First Week Ends With Old Time Rock ‘N Roll
After drying off from a night with The Black Keys and cooling off from shaking it with Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip, last night it was time to try and understand our parents’ preaching about the music in the good old days. Last night, the good old days were handed to Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest attendees on a silver platter upon wrapping up the first week of the festival – featuring one big, tasty plate of Huey Lewis, Peter Frampton and their vintage tunes.
The beginning of the night saw younger bands like Boston Celtic-punkers The Dropkick Murphys and electronic kids Neon Indian exclaiming at the fact that they were playing alongside such prestigious veteran company and confirming that there was an air of astonishment about having two old-time favourites in the house. Frampton packed the MBNA stage with a sea of planted lawn chairs, clapping bystanders and curious young adults as he churned out popular 1970s classic-rock tunes like “It’s a Plain Shame” and the swaying “Baby, I Love Your Way” for the enthusiastic crowd. Between recollections and humorous tangents in his charming British accent, Frampton demonstrated he was still a rock n’ roll hero – whipping out his psychedelic talk-box effect for fierce performances of “Show Me The Way” and “Do You Feel Like We Do?” Every time his voice buzzed through the microphone, with the wail of his guitar next to him, the crowd erupted into excited cheers while images of Frampton’s younger days rolled in a slideshow on stage. Although the famed musician was vocally and instrumentally as bracing as he was known to be in 1976, he shared the recognition with his younger band mates – dueling with Adam Lester’s fiery guitar fingers and Rob Arthur’s impressive keys at centre stage throughout the set.
Before letting the second old hand of the night grab our attention, the hill-sitters at The National stage remarked at the upbeat indie-rock of talented Canadians Yukon Blonde – who seemed over-the-moon to be playing amongst such established company. Solo-ing side-by-side, smiling through their hippie harmonies and shaking the long locks from their face – the quartet requested help from the audience on catchy up-and-coming ditties like “Wind Blows” and “Brides Song” as the sun went down.
Pushing through the throngs of grooving fans who were pressed all the way back onto the gravel path proved to be unlike other concerts at the Claridge stage; it was almost impossible to weasel a way further into the crowd. Couples were hip-to-hip with their hands in their air, bumping to the soulful sultriness of the casually-dressed band – and they weren’t moving an inch for anyone. Lewis had his old-time swagger out to play during rowdy and fun renditions of “Power of Love” and the cool “Respect Yourself.” Handsome and charismatic, Lewis and The News shook and two-stepped to the jazzy jams while the female back-up singers’ choreographed croons echoed far and wide. The saxophone, harmonica and slam of the percussion made for a well-rounded harmonious experience with The News, and upon heading home it was clear to see what all of the retro fuss was about. These old-time rockers may have been playing music from another era, but nothing about the performances was outdated. Sure, the bodies and personas may have aged a little over the years, but the sound was as state-of-the-art as the first day they set foot on a stage.