It was a beautiful Sunday and a perfect way to cap off the first half of Bluesfest with Yukon Blonde, Wild Child, Steamers and Debauche.
There was no better way to start my day than with Debauche. The four-piece based out of New Orleans play super fun gypsy music in the style of Gogol Bordello. As their leader Yegor Romantsov said in a thick Russian accent, “For those who haven’t seen us before, we play Russian hooligan songs about orphans, prostitutes, lesbians, and of course gypsies.” They had the crowd dancing none stop to the sound of the acoustic guitar, standup bass, accordion and steady drums. I am more than certain that most people dancing had never seen the act before which made it even better. It is quite powerful to watch a band really get a crowd into it when they sing in a language over 90% of the crowd doesn’t understand. Such a fun set, if they ever come to your town, or if you are ever in New Orleans look them up. I guarantee you will not regret it.
Up next on the Claridge Stage was Ottawa’s one and only power-folk band, Steamers. Playing in front of their biggest crowd ever by, getting the slot right before Thomas Rhett may have contributed, the band was fired up. It also helped that the sun finally completely broke through the clouds as they took the stage. They opened with “Head North” followed by “This Is A Song” and quickly made fans of many of the people who were simply there killing time. One of the very unique features and great qualities of Steamers is that all six members sing and the band performs in both English and French. It is a wonderful addition to a set in the nation’s capital and songs like “Passer une nuite” and “Le bâteau” are great no matter what language they are sung in.
One of the more intense moments of the show was when guitar and singer Quin Gibson took to the mic to introduce the very powerful and emotional song “Mike.”
“Someone close me passed away recently and this one goes it to my mom,” who was in the front row with his wife and daughter. At this point they had one over many new fans who were singing a long, bobbing their heads and some even dancing. And as if they needed to work on me, they made me even more of a fan for life when they dedicated one of their older tracks and one of my favourites “Blue Skies” to me. They crafted their set perfectly blending their slower songs with their faster ones and including a bunch of opportunities for crowd participation. They closed out the set with “Strings & Skins” followed by the very sing a long friendly “Montreal” which had more people singing a long to one of their songs than I have ever heard before. It was beautiful.
It was now time to head to the Monster Stage, formerly the River Stage, to go from one six-piece to another six-piece and watch Wild Child from Austin, Texas. Anyone who has been to Bluesfest before knows that there is no better stage to be in the evening to listening to music and watch the marvels of nature unfold in the form of a breath taking sun set over the Ottawa River. Wild Child were a wonderful soundtrack to the beautiful view. The band is led by Kelsey Wilson and Alexander Beggins who share the singing responsibilities. Their excellent chemistry and voice complement each other so well. No better than the cutest song ever about your partner finding another lover, “Someone Else.” The band closed with the great track “Fools.” One thing I couldn’t help but notice how similar the keys on the song reminded me of “Twin Size Mattress” by The Front Bottoms, a song I like very much as well. Have a listen to them both and see: Fools and Twin Size Mattress. Two different songs with one similarity and I enjoy them both.
Yukon Blonde recognized the beauty of playing by the water. Just as they took the stage, Jeff Innes singer and guitarist of the band said “Look at the view behind you, I love what I do.” Yukon Blonde’s synth rock teleported us to an 80s detective or cops show where the main character is cruising through the night with the top down and his hair flowing in the late night breeze. I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed Rebecca Gray on synth, she has surely been influenced by the likes of Joy Division and New Order. The band was having a riot, moving around all over the stage and engaging the crowd in songs and getting clapping going. The band mentioned that their “first time in Ottawa was at Cafe Dekcuf then our 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th shows about 10 years ago.”
The crowd was putty in their hands as they played radio hits like “Confusion” and “Radio” to butter them up. They then played “Favourite People” which Innes said “is about people like you,” to a loud reaction by the crowd. Innes clearly loving crowd and the setting then said “we’d be lucky to get something like this every 4 years.” They closed with the track that made it all possible, their big radio hit “Stairway.” As the song came to an end Innes and other guitarist Brandon Scott left the stage to sing a capella with the crowd while standing on the barrier. Brandon then crowd surfed as the rest of the band rocked out the end of the song.