RBC Bluesfest Press Images, Photo: Danyca MacDonald
Starting my evening in the Barney Danson Theatre to see Brandon Allan and his band was a good call. Outside, the sun was beating hard and the crowd was already growing thick, so the mellow coolness of the dark hall was welcomed gladly. This set was a very different vibe from anything else I’d seen at Bluesfest so far—Allan himself even commented that it felt “more like a band practice with people here, than a show…which is awesome. I’m saying it’s better. Always better at practice.” The northern lights-ish stage set up paired nicely with the waves of pedal steel guitar and sincere, understated vocals of this “alternative country folk rock whatever” (says the bandcamp) act from right here in Ottawa. Precise and soothing. Well done.
Next up, The Beaches on the Canadian Stage. Very cool all-woman rock band from Toronto (hence “The Beaches”). Heard some laughs and derisive comments when they appeared on stage (can this stop? It’s 2015.) but these were quickly dismissed by absolute shredding and incredibly commanding stage presence from lead vocalist Jordan Miller. For fans of The Kills, Screaming Females, Arctic Monkeys. Bonus: their outfits and personal style were very similar to a lot of young women attending the festival. Pretty cool to see yourself represented on stage like that.
Caught an old favourite of mine, Interpol, on the Claridge Homes Stage next… and was mildly disappointed. It was rad to hear some of my fave nostalgic tunes live from the source, but the band seemed bored, their performance formulaic; they nailed it, but it lacked heart. To be fair, the guys were wearing mostly all black (one in a full suit), staring straight into the hot sun, and they’ve probably performed this set on festival circuits a hundred times… but still, kind of a bummer. The visual accompaniment was also pretty cheesy: a giant black and white photo of hands backing the stage and dark stock video of stormy seas broken by static on the two display screens to the left and right. I see what you were going for, Interpol, but it felt contrived. Oh well.
My last and most enjoyed set of the night was Milky Chance back on the Canadian Stage for an hour and a half of straight-up fun. The act’s minimalist dance pop with subtle guitar picking was exactly what the crowd wanted—we all danced, we all grooved, we all enjoyed the summer vibes. Surprisingly complimentary: harmonica and bass drops. The lighting set up was probably the best I’ve seen at the fest so far: a design of three abstracted moons above a city skyline illuminated with alternating colours. The set list order was also perfect, newer stuff at the beginning and sing-along hits “Down by the River” (played down by our river!), “Running,” and “Stolen Dance” in the last 20 minutes. Nothing I would change about this show.
And with that, my coverage of Bluesfest 2015 has come to an end. Final thoughts: porta-potty maintenance was top notch. They barely smelled. Also, thanks for the bean bag chill zone, RBC. Catch ya later.