolling from the Black Sheep Stage to the River Stage you'll pass the "Red Bull Live" area, where you can lounge on bean bags whilst DJ's lull you into sound comas. Nice for those who like to take a load off, but over here we want the actual live music. That's exactly what we got landing at The River Stage. As the crowd quietly waited for Austrailia's The Cat Empire, I overheard a lot of "who are these guys" and "I've never heard of them," despite the fact they've been around for 14 years. Then the silence was broken with a huge rendition of "Steal the Light" and there was nothing to be heard but solid trumpets, killer percussion and the stomp of dancing feet. Aussies are used to the heat, and the energy from front men Felix Riebl (persussion/vocals) and Harry James Angus (trumpet/vocals) manged to infect the whole crowd of heat-strucken Canadians before them. While most of the set consisted of funky-ska tunes perfect for a summer evening under a gorgeous sunset (this is the best part about the River Stage), the midway point got a little, uh, gypsy with songs like "The Wine Song." By this point the crowd was massive, many lured over by the trumpets no doubt, and dance circles erupted between strangers all across the lawn. Things I heard as we were leaving: "THAT WAS AMAZING!" Which brings us to our Bell Stage headliner: The Black Keys. While many missed their performance last year after running home from the rain, those who stayed were blown away by the show. Needless to say, there was a lot of hype for this year, and it felt like EVERYONE at the festival had gathered infront of the stage. Opening the set with crowd pleaser "Howlin' for You" you'd think everyone would've been howling...but no such luck. Turns out sound quality was compromised depending on where you were standing, so people started howling "turn it up" and "louder." Again, no luck, and for many it sounded like a concert from tweaky iphone speakers. Those who could hear fine, got an amazing show (the set list was drawn primarily from their album El Camino), with an especially gorgeous rendition of "Little Black Submarines" partway through. Finishing with a studio perfect version of "Lonely Boy" even those in the poor sound section left smiling. Many people who couldn't enjoy the show, left. Alex Clare's high energy show managed to take in a lot of those fans, and I heard many saying it was the highlight of their night. There's a good lesson festival goers: if you aren't enjoying a show, leave. It's a festival afterall, and there's always something else happening at another stage. Update on 2013-07-05 19:07 by bouche Here's a small snippet from the Empire Grill area at the right of the stage.
  2. Sunday began as the first day of the festival I was able to attend with my family. We arrived on the grounds to a very small and sparse crowd, probably due to the early hour and the weather. It took a while to make it to where I wanted to get to because my boy was slowly taking in all the sights and sounds that were unique to him. As parents, we try to look through our child’s eyes but that becomes more of a presumptuous activity bordering on vanity than anything else. All I can say for sure is that he was very interested in the tuba player doubling as a kick drum while leading a parade around the side the food area was on and I realized soon enough this is a perfect kid-friendly festival. Bring your wee ones. We slowly made our way to Todd’s Musical Petting Zoo. It was a tent containing instruments for any age to pick up, pluck, strike or bang. A washboard, shakers, ukuleles, guitars, mandolins, banjos, fiddles, accordions and various percussive instruments were all available. It was unfortunate that the crowd was so sparse because only a few hours later I saw that tent full of bouncy children having a blast. We then decided to take in some music and enjoyed the songs and harmonies of Anders Drerup and Kelly Prescott in the tent. We then took in a touch of Anais Mitchell before the boy decided the gravel rock pile he was making wouldn’t solve his need for supper so I walked the wife and him back to the car. I then ran back for what I consider to be the surprise of the festival. Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth was giving an interview on one of the stages just west of the RavenLaw stage. I knew almost nothing with regards to his history but walked away stunned by his intellect and ability to give well thought out answers which never seemed to deviate away from the context at hand. He spoke of how the art of making mix tapes is lost and that he still actively seeks out new music because he is interested to see where others are at but I think my favourite section of the interview was his discussion regarding signing with a big label. At one point in their careers they were gaining much critical acclaim so naturally the labels came a calling. They did everything they could to sell themselves to Sonic Youth while saying all the same things as the other previously had but once a label would actually listen