I’ll admit it. When I first saw the line up for this year’s Bluesfest my sight kind of went blurry and I seemed unable to read anything except for three beautiful words — The White Stripes.
But I blinked, took a breath, looked again and then I got even more excited — not just by the heaps of other phenomenal performers on the bill, but also by the fact that so, so many of them are from Ottawa.
A rough count puts the number of local performers somewhere around 30, and in the context of a 12-day festival that attracts some of the biggest artists from around Canada and the world, that’s not too shabby a showing for our fair city.
Lure. Soul Jazz Orchestra. The Grass. Tyler Kealey. Amos the Transparent. Quarter Life. Sarah Hallman. Relief Maps. As The Poets Affirm. The list of stellar acts gracing the five stages could go on.
Of course, executive and artistic director Mark Monahan has been showcasing local talent at Bluesfest for years, but this year seems to have them in especially plum performance slots.
“I do believe that there’s phenomenal talent here in Ottawa so we try to open as many slots as we can,” Monahan said.
“We also want to support local artists making a living at this. We know it’s a tough business so if we can get them involved, not just playing the festival, but having the opportunity to meet other artists and network, we think that’s really important.”
And the attention Monahan pays to hometown talents certainly isn’t lost on the talents themselves.
“He has faith in local music and I love him for it,” said singer-songwriter Amanda Rheaume, who will be playing Sunday just prior to Joel Plaskett Emergency and The White Stripes on the MBNA stage.
Rheaume said getting the opportunity to play the same stage as one of her musical icons — Ani Difranco — at last year’s festival was one of the best things that’s ever happened to her. “As an indie artist and trying to break out, to be able to say that I played Bluesfest and opened for these acts has helped me so much.”
And it helps remind all of us why watching live, local music is so important and so fun. I’m still tingling with anticipation to see Jack and Meg, but I can’t wait to see some familiar faces too.
For a complete Bluesfest schedules, and artist bios to sort out who’s who, visit ottawabluesfest.ca online.