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The Bluesfest Experience

Hot summer sun, thousands of cheering fans, and five outdoor stages make for a spectacular concert-going adventure. Here is WHERE’s day-by-day walk through of some of the 2,000 blues, R&B, soul, gospel, pop, world, and rock musicians taking the stage at this year’s Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest.
By Misa Kobayashi.

Tegan & Sarah

Opening day of the festival kicks off with a bang (as it should!) with the 13-piece psychedelic indie band Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros. Beloved Canadian duo Tegan and Sara follow up with their catchy folk-rock, playing at the same time as the The Flaming Lips (who put on a heck of a show last year).

Today offers an awesome sequential line-up between two of the main stages. First up is the reggae-influenced pop of Canadian band Bedouin Soundclash on the MBNA Stage, followed by the hip hop and live instrumentation of The Roots (now the house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon) on the Claridge Homes Stage. After that, head back to the MBNA Stage to close down the night with the laid back, acoustic funk of singer/songwriter Ben Harper.

Our top three picks for today offer totally different sounds. Check out the rock and roll boogie of The Sheepdogs; this Canadian band is one of two unsigned acts in a Rolling Stone competition who are vying for the magazine’s cover and a recording contract. Girl Talk is also playing, pumping out dance tracks that sample hit songs, which have made him a leader in the mash-up generation. The Steve Miller Band rounds out the night with fan favourites like “The Joker.”

Wanda Jackson

Start off with a performance by Wanda Jackson, the 70-something Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and “Queen of Rockabilly,” whose famous fans have included everyone from Elvis Presley to Jack White. We also recommend the sexy, bluesy rock and roll of The Black Keys.

Starting today at noon, the festival boasts a line-up of shorter shows in a variety of genres, giving you a great bang for your buck and a sure fire bet you’ll discover someone new to add to your iPod. Big names for the evening performances include Erykah Badu and The Tragically Hip.

Grammy Award-winning Peter Frampton lights up the stage with his incredible guitar skills. His stop at Bluesfest will serve up songs from Frampton Comes Alive!, which is one of the top-selling live records of all time. Equally nostalgia-inducing are the ’80s pop anthems of Huey Lewis & the News.

Dana Fuchs. Photo credit: Merri Cyr.

John Fogerty, former singer/songwriter and guitarist for Creedence Clearwater Revival, brings some of that straight up rock and roll that gets you shimmying. Arrive early and see Dana Fuchs in action. She’s been likened to Janis Joplin and was a major presence in the Beatles-inspired film Across the Universe.

Rock band My Morning Jacket has played some exciting music festivals, including Coachella and Bonnaroo, and now they can add Bluesfest to that list. They’ve also performed with notable names that range from the Boston Pops to comedian Zach Galifianakis to Neil Young. In the mood for a hearty dose of blues? Guitarist Buddy Guy has got you covered, along with his 12-year-old blues guitar protégé Quinn Sullivan.

Tonight offers a mix of entertaining acts that includes Canadian alt-rockers Theory of a Deadman and pop-punk Billy Talent. Other interesting acts on the bill include the Creole sounds of Rose Ledet & The Zydeco Playboys, the salsa group La-33, and the young blues band Girls on Guitars.

Much-loved Canadian band and Bluesfest regular, Blue Rodeo, dominates tonight. We also recommend stopping over to see Paul Thorn in action. The singer/songwriter/guitarist has an easygoing stage presence that charms both with his music and his banter.

While concerts are taking place at the main venue, Amanda Rheaume will be playing at the satellite stage in the Rideau Centre (there’s also one at the Casino du Lac-Leamy). These concerts are free and expose audiences to new musicians (and vice versa). Local musicians performing on various stages today also include Brothers Chaffey and John Creeden.

Joe Satriani

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. On the last night of the event, you can look forward to Cheap Trick and their power pop songs like “I Want You to Want Me.” Get rocking with Joe Satriani, one of the guitar greats, who was recruited by Mick Jagger on his first solo tour. End the night — and the festival — by switching gears with the modern indie rock band Death Cab for Cutie.

For full schedule and to buy tickets, see www.ottawabluesfest.ca or call 613-599-3267.

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