# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Miscellaneous - Ottawa, 9/7/2004....11/7/2004

  by Andrew Carver

published: 26 / 7 / 2004

Miscellaneous - Ottawa,  9/7/2004....11/7/2004


Across the course of the first weekend of the Ottawa Bluesfest, Andrew Carver finds time to take in sets by the likes of the Chains, Pearlene, Dead Moon,Denise James, Asteroid no 4. and the Bellrays

While the Bluesfest masses flocked to see blues rocker George Thorogood & The Destroyers on the Main Stage on the opening night of the Ottawa Bluesfest on Friday 9th July, those unwilling to see music in the company of 10,000 other people crammed into one not particularly large plaza headed for the side stages – in particular the Birdman Stage and the Black Sheep Stage (named, respectively, after a local record store and a nearby music venue and curated by their proprietors). While the Black Sheep hosted a pair of off-kilter West Coasters – twisted accordion whiz Geoff Berner and L.A. noir singer-songwriter Eleni Mandell - the Birdman Stage was occupied by a pair of country acts. Casey Comeau and The Halfmilers have been playing around town for a couple of years, and are stocked with a host of musicians with long experience in the local and Kingston music scenes. Comeau is a fine singer with the sensibility of a Loretta Lynn or Patsy Cline, and the band plays in a garage-country vein. A large and enthusiastic crowd gave them a warm reception. Reckless Kelly is an Austin country band formed around brothers Willy and Cody Brown. The band sounds quite a bit like Steve Earle, and played homage to its municipal roots with an Alejandro Escovedo cover. The high point of the set came with an extended intro by guitarist David Abeyta to a country rock version of the Beatles’ 'Revolution 1'. They also covered Richard Thompson’s 'Victor Black Lightning 1952'. (In between songs, they took swigs from a bottle of Crown Royale whiskey.) Called back for an encore they dished out an extended version of their own 'Feel So Lonely', toasted the delighted audience and departed. The first act on the Birdman Stage on Saturday 10th was Ottawa’s Golden Famile – with a few familiar faces, since lead singer Darrell Angus and guitarist Richard Jeffrey are also in the Halfmilers and the organist is Jennifer “Casey” Comeau. There was another sizeable audience for their doleful, noisy folk rock. Montreal’s Scat Rag Boosters followed that set with some scuffed up, two-guitars-and-no-bass punk blues, playing right through a sudden crushing downpour that left the audience soaked to the skin. “I hope you are enjoying the lovely weather” singer-guitarist Skip Jensen joked as thunder rumbled in the distance. A substantial portion of the audience stuck through the drenching, so it must have been that, or the music. The music then took a turn to a more traditional garage flavour with the Chains. The Chains’ excellent 2003 debut, 'On Top Of Things!' plainly demonstrated the Montreal group has a keen appreciation of the Who and the Yardbirds, an impression solidified by a very solid version of the latter group’s 'There’s A Certain Girl'. The group has a first-rate vocalist in Alexandre Boivin (if ever they make a biographical movie for the Who, he’s the man to call to play Roger Daltrey), and a super guitarist in Sebastien Hould – not to disparage the rest of the band, who do a more than able job. At a previous Ottawa show at The Dominion Tavern the band seemed a little hesitant, perhaps a bit too polite; their attack has become much more ferocious, Hould’s guitar playing in particular seems tougher, and fuzzier. Cincinnati blues rock trio Pearlene were the next act. They pulled their own compositions and a few covers out into extended riff workouts. After a heartfelt pleas for some Groundhogs albums from singer and guitarist Reuben Glaser (“I don’t have any, and I want one!”) the band launched into a distended version of 'Cherry Red', pausing only briefly to allow drummer Andy Jody to rush to the back of the stage, throw up with gusto, and return to heartily thrashing his drum kit for the last few bars. Glaser’s voice may be a bit too raspy for some tastes, but there’s no denying the group’s visceral handle of the blues, or their active stage presence. After a break for puke-mopping and equipment set up, the pride of Clackamas, Oregon, Dead Moon, performed. Although they regularly visit Europe, the show was an extremely rare and unexpected treat for Ottawa music fans. Frontman and guitarist Fred Cole has been rocking and rolling since the 1960's, and one of his earliest bands, the Lollipop Shoppe, has a track on the garage rock Rosetta Stone, the Nuggets box set. He’s ably supported by his wife, Toody, on bass and drummer Andy Loomis. Cole’s strangled howl is an acquired taste, but few performers pack such a gutsy punch. The audience went wild, indeed they liked the group so much they managed to dislodge the stage fronting in their frenzy of adulation. It was a Bluesfest highlight and undoubtedly one of the year’s best shows. By comparison, the night’s headliner, psych-pop singer Denise James seemed quite mild-mannered. Due to either her own lack of projection or some oversight by the soundman, her voice seemed quite low in the mix. Her show was pleasant, and guitarist Matthew Smith (of Outrageous Cherry