• By: OLM Staff

Wednesday’s Bluesfest is an Alternative-Rock Dream

Was every song actually as good as an encore? Did we dream that? Or are My Morning Jacket truly that amazing on stage? Whether or not you’ve only heard the band’s name, know only a single song of theirs or have followed them for their entire 15 year existence – My Morning Jacket’s undeniable ability and stage presence were some of the most exemplary of the entire Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest so far.

As headliners, the four-piece group didn’t packed the MBNA field as full as some of the more mainstream acts – but for those who attended, whether a fan or not, they were treated to an unbelievable display of musical genius for two hours straight. Dressed in cloaks, suit jackets and vests – the rock warlocks immediately cast a spell with the first track of their new album, “Victory Dance”, a dark and thudding track that sent a wave of heavy vibration through the chests of the crowd members. The bass shoved through our bodies as fearless leader Jim James’ soothing folk vocals transitioned into the next tune, “Circuital,” which starts and stops with intervals of haunting guitar loop before revving up to a fast-paced folk anthem. The crowd leaped along with the extraordinarily animated group that consists of James, the heroic fur-ball front man whose legendary voice is refreshingly sweet; hypnotizing bassist Two-Tone Tommy; ruthless drumming caveman Patrick Hallahan; and astounding lead guitar-God Carl Broemel. To describe the bang-on rock performances of “Anytime”, “Holding Onto Black Metal”, “Outta My System” and “Off The Record” is nearly impossible, except to ask this question: how it is, that after nearly 15 years of performing, this band hasn’t burnt out from these marathon jam sessions? Slowed-down solos in the glimmering rainbow lights sporadically set a quieter mood on “The Way That He Sings” and the breathtakingly harmonic performance of the shadowy “Dondante,” which might have been the highlight of the entire set. A show that had James wearing a white cloth over his matted afro at one point, Broemel transitioning from mind-blowing guitar antics to a roaring saxophone solo, and the band having what looked like epileptic instrumental seizures together at centre stage – it felt a little surreal at times. Nothing about MMJ was out of sync or lackluster – they went big, and went home.

Earlier in the night, the indie-cult ambiance was set with Toronto’s Metric, who were churning out one radio hit after the other for the dancing mobs. The band’s usual opener, “Black Sheep,” showcased Haines’ sultry enunciated vocals as well as her tiny rock ‘n roll figure; decked in a white romper, black vest and heeled booties during her hop around stage. Tweets across the Claridge screens were often authored by swooning young men convinced that they made eye contact with the flirtatious leading lady, whose seductive croons probably had their hearts beating like a hammer during “Help I’m Alive”, “Monster Hospital”, and “Satellite Mind.” Haines kicked it up a notch at the end of the show with jumpy and likeable recitals of “Sick Muse” and Gimme Sympathy,” looking like a natural as one of Canada’s indie poster girls. Her short gold locks glistened in the sunlight from above her keyboard and the whistles echoed as she admitted, “It’s been the longest winter for us, in the studio recording our new album – and it wouldn’t be summer without Bluesfest.”

An evening that saw Winnipeg’s up-and-comers Imaginary Cities cram heaps of fans in front of The National stage for their indie-pop set and the flailing fingers of the attractive young  bluegrass band Trampled by Turtles – it seems that indie and alternative-rock got the best of a relatively quiet Bluesfest night. Proving that even if the band originated from a tiny dot on a map, has odds working against them, or has never heard their song on the radio before – we can’t really be surprised anymore if they put on one of the most inconceivably brilliant performances we’ve ever seen.