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Month: April 2011

Bluesfest 2011: Lineup Announcement

So the official announcement is out and as usual the lineup has been met with a real mix of sentiment.  I have more mixed feelings than usual – I’ve been a strong defender of Bluesfest in the past when people have complained about some of the programming being repetitive and not living up to the hype.

I’ve always been of the opinion that this is a huge festival and even if you’re not blown away by the headliners, there’s plenty of depth to the lineup and there is usually enough to at least keep me going every day.

I still stand by that opinion – I bought festival passes again this year – I figure there is at least one band I want to see every day and on the lighter days there are opportunities to discover bands that aren’t on my radar yet.  At about $20 per day with a Festival Passport, I’ll take that deal any day of the week.

But in some cases this year it just seems like the programming team isn’t even trying to branch out and are just delivering a greatest-hits compiliation of past Bluesfest acts.

I understand that Blue Rodeo and The Tragically Hip are big draws, but man, isn’t that just taking the easiest of easy programming routes in this city?  Also, I love The Flaming Lips, and don’t get me wrong I’m really looking forward to seeing them again, but they just headlined last year!

Lots of repeats from two years ago too: Ben Harper of course, and Girl Talk gets a deserved bump up to a bigger stage (though I’m not sure the atmosphere will carry over well – that Hard Rock Stage performance will live on as a highlight of all time for me).  Cage the Elephant and The Black Keys were both here before their respective surges in popularity this past year so they’ve each been bumped up to headliner status as well.

Lots of old rockers peppered through the lineup for the Ottawa ‘boomers of course, with Peter Frampton, Steve Miller Band, Huey Lewis and The News, and John Fogerty.  At the same time, Bluesfest is definitely trying to reach out to the younger set with four DJ acts on the bill: The aforementioned Girl Talk, as well as Skrillex, Shpongle and Infected Mushroom.

No doubt there are some new-to-Bluesfest acts I’m looking forward to – I’ve been itching to see Death Cab for Cutie for a while (they were on my prediction list!), Erykah Badu, The Roots, Death from Above 1979, and Skrillex should all be a great time as well.

And we’ve mainly been talking about the headliners, but as I mentioned this is a festival with some depth – some of the side stage acts I’m looking forward to so far include Hannah Georgas, Danny Michel, Buck 65, Hey Rosetta!, Gomez, Tegan and Sara, and Girls With Guitars.

Soundgarden is the big name that I suppose is meant to appeal to my demographic, but I’m just not that attached to 1994.  And A Perfect Circle is a strange but welcome diversion into the alternative realm.

Hell, contrary to popular opinion, there’s even blues to be found on the lineup!  I’ve never been particularly into the genre (I know all those “Bluesfest should be for blues!” people are hating me right now), but I appreciate the opportunity to be exposed to stuff that I’m not really familiar with as well.

Is this lineup lacking some of the star power of years past?  Sure, but they can’t all be like 2009.  With all of its programming weaknesses, it’s still a world class festival, and it’s happening right here in usually sleepy old O-Town.  See you out there!

Bluesfest 2011: Rumours, wishes and hopes.

Well it’s about that time again – several summer festivals have already announced their lineups, and for the ones who haven’t the rumour mill is in full force. Ottawa Bluesfest is set to announce its lineup at a gala event in a couple of weeks, so here’s my rundown of the rumours I’ve seen and heard around town.

Consequences of Sound’s Festival Outlook site is usually a pretty good source for rumours and have had a lot of hits in the past. So I’ve started with some selections from their list, and then I’ve dug into comments on various sites, Facebook and Twitter for some of the more persistent rumours and I’ve thrown in a couple of my own wishes and hopes.

Girl Talk (link) This was on the Festival Outlook site and seems pretty likely, although the evidence is a little iffy: @blaremag tweeted a “confirmed” list of acts based on the Festival Outlook list (including Girl Talk), which is then retweeted by @therealgirltalk which is then used as evidence by Festival Outlook as confirmation of the rumour. Solid evidence? Not sure. But it seems likely – he’s on tour, has room in his schedule around Bluesfest, is rumoured for Lollapalooza and is playing Bonnaroo. Also played Bluesfest two years ago and absolutely packed the small side stage on the afternoon he played. Look for him on a bigger stage- perhaps the River stage – and a move up to an evening slot.

Cage the Elephant (link) Posted on Festival Outlook, touring heavily to support their new album and playing Toronto July 7, QC on July 10 and Montreal on July 11th. Seems pretty likely – I’m guessing between TO and QC.

Mumford & Sons (link) Also posted on Festival Outlook, this one seems like a reasonable possiblity. Touring heavily, playing some summer festivals, definitely a good fit for Bluesfest. My only concern is that they’re in Spain July 14th, but there’s lots of open space in their schedule before and after that gig.

My Morning Jacket (link) Posted on Festival Outlook, seems pretty likely – touring to support a new album dropping on May 31, playing Bonarroo, and playing Montreal on July 12th.

