RBC Ottawa Bluesfest – Day 4.
Headliner: Lady Antebellum
Weather: Started hot and sunny, light rain by the end.
Vintage Trouble: The only other band I’ve ever seen with THIS much energy is The Hives.
The L.A. 4-piece rhythm and blues rock band took the stage, dressed in tailored 3-piece suits, did a band huddle (never seen that before a show) and tore into a James-Brown-ian R&B revival set that will be talked about for the rest of the festival. They had big band moments (pulling another band’s horns in for a collaboration) and a few very serious and soulful inward moments, where the band’s versatility and individual skills shone.
They have an album coming out soon on BlueNote, which is a big deal. I doubt an album will be able to bottle up the energy this band puts into a show, but there’s plenty of soul and song talent to make up for it.
A few other highlights from the show: Frontman Ty Taylor, who is an immense talent, worked the entire crowd, singing one of the bands last tracks on the top of the sound tent at the back of the stage area. At the end of the show, the band put down their instruments, hopped the barricades, and walked out right through the G.A. crowd, to applause and lots of awkward high-5s. Very cool. Never seen a band do that before.
Dave Alvin, Phil Alvin, and The Guilty Ones: Somewhere between punk and country. More noise than I would have thought for a band who looks like this. More polished songs than I would have thought for a band who can sound that heavy.
Mac DeMarco: Looks really are NOT that important for a band, but this band looks like a group of local eccentrics. They sort of sound like it too, but that is a compliment. Soulful indie rock, somewhere between Steely Dan and Pavement.
Shovels & Rope: Pure Americana… if that’s a thing. Down-home, rootsy, blues and country played by a husband-and-wife duo. They switch between instruments all show, and NEVER broke their perfectly imperfect harmonies. If you are a fan of tonight’s closer, Lady Antebellum, you’d probably like Shovels & Rope.
Violent Femmes: These are local eccentrics from a different era. 8 studio albums (1 of which went platinum) worth of Violent Femmes music made for a face-paced rip through the band’s library.
St. Vincent: The amazingly accomplished St. Vincent played the River Stage in front of a large, appreciative crowd. I don’t know much of her material (only of her mind-blowing resume) but her music was a solid, pulsing groove underneath some really extraordinary noise. St. Vincent is also a striking persona on stage… there were a few moments where I’m sure the entire audience was put into a trance by her. Powerful.
Lady Antebellum: World Class. Look, if you have listened to a radio over the past year or have a girlfriend, you have heard Lady Antebellum. They are one of the most widely played musical groups on earth. Live, they are note-for-note perfect. Their band was probably the most stacked with talent group of musicians on the festival grounds today, and the trio of voices at the front didn’t miss anything.
If Lady Antebellum is at the top of country music, and country music is selling more tickets than any other genre, then I think it’s fair to say that this might be the biggest band on earth right now. They deserve it.