Bluesfest 2011 Round-Up

This years Ottawa Bluesfest was the first major music festival #bywardofmouth has covered. It was unbelievable and we all learned so much. We are less than a year old and still in our prototype form. It was a sincerely humbling experience and an incredible opportunity for our team.

We have amazing memories. Looking back over our Bluesfest 2011 photo catalogue, the experience as a whole really sets in. We experienced so much talent and met many other amazing photographers. Shout-outs to Eastscene aka Brennan Schnell, Ming Wu, Sean Wilkin & Brian Goldsmchied. The Ottawa scene has so much talent – we look forward to more networking and collaborating as we move into 2012.

Special thanks to the entire festival staff, everyone from the volunteers to the organizers to the performers to security. Everyone behind the scenes worked tirelessly and their efforts paid off. Thank you so much for a beautifully orchestrated two-week highlight of our summer.

Thanks to A.J. Sauve, Joe Rielly and everyone else who made the experience possible. We can’t wait for Bluesfest 2012!

Continue reading for Days 11 & 12, as well as an overview of the entire festival. Check out any days you missed!


Bluesfest Day 1

Bluesfest Day 2

Bluesfest Day 3

Bluesfest Day 4

Bluesfest Day 5

Bluesfest Day 6

Bluesfest Day 7

Bluesfest Day 8

Bluesfest Day 9

Bluesfest Day 10

Bluesfest Day 11

Every year the Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest gets harped on for not having enough blues. That they have gone to far from their roots. Walking into Day 11 of the festival you would say otherwise. The MBNA Stage kicked off with David Maxwell playing an amazing blues set with his trio. Half way through he called up the Texas Horns to add some big time spice.

Jon Creeden who lives in Ottawa took to the Claridge Homes Stage next.A simple set up of acoustic guitar and vocals, his monstrous voice drew many people from the grounds in. His raw and raspy vocals mixed perfectly with his acoustic. He was humbled to be on stage at such a large event. He had nothing to worry about and Bywardofmouth is looking forward to hearing what is to come from him in the future.

The weather continued to heat up, fitting for the amount of blues that continued throughout the day. The next blues act was at the Subway Stage. Sitting onstage by himself in a red and white suit was TJ Wheeler. A man with smooth old-time charm, TJ’s rendition of covers went through many classic blues songs. One of the most interesting parts of his set besides his outfit was the different guitars he used. He jumped between 7, and 6 string guitars as well as a 1 string Diddly Bo with a slide. TJ Wheeler was one of the most interesting shows of the day with his eclectic taste of fashion, and music.

When Montreal-based band Final Flash went on the MBNA Stage the crowed was a mishmash of rock fans and Nick Jonas fans. The set was one to behold for anyone interested in Muse-style rock anthems.

Brothers Chaffey was the blues band with the largest crowd of the day. They also featured The Texas Horns and played an electrifying set. Their rock-n-roll version of the blues was a welcomed change from the more traditional blues bands of the day. They had the crowd dancing with every song. This was one of the most diverse groups of the day with fans in their early 20’s all the way up to the older blues fans who grew up with the style.

You did not have to walk far to hear the next blues act called The Twisters. Located at The National Bank Stage this band brought all they had to the show. Potentially the bravest group of the day dawning black suits in the only west-facing stage, this 3:15pm show took the blues in a completely different direction. Along with the usual guitar and drums, they also featured stand up bass and harmonica. They were an amazingly tight band who often went on jam based extended solos. When the harmonica ripped many people started to boogie down and get lost in a trance. Seeing The Twisters perform reminded me of Reverend Horton Heat style rock, with a little more blues swagger in their steps.

When young Chicago-based band Kids These Days took to the Claridge Stage at 4:00 pm the temperature finally started to slowly subside. Their soul, jazz, blues, and hip-hop fusion was the most refreshing act of the day. It is a testament to how strong groups of the upcoming generation are. Doing covers of James Brown and Sly & the Family Stone, Kids These Days had the crowd captivated.

