Ottawa’s largest summer music festival kicks off tonight, and thankfully, as is always the case, there is more rock than blues at Bluesfest. In addition to the many rocking headliners, there are several electronic acts set to take to the Black Sheep stage, which is always the most interesting locale at LeBreton Flats. While Fun (Sunday, July 7, 9:15pm, Bell Stage) and Solange (Wednesday, July 10, 8:15pm, River Stage) will definitely appeal to Ottawa’s queers, I wouldn’t personally recommend either act. From the legendary Grand Funk Railroad to Ottawa natives Roberta Bondar, here are my picks for who to catch at this year’s festival.
Thursday, July 4:
Femi Kuti, 6:30pm, River Stage
Grand Funk Railroad, 8pm, Claridge Stage
The Black Keys, 9:30pm, Bell Stage
For nearly a decade The Black Keys were a band you might hear being praised on NPR or blasting at a campus party. Then, with 2010’s Brothers, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney broke through to the mainstream. Their most recent offering, El Camino, won three Grammys and cemented the duo’s position as garage rock innovators with singles like “Lonely Boy” and “Dead and Gone.” The Keys sold out two shows at London’s O2 earlier this year, and critics have lauded their current tour. Expect LeBreton Flats to overflow tonight for the opening headliners.
Saturday, July 6:
Tara Holloway, 2pm, Barney Danson Theatre
DJ Acro, 5:45pm, Black Sheep Stage
Neko Case, 7pm, Bell Stage
Bluesfest staple Neko Case will hopefully preview new tracks off her much-anticipated album The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You. Case stormed Bluesfest 2009 while promoting her last album, Middle Cyclone, and always manages to deliver an intimate performance in an outdoor festival setting.
Belle and Sebastien, 8pm, Claridge Stage
Sunday, July 7:
Fevers, 2pm, Claridge Stage
July 7 might as well be called “gay day at Bluesfest,” with Fevers, Tegan and Sara and Diamond Rings all performing. Queer Fevers member Sarah Bradley told Xtra earlier this year that their upcoming debut full-length album, No Room for Light, produced by Laurence Currie, will sound remarkably different than their self-produced EP Passion Is Dead.
“[Currie has] worked with other high-octane bands like Wintersleep, Hey Rosetta, Sloan and Holy Fuck,” Bradley explains. “We’re really excited to be working with him. [Our music is] more coherent this time around. Our last EP was a compilation that was written over the last four years. This time around we wrote songs for this album.”
Tegan and Sara, 8pm, Claridge Stage
Diamond Rings, 9pm, River Stage
Monday, July 8:
The Specials, 7:30, Claridge Stage
Mother Mother, 9:30pm, River Stage
Wednesday, July 10:
Animal Collective, 7pm, Bell Stage
Thursday, July 11:
LP, 8pm, Claridge Stage
Funkhunters, 7:45pm, Black Sheep Stage
Friday, July 12:
Amanda Rheaume, 12pm, Offsite, Rideau Centre Stage
Tommy Trash, 9:30pm, Black Sheep Stage
Although anyone with a few dollars can now become a DJ, Australian Tommy Trash proves that there is a place for talent in the electronic dance music (EDM) scene. While previewing the EDM acts at this year’s festival, I found many of the tracks sounded as if the DJ simply threw sounds together, aiming for a jarring effect on the listener. But Trash, who has remixed everyone from Deadmau5 to Armand Van Helden, has authored tracks that are cohesive, throbbing and guaranteed to bring a club, or the separated-from-the-rest-of-Bluesfest Black Sheep Stage, to life.
Saturday, July 13:
Roberta Bondar, 1pm, Bell Stage
Named for Canada’s first female astronaut, hometown band Roberta Bondar paint jagged soundscapes with a palette stocked with haze and feedback. Vocalist Lidija Rozitis’s work is occasionally reminiscent of a youthful Kim Gordon, and the band members describe their latest album, Hiss, as “a perfect combination of dark, deeply carved grooves, double guitar flare-outs, bone rattling low-end, and unforgettable vocal hooks that grab ears and grip your psyche.”
Mykki Blanco, 5pm, Bell Stage
Stars, 8pm, Claridge Stage
Ra Ra Riot, 9pm, River Stage
Bjork, 9:15pm, Bell Stage