On days 3 and 4 of the 2014 Ottawa Bluesfest, Eventful Capital checked out live performances by the Mackenzie Rhythm Section, Matt Andersen, Langhorne Slim & the Law, Vintage Trouble, Mac DeMarco, Violent Femmes, St. Vincent and Lucius. Big crowds of festival-goers made their way over to LeBreton Flats for the weekend to catch loads of live music paired with perfect summer weather.
Eventful Capital started Day 3 of the Ottawa Bluesfest by catching the Mackenzie Rhythm Section in the Barney Danson Theatre. The local band from Ottawa composed of Conor Kehoe on guitar and lead vocals, Carl Hageraats on guitar and keys, JF Chevrier on drums and Nicolas Sobczak on bass, delivered a solid feel-good set of pure funk, soul and rock n’ roll complete with that old time vibe. Lead vocalist Kehoe demonstrated excellent showmanship from the get-go proclaiming “We don’t sit at Bluesfest!”, which got everyone up and out of their seats in no time. The band’s contagious sounds, dubbed soulstep, had the crowd dancing from start to finish and brought festival-goers back to the good old days when rock n’ roll was all the rage.
Meanwhile on the Claridge Stage, New Brunswick musician Matt Andersen was performing live alongside the Mellotones. Having performed solo at last year’s Ottawa Folk Festival, it was a nice change to see Andersen on stage with the Atlantic Canada show band. The underrated guitarist and singer-songwriter attracted a large crowd of blues fans who listened attentively under the shining sun. The amazing Andersen belt out beautiful blues accompanied by the Mellotones and his set list included the songs Baby Come Back Home, Coal Mining Blues, Baby I’ll Be, and the popular Devil’s Bride. The talented bluesman concluded his 60-minute performance with his rendition of The Beatles’ With A Little Help From My Friends much to the crowd’s delight. The love coming from the audience was palpable and Andersen and the Mellotones definitely felt it.
As the sunny afternoon led into a beautiful evening, it was Twin Forks’ turn to do their thing over on the River Stage, where a decent crowd gathered to catch the group live. Although a few members were missing, the Americana folk-rock band from Florida lead by Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional, delivered a fun foot-stomping set for their fans. Twin Forks, who’s performed in Ottawa a few times before, offered tunes off of their self-titled EP and LP including Can’t Be Broken, Get Home Safe, Kiss Me Darling, and Plans.
The headliner on Day 3 was none other than Lady Gaga, and unsurprisingly, a massive crowd of “little monsters” piled in front of the Main Stage for a chance to see the pop sensation live. Behind the War Museum on the Blacksheep Stage however, a blues rock band by the name of Vintage Trouble was stirring up quite the commotion with their incredible stage presence. Based out of Los Angeles, this independent 4-piece band sure knows how to throw a live party and involve the crowd throughout. Frontman Ty Taylor, who’s got energy for days, interacted with the public continually and made sure that the audience participated and enjoyed their time with Vintage Trouble. The charismatic singer jumped off stage on several occasions and got down with the people who seemed to be having a blast dancing and singing along. Their set list featured the songs Total Strangers, Another Man’s Words, Nancy Lee, Run Like the River during which Taylor ran up the hill in front of the Blacksheep Stage in an effort to get everyone on their feet, Nobody Told Me, and ended with their latest track Strike Your Light. From a music junkie’s perspective, Vintage Trouble’s performance was better than anything Lady Gaga could’ve done that night.
The Ottawa Bluesfest continued on Sunday with Day 4 of the programming, which featured performances by Mac DeMarco, Violent Femmes, St. Vincent and Lucius among others.
Eventful Capital started out Day 4 by checking out Mac DeMarco, curious to see what the hype was all about. For the occasion, a predominantly hipster crowd gathered at the River Stage to catch the Montreal-based indie pop rock singer-songwriter and guitarist. True to his his carefree attitude and goofball behaviour, DeMarco threw a few random jokes right off the bat and a good dose of silly comments that the crowd evidently found amusing. He also gave a noteworthy shout-out to Ottawa’s Raw Sugar Cafe, a nice nod to the city he was in. He performed material from his albums “2” and “Salad Days” including Salad Days, The Stars Keep On Calling My Name, Blue Boy, Passing Out Pieces and Ode To Viceroy, but the sound should’ve been a bit louder as it was somewhat hard to hear him sing at times. DeMarco gave a bit of an underwhelming performance given the buzz surrounding his persona, but it was still a fun set that festival-goers enjoyed.
Meanwhile on the Claridge Stage, the American alternative rock band Violent Femmes was taking the crowd on a trip down memory lane starting with their popular hit Blister in the Sun and continuing with Please Do Not Go, Add It Up, Prove My Love and Gone Daddy Gone. Although the band reunited in 2013, they kept their Bluesfest set classic with most of their well-known songs, which festival-goers were able to appreciate and sing along to.
Back on the River Stage, headliner St. Vincent hit the stage shortly after 9:00 pm surrounded by her musicians. The indie pop/art rock singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based out of New York City, who performed alongside David Byrne at the 2013 Ottawa Jazz Festival as part of the Love This Giant tour, returned to the National Capital solo this time around to deliver new material from her latest eponymous album “St. Vincent” as well as older tunes. The unique and intriguing artist who offered up some serious guitar shreds, opened her set with the vibrant Rattlesnake after which she followed with the electronic Digital Witness, Cruel, Marrow, Every Tear Disappears, and Surgeon among others. It was a refreshing and electrifying set into St. Vincent’s avant-garde vision of the world and it surely pleased those in attendance.
Eventful Capital concluded day 4 in the Barney Danson Theatre to discover the sounds of Lucius who played a first set earlier in the day on the River Stage. The 5-piece indie pop band from Brooklyn, NY comprised of Jess Wolfe on lead vocals and synth, Holly Laessig on lead vocals and keys, Dan Molad on drums, Peter Lalish on guitar, and Andrew Burri on guitar and drums offered up beautiful harmonies and catchy rhythms somewhat reminiscent of Metric, Haim and Arcade Fire. Showing off identical hairstyles and outfits, the lead singers projected great on stage energy and charisma and the audience happily jumped on board for the musical ride on which they took us. The setlist, which featured tracks off of their debut album “Wildewoman” included Free As A Bird, Don’t Just Sit There, Genevieve, Tempest, and Go Home. Lucius is definitely a band to watch for and to keep on your radar.
The 2014 Ottawa Bluesfest is off today, but continues July 8 on LeBreton Flats with Tokyo Police Club, Stix, Queens of the Stone Age, Foreigner, and Jake Bugg among several others.