• #RBCBluesfest Thoughts #Ottawa

    Going into this years Bluesfest, I was a little disappointed in the lineup. To be honest, there were only five bands I was really excited about – Beth Hart, Gary Clark Jr, JJ Grey, Matt Anderson and Blondie.  Looking back though, I also really enjoyed seeing bands including Don Felder, Styx, Foreigner, Procol Harum with the NAC Orchestra, No BS Brass Band, Selwyn Birchwood Band,  Shane Dwight,John Mayall,  Thornetta Davis,  Sugar Ray and the Bluetones, Darrell Nulisch, Sam Roberts Band and many others.  Given the fact that I was there for 8 out of 10 days and had a great time each day, I will have to admit that the was indeed something for everyone on each and every day and that there are still a lot of blues at Bluesfest (I even missed some acts due to overlapping schedules).  8 days of great music, 27 different bands, and six new CD’s.

    Some things that I thought worked well at this years event included the new entrance locations, closure of Vimy Place in front of the museum, inclusion of the museum as part of the festival grounds (no more bag searches every time you go to/from the museum for a show!), creation of the new plaza space, Pink (Womens) Portapoties, stage alignment and the Pop-up Bistro in the museum (good food, sit down meals, climate control).

    Suggestions for next year include better use of the new plaza space (food vendors, mist area since the road has good drainage), move the wristband scanners from the Blacksheep museum entrance where they had no purpose to the actual site entrance on Vimy Place and move the food vendors away from the side of the Claridge stage as it’s still way too crowded when big acts such as Blondie play this stage.

    Overall, it was a great festival, so kudos to Mark Monahan and the organizers for another great year! I’m already looking forward to the 21st edition of Bluesfest next year.

  • Day 10 #RBCBluesfest #Ottawa

    Despite the gloom and doom of the weather forecast, the day turned out to be perfect for a hot and sticky the end to this years edition of the Bluesfest.  My day started with a fantastic performance by the AJ Ghent Band from Atlanta.  If you love Tedeschi Trucks Band, you’ll like this one too.  A great mix of southern rock, blues, soul and funk all complimented by AJ’s unique way of playing his steel guitar.  This band is now on my watch list for future concerts and I sure hope they put out an album soon!

    Next up I managed to catch the last half of Billy Gibson‘s Blues act backed by the Chaffey Brothers current band The Split, the Texas Horns and JW Jones.  The combination of talents made for a great show.

    After that, I decided to take a dinner break inside the museum as I was totally unprepared for the hot sunny day (had dressed for rain/storms) and have been thinking about trying out the pop-up bistro ever since the festival started.  The inclusion of the Museum as part of the festival site has opened up a number of possibilities, and the bistro proved to be a great addition to the meal options.  The prices are on par with the other options, with the added bonus of eating in climate controlled comfort and excellent food as well.  I sure hope this is a new tradition that is carried forward to next year.

    From there, I caught the last half of the Be In the Band instructors showcase.  A great way for them to have fun and show us what they can do – 6 guitars, a drummer and keyboards and good talent made for a fun and entertaining set of rock cover tunes.

    After that, I saw Darrell Nulisch for some more Blues Harmonica aided by David Maxwell on keyboards and the Texas Horns.  A great end to some wonderful blues acts I’ve seen throughout the festival.

    The festival closer for me was the Sam Roberts Band who always put on a good party and this time was no different.  With a good sized crowd squeezed in front of the Claridge stage, we danced and sang along in celebration of a great performance and a glorious day.  A fitting end to my Festival Staycation indeed!

  • Day 9 #RBCBluesfest #Ottawa

    My second to last day at Bluesfest had perfect, hot sunny weather and a great lineup of music.  The day started with a set of hard driving blues from local band Wicked Grin (winners of the Ottawa Blues Society Road To Memphis Competition in 2013) with some help from the Texas Horns.  It’s great watching these guys perform as they seem to have so much fun on stage.

