Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Young and old

I zipped off to the Ottawa Bluesfest at 5:30 yesterday - for once I was fairly organized and arrived in time to catch a complete set by one of the two acts I intended to see Monday night, the D'urbervilles. They impressed me with their fresh and exciting Zaphod's show in August 2006. They weren't quite as thrilling this time. The music still has the high-grade post punk twitch, but didn't seem to work as well on a big stage on a sunny day.

The D'Urbervilles, Ottawa Bluesfest, July 7, 2008

With 90 minutes to kill between The D'urbervilles I plunked myself down amid the roving pack of James Taylor's fans encamped in front of the Giant Financial Institution Stage and listened to the Cooper Brothers' classic rock stylings. After one song I decided to go and see what was happening on another stage ... any stage was good by me.

Cooper Brothers, Ottawa Bluesfest, July 7, 2008

The only other act playing at that time was Frank Vignola's Rhythm Machine on the Roots Stage, and boy, can they play. Vignola - that's him below on the left- is generally regarded as one of the best guitarists around, and his Rhythm Machine has mighty chops as well. This was a fun set of taut jazzy acoustic jamming. Some of the band's offspring bouncing around on the sidelines (I later spotted them wrestling near the autograph tent) and the audience sang Happy Birthday to guitarist Vinnie Rainallo (at right).

Frank Vignola's Rhythm Machine, Ottawa Bluesfest, July 7, 2008

Indeed, their set sped by with such buoyant ease, I lost track of time. I was vaguely intrigued by the writeup on Federico Aubele, so I went over to see his set on the Black Sheep Stage. His dreamy Spanish pop was pleasant - I'm not sure I can detect the dub, ambient and hip hop influences that allegedly reside in his music, but it was no worse for that.

Federico Aubele, Ottawa Bluesfest, July 7, 2008

As soon as 8:30 drew close I headed back to the Roots Stage for legendary soul singer Bettye Lavette. She put on a knockout show, featuring choice selections from her catalogue both old and new. Here she is facing off with guitarist Brett Lucas, who some may recall handling axeman duties for Thornetta Davis at the 2006 Ottawa Bluesfest.

Bettye Lavette, Ottawa Bluesfest, July 7, 2008

Then I wandered back to the Black Sheep Stage to see Rachid Taha. The French-Algerian singer is a bit of a legend himself, and has a wicked band to support him (mandolutist Hakim Hamadouche is at right). Taha's music is an interesting blend of French rock and traditional Arabic music. The audience was mighty worked up by his performance - I overheard several people saying it was the best Bluesfest concert they'd been to yet - but I thought Taha looked a little worse for wear. His voice got a little bit creaky at points, and the fact he had a stagehand turn the pages of a music book propped on a monitor and help him back into his jacket left the impression of past hard living - possibly just before the set itself. On the other hand, he was quite lively during at least part of the gig, jumping off the stage (into the hands of the aforementioned stagehand) to meet and greet the audience and thrust his microphone into the crowd.

Rachid Taha, Ottawa Bluesfest, July 7, 2008

He finished things off with his cover of the Clash's Rock the Casbah. It was an enjoyable show, but I would have liked it more if I hadn't spent part of it worrying that Taha might tip over.

1 comment:

starlagurl said...

Loved the D'Urbervilles show, but I know what you mean, they seemed to lack the energy to pull off those tunes. I can't believe there weren't more people there.