and the Volebeats) once again demonstrated his extraordinary aptitude for the Ottawa audience, but it was obvious from a slowly shrinking crowd that she wasn’t holding people’s attention. I would say her music obviously calls for a more intimate venue (and needless to say, even at an hour’s remove Dead Moon is a tough act to follow). I departed with the intent of watching famed bluesman Taj Mahal on the Roots Stage, but was stopped en route by an entrancing performance by London-based electronica artist Manitoba. On disc, Dan Snaith performs most of the music-making work alone. Live, Manitoba was two drummers and a guitarist backed with musical loops. The extraordinarily coordinated percussion led to a sound akin to a cross between the Flaming Lips and a freight train. (They were also backed by crude but amusing vignettes of animated stuffed toys, a frog marionette and sundry other weirdness.) It was one of the most talked-about performances the following day, and understandably so. Sunday 11th July's Birdman Stage line-up began with local country act the Black Boot Trio, which has been performing alt country music since before country was alt. As ever the group was anchored by drummer Stef Bennett. The drummer from another group referred to her as the world’s best female drummer during the set. Few in attendance would argue; her light, skipping style is not only visually impressive but technically top notch, and she makes a striking impression as she waves her long blond hair around. Guitarist, singer and songwriter Steve Fai is no slouch either, and the whole group was looking pretty fine in black suits and wide-brim cowboy hats. The following group, Los Straightjackets, are an excellent surf guitar group, composed of seasoned Nashville session players, but even in Mexican wrestling masks, straight-up surf instrumentals do little for me. The crowd enjoyed it though. A very large crowd turned out for the next act, one of the few genuine blues acts at the Bluesfest since the festival outgrew its humble roots: T-Model Ford and his drummer, Spam. T-Model isn’t as young as he used to be; his actual age is the subject of some debate, but early 80's – and a hard 80 years at that – is the best guess. He first recorded music for Fat Possum, and his greasy, droning juke joint blues is a perfect fit with the scabrous label. He certainly seemed to enjoy himself (he also seemed to enjoy the sight of one remarkably buxom audience member), and the audience enjoyed him too. He may, however, have been outdone by guitarist Kenny Brown and drummer Cedric Burnside, who normally work as sidemen for Burnside’s famous granddad R.L. Having learned how to play the blues from bluesman "Mississippi” Joe Callicott and guested on the albums of sundry Fat Possum artists, Brown has a deep-rooted feel for the music – and unlike many of his label mates, he can be said to be in his prime: Old enough to know his stuff, but not so old that his chops are suffering. His searing electrified folk blues were the music the festival was originally formed to promote more than a decade ago, and it was no surprise that the full house applauded enthusiastically during his set. After that there was a change of pace to California country rock, courtesy of Philadelphia’s Asteroid No. 4. Although stripped down to four people (guitarist Bill McMonnies was the odd man out) the band’s sound seemed heavier and more psychedelic. As usual, they were amusing and casual, joking about Birdman Sound releasing their next record and their plan to come and live in the record store’s basement if George W. Bush wins a second term; they invited a pair of girls up to dance on stage and had Birdman Sound owner John Westhaver to sing the choruses to a cover of the Rolling Stones’ 'Dead Flowers'. A pointed dedication of 'Mercenary Man' to Rainbow Quartz made it plain they aren’t happy with their current record label. Alhough they didn’t top their famously inebriated performance at Bumpers a little more than a year ago, they certainly came close. The festival’s first weekend was closed out by the Bellrays. The L.A. group’s explosive rock and soul is nothing new to Ottawa audiences, but every time they astound anew. Lisa Kekeula is a towering stage presence, and looked particularly smashing in her shoulder-length and shoulder-width afro; guitarist Tony Fate plays with extraordinary muscular intensity; and bassist Robert Vennum bounded about with vigour. Add to this combination a new, antic, gonzo drummer and it’s hard to imagine any group topping them for sheer power. The overpowering rock blowout ended with an encore of AC/DC’s 'Highway to Hell', with various Asteroid No. 4ers and member of Philly’s Three 4 Tens who had traveled with them to enjoy the festival chipping in on backing vocals. Once again the stage’s facing was torn loose - by the following Wednesday festival organizers had screwed it down instead of tying it on.

Picture Gallery:-
Miscellaneous - Ottawa,  9/7/2004....11/7/2004

Miscellaneous - Ottawa,  9/7/2004....11/7/2004

Miscellaneous - Ottawa,  9/7/2004....11/7/2004

Miscellaneous - Ottawa,  9/7/2004....11/7/2004

Miscellaneous - Ottawa,  9/7/2004....11/7/2004

Post A Comment

your name
ie London, UK
Check box to submit

most viewed articles

most viewed reviews

Pennyblackmusic Regular Contributors