Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest LeBreton Flats, Ottawa ON July 3 to July 13
Published Jul 14, 2008It seems people have finally gotten over the fact that the name of this festival is "weird just in time for the Ottawa Bluesfest to present one of the most diverse summer festival line-ups in the country. As Keb Mo, Taj Mahal, James Blood Ulmer and Bettye LaVette expertly filled the blues quotient, the real magnetism orbited around the 200 other artists. Of the 11 nightly headliners, only, Widespread Panic, Donna Summer, Brian Wilson and Feist offered anything more than nostalgia. But the real battles were fought on the five smaller stages as Rock Plaza Central, Jenn Grant, Born Ruffians and Plants and Animals virtually widened their fan base with a high-energy output. Ottawas local scene was well represented with gorgeous homecomings from Hilotrons, Jim Bryson, the Acorn and Kathleen Edwards, while the Love Machine, Dry River Caravan, Jetplanes of Abraham and Watters Brothers Rebellion confirmed that the local scene has not hit peak oil. Metric, the Weakerthans, Stars and Tokyo Police Club satisfied both generations of Canadian independent rock, as fans of Adrian Belew, Richard Thompson, Lucinda Williams and Ray Davies were treated (and disappointed) to a mix of old and new material. José Gonzàlez, Calexico, Ladytron and TV on the Radio contributed some of the best sets of the week but Corb Lund, the Most Serene Republic, Wintersleep and Snoop Dogg looked dead in the water or perhaps heat. However, the real extravagance of the festival came from superb scheduling from festival organizers. The almost daily onslaught of African and Cuban influenced acts were nothing short of stellar as Budos Band, the Mighty Popo with Remesha Drums, Orchestra Baobab and Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 kept audiences dancing. Six Shooter Records took over the Black Sheep Stage during the first Saturday with a nine-hour showcase featuring Justin Rutledge, Luke Doucet, Christine Fellows and Elliott Brood, who all capped it off with a staggering jam session. The Barney Danson Stage supplied some of the most arresting and fascinating acts as the Electric Eclectics Festival performed throughout the 11 days, highlighted by Dorit Chryslers Theremin orchestra, John Kilduffs infomecial-esque Lets Paint TV, Jesse Stewarts one man percussion band and Einsturzende Neubautens Alexander Hacke and Danielle DePicciottos arresting electronic performance piece "Ship of Fools. The organizers have successfully developed the Ottawa Bluesfest into an event so varied and musically sprawling that any other name would make just as much or less sense.