to their music they would pull away their offers. “What is this alien music?” Thurston joked that Sonic Youth’s “one mistake was not breaking up.” He surmised that they could have made a lot more money had they broke up in 1996 and got back together for a reunion tour in 2006. Back to the mid 90’s though he felt more connected to “avant introspective music like Pavement” compared to the pop rock of the day. They could have made that kind of music which pretty much guaranteed commercial and financial success but they were always allowed to do whatever they wanted and he assumed it’s because they brought Nirvana to Geffen which gave them the free pass. I was sad when it was over but as soon as he signed an autograph for me all was ok once again. I’m not sure what I did the next couple of hours aside from catching a couple of songs by Hayes Carll. They were providing some fun country rock on the main stage. I did get a bite to eat and made it on time to a couple of meetups but before I knew it, time had flown and Thurston was about to take the stage in the Tent. A poem followed by Never Day started things once the sound issues were dealt with. Thurston dedicated the next song to the poet Mina Loy and things started to sound interesting, possibly due to sound issues being corrected. I don’t know how else to describe these new songs as dissonant desert weirdness. Many themes made my brain melt. Thurston’s music is not for the faint of heart even when it isn’t overly powerful as far as volume and distortion are concerned. This track in particular had great melodic spaces and culminated into a crazy climax that showcased drummer John Moloney’s jazz chops. January was a great example of how Thurston spoke earlier of having been critically acclaimed yet big labels not getting it. There were incredible underwater themes, so much so it was easy to envision floating deep in the ocean listening to its heartbeat. It was wonderfully hypnotic. Benediction came out and I had to force my way to catch the start of The Levon Helm band because I knew my photo pass would only offer me the first couple of songs in the pit. The rush was on when Levon took the stage. I’m still getting my feet wet in the photo pit but if you have ever sat back and watched worker ants carrying things to a from their respective hills you get the sense of what it is like. I got the sense there are some unwritten rules I have yet to figure out so I typically try to stay out of everyone else’s way, which actually might be the first rule. The Shape I’m In began strongly while being up close to the front you could feel the rush of energy from the crowd as they were feverish about greeting Levon. Before I knew it, a gorgeous Long Black Veil was over in seemingly seconds and three songs had passed. I was at the back of the crowd getting my bearings during Ophelia which was a struggle for Levon’s vocal chords. Later he strapped on a mandolin for a solid take on Deep Elem Blues and provided the crowd with some laughter when he provocatively danced in front of Theresa Williams. A couple of songs later and I had to pull the chute. I was exhausted and not looking forward to my thirty minute walk so I ducked my head and left the grounds. As I made my way I could hear The Weight waving good night and good bye to what is one of the great festivals you can attend in Ottawa. As stated so many times, the size, the layout and the picturesque grounds have made this a constant end of summer beacon for me. I won't be able to recommend it enough, but it should be said that this festival is only going to get bigger so you probably want to experience it sooner rather than later.
  3. moe.down 11 - Rob Derhak photo by: Jay Blakesberg Saturday at moe.down by Jake Senger Photos by Jay Blakesberg Saturday morning was a cold and damp one because the temperature had dropped substantially overnight in upstate New York. When the sun did make an appearance Saturday it turned out to be a beautiful day. After making some breakfast and preparing for the day I made my way to the stage to check out the bluegrass band The Punch Brothers. moe.down 11 - Punch Brothers photo by:Jay Blakesberg The Punch Brothers The Punch Brothers were the first Main stage act on Saturday. They are a bluegrass band consisting of Chris Thile (mandolin), Noam Pikelny (banjo), Gabe Witcher (fiddle/violin), Chris Eldridge (guitar) and Paul Kowert (bass). I was really excited for their set since I love the mandolin and had heard that Chris Thile is one of the best mandolin players today. Their set was a ton of fun and a joy to be able to watch such talented musicians play. It was great to look around at the audience while the Punch brothers were jamming and see all the smiles on eveyone’s faces. I thought the highlight of their set was a fantastic version of the song . moe. The Saturday afternoon day set by moe. is always a great one. The sun was out for the entire moe. set and they delivered. It started off really strong with, Skrunk > Lazurus > Spine of a Dog, some of moe.’s stronger