• By: OLM Staff

Rainbow Blues

Guitarist Philip Sayce rocks the Rainbow (photo by Terry Steeves). AOther images courtesy of the Rainbow Bistro. Credits AlZon Photography and Scott Doubt of sD3.

“The Blues had a baby and they called it Rock and Roll,” Muddy Waters once said and though rock may have become the dominate genre the influence of the Blues can still be heard in much of modern music. It’s something at least one local bar continues to make clear: you can walk whatever path of music you like but the Blues are never far behind.

Rainbows may be full of colour but for the one sitting on the corner of Murray Street and Parent Avenue in the ByWard Market it has always been all about the Blues. Opened as Ottawa’s Blues bar in the 80’s, the legendary Rainbow Bistro has seen a who’s who in modern Blues music take the stage over the years, a tradition that continues in the venue's Fall Blues Series.

Looking towards a coming anniversary, the venue wanted to do something special by reaching out to as many house favourites as possible. The result is a showcase of the best of what the Rainbow has meant for Blues music in this city. These types of shows always bring out a crowd and for Stacy Siv, long-time Rainbow staff, the Blues draws people in because of a rawness that reaches into you.

dirty-30“There is something honest about the blues. It is the foundation of so many other genres, so there is also the element of familiarity. Even if you don’t know this song, or that particular artist, it still has the capability to connect your present moment to other memories and music from your past,” Siv tells Ottawa Life.

Back when the Rainbow opened there were only a few places in the city where you could go see live music. Disco was still the rage and dance clubs were far more prominent. Though the place took a bit of time to gain some steam, the Rainbow would become the place in the city where people could go to take in shows by some of the names that would grow to even greater prominence in the years to come. Colin James, The Tragically Hip and Blue Rodeo have all performed on the Rainbow’s stage. Despite opening the place up to other styles of music, the Blues was always the main focus of the venue and it remains so.

“Most people involved in the business of blues music have ties one way or another to the Rainbow,” Rainbow bartender Dave Wham has been heard to say.

With over three decades of guitar riffs and wailing harmonica, the Blues practically flow from the faucets. The history is right there on the walls as frame after frame of musicians look down upon you telling the stories of the shows gone by.

“True blues has that element of primal wanting, the sorrow of loss, or satisfaction of life; it speaks to us all on some basic level,” says Siv. “For the audience to be moved, they have to feel as though the artists themselves have also had the experiences they elicit in others.  If they can sing about it in a way that’s relatable, or play it out using the voice of their instrument, it can be a shared experience for everyone in the room.”


The Rainbow continues to have a loyal crowd that supports the blues scene and the lineup for the Fall Blues Series shouldn’t disappoint. Anybody wanting to hear all the different elements and styles that make up the genre just need to look at the lineup coming over the next few months:

Friday Oct 14: JW Jones Band
JW-Jones is a Canadian blues guitarist, singer, songwriter, and band leader. He is a Juno Award nominee, and is a Billboard Magazine Top 10 Selling artist.

Saturday Oct 15John Primer’s Authentic Chicago Blues 
Born 1945, Primer is one of the last living original American Chicago blues and electric blues singer and guitarist. He played guitar at Theresa's, a club in Chicago, between 1974 and 1980. He joined the Chicago Blues All-Stars of Willie Dixon in 1979, then the Muddy Waters's band until the latter's death in 1983. Then he joined the Teardrops of Magic Slim and began a solo career on Wolf Records. In 1995 he released, The Real Deal, with songwriting and singing techniques showing the influence of both Dixon and Slim. In 2013, Primer was the special guest on Shawn Holt & the Teardrops' debut recording, Daddy Told Me. Shawn Holt being Magic Slim's son (Live at the Rainbow Thursday Nov 24). In 2013 and 2014, Primer had a nomination for a Blues Music Award in the 'Traditional Blues Male Artist' category. In 2016, Primer won a Blues Music Award as the 'Traditional Blues Male Artist of the Year. The Muddy Waters 100 album, recorded by Primer and various other artists, was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2016 for Best Blues Album.

