RBC Ottawa Bluesfest – Day 10 executive summary

Day 10: The hottest, sunniest day of the festival. BB King & Dog Blood.

Alice In Chains: I had alot of bias coming into this show. First, Millar went to see Alice in Chains in London last week and wrote a thorough review. Second, all the material I know from this band was sung by the deceased Layne Staley – and was not sure how ‘the new guy’ William DuVall would interpret things. Finally, Alice in Chains is a band who have an incredible amount of personal importance to my development as a fan of music. I remember when my older sister first played the Dirt CD for me on a cottage road trip, I remember buying the Alice In Chains album on a trip to the US and having the opposite coloured jewel case (the purple and green one) from all my friends.

William DuVall Alice in Chains

“The new guy” William DuVall – how would he do? [spoiler alert: great.]
RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO Mark Horton

Long story short (too late), I was not sure what to expect.

As it turned out, Alice in Chains felt exactly the same way. After taking the blisteringly hot stage in the late afternoon and ripping through a few songs to a large, appreciative crowd, new frontman William DuVall took advantage in a break to say in a slow Georgia drawl, “We’re the odd guys out in this thing today, and we were not sure what to expect…. but it turned out great!” [crowd cheers]

If you are an Alice in Chains fan, there’s no way you didn’t love this show. The pentatonic harmonies between DuVall and band-leader Jerry Cantrell were pitch perfect, the sludgy sound from the original rhythm section sounds as distinct and heavy as ever, and the effect of the whole mix put together, played out of a big PA on a hot afternoon was quite incredible.

Adding William DuVall to the band has undeniably worked. He does a dead-on Layne Staley – and considering their late singer’s slow demise to drugs, is probably better than Layne Staley sounded after the band recorded Dirt in 1992.

His performance was awesome, the band was loud and heavy, and if you loved Alice in Chains at all, you’ll love this show.

Serena Ryder: Started her show singing accapella – that takes some serious balls.

Alejandro Escovedo: I don’t actually have much in the way of analysis on the story of Alejandro Escovedo. I didn’t really know him before seeing him perform on the River Stage on Sunday afternoon, but I will start to dig.

One of the first families of hard rock, certainly hard rock in the Southern US, Alejandro fronted an excellend band yesterday that pounded it’s way through a set of originals and covers. I really enjoyed this show, and will continue to dig on Alejandro Escovedo. If anyone reading this wants to point me in the right first-direction, please leave a comment!

Yukon Blonde: The most under-rated Canadian band. Period.

This band is tight enough, has enough amazing songs, and has all the charisma to play the biggest stages on the planet without missing a beat.

Yukon Blonde Performs Live

“If you love sweaty butt on the top of your head, we’ve got a real treat for you!”
RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO Mark Horton

Yesterday, their energy was legendary, their constant Beach-Boys-esque harmonies were pitch perfect. A guitar-led rock band that plays pop songs with an almost gospel spirit and a punk driving energy.

This was a great show by a great Canadian band.

BB King: Sorry – I’m going to show-drop here… I’ve seen this BB King show before in a small theatre and it was remarkably good. His guitars were tight in the mix, his stories were poignant, funny, and infinitely charming, and everyone felt like they were BB King’s buddy leaving the show.

This was lost in the festival atmosphere.

The draw of one of the last living godfathers of The Blues is enormous, and I could not get close enough to hear any of this show. From my vantage point, BB King’s guitar jumped out of the mix like a bunch of missed notes on Guitar Hero, and the reverence for his audience that I KNOW he’s sending out to the crowd at the end of his show came off like he wouldn’t get off the stage.

This is in no way to say that you should not go and see BB King. If you get the opportunity – GO! BB King is the fine champagne of The Blues – a living piece of rock & roll DNA and one of the most soulful guitar players to ever plug in.

But if you get the chance to go, and it’s at a festival setting, get there early and sit as close as possible.

Dog Blood: Funny coincidence – the hottest day of 2012’s Bluesfest was also a day where Skrillex performed on the main stage.

Last year, the stage setup, the lights, the pyrotechnics, the music itself, was one of the most aggressive audio/visual onslaughts I have ever experienced. Not necessarily a ‘thinking man’s show’, but awe-inspiring for its how big, bright, and loud it all was.

This year, we saw a relatively humble stage setup and performance from Skrillex & Boys Noize – aka Dog Blood.

Dog Blood Live @ RBC Ottawa Bluesfest 2013

RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO Mark Horton

Don’t get me wrong, this was still loud and bright, but not ‘flames shooting out of a spaceship into my face’ loud. I guess the enemy here was my expectations, because I have nothing bad to possibly say about this show: the music was cool, the lights were mind-blowing and the crowd was hot, sweaty, and wet. It was perfect. It’s not fair to compare the 2 shows, and if I read descriptions of them both, I’d probably gravitate towards Dog Blood over Skrillex.

But what we saw last year, the size, scope, ambition, and aggressiveness of it all, it will take some time for Skrillex to floor me again.


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