Melodie Cardin (Twitter) has lived in the National Capital Region since 2000. A 2007 graduate of Carleton University’s school of journalism, she’s now the manager of communications for a small project assisting Canadian researchers to collaborate internationally. The following views are her own.
Thursday afternoon, smacking myself in the forehead for not having thought of it earlier, I realized that my little brother, who now lives in Montreal, is just as much of a Tragically Hip fan as I am. I quickly texted him an invitation to come to Ottawa and, two days later, we found ourselves en route from my Beechwood Village apartment to Lebreton Flats. After a quick stop on Somerset Street for a bite of lunch at the Yangtze (his sweet and sour pork was quickly devoured, my shrimp chow mein? Not so much), we headed to Bluesfest. It was to be my fifth Tragically Hip concert and my third at Bluesfest.
Bluesfest is generally my favourite event in Ottawa’s calendar, combining two weeks of great concerts with the best weather Ottawa generally has to offer. There are so many great things about Ottawa: the beautiful bike paths, the gorgeous river vistas, the many excellent museums, the farmers’ markets, but when it comes to nightlife I am often a little jealous of those in Montreal. Not so during Bluesfest.
We arrived in time for the start of Rich Aucoin’s performance at 5 p.m. on the MBNA stage. I had read in the papers that the set-up this year was causing long line-ups, but whether they fixed the problem or we were just early enough, it definitely wasn’t an issue.
We met a friend of mine and parked ourselves down on the grass for a few songs, before discovering it was not our cup of tea and decided to wander. That’s one of the nice things about the festival – with all the concurrent acts, if you don’t like the band you can easily find another one. We headed over to the Subway stage and settled in to listen to Ray Bailey, whom we enjoyed much more. For anyone who hasn’t been to Bluesfest, it’s not strictly a “blues” festival, but they usually have at least one bluesy show happening, and this was it. I was also pleased to discover the B. Goods bakery van there, as I’m a fan of their gluten-free chocolate mint and orange hazelnut cookies.
At the end of his performance, we listened to some of a show I don’t remember much about, and then wound up back at the MBNA stage for the last of Dennis Coffey, who we thought was great.
It is around this time, I find, that the afternoon festival begins to morph into its evening self, which is a totally different animal. When I go to Bluesfest for the afternoon acts, I’m not a lawn chair girl. The reason for this is that as comfy as they no doubt are in the afternoon, I’d have no place to put them in the evening when it gets busy. Many, however, enjoy bringing lawn chairs or stools or picnic blankets to spread out during the afternoon. In previous years, I’ve seen a bit of conflict happen at the end of the day when those who’ve been camped out on lawn chairs near the stage all afternoon are forced to fold up their chairs and make space for the hordes coming to see the evening show. This didn’t seem to be too much of an issue on Saturday, though, as everyone near me peacefully folded up their chairs.
Anyway, the crowd thickened as Erykah Badu performed on the Claridge Homes Stage (what an amazing performer she is, incidentally) and we found our spots for the Tragically Hip. At this point I made an amazing discovery: I could see. In the past couple of years, the set up at Lebreton Flats has had the main stage at the east end. At 5’5” I am always a bit too short to see the stage. This time, the Bluesfest setup had the stage at the southwest end of the main lawn, with a wide audience rather than a deep one, and the sight lines were much better for my vertically challenged self.
The sight lines were also really good to the two screens so we could easily read the Twitter feed running along the bottom of each. Some of those tweets really made us laugh, eg. “I’m dancing so hard I’m going to need a HIP replacement.” (Incidentally, though – does anyone LIKE being proposed to via Tweet?)
The Hip show, of course, was completely mind-blowing. They played quite a bluesy set, including an unforgettable, melancholy rendition of “Fiddler’s Green.” I particularly loved when they started playing “New Orleans is Sinking,” moved on after the first verse to “Nautical Disaster,” and then came back to finish the last verses of “New Orleans.” I’d never noticed the common theme in the two songs before.
My little bro was happy because they played his favorite Hip song, “Poets,” and although I was a little surprised and disappointed that they didn’t play anything off the newest album, “We Are The Same,” which I’m completely in love with, I had a great time. It was actually a very golden oldies type set, with the only really recent song they played being “In View” from “In Between Evolution.” They did, however, also play a couple of new songs, which made up for it. Anyway, with the Hip, any set is great – they’ve never written a song I didn’t like. There were lots of tweets about how The Tragically Hip are Canada’s band, and I tend to agree.
Seeing them, again, in Canada’s capital, made my weekend.
Stay tuned for Melodie’s review of another Bluesfest show later this week, featuring a great Canadian band, Metric (she’s also going to try out the bike parking!). Did you go see The Tragically Hip show last Saturday? What have you thought of Bluesfest so far?
A special thanks goes out to Ming Wu (website) for letting us use some of his stunning photos!