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Ottawa Bluesfest


Stardate 070508

Live Music Review

Review By: Velvet


Zappa Plays Zappa

Try as I might I just couldn’t get to the fest in time for Dave Bidini’s book reading, and I’m sure I’m a lesser man for it. I stealthed in some beers this time around and avoided any and all bag searches for my efforts. I found some friends and some shade while Justin Rutledge finished up his set.

As I sit here typing and drinking Harper has started their set just over the knoll on the Roots Stage. I’m gonna enjoy it from here until the next act starts up on Blacksheep. The shade is just too valuable on a day like this. This is my first time hearing Harper, and my initial reaction is to compare them to Blues Traveler, except with didgeridoo. Oh waitaminnit, there’s some harmonica. Yep, comparison still valid. These guys are rockin’ it Aussie style. Excellent music for a scorching afternoon. I guess Harper is this years’ replacement for Xavier Rudd, and a refreshing change it is.

Eventually NQ Arbuckle started his set and I was getting him in one ear and Harper in the other. I enjoyed the aural dichotomy for a bit but was eventually drawn to the wit emanating from Arbuckle at the Blacksheep. Twangy and soulful and reminiscent of Fred Eaglesmith, he’s another example of the insightful programming endemic to Paul Symes’ Blacksheep Stage.

Though loosely labeled as “Newgrass,” the Krueger Brothers keep it as trad as they can, being from that non-heartland of twang, Switzerland. These guys are the real deal though, top-notch guitar and banjo playing over songs that harken to Bela Fleck-style bluegrass while retaining that all-American style they’ve manage to cop so well under the sweltering sun at the Roots Stage.

Ultimately I forsook the eurograss for Bluesfest regular Luke Doucet. Not surprisingly, his well-attended set consisted of one clever song after another, each a mini-anthem of honest-sounding Canadiana. He brought out his daughter again this year, this time for Dolly Parton’s Jolene, the crowd ate it up and it was beautiful.

Over at the River Stage Adrian Belew let his Parker fly with what can be best described as trigonometry-rock. He and his two band-mates played a bunch of hexagons and rhombus and I can’t believe I managed to tear myself away from it for Lucinda Williams.

But I did.

I got turned on to this woman years ago. She has a singular quality about her; she sounds a bit like she looks – stunningly beautiful, but with lots of hard miles. The beauty is the part that shines through though, and as I sit her listening to Right In Time from her album Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, it’s shaping up to be the perfect set to watch the sunset to.

What am I gonna do next though, as Zappa Plays Zappa dukes it out against Steely Dan?

Well, as it turns out, if I leave Lucinda a bit early I can catch the beginning of the Zappa thing. We’ll see how long they can keep me from Steely Dan.

Not long, it turns out. Sure they were as good as I expected, and sure if it was a Zappa Plays Zappa show I woulda been happy to stick around and get my mind blown, but it’s Bluesfest, the Festival Of Sacrifice.

Got a beer and a spot and reveled in the slick brilliance that is Steely Dan. After they got warmed up they started playing the “Oh yeah, that tune!” game with us and reminded the standing crowd just how many times they’ve cracked the top ten. By the time the encore rolled around they had managed to thoroughly entertain while steadfastly avoiding their biggest hits. No one could walk away disappointed, unless perhaps they’ve waited their whole life to hear the opening riff to Reelin’ In The Years on a gorgeous day at an outdoor venue and perhaps they’d seen Steely Dan before at Molson Amphitheatre and had been shut out from Reelin’ that time too. But I’m sure it’s pretty hard to find someone like that.

But if you did, they might have been wiping away a little tear as they tried to stand up straight enough to dupe the bike valets into thinking they were sober enough to handle a bike before they raced home at breakneck speeds and averted enough death to cry another day.

For the record, the bike valet thing is excellent. You don't need a lock, and I recommend getting a pink ticket. That line moves faster.

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The bike valet thing was incredible. They even had flashing lights for $5. Worth the valet and the lights. We zoomed home all safe and stuff.

I forgot my bike lock key, so it worked out even better than you would have planned.

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my blue line ticket had no wait at the end of the night, while the pink line had about 15 people!! luck of the draw.

keem the reviews coming. nice to come home to a through recap of the day. through someone else's eyes. which is weird.

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that's a nice shot of dweezil. i couldn't tell for sure from where we were standing, but i was pretty sure he was wearing a grin. always fun to see.

thanks again for the review todd! i feel your pain about reelin', although i didn't commit much time to steely dan i have to admit.

round 4 will soon be upon us, yahoo!

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