The last two days we attended The RBC Ottawa Bluesfest were quite dreary, but it certainly did not stop anyone from coming out and enjoying themselves. The rain had already started when we arrived on Tuesday, and we just made it to the Canadian Stage where METZ was playing when the band announced that they were being told to shut it down. Having caused some delay, we walked back to the Bell Stage and waited for the rain to subside. After about twenty-five minutes the silence finally broke when American country artist Brantley Gilbert emerged onto the Claridge Homes Stage.
Anyone who knows me is well aware that I am not a fan of country, especially in this day and age, but I actually found Gilbert to have more of a southern rock sound mixed in with country and hip hop: hick-hop. On top of the fact that he mumbled too much for me to understand, his voice was drowned out by the guitar and drum tracks that made for a mediocre performance. Crowd favourites included “My Kind of Crazy” and “Dirt Road Anthem.”
Finally, it was time to head back over to the Bell Stage for Lynyrd Skynyrd, and I was ecstatic that the rain had actually stopped just in time for their performance. Our photographer experienced a little bit of drama trying to get access to the photo pit for this particular show and in the end was permitted to shoot one song, but I will touch on that later. Going into their fourth generation, the band has kept the legacy of their music alive and continues to deliver despite all of the hardships endured along the way. Lead singer, Johnny Van Zant, took a moment to bring out a Canadian flag and tie it to his mic stand to accompany the already present American flag, in honour of our troops and the two countries allegiance; to which he dedicated “Simple Man.” While the band performed many classics, you can’t expect to go to a Skynyrd show without hearing “That Smell,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Freebird,” and, my personal favourite, “Tuesday’s Gone;” all of which exceeded my expectations and left me happy to be a part of the experience.
Unfortunately, we were not as lucky for our final day at Bluesfest. The weather never let up, and it rained the entire evening with only five-minute breaks in between showers. American Celtic punk band, Dropkick Murphys, hit the Claridge Homes Stage with a ton of energy that carried through the entirety of their performance. I was super impressed with the musicianship and the variety of instruments used while the crowd sang along with pride as if each song were an anthem. It is not very often that Dropkick Murphy’s come around these parts, it was a unique way to start my night and kicked it off on a high note!
Last but most certainly not least, The Tragically Hip would conclude my night as well as my time at this year’s Bluesfest. The great thing about the hip is that their songs are infused with Canadian history and Gord Downie has a way of turning them into stories while adding some of his signature theatrics into the mix. These guys have a way of making every show special; they’re not afraid to add a couple bars of music to a song whether it is an extra solo or extended verse. The band played most of the Fully Completely album along with many crowd favourites such as “At The Hundredth Meridian,” “Ahead By A Century,” and “Poets.”
As a whole, I had a great time at the festival but I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of organization. Entry into the festival was a breeze but once we were in, our photographer took a lot of flack for carrying her camera around. She was told crowd shots were not allowed and that the use was restricted to the photo pit only. As mentioned earlier she also encountered issues for the Lynyrd Skynyrd performance, the organizers were not clear on which bands we could or could not shoot, thus causing unnecessary drama which could have been prevented with proper planning.
Also, I could not help but notice the poor security detail which was extremely inconsistent each day. One day I am asked to empty my bag completely, and the next is just a quick skim. Smoking was not permitted on site, which was not an issue for me, but they seemed to pick and choose who they would penalise for it, allowing some to get away with it. I was asked to verify my I.D more than a few times after I had already obtained a bracelet; it was extremely frustrating.
Aside from that, I don’t have many complaints. With tons of food, beverages, and great live music, it s hard to have a bad time.
Until next year!
Written by Jamie Markell
Photography by Isa Hoyos Ishca Photography
*edited by Danielle Holmes