Foo Fighters, Dave Matthews Band, Beck, Jethro Tull, Courtney Barnett, and more to headline Ottawa Bluesfest 2018
RBC Ottawa Bluesfest has released its initial 2018 lineup, which will hit the stages July 5 – 15, 2018. Many whispers of Dave Grohl and his band of Foo Fighters being added were making their way around town, and the explosive rock band is one of many exciting inclusions in this year’s edition. The Dave Matthews Band, which was confirmed a few weeks back, will also headline the festival and give festival-goers a reason to get excited.
Other notable acts include Jethro Tull, Beck, Zeds Dead, the War on Drugs, Courtney Barnett, BROCKHAMPTON, Chromeo, Colin James, Shaggy, Oh Wonder, Ghostface Killah, Passenger, Machine Gun Kelly, Shawn Mendes, Naughty by Nature, the Strumbellas, Keys N Krates, Grandtheft, Hanson, Benjamin Booker, Noname, Dear Rouge, Kimbra, and more.
Some stellar Ottawa acts were also announced, including Catriona Sturton, Alanna Sterling & The Silvers, Amos The Transparent, Cody Coyote, Graven, Her Harbour, Okies, TAPAS, and many more.
A one-day pre-sale will begin early on February 15 at 10 a.m., with an adult festival pass starting at $209 (+ HST). A full-festival pass will start at $139 (+HST). All tickets will go on public sale February 16 at 10 a.m.
Check out other options and more details on the Bluesfest website. Have a look at the line up (so far) below.
Photo: Joey Shithead and D.O.A., the godfathers of Canadian hardcore and punk playing Beau’s Oktoberfest in Vankleek Hill.
While day one was mostly about the music, day two of Beau’s Oktoberfest was more about the wonderful beers and food available, but that’s not to say the music wasn’t excellent.
I awoke in a very muddy campground with the rain only spitting, a pleasant change after the downpour from the night before. I put on what dry clothes I had left, put some grub in my belly and threw on my rain jacket. It was now time to venture to the Cask Haus.
The Cask Haus was a glorious place with nearly 70 casks of ale ready for your sampling convenience. For 1 token ($5) you could get any two 4 oz. samples off the list. What was also great about the Cask Haus was that it was right next to the main stage, so I began my day off sampling a variety of beer to the sounds of Canada’s Polka King, Walter Ostanek. The first order of business was to try Beau’s Hardcore 8.1 which is a malt liquor tribute to iconic Canadian punk rockers D.O.A., who I was excited to see later that day. Don’t let the fact that it is malt liquor scare you away, it is delicious. With a couple more great samples in me, namely Pissed Off Pete’s Pumpkin Porter by Nickle Brook Brewery and Scotchy Scotch Ale By Big Rig were both excellent, it was time to sign up for activities. Many of the activities conflicted with band’s I wanted to see, but the keg toss distance fit in perfectly. I did not do very well, but I had a lot fun trudging through the mud to launch a keg as far as I could.
Antique and Vans skaters on the half-pipe at Beau’s Oktoberfest in Vankleek Hill.
The morning and early afternoon were dedicated to beer sampling, the rest of the afternoon was controlled by punk rock. Wasted Potential, from London, ON, got it all started with their punk rock that fringes on hardcore and which is led by a lead singer with quite the dance moves. Up next was the local band, Audio Visceral, which is made up of Beau’s brewers. The boys always put on a good show and it was cool to watch them surrounded by people drinking Beau’s beer. With Audio done it was time for a double dose of Canadian old school punk with The Nasties and then legends D.O.A.
The Nasties rocking out at Beau’s Oktoberfest in Vankleek Hill.
