RBC Ottawa Bluesfest wrapped up the first weekend’s programming with sets by The Strumbellas, Larkin Poe, Amos the Transparent, Keys N Krates, and many more. Our photographer Els Durnford caught the action, have a look at her gallery below.
As thousands of music fans descended on Lebreton Flats to kick off this year’s RBC Ottawa Bluesfest, the sweltering heat weighed heavily on all of us as we waded through the crowded bottleneck lineup to get in. With only one entrance this year, and a laundry list of new security measures being implemented, it came as no surprise that there would be shoulder-to-shoulder crowds to get in.
After managing to simmer down a near-fistfight between a couple high school bros, we made our way through the increasingly frustrated crowd and into the grounds. The security lineup at Bluesfest is quite possibly the worst place to get into fisticuffs, for obvious reasons. The humidity remained pervasive throughout the entire night, and the only saving grace was a wisp of the occasional breeze and some ice cold beer. Well, and Bryan Adams, too. And water. Lots of water.
It should be noted that there is only one main stage this year, which somewhat condenses the festival and crowd. An interesting change, but it didn’t seem to take away from the good vibes and smiles seen throughout the grounds. I opted to check out Bryan Adams on his ULTIMATE tour because I had seen Passenger at CityFolk a few years back, and had never seen Bryan.
As we made our way to the stage, he and his band were playing one of my favourite tracks—”Run to You.” That guitar riff is so bad ass, I don’t care what anyone says. All those who used to play Grand Theft Auto: Vice City on PS2 know what I’m talking about. Adams started the set with the energy and enthusiasm of an early 20’s millennial—cool haircut included.
The set progressed with a distinct fervor, only to be obtained by a veteran performer who not only knows how to please crowds and write good tunes, but still deliver explosive performances as he enters his 60’s.
Is Bryan Adams Canada’s Bruce Springsteen? I don’t know. Probably not. But the comparisons are there, and I’d be lying if I said he didn’t blow my hair back last night.
At one point he told a story about how he had lived and gone to school in Ottawa for several years. He said “when I was coming through security to do this show, a police officer stopped me back stage. I said I was the one singing tonight, and he said ‘Oh, I know.’ We used to go to school together.” It was obvious that he was enjoying his time in Ottawa on this night, as he took videos and pictures with his personal phone, and even brought a lucky audience member on stage for a selfie.
He continued with some more smash hits from the 80’s and 90’s such as “It’s Only Love,” “Can’t Stop This Thing We Started,” and “Cloud #9.” I had assumed that all the youths had gone to the Black Sheep Stage to check out Passenger, but to my bewilderment there were plenty of teens and 20-somethings belting out Bryan Adams tunes. Maybe dad’s road trip music selection isn’t so bad after all, eh kids?
When the opening chords to “Heaven” started, the crowd let out a collective and romantic “ahhhh” sound. I don’t know what this means, but everyone knew the words and I almost felt like I was at a giant high school dance where everyone was just too afraid to find a slow dancing partner. I also have a good friend whose father swears that all Bryan Adams songs are just different renditions of “Heaven,” so I was also listening carefully to test out that hypothesis for science. More on this later.
The closest Bryan Adams came to Bruce Springsteen-level was when the band broke out into “Summer of ’69.” What a jam. We all belted out the words with pride, and even though Adams was only 9 years old in the summer of 1969, it’s one hell of a song. Arm in arm, with huge smiles, the crowd’s energy resonated on the stage as the band sent it right back out through the speakers. The stunning imagery on the backdrops was well crafted, and added a lot to the show as well.
The set seemed to climax there, sadly. My friend and I looked at each other and wondered what other hits he could possibly play. They dove into Everything I Do (I Do It For You), which was basically the lovemaking theme of the 90’s—sorry, millennials, you didn’t just pop out of nowhere. It is such a cheesy song, but dang it’s so romantic.