tunes. Next was the tune New York City which was used this year as the theme for the kids parade. All the kids who were attending moe.down with their families dressed up in costumes that represented New York City and danced on stage while moe. played. A couple songs later they played 32 Things, which in my opinion was the highlight of the day set. It’s always great to listen to Al and Chuck trading guitar riff’s during the 32 Things jam. They ended the show with Y.O.Y, and dedicated it to the next band on the Buzz stage, Monkey Wrench. Unfortuantely I missed yet another band on the Buzz stage. Built to Spill I was absolutely blown away by this indie rock band from Boise, Idaho. Lead singer Doug Martsch is an excellent songwriter with a great voice. The guitar work in this band is really magical. There were so many great jams with all three guitarists playing in perfect unison with one another. The last song of their set had to have been about 15 minutes ending with a wall of distortion and epic solo’s by all three guitarists. Built to Spill is definitely a band I want to learn more about after seeing them this weekend. After their set it was time to head back to the campsite and get ready for Lotus and moe. Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to catch any of the bands on the Buzz stage but all the acts on the Main stage have surpassed my expectations so far. Lotus I have seen Lotus at a few festivals before and they’re always a good time. Their Saturday night set at moe.down was no different. I thought the first half of their set was a little slow with a little too much keyboards and electronics for me. However, the crowd seemed to be loving it. The moe.down audience was dancing, smiling and tossing plenty of glow sticks. Guitarist and keyboardist Luke Miller even commented on the amount of glow sticks at moe.down this year. He told the audience “he should have bought stock in that glow stick company years ago”. I thought the best music emanating from the stage was when both Luke Miller and Mike Rempel were on guitars, for much of the second half of their show. Their show was definitely a great opener for moe. and got the party started. moe.down 11 - Al Schnier photo by:Jay Blakesberg moe. Saturday night’s moe. set started out strong with their classic composition Plane Crash. They segued into their instrumental hectors pillow then played a solid version of one of my favorite moe. tunes, Bring You Down. Next up was, Day Dreaming, a new song they debuted this summer. The highlight of the entire night was their cover of Radiohead’s Paranoid Android into Ricky Martin then into Time Ed. The Time Ed jam was incredible with some great malletkat work by Jim. Second set started out very dark and rocking with Seat of my Pants > Bear Song > Runaway Overload. Next up was one of their more popular songs, Recreational Chemistry. This definitely wasn’t one of the better Rec chem’s I have seen. It had a long jam but I didn’t think it really went anywhere interesting. They ended the show with Not Coming Down > Wormwood > Plane Crash which was somewhat anti climatic compared to the three songs that had opened the set. A solid version of Faker ended the night and left us wanting more music the next day.
  4. moe.down 11 Photo by: Jay Blakesberg Friday at moe.down by: Jake Senger Photos: Jay Blakesberg Friday, September 3rd, 2010 marked the opening of the eleventh moe.down festival. moe.down is a annual labour day music festival thrown by the band moe. The past ten moe.down’s had all taken place at Snowridge Ski Resort in Turin, NY. This years installment was held in Mohawk, NY at the Gelston Castle Estate. The change in venues had to give it a different feeling for both the band and it’s fans. We pulled into Gelston Castle around 5:00 pm on Friday to a small lineup of cars. I was rather surprised that it did not take us all that long to park our car. Earlier this summer Further had played at this venue and I had heard many stories of long wait times to park your car. So long in fact that many people missed the beginning of the show and some even turned around and headed home. Next we began the extremely long trek to the campsites. At the majority of camping music festivals that I have attended you set up your tent beside your parked car. However, at moe.down attendees must walk their camping gear from the parking lot to an open field near the two stages. The distance between the parking lot and the designated camping area at this year’s moe.down was treacherous. It was about a twenty minute walk from our parked car to our camping spot. It took multiple trips to unload all the gear and therefore took us more then an hour to find a spot and get set up. I heard many complaints Friday from people that the walk to camping at this years moe.down was just too far. I would have to agree and think that if moe.down is held at the same site next year, they should have shuttles to help bring the campers gear to the camping area. moe.down 11 - Vinnie Amico Photo by: Jay Blakesberg The concert