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Half Moon Run. Photo: Landon Entwistle/Apt613.

Bluesfest boasts a lineup of Canadian heavyweights—Sept. 23 to 25

By Stephane Dubord on September 22, 2021

After what turned out to be an absolutely perfect weekend for the abbreviated version of CityFolk last week (ICYMI: Apt613 photographer Landon Entwistle shot every night of CityFolk festival), sister fest Bluesfest gets its turn on the Great Lawn at Lansdowne Park for concerts this weekend from Sept. 23 to 25.

The one-weekend Bluesfest lineup boasts a lineup of all-Canadian acts including Half Moon Run, Jann Arden, Tom Cochrane, Barenaked Ladies, and MonkeyJunk. Here’s what’s in store for live music fans in Ottawa:

Thursday, Sept. 23

Thursday’s lineup features a mix of indie rock with neo-folk sprinkled throughout.

Up first will be Lauryn McFarlane, the Ontario-born, Montreal based indie pop singer has been developing her first EP with session players in the Montreal indie scene. With two singles released thus far, including the latest “Nowhere Town”, showcasing her vocals front and centre. McFarlane’s debut EP will be one to watch for.

Next will be Oji-Cree singer Aysanabee. The multi-instrumentalist Toronto-based artist has released a few songs to date that highlight his many talents, such as the Dave Matthews-tinged song “The Dawn”.

Third on the bill is Tokyo Police Club. A lot of Apt613 readers will require no introduction to the Canadian scene staples, who have graced Ottawa stages for well over a decade. This year, the band released a 10th anniversary edition of their Juno Award-nominated Champ album. While all the members have solo and side projects keeping them busy, the band appears due for a new album soon, so festival goers may be lucky to hear new material.

Finally, headlining the evening is Montreal’s Half Moon Run. One of the busiest artists over the pandemic, we recently caught up with lead singer and Ottawa’s own Devon Portielje, to talk about the tumultuous time since we last connected in January 2020. Watch this space for a new interview to be published during Bluesfest weekend.

Friday, Sept. 24

Friday’s lineup is arguably the most eclectic night of the sister festivals Bluesfest and CityFolk, with very disparate types of pop. Opening the evening is contemporary pop singer Ryland James, 2021 Juno Award nominee for breakthrough artist.

James broke through with a few successful singles in 2019, which led to his self-titled debut EP in 2020, as well as a Christmas EP that spawned a Top 5 single on the Canadian Adult Contemporary chart. His year in 2021 is off to a strong start as singles “Save Me” and “3 Purple Hearts” are both garnering plenty of attention.

Up next and much further along the experience spectrum are Barenaked Ladies. Three decades into their career, they’ve come a long way from Speakers Corner, and are still going strong with another album released this year, Detour De Force, and a staggering forty-fifth single, “Flip”.

Other than the Tragically Hip, BNL are arguably the most ubiquitous Canadian band of the last thirty years, as their songs have appeared everywhere, and for everyone. Accessible pop songs, from the fun (and admittedly goofy) early days to the superbly crafted (and still goofy) major international hits like “One Week”, to a gold-certified holiday album, a Juno Award-winning children’s album, and theme songs for hit shows like The Big Bang Theory have ensured they’re indelibly anchored in everyone’s soundtrack somewhere.

Closing out the evening is Canadian songwriter Jann Arden. While she arrived on the scene at the same time as BNL, Arden dominated the mid-90s airwaves with a string of seven Top 10 singles from Living Under June, her five-time platinum breakthrough album. Since then she’s released a steady stream of successful albums, while expanding her media presence into television with additional success. Not only has Jann Arden been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, she’s earned Canadian Screen Awards and has earned a nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy Series for the show Jann. Despite that TV work, she still found time to release her most recent album in 2018, which reached the Top 5 on the Canadian album charts.

Saturday, Sept. 25

To close the festival on Saturday, Bluesfest went back to its roots of blues and classic rock. Opening the finale is Ottawa’s own MonkeyJunk, and frankly no Bluesfest ever feels complete without them, either performing their own set or hosting the All-Star Jam Session in the Barney Danson Theatre. Sure to warm up the crowd with their honest, heartfelt blues, they’ll ensure a semblance of normalcy in this edition of the festival.


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Next up will be Maritime classic rockers April Wine, who despite forming in 1969, are still going strong. Both founding member Myles Goodwyn and Bryan Greenway, a key member from 1977, have remained at the helm since those early days. Their presence in the band’s touring lineup ensures their signature hits, including “Just Between You And Me”, “Oowatanite”, and “Roller” sound just as authentic as they did when they were first released.

Closing the festival will be Tom Cochrane. Since breaking through with his band Red Rider in 1980, and then subsequently going solo in 1990, Cochrane successfully transitioned from the original classic rock of his early hits “Don’t Fight It” and “Lunatic Fringe” towards the more contemporary rock sound of “Victory Day” and “Big League” that led to his landmark solo album Mad Mad World that spawned career-defining hit “Life Is A Highway”. While his sound evolved over the years, the common thread remained the heartfelt lyrics of his songwriting, which earned him induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, at the 2003 Junos held in Ottawa.

If last weekend was any indication of the atmosphere festival goers can expect, this weekend’s shows are not to be missed!

This year’s fall edition of Bluesfest is running from Sept. 23 to 25, 2021. A weekend pass costs $141 and day passes cost $66–71 including HST and fees. Visit for the complete lineup and schedule.

COVID-19 Safety Notes: All patrons eligible for a vaccine who are attending Bluesfest must be fully vaccinated. There are no exemptions (religious or medical reasons) without proof, and patrons will be required to prove status at the gates either through a digital or printed copy of their vaccination receipt. Attendees must wear a mask on-site at all times. Removal of a mask is allowed as per provincial guidelines when you are eating, drinking, or for other medical needs.