Ten great Ottawa Bluesfest sets: #8 The Waterboys – Friday, July 12th, 2013

(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 Waterboys live at Bluesfest 2013

Artist: The Waterboys
When: Friday, July 12th, 2013
Where: Claridge Homes stage at 8:00pm
Context: This Waterboys set on a Friday night seven years ago allowed me to cross a band off my list of bands that I needed to see, of which I never thought I would see, and they did not disappoint. Mike Scott came out on stage in a town in which he had never before performed, took off his sunglasses, and said, “Okay, Ottawa, let’s take a look at you.” Then, he led his band right into “Strange boat” from the classic album, “Fisherman’s blues”.

Indeed, having been at this for a long time, Mike Scott had a lot of material to pull from and played a set of tunes from all different parts of his career under The Waterboys moniker. Their sound has changed quite a bit over the years but what has never changed is Scott’s incredible talent for lyrics and storytelling. The band membership also has been quite fluid over the years. The band touring North America with Scott that year was one that he had put together himself just for this purpose and considering that most of the material was likely new to them, played it like it was second nature. The standout member, of course, was fiddler Steve Wickham, who was an honest-to-goodness member of the band in the late 80s, when “Fisherman’s blues” was written and recorded. You can just feel the chemistry and history between Wickham and Scott as you watch them perform together. Yes, Wickham is just as much the performer as Scott himself.

The Waterboys played for just over an hour, squeezing in most of their more popular tracks, certainly all of my favourites, save one (“Glastonbury song” from 1993’s “Dream harder”), but I was only half expecting that one. They even played a couple of new tracks, both of which had a bit of blues rock feel, and as Scott said, “It is a blues festival, right?”

My wife Victoria at one point turned to me and said, “They’ve waited too long to come to Ottawa.” And I’m pretty sure the crowd, which was for the most part of the older persuasion, would have agreed and most seemed pleased with the set. When it ended, one would almost say abruptly, the crowd managed to drag the band out for an encore, for which Scott and company covered an old traditional gospel tune, “Will the circle be unbroken”. And this was a perfect ending for me.

Mike Scott and Malcolm Gold
Steve WIckham of The Waterboys
Mike Scott
Malcolm Gold and Jay Barclay of The Waterboys
Steve Wickham duelling with Jay Barclay and Malcolm Gold
Steve Wickham duelling with Mike Scott
Mike Scott getting theatrical in a two-faced mask

Setlist:
Strange boat
Fisherman’s blues
A girl called Johnny
I’m still a freak
The girl in the swing
We will not be lovers
Raggle taggle gypsy
Mad as the mist and snow
The whole of the moon
I can see Elvis
Medicine bow
Don’t bang the drum
Encore:
Will the circle be unbroken

Ten great Ottawa Bluesfest sets: #7 The Reverb Syndicate – Saturday, July 11th, 2015

(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 Reverb Syndicate live at Bluesfest 2015

Artist: The Reverb Syndicate
When: Saturday, July 11th, 2015
Where: Canadian Stage at 3:15pm
Context: One of the great things about Ottawa Bluesfest is the focus that organizers place on promoting local talent. It’s a great gig for the bands and artists because they get exposure to crowds that they normally wouldn’t draw and they are able to attend the festival for every day after their own performance. And it’s also great for the audiences who take the time to be treated to inspired performances by local acts. Every year that I have gone to the festival, I have seen some excellent local acts and there are a great many that I could’ve chosen to include in this series. In the end, I went with an afternoon set by surf-rock outfit, The Reverb Syndicate, not just because I work with the drummer of the group and it was super fun seeing someone I knew up on that stage but also because it was like the end of an era for the band.

Over the course of the year leading up to that set, I had seen them live for the first and second time and had purchased their latest album, The Odyssey, on vinyl. The Reverb Syndicate was at that point becoming one of my favourite local bands. As it would turn out, that set at Bluesfest was their last show as a four piece, since guitarist James Rossiter departed for England shortly afterward. I seem to remember that the band acknowledged the occasion at the outset and called for a drink in his honour.

Hours afterwards, I ran into Michael, the aforementioned drummer, milling about in the crowds and he complained about how many errors he had made but from where I was standing in the audience, it was a flawless performance. The Reverb Syndicate were joined on stage by a pair of “go-go dancers”, a nice touch given the genre, and whom, if I remember correctly, were partners of a couple of the band members. These two dancers had their work cut out for them because the one hour set was a lively one, electric, and with barely room for rest.

On top of playing both sides of their newest record, “Odyssey”, which in themselves work out to almost twenty minutes a-piece of tiring madness, the quartet played a handful of upbeat tracks from older albums, plus a cover of a classic Ventures number. There was plenty of sweet guitar work and impressive, spot-on drumming, all accompanied by some incidental bleeps and bloops by an honest to goodness Commodore 64, “not a prop”, but an instrument used frequently on the aforementioned “Odyssey”.

Good times indeed.

Mike Bradford of The Reverb Syndicate
James Rossiter of The Reverb Syndicate
A fuzzy Michael Sheridan with glasses
Lauren Hart and Jeff Welch
Mike Bradford
A clearer Michael Sheridan without glasses
Katie Bonnar, Jeff Welch, and James Rossiter

Setlist: (not available)

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