field at Gelston Castle holds two stages. The Main stage and a side stage called, the Buzz stage. The concert field is absolutely beautiful with many vendors, beers stands and portable toilets. Both Main stage and Buzz stage are at the bottom of a hill with plenty of room for the fans to watch the shows from the slopped hill. Watching the shows from high up on the hill allows fans to take in the stunning view of Mohawk Valley behind the stage. Tortoise The first Main stage act this year was Tortoise at 6:30 pm, Friday night. Tortoise is a five person instrumental rock band from Chicago, Illinois. They were one of my most anticipated sets of the entire weekend and they did not disappoint. Tortoise had two drum kits set up facing each other at the front of the stage. Their drummers really worked well together, pounding out great rhythms. Other instruments on stage included keyboards, guitars, xylophones and a bass. The members would switch instruments depending on the song. The crowd seemed to be really digging them and enjoying their set. Tortoise played some really great electronic grooves and gave the crowd great music to dance to. It was a perfect opening set for what was going to be a great weekend of music. Next up for me was, the musical headliner each night, moe. moe.down 11 - Chuck Garvey Photo by: Jay Blakesberg moe. I missed The Macpodz and Nas and Damian Marley because I opted to head back to the campsite instead. Back at the campsite I made some food and had a couple drinks with friends. With about fifteen minutes till moe. was supposed to hit the stage a group of us met up at the left side of the soundboard and got ready for moe.’s first set of the weekend. moe. opened their Friday night set with a great version of their instrumental song zoz. Next up were two of moe.s older songs, Time Again and Waiting for the Punchline. The two guitarists, Al Schnier and Chuck Garvey, were both on fire all night long. In my opinion, the highlight of the set was Puebla > George > Brent Black > Akimbo. The jam out of Puebla into George was fantastic. Rob Derhak started playing a great bass riff at about thirteen minutes into Puebla with Al and Chuck picking up on it and adding their own sound to the mix. The jam into George was so tight that it sounded like it could have been a written instrumental trac. Throughout the Puebla > George jam Rob was on playing some great bass grooves with Vinnie Amico and Jim Loughlin holding the rhythm. The crowd was really into the show Friday night with everyone dancing and singing along all night. Even the rain during the show could not put a damper on the crowd.
  5. Craig Finn and Tad Kubler - The Hold Steady The Hold Steady- Ottawa Bluesfest, Subway Stage. Sat. July 17, 2010 By: Sean Taylor Photos: Mike Bouchard (more photos) Its no secret that I am a fan of The Hold Steady. A huge fan even. I think its fair to say that they are probably my favorite band, and although my level of devotion to the band wanes between releases, with each new album I get a fresh jolt of energy and enthusiasm and once again immerse myself in their tales of rock n roll redemption. I get reacquainted with Gideon and Charlegmagne, learn new things about those old favorite songs and have little voids in the hole of the storyline filled in -- getting my ass kicked a little bit more by the best bar band in America. I suppose in a way a new Hold Steady release and tour for me are nothing short of a rebirth. With the release of the newest effort, Heaven Is Whenever (May 10, 2010 on Vagrant Records), all of these feelings were conjured up; but with a new found trepidation. You see, HiW is the first Hold Steady album since Seperation Sunday without lauded multi-instrumentalist Franz Nicolay. Franz's recent departure meant that not only would his signature additions on keyboards be absent, but also a huge hole at the front of the stage would likely be hard to fill without the most raging 'non singer- front man' in history. In April I did get to see a show in Syracuse featuring the new lineup, but it was mere 5 or 6 shows into their time with new additions Steve Selvidge (formerly of Lucero) and Dan Neustadt. I don't really think the band had gelled at that point- or had enough time to practice well into the back catalog. Despite this they still put on a fantastic show that night at the Westcott Theater, unveiling no less than 5 new songs for us. Recently, I found out I would once again be seeing a 'new' Hold Steady lineup as Neustadt was unavailable and another key player was put in place for the Toronto and Ottawa tour wrap up shows. All of this said, The Hold Steady don't play music requiring hours of studying charts to get a grasp, so the transition to THS 3.0 was rather seemless. Craig Finn - The Hold Steady The first thing that should be noted in any Hold Steady discussion is there comes a time when it generally comes down to a single point- and most of the time it starts with this one: that Craig's vocal style isn't "singing". I have never liked any music that has elicited