It’s been a ball, Bluesfest, and we’re sorry to see it end. But well, all good things, right? 220 acts, 11 days, 5 stages and too many good times to count. Before moving on here’s a recap of what stood out.
Tragically Hip fans endured pouring rain to hear their band. Kanye fans were at the gates as early as 9:30 in the morning, ready to camp out in the blazing heat for the much-anticipated show twelve hours later. On an exceptionally hot and humid day Simple Plan fans arrived onsite at 11:00am for the band’s 8:00pm show and formed a huge snaking lineup in the baking afternoon sun for a pre-show meet and greet session. Another impressive display of fan zeal was the crowd that flocked for GEazy and Logic’s backtoback sets. The atmosphere was absolutely fevered as fans packed the space in front of the Monster Energy stage, turning it into a sweaty club with a mass of arms waving and bodies swaying with the booming beats.
CeeLo proved he’s larger than life in style as well as music, dazzling in a gold leopard print, scarlet-trimmed robe with a throne to match. The music itself was great too.
Jason Aldean brought his Burn it Down tour to the fest on July 9th and really ran with the fire theme in a pyrotechnics display. Fireworks, flame bursts, explosions, oh my.
While most days the checks were pretty standard, though I’m still not a fan of having my water bottle sniffed, on a few nights the guards really ramped it up, having men lift their shirts up to their neck (in case they taped contraband to their chest?) and getting country music fans to prove their boots were “clean”. Somehow though, even with such thoroughness, there was hardly a show without a hint of weed on the breeze.
They Literally Stood Out
Creatively costumed stilt walkers roamed the site as District 9 aliens, a family of giants and towering construction workers, clowning around with audiences and posing for photo ops. Stilt walkers aside, there seemed to be a lot of exceptionally tall people in the general Bluesfest crowd, or maybe you just notice height more when someone’s blocking your sightlines.
Festival Site Redesigns
Booth St., which had been main access route to the fest, was closed this year but the location of the gates remained the same, making for longer treks to the festival site. The shift from Booth to Preston as the main artery in and out also brought less buskers and ticket re-sellers than in past years.
On a brighter note, the Barney Danson theatre in the War Museum transformed from a theatre space with tiered seating to an intimate cabaret-style listening lounge similar to the NAC 4?th? stage, complete with bar service. The setup lent an easygoing blues bar feel to the jam sessions held over three nights there.
You might find them in an early timeslot, on a small side stage, or playing opposite a big-name headliner, but hidden gems abound in big festivals like this one, a reward for the curious. Some standouts this year were Donovan Woods (heartbreaking folk tunes), Hat Fitz and Cara (a charming couple playing raw and ragged country blues), Langhorne Slim (roots music with punk energy) and Lily Kershaw (a soulful pop chanteuse with disarming vocals and stage presence).
And that’s a wrap. Here’s to another great year and many more to come.