The Nasties had one speed–fast. Their set was a little strange, as they dedicated a song to Kim Mitchell, and introduced a song as “not an environmental song,” and another by saying, “here is our mandatory cop song… and remember they couldn’t arrested us if we didn’t pay their salary.” Fast and angry they were, but they did also treat the crowd to an Operation Ivy cover, “Knowledge.” From the cover of American legends to the presence of a Canadian legend, it was now time for Joey Shithead and D.O.A. to take the stage. The boys from B.C. are credited as one of the founders of hardcore punk rock music and are still going strong 34 years after their first full-length album (well, Joey is the only original member left). I spent almost the entire set dancing and singing in the pit to the snarls of the beloved grandfather of Canadian hardcore. And I was pleasantly surprised that their new songs, such as “Boneyard,” were just as kick ass as the older stuff they played like “Logjam,” “2+2” and “Know Your Enemy.” It was a great set by the three-piece and if after reading this you really want to see this live, go see D.O.A., Audio Visceral and Lindbergh Babies this Friday October 10th at Zaphod’s, it is also the official Ottawa release party of the Hardcore 8.1 beer.
All that punk rocking can leave a man hungry and thirsty, so I headed to the food tent to check out one of the more than 25 Ontario restaurants being featured. I decided on Olivea from Kingston and their Reuben Sandwich with German Potato Salad, a house made pastrami and sauerkraut sandwich with blowtorch melted Gruyère cheese on rye bread. It was to die for. With some more food in my belly it was back to the Cask Haus for more tasting. Some favourites from this trip were Guilty Conscience by Innocent Brewing Company, Punch Rauch (do you get it? do you get it?) by le Trou Du Diable and Red Rocket by Sawdust City Brewing Co.
The Strumbellas giving us all they have in the rain at Beau’s Oktoberfest in Vankleek Hill.
Now done with the Cask Haus and back to some Beau’s and music. With a Boghopper in hand, one of the most interesting beers I have ever tried, and the rain still coming down, it was time for some alternative-country at the hands of The Strumbellas. The Strumbellas sure knew how to lift our spirits and forget about the rain by playing their dancy sing along “Home Sweet Home.” The band as a whole are very talented and entertaining, but two parts really stuck out. The less obvious one is just how great the violin play is in this band and just how much it adds to their sound. Isabel Ritchie does one heck of a great job. The second part and the more obvious one is just how entertaining David Ritter is. The man wears a baseball cap with Dave written on it and a t-shirt with his own face on it for gosh sakes. He is also ridiculously animated, energetic, engaging and does a mean hip-hop breakdown. With songs like “In This Life” and “Sheriff,” The Strumbellas had me forgetting how soaking wet I was getting.
The last of the live music I saw was the Acadian hip-hop Radio Radio. Their bilingual mish-mash is absolutely perfect and matches up well with their comedic lyrics. They played a good mix of new and old songs and the crowd were loving it. The new stuff like “Et Feel Zoo,” and “Boomerang” fit in great with their older hits like “Jacuzzi” which saw a lot of people singing along. After their set, I headed back to the Bamberg Beer Tent for a final dance party with so many friends, new and old.
Once again Beau’s put on an amazing festival that united craft beer, artisan food, Canadian music, charity and community. They set a new fundraising record this past year, raising $95,000 for community and charities, and an attendance record with more than 19,000 festival-goers in attendance over the two days.
I spent Sunday morning walking to town with a garbage bag in hand helping clean up from the grounds to the brewery to ensure it did not look as post-apocalyptic as Montebello after Rockfest, and then helped with stocking the beer fridge at the brewery. The craft beer community is a very welcoming family that is taking their own approach and adding a personal touch to a mainstream art form, very similar to the punk rock community. As a punk rocker, blogger and citizen, I felt at home and like I belonged. Thank you Beau’s for another incredible year.
Possibly one of the sweetest spots under the protection of the National Capital Commission is Hog’s Back Park.The relaxing sight of moving water next to the walking path, however, was once a hellish working environment. The rocky falls were a considerable thorn in the sides of the Royal Engineers who built the Rideau Canal — the construction had to halt several times due to the dam collapsing. Scots, Gaels, Brits & Frenchmen camped out in the woods east of the falls as they built a weir that would officially separate the river from the canal.
Those woods are now the site of many an elementary school picnic, or a bike ride to a lecture, or just a nice stroll. It’s also going to be where Ottawa Folkfest will take place starting tomorrow, a growing tradition put on by the folks who bring us RBC Bluesfest every year, as well as the Bluesprint Series & the Bluesfest School of Music & Art (BSOMA) on Churchill Avenue.
