Ottawa Bluesfest 2015 – Day Nine
Friday, July 16, 2015
“Rain falls in real time and rain fell through the night,” the words of Gord Downie have never rung truer as he preached to a crowd thoroughly soaked by the downpour this past Friday night.
While rain tends to pose as a major pitfall for most summer music festival, it failed to slow down the music fans at Bluesfest.
The Dropkick Murphys played right before The Hip on the other side of the main festival plateau, to a crowd not yet fully doused in precipitation but well on their way there. The epic Celtic punk anthems carried over the heads of giddy punks and into LeBreton Flats like a ship being tossed from the crest of a stormy wave. The band members were not overly lively but it wasn’t noticeable, their sound brings more than enough energy to the stage. After two decades of playing together, the band dropkicks ass (my apologies, I could not help myself) with dueling accordion and banjo solos, flutes, bagpipes and other instruments vital to the rock arsenal combined to build a sea of sounds. Fans left satisfied as the band closed off their set with their infamous track “Shipping Up to Boston” and a cover of the classic Canadian hit “Takin’ Care of Business.”
As the crowd started migrating towards the Bell Stage the rain intensified. Scheduled to play simultaneously with The Hip was Bahamas on the Monster Stage and Purity Ring at the Canadian Stage. This is not the first time Afie Jurvanen has played to a rambunctious Ottawa crowd under the moniker Bahamas. A contingent of dedicated fans, easy listening enthusiasts and people who hate big crowds were all there in support of the musician and his band. “I didn’t realize there are so many Canadians that aren’t Tragically Hip fans, that’s good news for us,” Jurvanen said. The show had a very intimate vibe despite the hundreds of people parked in view of the stage. The band laid down some excellent grooves and helped fans mentally escape the crowded, muddy festival atmosphere, transporting them to a Bohemian jam.
While The Hip played to a crowd composed of mainly older fans and people with more conventional music interests. That was certainly not the case at the Purity Ring performance. Both Bahamas and Purity Ring were pulling much of the youth audience in, while Purity Ring put on an elaborate, dreamy performance. The electronic duo is fronted by Megan James who danced and connected with the audience while Corin Roddick controlled the music from his centre-stage hub, playing what looked like an xylophone made from giant wooden Q-tips.
All the while at the main stage, The Tragically Hip was putting on a spiritual performance. The Bluesfest vets used the rain to their advantage, elevating their live show. Downie was just as crazy as ever, with his dad-inspired dance moves and eccentric personality. Contrasting the more solemn, Jesus-like Rob Baker, who held down his side of the stage with some of his legendary riffs. Every few songs curtains would fall and the band would leave the stage as crewmembers mopped the wet floors and retuned the guitars. At one point Downie dropped the microphone on stage but he turned the mishap into a weird dance act, making onlookers wonder if it was actually part of his shtick. As the show went on the rain gave us a brief reprieve then came back harder than ever. The band appeared to be humbled by the dedication of their fans in even the most inclement weather.
“Thank you music lovers! Thank you music lovers!” Downie cried, “And thank you rain! Thank you fucking rain!”
Photos provided by Bluesfest