Steve Miller Band (link) Posted on Festival Outlook, I’d peg this one as pretty much certain. They’re touring really heavily, playing Sarnia Bayfest July 8, and Niagara Falls July 9th with no dates until Vancouver July 15th. This would definitely be a big draw for Ottawa’s Boomer crowd.

The Black Keys (link) Posted on Festival Outlook, I think this one is almost certain as well. Touring heavily to support their album, playing Toronto July 7 and Montreal July 11th. Saw them play an afternoon stage two years ago – will be good to see them in a headlining spot this year.

Lady Antebellum (link) I throw this one in just because they’re playing Sarnia Bayfest on July 16th and have room on their schedule and would probably be a draw. I don’t give a good goddam if they play here.

Bran Van 3000 (link) This is one from my wishlist. Would be a good fit. They’re on tour and playing some festivals and are rumoured for Osheaga. Fingers crossed!

Death From Above 1979 (link) Newly reunited, on the festival circuit, rumoured for Osheaga and playing Sasquatch. Uncertain.

The Tragically Hip (link) I think this is pretty likely to happen. Last year we had three members of the band playing in various side projects. They’ve got two festival dates in Watertown and Toronto in June and July. They’re an Ottawa and Bluesfest favourite.

Journey, Foreigner, Night Ranger (link) How cool would one or all of these be? They’re touring together playing a bunch of outdoor gigs and have some gaps in their July schedule. I would give one or all of these bands about a 60% chance of landing at Bluesfest.

Elvis Costello (link) Given the source, I’m going to say unlikely – Denis Armstrong infamously predicted Neil Young and Pearl Jam for last year. However, Costello is touring and in North America at the time with some room in his schedule. We’ll see – can Denis redeem himself? UPDATE: Elvis Costello & The Imposters have been confirmed for Ottawa Jazz Festival!

Eminem (link) I’m going to call this one a real longshot. Playing Bonarroo, rumoured for Lolla, supporting a new album. No tour dates on his website yet though so hard to get a sense of what his schedule is like. Would be a pretty big get.

Foo Fighters (link) This one I’m throwing in as another long shot, but they’ve dropped a new album this month – their first in four years – are headlining Sasquatch and rumoured for Lolla. They have a month off between dates in Scotland July 10 and Austria August 20. Anything’s possible, right?

Death Cab For Cutie (link) This is another one from my wishlist. They’re on tour and have a month between dates in the UK July 7 and Los Angeles August 18th.

The Flaming Lips (link) I’m calling this really unlikely, but man would I ever love to see them again – easily my favourite show in 2010. They’re on the Festival circuit and are playing Sasquatch. They’ve got lots of open dates around Bluesfest. But they were here just last year, and while I think they were a big hit, I’m doubtful they’d be back so soon.

Neil Young (link) Touring to support a new album, hasn’t been to Ottawa in a couple years, playing Bonarroo, lots of time on his schedule in July. This is from my own list of wishes, but I’m going to call this a strong possibility. I really hope I’m right!!

Scissor Sisters (link) Touring to support a new album, on the festival circuit – Playing Bonarroo, played Coachella. But they were just here in March with Lady Gaga. Doubtful.

Return of the Comedy Tent? I wonder if they’ll be bringing the comedy tent back. It’s still a fixture at many other music festivals, and while I think it wasn’t a runaway hit last year, I don’t think it was a flop. And having that big air conditioned tent to take a break from the hottest part of the day was nice. In terms of potential acts, Henry Rollins is on tour and playing Bonarroo, and Jon Lajoie is on tour.

Have you heard any rumours that I haven’t? What do you think of my rundown?


Just adding a couple other rumours I saw repeated over the weekend:

Peter Gabriel (link) Saw this on previously but didn’t really think it was really in the realm of possibility, but I’ve seen the rumour repeated since, so I thought I’d throw in my impressions. Gabriel is doing a summer tour of outdoor venues but currently looks to be ending his tour on June 29th at Milwaukee Summerfest. A blog post on in March announced the series as a “12 date tour“, and given the current listing on his site already includes 12 stops, I doubt this rumour has much weight. Don’t get me wrong – I would LOVE to see Peter Gabriel again, and especially here in Ottawa. Just don’t think it’s very likely.

Kanye West (link) Somehow missed this rumour on my first draft of this post. Lots of buzz on Facebook about this rumour, and I’ve seen it posted on a few sites. Don’t know what the likelyhood is, but he does have a great new album to support, he played Coachella, just put in a surprise appearance at SXSW, and he’s hitting a few European festivals this summer. He played Bluesfest once before in 2007, and as far as I know was well received (I missed it, dammit!). Would be great if this rumour comes through!

Miscellaneous: There are lots of other rumours floating around, many of which I really hope will come true – I just can’t write them all up. Here are a bunch of other names I’ve been seeing: 3OH!3, Primus, John Butler Trio, Trooper, Ben Harper, Sade, Def Leppard, Hall & Oates (oooooh, that would be great!), Meat Loaf, Mary J Blige, U2 (yeah, right!), Peter Frampton, Pearl Jam (this one comes from Denis Armstrong again – maybe he was just off by a year?).