The sun was beating down as I made my way around all the construction at Lebreton Flats. I broke a sweat trying to get there in time to catch the opening acts, but that’s not saying much for a guy who sweats tying his shoes. With country singers Jason Aldean and Kira Isabella on the bill this evening, I was navigating a sea of cowboy hats and plaid shirts tied around waists before I even got into the festival grounds. Guess I missed the memo on tonight’s dress code.
Since the openers all started at the same time, I knew I’d be rocking the ol’ festival split – which usually means going halfsies on two sets in the same time slot, leaving one stage early to catch the other act. But with Thrifty Kids, Saint Clare and River City Junction all starting at 6, I was going three ways and had to make it quick.
Thrifty Kids got me off to a lovely start, in the Barney Danson Theatre, which was a great atmosphere for their style of mellow surf pop. I really like this band, and this was my first time seeing them, so I would’ve loved to see the full set but I was soon on to the next one.
On the quieter and shadier side of the museum, River City Junction was trucking through their set on Monster Energy stage, formerly the Blacksheep Stage. This Montreal three-piece play a smooth blend of Delta blues, and funky country rock ‘n’ roll, and lead singer/drummer Caroline Addison is an absolute pleasure to watch.
In true Bluesfest fashion, there were baby-boomers in lawn chairs everywhere, and I thought to myself, “Oh, here you all are!” because the crowds on the other side of the museum were largely plaid-clad teenagers cheering for Kira Isabella or assembling by the Claridge Homes Stage waiting for pop-rapper Hoodie Allen to start.
I made my way down toward the river with the sounds of Saint Clare in the air as I approached the Canadian Stage. These guys (and gals) are a really fun band to see live, with the psychedelic/power-pop vibes tastefully accented by the keyboards and the brass section.
After heading back to the shade of the museum by the Monster stage, and catching some quality Chicago blues courtesy of Ronnie Baker Brooks, I returned again to the Canadian Stage for the hip-hop stylings of Ottawa’s BlakDenim. For those who aren’t familiar, I’d compare this group to the likes of The Roots and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. So yeah, pretty hype.
I stuck around this same stage in anticipation of my big highlight of the evening, The Screaming Eagle of Soul – Mr. Charles Bradley. A member of the NYC-based soul-revivalist Daptone Records family, Bradley is one of the most earnest and genuine performers I’ve ever seen. His ’70s-style suit and slow-motion dance moves are endlessly charming, and he just oozes love for everyone around him. He wooed the crowd with his rendition of Neil Young’s Heart of Gold, and Bradley’s own heart of gold was on his sleeve as he descended from the stage at the end of the set to meet the audience – it was hugs and handshakes and picture-poses all around, and you can just tell that this is why he does what he does. Truly heartwarming. I left feeling full of love and ready to hit the hay.