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Ottawa Bluesfest 2015 – Day Two

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Photo: Scott Penner

Ottawa Bluesfest 2015 – Day Two

Midway through his Thursday night set at Bluesfest, Hoodie Allen stopped to address the crowd.

“I have no doubt,” he announced, “that there is someone in this crowd that will be on this Bluesfest stage in 3 years.” 

There’s a good likelihood that he had no idea how accurate he will be. 

In a festival featuring a series of A-listers that have people saying Ottawa is finally a music town, Thursday night served as a reminder that the city is more than capable of producing its own musical talent as well. 

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Photo: Scott Penner

Ranging from the fuzzy garage music of Saint Clare to the slow lilt of Tara Holloway, local acts were all across the map, each with their own unique spice. 

“Bluesfest treats you very well,” said Dylan Franken of Thrifty Kids, one of Ottawa’s faster rising acts. Their nostalgic surf-rock took up a candle-lit Barney Danson Theatre in the war museum to kick off the night. 

When it came time for Holloway to take the stage in the same theatre, she pulled out all the stops and brought a local celebrity on stage. 

China Doll, the Shanghai restaurant’s notorious drag queen stepped on stage in her usual glitz and glamour to join Holloway and her band in a high-energy cover of Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy.’ 

“Just in case anyone thought we were taking ourselves too seriously,” laughed Holloway after the performance before closing off her set with a heavy emotional piece, more reminiscent of the rest of her repertoire. 

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Photo: Danyca MacDonald

When it came to local strength, Blakdenim put the exclamation mark on an already strong night. Transforming a low-energy, barren audience into a singing and dancing crowd, Blakdenim put on a clinic on crowd interaction.

The funky hip-hop outfit stood out musically with blaring horns, powerful vocals and even more powerful lyrics. Frontman Precise Kenny Creole sang of race relations, politics and the environment.

The group topped all that off with call and responses with the crowd, a spontaneous mid-set dance off, and music so funky it was impossible not to dance.

While local acts made their mark, that’s not what the majority of the crowd came to see. Thursday night at Bluesfest was country night, and it was abundantly clear from the get-go.

Cowboy boots and hats were to be found in abundance amongst the sea of plaid that was LeBreton Flats.

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The country side of the night was bookended by a pair of acts that embodied two different sides of the genre.

The dusky haze of Lynne Hanson and the Good Intentions soared across the flats in the early evening while people streamed in. As the crowds were streaming out, it was having just left the raucous cock-rock country of Jason Aldean.

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Aldean’s set was punctuated by elaborate pyrotechnics and high-budget videos playing on the big screen behind him. 

Alongside the two breeds of Country sat rising star Kira Isabella, whose shiny country drew in an eager young crowd.

Photo by Mark Horton

Photo: Mark Horton

Sandwiched between Aldean and Isabella was Hoodie Allen, who attracted a different sort of crowd altogether. When one of his fans threw a ringed crown of flowers onto the stage, Allen donned it and claimed, “I’ve never done something this basic when performing before.” 

Much like the other hip-hop act of the night, Allen knew how to play to a crowd. The New York born rapper tapped into the crowd’s Canadian pride and history of suburban angst when he broke out a cover of Sum 41’s ‘Fat Lip.’ 

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When night fell and Jason Aldean championed the red white and blue on the main stage, Charles Bradley was getting funky by the river. 

Clad in a shining purple suit, Bradley moved and sang the way only an old soul singer can. His raspy voice soared atop the swell of a rotary organ, and a pair of crisp horns punched the funk into the songs. 

The night may have been billed as country night, but that was only true if you were not looking hard enough. The talent and diversity of Thursday night’s acts led to the kind of memorable summer evening one would expect from such a festival.

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Noah Lefevre
Photos provided by Bluesfest
THE SCENE

Griffin Elliot