Ottawa Bluesfest - 07-05-2012

Review: Andre Bouchard
Photos: Mike Bouchard - more on Flickr

Charles Bradley

In my own weird way, it never really feels like summer has hit until I am under a blazing evening sun at Bluesfest watching musicians wearing far too many clothes giving away more energy than I could possibly imagine doing under similar circumstances. At some point I inevitably wonder how they are doing so when I am having a hard enough time standing in one spot. Charles Bradley, aka “The Screaming Eagle Of Soul”, had me amazed how a performer/band can give so much of themselves while under intense conditions, especially while wearing long clothing. I’ll never get it but such is life when all you do is watch live music rather than make it.
The Extraodinaires, his backup band, hit the stage running with 2 solid instrumentals that showed off their tight chops before our victim of love joined them onstage. The black swan sang of times in his life being tough and it was immediately apparent that they don’t make’em like this anymore, especially during his second number No Time For Dreaming. He was flapping his arms like a bird and I wouldn’t have been surprised if he began to fly above the crowd. Charles is demanding this world be a better place and prays it comes from each one of us. If we start listening than maybe his dreams will come to fruition. When he sings about love it seems one might be dead inside if they don’t immediately feel his message within the depths of their toes. His performance is one part Sam Bush, one part Otis Redding, one part James Brown yet all Charles Bradley. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the sparse crowd, if I can call them that. It was actually shocking. Three quarters of those in front of Charles were obviously in these spots for one reason only. Occupy LMFAO. I overheard some inane comments about his age and his dancing abilities but luckily his costume change seemed to win a few of these folks over. I fail to understand why this would be a deal breaker but I am also 25 years older than those who were waiting for the headliner. Word to the wise, I was LMFAO off at you for not getting it but I am sure you were doing the same to me. Kudos.

Plants and Animals 

When the crescendos of love ended I made my way to The Dirty Projectors and discovered some interesting syncopated sounds thanks to their drummer and wonderful harmonies. These kids have a FrIndie sound, which surprised me considering they hail from Brooklyn, but they served as a perfect opener for Plants And Animals on the River stage. The volume was far too low when Plants And Animals began but this was corrected within a few minutes. The pervious two times I had seen them was as a three piece but it appears as though they have added a fourth member, to fantastic results. Their sound is much more full and mature now. I used to feel their live show lacked a certain quality the studio work exemplifies, especially the stellar Parc Avenue release, but all concerns are gone now. This band is now mature onstage and one to be reckoned with.
I ran over to catch a bit of LMFAO for this review because I was sure we would get some pictures from the pit but these male divas had that shut down. They were only allowing the Sun and the Citizen in. Thank fuck, because this was some horrid music as far as I was concerned. Being a father may make me biased though but this is the McDonalds of bands. It appears as though the amount of parents with their children is what helps bring in gate receipts, which is strange considering all I heard them sing was about taking it to the hole and partying. Considering I am a father now, I suppose it’s either adapt or die because my time is coming. As weird I would have thought this a few years ago I can’t help but raise an eyebrow while applauding every parent who brought their child. You put up with a lot.

Super Chikan

I stumbled away in a rage of confusion which was a perfect mindset for what I came across on the Black Sheep stage, Super Chikan. Oh my. James Johnson was tearing it up on homemade guitars, a couple of the shoebox variety. I arrived just as he broke a string and as we all know, that never stops a true player. He inevitably used it as some kind of slide and just kept building and building until the music peaked in Caligulian fashion. While the blues can appear derivative because any 12 bar monkey can seemingly take part, one can never discount the emotions the seers impart. I felt blessed while witnessing a true voodoo chile so I closed my eyes and descended to the depths of heaven, which is what the blues is all about.