Monday, July 07, 2008

Ottawa Bluesfest 2008

Summer is a great time to be living in Ottawa. There is a continuous stream of festivals and wonderful weather. Currently our town is in the midst of one of the largest music festivals in Canada (if not the world). At ten days long and six stages it sure is a big deal. And as I said in May, it really isn't limited to blues. This is the second year in a row that it is being held in the fields around the brand new War Museum (probably the best museum in the country right now). If you look at the picture below you can see the Parliament buildings in the distance.
It attracts some pretty big names every year but if you know me, those aren't the guys I'm interested in. So on Saturday I dragged Irene and a friend of mine (whose wife is in Toronto for work) out to see a Six Shooters Records Extravaganza on the Blacksheep Stage. Basically the guys at Six Shooters brought together the better part of their roster and did each artist separately over the afternoon with a big culminating bash right at the end. The set included such great Canadian indie acts as Christine Fellows, Luke Doucet, Elliot Brood and everyone's favourite crooner Justin Rutledge.
Christine Fellows, my second favourite artist from Winnepeg (after the Weakerthans) started off the afternoon with her soaring vocals and electronic indie-pop. Mixing a violin with a synth and xylophone was a great way to start the day. Anybody who has not heard her song Vertebrea should check it out now on NMC. It is a perfectly crafted pop song.Justin Rutledge followed with a complete band this time. His voice is something special and when you get the stellar guitar playing coordinated perfectly with the lap guitar and emphatic drumming you can close your eyes and know you are experiencing something really special. I like him so much I bought another one of his cds.
Country rockers NQ Arbuckle, with the smoking Neville Quinlan played nonchalantly and where backed by some powerful country kids. The highlight of this set was when Justin Rutledge and Carolyn Mark did backing vocals and then slow danced their way off stage.Luke Doucet (former Ryan Adams-esque rocker turned alt-country crooner) wowed the crowds with his fancy guitar work and even brought his father and daughter to play and sing with him and wife Melissa McClelland in a spine tingling rendition of 'Jolene'. Mark my words, that daughter of his has a future in singing. That is for sure.Elliot Brood, who are coming off a critically acclaimed new album release, took the stage for a tight set that included, acoustic guitars, compatible ukuleles and at least one banjo. Though I am not a huge fan of the distorted acoustic guitar sound I did like it when they took it down a notch with the banjo and ukuleles. These guys also have the coolest custom chair (for the guitarist who sits down the whole time) and also the suits where a nice touch.The finale featured Martin Tielli (one of the founders of Six Shooters and who I hadn't even heard of). He played some extremely intense solo-acoustic songs and slowly added musicians from all the bands we had just heard. The result was some really amazing artistic rock that you could see was just so much fun for all the people on stage. It was twenty or thirty talented musicians playing together and interacting musically, creating a lush musical landscape. It was a beautiful way to end the night.
I wish I could see more of the Bluesfest but alas I have to install a patio this coming weekend and my list of helpers is dwindling as other projects and events are popping up.....guess I had better get digging. Here is the view we had of the Ottawa River as the sun was setting over Bluesfest. Till next year!And just for the record, this is the third blog in a row in which I am writing about my life and not just random nothingness so I don't want to hear any complaining from the peanut gallery.
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