In true Canadian summer music festival fashion, RBC Bluesfest brought a diverse and dynamic lineup of live music to Ottawa’s Lebreton Flats for the 25th edition of the popular festival.
Friday, July 4 saw the stages of Bluesfest open with a mix of the new, the legendary, the national and international. All the way from the UK, soul singer-songwriter, Nao, brought a sweet optimism to the center of the main CityStage, while Jewel collaborator, Steve Poltz, brought his sweet songs to the tented Blueville Stage, and 2013 Polaris Music Prize shortlist nominee, Zaki Ibrahim, opened the Videotron Stage alongside the Ottawa River. Leading up to headliners, British indie-electronica band, Alt-J, concert-goers were also treated to performances by Toronto’s U.S. Girls, Glasgow, Scotland’s Chvrches and legendary E-Street Band guitarist, Little Steven Van Zandt with his current project, Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul.
The City Stage on Saturday, July 6, belonged to rock as 2019 Polaris Music Prize shortlist nominees, PUP, brought their dynamic live show ahead of alt-rock heavyweights, Taking Back Sunday, and Kingston’s The Glorious Sons, who had the fired-up crowd wrapped around their finger. Meanwhile, the Bluesville Stage hosted its own uniquely diverse and surprising line up; starting with current Ottawa-Gatineau R&B favourite, Rebecca Noelle, Montreal’s Queen of the Blues, Dawn Tyler Watson, and the beautiful mosaic of international sounds and rhythms of The Turbans.
Continuing to Sunday, July 7, while legendary British new-wave group, The Psychedelic Furs, absolutely wowed the crowd on the headlining City Stage, the Bluesville Stage offered Montreal’s Justin Saladino’s roots rock guitar, and while fiddler, Ashley MacIssac, captivated the audience with his signature blend of his traditional Cape Breton roots with pop and electronic rhythms.
The festival resumed on Tuesday, July 9, with a number of Canadian favourites of rock and blues taking the stage. Hometown hero of blues, Sue Foley, brought her Juno nominated album, Ice Queen, to the Videotron Stage, while rising Ottawa rockers, Bearings, and Can-rock staples, The Trews, provided pure rock and roll to the audience of the Bluesville Stage. Opening the City Stage on Wednesday, July 10, all the way from Fort Good Hope, NWT, was Crook the Kid, who excited the audience by bringing out friend and collaborator Cody Coyote to support the up-and-coming rapper on his journey; while Saskatoon was well represented on the Bluesfest stages with a spirited performance from The Sheepdogs.
No Canadian music festival is complete without at least one day of a good downpour. Luckily, for the patrons of Bluesfest, the soggy weather presents a unique opportunity to hang out in the Canadian War Museum and check out Ottawa’s own MonkeyJunk host the All-Star Blues Review series inside the museum’s Barney Danson Theatre. Thursday, July 11, saw MonkeyJunk – alongside keyboardist, Red Young, and the Texas Horns – welcome sixteen-year-old guitar prodigy, Brandon “Taz” Niederauer, and legendary Maple Blues Award-winning piano player, David Vest; who performed in the Barney Danson Theatre prior to MonkeyJunk.
Friday, July 12, and Saturday, July 13, brought a series of legendary performances to not only the main City Stage but also to the Bluesville Stage. Opening up the Bluesville stage Friday night was Area Resident, who shared his songs reflecting the Ottawa experience before classic ‘80’s indie rockers, Guided by Voices. Meanwhile, the rock gods shined on the mainstage Friday, as Toronto’s The Dirty Nil opened for a long-awaited performance by Alexisonfire. A rainy Saturday brought a two-hour delay but did not deter audiences from enjoying exciting headlining performances from classic ‘90’s rappers, Wu-Tang Clan, and Snoop Dogg, and a visceral performance from Russian punk-art collective, Pussy Riot.
Bluesfest’s final night, Sunday, July 14, saw an eclectic mix of pop, soul and a little bit of classic rock. The City Stage audience were treated to special performances by local talent Vi and Kyle Ivan, and by Toronto’s Francisco Yates. On the Videotron Stage, the festival closed with performances by soul singer, Sugaray Rayford, and the warm harmonies of ‘70’s roots-rock superstars, America.
With its diverse, something-for-everyone lineup of performers, it’s no wonder RBC Bluesfest has been Ottawa’s premiere and most beloved music festival for 25 years. Here’s to 25 more!
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Born and raised with thoughts and aspirations of becoming a famous bassist in Sarnia, ON; Emily Plunkett now lives in Gatineau, QC, and considers National Capital Region home sweet home. A product of the Beatles, MuchMusic and the Southwestern Ontario summer festival circuit (circa 2000), her interest and love in concert photography came almost completely by accident when her journalism program at Algonquin College required courses in photojournalism (and she quickly realized that photos taken at concerts using a DSLR are enormously better than ones she was taking on a point-and-shoot she bought for a trip to England). She is extremely proud of the fact she has seen Sloan in some form or another 25 times.