Saturday, July 08, 2006

Live Review: Calexico/Seu Jorge/The James Cohen Caravan, Black Sheep Stage, Ottawa Bluesfest, July 7, 2006

Many of the most memorable times in my recent history have been at Ottawa's premier summer festival, Bluesfest. Whether it be impersonating an opening band backstage at James Brown in 2001, seeing a trashy but oh so sexy Sheryl Crow wearing a sequined stars and stripes number and belting out Led Zep's "Rock n Roll" from atop a grand piano in 2003, or last year's hijinks with Kid Rock, the annual Bluesfest extravaganza is what makes Ottawa winters worth it all.

This year's lineup left me positively underwhelmed so when the schedule was released, I decided to focus on the side stages instead of the massive main stage shows for a change. If tonight's proceedings were any indication, I made the right choice.

I settled in after work for the flamenco stylings of the James Cohen Caravan. The Caravan was extremely impressive and created a wall of sound that provided an excellent start to this evening's affair. If you have never seen flamenco played up close, you owe it to yourself because you'll come away with quite an appreciation for the technical wizardry of those who have honed their craft in this style of acoustic picking, although some may suggest things could be enhanced with a little more cowbell.

(Side note: I happen to know James through a mutual friend, and it was no surprise to see this staunch libertarian stroll on stage with a butt hanging out of his mouth. I'm sure it gave the guy tons of satisfaction to puff away in public on City Hall grounds.)

Next up was Brazil's Seu Jorge. The soundscape that was created off the top was interesting but the spaced-out stylings that came along by song number three just weren't enough to hold my attention. The other thing was, and this wasn't the artist's fault, that the crowd was dominated by middle-aged government drones who were killing time waiting for Great Big Sea (part of the holy trinity of the worst Canuck bands of all time along with Barenaked Ladies and 54-40) at the main stage. My contempt for the other concertgoers was building at an unhealthy rate during the set as these faux hipsters were "grooving" to Jorge in a lame attempt to convince themselves that they have something to live for other than their public sector pension entitlements and Max Keeping at 6 every night.

Thankfully, the throng cleared for the headliners, Arizona's Calexico. This band was, in a word, incredible. Remember that Neil Young/Pearl Jam album of a few years back, "Mirrorball"? Well, this band sounds as though Carlos Santana and Blue Rodeo got together. In addition to the slide guitar and stand-up bass, Calexico employes a xylophone and horns. And let me tell you, it works. Short, intense and original tunes that carry a lot of weight both in terms of texture and melody. When bands like Calexico can't get any airplay but American Idol draws in the public like flies on shit, there truly is no justice.

I'd also like to put in a good word for getting out there and supporting independent artists. The more you reward creativity, the more of it you'll get. As well, the more of your own hard-earned money is spent supporting the music community, the less likely it is that they'll come crawling to the state for a handout. And that's something we can all get behind.

Ratings breakdown for each artist:

Cohen: 8/10
Jorge: 5.5/10
Calexico: 9.25/10

Overall rating for the evening: 7.75/10

(The only thing missing was the good stuff.)


At 3:00 PM, Blogger Goggles Pizanno said...

Even though I missed the Calexico show whilst enjoying one of the three "worst Canadian bands" (at least according to some folks ;-) glad to hear that you are now a convert... what else can I say buddy? TOLD YA SO!!!!!

At 7:41 PM, Anonymous belinda stronach's mother said...

You have a bright future in comedy, your review was excellent and funny.

At 9:32 PM, Blogger Road Hammer said...


I'm here all week.


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