The rest of the set was unspectacular, to be honest. There were just no more hits left. The emotion and zeal present in the first half dwindled, but the crowd stayed engaged until the end.
To go back to my friend’s dad’s “Heaven” hypothesis. I swear that three of the five final songs of the set sounded exactly like “Heaven,” just arranged slightly differently. So, he certainly has a diverse repertoire, but Bryan, you gotta move beyond the “Heaven,” man.
As the set tapered off, Bryan Adams played “18 Till I Die,” which oddly enough included a graphic on the big screen that just said “DIE.” Has Bryan Adams gone emo? Why so dark? All jokes aside, the song was actually fun and there were other words that came up as well, such as “18 Till I.”
Els got some great shots from the night, but we weren’t allowed to shoot Bryan Adams. Check out the gallery below.
Ce n’est pas un secret : le mois de juin est rempli à craquer de festivals de tout genre qui se déroule aux quatre coins de la région de la capitale nationale. Question de vous aider à y trouver votre compte côté musique, voici 10 festivals qui en valent le détour.
10 festivals à ne pas manquer en juin
Festival Folk et Guitares d’Aylmer
Du côté d’Aylmer, leFestival Folk et Guitares est un petit bijou pour les mordus de guitares à la recherche de sons folk et blues dans une atmosphère intime. Plus de 40 spectacles gratuits seront présentés à quatre endroits différents le long de la rue Principale les 7, 8 et 9 juin, incluant Zébulon en formule acoustique, Gareth Pearson, The Wildwood Family, Mike Biggar, Outside I’m A Giant, et Rebecca Noelle, finaliste à l’émission La Voix l’an dernier.
Westfest, c’est un festival annuel gratuit qui se déroule dans le quartier Westboro d’Ottawa depuis 2003. Axé sur la vie de quartier, les arts et la famille, cet événement se veut inclusif et festif pour tout un chacun. Cette année, il aura lieu du 8 au 10 juin, et le gros de l’action se passera au parc Tom Brown avec plus de 100 artistes canadiens dont plusieurs locaux comme Bear Witness du groupe A Tribe Called Red, Silla + Rise, Julie Corrigan, Cody Coyote et Rita Carter.
Rockfest de Montebello
Déjà à sa treizième édition, le festivalRockfest de Montebello est considéré le plus gros festival de rock au Canada. Du 14 au 16 juin 2018, les amateurs de punk, rock, hardcore, métal et ska seront comblés grâce aux nombreuses prestations de groupes comme Weezer, Rancid, Comeback Kid, Groovy Aardvark, Les marmottes aplaties, Propagandhi, Lagwagon, et les Stone Temple Pilots entre autres.
Le Festival franco-ontarien
Pour ce qui est des festivals à caractère plus familial, on trouve leFestival franco-ontarien qui se déroule du 14 au 16 juin au parc Major dans le centre-ville d’Ottawa. Toujours avec une programmation bien équilibrée pour petits et grands, la 43e édition offrira une fois de plus des spectacles pour enfants avec Ari Cui Cui et Les Petites Tounes, ainsi que des spectacles en soirées de Damien Robitaille, Dumas, Mehdi Cayenne, Julie Kim, Valaire, Jacobus et plus.
Vous n’avez jamais entendu parler duGlowfair? Eh bien vous manquez assurément quelque chose de trippant! Ce festival extérieur gratuit, qui se déroule le long de la rue Bank du 14 au 16 juin, offre non seulement des spectacles de musique, mais aussi une séance de yoga fluorescente, une soirée de discothèque silencieuse et des installations d’art et de lumière.
Ottawa Explosion, c’est le festival DIY sans prétention à la Pouzza Fest qui met de l’avant des groupes et des artistes punk, rock hardcore et métal de la scène underground et émergente. Du 13 au 17 juin dans plusieurs bars et restos d’Ottawa, on pourra assister aux spectacles de Corridor, Peach Kelli Pop, The White Wires, Scattered Clouds, Tough Age, Victime, et Future Girls, pour n’en nommer que quelque un.
