Monday, July 19, 2010

It's all over, baby blue

Another year, another Bluesfest. In every year there's good and bad (or perhaps that should "mildly annoying"). This year the good consists of a bunch of awesome main-stage shows that actually interested me enough to plunk myself down in a crowd of thousands, something I'm normally loathe to do. The Flaming Lips put on a show I'll remember for a good long while, as did Arcade Fire. Iron Maiden were quite good, and I even found Rush enjoyable for an hour or so.
There were as usual some excellent side-stage concerts, with Blonde Redhead, Timber Timbre, The Rural Alberta Advantage, Bassekou Kouyate and Plants and Animals being particular standouts in my memory. As in previous years there were also the pleasant discoveries, like solo acoustic guitarists Matt Andersen and Bjorn Berge. The weather largely cooperated as well.
Less enjoyable was the SLR ban (rumour has it that it was triggered by the aforementioned Rush show). And despite a couple of good shows in The Black Sheep tent, I've got to say that unless they can do something about the acoustics they should either reserve it for comedy acts or revert to an outdoor stage. Good or bad, depending on your point of view, is that at no time did I find myself having to make an agonizing choice between acts (I still get a painful twinge from last year's Drive-By Truckers/Black Mountain decision). I suppose that's another way of saying this year's lineup wasn't as strong, but since I only rarely found a shortage of things to see or do I can't rightly complain, except to say  I did feel the world music lineup wasn't as strong as it had been in previous years. On to last night's entertainment, starting with locals Amos The Transparent.

Last time I saw Amos The Transparent was also at Bluesfest - back in 2007 - and since then there's been a few lineup changes. They really sounded like a rock band yesterday, as opposed to a music collective in the vein of Broken Social Scene. Here we have Dan Hay doing his best Jimmy Page impression.

Amos The Transparent at Ottawa Bluesfest 2010
Amos The Transparent at Ottawa Bluesfest, July 18, 2010

With one of those rare downtimes on my schedule I went to the main stage to see what this Trevor Hall chap was up to. He's a reggae guy from L.A., and is on tour with Jimmy Cliff. I thought he was okay, but didn't stick around.

Trevor Hall at Ottawa Bluesfest 2010
Trevor Hall at Ottawa Bluesfest, July 18, 2010

I breezed past the Subway Stage where Paul Rishell and Annie Raines were just starting to cook on resonator and harmonica. I listened for a while then went over to the Black Sheep tent.

Paul Rishell & Annie Raines at Ottawa Bluesfest 2010
Paul Rishell and Annie Raines at Ottawa Bluesfest, July 18, 2010

There I found Occidental Brothers Dance Band International warming up. The Chicago band is dedicated to replicating the musical sounds of Ghanaian high-life. They've teamed up with Congolese singer Samba Mapangala for their latest project.

Occidental Brothers Dance Band International at Ottawa Bluesfest 2010
Occidental Brothers Dance Band International at Ottawa Bluesfest, July 18, 2010

They were fun enough, but I'd also heard good things about Slide To Freedom. They're a trio that blends eastern and western slide music, though to my unlettered ears it sounded more Indian than anything else.

Slide to Freedom at Ottawa Bluesfest 2010
Slide To Freedom at Ottawa Bluesfest, July 18, 2010

Hollerado was my next step, putting on a typically energetic set on the main stage, complete with confetti explosions (I'm going to guess they also caught the Flaming Lips' show) and a special guest appearance from mega-buskers The Dube Brothers for some twistin' tune.

Hollerado at Ottawa Bluesfest 2010
Hollerado at Ottawa Bluesfest, July 18, 2010

Hollerado at Ottawa Bluesfest 2010
Hollerado with The Dube Brothers at Ottawa Bluesfest, July 18, 2010

Jimmy Cliff proceeded to put on an electrifying set on the Claridge Stage. He definitely had the audience in the palm of his hand, swaying and singing along for every number.

Jimmy Cliff at Ottawa Bluesfest 2010
Jimmy Cliff at Ottawa Bluesfest, July 18, 2010

Weezer finished the night off. Like Cliff, frontman Rivers Cuomo appeared to be having a lot of fun, at one point running off the stage onto the speaker stacks stage left, then taking off down the divider that runs from the stage to the sound tent, high-fiving people and singing all the way.

Weezer at Ottawa Bluesfest 2010
Weezer at Ottawa Bluesfest, July 18, 2010

Unfortunately it seems likely the SLR ban will stay for next year ... they might even start enforcing it. I'll either have to finagle a photopass or buy a superzoom; if I don't I'm going to go nuts thinking about all the photos I'm unable to take.

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