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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)


Best tunes of 2011: #6 Rich Aucoin “It”

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I made mention of AUX TV a few times during my Best tunes of 2010 series. I had somehow come across the channel during a random surf at the high end of my Rogers Cable offerings back around the beginning of the 2010s. I almost immediately made the connection that the channel actually played music videos* like MuchMusic used to do, especially at certain hours of the day. One of these happened to be in the early hours and it became part of my morning ritual to turn on the channel while I made and enjoyed my morning coffee. I discovered many a new tune and artist in this way, just check here and here for a couple examples from that Best of 2010 list.

Unfortunately, AUX has since changed formats and been rebranded but I mention it today because this is where I first heard tell of Rich Aucoin, seeing the video for “It” one morning and loving it from the start. If you haven’t seen the video, you should definitely take the time to peruse it below. It strings together instantly recognizable scenes from famous films, like Forrest Gump, The Princess Bride, E.T., Top Gun, Ghostbusters, amongst others, and places Aucoin and his cronies as active participants in the scenes. Many of these films are ones from my youth that I’ve seen numerous times and of which I have fond memories, so it never fails to bring a smile to make face when I watch it. However, I remember it took me a few times watching it originally to catch who the artist that was performing the track because I was always busy brewing coffee at the time or AUX TV would have its titles screwed up. One time, I swore they said “Roch Voisin” but I knew that couldn’t be right. Eventually, I got it nailed down and I went out to hunt down the album on which “It” appeared.

When I listened to Aucoin’s debut album, “We’re all dying to live”, I was very impressed that the rest of the tracks were just as phenomenally put together as “It” and so full of joyous orchestral music of epic proportions. However, I didn’t truly understand the energy and the joy until the following year when I saw Rich Aucoin perform live at Ottawa Bluesfest. His sets are less performances than they are celebrations. He blurs the lines between performer and audience, shattering that glass wall with the use of multimedia, by joining the audience in front of the stage, and employing the use of a parachute, all to create a miasmic, organic, celebratory event. I saw him again a few years later at the Toronto Urban Roots Festival, a set to which he invited the good people at Choir! Choir! Choir! to join him onstage for this entire time slot.

Yeah. Rich Aucoin is all about sharing and caring. He’s almost like a care bear in this way. Indeed, even the most jaded in the crowd can’t help but be pulled in by his exuberance and energy and zest for life. Though the “It” that he doesn’t want us to keep within our heads isn’t quite clear, we know by inference that it cannot be good. The tinkling piano that would have us floating up, Bugs Bunny style, into the clouds, our toes flapping us up like wings, says as much. And the imbued verve and the singing choirs are all working to convince you that we should indeed all be dying to live. Hallelujah to that.

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

* It was especially cool because the channel focused on new and emerging independent artists.