    Next up was The Iguanas who have an interesting mix of styles that are very heavily influenced by a Latin beat mixed in with a little Blues and a hint of Zydeco on a few songs. I very much enjoyed their set and was up dancing to every single tune.

    Next was a brief stop to find out what the Bluesfest Review was all about.  It turns out it was a jam session that included TJ Wheeler, David Maxwell, the Texas Horns and a number of other musicians.  The three songs I caught were fantastic as the young singer reminded me of the early days of hearing Nikky Yanofski.  I have no idea who she was, but I suspect she has a bright musical career ahead of her.

    I was back to the Blacksheep stage after that to see Sugar Ray and the Bluetones (including Monster Mike Welch on lead guitar).  They were a known quantity for me as I’ve seen both Sugar Ray and Monster Mike play at Bluesfest in the past.  An excellent set that had me on my feet dancing to the tunes.

    Up next on the stage was Little Freddie King and a great a great set of Delta Blues followed by Thornetta Davis’ Powerful Blues and soulful R&B sound.

    The closer of the night was Dr Hook Featuring Ray Sawyer. Going into the show, I really had no clue what to expect and hadn’t even recognized the name.  The large crowd at Blacksheep stage knew otherwise, and once he started banging out the tunes, I understood why.  I grew up with these songs and knew most of the words to the vast majority of them – especially The Cover of the Rolling Stone. While his voice has aged considerably over the years, the band still puts on a great show.

    Overall, it was a perfect hot sunny day for a festival made that much better with a fantastic lineup of the Blues.  Who could ask for anything better?

    For the final day of the festival, I plan to see AJ Ghent Band, part of the set by Billy Gibson, Darrell Nulisch and Sam Roberts Band.  I may even catch part of the headlining act, Collective Soul.

  • Featured ImageDay 7 #RBCBluesfest #Ottawa

    My, how quickly the days pass when you’re spending time in heaven. Another great day at Bluesfest yesterday with warm weather and a great lineup.

    First up for me was the local Blues band Firebelly, who represented the Ottawa Blues Society at the 2013 International Blues Challenge (the challenge that was won by Selwyn Birchwood who I saw earlier in the week).  As expected, they played a good opening set that kept the crowd moving to the beat.  I especially like it when Mathieu Gagnon gets fired up on the harmonica.

    Next was a special treat.  Procol Harum accompanied by the National Arts Centre Orchestra AND Lee Hayes’ Ottawa choir.  I can’t say I am a hard core Procol Harum fan, but I have always enjoyed listening to A Whiter Shade of Pale and Conquistador.  To hear these songs and other Procol Harum standards played by a band accompanied by a full orchestra and choir was an amazing once in a lifetime experience.  Kudos to Bluesfest for making this happen.

    After that, it was off to make my way through the packed crowd at the Claridge stage to see Blondie.  It’s hard to believe Debbie Harry is 69 years old already as her voice is still strong.  It was a real treat to see a great live performance from a band I grew up with – especially one with such a wide range and mix of styles that contain elements of Punk, Reggae, Pop and more that make up their trademark (and ground breaking) sound.

    The closer of the night for me was a step further back in time – John Mayall who released his first British Blues album 50 years ago and is still going strong.  Clearly the blues is still alive and well and the capacity crowd at the Blacksheep Stage proved that it is still very much in demand.  Backed by an excellent 3 piece band, John carried the lead vocals, keyboard, second guitar and, of course, the harmonica.  Last night, the “Godfather of British Blues” took us on a trip through the history of the Blues and left the crowd wanting more.  A great way to close out another amazing day at Bluesfest.

    I will be skipping today’s festival and gathering my energy for the closing weekend.  Highlights for me include Little Freddie King, Thornetta Davis and Dr Hook featuring Ray Sawyer on Saturday and Sam Roberts Band and Collective Soul on Sunday.

