Bluesfest draws stars - Metro US

Bluesfest draws stars

The stages are up. The performers are ready to go.

Before Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest kicks off today, organizers finished up a few last-minute details yesterday — rearranging things here, tweaking sound systems and lighting there.

In fact, the only thing Bluesfest executive director Mark Monahan doesn’t have control of, he said, is the weather.

“We’re hoping for the best. It’s never fun to have bad weather, but we’ve been lucky over the years.

We always have such strong advance sales that the park is busy whether it rains or not,” Monahan said in light of the rain over the past week.

But over the past 16 years, Bluesfest in Ottawa has grown to become an event that people anticipate — and wouldn’t miss, rain or shine.

More than 300,000 people are expected to attend the shows — held on seven stages at LeBreton Flats and in multiple venues in the ByWard Market for the first time — making it one of the biggest music festivals in North America.

With big-name acts every night, it’s easy to see why.

Tonight, Jeff Beck —“who is rarely in North America,” Monahan said — opens the festival on the Bank of America stage.

“That’s a real coup for the festival and I think a lot of people will come out,” he said.

Another act Monahan’s looking forward to is the Brian Setzer Orchestra, performing this Saturday.

“I don’t think he’s been in Canada the last 10 years,” Monahan said. “He’s the one that started the whole big band blues thing. He’s one of the best guitarists around.”

On June 15, Kiss takes the Bank of America stage. “It’s a huge act that we’ve never had before and it’s attracting a lot of attention,” he said.

New this year is the Bluesfest in the Market series, which offers acts including Matt Mays and Wintersleep at both ticketed and free shows.

The festival, which had an estimated economic impact from $50-60 million last year, is “a huge contributor to quality of life in Ottawa,” said Monahan.

But money aside, the festival has a huge impact. “It enriches the whole cultural fabric of the city,” he said.

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