Third Night at Bluesfest: Something for Everyone
Who says that the young and the old can’t mix? On the third night of Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest, it certainly wasn’t surprising to see any over-50 concert-goers out of their lawn chair and shaking a leg with someone half their age – whether it was to the steady flow of mash-ups spun by Girl Talk or Steve Miller’s old school blues-rock. Late in the Girl Talk set, a 60-something-year-old man on the outskirts of the crowd jumped from his seat to have (what looked to be like) a highland dance-off with someone old enough to be his grandson. Only at Bluesfest.
You see, that’s the perk of this two week-long experience. Whether the performances are next to each other, or you stroll past a stage to get to another show, you see more music than you ever bargained for; music that might not necessarily be your regular cup of tea. But, during the magical stream of live acts, you could be forced to swallow something new – and judging from the mixed crowd last night, it might be easier than you thought to enjoy what you’re given get a taste of.
Especially when what you’re tasting (or hearing, rather) is a nearly two-hour long puree of half of popular music’s discography. Gregg Gillis, aka Girl Talk and the host of Bluesfest’s biggest dance party yet, took hold of the Claridge stage with 30 or so shakers plucked from the crowd – cramming tune over top of tune and making it impossible to stand still. Mashing tracks like Radiohead’s “Karma Police” over T-pain’s auto-tuned vocals and Ludacris over Phoenix’s dance-rock loop from “1901” – Gillis boosted himself up and around his laptops, his disheveled shag secured underneath his signature bandana, while the dancers entertained. Between Gillis and Skrillex’s performances, I can’t help but wonder two things: will Bluesfest organizers arrange future line-ups to include more electronic and experimental acts? And, should I be concerned that as a healthy early-twenties gal, even I don’t have as much energy as these two?
Up-and-comers The Sheepdogs began the night with their Americana, classic-rock revival at the Subway venue, and despite the stench of sweat and beer that lurked at the foot of the stage, being beneath the scruffy rockers (who look like they’ve stepped straight out of 1970) was entirely worth it. Sounding like The Allman Brothers or The Band, these guys are currently waiting to hear whether or not they snagged a contract with Atlantic Records and a spot on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine; the prizes in a media-hyped contest of which the Saskatoon-quartet are a finalist. Regardless of if they win, the attention garnered through the contest and recent gig at Bonnaroo has pumped their pleasing traditional rock sound in the way it deserves, and they undoubtedly are something to watch out for.
As Bob Marley’s son Stephen took the stage to play his own reggae originals, as well as unforgettables from his Dad like “Jammin”, a hefty crowd stayed to watch while other teens, twenties and older packs pushed through to find the perfect swaying spot for Steve Miller Band. With an audience that stretched across the entire surrounding areas of the MBNA stage, Miller and his band jammed away to songs with the help of the reminiscing crowd who mouthed along devotedly. Sounding more aged but still incredibly passionate about playing his bluesy-rock hits some 40 years later, Miller had the vocal helping hand of Sonny Charles – an awesomely playful soul man who knew how to work the crowd. Nostalgic onlookers were treated to mid-1970s fan favourites like “Abracadabra”, “Fly like an Eagle”, “Rock ‘n Me” and finally – after some shameless crowd-teasing – “The Joker.” Miller’s band grooved together under the night sky, sliding away on their guitars and toying with the arrangements to create a fun and evocative atmosphere for the mixed-bag crowd – melting hearts young and old as he uttered the famous, “You’re the cutest thing that I ever did see, I really love your peaches, wanna shake your tree.” One thing’s for sure – nothing about this night in Ottawa lacked shaking. Bodies young and old united, allowed the music move them, and between twisting hips and twirling couples – the real essence of the music festival was perfectly revealed.