• The Record Company

    I will be honest, I was a fan of The Record Company from the moment I first heard them at last years Folk Festival.  Last night they were back in Ottawa for a show at Zaphods, and what a fantastic show it was.  60 solid minutes of dancing up front to music I love performed by a trio of talented musicians who put their heart and soul into the show.   It’s really too bad that more people didn’t make it to the show as they missed a good one (although it left lots of room for us dancers to get into the groove).  Thank you to Zaphod’s for bringing them back to Ottawa!

    Thanks to the timing of the show, I was also able to catch the Sound of Light Fireworks show last night from Major’s Hill Park.  This is a great free location if you don’t mind missing some of the low level fireworks and it was packed with people.  Portugal put on a great show that did a better job of using the entire sky as their pallet than Hong Kong did last week.  A good combination of low, medium and high fireworks sprad across the sky allowed time for the smoke to clear before the next volley and the finale was absolutely mind blowing!

    Next weekend (weather permitting) I’m hoping to catch some shows at the National Capital Craft Beer Festival in the afternoon and then head over to the Fireworks Grand Finale to see the Syndicated Blues Band at 8:5 followed by another great fireworks display.

  • Sound Of Light – Hong Kong

    Last night Hong Kong kicked off to this years Casino Lac-Leamy Sound of Light fireworks competition.  This year the event has moved from Lac-Leamy to the Ottawa River and the grounds of the Museum of History.  The new site has a number of advantages, including close proximity to Ottawa, much better sight lines and a larger festival area. The old site was spread out over a large area (lots of walking to find a good spot and more walking to get back to the food and entertainment areas) and the sight lines were limited by trees once all the good spots filled up, so the new location was a welcome relief (I also appreciated that I can walk there from Downtown Ottawa).

    Since I wasn’t familiar with the new site and I was hoping to catch some live music before the fireworks, I arrived at 8pm.  There were still lots of excellent places with perfect sight lines to the show, which was a good sign as the good spots at the previous location used to fill up fast.  The Tim Hortons stage is tucked away on the Western side of the site and I ended up picking a spot on the Eastern side with a perfect view of the fireworks barge (very important as there are lots of low level fireworks in addition to the big high ones).

    The bad news for me was the band originally scheduled to play at 8:15pm had been changed at the last minute.  Even worse, I fled the stage half way through the first song.  I would suggest that if there is going to be live music, that it at least be good live music – othewise, don’t bother.  At least it gave me time to tour the rest of the site and find a great spot to view the fireworks.

    The good news for me was that Hong Kong put on a very good 30 minute show (the official start time is 9pm, but there are 15 minutes of announcements before the fireworks show starts), although it was somewhat hampered by smoke as the wind had died down to a whisper just before the fireworks started.   With the excellent sight lines, the $5 admission fee was well worth it (I also hear that the Nepean Point location also has a good view and the admission goes to charity).

    At the end of the show, the exodus was calm and orderly, until I arrived at the Alexandra Interprovincial Bridge, which was closed until 10:15pm. I understand the need to stop cars from crossing, but pedestrians?  The event ended at 9:45 and we’re expected to wait a full 30 minutes before crossing back to Ottawa?  Really?  In the end, I decided to walk the long way back and crossed over the Portage Bridge – a less than ideal option, although it did give me a little extra powerwalk.

    On the way back, I managed to catch the last half of the Mosaika show on Parliament Hill.  If you haven’t seen this, I encourage you to check it out (but get there at least 30 minutes before the start as the area fills up on a warm Saturday night).  I also took a quick trip through Sparks street hoping to catch the last Buskerfest shows of the day, but was too late. All in all, a very enjoyable evening. I’m hoping I can catch the Grand Finale Fireworks on August 16 (I would go August 9 but will be at Zaphod’s to see The Record Company that night).

  • Sound Of Light Fireworks

    This years edition of the Casino Lac-Leamy Sound of Light fireworks competition is rapidly approaching which means most of the on-site entertainment acts have been announced (with the exception of the Grand Finale on August 16. With the new location at the Canadian Museum of History, on the Gatineau side of the Ottawa/Outaouais river, the event is even more accessible to the residents of the National Capital Region. Weather permitting, I plan on taking advantage of this and attend at least two nights and wouldn’t mind seeing Les Mosqiutoes again but may have to pass as staying out late is not compatible with going to work the next day!

    The headliners for the pre-fireworks entertainment (8:15pm to 8:55pm each night) include:

    Saturday August 2, 2014
    Zookamoofoo Swing Band

    Wednesday August 6, 2014
    Les Mosquitos

    Saturday August 9, 2014
    Mackenzie Rhythm Section

    Wednesday August 13, 2014
    Major Tom (Bowie Tribute band? – just a guess)

    Saturday August 16, 2014
    o Be Announced.


  • #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 Image Day 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.