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Ottawa Bluesfest


Stardate 070608

Live Music Review

Review By: Velvet

Les Claypool Ottawa Bluesfest

Les Claypool of Primus

Photo by: Scott McGuigan

Another cloudless scorcher in the capital today had me sweating up a storm by the time I checked my bike into the lockup. The most cursory check of my bag failed to uncover the four cans of beer I’ve smuggled in so I headed straight to the Roots Stage to catch what I could of That 1 Guy.

To be fair, it’s actually That 1 Guy and a sequencer or two and a virtual junkyard of hardware. The man culled the most outrageous sounds from a myriad of tools including saws, metal tubes; all the bells and whistles to be sure. He wowed us with a bucksaw version of Over The Rainbow and closed with a Black Sabbath influenced metal tirade that morphed into a campy jazz vamp. Novelty, sure, but damn entertaining novelty.

After a brief respite in a patch of shade I went to check out Lest Breastfeeders. I didn’t get closer than 200 metres when I realized these guys weren’t for me so I headed over to the River Stage for today’s performance by Harper. More political Aussie rock on another sweltering day.

For a little changeup I decided to give Infected Mushrooms a listen. I wasn’t expecting much given the utter unimaginative moniker they came up with for themselves, but my mind was open. They started with wailing Malmsteenesque technical prowess but they soon degenerated to a steady aggressive BPM that would keep the crowd moving. The wash of sound underlain with a steady wumpwumpwump wasn’t enough to hold my attention so I begged off for my favourite mainstay, the Blacksheep Stage, where Chuck Prophet is keeping it lively with his take on straight-up rock & roll.

Finally it was time for Snoop. Taking the stage to the music of Mozart’s Requiem Huggie Bear motherfucked his way from one crowd pleaser to another, all the while asking us incriminating questions about our collective drug habits. Either he makes it look easy or he’s not doing much of anything, I’m not sure, but I was damn entertained. Good band behind him as he led a constant R-rated version of Simon Says; sometime we were to swing our arms this way, sometimes we were to swing our arms that way, but swing them we did, and before you know it Captain Bling was off to his ho’s and his dressing room, likely to smoke some more weeeeed.

Found a good spot for Primus and watched as they presented what was for me the set of the fest so far. They are just an incredibly exciting and unique trio, serving up their own brand of Hallowe’en rock, led by just the best damn bass player we’ll see in a while. It’s amazing how well studied Les Claypool obviously is on the bass, and yet he betrays no influence whatsoever. It’s like he is emanating nobody, while channeling everyone. A spectacular set that had the crowd surfers out in full force. My name is mud.

For the closer this evening I faced my biggest decision so far. I decided on an in-and-out mission and dropped by the River Stage for my first Johnny Winter experience. I gave him a couple of songs and though he was good the only surprise was that he was sitting down. I decided to try out the Roots Stage for The Wailers.

I suspect the rest of the fest will go by without having another crowd like that at the relatively tiny Roots Stage. There must have been 6,000 people there, no kidding. It was all I could do to get within sporadic viewing range before I decided to bail and hear what Widespread Panic had to offer.

I had never seen them before and I have been thus unconvertible as a fan, but I and about 1,200 other people were treated to a jammin’ good show. Jimmy Herring was on fire as is his standard, and he brought the energy level of the band to several peaks that approached the ephemeral. He is such a fine musician he can’t help but add some fire to whatever outfit he joins, and Widespread seemed no exception. The audience showed the Bluesfest’s first blatant error – these guys shoulda been on the Roots Stage with The Wailers on the main stage, but frankly I didn’t see it coming out this way either.

In the end it was a killer opening weekend, and only a steady stream of Molson kept me going. I got staggeringly drunk both nights, all in the name of journalism, and had a great time. After the stamina challenge of the weekend, the week should be a breeze. We’ll see.

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