Thursday, July 18, 2024

Bluesfest Day 3: A Saturday-night hip-hop party on the plaza

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The American rapper celebrated his 49th birthday at Bluesfest

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Saturday night at Ottawa Bluesfest was a live-music extravaganza, from the hip-hop heavyweights on the main stage to the zydeco and African blues in the SiriusXM tent — plus a smattering of talent from the Ottawa area making a good impression.

On the main stage, superstar rapper 50 Cent returned to Bluesfest to celebrate his 49th birthday with a slick and polished performance in front of a crowd estimated at more than 20,000. Although full, it was not a sellout show as the unsettled weather likely kept some folks home. 

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Those who showed up were more than ready to celebrate with the American rapper, actor, television producer and businessman in revisiting his early 2000s output, including the club staples from his 2003 blockbuster album, Get Rich or Die Tryin.’ 

In a retro-style track suit, the man born Curtis Jackson performed with a band, DJ and some scantily clad dancers, swaggering through tracks like Gangsta, P.I.M.P. and 21 Questions with little regard for the objectifying attitude towards women portrayed in his music. 

Ottawa Bluesfest
Dark clouds and bursts of rain moved along the Ottawa River, and passed over Ottawa Bluesfest Saturday, July 6, 2024. Photo by Ashley Fraser /POSTMEDIA

The response from the all-ages crowd, however, was one of unconditional acceptance, and the Saturday-night party got steamy in the summer heat. Fans bumped their hips and pumped their fists, and everyone had a great time. 

Preceding Fiddy on the main stage was Killer Mike, who was the centre of a majestic and uplifting show that saw the entire cast dressed in white. His performance was smooth, the beats were tight and he had a contingent of gospel singers behind him to enhance the sound, as well as a DJ. 

Killer Mike at Ottawa Bluesfest
Killer Mike played the RBC Stage at Ottawa Bluesfest Saturday, July 6, 2024. Photo by Ashley Fraser /POSTMEDIA

At one point in the proceedings, Mike talked about becoming a father for the first time at 16, which he said now makes him realize the need for sex education. He also seemed to admonish the USA’s Supreme Court for banning abortion, a statement that did more to support women instead of objectify them.

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Earlier in the evening, Ottawa rapper City Fidelia was thrust into the job of opening for the two rap superstars on the main stage, and he rose to the occasion. 

City Fidelia at Bluesfest
City Fidelia played the RBC Stage at Ottawa Bluesfest Saturday, July 6, 2024. Photo by Ashley Fraser /POSTMEDIA

Wearing a personalized Sens jersey, the producer-performer explained how he was doing everything he could to hype hometown Ottawa, including writing a rap for the city that demonstrated his intimate knowledge of the nation’s capital. Fidelia’s efforts at uniting the community have always been noteworthy and it was good to see him shine in the spotlight. 

During one of the early bouts of rain, the tent was the place to be, thanks to the high-energy, zydeco-funk fusion of Dwayne Dopsie and The Zydeco Hellraisers. Fronted by dynamic accordionist Dwayne (Dopsie) Rubin, the band mustered up all the vibes of a New Orleans street party, right up to the formation of a circle dance involving almost the entire crowd. What fun. 

Lynne Hanson at Bluesfest
Ottawa singer-songwriter Lynne Hanson performed on the SiriusXM Stage at Ottawa Bluesfest Saturday, July 6, 2024. Photo by Ashley Fraser /POSTMEDIA

Two Ottawa acts provided some of the best musical value on Saturday. Country-rock singer-songwriter Lynne Hanson, who’s no stranger to Bluesfest, lent  her burnished vocals to a full-band set on the River stage, her earthy twang complimented by the sting of bandmate Blair Hogan on lead and slide guitars. 

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The other Ottawa-based act that impressed was Hopper, an alt-rock quintet that bore shades of Coldplay or Kings of Leon as they rocked the River Stage in the early evening with a compelling mix of soulful singing and a moody three-guitar wall of sound. Their own songs were terrific, but they also endeared themselves to the crowd with a fun cover of Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark. 

From the far-flung country of Niger came another surprise discovery of the night. In their first Canadian appearance, Etran De L’Air, a desert blues band of players in traditional garb, demonstrated their hypnotizing blend of Western-style blues, cascading African guitar lines and rugged vocals, to the delight of listeners who filled the dance floor area in the tent. 

Ottawa Bluesfest
The rain didn’t stop spectators from enjoying performances at Ottawa Bluesfest. Photo by Ashley Fraser /POSTMEDIA

Bluesfest continues on Sunday, takes a break on Monday and roars back into life on Tuesday with performances by Jelly Roll, Shaboozey and Dax. 

Ottawa Bluesfest
Fans cheered as Killer Mike played the RBC Stage at Ottawa Bluesfest Saturday, July 6, 2024. Photo by Ashley Fraser /POSTMEDIA
Killer Mike at Ottawa Bluesfest
Killer Mike played the RBC Stage at Ottawa Bluesfest Saturday, July 6, 2024. Photo by Ashley Fraser /POSTMEDIA
Ottawa Bluesfest
Rain showers, storm warnings, and rainbows made for interesting skis over Ottawa Bluesfest Saturday, July 6, 2024. Photo by Ashley Fraser /POSTMEDIA
City Fidelia at Bluesfest
City Fidelia played the RBC Stage at Ottawa Bluesfest Saturday, July 6, 2024. Photo by Ashley Fraser /POSTMEDIA
Ottawa Bluesfest
Dark clouds and bursts of rain moved along the Ottawa River, and passed over Ottawa Bluesfest Saturday, July 6, 2024. Photo by Ashley Fraser /POSTMEDIA

lsaxberg@postmedia.com

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