Ottawa Bluesfest Days 6-7 feat. Feat. Final Fantasy, Randy Newman, and George Clinton

Ottawa Bluesfest Days 6-7

9 July 2007 After the White Stripes’ blistering blues-rock set flattened things out on Sunday night, the audience was ready for something a little more subtle — something nice and lazy to usher the fest into Monday. While blues legend Buddy Guy wailed away to a packed house at the River Stage, violinist Owen Pallett unleashed his magical Final Fantasy project on the curious and converted alike at the Black Sheep Stage. The Hidden Cameras member is a terrific solo songwriter whose beguiling creations drop autobiographical details and literary allusions over abstract, orchestral forms. Using his looping expertise to full effect, Pallet created a wall of violin parts that majestically swept over his graceful, intuitive vocals. Pallett’s performance was enhanced by backdrop animations which lent extra edge to poignant versions of “The CN Tower Belongs to the Dead” and “That’s When the Audience Died”. With the large crowd clamoring for an encore, Pallett returned to favor us with a unique version of Bloc Party’s “This Modern Love”. Pallett’s stellar version stripped away the extraneous elements of the original (not to mention its hipster veneer), laying bare the vulnerability and pathos at the core of the song.

10 July 2007

Randy Newman

On Tuesday, Ottawa native Ana Miura delivered a tender late-afternoon set in the Barney Danson Theatre, while American jam-rockers moe. fired up the MBNA stage with an hour of dense jams. Things really got rolling, though, with the arrival of Randy Newman. The Los Angeles resident took his place at the grand piano in jeans and a bowling shirt, and went on to perform a cabaret-style set with plenty of irreverent dialogue between songs. Newman got fan favorite “Short People” out of the way early and then covered such topics as Marxism and Colonialism in “Great Nations of Europe” and “In Defense of Our Country”. The crafty Newman also demonstrated his legendary no-goodnik charm, catching the audience off guard in the middle of his set with the introduction to a love song “written to my first wife while I was married to my second.” That comment prompted laughter and guffaws, but the assembled thousands were left waiting for a punch line that never came. Instead of lambasting his ex-love as we’d all expected, Newman proceeded to lay out a tender, introspective tune.

George Clinton

Later, Alejandro Escovedo and Los Lobos delivered solid sets on the side stages, while George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars took to the MBNA. After warming up the crowd, the ragtag band of hired hands and former funk luminaries lurched into a serviceable rendition of “Where’d You Get That Funk From?” Given that Ottawa is one of the least funky cities I’ve ever seen, the gang had their work cut out for them. Still, as Jerry Garcia said, “George Clinton puts the beat on the one, where even a white person could find it.” The revolving cast heroically plugged on, invoking lewd raps, vintage chants, and hip-hop clichés (“Throw your hands in the air…”) in a bid to get rumps shaking. Forty-five minutes in, the 67-year-old Clinton arrived to lead the band into a version of “Give up the Funk”, which was followed by standard takes on “Make My Funk the P-Funk” and “Flashlight”. There was nothing particularly remarkable about his performance, but the crowd still seemed content to bask in the presence of a true funk originator and take in the spectacle of it all. Check back tomorrow as PopMatters’ Christopher Cwynar bangs things up a notch with reviews of Cat Power, Tagaq, the Steve Miller Band, Xavier Rudd, and Blue Rodeo.