Ten great Ottawa Bluesfest sets: #4 Rich Aucoin – Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

(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.)

Rich Aucoin live at Bluesfest 2012

Artist: Rich Aucoin
When: Wednesday, July 11th, 2012
Where: Electro Stage at 9:00pm
Context: If you’re ever in the mood for a party, I would definitely recommend seeing Rich Aucoin.

I wasn’t sure what to think while watching him set up the stage beforehand because I had never heard anything about his live shows. His debut album, “We’re all dying to live”, was released the previous year and was so big and bombastic but it looked, based on the set up, like there would only be two people performing. I really didn’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t the all out party that unfolded once things got going.

First, Rich Aucoin came out on stage by himself to thank everyone for coming and then, explained how all of his songs were all meant to be performed against images from “old” movies (some weren’t that old). Hence, the large screen behind him and then, the other two performers, a drummer and a bass player, came out to join him. He started off with a vocal warm up to the 20th Century Fox jingle and encouraged the crowd to join in. In fact, audience participation was practically mandatory throughout. He put up the lyrics of the chorus to each song before performing and ran through them a couple of times to ensure everyone knew the words. He jumped into the crowd to dance with his fans at every opportunity, leaving his band and his keyboards to do the work. At one point, he brought out a parachute and asked the audience to make room so that they could play a game reminiscent of elementary school playgrounds.

Rich Aucoin had the crowd in a dancing frenzy all the way through. The crowd was just as much a part of the performance as those on stage. He finished his uplifting set with “It”, as I figured he would, and then put his personal cell phone number up on the screen for audience members to text him so that he could send them his music. What a wild ride.

‘Congrats on being alive’
‘We’re all dying to live’
‘Ottawa is awesome’s capital’
Rich’s brother, Paul Aucoin on bass
Joel Waddell on the drums
Rich Aucoin dancing the crowd

Setlist: (unfortunately, not available)

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

Ten great Ottawa Bluesfest sets: A prologue

So here we are, already eight days into July. And if all had gone according to plan, I would be preparing to attend the first day of Ottawa’s Bluesfest tomorrow. I would be packing a change of clothes, sunscreen, sunglasses, probably a rain poncho, my camera, and my festival pass in my satchel, all to bring with me to work so I could head on down to the festival grounds right afterwards. I would probably be planning on which brewery to stop in at beforehand, something I’d been doing with more and more regularity, ever since the festival had adopted Molson and its overpriced cans of macro beer as a sponsor. The excitement would be palpable and my wife would likely be rolling her eyes and preparing to be without her husband for a week and a half…

But alas…

A few weeks after the festival lineup was released to great excitement (Alanis Morissette! Rage against the Machine!) and tickets went on sale, COVID-19 was announced as a worldwide pandemic and a threat to public safety in Canada. Everything was shut down. Concert tours and music festivals around the world were being cancelled. Bluesfest’s organizers held out for as long as they could, hoping against hope that things would clear up, and that the show could still go on. At the end of April, they pulled the plug, offering refunds or the option to transfer tickets to the following year, for which many of the very same exciting acts had already been confirmed. Of course, it was disappointing at the time, albeit completely understandable, and today, on the eve of what would’ve been the opening day, there’s more than a bit of a heavy heart in my chest.

The first time I attended the festival was back in 2009 and I have seen amazing sets at ten different editions of Bluesfest over the years. So what I thought I’d do for the next week and a half was to share photos and words from ten of my favourite sets from over the years, one for each day on which the festival would have taken place. Of course, I have already shared some great Bluesfest sets on these pages that likely would’ve been included. I won’t share them again but if you want whet your appetite for live show photos, you can click on the links below for those posts.

Father John Misty on the River Stage – Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Camera Obscura on the River Stage – Friday, July 5th, 2013

The Specials on the Claridge Homes Stage – Monday, July 8th, 2013

July Talk on the River Stage – Friday, July 11th, 2014

The Decemberists on the Claridge Stage – Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

Are you ready now? Good! For the next eleven days (the festival always takes one day off after the first weekend for rest), I’ll be sharing a handful of photos, some thoughts, and where possible, the set list (thank you setlist.fm) for ten of my favourite Bluesfest sets. Grab your sunscreen, earplugs, favourite beverage, and let’s get ready to rock.