RBC Ottawa Bluesfest
The Strumbellas / Amos the Transparent / Larkin Poe
For one in every of The Strumbellas’ first out-of-town reveals, the fast-rising Lindsay folkies crammed 10 musicians onstage at Somerset Street’s tiny Raw Sugar Café. Their membership would have outnumbered the crowd that night time, however quick ahead a couple of brief years and the Juno-winning folk-rock collective discover themselves underneath the shiny lights of Bluesfest’s principal stage.
With barefooted frontman Simon Ward oozing charisma from centre stage — or bounding throughout it, or rolling round on the ground together with his acoustic guitar dangling precariously — the band made the better of the huge stage with their breezy, crowd-pleasing night set.
Opening with the tandem of Wars and We Don’t Know from their standout 2016 file Hope, which earned the band a Juno nomination for Group of the Year, The Strumbellas confirmed off their ultra-catchy tunes with splashes of fiddle and keys amid the acoustic-driven sing-alongs.
The Sunday crowd swelled as the band struck up End of An Era, their breakthrough hit from 2013’s We Still Move on Dance Floors.
Fiddler Isabel “Izzy” Ritchie took over lead vocals for Rhinestone, evoking shades of Dolly and Patsy on the down-home nation shuffle from their 2012 debut, crooning about “getting married in a shotgun chapel” earlier than breaking right into a jubilant boogie.
The six-piece settled right into a groove on the slow-building Shovels & Dirt, with Ward busting out his greatest Springsteen howl, they usually bought the crowd clapping in rhythm to In This Life and revved up their greatest rock chops on Young & Wild.
Ward acknowledged there was “something askew” about the band on this night time, with authentic bassist Darryl James lacking. The followers barely took observe, although, as they joined in the grand singalong refrain of Wild Sun, Ward rocking out with keyboardist Dave Ritter (a Carleton University grad making his homecoming) as he ventured out from behind his keyboard to strap on his key-tar.
They took a burning run by way of The Sherriff, the epic opening observe from their debut, My Father and the Hunter, with Ward leaning into the microphone to coax out every impassioned observe.
That set the stage for his or her anthemic hit Spirits, the rousing refrain lifting all spirits excessive into the night sky.
Warming up the City Stage for The Strumbellas on Sunday, Ottawa’s Amos the Transparent made such an ideal bedfellow that it might have been a disgrace if the two bands didn’t not less than alternate numbers.
Celebrating 10 years as one in every of the native scene’s most modern and inventive forces with a brand new album, appropriately titled Anniversary, the six-piece indie collective confirmed off its newest dreamscapes in a harmony-soaked late-afternoon set.
Change My Mind showcased the vocal interaction between frontman Jonathan Chandler and Olenka Reshitnyk, whereas their bandmates added splashes of scrumptious pedal metal to It’s Only Getting Better and cello to the sweeping concord guitars of Someone I Used to Know.
While Chandler was at his brooding greatest on I Saw a Ghost, it was Reshitnyk’s dealing with of a dead-on cowl of Fleetwood Mac’s Rhiannon that piqued the followers’ ears. Taking on Stevie Nicks is a tall order, and she or he nailed it.
Before their exit, the band took time to thank the pageant for making prime-time area for Ottawa’s native bands.
Seeing upstart locals share the principal stage with rising Can-rock stars like The Strumbellas and big-time American headliners (nation star Brett Eldredge took on headlining duties Sunday night time) is really one in every of the beauties of Bluesfest.
But so, too, are the discoveries early-arriving festival-goers will make whereas biding their time at aspect levels.
Larkin Poe, the Atlanta sister act of singer-guitarist Rebecca Lovell and lap metal guitarist Megan Lovell, tore the roof off a jam-packed Claridge Stage with a searing set of Southern-fried soul and gospel-tinged blues.
The Lovell sisters had a scorching afternoon crowd of newfound followers in the palm of their palms on the smoking Trouble In Mind earlier than pulling out a rip-snorting cowl of Ram Jam’s (by the use of Leadbelly) Black Betty.
“That’s a song our dad played for us growing up, but we’re gonna make up our own version,” Rebecca Lovell mentioned with a sly wink, earlier than cueing up one other of their blues heroes with Son House’s Preachin’ Blues.
While the cranked-up covers introduced the crowd’s blood to a boil, it was Look Away, from their debut full-length Peach, that actually drove issues over the edge.
With Megan Lovell perched on the fringe of the stage, churning out her swirling slide licks, and her sister pounding her electrical guitar and belting out the refrain, it was exhausting to look away.
With Bluesfest’s first week in the books, it’s an off-day Monday earlier than the music returns Tuesday with Foo Fighters.