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Canadian Musician @ RBC Bluesfest Ottawa

Thursday, July 27th, 2017
The Shins @ RBC Bluesfest Ottawa

The Shins @ RBC Bluesfest Ottawa

Canadian Musician correspondent Samantha Everts (@urockred) & photographer Mark Matusoff (@mmatusoff) were on the ground (albeit only for a day) at the annually-awesome RBC Bluesfest Ottawa. Here’s their review & shots from Day 6, which featured performances by The Shins, Phantogram, and more, leading up to the headlining slot by the almighty LCD Soundsystem.

RBC Bluesfest Ottawa proved yet again that it’s worthy of its reputation as one of the best North American rock festivals with the legendary Brooklyn dance band LCD Soundsystem headlining the evening of July 12th.

Fevers

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Attending Bluesfest is like coming home for this Toronto writer, having covered it for so many years, and nothing was more nostalgic than seeing Ottawa band Fevers perform a set for the first time in almost five years. The electro-pop band was clearly thrilled to be back on the big stage and with them they brought a new female vocalist for new songs and thoughtful harmonies.

Slack Bridges

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Local band Slack Bridges performed with a full horn section and filled the tent stage with funky soul beats.

Phantogram

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New York’s Phantogram set focused on material from their 2016 album Three, with a handful of songs spanning the rest of their catalogue.  Live, the duo of Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter was joined by a full band of musicians that brought their alt-electro-pop to life. Crowds of teenagers formed as soon as the gates opened awaiting their favourite new band, and the band won them over with ease.

With Barthel on lead vocals and synth and Carter primarily on guitar, the duo commanded the crowd with their hits “Black Out Days” and “Fall in Love,” both from their second album Voices. In comparison to their 2014 performance at Bluesfest, the impact of their spectacular light show, which featured video content, strobe lights, and heavy smoke, was lost with their early evening performance time. Closing out their raucous set, the crowd immediately sung the words back to Phantogram’s current radio hit, “You Don’t Get Me High,” which visibly pleased the band.

The Shins

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Launching immediately into a rockin’ version of “Caring is Creepy” from their debut Oh, Inverted World, The Shins let Ottawa know who they really came to see. While the band has changed lineups over their career, frontman James Mercer led a mostly new version of The Shins through a relatively even selection of new songs from their 2017 album Heartworms and Shins classics like “Kissing the Lipless” and “Phantom Limb.” Perhaps best known for their song “New Slang,” from the film Garden State, as they left the stage after “Simple Song,” members of audience could be heard asking, “Will they come back?” Far across the festival site, a roar of applause could be heard as they jumped into it with the assistance of thousands of Shins fans desperate for the show not to end.

LCD Soundsystem

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Rain was threatening to damper the LCD Soundsystem stage but the crowd would not have it as the sun descended over the Ottawa River and wind picked up. Fans crammed in together to talk about the previous times they’d seen the band, trade picks on which songs they’d hoped to hear, and just generally praise how amazing it was that the legendary group had begun to tour again, albeit selectively.

As the rain started to come down, the energy of the crowd was not dampened as frontman James Murphy opened their set with “Yr City’s a Sucker” and crowd favourite “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House.” Having seen them perform at WayHome the summer before, the live show didn’t differ much with cool black and white projections and various film filters applied to the big screen images appearing as if it was a carefully calculated 90-minute music video.

The beauty of seeing LCD Soundsystem live is seeing what is essentially electronic dance music performed entirely on real instruments rather than relying on pre-recorded rhythms or loops. Midway through the set, Murphy mentioned that the water had possibly affected one of the vintage synths on stage, but from the audience, it was impossible to tell anything was wrong with indie dance party hits like “Tribulations” and “Dance Yrself Clean,” motivating everyone to ignore the rain. The group also played brand new singles “Call The Police” and “American Dream,” ultimately closing with “All My Friends.” LCD Soundsystem reminded everyone why they – and Bluesfest – remain good friends of music fans to this day.

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