After Tuesday’s rock set on the River Stage, the genre takes over the Main Stage all night with a triple bill of veteran punk rockers. First up at 6pm is Sweden’s Millencolin. Three decades into their career, they’ve stayed true to their punk roots, up to and including their latest release, 2019’s SOS, and will have plenty to pick from to put together a solid opening set.
Next up at 7:30pm is Ajax, Ontario’s Sum 41, one of the most successful Canadian punk bands of the post-grunge era. Their singles dominated rock radio throughout the early 2000s, and ushered in a wave of Canadian bands in the genre. While their mainstream success faded, their fanbase remains hardcore, and has expanded over the years to a new generation after their appearances at Warped Tour and alongside bands they have influenced. At their core, they remain a punk-metal band, and their more recent albums, 2019’s Order In Decline and 2016’s 13 Voices showcase a more metal sound than their early albums, and are better representations of their intense live shows.
That will lead perfectly into one of the most intense successful Canadian bands, St. Catharines, Ontario’s Alexisonfire, taking the stage at 9:30pm. They were one of those bands that benefited from Sum 41’s success, which drew more attention to the rock scene in Canada and helped kickstart their now 20-year career. The quintet did go on a hiatus in 2012, with members embarking on other projects (including City and Colour, Gallows, and Dead Tired), but the full lineup reunited for a run of shows in 2015, then another in 2017, and by 2019, a few new singles had been released. Their performance at the 2019 Bluesfest, after openers Dirty Nil and The Offspring, may be one of the biggest mosh pits in festival history (the bar has been set, folks). We recently caught up with George Pettit to catch up on how the band navigated the pandemic and ended up with the new album just released, Otherness. Keep an eye on Apt613 for that interview soon!
While the heavy hitters will be pounding the main stage, the SiriusXM Stage will feature more foot-stomping and clapping rather than mosh pits. Starting off the evening at 6pm is the Ottawa Valley’s Vicki Brittle. The singer-songwriter had a breakout hit with “It’s Only Love” and has followed that up with a few singles over the past year that exemplify her emotional delivery and passionate lyrics.
That emotional delivery continues at 7:30pm with Nicki Hill, who blends soulful voice with some classic rock elements that harken back to ’60s blues rock and would fit right in with Janis Joplin and early Stones, as much as it would with Aretha and Tina Turner.
Closing out the evening is L.A.’s Chicano Batman, who will dial down the intensity and turn up the grooves with their funky psychedelic rock. A decade into their career, the quartet has never ceased to explore and experiment with their soundscapes, with their newest release, last year’s “Dark Star / Pastel Sunrise” double single adding more fuzzed-out guitars, layers and samples to their grooves.
With only two artists on the River Stage Wednesday due to the last-minute cancellation by Raul Midon, the first to take the stage will be Charlie Cunningham at 8pm. To say the Englishman burst onto the scene would be an understatement. After a trio of EPs established him as one to watch, on the strength of songs like “Lights Off” and “Blindfold”, he released his debut single “Minimum” in 2017, which is now nearing 125 million streams on Spotify. The indie folk singer has since released his second full album, 2019’s Permanent Way, and another EP in 2020, continually building on his intimate songwriting, even if the instruments have expanded beyond a simple acoustic guitar to include more synths to fill out the backing music. The result remains captivating.
Taking over the stage at 9:30pm is another breakout star in Toronto’s JP Saxe. After releasing a few singles and an EP over 2017 and 2018, he released his collaboration with Julia Michaels “If the World Was Ending” which exploded onto the charts. Six times platinum in Canada, the hit has surpassed 800 million streams and garnered numerous awards, establishing Saxe as a singer and songwriter in demand, and led to collaborations with Lennon Stella and Maren Morris, among many others. His smooth voice and expertly crafted pop songs flow effortlessly and should fit perfectly in a warm summer night at Bluesfest.
Barney Danson Theatre
After two nights off, the indoor stage comes alive once again with local hip-hop artist Mischa kicking off an eclectic all-female lineup at 6:30pm. Her newest single “One Up” is more evidence why she has been named one of Ottawa’s top rappers, thanks to her cadence and pinpoint lyrics.
At 8pm, Gatineau’s Mia Kelly will bring a much sparser sound to the stage, with much of her folk catalogue centred on guitar or piano as the main support, leaving space for her booming voice to shine. With a new album due out next month, fans may get to hear a few new songs before they’re released.
Nikki Hill then takes the stage at 9:30pm for a second set to close out the evening.