more love/hate reactions than Craigs vocals. Obviously, being a fan I love it, but I think it stems more from my attention to the content of the lyrics than the actual delivery. Never before have I loved rock n roll lyrics more than Mr. Finns, not from Bruce or Bob or Robert. If you don't like the delivery- at least do yourself the favor of looking up the words, they'll likely draw you in. While esposing the Hold Steady to anyone who might listen and hearing this same retort again and again- I should say that I have found that in the live setting that this particular complaint is softened a great deal when the music is not coming through your home stereo. Live they are a bombastic unit of power, energy and postivity and Finns vocals/lyrics seem to just be there and enhance the sound rather than punctuate it. Craig Finn and Bobby Drake - The Hold Steady Sadly for readers of jambands.ca THS are not at all a jamband in the typical sense of the word. I don't think I have ever heard a particular version of any song that was standout because of musical improvisation, or seen anything stretched out beyond say a second go round for a Tad solo. What they do in the vein of the jamband culture is bring together the crowd for an evening of music and revelry; they change up their setlists on a nightly basis; have a whole host of aces up their sleeve when it comes to the vaunted bust out; and even have a dedicated fan base called The Unified Scene that is very similar in many ways to my early experiences with the Phish community. As the sun blazed down and no big stage announcement came it was easy to miss The Hold Steady taking the stage. Catching the crowd slightly off guard with this inauspicious entrance, The Hold Steady took the stage no less than 10 minutes before their scheduled start time and got straight down to business. The hot and blustery conditions of a mid-July early evening ate up the delicate guitar intro to the set opener Sweet Part of the City- but the song slowly built to power at the first kick drum/bass note and rolled along warming up the ever attentive crowd. This song has certainly become the opener of choice on this tour- appearing first at over half of the shows- but I think it fits well here and should remain an opener. It's got all the elements of a Black Crowes song (IMO) but with Craig’s fantastic lyrics sung/spoken over top. The crowd was clearly impressed as Craig belted out "We like to play for you" in the final measure and the crowd let out the first big cheer. At this point I'd say the crowd numbered near 500ish, most of whom were crowded up in front and the far reaches of the filled area were about halfway back to the sound tent. In typical Hold Steady fashion, as they finished the final licks of SPOTC, immediately Tad came wailing in with the guitar intro to Rock n Roll Problems. This is the way the band does it; not much stage banter between tunes just four on the floor rock n roll with no let up on the accelerator. The ubiquitous Constructive Summer followed and then the band slowed it down for a bit of a breather in the form of a slow burning and welcomed fav: 'Multitude of Casualties' (this song contains the line "at least in dying you don't have to deal with new wave for a second time" line referenced in Thursdays review). After two more songs I more than expected to get in the festival setting (the band definitely has a short list of songs it selects when playing to new audiences)- another little oldie: Barfruit Blues. A fantastic number and this one featured some extra fiery guitar work from 'the new guy' Steve. Craig Finn - The Hold Steady As the band continuted to blow through a set filled with high energy songs, I managed to have one of the best times I've ever had at a Steady show. Usually I am crammed in at the front with all of the other crazies, where we spill beer on each other and scream as loudly as possible back at Craig. But here in Ottawa at Bluesfest, I was outside with as much space as I needed, while being simultaneously able to walk to within 50 feet of the band. The whole event that is a Hold Steady show reached a whole new level for me as I gazed across the ever increasing crowd. What I witnessed were smiling faces, fists pumping and looks of amazement. Adding to this revelry- I was watching MY band about 10 minutes from home, with my best friends- I truly thought I was in heaven. The theme of heaven as concept of longing, idealism etc. is a mainstay on the new album and of course the next song that followed was We Can Get Together. The chorus "heaven is whenever, we can get together- lock your bedroom door and listen to your records" is a teenage fantasy described with such vagueness and beauty that in that moment I think every audience remembered such a long burning memory of past loves (perhaps a woman- perhaps a favorite record). As I noticed people singing along, high fiving and raising their cups- I knew this was not a typical Hold Steady crowd- this was not my Unified Scene, those same faces at every show so when I