This year’s lineup include some seriously cool acts, as well as free shows on five out of the eight stages. There will be a Craft Beer House featuring the brews of Dominion City, Beau’s, Whitewater, Mill Street & Broadhead, and free rickshaw rides! We’re stoked to see some live music and enjoy our beautiful park the way we hope our ancestral labourers did once the dam held — with late nights of merriment and dancing.
Fred Penner is possibly the most recognizable children’s entertainer for many of us. His show involved the exploration of a forest and its friends, with songs ranging from sharing to civic duty. His most hardcore joint is a shameless dirge about being stalked by a cat. It gets so desperate that someone loads a shotgun with nails & dynamite and a train is derailed on the way to the Rockies. He will play two shows in the Craft Beer House, one family show in prime time and another without that description… Will we be seeing a side of Mr. Penner that might feature some killer beats & mature material? We can’t wait to find out.
When Bruce Springsteen wrote Darkness On the Edge of Town in 1978, he was writing about the American way of life – the way it really was. The Boss’s ability to tell stories about society, disillusion, love, and loss is what allowed the masses to take him in as one of their own. Not many songwriters have been able to approach music in this way over the years. Brian Fallon, lead singer of The Gaslight Anthem, didn’t take music lessons at a conservatory. He took lessons sitting in front of his mother’s record player listening to the stories that Springsteen told, absorbing and interpreting his words and music as a young kid growing up in New Jersey. Not only is Gaslight’s music undeniably influenced by that of Springsteen’s, but the band is also able to portray thematic elements and convey the deepest and darkest observations of American life on the individual and societal levels. Blending a bit of folk, rock, and punk, The Gaslight Anthem offers concert-goers music that is free of pretension and falsehood – what remains on stage are a group of raw, genuine reconteurs.
Sunday, Sept. 14 @ 9:30 p.m. Eh! Stage
A big year for local band Pony Girl, who’ll play their East Coast tour’s homecoming show on Friday. Described as art-rock, their true definition would include too many words & hyphens to list here. A cosmic collaboration of professional multi-instrumentalists? Outer space comes to mind when you listen to their debut album Show Me Your Fears, and the inclusion of violin & cello on a couple tracks lend to their chamber sensibilities, not to mention the clarinet, EWI, synthesizer(s) & four vocalists. Chamber-pop? Their next album, Foreign Life, will be released in the new year and we’ll be keeping an hear out for some of their new tracks they’ve hopefully polished on the road. Soundscape smorgasbord?
Friday, Sept. 12 @ 7:30 p.m. Hill Stage
DJs Zattar & Memetic are going to offer a free dance party at the aptly named Craft Beer House on the first night of Folkfest. That Wednesday night might as well be called Funkfest, with their jazzy uptempo & funky electro beats. The hosts of TIMEKODE have been jivving together for nine years this November, and it’s not likely to slow down anytime soon. Get the party started!
Wednesday, Sept. 10 @ 8 p.m. Craft Beer House
The term progressive defines the roots reggae of Messenjah as the 33-year-old collective from Kitchener, ON was the first Canadian reggae band to ever be signed to a major label. They’ve toured the world extensively, played for and in movies in Hollywood, and in 1998 they received a JUNO Award and played for Nelson Mandela at the Sky Dome. Coming out on top, they disbanded amicably that year to pursue their own interests. Just last year, their Messenjah’s Session was re-released to be followed by their 1982 debut album Rock You High re-releasethis year. This will all coincide with a reunion tour that’s been rumoured for a number of years, now with just as much backbeat & riddim as when they started. You’ll find in Messenjah a funky refresher at the end of the festival, once openers for The Clash now closing international festivals, always bringing the boom-bap.
Sunday, Sept. 14 @ 9:30 p.m. Ravenlaw Stage
Neutral Milk Hotel
This band is an enigma of sorts. Neutral Milk Hotel released two incredible albums in the late 90s – On Avery Island in 1996 and In the Aeroplane Over the Sea in 1998. This was a troubled time for music in general, with a virtual identity crisis occurring within the ranks of musicians and industry people. But Jeff Magnum and co. brought us these timeless albums that have been treasured for a decade and a half, only to splinter shortly thereafter and recede into the shadows of the 2000s. Well, they’re back. After a string of solo shows by Magnum, NMH announced a massive 130-date tour spanning over two years. With only a handful of Canadian dates, we’re lucky to have these guys come to play in Ottawa. Especially considering many of us were unsure they would ever play again, period.
