It wouldn’t be RBC Bluesfest, or any outdoor festival, if rain didn’t factor into the equation for at least a day or two of the event. But, to me anyway, that’s what makes it all the more special and memorable.
Friday night’s entertainment was being threatened by thunderstorms that had already wiped out Day 1 at CMT Fest in Kitchener but luckily, aside from some light rain during Noel Gallagher’s set, the worst of the weather held off until the overnight hours and then light rain stuck around for the day on Saturday keeping the grounds nice and soggy. The crowds didn’t seem to mind the rain as it definitely did not stop them from coming down in large numbers for the headliners on either of the nights.
Friday’s headliners Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds attracted the smallest crowds of the two days, which is surprising because of the steady rain falling on Saturday night’s crowd for The Cult and The Lumineers.
I was always a huge fan of Oasis, the band that Noel Gallagher was in with his brother Liam in case you didn’t know, so Noel’s show was high on my must see list this year. The show started a bit rocky and boring, almost felt a bit jet-lagged, but eventually Noel managed to reign it in and get the show on track for a strong finish. I’m honestly less familiar with his solo work than I am with his Oasis music so I was happy that he threw in a handful of classic Oasis tracks like “Wonderwall”, “Champagne Supernova” and of course my favourite “Don’t Look Back in Anger” which he used to cap off the night just as the light mist started to change into a heavier rain.
Saturday was the worst weather day I’ve seen at Bluesfest since the day Dear Rouge and the Tragically Hip performed last year. The only difference was that yesterday was more of a steady mist whereas last year it simply poured all day long and didn’t let up. I started my day with a green team shift and then ventured out to catch a few of the acts on each of the stages. There was a wide variety of acts to be heard on Saturday, fans of rap and hip hop were treated to the bass heavy, profanity laden sounds of Earl Sweatshirt and those who were more interested in lighter folkier sounds could checkout Jill Zmud in the dry and warm Barney Danson Theatre inside the Canadian War Museum.
I made a point to catch last year’s She’s the One winner Grace Lachance’s big stage debut on the Monster Energy Stage, I always do my best to support the emerging artists they need, and deserve the publicity the most. She only had 15 minutes but she held her own and put on a strong showing for a decent sized crowd on the river. She’s very early in her career but remember the name Grace Lachance, I have a strong feeling she’s going places.
Following Grace it was off to the Claridge Homes Stage for one of my old favourites, The Cult. The crowd had really packed in in front of the stage to see these veterans rock and they were definitely not disappointed. From “Fire Woman” to “Sanctuary” and all hits in between these guys put on one heck of a rock show.
Following the Cult I returned to the Monster Stage to catch the tail end of Amanda Rheaume’s show and came upon one of the smallest crowds I’ve seen to date at the festival, which was disappointing. Amanda is one of Ottawa’s own and she is an incredible talent. She deserved to have a huge hometown crowd cheering her on and supporting her show. To make matters even more complicated she and her band had to set up near the back of the stage to avoid getting soaked by the rain or shorting out some of their equipment which likely isn’t designed to get wet. Despite the small crowd Amanda rocked the Monster Energy stage with the same enthusiasm she would when playing to a packed house!
After Amanda wrapped up I headed up the hill to the City Stage to catch The Lumineers. I’ve always liked their music but wouldn’t go out on a limb and call myself a huge fan. By this time the rain had changed from a light drizzle to a more steady rain and the crowd easily doubled from that that came out for The Cult. I decided that this would be a good show to embed myself in the crowd for so off I went and found a spot right in the middle to feel the energy that this band was creating in the rain soaked crowd. There was dancing, clapping and so much fun being had you’d almost forget it was raining. I think I enjoyed watching the crowd enjoy the performance more than I enjoyed the performance itself.
Coming up on Sunday don’t miss Jordan McIntosh on the City Stage at 3pm, Thomas Rhett at 8pm on the Claridge Homes stage and John Fogerty at 9:30 back on the City Stage.
Remember there is still a chance of rain for today so be prepared and if it’s your first trip to RBC Bluesfest remember to leave the car and home and take OC Transpo instead, it’s free with your wristband. For full schedule and set times visit www.ottawabluesfest.ca