© Steve Gerecke


So the 2017 edition of RBC Bluesfest is in the books and it was a great show. The mix of artists was on point- 50 Cent, Toby Keith, Anderson. Paak, Muse, Migos- and as usual, there was something for everyone.

As we said in our preview, the local talent at this year’s festival was deep and showed how far Ottawa’s music scene has come along.

One thing was clear after attending multiple shows over the 10-day festival- not all performers are created equal.

The top performers were Toby Keith, Anderson. Paak, Muse, P!nk and Tegan and Sara, and The Souljazz Orchestra.

There were some surprises. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Toby Keith’s show as much as I did and I wasn’t expecting to be so bored at Migos.

I received a little flack for my harsh review of the Migos concert but I stand by it. Some people commented that I didn’t have a good time because I don’t know their songs (which isn’t entirely true).

I went to Toby Keith’s opening night show and not only did I not know any of his songs, but I don’t really like country music period. I left having had a great time and even decided to check out more of his music. I went to Pony Girl not knowing any of their songs, and I’m not really into indie rock, but I ended up buying their CD; my first CD purchase in almost 10 years. I attended the Tegan and Sara concert only knowing their few songs that are on rotation on the radio. I absolutely had a great time.

I know more about Migos and their music than any of these artists but I was bored with the exception of a few moments.

Knowing an artist’s music isn’t a prerequisite for enjoying their show. That’s letting the artist off the hook. The onus isn’t on audience members to connect with a performer; the onus is on the performer to connect with the audience, and some people haven’t taken the time to master that skill.

At Bluesfest it was easy to identify the artists who invested the time and resources into crafting their live show and those who didn’t.

Dylan Lenton said that Muse’s show rivaled U2 and that Anderson. Paak probably delivered the top performance of the festival. Toby Keith’s show was polished yet at times irreverent (in a good way). Backed by Ford, it was a big production. It included funny video content that let the audience into his sense of humour.

Making the financial investment into your live show can go a long way in creating a memorable experience, but really, it comes down to personal engagement with the audience. Acts like Pony Girl and Tegan and Sara didn’t spend millions of dollars on their shows but they established a personal connection with the audience and their love for the music came through. You can tell they’ve spent time crafting their live show.

When you consider the shows of artists like Fetty Wap and Migos, that financial and emotional investment simply wasn’t there. Rapping over a backtrack of your own vocal or repeatedly singing with auto-tune pales in comparison to what other artists put into their performances.

Artists like Fetty Wap and Migos, who are in the prime of their careers, can sell out shows and sell albums just by their name alone. Really, they don’t have to put on a great show to make money. On the other hand, the up and coming independent artist, like Pony Girl, or the artist who past their prime, don’t have that luxury. Their names don’t have the same currency so their live show is literally the life blood of their career. In fact, your live show is the difference between being the flavour of the day and having a lifelong career.

Overall, Bluesfest 2017 was a success, security scares and all. It’s still surprising that more Canadians and people all over the world either don’t know about Bluesfest or don’t know how big it actually is. If you haven’t been, you need to check it out in 2018. We already can’t wait.

Kevin Bourne_Author2