turned around to realize that the crowd had swelled to about double the size as when it had started I felt a strange sense of pride for the boys from Brooklyn. The skins, the punks and the greaser guys were all singing along together the way Craig sang about on "Joke about Jamaica" and I saw that other people were getting this thing, that for better or for worse I just wish more people would understand. Another run of songs that would have been picked all over PT's Daily Dose (if a Phantasy Hold Steady board existed- bouche?!) and we were at Your Little Hoodrat Friend. This is one of my favs, and this version certainly did not disappoint. Despite a fill in guy on keys, one member who has played less than 50 shows with them, a short 90 minute time slot to use and the hot as hades sun beating in their faces- The Hold Steady were easily winning over an entire field of people who were well into their 11th day of live music. Before the show I had asked a friend about the line "she said: City Center used to be the center of the scene. Now city center's over. No one really goes there. Then we used to drink beneath this railroad bridge. Some nites the bus wouldn't even stop. There were just way too many kids." Well when they plaeyed that a small group on the front hand side at the right utterly exploded. Obviously they had discussed it before, that THS were playing in the shadow of a concrete dinosaur described in one of their songs to a tee. Coincidence or not, it was another moment where I just couldn't believe I was seeing this, here in Ottawa. There were more than a few moments when Craig clearly had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand with his swagger and meth freak antics- but during Massive Nights he stepped forward in front of the monitors for a little more intensity. It was as it always is- a rager culminating with the Woo Ooo Ooh sing along chorus that had many an audience member singing along presumably for the first time ever to a Hold Steady song. The finale of How A Ressurection Really Feels (this is my absolute HS fave) could not have sent me into a further reach of the atmosphere. While Tad really killed the solo and the whole thing wound down to the line "Don't turn me on again, you know I'll probably just get myself all turned all turned on again Don't turn me on again Cause I know I'll probably just go and get all gone again" I thought a little bit to myself about what I'd seen that night, this tour and from this band in general (standing at about a dozen shows over 4 years- and 3 new album releases). I arrived at this during the final stanza: that every time my devotion has waned and I've gone away for a bit- the band comes back with something new and I get a little taste and suddenly I'm on the street corner trying to get money for a new 7"'s and some tickets. Can't wait for the next album- at least this high is legal ? Setlist: Sweet Part of the City Rock n Roll Problems Constructive Summer Multitude of Casualties Sequestered in Memphis Hurricane J Barfruit Blues Magazines Barely Breathing We Can Get Together You Can Make Him Like You Southtown Girls The Weekenders Chips Ahoy! Stuck Between Stations Your Little Hoodrat Friend Massive Nights How a Resurrection Really Feels
  6. (Disclaimer- as I sit and write this I am at work, extremely hungover and with a full plate of work today- I have not hung on every word, referred to google, a thesaurus or anything other than my chicken scratch from last night for reference materials. I apologize in advance for any misreporting and for the use of many mono syllabic adjectives……) Susan Tedeschi photo by Dave Barrett By Sean Taylor (more photos) Thanks to an early press time at my day job- I was able to hit Lebreton Flats just after 6 pm with a few cold beers already in my stomach- eager and excited to finally hear and see what all of the "Islands" fuss is all about. Over the past year it seems that I’ve heard this act hyped and mentioned from the furthest reaches of my social scene - from lawyers to lackies- they all seem to love it. Well, I am not sure if it was the confusing schedule listing for Island/ Woodhands, the 6:30 PM start, or the new wave attire (as Craig Finn says “At least in dying, you don’t have to deal with new wave for a second time.”)- but this set just didn’t seem to be what I was expecting, wanted or needed. The white and turquoise get ups that took the stage should have given me the hint I needed that this was going to be more poppy than I can take. The light airy music wasn’t bad- it was just background music for a cruise ship afternoon of shuffleboard. Skip. Feeling a bit disenchanted about the flop that was Islands, I took a stroll over to the Claridge Homes stage to see The Gories. While Bluesfest may be one of the biggest and best festivals in North America, it baffles me that the occasional act like this manages to snake their way amongst the mostly quality lineup. I was only able to listen to two songs- both of which were basically rip offs of BAD Canadian blues (the first was