By Brian Clarke
Every year, the Ottawa Bluesfest seems to attract more big names and larger crowds. Every day is filled with several excellent musical acts from a wide range of genres: blues, rock, folk, rap, electronic and more.
Realistically you cannot go wrong on any day at Bluesfest; you could just show up and probably find a good show that is to your musical tastes. However, if you're one to pick and choose your shows carefully, here are four must-see shows this year.
Okay, you probably could miss this one if you absolutely had to – they'll be at Bluesfest in two years anyway. However, I've never seen a happier crowd than after the Great Big Sea shows over the last few years at Bluesfest. I guess it's a mix of their style of music – upbeat, Celtic-style drinking music – and the type of persona that will go see a Great Big Sea show, but there is something about these shows that put the entire crowd in a lovey, happy (and drunk) mood. It is truly quite the experience to be a part of the most non-unruly (would the word be 'ruly') mob ever.
Another Canadian band that always draws huge crowds and puts on an amazing show for the audience. When I speak with people my parents' age, most have already seen Rush live at one point in their lives. However, for the younger generations, it's still a great show to see at least once in your life. The thing that amazed me the most about Rush when they played at Bluesfest a few years ago: their stamina. Most shows at Bluesfest are scheduled for an hour and half to two hours. But behold, Rush is scheduled to be on stage for nearly three hours and you can bet, they'll be going hard the entire time.
Kelly Sloan is a relatively unknown local artist who seems to be making a name for herself (and certainly will even more after performing at Bluesfest). She's from the Ottawa Valley and plays a unique blend of folk, country and soul. This is a must-see show to check out an up-and-coming local artist who may very well make it big one day. You can also check out an interview Kelly Sloan did with the folks at Apt613 this week.
If there is one must-see show in this year's line-up, this is it. You may not like old-fashioned soul and blues, but you cannot deny that this man is a legend. He was ranked #6 in Rolling Stone magazine's Top Guitarists of All Time. And he won't be around too much longer. At 87 years old, this is likely his last trip to Ottawa and our last chance to witness one of the greatest musicians of our time perform live.