I was warned about lines and long waiting times prior to my arrival at this years Ottawa Bluesfest, alas I was pleasantly surprised as the will call line was a breeze. The same could not be said for punters purchasing tickets and waiting to gain entry; due to a security issue, the opening was delayed by an hour, which caused excessive lines to form. Throughout the day, people flocked to the Bell Stage waiting to catch a glimpse of the self proclaimed “be all and end all” man himself, Kanye West. For me, the venue was at first a weird choice, spreading 5 stages amidst a war memorial park. That being said, for the most part, there wasn’t any issue in actually gaining access to stages just lines from food vendors, ATM machines, and toilets spilling into the main festival grounds. If you wanted to partake in any of the latter, heavy waiting times would need to be considered.
Kicking off the music aspect of the festival with an early nineties pop-punk infused set was Rydell. Taking a few songs to warm to the crowd, these Ottawa based lads kept a steadily energetic set infused with originals and a couple cover songs. Directly across from Rydell’s finishing set, Chance the Rapper then bounced himself out onto the Bell Stage, with little to no sign of slowing this pace. His charisma and energy easily kept the crowd enticed for the entirety of his hour long set. Back to the other side of the festival, Vancouver’s Marianas Trench slinked out onto the Claridge Homes Stage amidst a predominantly 16 year old female crowd of fangirl screams, overpowering the PA at times. The band maintaining a stage presence, that of any text book “rock’n’roll” band. Complete with all diagram practiced rock posses and “we love (insert city)” call outs.
The main attraction and hype merchant himself Kanye West was next on the agenda. Walking to the pit of the main stage, you could easily mistake this space for some weird version of a “war zone” medic ward. Ticking all the boxes of limp bodies being carried to treatment, crying patrons covered in tin foil sheets, scantly clad, make up running teenagers aimlessly stumbling around with phones in hand. The cause of all this was crowded, over heated and dehydrated punters with no real means of keeping cool, barring one hose which reached 5 persons deep (maybe).
Re-enforcements where called in the form of cases and cases of water bottles, again not reaching nearly enough people. After seeing patron after patron pulled from the pit like some sweaty weird game of candy crush, Kanye revealed himself and all chaos was kind of put on pause, as every eyeball present gazed upon his “Yeeziness”. During the first few songs, the artist was having a few issues dealing with the low flying bugs in which a towel was used to prevent any unwanted insects gaining access to places they shouldn’t. The energy and banter of Mr. West was never falling short of what was to be expected. Classic Kanye style quotes like “there is only one mother f**king Kanye West”, “I really dont give a sh*t what people say about me”, and “I’m an artist, I won’t be compromised” were never far apart between songs. All this aside, I focused on the musical aspect of his set. At times singing to a backing track of himself, he maintained a heavily “hit” driven set which kept almost all the packed out crowd enthused enough. Regardless of all his attention, as a musician and performer he ticks all the boxes worthy of someone with his stature and I’ll leave it at that.
Chance the Rapper
Follow updates from Ottawa Bluesfest here.
Photos and Review by Rick Clifford | @rcstills