“All hope abandon, ye who enter here.”  Inferno – Dante Alighieri

The road to Ottawa Bluesfest was deranged by discarded liquor bottles, as a hoard descended down on the festival grounds.  Defying my understanding, a solid majority of them were under the age of 25 and were feverish over the imminent witnessing of the greatness, the legendary greatness of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.  Understandably, these precariously employed millennials want to pre-drink, the alternative being a nearly-nine dollar can of Coors Light.

As the clump I found myself in passed through the entrance of RHCP valhalla, Bluesfest had already broken every previous sales and attendance record and the hoards were still coming.  There are few words in the English Language that fill me with the kind of irrational dread as “Red Hot Chilli Peppers.”  Having been alive in North America, I know their songs.  I like them too, but there is something that makes me deeply uneasy about the band and last night I found out what it is.

As the opening chords of the first song rang out into the night, I witnessed the preliminary fight of the evening. One guy in a baseball hat and sleeveless shirt tried to force another guy in a baseball hat and sleeveless shirt out of his way.  The second gentleman responded to the advance and they were now in a fight.   This was eventually broken up by three other men similarly making up for a lack of sleeves with head accessories.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers at Ottawa Bluesfest on Friday, July 15, 2016. RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO Mark Horton
The Red Hot Chili Peppers at Ottawa Bluesfest on Friday, July 15, 2016. RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO Mark Horton

The less rage-induced crowd began shuffling forward and we passed into the first circle of the Ottawa Bluesfest RHCP concert – guys who really, really like talking about the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Through the ebb and flow of pushing bodies, a common whisper was shared among friends and lovers alike, “I can’t hear them!”  The vocals of the first half dozen songs were very low and were drowned out by hundreds of people repeating with barelled voices, in both official languages, their absolute lack of belief that they were watching the Red Hot Chili Peppers live.  Eventually my clump escaped the first circle and made it into the second “people taking pictures of each other’s heads.”

The number of amateur photographers in this city is astounding, just stick to the clump and you will get through.  In the third circle the fighting resumed, this time in two places at once. Two girls began taking swings at one another as their compatriots pull them towards the beer tent.  The other brawl indistinguishable from the one described above.  Now the murmuring began again, this time, expressing the dissatisfaction with the crowd.

I could go on, dear reader but it is enough to say that I never made it past the 4rd circle into the promised “front” where dancing and merriment was had. Where people respected each other and music lovers delighted. And while the music was enjoyed by those in every circle – the unified front of chest beating, aggressive human beings of all ages was the take away.

The band played the hits, and a urinal overflowed.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers perform at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Friday, July 15, 2016. The RBC Bluesfest is ranked by Billboard Magazine as one of North America’s top ten festivals. ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO Mark Horton
The Red Hot Chili Peppers at Ottawa Bluesfest on Friday, July 15, 2016. RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO Mark Horton

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