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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!

Bluesfest Day 5: Girl Talk!

I am mighty pissed off about one thing from yesterday – as I walked onto the grounds and grabbed a daily schedule, I was informed of a schedule change – that Land of Talk would be switched with Jenn Grant and would play at 6:15 instead of 4:45. So we just kinda wandered around and caught some bits and pieces elsewhere, noteably New Mastersounds from the Uk, who were great fun and were not happy until everyone on the Hard Rock Stage hillside was standing and enjoying the show.

Then later as we were making our way to The Black Sheep stage at 6:00 to see Land of Talk, we bumped into a friend who claimed she’d just come from watching them! That they went on at 4:45 as scheduled! I double checked, and sure enough, the schedule I had indicated a change, the schedule posted in the Wired tent indicated a change, but THERE WAS NO CHANGE!… angry angry.

Then we spent the better part of the next hour trying to stay dry due to the rain (THAT WASN’T SUPPOSED TO BE!), and waiting for Girl Talk! I’ve seen GT before in Montreal, and while I’d say that show was better overall in terms of energy and vibe (Montreal crowds are just amazing), one thing I did appreciate was being able to be relatively close without the fear of being in an out-of-control pit (Montreal was insane – I stayed in the balcony).

Girl Talk always puts on an amazing show – his live sets have become legendary for their energy and party atmosphere. He always says that he recognizes that he’s a laptop dj, and who wants to just watch a guy f’ing around on a computer, so he tries to take it to another level. With various projectiles and confetti and beach balls and giant ballons, plus the lucky selected group of people dancing on stage (in MTL, people just rushed past an overwhelmed security team and tore down railings to get up there!), the Girl Talk show is quite a spectacle, really something that has to be seen to be believed.

The sound from the main stage last night was notably lower – damn stupid complainers in Ottawa! – in fact, we were at the far end of the main field and hadn’t even realized Joe Cocker had started playing until well into his first song. We stuck around for a bit of his set, but unfortunately were feeling a bit broken, on my part after 5 days of bluesfesting with two nights in a row of mad dancing to Matisyahu and Girl Talk, and the body just isn’t as resilient as it once was.

So there were a couple of big misses, obviously missing Land of Talk was a huge disappointment, but we also didn’t get to catch Thunderheist at either of their performances yesterday – they were on at the same time as Girl Talk, so we missed them there, and then they were supposed to play Byward Blues later on, and we’d planned on making it down there, but as I mentioned previously, we were all feeling pretty broken and decided to rest our weary bones instead. At some point you have to accept the fact that you just can’t see everything!

Tonight is pretty light – only one stage open and one headliner: Stone Temple Pilots. Should be fun. 7 days left!

Included below is a bit of the mad spectacle that is Girl Talk.

UPDATE: From what I understand, Land of Talk was initially delayed because the drummer was caught up at immigration and so they made the switch, but then problems cleared up at immigration and he ended up making it in time, so they switched back. My problem with this is that they had already distributed flyers with the change made, including the one that I got! I’m still really pissed off about this. I was looking forward to seeing them!

Bluesfest Day 4: Matisyahu!

Just a quick video post today – no time to write anything up.  Yesterday was Hey Rosetta! and Matisyahu, both great performances, Matisyahu being one of two shows I’ve most been looking forward to this week (the other being Girl Talk tonight).

Speaking of tonight, the list is as follows:  Land of Talk, King Khan & BBQ Show, Girl Talk, Joe Cocker, Thunderheist, Mistress Barbara.  On my way there soon!

Included below a video of Matisyahu crowd surfing during King Without a Crown.  The camera I’m using takes better video than my other one, but the sound is crap.  So what are you going to do.