Saturday Oct 22- The Tony D Band
Although now know as being a third of Ottawa's Juno Winning band MonkeyJunk, Tony D has been well known as a staple in Ottawa's blues community for a long time. Come check out his blues band.

Friday Nov 4 & Saturday Nov 5th- Philip Sayce 
Sayce began playing in Toronto clubs at the age of sixteen. He quickly became a regular fixture on Toronto’s bar-scene. Sayce joined Healey's band in 1997 and toured the world for three and a half years, playing such places as Baden Baden, Germany, Brazil, Finland and the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. In December 2003, Sayce joined Melissa  Etheridge and her band for her Lucky Tour. Sayce also appeared on Etheridge's Lucky CD and the Lucky Live CD & DVD, released in September, 2004, Melissa Etheridge Greatest Hits: The Road Less Traveled released in 2005, The Awakening" released in 2007, and A New Thought For Christmas released in September 2008. He also performed on Etheridge's "I Need To Wake Up" from the Al Gore 2006 documentary film An Inconvenient Truth. Sayce appeared with Etheridge at the 2007 Academy Awards, Live Earth in 2007, The 2005 Grammy Awards as part of a tribute to Janis Joplin (along with Joss Stone), and at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. Sayce released his album Peace Machine, on Provogue Records in 2009. He released a second album Innerevolution in Europe, in May 2010. In July 2010, Sayce supported ZZ Top in Europe and in December 2010, he supported Deep Purple on their French dates. Sayce released the albums Ruby Electric (2011) and Steamroller (2012) in Europe, and promoted these releases with multiple tours across Europe and the United Kingdom. He performed at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013 in New York City at Madison Square Garden, and was highlighted among the top performances of the festival by Premier Guitar. Sayce signed with Warner Music Canada in 2015 after Warner executive Steve Waxman discovered Sayce's music while streaming tunes on Spotify.  Sayce made his major label album debut on April 7, 2015 with the release of Influence, and scored a top 20 hit at rock radio in Canada with his rendition of Ten Years After's, "I'd Love To Change the World. Sayce just released a killer live album, Scorched Earth Vol. 1. Take a listen to hear what you can expect at the Rainbow.

Friday Nov 11- Paul DesLauriers Band
Following up on the success of their self-titled album from 2014, The Paul DesLauriers Band returns with the aptly titled Relentless, a genuine blues-rock escapade featuring 10 new songs encompassing their most original and powerful work to date. Relentless indeed if you consider the pace at which the band has been working for the last two years with touring, writing and recording. The awards they keep racking up only confirm that hard work pays off. Adding to their multiple Maple Blues and Lys Blues awards and nominations they had a number one album on the iTunes Canada Blues Chart and in January 2016 they took home 2nd Place among 119 competing bands from around the world at the 32nd annual International Blues Challenge, held by the Blues Foundation in Memphis. Hot on the heels of that win they returned to Montreal to complete writing and recording Relentless and the result captures the very essence of The Paul DesLauriers Band.

Saturday Nov 12/Sunday Nov 13- MonkeyJunk
MonkeyJunk’s 5th recording Time To Roll arrives Friday Nov 4th! The HomeTown Release Party will be at the Rainbow Bistro- Saturday Nov 12th (9:30pm show) and Sunday Nov 12th (4pm show). About the new record: It was recorded and mixed in just 3 weeks at Almonte, ON’s Signal Path Studio with long time collaborator and co-producer Ken Friesen. It has combined aspects of all four previous recordings and the band enlisted lyrical collaborators including Tom Wilson (Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, Lee Harvey Osmond, Junkhouse), Paul Reddick, Matthew Chaffey (The Split) and engineer & co-producer Ken Friesen (The Tragically Hip, Blue Rodeo) to complete the songs. The result is a raw snapshot of where the band has been and arrived in 8 and a half years of touring and recording. Kelly Prescott lends backing vocals two tracks otherwise, it’s all Tony. Steve and Matt. Sample tunes will be posted soon and the band is already playing several of the tracks live – check it out in a town near you!

