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!