Thursday, July 18, 2013
Ottawa Blues Fest July 5-7, 2013
This is our third trip to the Bluesfest. Rated in the Top 10 of North American music festivals. They always do a great job of getting everybody who is on tour this year but you have to look carefully to find the Blues.
In 2006 we were blown away by Tex-Mex guitar god, Junior Brown.
We were a little less impressed by Wilco and Roseanne Cash.
In 2010 we were back for Jack White and his band, Dead Weather. Turns out we should have been watching C R Avery and the Sojourners, but how can you say no to Jack? I can't. Hope I never will.
This year we are doing a full weekend, three days. Staying away from the big stages; what do Zac Brown Band, The Dixie Chicks and fun. have to do with the blues?
Our first day finds us safely ensconced under an umbrella on the VIP patio as the rains pour down. We're not leaving the Blacksheep Stage tonight as we've found 3 interesting sets in a row.
The night opens with Eddie Shaw and the Wolfgang. This saxophonist has played with Ike Turner, Muddy Waters and lead Howlin' Wolf's band for years. He's as close to the Mississippi delta roots as we are going to get this weekend. Eddie puts on a strong show that ends with an electrified Sweet Home Chicago. Muddy was represented by Hoochi-Coochie Man and there were a few Wolf songs in the set.
Next up, the reason we came to Bluesfest this year, the first of two sets from New York popster and street poet, Garland Jeffreys
He does not disappoint in a set filled with strong new songs and enough classics to keep me happy; 35 MM Dreams, ROCK, Spanish Town and 96 Tears. Bonus song was a powerful cover of Bob Dylan's A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall. Better than anything I've heard Dylan do in the last 30 years...and that's about 20 versions. The line about "guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children" was delivered with such passion it gave me goosebumps.
Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters have won two WC Handy blues awards. That puts them in my Mississippi theme for the year. Their reputation exceeds them.
We cut out after three songs just in time to catch the Zac Brown Band do a terrific cover of Van Morrison's Into the Mystic on the main stage.
We spend the morning visiting friends and their handsome 6 month old son before we set up in the cool confines of the Barney Danson Theatre for three sets of music.
First up, a youngster from Austin Texas who has a rabid internet following. A hundred kids are anxiously waiting in line to see Shakey Graves. To me he is a complete unknown but his bio enticed us in to see him. He's in solo-artist mode, an electric guitar and two backwards facing kick drums, one keeping bass on a suitcase, the other smashing a tambourine. He's only a pair of knee-cymbals away from being a circus act. So we're good to go.
Interesting set. I'd see him again if I can.
Here he is it at this years Fest.
We are back in our spot as Rocky Lawrence takes to the stage. He's recently done an album of Robert Johnson songs...say no more. I'm booked, I gotta go. Real Delta creds in this guy, who hails from Connecticut. He's played in a band with Robert Lockwood Jr. (Johnson's step-son through one of RJ's many liason's with slightly older women) and David "Honeyboy" Edwards, who was with Robert Johnson the night he was poisoned. Furthermore, his own songs are in the acoustic Delta tradition...though he does play electric, his heart is in the simpler times.
We stay on to enjoy another set from Garland Jeffreys.
This morning we take a cab to Government House, the Governor Generals residence. Nice grounds to walk through, plenty of trees donated by heads of states and dignitaries through the years. Across the street is 24 Sussex Drive, home of the Prime Minister. We knocked, lights were on but no one was home. We stroll along the river then dive into the city for some shopping in the Byward Market. Nice way to spend a morning in the blistering heat.
Wu-tang Clan was a little late coming to the stage so one of them (I think it was Wu) was busy doing some scratching. That was OK, it's when he went on to burping and farting that we decided to leave for the cozy confines of the Blacksheep Stage.
Rocky Lawrence has a challenge today. The sound from Wu-Tang is bleeding into our stage. He takes it with good humour, commenting that if he knew all he needed was a microphone and turntable he wouldn't have spent all that time actually learning how to play an instrument before he called himself a performer or musician.
This guy is really enjoying his first trip to Ottawa. He spends as much time taking pictures of the audience, or chatting with them before and after sets, as he does onstage. Everyone and their brother, one dog and a turtle, had their picture taken with him. I had no need to take,take,take. I had a little to give and chased him down to show him cell phone photo's of Robert Johnson's three graves that Cece and I had recently visited.
Next up is Joe Robinson, winner of Australia's version of The Voice, or The Outback Has Talent, or some such reality show. He's a decent guitar player without a memorable song.
Closing our adventure for this year is Eric Burdon, of The Animals fame. Same strong voice and good set I got the last two times I saw him. Favourite tune was......