Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Bluesfest: Week One

Originally published on Couch Assassin.

Well, folks. The first week of RBC Ottawa Bluesfest is officially done! It was definitely eventful and I, like many of you, was able to catch some great live music and enjoy some nice (hot) sunny weather.

Here are some of my highlights:

BlakDenim. Blakdenim - one word, no c. Ottawa's very own hip hop/soul/funk/everything band put on a great performance on the River Canadian stage Thursday night. Although it wasn't packed, the crowd seemed to really enjoy discovering this local gem.

Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires. Wow. Bradley, also known as the Screaming Eagle of Soul, gives it his all on stage. And you can sense the love he feels for the crowd. The talented singer started out as a James Brown impersonator but he definitely has enough soul to stand on his own and leave his own mark.

The Souljazz Orchestra. A local favourite. It's so great to see them back on stage. This local act has been working on a new album "The Resistance", which will be out in September. There was a great crowd of people gathered at the Monster stage to see the show, some of which showed off their dance moves.

Nas. Although I don't know much about hip hop, and I'm not a fan of Nas, his performance was impressive. The turnout for his set was impressive as well. The rapper delivered a solid performance and he was quite enthusiastic and gracious to be playing to such a huge crowd.

Arkells. These guys won me over the second I first saw them play Bluesfest a few years ago. They give it their all on stage and they are just so fun to see live because they are having tons of fun on stage. This performance did not disappoint!

A few performances that fell flat for me included Kanye West. I'm honestly not sure what I expected but I definitely expected more. More spectacle. More visuals. More ranting... Although his performance was solid and generally good, I was left wanting more.

In week one, there were also many (pleasant) surprises and new discoveries:

Shakey Graves. This folky/blues rocker demands your attention as soon as he walks on the stage. Starting off with just him on stage, he was soon joined by supporting musicians. He drew a big crowd, and keep us entertained the whole time!

Jungle by Night. While waiting to catch another show, I stumbled upon these young men from Amsterdam who play a cool mix of funk, afro-beat and jazz. Their sound was refreshing and you couldn't help but have fun during their set.

Hat Fitz & Cara. Featuring Hat Fitz, a talented Australian blues guitarist and Cara Robinson, a talented soulful vocalist who plays the drums, the washboard and the flute, this duo is insanely talented and hilarious. Their songs are infectious and you cannot help but be sucked in right away. They definitely won over the huge crowd and put the blues back in Bluesfest.

There's so many great acts to catch during week two, including locals Hilotrons, FET.NAT, the Haig, Gold and Marrow, New Swears, and more! Some of the other acts I'm excited to check out include Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, CHVRCHES, Purity Ring, Tragically Hip, just to name a few.

Stay tuned for highlights of week two! See you at Lebreton Flats!

Photo: Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires. By Scott Penner

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