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  1. Photo Courtesy of Mark Horton and Ottawa Bluesfest Change is inevitable and one must embrace it in order to keep moving forward. Bluesfest is a prime example of that ideology. 20 years have seen the location go from Lebreton to City Hall and back to Lebreton. No longer do we have 6 stages and we are now dealing with dead air rather than sound bleed, which was the biggest issue as far as I am concerned but it’s easy to get used to. Which do you prefer? Running from stage to stage like a jack rabbit or being like a lion after a satisfying meal? Both have their positive points. Recently, people wanting to sit down in lawn chairs are cordoned off far quite a ways back and that might be the single most important aspect adding to the experience.   Purchasing a 3 day pass seemed perfect while essentially becoming a ‘buy 2 get one 1 free" deal. Capitalism begets the ideal of smart purchases and this one made sense because the Foo Fighters had a very high price point for their first show in Ottawa since 2008. They still sold out the venue which is a massive rarity.   Stepping onto the grounds it was immediately clear that security had ramped up their efforts but that is now the norm with any large collection of individuals. Go to a Sens game or any concert at the Canadian Tire Center and you will find the same thing. Long lines while bags and pockets are checked along with metal detectors. These moments are no longer a stroll in the park so planning accordingly with a schedule of the bands you want to see are of the utmost importance.   Photos Courtesy of Mark Horton and Ottawa Bluesfest The War On Drugs has been a band I have been dying to see so Friday July 6th was the first pick of the 3 days pass I held. Having missed them at Folkfest a few years ago it was an obvious choice. Their studio work is perfect, the song writing is praiseworthy and their style is comforting. The question remained; can they pull off what they do in the studio? The answer is a resounding yes. The biggest surprise was discovering that Adam Granduciel is a monster player as well as a solid front man, which ended up being a common theme amongst many of the acts gracing the stages. Much of the material in their hour long set was culled from their last two albums, Lost In The Dream and A Deeper Understanding. It’s easy to wonder what a full show from them must be like. Towards the tail end there was strong, yet intentional, feedback emanating from Adam’s guitar during Red Eyes when all of a sudden one of the stagehands let him know they only had 5 minutes left. Adam then changed guitars while stating "We were about to do Under The Pressure but we only have 5 minutes left. Here’s one that we don’t often do." They launched into Lost In The Dream which became immediately satisfying considering the expectations of what hadn't occurred.   Photo courtesy of Scott Penner and Ottawa Bluesfest After that it was time to check out St Paul and the Broken Bones on the Claridge Stage but that was an exercise in futility. The tent was packed with people spilling out every which way but loose. As wonderful as that music is there was no way it was being felt in any meaningful way. There were too many conversations with people milling about and it became a waste of time. Making way towards the Blacksheep Stage I noticed there were people all the way at the back on the top of the hill. That alone was intriguing but once crested it became obvious why so many folk were seeing this band. Brockhampton were throwing down some serious hip hop. The energy level coming from the stage was palpable in a way you can only explain if you experience it. The crowd was much younger but were hopping in unison. Music is best when there is a collection of individuals all feeling the same thing and this was it. Theoretically that is why we keep going and this proved it. At a certain point when they mellowed out for a bit, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to check out Jethro Tull. My presence didn’t last very long because I kept wondering what I was missing on the Blacksheep stage so I ended up heading back that way. They were an absolutely perfect discovery and I look forward to seeing them again in the future.   Photos Courtesy of Mark Horton and Ottawa Bluesfest The second choice of the 3 day pass was a no brainer. Being a huge fan of Dave Grohl’s song writing brought me on Tuesday July 10th and from the moment we arrived we knew we were in for a massive crowd. Getting there just after 6pm knowing there might be a lineup is one thing but getting there that early while witnessing such a sea of people is another. It was shocking. We figured out the quickest way to get in thanks to an amazing eye but things could have been so much worse. By the time we were getting scanned with metal detectors Greta Van Fleet were onstage with their heavily pulsating sound. The interest level in seeing them was quite astounding, however it was very difficult to get into their set thanks to it being so early and only an hour long. We had just enough time to get in, grab a beer, get a spot, coordinate with those coming and before we knew it the band only had 2 songs left. That was enough for us to know we will be keeping tabs on these kids. There was plenty of "Led Zeppelin-esque" talk amongst our crew with