  • Day 6 #RBCBluesfest #Ottawa

    A much dryer day today and thankfully the grounds at Bluesfest recovered quickly from yesterdays rain.  I had a choice tonight between Blues and Jazz, acts I’ve seen before and ones I had not seen at all and the winners were the two acts I had not seen before – No BS Brass Band and Selwyn Birchwood.

    No BS Brass Band kicked off my evening with an upbeat Funk/Jazz/sometimes Hip Hop sound that only 11 horns and 1 drummer can pull off.  Mix a number of original compositions with well known covers of Thriller, Take On Me and Tom Sawyer (fan request) and you end up with a great sound that had the crowd dancing along with them.

    The closer of the night was the up and coming Selwyn Birchwood Band, winners of the 2013 International Blues Challenge.  You always hear where’s the Blues in Bluesfest, and tonight it was in the Theater with a high-energy performance that took us to the Juke Joint and back again. My only wish is that more people had come to see this great performance and proved that Ottawa really does want to see real Blues acts grace the stages of Bluesfest.

    Picks for tomorrow night include Firebelly (Ottawa Blues Band), Procol Harum & NAC Orchestra, Blondie and John Mayall.

  • Day 5 #RBCBluesfest #Ottawa

    The focus for Tuesday was Classic Rock and despite a torrential downpour at the start of the evening, the show went on (with a slightly delayed start and a lot of very wet fans).

    Up first was Styx and as I expected they pulled off a flashy and flawless performance.  Gowan continues to deliver as their lead singer and keyboard player and they all have a great stage presence.  I even appreciated Gowan’s mid-performance solo sing alongs to classic tunes as the rain let up and the double rainbow came out.  My one and only complaint about the performance was the use of the main video screens for effects instead of showing the band.  With all the umbrellas in the crowd, it was virtually impossible to find a decent location where I could actually see the stage and I wish they had taken that into account and used the big screens for what they’re meant to be used for.

    Next up, a quick shift over to River stage (which was turned into a mud pit as a result of the rain) to see Don Felder – former lead guitarist for the Eagles.  As expected the focus of the show was Eagles tunes and it was great to experience these in a much more intimate venue than the big arena.

    The closing headliner for the night was Foreigner.  This was the first time I’ve seen them perform and they did not disappoint.  It was great to see founding member/lead guitarist Mick Jones back in form and feeling the love from the audience as they sang along with almost every song.

    Overall, a great night of classic rock!  My choices for tonight are still undecided.  I’m torn between seeing Jazz on the River stage (No BS Brass Band followed by Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue) and Blues in the Theatre (David Maxwell & Friends followed by Selwyn Birchwood).  I’m sure they will all be great shows (I’ve seen David Maxwell play a number of times before and saw Trombone Shorty in 2012).  I guess I’ll let my mood and the weather decide when I arrive.

  • Day 3 #RBCBluesfest #Ottawa

    Saturday was a perfect hot sunny day for a festival and Bluesfest had a lineup to make for a great party.  Matt Anderson came back to Ottawa for the second time this year (the 5th time I’ve seen him in the past 4 years), and brought the 10 piece Mellotones band with him this time.  The addition of a full band provided much more depth to Matt’s performance.  Matt puts his heart and soul into every performance and it certainly came through loud and clear on Saturday.  Matt and the Mellotones certainly set the stage for a fantastic day at the festival.  Next up was the always great JJ Grey & Mofro and their southern flavoured hot sticky blues/soul/funk.  I’ve seen them play three times before and will gladly see them again the next time they are in town.  As expected, they did not disappoint!  Vintage Trouble closed out the night with their high energy 1960′s flavoured R&B act which had me dancing along with every song. This is the second time I’ve seen them and the Bluesfest venue was a perfect place for them to showcase their raw energy where they could connect with the crowd and get people up on their feet dancing to the music.

    I’ll be skipping Day 4 of the festival (need to rest after dancing all day in the hot sun yesterday) but will return to Bluesfest on Tuesday (Day 5) to see Styx, Don Felder and Foreigner.