Le festival des bateaux-dragons
Depuis maintenant quelques années, lefestival des bateaux-dragons d’Ottawaoffre une série de spectacles gratuits à l’extérieur. 2018 ne faisant pas exception, il sera possible de voir les têtes d’affiche Sam Roberts Band, Broken Social Scene, Wintersleep, Hollerado et Matt Mays au parc Mooney’s Bay les 21, 22, 23 et 24 juin prochains. Seul bémol : c’est une programmation où l’on retrouve très peu de femmes.
Le Festival de jazz d’Ottawa
Du 21 juin au 1er juillet en plein coeur de la capitale, c’est place auFestival de jazz d’Ottawa. Ce rassemblement annuel est un vrai rendez-vous pour les adeptes de musique qui souhaitent voir et entendre de grands noms du jazz, du soul et du funk comme Herbie Hancock, Chris Botti, Chaka Khan, Dee Dee Bridgewater, ainsi que des artistes de la relève tels que Kellylee Evans, Moon Hooch, The Soul Motivators, FET.NAT et Duchess.
L’Outaouais en fête
Depuis plusieurs années, les francophones de la région se donnent rendez-vous au parc des Cèdres dans le secteur Aylmer de Gatineau pour souligner la Saint-Jean Baptiste à l’occasion dufestival l’Outaouais en fête. La programmation de 2018 en mettra pleins la vue et les oreilles grâce aux Cowboys Fringants, aux Hotesses d’Hilaire, à Mike Sawatzky du groupe Les Colocs, au collectif Alaclair Ensemble, à Célèste Lévis et aux Trois Accords, entre autres.
Le Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival
Quoi de mieux pour accueillir l’arrivée de l’été que lefestival autochtone du solstice d’été qui se tient du 21 au 24 juin au parc Vincent-Massey, à Ottawa. C’est aussi l’occasion idéale d’en apprendre davantage sur la culture, le savoir et le mode de vie des peuples autochtones du Canada, comme il y aura un pow-wow, des mets d’inspiration autochtone, ainsi que des prestations musicales des artistes Holly McNarland, Digging Roots, Silla + Rise, Lyle Odjick & The Northern Stream et encore plus.
Since taking the reigns as Executive Producer of the NAC Presents series a year and a half ago, Heather Gibson has had the vision of bringing something new to the table. She recognizes the NAC’s importance in developing emerging artists across Canada and supporting the Ottawa/Gatineau region’s local arts scenes, and to that extent, has lived up to her word and is building upon her vision. The NAC is becoming a more accessible stage for local artists to cut their teeth, as well as garner more exposure and develop their audiences.
Moreover, her work in challenging the music industry’s problem of unbalanced opportunities for women and marginalized people has allowed the NAC to be a shining example of how music programming should be conducted. She is steering the ship in the right direction, and demonstrating that achieving diversity and gender parity isn’t rocket science.
Upon the announcement of NAC’s 2018-19 season programming—which includes over 55 shows—I spoke with Ms. Gibson on the phone about these topics, and the new theme of Changing Landscapes.
Interview with Heather Gibson
Can you speak about the theme of changing landscapes and what that represents?
I didn’t book with a theme in mind, it’s just the theme that came. We wanted to book the artists that we wanted, and then the theme of “changing landscapes” is what it ended up being. It represents many things—changing of landscape here at the NAC, changing direction, the idea that Canada isn’t one thing and that it’s a collection of art and influences. That’s how they all kind of fit into that theme.
What role do you see the NAC playing with respect to gender parity and diversity in the grand scheme of the Canadian Music industry?
