Ten great Ottawa Bluesfest sets: #10 Violent Femmes – Sunday, July 6th, 2014

(This year’s edition of Ottawa Bluesfest has been cancelled, for obvious reasons. In previous years, especially on my old blog, I would share photos and thoughts on some of the live music I was enjoying at the festival throughout the duration. So for the next week and a half, I thought I’d share ten great sets, out of the many I’ve witnessed over the years, one for each day on which music would have be performed. Enjoy.)

Violent Femmes live at Bluesfest 2014

Artist: Violent Femmes
When: Sunday, July 6th, 2014
Where: Claridge Homes stage at 8:00pm
Context: Yes, I know they’re from a long time ago but they’re a band I’d never seen live. Like the last two sets I’ve posted pictures from, sets by The Waterboys and Belle and Sebastian, this one crossed off another big one on my list of bands to see. Violent Femmes’ self-titled, debut album for 1983 was one of my favourite albums growing up and as I learned that evening, I still know every word from every song.

I knew as soon as they started things off with what is arguably their biggest song, “Blister in the sun”, that their plan was to play that self-titled, debut album from beginning to end. (Do I have to tell you that the crowd went nuts?) By the time they got to “Good feeling”, I was in heaven and my voice was hoarse from singing along. After playing “Violent femmes”, they played a selection of hits from the rest of their career (see full setlist below), including “Jesus walking on the water”, “I held her in my arms”, and perennial favourite, “American music”.

Gordon Gano’s performance was tempered to a low pitch, letting his vocals tell the story, except of course, when the songs required the use of the fiddle or the banjo. By comparison, Brian Ritchie was a monster on the acoustic bass, making his presence felt on every song, and Brian Viglione (replacing original drummer Victor DeLorenzo) was a master showman, dazzling us with solos and tossing out drumsticks and brushes to the audience. For a band that’s been around a long time, they played to a crowd of all ages, not just us old folk. There were a large group of youngsters who likely weren’t even born yet in 1983, holding on to the rail at the front of the stage and shaking their moppy heads so hard, it gave me a headache just watching. However this wasn’t a tired old reunion performance in the least. The Violent Femmes looked like they had the energy to do this for maybe another thirty years.

Gordon Gano
Brian Viglione on drums
John Sparrow on the cajón and Brian Ritchie on the xylophone
Gordon Gano on the fiddle
Brian Ritchie on the acoustic bass
Kicking it with Brian Viglione
Gordon Gano on the banjo
Gordon Gano and Brian Ritchie

Setlist:
Blister in the Sun
Kiss Off
Please Do Not Go
Add It Up
Confessions
Prove My Love
Promise
To the Kill
Gone Daddy Gone
Good Feeling
Jesus Walking on the Water
Country Death Song
Old Mother Reagan
Freak Magnet
Gimme the Car
Black Girls
I Held Her In My Arms
American Music

(I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip through ten of my favourite Bluesfest sets from years past. Here’s hoping we don’t have to do this again next year and instead have a bunch of new performances to experience.)

Ten great Ottawa Bluesfest sets: #6 The Shins – Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

(This year’s edition of Ottawa Bluesfest has been cancelled, for obvious reasons. In previous years, especially on my old blog, I would share photos and thoughts on some of the live music I was enjoying at the festival throughout the duration. So for the next week and a half, I thought I’d share ten great sets, out of the many I’ve witnessed over the years, one for each day on which music would have be performed. Enjoy.)

The Shins performing live at Bluesfest 2017

Artist: The Shins
When: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017
Where: Claridge Stage at 7:55pm
Context: This set by The Shins in 2017 marks the most recent performance to make this list and it also marks the only one for which I didn’t have any notes to which I could refer and pilfer to write this post. For all the other sets in this series, I was diligently making notes during them so that I could post reviews of sorts to my old blog ‘Music Insanity’. By the time 2017 rolled around, I had stuck a fork in that old blog and had just started this one and I decided to spend less time making notes and taking photos during concerts and just tried to enjoy the live experience more.

Interestingly, this particular Wednesday was the only day I got to Bluesfest in 2017. I was going to skip the festival altogether that year but the one day lineup that included Phantogram, The Shins, and LCD Soundsystem was too good to pass up. I had seen The Shins five years earlier with my wife Victoria and remembered that they blew us away, despite the rain storm that had swept up during their set. Still, leading up to that day, I was considering them and Phantogram icing on the cake to finally seeing LCD Soundsystem. That all changed when James Mercer and his players hit the stage.

