Review - Ottawa Bluesfest 07-12-2011

Written By: Jay McConnery
Photos By: Dave Barrett

John Fogarty - Ottawa Bluesfest 7-12-2011Booking a festival like Bluesfest must be a lot like loading a shot-gun, taking a hundred paces back, pulling the trigger and trudging forward nervously with fluttering heart as excitement builds to see what has hit the target. Invites and offers must blast off from the Bluesfest offices on Catherine Street like endless roman candles destined for the hottest touring acts, with the highest of hopes. It's almost impossible to imagine it... over 250 acts. On average, as we all know with shotguns, most of the pellets aren't going to hit the bulls-eye, but thankfully some will- and it's hard to imagine any more of a bulls-eye booking for organizers than John Fogerty and his band, who rocked an enthusiastic Ottawa crowd on this Tuesday night like it was New Year's Eve in Las Vegas. Delivering the gamut of CCR classics and Fogerty solo hits, the easy going crowd this evening was very much focused in one place and it was easy to see why, when you are literally bombarded with hit, after hit, after hit of timeless rock'n'roll magic. Some might say the same could be achieved by spinning a Greatest Hits disc with some headphones, but the real difference is; that the Fogerty Band was relentlessly rocking. No two second pauses, man! Fogerty really took the reigns on lead guitar while engaging the audience continually through his obvious appreciation of our excitement and love of his songs and music. I literally tried to leave three times, but was stopped in my tracks by songs like 'Fortunate Son' and 'Bad Moon Rising'. Backed by a great band of musicians, most notably Joe Satriani clone Kenny Aronoff on the drums- the show had a very rocking vibe accentuated by Kenny's double kick fills and harder rock tendencies. The show was also visually fun to watch, sounded great and felt like a true main-stage performance. The only drawback of this set was I could only manage to catch three tracks from Baloji's set on the National Bank Stage, that featured musicians from Konono no.1, who kept a deep pocket rhythm of African Grooves for Baloji's French language rhymes. There were only a handful of people there and from what I heard, it may have been the best set no one saw.

Baloji - Ottawa Bluesfest 7-12-2011We arrived a few hours earlier to a different scene. Canadian rockers Three Days Grace were holding court on the Claridge Stage, and confidently rocking socks. I had been warned previously that they were a Nickelback clone, and until hearing them, I thought this band was actually going to be Theory of a Deadman. Turns out Three Days Grace doesn't sound like Nickelback as much as they could, but they do have a slick polished sound, fiery pyrotechnics and maybe one poodle haircut which are similarities to the Canadian supergroup as well as their obvious popularity, evidenced by a rapt audience. I wasn't interested however, and made my way to meander between the side stages in search of KettleKorn guy. Kettle-Korn! Here is where we drift into the intact papery perimeter of the original bulls-eye target, that feels like its got substantially fewer pellet holes, with maybe a couple poked in at the last minute with a pencil.

Dana Fuchs - Ottawa Bluesfest 7-12-2011Dana Fuchs had the largest crowd at the Subway stage and was definitely 'throwing down' heavy blues rock in the spirit of Janis Joplin. Her voice at times felt like a clone of the tragic songstress, including her inflections and improvisational scat stylings. Thankfully, the tight-jeaned squats, bosom thrusts and crotch flair work kept things light for those afraid of ghosts. Her band delivered heartfelt originals and a tight rendition of 'Helter Skelter' with patience and precision, while Dana writhed on the stage monitors, seemingly placing the previously enthusiastic gentlemen in the front row under her spell. I'm sure the good people at Southern Comfort will be following her career closely.

Andrew Jr. Boy Jones - Ottawa Bluesfest 7-12-2011Ian Kelly, meanwhile, on the Hard Rock stage had one of the more polished sounding groups I'd heard so far this festival. Even though the talent is certainly there, the songs were inconceivably poppy for most, and especially me, who lasted only a few minutes before trudging over the hill and planting myself at the National Bank Stage for some...*gasp*... blues!! Andrew Jr Boy Jones had a tight blues combo ripping through solos and riffs, keeping the audience moving or at least shuffling. Sharing the stage with horns, and a fantastic female lead, Andrew Jr. led his group through some of the only blues I'm likely to see all festival, and I'm okay admitting that. I had full intention of spending some time with Buck 65, but I only caught a few moments between Fogerty hits. All in all, an amazing way to spend a Tuesday night. As soon as the festival starts to feel like it's going on forever, you take a look at things and notice you are closing in on the end way quicker than you thought, so remember: we still have 5 days of music to enjoy before detox begins! .......And My Morning Jacket is playing tonight!!