Live music galleries: Ottawa Bluesfest 2019, day three – Children of Indigo, The Beths, Pup, This is the Kit

(Since I’ll be too busy attending Ottawa Bluesfest over the next week or so to continue with this blog’s regularly scheduled programming, I thought I would do a special ‘live galleries’ series this week to share some pics from some of the sets I am enjoying.)

Entrance to Bluesfest

Artists: Children of Indigo, The Beths, Pup, and This is the Kit
When: July 6th, 2019
Where: Lebreton Flats Park, Ottawa
Some words: You might’ve noticed there wasn’t a post yesterday detailing Friday night’s exploits. There’s a good explanation. The original plan was to attend but when the main reason for going that night, Colter Wall, cancelled earlier in the day, I made the call to stay home, what with the dodgy weather, lack of sleep, early wake up hour the next day, and the country heavy musical content and expected crowds. By my count, that’s four cancellations for this year’s festival, bad luck in its twenty-fifth year. Here’s hoping the bad luck ends there and the rest of the festival runs smoothly.

When I arrived yesterday, nice and early, I still wasn’t expecting crowds in the entrance line so like Thursday night, the temporary barricade maze was more walking than I wanted to do in that heat. So after I entered, I once again headed inside to the Barney Danson theatre where a surprisingly large crowd had gathered to hear an early set by a lovely, local indie folk trio named Children of Indigo. Unlike Thursday, there was no overlap last night so I didn’t have to rush anywhere afterwards and actually got to enjoy some full sets.

Next up was the band I was most excited to see last night, an indie rock trio out of New Zealand called The Beths. If you haven’t heard them, check them out. To my ears, they sound quite a bit like Alvvays and Camera Obscura but with more fuzz. I’ve been listening to their album a lot in the lead up to last night but their performance was so good, it pushed me to pick up a copy of their record at the merch tent.

Just after dinner time, I headed over to the main stage to catch Toronto punk band Pup struggle to reconcile their counter-culture cred and such a huge outdoor audience. They shouldn’t have worried so much as their fans were just as pleased to mosh and pump their fists outdoors as in. I stayed out of the fray and enjoyed the energy from afar. I finished my evening early, back where I started, in the Barney Danson theatre, with British folk songstress Kate Stables, who might be better known under stage name, This is the kit. I had originally thought to stick around for The Turbans, the headliners on one of the side stages, but after drinking a few beers in the afternoon heat, my bed and AC were the stronger calls.

Natasha Pedersen and David Campbell of Children of Indigo
Mitchell Jackson of Children of Indigo
Tristan Deck of The Beths
Jonathan Pearce of The Beths
Benjamin Sinclair of The Beths
Elizabeth Stokes of The Beths
Steve Sladkowski of Pup
Zack Mykula and Nestor Chumak of Pup
Stefan Babcock of Pup
This is the Kit with The Texas Horns
Kate Stables aka This is the Kit

Best tunes of 2011: #13 The Rural Alberta Advantage “North star”

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Just after Christmas in December of 2011, I joined my friend Tim on a short road trip out to Cambridge to visit his friends Greg and Wendy. They had recently opened a used records and book store called Millpond and we met up with them there to check it out, just before they closed for the day.

(I browsed their record selection with some interest, though I was still a few months removed from starting my collection in earnest.)

Afterwards, we went out for dinner, where there were plenty of laughs and reminiscences and of course, talk eventually turned to music. The fact that I had recently starting blogging about music was raised and I showed them the home page on my iPhone, which at that moment was deep in the depths of my first ever end of the year, best albums countdown. Wendy exclaimed that she liked the look of one of the album covers and when I looked at the one about which she was talking, it was The Rural Alberta Advantage’s sophomore album, “Departing”. Its cover art is mostly white, what looks like a mostly untraveled two lane highway obscured by whiteout conditions, snow sliding across the asphalt, a set of headlights barely visible in the near distance. Incidentally, it aptly foreshadowed our drive back to Toronto as we were hit by one of those surprise snow storms particular to the areas surrounding Lake Ontario.

Without digging back in the archives of my old blog, “Music Insanity”, I couldn’t tell you what position “Departing” held in my top ten that year but I think if and when I redo it on these pages, this album would still be somewhere in the mix. The Rural Alberta Advantage is an indie rock trio, that despite their moniker are actually based out of Toronto. Their sound is the happy melding of Nils Edenloff’s rough guitar manhandling and raw vocal chords vocals, Amy Cole’s delightful keys and other percussion flourishes and her soft touch backing voice, and of course, Paul Banwatt’s frenzied impression of Animal punishing the drum kit. Every song on the album, nay, on all their albums, is an adventure.

The first half of “North star” is more sparse than the usual RAA tune. Cole’s piano chords are like a punctuation on Banwatt’s drum rhythm, those that just chug along like the sleepers on a night train, above whom the glass ceiling looks over the prairie night sky and the stars are everywhere, a million pin holes in the night. Then, the piano becomes more than an accent and fills all the rest of the empty space with chimes and bass reverberations. Edenloff, meanwhile, is almost restrained, singing forlornly about a love that might never be.

“We’re far apart under the same sky,
You’re diving in the dark I’m in the city’s lights,
Wishing just to see you for another night.”

If you’ve never listened to the RAA before, I suggest you give the song below a go. You’re welcome.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2011 list, click here.

100 best covers: #79 Mumford And Sons “The boxer”

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Here’s one that might incite comments. Or maybe it’ll just incite vitriol. I usually finish these posts with the question of which you prefer, the cover or the original, but I’m pretty I sure I know the answer to this one already.

Mumford and Sons brought back the banjo in a big way in the late 2000s. It feels like the centre around which their platinum-selling debut album, “Sigh no more”, crowded, but really, they used a lot of non-traditional rock instruments to build their sound. I really liked the debut when I first heard it (still do, really) and because I don’t often listen to commercial radio, didn’t realize that it made them a household name until I saw a part of their set at Osheaga in 2013. Already by this time, though, the typical backlash that accompanies a meteoric rise had begun to set in. There really is a lot of hate out there for them. I’m not sure I completely understand it. However, I will say that with each successive album I’ve become more and more ambivalent, especially after they dispensed with their trademark sound on their third record and started to head down the vanilla pop road, hot on the trails of Coldplay.

They covered Simon & Garfunkel’s classic folk pop tune, “The boxer”, just before they remade themselves, and released it as a bonus track on the deluxe edition of their 2012 sophomore release, “Babel”. This is a tune I have known and loved since high school and can remember singing the words along with my classmates on the bus trip back from a particular weekend winter retreat. Though Simon & Garfunkel were usually on the quieter side of folk, this was a jauntier number and when I saw that Mumford had covered it, I thought I would enjoy it even before I had heard it.

The instrumentation is different but the feel is very much in the same vein, the banjo, resonator guitar, and even Marcus Mumford’s vocals lending the tune some uplifting sadness. And it is just as easy to sing along with on that “la la lie” chorus.

So though I won’t bother asking the question, I will say that at least Paul Simon must have approved of this cover, given that he appeared on it, along with resonator guitar legend Jerry Douglas.

The cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.