Not a moshpit in sight: Pandemic takes the wheel at RBC Bluesfest drive-in concerts


Going from loud cheers and a roaring mosh pit to experiencing 2020’s RBC Bluesfest a little differently, musicians were met with audiences honking and vibing from their cars.

From July 31 to August 8, performers from all over Canada arrived in Ottawa to perform at the first-ever RBC Bluesfest drive-in concert. It was fashioned as a way to keep audiences and performers safe, while still being able to have a good time.

The shows included a swath of local artists, as well as headliners like Sam Roberts Band, Shad, Basia Bulat, and Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine.

“This concert really stood out and people were able to like escape for a little bit and have fun again,” said Asuquomo.

Asuquomo is a Canadian Musician and Multidisciplinary Artist with roots in Nigeria who performed at the drive-in concert. Although it was unconventional, he was able to get out there and still have a good time performing.

“It was a dream because it was a drive-in. And I got a kick-ass intro. I basically did my thing like it was a regular concert,” said Asuquomo.


Asuquomo had been planning tours like many artists this year, but with the pandemic, travel restrictions halted any ideas of touring. He said releasing and writing music during COVID has been challenging.

“I feel like the way artists work have never been affected this way. You can’t really just fly around and you can’t really just do sessions.”

Mehdi Cayenne is an Algerian-Canadian singer-songwriter who experiments with pop and indie rock music. He said, “It was a surreal moment getting back on that stage, it was so weird because it already had been so long since I’ve done a festival and had a stage.”

Instead of applause, there were cars honking at the end of the songs, Cayenne found this fascinating. The silence at the end of the performance was emblematic of the current era.

Mehdi Cayenne

With the continuing COVID restrictions, live performances are at a halt, and many musicians are adjusting to the new demands of the industry.

“Right now the challenge is if you can produce a video of your performance. So it’s like my job has really shifted in that way,” said Cayenne.

Part of those adjustments is taking on new skills such as cinematography, explained Cayenne.

Both Cayenne and Asuquomo have expressed their own concerns in this new era of producing their craft.

“What it has really hindered is in-person collaboration. The situation I’m in is I can do an album entirely by myself, but it’ll be better if I can collaborate with my people,” said Cayenne.

“I’m hoping for a playing field where were you can still be independent, and have a music career,” said Asuquomo.

But what seems to be similar is their drive to continue to create no matter the hurdles. For Cayenne, he does not believe the outside forces, such as a shutdown or a pandemic, will ever stop him from creating music.

“The reason I’m so intrinsically motivated is the sense that my work is really like an extension of my will to live.”

For Asuquomo, he hopes places start to open up so he can go back to creating and touring.

“I’m happy to say I’m in a good position that I could drop a new project. So the creativity hasn’t left. You know, I’ve been able to muster up the inspiration.”