none of it being negative. They wear it like a badge of honour. At this point it was pretty much impossible to get anything from the concessions offered and if you didn’t have an insider you were going to deal with what had to be at least a 45 minute line. Thankfully the concert overlords graced our group so all we had to do was laugh at one another while waiting for the Foo Fighters. When they hit the stage they hit it running and opened with what I consider to be the best opening song almost any band does, All My Life. Learn To Fly followed and then The Pretender, which was the opener the last time the band was in town but it was time to move. By the time we found a more palpable spot, Dave Grohl had invited his daughter on stage to sing back up to The Sky Is A Neighbourhood which Is from their latest album Concrete and Gold. The singalong during My Hero was perfectly entertaining from our new vantage point. Not long after there was the inevitable drum solo. Taylor Hawkins is pretty much the human equivalent of Animal from the Muppets so it didn’t come off as incredibly cheesy but the majority of drum solos do showcase a solid level of talent. A particular section introducing the band members was really entertaining. Taylor sang Queen’s Under Pressure but the highlight had to be the Imagine/Jump mash-up. Picture the arrangement of John Lennon’s Imagine with the lyrics to Van Halen’s Jump. I couldn’t do it simply reading that line but the Foo Fighters put those puzzle pieces with perfect execution. It was musically geeky and comedic all at the same time. The rest of the show featured a few more heavy hitters like Monkey Wrench and Best Of You and shortly followed with Dirty Water from the new album. They came out for the encore and never let up, in fact one could suggest they went for it even harder and it would be hard to argue against that point. There were a couple of shout outs to Alanis Morrisette because Taylor Hawkins used to be the drummer in her band. Apparently she introduced him to Dave Grohl. You Outta Know offered a quick hello at the start of the encore followed by Big Me, Times Like These and finally Everlong. Just about as perfect as an encore one can envision. Photos Courtesy of Mark Horton and Ottawa Bluesfest Friday the 13th was the final pick of the 3 day pass and expectations were sky high. Sturgill Simpson on the City Stage followed by Beck. We got there really early again thanks to our Foo experience but this was vastly different. It felt like no one was there. You could go anywhere, order anything and be in the bathroom in a second. That’s what I always loved about Bluesfest so it was nice to feel like a return home. Having said that, it’s amazing so many people opted out of the music from this night because they opted out of a fantastic experience. The last time seeing Sturgill was during his Grammy winning Sailors Guide To Earth album tour. He had horns backing him as well as this insane lead guitar player named Laur Joamets and we wondered which band we would be seeing. Turns out it was the bass, drum and keyboard core of that band. For a brief moment I was disappointed but then a friend turned and said "Sturgill can rip it on guitar". Sure enough, that boy can play. He tore his country songs to shreds but they were no longer country. This was "the Allman Brothers minus one guitar player" as Todd put it. Strugill approaches his live songs much like Bob Dylan. If you think you only know it in one key then get ready. They will change the key and change the tempo to the point you might not know what song it is until they hit the chorus. He was destroying his Tele whenever that was in his hands and was easily the best guitar player I witnessed at Bluesfest. It’s simple to label him as a Waylon Jennings clone when you hear him sing but that is a disservice. Most of the songs came from A Sailor’s Guide To Earth and Metamodern Sounds In Country Music but there were at least a couple of songs that I had no idea whether he wrote them or covered them.   Photos Courtesy of Mark Horton and Ottawa Bluesfest Everyone enjoyed Sturgill’s set so the break was welcomed as folks discussed what had just happened while feeling excited to see Beck. We all grew up on his music and the vast majority were finally seeing him live for the first time. What was it going to sound like? That was a predominate idea but when Beck finally took the stage and opened with Devil’s Haircut the City Stage turned everything into an old school dance party. Loser followed and bodily streams started flowing perfectly, complete with a mini sing-a-long. Que Onda Guero was up next and that’s the moment when it became obvious the bass player in this band was the real deal. His tone was perfectly aligned with our favorite bass players on this website, Phil Lesh and Mike Gordon. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he played a Modulus because he was throwing fastballs with his piece of wood while also creating an earthquake. The acoustic interlude dulled a few people who wanted the dance party to keep going but it gave others a chance to catch their breath. "Beck clearly went to Prince University" so when he dropped Raspberry Beret on the crowd, complete with a glowing purple light showcase, everything was lining up and shit got lit. The rest of the set was unfamiliar to our crew but no less harmonious. Make no mistake this was a really quick set with regards to time. I think it was no longer than an hour and a half. Where It’s At brought the dancers back in full force and then segued into a band introduction. During this medley we were privy to Miss You by the Rolling Stones, Cars by Gary Numan, Once In A Lifetime by the Talking Heads and In The Air tonight by Phil Collins along with at least 1 or 2 that are forgotten. Where It’s At came back around to complete the circle.  