Ottawa Bluesfest 2017: Top Picks


Featured photo: Anderson .Paak by Julio Enriquez

It is that beautiful time a year again where Lebreton Flats transforms into one of the worlds biggest music festivals. Yes, Ottawa Bluesfest is back and ready to rock the capital from July 6th to 16th.

With so many days of music and so many bands, we wanted to highlight some of our must-watch acts. We decided this time around to focus on some of the traveling acts that have us excited. We may not be highlighting them this time around, but we don’t want to mention that there are a lot of amazing local bands gracing the stage almost every day (we’ve included some local mentions at the bottom of this article). Don’t skip the openers as they could very well be the next act to explode out of the city. See the full schedule here.


Top Picks for Bluesfest 2017

Death From Above

Thu, July 6, 9:30 PM – 10:45 PM – Black Sheep Stage

Death From Above have dropped the “1979” suffix and will make their return to the Bluesfest stage this year after having to drop out in 2016. The duo brings a rush of bass, drums and piano that some times makes you want to mosh and other times makes you want to slow dance. They surprisingly dropped a couple of new singles this year so this set may also be a chance to hear some new music they are trying out. Check out their new track “Freeze Me” below.


Pokey Lafarge

Thu, July 6, 9:00 PM – 10:15 PM – Bluesville Stage

If Death From Above isn’t really your thing, Pokey Lafarge will hit the stage at the same time and brings a more country-blues musical styling rooted in American folk music. Lafarge who has been releasing music since 2006 got his big break in 2012 when Jack White invited him to sing on the song “I Guess I Should Go to Sleep” from his critically acclaimed album Blunderbuss. Lafarge is a songwriter through and through and beautiful crafts lyrical content to be deep and catchy all at once. His is also quite the entertainer so you are surely in for a treat between songs as well.


Sugaray Rayford

Sat, July 8, 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM – Bluesville Stage

If you are one of those rare (yet awesome) people who actually go to Bluesfest for the blues, you can do much worse than to go catch a set by the big man of blues Sugaray Rayford. Rayford is surrounded by world-class musicians who will take you on a ride well before he even has a chance to sing. But once he sings, oh boy, are you in for a time. You can feel the pain from his past spent in Texas in his powerful soulful which bellows out of his 6’5” frame.  I have never seen him live, but I am told he moves with the grace of a much smaller man. Go see him live to have all three senses tickled, hear his songs, feel his voice and watch him dance.


July Talk

Tue, July 11, 8:00 PM – 9:15 PM – Claridge Homes Stage

With all their success over the last couple of years, July Talk have been called up to the big leagues finally making the move from one of the side stages to one of the main stages. The bands music is great, don’t get me wrong. But a July Talk show is about much much more than their catchy lyrics and smooth musicians, it is about the chemistry between the singers. Watching singer and guitarist Peter Dreimanis and singer Leah Fay interact on stage is a show in itself. Fay’s energy is electric as she dances around the stage, gets in Dreimanis’ face and usually drags him around the stage by his tie. Dreimanis sings with a voice that will remind people of Tom Waits and does his very best not to miss a beat when Fay comes around. Last time they played Bluesfest, our buddy was crowd surfed on stage and Fay took his hat and had him take his shirt off and even gave him a little bit of mic time before pouring water all over him in front of thousands of people. Thanks for the memory, Nick!


Choir! Choir! Choir!

Wed, July 12, 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM – Bluesville Stage

Do you love singing? Do you love karaoke but are a little too shy to get in front of a crowd? Do you love big sing-a-longs? Well, if you answered yes to one or all three of these you will love a Choir! Choir! Choir! set. Nobu Adliman and Daveed Goldman, the founders of Choir! Choir! Choir!, take a very non-traditional approach to forming a choir…they simply make the audience the choir. Coming off playing Parliament Hill on Canada Day, they play popular songs and old-time classics and will teach you the words and your part to make it a fun and interactive experience.


The Shins

Wed, July 12, 7:55 PM – 9:10 PM – Claridge Homes Stage

After singing for a bit with Choir! Choir! Choir! go check out the multi-Grammy winning band The Shins as they hit the main stage. The band has been wowing audiences and indie rock fans worldwide for over 20 years now. The band will take you on an emotional roller coaster with their beautiful music and vocalist James Mercer will impress with his range. This show will bring many of us back to high-school or early university days sitting in our rooms with our headphones on taking it all in.


LCD Soundsystem

Wed, July 12, 9:10 PM – 11:00 PM – City Stage

Yes another act on Wednesday July 12th…what can we say? It’s a stacked bill that day. LCD Soundsystem are celebrating 15 years since forming in 2002, and front man James Murphy is sure to wow and entertain. Having seen them headline at Way Home music festival last year—let me tell you that this is the must-see can’t-miss act this year. Bring your dancing shoes and get ready to shake your groove thing when LCD hits the stage. Their music blend of electronic and dance with rock is sure to bring the most lawn-chair of fans to their feet. It’s a great way to cap off a night and help soften the blow of partying on a Wednesday night.


Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals

Fri, July 14, 8:30 PM – 9:30 PM – Claridge Homes Stage

Anderson .Pakk is a songwriter, rapper, virtuoso drummer and producer who has been making beats since his early teens. Rolling Stone Magazine has called him “one of the most amazing vocalists in R&B today” and he has drawn praise from Dr. Dre, Talib Kweli, The Game and many more. And for those who don’t get into rap for the “lack of instruments and musicians,” .Paak’s live performances feature a full band who can really play and sometimes he even jumps behind the drums and show off his skills. So go get down, funky and rock out with Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals and get a taste of one of the biggest rising stars in hip-hop today.



Fri, July 14, 9:30 PM – 10:45 PM – City Stage

Yes, the same Live that dominated the charts with songs like “Dolphin’s Cry,” “I Alone” and “Lightning Crashes” has reunited for a world tour and are stopping by Ottawa. The band released their first album Metal Jewelry 25 years ago, so what better time to help us all reminisce. Ed Kowalczyk (vocals, guitar) has always been quite the entertainer and someone who leaves it all on the stage, even with some time away, I can’t imagine this performance will be any difference. This show is a can’t miss for all those fans of the golden days of the 90s when alternative rock was king.


Busty and The Bass

Sat, July 15, 8:00 PM – 9:00 PM – Black Sheep Stage

Busty and the Bass are a nine-piece band with jazz roots and soul topped off with an MC adding that hip-hop flare. They feature a super talented brass section that will really get you moving on a Saturday night. This is one of the most out of the box bands that will grace the festival stage this year.


Local Mentions

Telecomo – Thu, July 6, 8:00 PM – 9:00 PM – Black Sheep Stage

Eddie Quotez – Fri, July 7, 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM – Black Sheep Stage

ERU ERA – Fri, July 7, 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM – Barney Danson Theatr

Sparklesaurus – Sun, July 9, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM – City Stage

Malak – Sun, July 9, 3:30 PM – 4:30 PM – Barney Danson Theatre

Slack Bridges – Wed, July 12, 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM – Bluesville Stage

A Tribe Called Red – Fri, July 14, 9:00 PM – 10:15 PM – Bluesville Stage

Mushy Gushy – Sat, July 15, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM – Claridge Homes Stage

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