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Category: Bluesfest

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?

** UPDATED **

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

Peter Gabriel (link) Saw this on Last.fm 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 petergabriel.com 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?).

Bluesfest 2010: Opening Night

Bluesfest opens tonight with the legendary Iron Maiden!  This show ought to be epic if for nothing else than what will probably be a record number of noise complaints from sleepy old Ottawa!

I can’t wait… I’m not sure what my posting schedule will be like this year, but I’ll definitely be posting lots to Twitter, so check me out there.  I’ll do my best to capture photos and video, but honestly my camera isn’t any better than it was last year, so I’m not so inclined to grab a million dark/blurry/crappy photos and videos and then have to sift through them all to find the one that’s inevitably terrible-but-not-as-terrible-as-the-rest… so we’ll see, maybe I’ll just stick to getting a few shots while there’s daylight and post if I get anything good.

Anyway, happy Bluesfest everybody!

Bluesfest 2010: Lineup impressions (so far!)

Let’s start with what I called:

Iron Maiden – I can’t really say I called this, it was all but confirmed weeks ago..  Going to be a legendary show, and a great way to kick off the festival!  Ottawa, start your decibel meters!!!

Crowded House – Another that was all but confirmed well before the official announcement, these guys should put on a solid show.

Weezer – YEAH!!!  Didn’t see their name popping up much on the rumour mill the last few weeks, but I had this gut feeling about them… I am so excited about this show!

Rush – This one seemed pretty likely based on their summer schedule, and now it’s confirmed.  I must admit I’ve never been a big Rush fan, but I’ll be there to catch these legendary rockers.

Arcade Fire – I wasn’t totally convinced they were going to make an appearance, but I had high hopes – glad to see their name on the official list!  This show’s been a long time coming!

Santana – My dad called me this morning to tell me Santana’s coming.  Guess I know what to get him for Father’s day!

The rest of the list I published last week was basically rumours I was busting and really long-shots.  Keeping in mind that Bluesfest organizers usually hold back a couple big names to announce between now and the festival, I’d say my batting average is pretty good:  Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga, Kings of Leon, U2, and Stevie Wonder were all rumoured to be coming to town, and I said they were all pretty unlikely.  The only rumour I didn’t completely bust was Neil Young, although I didn’t really commit either way on him – I was just really hopeful.

And now for a sampling of the rest, along with at least one huge surprise for me!

The Flaming Lips – I saw that they were on tour, but their schedule seemed a bit tight, and I really didn’t think they’d have much of a draw in Ottawa… but man, am I ever glad I was wrong!!  I have been dying to see these guys for so long!! This is #1 on my list this year, for sure!

Gord Downie and the Country of Miracles – I love The Hip.  I wish The Hip was coming.  I just heard the first single from Gord’s latest on the radio, and I’m not in love.  I really hope the rest of the record will be better.

Great Big Sea – really?  again?  man, this city really loves these guys…

Joan Jett – NICE!  I love Rock ‘n Roll too!  We  have so much in common…

Keith Urban – blech!

Kevin Costner and Modern West – ok, this is weird.

Matthew Good – Always a ‘good’ time.

Mayfair Theatre Presents Night of the Living Dead Live – GO SEE THIS!  Saw this up at The Mayfair a month or so back, and it was amazing!!  They screen the classic film but cut out the soundtrack which is then filled in by a live orchestra, foley artist, and actors!  One of my favourite things ever.

Metric – Wow, these guys just keep coming and coming and coming… not that I mind!

Passion Pit – Caught these guys last year at Zaphod’s – was a really fun show!

Roger Hodgson – I was always a huge Supertramp fan, so I guess I should feel obliged.

The B52s – Last time I saw these guys was at SuperEx in the early 90s.

The Hold Steady – LOVE ‘EM!

The Lost Fingers – should be pretty entertaining

And a smattering of other interesting acts:  Alexisonfire, Amos the Transparent, Big Jeezus Truck, Gipsy Kings, Good2Go, Great Lake Swimmers, Ken Workman & The Union, Loudlove, Rural Alberta Advantage.

And lots of names I didn’t recognize – guess I got lots of music learning to do!

We know from past experience that Bluesfest holds back some announcements so they can keep a trickle of news releases coming from now until the fest, so there should be some more big names coming.  There’s also the Byward Blues yet to be announced, which should have some good names as well.

One thing I note is a distinct lack of big Hip Hop acts on the bill, or am I missing something?  Interesting…

What are you looking forward to?  What’s not on my list that I should be looking forward to?  Happy Bluesfest Lineup Day everybody!