Saturday, Sept. 13 @ 8:15 p.m. Ravenlaw Stage
Formed in 1999, The National is a band that embodies the notion that hard work pays off. After years of writing songs and playing shows, and even leaving their hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio to find bigger and better things in NYC, The National found late-career fame and never gave up on their journey. Their albums often give esoteric portrayals of the spectrum of human emotion. Those who listen attentively will find layers of truth and beauty in the lyrics, the composition, and aesthetic of their music. Showgoers can expect lead singer Matt Berninger to give a manic, despondent performance that suddenly explodes with moments of fervent and expressive behaviour. Berninger is also known to break out of the confines that is the stage and jump into the loving crowd, all while singing with them and challenging the artificial boundary that exists between artist and audience.
Friday, Sept. 12 @ 9:30 p.m. Eh! Stage
Photo Credit Heather Pollock
The Strumbellas are a band that contains the heart of the true north. Their folk roots run deep, echoing the soul and spirit of their Canadiana forefathers and foremothers. Their music can be appreciated by the old guard, those who may be less interested in modern Canadian music but are enchanted by the storytelling of Gordon Lightfoot or Joni Mitchell, and also younger audiences that are more in touch with Canadian indie in general. Their efforts have afforded them plenty of well-deserved opportunities, and they even won a Juno for their 2014 breakthrough album We Still Move on the Dance Floor in the Roots & Traditional Album of the Year category. They were also long-listed for the 2014 Polaris Music Prize, showing that they are in the running as one of the best bands in Canada. The Strumbellas are on our list because you just can’t go wrong – one can fall in love with the music they’ve written and they are just getting started.
Saturday, Sept. 13 @ 8:30 p.m. Hill Stage
Lee Fields and the Expressions
Lee Fields is a legend. He’s made music for 45 years, he’s mastered the styles of soul, funk, R&B and blues, and by all indication he’s continually evolving and coming into his own. Lee Fields and the Expressions is Fields backed by the house band of the Truth & Soul label out of Williamsburg, NY. Known as “Little JB,” you just have to listen to “Ladies” to see why — his croon and melodies remind of James Brown, his stage presence causes cold sweats. The steady lounge rhythm of the Expressions matched to Fields’ smoky voice will assuredly warm the Park on Friday night, when we’ll be able to see other artists of the day line the back stage to see a champion show us how it’s done.
Friday, Sept. 12 @ 7 p.m. Eh! Stage
There’s something about Lucky Ron‘s act at the Laff that gets the crowd really participating in his show. It could be his take on the greats like Johnny Cash & Elvis Presley, or his insistence that he is one per cent of the show while the crowd is 99% crowd, or just the simple fact he plays rocking hillbilly music with all his heart. His tale is very much tied to the Chateau Lafayette on York Street, where he’s been playing on a weekly basis for over 15 years now. His western tunes take on a swinging rockabilly lilt and his grin is infectuous. There’s something about Lucky Ron! It’s not that he’s faster or louder than any one-man show, it’s probably not his slow wink (which can in fact melt the heart of any freshman or retiree), no it might be his genuine love of the art of talking to people while singing a ballad. He’s made many a night at the Laff memorable (he was married there too!) and he’s bound to set off the first evening chills of Thursday night as he’ll play on the Hill Stage for a free show. If only we could have a quart of 50 in hand…
These days there is so much music out there in the universe, it feels overwhelming sometimes. A lot of bloggers spend hours per day sifting through countless Bandcamps and Soundcloud accounts trying to find the next big thing. We are not those bloggers. We love new music and will usually give an album a listen if there’s a buzz about it, just to see what the big deal is all about. We don’t, however, claim to be the authority on breaking new bands across Canada or the world. Our purpose and drive is centred locally, and our passion really is seeing music live. For lack of a better cliche, music is the soundtrack to the lives of Matias, Eric, and Joe. We’re the kind of people that feel weird when there’s silence, and usually have music playing in some way or another at all times. None of us would claim to have listened to all albums that were released this year, nor would we claim that this list is exhaustive or exclusive in any way.