Bluesfest was positively tremendous this year with one of the best lineups they have offered in quite some time. Local food vendors, plenty of amenities and a bevy of conscientious music lovers helped take things over the top. Experience has formed their logistical thinking and I look forward to seeing what next summer, and beyond ,has to offer.
  2. Dave Matthews Band Photos Courtesy of Mark Horton and Ottawa Bluesfest When you combine perfect weather, sunny sky that transitions through the golden hour to a clear starry night, a legendary band that knows how to play to a live audience, and the fact that size of the crowd was enough to prove success, but not Foo Fighter sized crowd that leads to massive lineups and congestion, you end up with the ultimate conditions for an incredible night at Ottawa Bluesfest. With Dave Matthews Band headlining, the attendance was certainly large, but it wasn't difficult to find a decent spot to enjoy the show with little effort. Those that would have arrived hours early, could definitely enjoy the sweet spot in front of the stage, but that takes some serious dedication. Cheers to those that can pull that off! This year's festival offered another iteration of the layout with only 3 stages between which to hop. They are far enough away from each other that sound bleeding is probably not much of an issue this year. The Claridge Homes stage is a tent on the west lawn, sharing the area with many vendors, boasting a carnival atmosphere, including a ferris wheel. The Blacksheep stage is once again on the north side of the Canadian War Museum, with other attractions along the route from the Claridge stage. The City Stage, which hosts the main headliners, is found on the south side of the museum in the main bowl. The layout flows really well, and if you're wearing an activity tracker, you are guaranteed get alot of activity points and steps by exploring all of the stages. The Dave Matthews Band appeared right on time at 8:30 and blasted through two and a half hours of non-stop jamming, aside from a 3 minute break before their 20 minute monster closer. Grabbing a refreshment or taking a nature break part-way through the super set was surprisingly easy. Walking anywhere at a show like this usually offers plenty of opportunities to magically run into old friends in a sea of people, which always adds to the experience. Despite having little knowledge of DMB song names, it was no true shocker to recognize 70% of the material yet hearing covers like Sledgehammer (Peter Gabriel), or Sexy MF (Prince) at the tail end of Jimi Thing was unexpected for someone who pays little attention to the DMB universe. Watching Dave display a crazy amount of energy for the entire show keeps the attention and admiration of talent strong. Dave's lineup of crazy skilled musicians, including some powerful horns also helps develop a powerful awe, like witnessing an event that rarely appears in Ottawa. His last appearance in Ottawa took place in 2002 at the Canadian Tire Centre Corel Centre, yet after the show people swore that they heard Dave announce that was last here 10 years ago. Need a fact check. Having exhausted the time limits of the evening, one would think that there wouldn't be much energy left but damn, it seemed they hit the nitro boost to finish off the encore with Rapunzal. This is one of those arrangements that break the space time continuum that confuse nearly every dancer's feet, shifting time signatures throughout. Dave took to the wings of the stage to make sure everyone felt included. The response was so great, it's a wonder he doesn't do more of that during his show. After this curtain call, the festival lights were cued for a very smooth exit of everyone who made the effort to stick around and enjoy an evening with Dave Matthews. Ottawa Bluesfest did a great job putting this one together, and they were also blessed with one of the best nights of weather all summer, so far. Where you there? Please share more details in the comments.
  3. One-day Pre-sale starts Thursday, February 15 at 10 am note - tiered pricing is time-sensitive - U19 Wristband $109 $129 $159 - U25 Wristband $129 $149 $169 - Adult Full Festival Pass $209 $229 $249 - Acura VIP Club Full Festival Pass $605 $625 Full lineup and by-day schedule at ottawabluesfest.ca