  • Day 2 #RBCBluesfest #Ottawa

    OK, I will admit it, I was wrong.  There ARE circumstances that warrant bringing one of the acts back for a second day and Beth Hart playing in the intimate theater to a full house is one of those times where it makes perfect sense.  When you are up close and personal with no distractions from other stages (or people around you talking), you can hear all the subtle notes in each song and fully appreciate the depth and breadth of her voice and all the members of her band.  Wow.  I can definitely say that this was the highlight of today’s performances for me.  Bravo to Bluesfest for providing us with this beautiful gift a second day in a setting where we can truly experience her amazing talent.

    After seeing Beth, I was able to get some dancing in during the Honey Island Swamp Band wonderful swamp boogie jam. I especially appreciated the two songs that included the Texas Horns. To close out an early night, I managed to catch the final three Journey songs, which came across much better in the big festival setting than when I had seen them previously.

    Tomorrow will be a long day of great music.  I’m especially looking forward to seeing Matt Anderson & the Mellotones, JJ Grey & Mofro and Vintage Trouble. Have a great weekend everyone!

  • Day 1 #RBCBluesfest #Ottawa

    When a Blues lineup comes together that is as close to perfect as possible, it makes for a very special night.  The first time I experienced this was at Bluesfest in 2010 with a lineup that included Matt Anderson, Dana Fuchs and the (at the time) fledgling Tedeschi Trucks Band.  Last night it happened again.  I’ve been hoping to see both Beth Hart and Gary Clark Jr. for well over a year and was thankful to see them included in this years Bluesfest lineup.  I was not disappointed!  The night opened with great rockin blues set by Shane Dwight (not unexpected as he blew me away when I last saw him in 2010).  From there, Beth Hart took command of the stage with her oh so powerful voice and commanding stage presence that totally engulfed me in her performance. The night was topped off by the supreme talent of Gary Clark Jr. who has an amazing ability to play his guitar like it was perfectly natural and effortless, while at the same time bringing each song to a furious crescendo and back down to earth again.  If you like rockin blues, I highly recommend you catch these acts whenever you can.  I sure hope they all come back to town again in the near future and when they do, I will be there!

    After last nights opening, my plans for tonight have changed a little.  I normally shy away of the Theatre as you have to check your chairs and bags before entering, and there are a limited number of seats so you have to get in line early for big draws.  Nonetheless, I’m hoping to see what Beth Hart can do with her amazing voice in an intimate setting as I’m sure I won’t be disappointed.  If all goes as planned, I’ll also be spending time at the Blacksheep stage to see Cold Capital and Honey Island Swamp Band.  Happy Festival everyone!

  • Bluesfest Picks – #Ottawa #RBCBluesfest

    As expected, Ottawa Bluesfest has a wide variety of acts again this year.  There are far too many for me to mention, so I’m going to focus on the ones that I’m excited to see (mainly Blues and Classic Rock).

    July 3 is the day I’ve been anticipating the most.  Shane Dwight is making a return appearance and the lineup only gets better after that with Beth Hart and Gary Clark Jr. It should be a night to remember!

    July 5 is another great day with Matt Anderson and the Mellotones followed by JJ Grey & Mofro and the nights closer will be Vintage Trouble (that’s right, I’m going to skip the Lady Gaga show that night).

    July 8 will feature Styx, Don Felder and Foreigner headlining the main stage.

    July 10 will be Procol Harum & the NAC Orchestra followed by Blondie.  For the closing act of the day I’ll be at the Black Sheep stage to see John Mayall.

    July 12 I’ll be seeing Sugar Ray & The Bluetones, Little Freddie King, Thornetta Davis & Dr Hook featuring Ray Sawyer.

    To close the festival out on July 13 I’ll be dancing to the Sam Roberts Band finish the day watching Collective Soul.

    If all goes according to plan, I should see around 30 different acts over 8 days… not a bad way to end my summer vacation!