I don’t think gender parity is hard. It’s really challenging to understand why people will program an entire festival where there’s one female artist over nine days or something. With all respect due to my colleagues, I think that they either don’t have the same goals or aspirations as the National Arts Centre, or they just don’t know how to do their job very well. Gender parity and diversity is part of doing your job as an Artistic Director—in any kind of art. So, the role of the NAC is far deeper than presenting a diverse program, it’s about getting to the root of the issue and what the NAC can contribute to changing that. I don’t find it difficult to book like that, but I hear a lot of my peers saying that it is difficult to book diverse acts at a headlining level.
There are arguments to be made that there’s a short list of women who will perform for $100k or $50k, but then there needs to be a focus on booking women in a secondary role, underneath the headliners and on the B-stage. Bringing up the development of women like we have been with guys for decades is important. We have a responsibility at the NAC to ask the tough questions, like why are there so few female conductors? We need to figure out how we can develop female conductors. Or if there are only a handful of indigenous artists who fit the bill, then how do we make sure there are more of them in the future?
It’s difficult, and a lot of those conversations are systemic. There’s a whole ecosystem here that hopefully we can influence, and the audience is involved in that. If they want to support diversity, then the audience needs to come to those shows.
Traditionally the NAC Presents and the NAC Orchestra have been their own separate entities. Can you speak to how that collaboration came to be this season?
Yeah, the series is called Sessions. Part of the challenge is that the Orchestra is booking into 2020 right now, so when I first got here and expressed interest in this collaboration, they were very keen on the development of Canadian arrangers and composers, as well as audience development. On my side of things, I’m interested in artistic development of singer-songwriters. With people like Lynn Miles, we’re doing a full-commission project from start to end with her, so archiving great Canadian songwriters is important as well. Through the years you’ll see more and more of that, and Lynn is actually the first one.
It was a conversation we’ve had, and the NAC Orchestra and Andrew Shelley (Music Director) have been very supportive of this idea. They’ve been keen on seeing what we can do. We have a mash of things this year, Lynn Miles and Tom Wilson are doing the first one on October 4th. Tom is coming with his book and doing the show he did with the Hamilton Philharmonic, and Lynn is being commissioned. We’re doing six or seven with her on this first one, and then eventually over a series of shows she’ll have a full one in a year and a half. And then Stars are a full commission in December, and that is giving us the opportunity to work with a lot of great Canadian arrangers, and probably a new Canadian conductor.
There are a lot of different parts to it, Patrick Watson has a lot of these symphony shows under his belt and I think there will be an opportunity to do a lot of neat stuff with him as his compositions have been getting more and more intricate. It will be interesting with the band in front of the orchestra. The Johnny Reid Christmas show is allowing us to work with local choirs and have him front this thing that will seem like a community Christmas concert. It’s allowing us to do new things and open doors. It will allow us to break down some things and have a different conversation about the NAC Orchestra and how they fit in the context of music, not just contemporary or classical.
How has focusing more on programming with local artists—mainly on the Fourth Stage—been beneficial to the NAC?
I think as long as I’m here this is something that will continue. On the local side of things, we live and breath here in Ottawa. There’s no reason why we wouldn’t be part of the local music scene. For a year and a half since I’ve been here, we’ve been trying to figure out what that looks like, and we certainly don’t want to be a glass institution where once you’ve reached a certain level, you get to play a show at the NAC every once in a while.
I very much want to be part of developing careers. Our next big challenge is how do we move beyond just being a presenting venue, and move towards developing artists’ careers? We 100% have to look at that locally, and the scene we have here—whether that’s Pressed, Bar Robo, LIVE! on Elgin, or the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield—we all have an important role to play. A band like Hillsburn will play at the NAC, and then go play a place like LIVE! on Elgin, and then come back here. The whole time they’re building their audience in the community.
It’s integral to me that emerging artists are involved in our program. I really don’t want to have a program where we wait until you can sell 900 seats and then we’ll put you in the Theatre. We need to be part of the development, and artists need to have the opportunity to have access to our gear, crew, and lighting, and I think emerging artists need the opportunity to play on this kind of stage. Then they go back out into the world like they do on tour, and then we’ll do it again in six months. We have to be a part of that.