  4. ....... It’s only rock and roll. I keep saying this over and over again. I’m guilty of talking about Tom Petty these last few weeks, to the point where I know I’m annoying people. I just can’t place where Tom Petty fits in. Originally the Heartbreakers were lumped into the New Wave sound of the late 1970’s. But like the O.J.’s glove, this didn’t fit. The late 1970’s brought the introduction of a paradigm shift in music. Sure, initially there were some similarities to the brash stylings of Elvis Costello, and Joe Jackson. Extremely tight song writing along with the energy and anger of youth. But the Heartbreakers were no Clash, or Ramones, or Talking heads for that matter. After 1979’s Damn the Torpedoes album dropped, they began their accent to rock royalty. They were, for all intents and purposes, a rock and roll band in an era where rock and roll bands were largely shunned. The self indulgent bloated arena rock of he time (think Boston, Eagles, Journey etc.) was being squashed by the new energy and anger of the DIY, in your face, take no prisoner approach of the new wave, and punk ethos. The rise of Bruce Springsteen and John Cougar got off the ground just before Tom Petty hit the road. There wasn’t a lot of room or interest in straight ahead rock and roll, it was more guts and glory, or art kids making noise. Tom Petty and the Heart breakers are a band out of time. They are at once in the musical time period, but not of that time period. Tom Petty has some how managed to be a relatively straight ahead rock band through four decades where a straight ahead rock band didn’t fit. Sure, in retrospect he is a great American troubadour, writing a body of work that touches on the great American experience, alongside heartland song writers of our time. You can drop Tom Petty along side the Americana and Heartland writing of Bruce Springsteen, and John Cougar Mellencamp. His association and friendship with Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Eddie Veddar and Jeff Lynn don’t hurt either. Tom Petty Photo: Mark Horton - courtesy of Ottawa Bluesfest I was a kid of 12 years old when I discovered a tape cassette of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers stuffed between the seat cushions of my Dad’s 1950’s diner. Of course as I wiped the table down with a dirty rag and cleared the table off for the next customer, I simply tossed the black encased cassette into the lost and found and went along my way. Weeks later, I saw that same cassette was still in the lost and found. I took it home. I didn’t know who Tom Petty was, except for the single on the jukebox, “Refugee”. Damn the Torpedoes exploded into my headphones. What a glorious sonic rock record. At this point, at 12 years old, I was just starting to navigate the world of music. Having been punished by the Disco era, I instinctively knew that what most people listened too was probably best to avoid. I listened to this tape over and over. I felt guilty that I liked it. After all, I had the Clash on my turntable, I wasn’t suppose to be supporting straight up rock music. Tom Petty became a guilty pleasure, and to this day I will pull out my best in car driving karaoke voice, and sing it like no one is “looking”. Damn the Torpedoes became a benchmark album for me, but one I never would admit to. That “lost” cassette became highly informative for me, and lead me to some of my great undying loves of music, especially the likes of Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, and Bob Dylan. Now, Bob Dylan has always been a light in the darkness for me. In 1986, I jumped at the chance to see a double (triple?) bill of the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. This would be the first time for all three. But not the last. Tom Petty was on the back burner for me by then. Dylan was the main reason me and my brother were going to Buffalo, N.Y. on that sunny July 4th. The show was transformative. I would go on to see the Grateful Dead 77 more times, and Dylan about 30 or so times… Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers I would see only once more, again in the 1980’s, well before Tom Petty delved more into a solo recording act (always with some form of the Heartbreakers in the mix). As it turned out, the highlight that day was not the Grateful Dead, as their playing was strained, and tellingly, shortly after this show, Jerry Garcia slipped into a diabetic coma. However, Dylan was on fire. The show was structured with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers opening, (with a really great acoustic set in the middle). My first Dylan show was a barn burner. Never since have I seen Dylan with such rock and roll force. The Heartbreakers were clearly alive and on fire. A perfect foil. Even to my young ears, I could hear the pushing towards the “edge of the cliff” playing. Dylan was notorious for calling out songs at the last minute on stage, and sometimes including songs that were never rehearsed at all. This kept the band and the fans on the edge of their seats. It was palpable. A risk and reward scenario that has had me coming back for more for ever since. I was smitten. Tom Petty Photo: Mark Horton - courtesy of Ottawa Bluesfest But what about Petty? To me the three Jimmy Iovine produced records define the Heartbreakers sound. “You’re Gonna Get It! (1978), “Damn the Torpedoes" (1979) and “Hard Promises” (1981), are the high water mark for the band working as a tight unit of indivisible friends clawing their way out of Gainesville, Florida. They battled against the record company of the time, ABC records, which almost resulted in their third album not seeing the light of day. After this contractual dispute, Tom Petty dug his heels in again, rallying against the vinyl price increase that was to be attached to his forth record Hard Promises. Tom Petty’s integrity came out on top. Holding fast and sure of himself is an ongoing theme in Tom Petty’s life. A rare bird in the recording industry. The trials and tribulations of the recording industry were best focused on the 2002 record “The Last DJ”. Here Tom Petty takes a final knock out punch to the rapidly changing music industry and leaves it to bare. The idea that a group of musicians would band together and push through the world as a united force for the next 40 years seem ludicrous to today’s young artist’s. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were partially lucky, but extremely talented bunch of song writers. Always managing to catch the zeitgeist of the times, but never being swallowed up by it. The video era of the 1980’s have a ton of innovative MTV friendly videos by Tom Petty. But they were not seen as a video band, come Duran Duran, or something. They had radio friendly single after single, but were never reduced to a one off, “listen to me now, forget me later” act. Tom Petty was able to branch off to various side projects, like the , Johnny Cash, or duets with (Fleetwood Mac), with out losing the Heartbreakers in the process. Sure later, the production style of Jeff Lynn changed how the band wrote and recorded (less off the floor, and more divide and conquer, recording the tracks separately, with over dubs). But the band remained in tact. There were a couple of personnel shifts, most notably the back and forth bass player switch of Ron Blair and Howie Epstein (RIP), and the drumming change of founding member Stan Lynch to Steve Ferrone. But over 40 years the core of the band is in tact, and has benefited greatly from this longevity. So, here 40 years after the start, and 30 years after they last played in Ottawa, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers return to the Ottawa Blues Festival. Remember that integrity that I mentioned before? Well I saw very little of that last night on the Lebreton Flats. What I saw was more of a sham than some grande definable moment in a notable career. His set list has been the same since April 2017, the in-between banter has been the same as well. There was no spontaneity or even earnestness in the show. Tom Petty Photo: Mark Horton - courtesy of Ottawa Bluesfest He mailed it in. Don’t believe me? For the actual review of the show, you can google any review from the tour, and swap out the city name. Remember that great line about "Tonight we are gonna look at the last 40 years like it's one side of a big record, and drop the needle all over it” - (Tom Petty) …. makes you think that he is going to pick some songs out of the air, and rock them just for you…. not so much when every night of the tour has had the same setlist in the same order. No variation at all. O.K., you say, this is a big show, with lots of lighting cues, and video edits that have to be hit. I say, that’s fine, if you are Pink, or Lady Gaga and are putting on a grand spectacle, but this is stripped down rock and roll. His stage set up was basic. For those who may have noticed, the stage design was basically a (Identical rigging, just different shaped lights). Not even that was inspired. I guess both bands are shopping in the, “I use to be creatively inspired” store. In fact, those glowing orbs looked just plain stupid. Oh my, a shinny glowing light that moves up and down. Impressive. In the end I would say the production values of this show was as bland as the performance. Yes, I said it. Bland. All those mid set mid tempo songs from his solo records, and the “it’s your turn to sing-along” parts. I don’t need every one around me to sing along with “Mitch”, and I don’t need the performer to tell them to sing-a-long. I love when there is a spontaneous moment where the crowd takes over, but to be directed by the performer is a cheap ploy… almost as bad as “How’s every body doing tonight!! It’s great to be in ________(insert town here)”. Formula to boredom. Still don’t believe me that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers mailed it in? Remember Tom Petty remarking on all that “mojo” that was building last night. Well it must have been left over from Toronto, because he said the exact same thing there, in the exact same place in the set (between Rockin’ Around and Mary Jane). Remember the band intro’s? Well, that was a quote for quote repeat also. “one of rock and roll greatest guitarist”, and “we were going to be in a band together… forever, man!”, could be slotted into any performance of the tour as well. Oh yeah, remember that cool cat like move when he jumped back from the mic, with claws extended. So smooth, right. Well I would hope so, as he does that every single show. 137 million people at Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Ottawa Bluesfest 07-16-2017 Photo: Steve Gerecke - courtesy of Ottawa Bluesfest But the music was great, right!? I’m, not so sure many people were even listening. However, I am certain that most people weren’t listening very closely. The Ottawa Bluesfest was overrun with people in the main bowl. The crowd stretched from incredibly cramped quarters upfront to fairly cramped quarters all the way in the back. It was near impossible to move around the field. I was tucked up front for the start of the show. I lasted the first three songs. What was the point of being “sardines in a can”, with sweaty smelly testosterone driven energy every where around me.? Some guy rabbit punched me in the kidney’s as I tried to leave. I guess he thought I was making a move on the two inches of space that he claimed as his own. And just for clarity, i thought it was a little girl punching me, as his punch had the strength of a aging kangaroo, minus the tail. It appeared that a lot of the audience was there for the party, and to check this legend off on their “I have seen ‘em”, list. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that people are actually going out and supporting live music, and I think you should do just about whatever you like at a show, but I prefer an audience that actually “listens”, as opposed to just making the scene. Once i gave up the front of stage spot, and knowing all that the mid set lull was just around the corner, I felt better. The sound was pretty sweet as you got to the sound board, and again after the second stack of video screens and P.A. system. There was a little more room and decent sound. The Bluesfest had done a great job getting people in, and keeping them safe and secure. They even set up an auxiliary screen just outside the field on the Museum road. Great idea! A place to move and hangout, with pretty good sound. This is where I spent the last part of the show. With the god awful trio of Wildflowers material finishing, I was thankful that the Full Moon Fever and Damn the Torpedoes songs were coming up. The hopes for some good guitar interplay, and higher energy classic rock were mildly fulfilled. It certainly wasn’t the Heartbreakers from the 80’s. They did step it up, and tried to drive the show home, peaking with Refugee and rollicking Running Down a Dream. This band can play. BUT, they just didn’t seem invested. They just seemed to be giving a cross section of their radio friendly fair. No context, no sense of a career defining exhibition of their stellar body of work. Going through the motions to a large degree. Tom Petty, who has been a guiding example of integrity through out his career is pulling the wool over our eyes. In my estimate they mailed this whole tour in. Let’s hope his 50th tour finds more depth and creativity. After all, it’s only rock and roll. Setlist 07-16-2017 Song Album Rockin Around (With You) Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers Mary Jane's Last Dance The Live Anthology (Live)/ Greatest Hits You Don't Know How It Feels Wildflowers Forgotten Man Hypnotic Eye You Got Lucky Long After Dark I Won't Back Down Full Moon Fever Free Fallin' Full Moon Fever Walls “She’s the One”, soundtrack Don't Come Around Here No More Southern Accents It's Good to Be King Wildflowers Crawling Back to You Wildflowers Wildflowers Wildflowers Learning to Fly Into the Great Wide Open Yer So Bad Full Moon Fever I Should Have Known It Mojo Refugee Damn the Torpedoes Runnin' Down a Dream Full Moon Fever Encore You Wreck Me Wildflowers American Girl Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Also some links to reviews to check out….any of them will give you an accurate review of the Ottawa show. Ottawa Citizen Review Atlanta Review Toronto Review St. Louis Review Red Rocks Review
  6. 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.
  7. Childish Gambino - Photo: Mike Bouchard More Photos By: Jay McConnery Photos: Mike Bouchard As the sun set on the final weekend of the 20th Anniversary Bluesfest blowout, and I considered the uncomfortable implications of Collective Soul’s suggestive anthem “ ,” endless mutating reflections and highlights bounced around my head like dried maize spinning in a hot kettle; a tired, disgusting old kettle, with growing cracks and tell-tale signs of irreversible scorching. Although, in principle, still functional. Thankfully, some of these aforementioned kernels were able to reach the required temperature to explode into realized ideas and mature into the seasoned, salty sweet nuggets we are able to enjoy together here. Others, of course, remain in undeveloped stasis, slipping forgotten between cracks of the fold out floor, into the flattened Bluesfest turf, where they will wait to be devoured by next spring’s flock of Canadian Geese. I think a few nuggets may also be only partially popped. To say, pulling together a final festival weekend wrap-up is a daunting, difficult task- especially sitting at my desk on Monday morning, considering the sheer number of artists and experiences that must be recalled - but even more so, synthesizing the successes and challenges of the festival brand into a delicious stick-worthy bag of throat clogging kettle corn delight. Anyway, I volunteered for this, so let’s get down to it. Friday began with a sun-soaked throwback, as an ocean of black shirts sang through Guns’n’Roses classics as led by the dextrous fret-work of the iconic Slash and his band, the Conspirators. Tending towards Quebecois, tattooed, and heavily bronzed, the audience suspended (some) reality to be all at once transported to a simpler time- 1990. Visions of hedonistic hairspray danced across the mind’s eye as security hosed down the overheating pit crowd in a scene reminiscent of rock videos from times gone by. Myles Kennedy did a great job as a different kind of mild-mannered Axl, and it was pretty hard to deny the fun atmosphere during their short set, which got double check marks as a cover band, and nostalgia act. Overall, I would say Slash’s volume could’ve been boosted a