Bluesfest 2010: Lineup Predictions, Wishes, Hopes, etc…

Bluesfest is set to announce their lineup next week, and as always, there has been much speculation around the major headliners.  Bluesfest announces their lineup relatively late compared to other summer festivals, which drives a lot of rumours and discussion around the bands on the festival circuit or otherwise that may drop by our beloved Bluesfest.

I’ve been doing a fair amount of rumouring and speculating myself, so here are my predictions/hopes/wishes and impressions of the current rumours floating around:

Iron Maiden – this seems to be pretty much in the bag.  The band is touring this summer, they’ve got dates in Montreal and Toronto right around that time, and then there’s this bit of evidence.

Crowded House – another one that seems like a fait acompli.  With a new album coming out in June and a US/Canada tour kicking off on July 12th, they seem a pretty likely candidate.  Oh, and of course there’s this.

Weezer – I haven’t seen this name come up in many rumour discussions, but let’s file it under my wish/hopes.  The timing seems right – they’re on the festival circuit and are playing Sarnia Bayfest and Osheaga in Montreal around that time.  If they don’t play Bluesfest, I guess I’ll be hitting Osheaga – I’ve been dying to catch these guys live.

Black Eyed Peas – This name came up a couple of times – they’re currently on tour and are also hitting the Sarnia Bayfest on July 18th.  But they’ve got a date at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa on August 1st, so they probably wouldn’t want to cannibalize sales from that show so soon after.  Unlikely.

Lady Gaga – This was the big rumour that hit last week.  I don’t really care either way, but she’s got two gigs down the road in Toronto on July 11 and 12th – but the schedule seems a bit too tight for her to make the trip here – she’s only got a day between New York and Toronto, and a day from Toronto to Cleveland.  I think this one’s pretty unlikely.

Neil Young – I came across this rumour for the first time last week as well.  I really hope it’s true, but it’s hard to find any evidence to support.

Kings of Leon – Another persistent rumour, but I think this is more wishful thinking.  They’re on tour, but at the time of Bluesfest they’re cruising around the western states, so I think this is pretty unlikely.

U2 – HA!  I doubt it.  Yes, they’re in Montreal at the right time, but really?  Not exactly a festival-circuit type band…

Rush – hmmm… another strong possibility – they’re on tour, playing outdoor venues and festivals.  Also playing Sarnia Bayfest and there’s a rather glaring 4 day gap between that show and Toronto where they could take a jaunt down here.

Arcade Fire – hard to say… they’re doing a European Festivals tour and are playing Oxygen Festival on July 9th, but they have nothing else booked until Osheaga at the end of July.  Would love to see these guys!

Stevie Wonder – has been a pretty persistent rumour, and would be an amazing get for the festival.  He is playing some festivals this summer, but I can’t find any single listing of his currently booked dates.

Those are the big rumours, and of course the best thing about Bluesfest is that over the 10 days, there are so many acts to catch that the headliners are really just icing on the cake. Word is this year’s festival received a record number of requests from local bands to play, so Ottawa should be well represented as well.

The other great bit of news is that the Byward Blues concert series is going to be expanded and will include free outdoor shows over both weekends, as well as lots of club shows through the week.  Two of my favourite experiences from last year – Arrested Development on York Street and Peter Murphy at Mavericks – were a part of the Byward Blues series, so I’m really glad to see it back.

UPDATE: Just spotted another rumour that seems pretty likely:  Santana.  He’s on tour playing basically every day or two and then there’s a rather conspicuous gap between Toronto on July 11 and Montreal on July 15th.  hmmm..

Bluesfest Day 9: STYX!

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Another great day at Bluesfest!!  Can’t believe it’s almost over… just a few days left!

Day 9 kicked off great with Shout Out Out Out Out from Edmonton – these guys had me dancing before I even got to the festival grounds!  Those two drumkits could be heard from way up Booth Street and had my interest piqued right away!  These guys were a  total blast.

The huge disappointment of the day was Busta Rhymes, who showed up an hour late for a one hour set on a main stage!  Which of course threw the whole schedule off – he got on and played a mere 25 minutes, pushing LIVE’s start time back by half an hour, forcing STYX to play over the last LIVE song, and still end up going over time at 11:00, no doubt sending those noise complainers into a tizzy!

LIVE was great from what I saw, but I was pretty determined to be up close for STYX – Gowan was my first live concert experience ever and he’s singing and playing keys for them now, so I was all set for a nostalgia trip last night.  And they did not disappoint.  Good.  Solid.  Rock.  Show.

We’re on Day 10, and my brain, body and spirit are getting worn down.  Sorry for the few words in this post – just take my word for it, this was one of the best days I’ve had at Bluesfest 2009, and that’s saying a lot.

