RBC Ottawa Bluesfest – Day 6 executive summary

Day 6 – Weezer Wednesday.

Killer Mike: Sometimes, technical difficulties actually make a show amazing. This has happened twice in my life: Coldplay @ Bell Centre in Montreal (guitar broke – had to re-start their biggest hit twice) and yesterday at Killer Mike’s show at Bluesfest.

What could have happened: Mike’s DJ’s laptop crashes 3 or 4 times during the set. Mike gets mad, crowd gets bored, show ends after the 3rd breakdown, I write a bad review today.

What DID happen: Mike’s DJ’s laptop crashes 3 o 4 times during the set. Mike carries on – performing his songs acapella, crowd claps out the beat, goes nuts, gives an appreciative Killer Mike lots of energy, I write a glowing review today.

I’m fascinated by this guy because he’s a very thoughtful, intelligent guy with a big, tough, ‘King of Atlanta’ delivery. He’s a giant-gold-chain-wearing MC who actually rhymes about the emptiness of the pursuit of millions. A man who talks about the glory of God and raps about the ‘bullshit’ of organized religion; on Day 7, Killer Mike was in Church.

El-P: I should have mentioned above. Killer Mike & El-P have produced 2 albums together, and the 2 came out during each others’ sets and, combined, performed almost everything from their new, excellent Run The Jewels album (which you can get for free here).

El-P is a legend in hip hop – from Company Flow, to the mythical work he did with Rage Against the Machine’s Zach De La Rocha, to his current work of bringing a tough, bomb-squad-esque Brooklyn style together with Killer Mike’s Southern swagger.

His set was pretty good considering it was the second show this setup had ever performed together. Not the tightest set I’ve ever heard, but El-P’s unique flow, the crowd’s love for Killer Mike, the heat of the day and the energy given out on the stage made this set quite good.

Bonus points for the Moog key-tar solo.

Animal Collective: Building, pulsating art-noise? Experimental indie dance? Acid pop? Not sure how to describe this avant-garde collection of musicians, but it’s noise as an art form.

At its best, their live set was mind-blowingly dense and worth the wait of their painstaking buildups. At its worst, it was way over the heads of the bros there to rock out to Weezer.

What I can say for certain, is that the amount of noise-making equipment these guys had on stage was incredible, and likely a sound-guy’s nightmare. But the mix was great and the set was loud.

Solange: This is a tough review to write. I really wanted to love this set. I really like Solange’s album (it was one of Pete’s top songs of 2012), I liked their sound (felt like I should be cruising around in a convertible), she had a tight, stylish band (should we expect anything else from a Knowles?), they played some interesting versions (including a reset of Dirty Projectors’ Stillness Is The Move), but I didn’t love this show.

Rather than getting the feeling that I was getting everything this band had, their songs just seemed to trail off and end. When they were going, they were excellent arrangements with lots of space and room for dynamics, but it seemed like the band never got above 5, and then decided to end the tracks early.

Perhaps not a fair review, as this is not a “sunset, drinking beers on the river stage” band. I’d LOVE to see Solange again in a theatre setting – where I would bet this band would sound awesome.

Grandtheft: As I am a nerd for the small details in music, Grandtheft is a pleasure to watch. His set runs like a radio show (perhaps because he frequently hosts radio shows); front-selling tracks, giving a nerd like me lots of information to look up his info later. “This next track is something I’ve been working on with Diplo” – “This is the track I always use to test out the subs on a soundsystem”.

Not only are his beats elite, but I also feel like I know them alot better, and that’s because of his delivery.

Oh yeah – ANOTHER great Toronto DJ.

Passion Pit: Many songs from this band, I’m indifferent to – but there are a few that absolutely give me goosebumps. During their live show, the indifferent songs were played with great energy, dynamics and passion – and the ‘goosebumps’ songs were amazing.

Singer Michael Angelakos is probably the best frontman on the indie-pop-with-synths circuit (if that exists). Quite enjoyed this show.

Passion Pit - RBC Ottawa Bluesfest 2013

Great elevation on his vertical leap – Michael Angelakos leads Passion Pit on the River Stage
RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO Mark Horton

A Tribe Called Red: These guys absolutely floored me. I have been listening to their tracks for a while, because they’re from Ottawa and have been heavily promoted and backed by the wizards at Mad Decent for a while now.

Honestly, I was on the fence. But then I saw them live, and it clicked. I got it.

What’s to get? I can’t really describe it in words. Their music doesn’t really fit into a box like trap, drum and bass, dubstep, or any other genre du jour. Their set ranged from 100-140bpm and touched a bunch of different places in the dance-music world.

Their cultural assault on Indian stereotypes, their use of traditional Canadian Aboriginal music in the dance arena, their live DJ chops… it was like a breath of fresh air. Not trashy big-room anthems, not an 808 assault, but passionate Aboriginal dance music that made alot of other stuff I’ve seen this week seem disposable.

It’s now easy to see why a worldly label like Mad Decent has been booking these guys to play at their parties. This is totally original dance music – and might be Canada’s most bad-ass cultural export.

Go see A Tribe Called Red.

Weezer: It should be noted that the last time Weezer played at Bluesfest – in 2010 – their show was the highlight of the festival; a show that is still talked about today when people talk about Bluesfest.

I want to get that out of the way, because last night was not 2010; but it was also excellent.

Weezer played something from every album the band has made – including Buddy Holly, Say It Ain’t So, El Scorcho – and a bunch of stuff from their first 2 albums, which are Rock and Roll Hall of Fame material.

Their harmonies – so integral to the band’s sound- were flawless, and there was enough big guitar roar to satisfy those who patiently rode out Animal Collective earlier in the night.

Not the best Ottawa has seen from Weezer, but the bar is pretty damn high.

Weezer- 2013 RBC Ottawa Bluesfest

What self-respecting rock band doesn’t go back-to-back at least once per show?
RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO Mark Horton

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