The second day of Ottawa Bluesfest was under the constant threat of rain, but it held onto a breezy overcast for the duration of the show. Opening at 6 pm on the Claridge Homes Stage (one of the two major stages) were Ottawa locals The Heavy Medicine Band. The energy was somewhat low as the festival crowds were just barely reining in, but they played a solid performance nonetheless. Self proclaimed ‘electric low-ride folk’, they brought a satisfyingly full and rolling sound, with Keturah Johnson’s howling and yodeling vocals adding a nice snarl.
Next, Montreal indie-pop darling Béatrice Martin, aka Coeur de pirate took control of the City Stage, the largest at Bluesfest. Though she and her backing band came out dressed all in black, the show was fun and inviting. Martin commanded the love and affection of the crowd with her bilingual set (in French and English) and her carefree dancing onstage. Her music was piano-driven, with a grand piano even set up for her, and she showed considerable comfort in playing, singing, and talking to the crowd. It was a lighthearted, endearing show—it’s hard to imagine Martin anywhere but up on stage performing.
Next up was Australian bassist Tal Wilkenfeld, at the smaller Black Sheep Stage. Following a ridiculously long equipment setup, she and her three-piece backing band kicked off at 8:30 with what seemed like endless technical difficulties, which wasn’t helped by she and her guitarist swapping out instruments every song. It was initially distracting, but when they got their stuff together, I was blown away by their sound. I’d liken her songwriting to a very 90s alt rock—think the Cranberries or Alanis Morissette. She herself has gotten famous in recent years with her incredible bass-playing, with which she’s contributed to artists like Jeff Beck and Herbie Hancock. The jazz influences showed, with a smooth bass solo from her launching into a back-and-forth solo/jam with her drummer, showing astounding creativity, syncopation, and building intensity. Definitely my highlight moment of the festival so far.
Closing off the night at the City Stage were headliners Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, who drew a huge crowd and kept that crowd’s full attention with a rock-solid performance. There isn’t much to say—Gallagher is a seasoned rock star who knows how to handle himself onstage, and his wide backing band (including a horn section) easily coasted through songs both original to Gallagher and those taken from old Oasis material. You couldn’t ask for a better song than the classic “Don’t Look Back in Anger” to close out the night.
Covered by Matthew Wardell