Next up was Nick Jonas took to the MBNA Stage. There were about 500 teens and screaming in adoration for this member of the Jonas Brothers. His set was a style of 80’s power rock which did not let up. Despite not being the largest crowd of the day, it was definitely one of the loudest.

At 6:30pm Braids took to the Subway Stage. Their indie-electronic-rock was both musically and visually stimulating. Intrigue about what the next direction of the live show was at an all time high. When the guitarist went down to adjust a loop he left everyone wondering if he would strip the song of what had been created or further invest into the tastefully convoluted sound-field. The songs were so well done that amazement poured over everyone in the crowd about how it was done by a four-piece.

Until 7:00pm the 2011 Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest was relatively quiet. That all changed when fans started pouring in and lining up for arguably the most anticipated show of the day, Death From Above 1979. When they took to the stage with their gigantic club style tomb stone DFA 2001-2006 backdrop in the background the crowd broke into a frenzy. Many had been waiting for this day ever since the duo broke up do to musical differences. Their reuniting made sure everyone in the crowd was charged with enthusiasm for the show. They did not disappoint and played about every song they had in their arsenal, marking a monumental moment for a band that was known to be part of an underground scene. Judging by the crowd size and excitement Death From Above 1979 has never been so alive.

writer: G. Ray Hansen

photographer: G. Ray Hansen, Blair Smith

Bluesfest Day 12

The last day of Bluesfest seem to have coincided with the hottest day of the year, or atlas that’s what it felt like as the crowds were waiting for artists to hit the stage.

There was a lot of young talent featured the last day, featuring young musicians in the Blues in the Schools program. If you bought a raffle ticket for the signed guitar that was promoted the entire two weeks before, you were helping support this cause.

There was more young talent on the Subway stage with the Brothers Dube, and Philly Moves. It was great to see all the people in the audience for these shows support local talent.

Next on the Claridge stage was Lupe Fiasco, who put on one of the most genuine performances at Bluesfest. He and his band members rocked the stage in army outfits, complimenting the political nature of his latest album, Lasers. Lupe stopped performing only twice during his set, the first time as he saw a merchant going through the crowd with a a stick full of bagged popcorn, he chuckled and asked the man to come to the stage and throughout the rest of his set was throwing popcorn into the crowd. The second stop was to play the presidential theme song, and address the crowd and talk about some of the political turmoil his country is notorious for. He joked around again that he would love to be Canadian, because he fears he might not be allowed back in his country when his tour is over, again, all jokingly.


After Lupe Fiasco, everyone was excited to be able to take much-needed air conditioning breaks and beer re-ups. The byward team headed over to the Subway Stage where Ra Ra Riot was set to perform. From this stage, you could get a clear view of an approaching storm from Gatineau and it was only a matter of time before it was carried over to Ottawa from across the river. It was with that realization that a man came on stage around 7:15 and announced that Ra Ra Riot wasn’t going to take the stage until after the storm passed. With Cheap Trick echoing in the background at the MBNA stage, we waited out the winds with hope that the storm would roll through quickly. Within a matter of minutes, the wall of wind hit. First thing to go was the leaves on the trees, then the branches started snapping, and before you know it, the fences, chairs, and vending stands were being toppled over. The raindrops only seemed to get bigger as they cut the wind diagonally. Security guards were quick to step in and evacuate, telling people to get shelter inside the War Museum. It was only when running towards the museum that most people saw the MBNA stage come crashing the ground. If you weren’t still running for shelter now, you certainly were after seeing the collapse. It was a frenzy needless to say – no one was expecting the storm to be that powerful.

As the sun was beginning to set, and the rain was getting lighter, the sky was lighting up, but not only with lightning, ambulances and fire trucks were all quick to the scene to establish what had to be done.
It surely wasn’t the close anyone was hoping for, buy luckily there were no life-threatening injuries. With four major festival stage collapses world-wide this summer, we were very lucky.

Other artists such as Chali 2na, John Butler Trio, and festival headliners Death Cab for Cutie, will hopefully be back in Ottawa soon, as there were definitely some disappointed fans out there.

A final Thank You to the Bluesfest staff and volunteers for keeping everyone safe.

writer: Blair Smith

photographer: Blair Smith

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