Included below is what little video I have of STYX performing Gowan’s Criminal Mind.  Unfortunately, they started playing it just as I was making my way back from bathroom/beer break, so I was busy fighting my way through the crowd (and covering myself with beer in the process) for the first half of it.  WHY, OH WHY did you have to play my song at that exact moment?!

UPDATE:  Here’s a far better video (but crunchier audio) than mine from someone else at the show:

Bluesfest Days 6,7,8: KISS Army, baby!

Well the past couple of days have been a blast – even though 6 and 7 lacked any mind-blowing performances, KISS more than made up for that last night.

Day 6 was a strange day at Bluesfest – only one stage open, only three bands playing.  I only made it down for the second half of Gym Class Heroes, and I was wishing I’d caught more – those guys were a blast.  A little bit of rain didn’t dampen anyones spirits as the place started to fill up for Stone Temple Pilots.  Now I must admit that I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this show – I was a fan back in the 90’s, but that seems so long ago now, and I just didn’t have a lot of interest.  They put on a great show, and I’m interested to see what they turn out in their new album that will be coming out later this year.

Day 7 there wasn’t anything I was particularly excited about either- Our Lady Peace just doesn’t do it for me.  We caught Ice Cube, which was a pretty big disappointment – first off, the volume was way too low – we weren’t even far back, we were at the sound booth – but bylaw was out in full force with their little decibel meters and the show suffered for it.  I also guess I’m just not a big gangsta fan, so what are ya gonna do.

Other than Ice Cube, my brother and I just kinda wandered around the rest of the night – I kinda like nights like that, where you don’t have anything particularly invested in any one show, so you’re free to roam and check out whatever you want and hopefully discover some new stuff in the process. Our travels took us to Xavier Rudd, a Bluesfest favourite who I’d seen in a smaller more intimate venue to which the Bluesfest experience couldn’t compare.  Then to The Zombies for a few minutes, Toots & The Maytals at the Hard Rock stage, then over to the Spam Allstars at the Blacksheep stage.  All great performances, but there was one mad-dancing-fool at Spam Allstars that had us entertained for a good 40 minutes.

And then there was Day 8.  It started off well enough with a showing by the Arkells who got us off to a great rockin’ start.  Then Beast on the Bank of America stage, who I didn’t really know anything about, but I actually bought their CD later on – wow, I haven’t bought a CD in a LONG time!  Then for a little fun over to Silent Disco, which is a lot of fun to watch with headphones off, and I can’t help but think would be a lot more fun with headphones on if it was a better DJ.

And then there was KISS.  30,000 fans jammed onto the main field and the KISS army out in full force, these rockers turned out a 2 hour plus rock show of epic proportions!  There was fire, there were explosions, there was blood, there were wailing guitar solos and monster drum solos and Paul Stanley flew over the audience and Gene Simmons stalked the stage and flicked his tongue and if there was a roof to be blown off, they surely would have done it.  And for one night, Ottawa was ROCK CITY.

I’ll save my whining about how the volume wasn’t quite where I’d have liked it, at least at the beginning of the show, and about how difficult it is to get a good spot when 30,000 show up to that venue for another time.  For now, I’m just basking in the afterglow that always follows a really great rock show.

I’ll post some video later – didn’t get much.  Too busy rocking out.

Up tonight:  Styx – or more specifically, Gowan their new lead singer.  Gowan was the first concert I ever went to, and while I know this will really be a Styx show, I noticed on their setlists that they’ve been playing one or two Gowan songs on this tour.  Memory lane, here I come baby!

Bluesfest Day 8: TURN IT UP!

I haven’t written anything the past few days because I’ve been low on time, and low on enthusiasm – not much has really blown me away – I will write days 6 and 7 up later, but for now let me talk about tonight.  Tonight is a big night.  I have a lot of stuff to see, including the one that I think half the city is going to show up for tonight, KISS.  Apparently the lineups have already started at the gates – excitement is high – it’s going to be a wild show tonight!

But here’s the thing, you Ottawa complainers:  you’ve already ruined half the shows with your incessant whining about the volume.  When Joe Cocker played the other night and I was standing just across the field from the stage, I didn’t know he had started until well into his first song because the volume was WAY TOO LOW!  Ice Cube’s beats yesterday lacked any kind of punch, I assume thanks to the bylaw officer standing in front of me taking his readings.  Sound bleed from other stages is worse than ever because of the decreased volume.

Dear Ottawa, can we lighten up just a bit?  I know, we’re all sleepy public servants and all this fun is really starting to cramp our style, but can’t we all just learn to have fun for just one day? (or dare I ask for just one week?)  Let’s put away the lawn chairs and decibel meters and get bylaw off the speed dial and just revel in the fact that the legendary KISS is here and it’s going to be the most beautiful night of the festival, and tonight let’s just ROCK ‘N FUCKIN’ ROLL!