Sunday, July 09, 2006

Bluesfest: Day 2

Jonathan Migneault

Bluesfest's second day proved to be even more wonderful than the first. It started out slow as I worked my volunteer shift at the main stage merchandise tent. I was scheduled to work from 12:00 to 16:00; the only problem was that the main stage's first performer only started as my shift ended. The other stages, though, had sets scheduled as early as noon.

Luckily, I was offered a chance to work at the Blacksheep stage and was put in charge of Great Lake Swimmers' merchandise. This meant I would work a little overtime as their set started at 16:45. I was only too happy to do so.

Before Great Lake Swimmers I was able to catch an amazing performance by a young man named:

Jake Shimabukuro

Jake's instrument of choice was ukulele. That's right, it was only him and his ukulele on stage and it was fantastic. I was instantly reminded of Owen Pallett and his musicianship with the violin. Unlike Owen, Jake didn't loop his instrument. Instead, he played intricate pieces that shattered any preconceived notions one might concoct when they hear the word "ukulele."

I was glad to see him receive the audience's praise after his set. Many people, who had probably never heard him before, lined up to buy his album. He seemed to appreciate the gesture and mingled with a lot of his fans afterwards.

Next up were:

Great Lake Swimmers

As their name implies, Great Lake Swimmers play the kind of music that is perfectly suited for those long relaxing days at the summer cottage. The band's frontman, Tony Dekker, sings in the manner of a lullaby. Instead of putting you to sleep, though, it makes you daydream about the carefree days of your youth. Those times when nothing could deter your quest for fun and you felt invincible. When I listen to Great Lake Swimmers I feel invincible. I can forget everything and not let the mundanities of daily life stop me from feeling fulfilled.

After their set I had the chance to speak with Dekker at great length. As he signed autographs and spoke to fans I sat next to him and sold a few t-shirts. What struck me was his modesty and his shyness. He could be a poster-boy for anti-rockstars everywhere. He spoke about their latest tour and their upcoming shows. Audiences in P.E.I., Kingston and Calgary can look forward to their show in the near future.

After Great Lake Swimmers came a set from local heroes:

The Acorn

As usual, The Acorn did not disappoint. Joined by some labelmates from Flecton they played a solid set with equal parts new and old material. Frontman, Rolf Klausener, proved to have a great sense of humour and had an excellent relationship with the hometown audience. The definite highlight was their rendition of "Blankets." The title-track from their latest EP proved to be a huge hit with the crowd.

The next band came from Montreal:


Torngat was an intriguing and wholly unique band. The three-person lineup included drums, a French horn (courtesy of Bell Orchestre's Pietro Amato) and keyboards/synths. Like Bell Orchestre, Torngat's music is an interesting mix of classical and experimental elements. They have far less popular appeal than their bigger siblings due to the long droning post-rock elements found in some of their songs. They are the type of band that would have more appeal on record than in concert. Their music creates a great ambiance but is not very engaging in a live setting.

Still well worth a listen for those of you who are more adventurous in their musical taste.

Finally, came the undeniable highlight of Bluesfest thus far:

Bell Orchestre

Remarkably, this was Bell Orchestre's first "official" performance in Ottawa. An interesting fact when one considers that almost all the band's members have lived in this city at one time or another. It was a welcome visit that received a tremendous response.

Richard Perry and Sarah Neufeld, especially, brought an infectious sense of energy to the set. To hear "Les Lumieres" -- parts 1 and 2 -- live is an experience unlike any other. I closed my eyes and felt as though I was lifted above the clouds. I looked back at the audience and saw that sense of wonder that is often reserved for the very young. Everyone seemed frozen on the spot as the song's tempo rose to it's climactic crescendo.

It seemed that almost every song recreated that sense of awe. There are so few moments in our day to day lives that can return us to a sense of innocence. This was one such experience.

Bell Orchestre return to Ottawa on September 8th. What makes that show especially interesting is that they will play at the First Baptist Church. I can't imagine a better setting for such a transcendent experience.

That sums up day 2. Keep reading for more recaps on the days to come.

Torngat - Alberta Song
The Acorn - Darcy
Great Lake Swimmers - I Will Never See the Sun
Bell Orchestre - Throw it on a Fire


The Acorn - Blankets EP
Great Lake Swimmers - Great Lake Swimmers
Jake Shimabukuro - Dragon
Bell Orchestre - Recording a Tape the Colour of Light

Comments on "Bluesfest: Day 2"


Anonymous rgsc said ... (10/7/06 1:48 pm) : 

Now I am even more pissed that I couldn't make it to this show. I really want to see Bell Orchestre live - my calendar is marked for the 9th...who knows maybe I'll actually make it.


Blogger Calum Marsh said ... (10/7/06 5:06 pm) : 

Better come to our show on the 19th, too!


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