RBC Bluesfest Press Images, Photo: Mark Horton
The last day of a festival is always a mixed bag. I usually want to get around see as much as possible, but but I’m pretty lazy, and will attempt to disguise that by saying I also just wanted to enjoy good company and good music without being in a rush. But really, the heat changed my mind on the whole run-around approach, because I got there at 3 p.m. and was already sweating my baguettes off. So I made for the shade.
I found some at the top of the hill at the back end the war museum, looking down to the Monster Stage, where the Be In The Band Showcase was running for a good chunk of the afternoon. For those who aren’t familiar with Be In The Band, it’s a program run by the Glebe Neighbourhood Activities Group (GNAG) for teenagers and youngsters who want to start bands. The program operates out of the Glebe Community Centre and is sponsored by the Ottawa Folklore Centre. It’s a great opportunity for kids who want to find people to play with, or start something with their friends, because not only do they have the space, the time, and the equipment to do so, they get to play Ottawa Bluesfest at the end of the program. Watching the kids’ bands play was a timewarp back to me starting my first band at 14 with a couple of high school buddies, and it just got me so excited for any kids getting into music this young.
After seeing that the kids are alright, I went into the museum for a much-needed AC moment. The cool air drew me in like an undertow and I was walking nice and slow the whole way through.
Coming out the other side, I heard the introduction of a band that had just come off of opening a Rolling Stones tour, so naturally I headed over to see this UK rock ‘n’ roll outfit The Temperance Movement. Total classic rock, bluesey guitars, a wily frontman prancing and swinging his lanky arms… Sound familiar? They sounded great as a band, but the singer’s voice got a little Creedy at some points, if you know what I mean.
I wandered down to the Canadian Stage to see what was going on, and walked into the field to this powerful voice hollering over a swinging horn section, and a haywire keyboard solo broke out. This was Toronto’s The 24th Street Wailers. I’d never seen the band or heard the name before, but I was hooked instantly. Blaring horns, trading solos with keyboard and guitar, this ensemble was cranking out some serious swing/jazz/rockabilly jams. Great new discovery!
I heard something getting started at the Bell Stage so headed into the slice of shade way up front and enjoyed another new discovery for me, The Bros. Landreth. Hailing from Winnipeg, these guys rock a smooth blend soulful country rock ‘n’ roll. Some real smooth harmonies and tight guitar work between singer Joey Landreth and lead guitarist Ariel Posen.
Pretty soon, it was time to get weird. Needless to say I was pretty pumped. And he did not disappoint. From the costume changes on almost every song, to the clips of videos and interviews in between, Weird Al brought a non-stop eye-catching, gut-busting good time with him. Classics like “Amish Paradise“, “Smells Like Nirvana“, and “Gump” were peppered with newer parodies like “White & Nerdy“, “Aluminum Foil” and “Word Crimes“. From Madonna to DEVO, whether it was full-costumed-band or just a brief clip on the screen, the show touched on all his material that I know of and then some. Great show. Stay weird, Al.
Randy Bachman was taking the Bell Stage so I moved with the masses to watch the Canadian rock veteran, and beloved CBC radio host, take care of some business. Plowing through selections from his decorated past with The Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive, his fingers proved ever-nimble and his voice ever-clear as he recounted stories of old and hyped the crowd for the hits they knew were coming. The audience was a great mix of all ages, and I always love seeing the appreciation of an artist’s work spanning generations and demographics. It’s one of those things I often get lost thinking about at festivals, and Mr. Bachman made me feel right at home in there.
After a long day in the sun, I was beat and admittedly called it a night somewhat early. I definitely regret missing MonkeyJunk, as they’re one of Ottawa’s finest blues acts and just a great time live, but hey, they’re from here. They’ll be around.
I’m not always one for big mushy goodbyes, so I’ll just rip this band-aid off. Thanks Bluesfest and thank you if you read any of this stuff. Cheers!