David Wilcox’s “The Bearcat” with different lyrics, the second was a BTO knock off that would have made those Oakley vendors in NYC proud). Skip. Oh well, 0 for 2 Knowing that Old Crow and Derek Trucks were still to come was more than enough to keep me moving through the crowd, finding friends and of course emptying a plastic cup or two. It was almost 7pm to the second when Old Crow Medicine Show took to the cavernous MBNA stage. It was quite a contrast to Tuesdays Arcade Fire performance to see this group of bluegrass musicians huddled together at center stage, instead of the huge area being utilized by instruments, band members and lighting rigs. In true bluegrass style OCMS play with no percussion, instead relying on their incredible finger picking and vocal harmonies to fill the air. And fill the air they did! From the opener of “Hard to Love” the crowd and Old Crow kicked it up hoedown style. Old Crow Medicine show photo by Ming Wu While the crowd wasn’t huge, they were very attentive- and thunderous applause followed every number, especially after the 4th song, an instrumental number that gave each member of the band a little solo time, letting the crowd in on just how great these guys are at what they do. I was lucky enough to watch the next two songs from the side of the stage- but found myself actually watching the crowd’s reaction to his band more than the band actually playing. The set was strong as hell, and by the time they hit the final couple of numbers the whole crowd was hootin and hollerin for more. What followed was pretty special IMO- they played a pretty impressive version of Ian and Sylvia’s “Four Strong Winds”- followed up by a double speed bluegrass instrumental, then a great rendition of CC Rider. Wrapping up with the Wagon Wheel that we all know and love- the crowd went nuts and it felt like a giant kitchen party for a stretch. Having recently seen a two set extravaganza from The Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi Band at Mountain Jam in Hunter, NY- I was stoked to head directly to the Hard Rock Stage and get some prime real estate- but I detoured to see what Woodhands was sounding like over at the Subway Stage. I’ve seen Woodhands before and this was nothing different- kind of melding of the sounds of Beck and The New Deal is what I heard. This is an act that kills in small clubs but it seemed to also translate well to the open air enviro of Bluesfest. When I arrived at the Hard Rock Stage- New Brunswick’s Matt Anderson was wrapping up his set of standard grizzly blues on his acoustic. Matt is a very talented blues guitarist, who I have seen in a variety of venues and he always puts on a good show- although I don’t know if I have ever seen him engage the audience much. This would be a welcomed addition to his performances as I do find they tend to feel a bit longer than they actually are. Obviously the crowd last night could have cared less, as he walked off the stage to a standing ovation (I even some lawnchair nation members stand up!). Derek Trucks photo by Dave Barrett After all of the hors d’ouvres it was time for the main course- as I found myself down front on Derek’s side as the DTSTB was warmly welcomed by the audience. It was less than 3 weeks ago that many of us had the good fortune to see Oteil perform at the Jazz Festival- and here was that big smile once again gracing a stage in the nations capital. From the start the band highlighted Susan’s strong vocals on the opener of “Love Has Something to Say” while the rhythm section pounded like Muscle Shoals behind her. When I saw this band at Mountain Jam, I thought several times that it seemed like Derek was intentionally taking a back seat and allowing the band to do what it does best- and he didn’t over play anything, infact I was caught longing for more fiery solos from our young slide guitar hero. Derek’s playing is all about feel and groove rather than flash, but when he does take the spotlight- it is nothing short of mesmerizing. Derek has a very unique ability to make the extraordinary seem so simple and effortless- and I know that others felt the same way as I glanced around at the huge smiles and shaking heads during one of his moments about 4 songs in (a Derek Trucks Band original). There was a slight mist starting to fall and the music was really perfect as Kofi and Derek had a total musical conversation for us all to witness. I am not sure if they dove into pure improv here, but from the smile that busted across the faces of Derek, Kofi and Oteil all at once- it surely seemed as though they had really impressed each other. Oteil Burbridge photo by Dave Barrett The fairly frequent appearance of Joe Cockers “Space Captain” in their set list meant I wasn’t surprised by the choice, but it certainly didn’t mean I wasn’t excited. Having seen Herbie Hancock play this at Jazz Fest recently and a whole host of artists over the years (Black Crowes, Cornmeal)- it did occur to me that I don’t think I’ve seen a version that deviates at all from the original. Whatever- that’s