Friday Nov 18- Jonas & The Massive Attraction
It’s been quite a ride for Canadian rockers Jonas & The Massive Attraction since the release of their album Big Slice in 2010. The album hit Top 15 in sales nationally in Canada on the Nielsen SoundScan Sales Charts in its first week of release. With three chart topping rock radio singles, including their Top 10 hit “Big Slice,” Top 15 single “The Deep End” and Top 20 song “Seize The Day,” the band was named one of the Top 10 “Most Played Artists” at Canadian rock radio on the Mediabase year-end radio charts for 2011. No small feat, considering they did it on their own indie label, Big Slice Records.

Saturday Nov 19- Trevor Finlay
Ottawa Native now based in Nashville, Trevor’s career has included releasing 4 studio albums and touring incessantly all over the world (from Canada coast to coast to Australia, parts of the US and Europe), opening for big-named acts (like James Brown, Kid Rock, John Hiatt, Johnny Winter and Booker T. and the MG’s just to name a few), earning awards and nominations (2005 – Real Blues Magazine 11th Annual Awards – Best Canadian Blues/Rock Artist, Best Canadian Blues Band/Central, Top Canadian Blues Guitarist; 2002 – Toronto Blues Society’s MBA for “Male Vocalist of the Year”; 1999 – Toronto Blues Society’s MBA for “New Artist of the Year”), and becoming a regular guest on several popular morning radio shows.  In 2009, filmmaker Stacey K. Black began work on a documentary and named it after one of Trevor’s songs – “Send My Mail To Nashville”. Calling it her ‘love letter to Nashville’, the film follows songwriters on their journey to and from Nashville, Trevor being one of five songwriters that she follows and interviews.

Thursday Nov 24- Shawn Hold & The Teardrops
Shawn Holt & the Teardrops are an American blues band, which formed in 2013 following the death of the outfit's former leader, Magic Slim. Holt being Magic Slim's son. Shawn's father, Magic Slim was an American blues singer and guitarist. Born at Torrance, near Grenada, Mississippi, the son of sharecroppers, he followed blues greats such as Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf to Chicago, developing his own place in the Chicago blues scene. In 2003, Magic Slim and the Teardrops won the W.C. Handy Award as 'Blues Band Of The Year' for the sixth time. They released a live performance on CD and DVD in August 2005 entitled Anything Can Happen.  In May 2013, Magic Slim was posthumously awarded another Blues Music Award in the 'Traditional Blues Male Artist' category.

Friday Nov 25- LAST WALTZ 40th Anniversary Celebration
In support of the Ottawa Foodbank, The Bushpilots are once again hosting a tribute to The Band's Last Waltz, perhaps the greatest concert film in history, this time to honour the 40th anniversary of this legendary event. Directed by Martin Scorsese, The Last Waltz was a document of The Band's final concert at San Francisco's Winterland ballroom on Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1976. Joining The Band was an all-star line-up of special guests including Bob Dylan, Paul Butterfield, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Muddy Waters, Dr, John, and many more of the icons who created and breathed American music. The Bushpilots are blessed to be joined by a Who's Who of Ottawa talent.

Saturday Nov 26- Rainbow's 32nd Anniversary Party: Hosted by David Gogo
The success of Gogo's latest album Vicksburg Call continues with him being nominated for a 2016 Western Canadian Music Award for Blues Artist Of The Year. This follows a Juno nomination earlier in the year. Gogo will be attending the award ceremonies October 13th in Regina after extensive touring across the country at various festivals and concerts throughout the summer and fall. Gogo has previously won WCMAs for Musician Of The Year in 1999 and Blues Recording Of The Year in 2012 for the album Soul Bender.

Saturday Dec 3rdJack deKeyzer
It all comes to a head with two time Juno Winner and multiple Maple Blues award winning blues guitarist, singer, song writer and band leader, Jack de Keyzer!!

Tickets for all these shows can be purchased online.