little during the raging solo portion of but it’s silly to complain now. Over on the Blacksheep Stage, Yung Lean created a futuristic and confusing digital soundscape with his twitching pubescent fingertips. His music is in large part a collage of bloops and bleeps, assembled in homage to his favourite video game effects and soundtracks. An interesting niche, I’d say. The sizeable audience seemed split between reverence and disdain for the young Swede’s creativity, likely clearly distinguished by those who shared his nostalgia for this particular vintage of games and sounds. I zipped back through the War Museum to check out . And it should definitely be noted that this inter-stage scuttling has been made exceptionally easy this year- specifically, by including the inside of the Museum as part of the official festival grounds. Additionally, by changing the festival layout to avoid bottleneck zones which plagued the last few years. It’s a huge improvement as far as crowd experience. Now if only they could have a small bike park and entrance at the west end. San Francisco’s Third Eye Blind followed on the Claridge Stage. They confessed to having joined the Big Shiny Bluesfest line-up as a one off, and as a result sounded a little under rehearsed. TEB was a huge hit machine in the late 90s and their following appears intact, as the crowd was vast and quick to forgive the band’s lack of polish, shouting out the familiar choruses and willingly gobbling up front man Jenkins’ stomach churning diatribe. I thought the performance improved over the course of the set, and was embarrassingly disappointed to have missed meth-anthem ‘Semi-Charmed Kinda Life,’ while checking out the odd smooth blues of Joe Nemeth, doo doo d’oh. The evening’s headline spot was split between the Barenaked Ladies on the Bell Stage and the phenomenal July Talk on the River Stage. The Steven Page-less BNL dismantled their huge audience with seasoned showmanship, impressively running through a catalogue that many of us know and love. It may not be my thing at the moment- but everyone’s had a soft spot for these sweethearts at some point, hell, I was even thinking of wearing my oversized ‘Gordon’ shirt to the gig. Interestingly, BNL were one of several main stage acts that felt it necessary to cover (in their case, in the form of song and dance medley) other current top 40 hits and/or artists. This tendency was a subject of discussion among festival pass holders, as it occurred during 5 separate headline sets on the same stage, including Snoop. Is it an exercise in cross-branding, a jab at how much other popular music sucks, or perhaps just a ‘thing’ I am unaware of? July Talk - photo: Mike Bouchard Instead, I spent the balance of time checking out July Talk. This was one of the most entertaining shows I witnessed at Bluesfest, as the band rocked a at Springsteen energy levels, with the captivating sexual sparring of the male/female vocalists guiding the audience’s attention through the performance. The aggressive raspy vocals of Peter Dreimanis blended with the playful, sensual timbre of Leah Fay’s voice in some kind of perfectly unpredictable saucy ‘mixture,’ and their exaggerated interaction complimented it perfectly. The tension is actually quite riveting- as they compete and outdo each other for the audience’s attention. The musicians walk a tightrope with extreme dynamics, accompanying audience participation and physical theatrics- and managed to impressively maintain the musicality throughout. Without doubt this band is destined for bigger audiences, and I’m sure the right song could see them on a main stage in no time. Saturday’s most discussed day sets were from Mr. Olsen-twin himself, Bob Saget, and the porta-potty rapping antics of Action Bronson. Work engagements forced me to miss the measure of the day, but I arrived in time to catch a taste of the ‘Nostalghia,’ who were by sake of name alone, an obvious shoe-in for this year’s festival. Then I checked out the latter half of Childish Gambino and made a quick visit to Thornetta Davis, struggling to connect to something musically as the growing legion of Snoop Dogg fans permeated the site with hormone-heavy energy. I did catch a few of my favourite Snoop cuts, but really, it’s just the same as it ever was- and I guess I’m less high. I felt perhaps I had hit my Bluesfest threshold as I was cussed out for shuffling through a group of Barhaaven hustlaz, when I stumbled upon the Mavericks on the River Stage. The Tex-Mex Spanish Americana vibe has been otherwise absent at this year’s festival, and it was a real treat to enjoy something you might not normally hear on the radio, The Mavericks. It was also wonderful to escape the teeming masses, which I’m increasingly reminded are not for me, especially if you are not traveling with the herd. Like the mutant neon-green Bluesfest ‘official’ swamp bugs that adhere to audience members’ hair and skin, the sticky gumbo of acoustic and brass instrumentation peppered with percussion and commanding vocals,(Raul Malo), latched onto my heart like a July May-fly. It also reminded me of the festival’s former tendency to highlight Latin Jazz, Cuban and African world music extensively, which I feel is another unfortunate trend in the festival’s programming. Their music felt like a northern cousin to the Gipsy Kings, and had the moderate