what classics are for- woooh! By the time Space Captain wrapped, Mill Street was starting to win the battle with my choice of East Side Mario’s Chicken Parm sandwich and I was forced to take off for the back. The final two songs I watched from the hill were again highlighting Susan’s husky blues vocals and the band just blew everyone away with their choice solos (especially a couple of knockouts from bass master Oteil). I know I am leaving out a lot about Derek but I think he would have wanted it this way- last night I witnessed a man at the height of his abilities- taking a back seat to highlight the amazing abilities of the woman he loves. This was never more evident than during To The City (?) the final number I caught where Susan tore into a solo spot and Derek just beamed the way love will make you do……
  7. by Luke C. Bowden Arriving by hook or by crook Wednesday night just in time to roll into Furthur (Grateful Dead core members Bob Weir and Phil Lesh accompanied by dextrous improvisers who've intimately worked up the Dead's vast songbook). Heads from across Canada and North America, some on tour, some catching this one off show didn't quite know what to expect setlist wise based on the dense variation through the Dead's epochs they'd been playing night after night. In the end we got Alabama Getaway as an opener, which for me is a deep omen because to my mind Alabama Getaway (a Dylan song truly made into a Dead song much like Quinn The Eskimo) has typically been played (rarely) as an opener and is most often followed by a huge set. The mind bending set which included casual fan favourites Casey Jones went into a deep improvisational passage out of likely the most well known Dead song Truckin' segued into (represented in setlist by this symbol '>') Smokestack Lightnin' > Casey Jones. Likewise in another stupendous passage rather than playing the traditional Help On The Way> Slipknot> Franklyn's Tower they ran through an inspired Help On The Way> Caution (typically incredibly rare number)> New Speedway Boogie> Wharf Rat (a Dylanish character based, and deeply revered song)> I Fought The Law> Liberty. Thursday was a bit of a weak lineup for anyone other than the boomer set but Andrew Bird played a truly sublime show both visually and musically. In particular one of his signature songs (with his trademark stupendous whistling) Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left left this listener in tears. On Friday I was not particularly impressed by John Butler Trio, although I did feel a certain amount of pride seeing him on such a big stage playing a confident set as I had been sent a copy of his very first album by his publicist when he was first trying to get some dates in North America. Truly though the event of likely the festival (although not musical) was a seperate ticketed show (for which I forked out an additional $62 for a ninth row seat to the most important comedian of the last 10 years, and if you don't believe me take Chris Rock's opinion on the matter). Literally, as one who is rarely if ever at a loss for words can't even begin to fathom the 'set of comedy' that Louis C.K. delivered. In his encore and through the set he scattered in likely impromptu remarks about Canada, Ottawa with a healthy respect/listlessness towards our nation. Bear in Heaven Photo courtesy of Andrew CarverSaturday, to this journalist who follows rock bands like a horse better, featured three bands I had been deeply anticipating and had rigorously after much forethought placed in my Top 15 anticipated best bands. The Mohawk Lodge (a more melodic Canadian answer to The Hold Steady, with to my mind some of the melded sonic riffery of Built To Spill) delivered material from their new album Crimes which was just released and doesn't nearly capture the sheer dynamic joy of their live show. The hands down highlight of the set was their signature tune Wicked Nights (Canadian Girl). Bear In Heaven a Pitchfork approved 'psychedelic' band from Brooklyn - although the lead singer is from Atlanta, GA originally (and was noticeably wearing a Grateful Dead shirt during his set) delivered a highly competent set including showpiece Ultimate Satisfaction. While the Flaming Lips entertained tens of thousands this listener simply had to take in one of his favourite bands Passion Pit to see if they could deliver on their densely produced sound. From the opening notes they held the audience in a thrall from the first notes. Expanding on their produced sound they fully fleshed out most of their repertoire from their Chunk of Change EP and Manners full length. Personal highlights for this deeply invested Better Things (which contains to my ear one of the most beautiful lines in a song in the recent years - 'you got an angel on your shoulder. Likewise Swimming In The Flood was truly inspired (as was truly the entire set) culminating with the obligatory Sleepyhead their global massive hit which has wormed it's ways into the Boys and Girls of The World.
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