Festival Review + Photos: City and Colour and Conor Oberst at RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest (Ottawa)

City and Colour (St Catherines, Ontario), David Gray (Cheshire, UK), Conor Oberst (Omaha, NE), Freelance Whales (Queens, NY)
July 6th, 2012
RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest in Ottawa, Ontario

After a six hour bus ride from Toronto, and stepping out of the bus station into the blistering heat of a hot summer day in Ottawa, there was not a better thing to do then to go to the RBC Bluesfest!  Five large stages surrounding the Canadian War Museum,  food and beer tents everywhere, and people from all over could be found in this large area.  I was only there for the third day of the 12-day festival, catching nearly half of the 15 performances of the day.

After sitting patiently in line for about three hours, the front doors were opened and the festival had begun. Watching the fans race towards the front rows of the stages was certainly a sight to see.  The first performance I saw was Freelance Whales, an indie rock band form Queens, New York. The band’s sound reminded me of M83, using instruments such as banjo, synthesizer, harmonium,  mandolin, glockenspiel, guitar, bass and drums.  The band had everything from slow, heartfelt songs, to upbeat, synthy jams.  One thing I really noticed about the band was there overall musical talent between band members. Each song they would switch up their instruments. For example, the lead singer started off playing banjo, moved to guitar, and then to bass-the same with all the other band members along with all the other instruments they specialize in.

The second band to perform, and one of my all time favorites was Conor Oberst, also known as Bright Eyes.  Conor Oberst has been in many musical projects and bands, mostly from around Omaha, Nebraska.  His musical stylings range from computer generated compositions to full bands, to just his voice and guitar. He played classics like “Classic Cars”, “Train Under Water” and even “Lua”.  His fans are unmatched in loyalty as I learned that one fan that I had met in line who had been there since 6AM, which is 11 hours of waiting, just to be front row to see him live for only an hour.  He played new songs, old songs, and even had a guest performer on stage with him, Gillian Welch, to sing her song “Wrecking Ball”.

Immediately after Oberst’s performance was David Gray.  The first thing I noticed about the artist was he was very well dressed, in full suit, as well as the other members of the band. One of the songs he played that Instantly recognized was the song “Babylon”.  He also broke into dance frequently throughout his performance. Gray performed upbeat guitar tunes and also played slower longer ballads on the piano. David Gray, an English singer-songwriter from Sale, Cheshire, UK.  He has been performing for years, and has released nine studio albums.  He had quite the crowd around the stage he was playing.  Gray has been known to do most of his recordings in his own home and takes a do-it-yourself approach to his recording.

The fourth and final act of the evening was City And Colour.  A band created by Dallas Green, who was originally the clean vocals in the band Alexisonfire.  City (Dallas) and Colour (Green) was definitely the highlight of the night with almost the entire population of the festival crowded around the main stage,  chanting his name for him to play. Dallas Green was very good with the audience, communicating with them to get one half of the crowd to sing one part and the other side to sing another. He played such hits like “Sleeping Sickness” “We Found Each Other In The Dark” and even my favourite,”Body In A Box”  His set was diverse with older and newer songs.  For me, it was nice to see him again. I had meet him two years ago, but had not gotten to see City and Colour live, so which made this a good show for me as well.

After the performance, I was making my way out and noticed there was still a performance happening at one of the stages behind the museum. I went over to find Tommy Lee, drummer of Mötley Crüe, rocking out on stage with DJ Aero, playing all sorts of techno and dubstep.  People were dancing and jumping up and down, and it was very much a rave vibe coming from this performance.  Glowsticks and crowd surfers everywhere, though I arrived just for the ending of the performance I could sure tell that Ottawa knows how to party and through a festival.  Although I was only there for one day out of the entire festival I could feel that the rest of the festival is going to be amazing, I strongly encourage anyone who has the chance to go, should take it,  It was my first festival but definitely will not be my last.

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