The particulars are rather fuzzy, given that it was three years ago, again, I don’t have any notes from the day, and of course, I had enjoyed a few pints beforehand with my friend Jean-Pierre. However, I was totally engaged and enrapt during the set’s entirety. James Mercer and The Shins definitely know how to rock. They pulled out tunes from all of their albums, right back to their 2001 debut, “Oh, inverted world”, and didn’t focus solely on selections from their newest, 2017’s “Heartworms”. Yeah, I was there singing along to all the tunes right there with the rest of the crowd. And the smile never left my face the whole time.

Casey Foubert, Yuuki Matthews, Jon Sortland, and James Mercer
Patti King of The Shins
Casey Foubert of The Shins
Mark Watrous and James Mercer
Yuuki Matthews and Jon Sortland of The Shins
Yuuki Matthews, Jon Sortland, James Mercer, and Patti King
James Mercer of The Shins

Setlist:
Caring Is Creepy
Australia
Name for You
Mine’s Not a High Horse
Girl Inform Me
Saint Simon
Kissing the Lipless
Painting a Hole
The Rifle’s Spiral
Half a Million
Phantom Limb
Simple Song
Encore:
The Fear
New Slang
Sleeping Lesson

Ten great Ottawa Bluesfest sets: #3 Jenny Lewis – Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

(This year’s edition of Ottawa Bluesfest has been cancelled, for obvious reasons. In previous years, especially on my old blog, I would share photos and thoughts on some of the live music I was enjoying at the festival throughout the duration. So for the next week and a half, I thought I’d share ten great sets, out of the many I’ve witnessed over the years, one for each day on which music would have be performed. Enjoy.)

Jenny Lewis and her band and a sea of umbrellas at Bluesfest 2014

Artist: Jenny Lewis
When: Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
Where: River Stage at 7:00pm
Context: Another of the pitfalls of outdoor music festivals is inclement weather. Of course, Ottawa in July is particularly fun for the wild weather and it just seems to get more unsettled as the years roll on. I’ve weathered more than a couple storms in the middle of concert crowds, whether during sets or waiting for them to begin. It’s gotten so that dollar store ponchos have become a regular fixture in my pack whenever I head out to a festival. Others bring umbrellas and to them I say: “Leave them at home!” They often blow open and break in strong winds and they block the views of anyone unfortunate enough to be behind you.

But enough of that.

Back on the Tuesday night of the 2014 edition of Bluesfest, the skies opened up, exactly as forecast, and drenched the diehards awaiting the arrival of indie singer/songwriter Jenny Lewis. The rain was such that they delayed of the start of her 7pm set and it just seemed to get worse and worse, until the rain seemed endless and we started to think that the River stage would be washed away, along with our hopes of seeing Jenny Lewis live. She finally did go on at 7:40, leaving only twenty minutes remaining of her originally scheduled set. I stuck it out because I’d been following her since her days with Rilo Kiley and had enjoyed quite a bit of her solo work. And who knew if she’d ever make it back to Ottawa?

Jenny Lewis and her band only performed a total of six songs: a couple of Rilo Kiley tracks, a couple of tracks from her album with the Watson Twins, and the brand new single off her upcoming album, “Just one of the guys” (see full list below). She came out wearing a colourful outfit (similar to that shown on the aforementioned new album cover), playing a rainbow coloured acoustic guitar, and projecting a like mannered disposition. For the final song, “Acid tongue”, her backing band, dressed in whites and blacks, gathered behind her, choir-style to sing backup, while she serenaded us quietly on her acoustic guitar. It was a lovely set and I’m grateful that we got the chance to see her, even though it was only a short performance, but one can’t help wonder what else she would have played had the rain not altered the schedule.

Afterwards, wandering away from the stage, I overheard Lawrence Gowan (!) on one of the main stages cracking a lame joke about double rainbows. I looked up and sure enough, there was a magnificent rainbow that again matched Lewis’s garb and guitar and that seemed to end at the foot of the River Stage on which she had just performed. Coincidence?

Rain parkas and umbrellas
Jenny Lewis
Natalie Prass and Megan McCormick
Jenny Lewis, Macey Taylor, and Joshua Adams
Jenny Lewis and her rainbow guitar
The rainbow ends at the River Stage

Setlist:
Just One of the Guys
Silver Lining (Rilo Kiley song)
Rise Up With Fists!!
You Are What You Love
A Man/Me/Then Jim (Rilo Kiley song)
Acid Tongue