The dark, heavy clouds, gusty winds, and accompanying threat of thundershowers on the last day of Bluesfest made for a deceptively hot and humid day, but fortunately, the rain itself held off for most of the afternoon and evening. I had another commitment that kept me from seeing a lot of the acts this day, but I was lucky enough to see a couple great bands!
The Red Rails
Ottawa-based power trio, The Red Rails, started things off inside in the Barney Danson Theatre to an enthusiastic crowd. It was clear that many were already fans, but it was also obvious that a good number of people in attendance were new to their music. Consider me part of the latter group at the start, but of the former by the end of their set. Kim Vincent (guitar), Chris Slaney (bass), and Steve Brogno (drums) put on a wicked show, and proved that when the instruments are played well, all you need is a guitar, bass, and drums to create a fully developed rock ‘n roll wall of sound. The guys played songs from their new CD, A Living Fiction, and their self-titled 2013 debut EP. It started out great and just got better with every song, a list which included “Prisoner,” “On The Line”, “In a Whisper,” “Eye On The Wall,” “Fill My Hands,” and “Chapter 9”. I heard influences of Alice in Chains, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and even a little bit of Kurt Cobain in some places on the lead vocals. The band has only been together since 2012, so it’s a true testament to their talent, dedication, and quality of live shows that they were added to the Bluesfest lineup this year.
The AJ Ghent Band
Upon exiting the Barney Danson Theatre, I could hear the sounds of some straight up blues and soul music coming from the Claridge Stage. Unfortunately, I think the threat of impending thundershowers kept a lot of people away this day, which is a shame because The AJ Ghent Band was putting on a fantastic show. The sun even started making its appearance about halfway through their set. Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, the band consists of AJ (slide/steel guitar), Gary Paulo (saxophone and rhythm guitar), Will Groth (drums), Seth Waters (bass), and Tiffany Ghent Belle and MarLa Ghent, both on vocals and percussion. The ladies were especially fun to watch here, doing double duty on strong and soulful backup vocals with funky, energetic dance moves.
Bluesfest 20th Anniversary Edition – A Recap
If you’ve been reading my recaps of Bluesfest so far, you already know that I have been very impressed! Having attended for the past 6 years, I’ve noticed that the volunteer crew continues to be top notch, the food, beverage and merch offerings plentiful, and the atmosphere and variety of stages perfect for seeing some older favourites, and for discovering some new talent. Another thing I really appreciated this year was the reconfiguration of the Claridge Stage; it really succeeded in creating a better flow, not only for crowd control, but for entry and exit options. I definitely noticed a difference from the past couple of years and felt much freer to move and get around this time… and given that the number of attendees only keeps growing as the years go by, there’s no doubt the reconfiguration had something to do with this.
On my last day at the festival, I noticed the Bluesfest “memory lane” section and enjoyed looking back on 20 years of Bluesfest, reminiscing about some of the shows I attended. Having attended this year as a writer for Bucketlist, I ventured out to a lot more shows than I have in past years, and am really thankful I did because I feel like I truly experienced the festival this time; taking a chance and seeing a variety of ‘new-to-me’ bands that turned out to be awesome and that I will spread the word about, and hope to see again in the future.
With 200 acts over the 10 days, statistically, there was bound to be something for all manner of music lover. With a spectacular variety, from country, rap, electronic, rock, alternative, funk, soul, punk, and pop, to Americana, traditional African, Chinese Reggae, and even some blues music, it’s no surprise the festival has hit record numbers this year.
Although official numbers haven’t been released yet, attendance is said to have hit over 300,000. In the end, it was appearances by Lady Gaga, Blake Shelton, Snoop Dogg, and The Killers (the latter 3 having been recapped by Bucketlist!) that pushed the total number of attendees to record levels.
Just as I have in past years, in 2015, I will look forward to March/April when the rumours begin, the clues are given via social media, and the excitement and discussion about Bluesfest starts up again, finally culminating in that early morning announcement of the year’s festival lineup. If the past few years, and especially this year, are any indication, I already know I will be making it a point to expand my musical horizons all over again.
Written by Valerie
Photography Courtesy of Sean Sisk Photography / Mark Horton