Ottawa’s 9-piece and larger-than-life ensemble The PepTides closed out Bluesfest on the Claridge Stage, and were, as far as I’m concerned, the best-kept secret of performances. The PepTides are more than just your average band—they are a Broadway musical on acid that combines showtune music, choral vocal magic, choreography, and theatrics that hit the entertainment factor on multiple levels.
A 4-piece unit of guitar, bass, drums, and keys make up the band, which backs a vocal arsenal of five singers. Together, they delivered the goods to a gobsmacked audience, who lined up at the merch tent after the show for a meet-and-greet with the band.
The stage was set with trademark prop adornments of retro television sets and decked-out mic stands. All members took their places, dressed in flashy costumes, and the scene looked like something out of a live comic book. They began with a brand new song, “Travel The World”, which gave the crowd their first taste of the group’s wall-of-harmony talent.
Rebecca Noelle’s exceptional vocals were featured in their vibrant Latin piece, “I’m In Love”, and in disco-heavy “Don’t Believe In Love”, where she carried the ending off into vocal gymnastic bliss. Another from upcoming album, Galapagos, called “Invaders”, had airy “Aquarius” flavours of 60s musical Hair—rich in spine-tingling vocal harmonies and more solo work by Noelle.
Tongue-in-cheek lyrics on topics of love, hate, and human frailty add to the music’s colourful delirium, humour, and witty quirkiness. The whimsical “Shave and Shower” was in ode to those times “you just wanna be home, no bra, and Netflix”, a green-haired Olexandra Pruchnicky would declare. She then led the way into the rest of the song, which brimmed in Charleston-style showtune energy, and theatrical stage antics.
Singer-songwriter Claude Marquis would shine in the busy “Attack Of The Treadmill”, and the soulful vocals of Dale Waterman were front and center on “Love Live Get High”, which also showcased some intense harmonies.
My favourite came with “Black Beast”, a track from their self-titled 2016 EP, which featured DeeDee Butters, whose voice travelled into her incredible high range. The song’s ominous minor-key melody and choral backup embellishments added to its delicious cinematic tone.
The night ended with a fun and extremely well-performed cover of “Hot Stuff”, which highlighted Butters once again, and was the perfect finishing touch to the show. I found it somehow appropriate that local band, The PepTides were a perfect finishing touch to another amazing Bluesfest experience.