Ottawa Bluesfest Days 3-5 feat. Femi Kuti, Michael Franti, Manu Chao, Leo Kottke, and White Stripes
By day three, the Ottawa Bluesfest had taken off: the beer tents and concession stands did brisk business, as a barrage of bands got down to business with politics, finger-picking, and a whole lot of blues.
Ottawa Bluesfest Days 3-5 feat. Femi Kuti, Michael Franti, Manu Chao, Leo Kottke, and White StripesCity: Ottawa, ON
Venue: LeBreton Flats
6 July 2007 As day three of the Ottawa Bluesfest took off, the festival began to hit its stride: the beer tents and concession stands did brisk business, and, for the first time, all four of the festival's venues unveiled full evening programs. At the River Stage, the crowd gathered for a headlining set by Nigerian Afrobeat master Femi Kuti alongside his band, Positive Force -- the ensemble featured a full horn section, three fetching vocalists/dancers, and two percussionists. The son of Fela Kuti, Afrobeat’s ostensible creator, Femi exuded a natural charisma befitting his name and stature. He dominated the small stage, delivering fiery vocal lines while conducting the band and taking turns between keyboards and saxophone. From beat one, the performance was a fierce, polysyllabic onslaught. Kuti's dynamic performance style was the equal of his material -- the perfect counterpoint to lyrics that posed tough questions about Africa's social and economic situation. The music itself celebrated the continent's vibrant culture and positive outlook. Kuti’s riveting show made for an early Bluesfest highlight -- especially after the first two nights’ relatively straightforward mainstage sets. Taken together with Canadian turntablist Kid Koala's triumphant Friday-night headlining set on the Black Sheep Stage, it gave the festival a nice bit of momentum heading into its first weekend. And we’d need it: as Saturday dawned, so did the promise of more than nine hours of programming on each of the four stages.
7 July 2007
Jon-Rae and the River
8 July 2007 Sunday afternoon saw the festival grounds bathed in warm light. Revving up Day 5, master string-picker Leo Kottke gave an exceptional early performance on the Rogers Stage. The talkative grandmaster of the guitar was a perfect example of the sort of casual revelation that massive festivals can offer. Kottke took the stage just before 6 pm and delighted the faithful and the curious alike with intricate guitar work that paid tribute to the late John Fahey -- one of his primary influences -- invoking both a feel of old-time traditionalism and a jazz-inspired sense of possibility. The Joel Plaskett Emergency picked up right where Manu Chao left off, hitting the stage with a surging energy -- though without the political messages in tow. Plaskett's engaging, intelligent brand of arena rock has already made him a star on Canada's East Coast, and this set demonstrated that the former Thrush Hermit front man is ready for bigger things. The master showman worked the crowd with a mix of new compositions and crowd favorites. Plaskett was even permitted to perform an encore, a testament to the strength of his performance. The Halifax resident took full advantage of the opportunity, cranking out "Come on Teacher" -- a good-natured tale of a youth’s scholastic ineptitude.