audience smiling widely. From this set, I enjoyed the weirdo pirate rock of Dr. Hook featuring the eye-patch wearing Roy Sawyer, on the Black Sheep stage. Sawyer is not much of a singer, or performer, anymore- but it doesn’t matter. His band buttressed his performance with strong vocals, and enthusiastic delivery- and he is such a character with his baton and perpetually burning cigarette. The audience singalong of “Cover of the Rolling Stone” is one I’ll not soon forget. Nor will I forget the beautiful parkway bike ride east, underneath Parliament, and along the locks and canal to a friend’s place afterwards- what a beautiful city we have. Sunday couldn’t start and end soon enough for me, as physical exhaustion was beginning to take hold of my psyche. As a younger man, I was happy to spend the 11 days of Bluesfest burning the midnight oil- waltzing without problem through work and festie life . Now, I’ve found it must be managed more like a careful marathon. You need to sleep, eat well, exercise – in balance with festival attendance, otherwise, well, these reviews would be even grumpier. I arrived late Sunday afternoon in time to bounce between a couple of shows of interest. On the Black Sheep stage- I checked out the ‘Be In the Band, Instructors Showcase’ which featured a number of noteworthy local players and dedicated music teachers running through a well prepared set of covers. Watching the 5 guitar assault on ‘Whipping Post’ and ‘Rocking in the Free World’ was truly awesome, especially in that the players were on par with most others I had seen over the course of the festival, and in many ways the heart of Ottawa’s expanding community of musicians. I split my time with The Darcys over on the River Stage, who were an awesome treat. I undersood them to be a band who is dedicated to studio magic and execution, but the Darcys also very much deliver live. Their songs are slightly elusive, but soon hook you with great breaks, arrangements and a complex wall of sound approach in their instrumental climaxes which were no less than epic. They also performed some of their innovative adaptation of Steely Dan’s ‘Aja’ - most stirringly, a loving and respectful take on ‘Home at Last.’ I thought their grooves were deliberate and original- much like their onstage energy: definitely a band to check out. I followed the increasing humidity over to Moist, performing on the Bell Stage. It was interesting to see how well the band has aged. After things dried up a bit, we galloped over to see a bit of USS on River Stage, an odd trio of drummer, acoustic rhythm guitar and samples/dj/mc/hype-man who attacked their performance with an unmatched energy and intensity. They had a huge enthusiastic crowd, many donning their fashionable swag- and they didn’t disappoint, especially during their anticipated song ‘ ,’ which has often been heard on popular radio. There were several cartwheels, crowdsurfing, and I think a back flip- pretty impressive for a dude who looks to be about 35. The Sam Roberts Band followed on the Claridge Stage drawing an impressive crowd with the their modern classic Can-Rock. The band is made up of solid players, who take their show and performance seriously- and engage the audience frequently and respectfully. Not having a sense of their music previously, I did fall a little in love at the Wolfe Island festival a couple years back, and again really enjoyed their slightly tripped out groove rock again this day. They are probably one of the better charting bands in the country right now, and the addition of a sax player definitely upped the ante. And then Collective Soul- who opened with two originals, but quickly addressed the concerned faces in the audience by promising the rest of the set would be ‘the old stuff’. A perfect familiar and non-threatening set to cap off the Bluesfest weekend. It’s crazy how many I recognize, and how few of their lyrics I’ve bothered to learn. Uh huh, Yeah. Goddo and Elvin Bishop closed the other stages, but tired and blind with thickening eye crust, I hopped on my bike and bid Bluesfest adieu for another year. The festival is clearly a different beast than the one I got to know about 15 years ago. Unlike the whimsical mystery of new and undiscovered talent the lineup once provided, It is now programmed for maximum turnout, maximum efficiency, and maximum profit. A festival which has something for everyone, not just self-righteous music afficiandos (like me), but really everyone. It’s huge and teeming, and spectacular. It has increasingly re-written itself in recognition of culture trends, becoming one of the 10 biggest and most successful festivals in the world. It seems like everyone has got something to sell at Bluesfest- and if I was more of a venture capitalist, I might try out my concession ideas next year: Sugar Rope, or Irish Popsicles. Anyway, its rare an opportunity comes to crush success within the context of the arts, and function as a self- sufficient non-profit which donates extensively to important programs in Ottawa. I applaud Mr Monahan and his team, and thank him for considering the tastes of me and people like me when putting together the new and improved Folk Fest. Thanks for reading.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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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