Thursday, July 18, 2024

Mother Mother and Orville Peck host an all-genders party at Bluesfest

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The 30th-anniversary edition of Bluesfest opened at LeBreton Flats Park on Thursday with an all-ages, all-gender party that featured terrific sets by Mother Mother and Orville Peck but was soaked by two heavy downpours.

Before the rain, the air was thick with heat, humidity and the excitement of the first night in a 10-day marathon of live music on the grounds of the Canadian War Museum. 

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A fan in a cowboy hat at Bluesfest
The 30th edition of Bluesfest got underway Thursday at Lebreton Flats with gruelling heat and two heavy downpours, but none of that dampened the crowd’s enthusiasm for Orville Peck. Photo by JULIE OLIVER /Postmedia

By Bluesfest standards, it was a smaller-than-usual crowd of 15,000 or so, which meant shorter lines for services, an easy entry procedure and plenty of room to roam the site. Festivalgoers represented several demographics, including boomers with their chairs, parents with children taking advantage of a night without huge crowds, and young same-sex couples holding hands and sharing umbrellas.  

Thursday’s program was devoted to Canadian acts, and also included a punchy farewell show by Tokyo Police Club, a heartfelt set of bedside ballads by Ottawa’s Leith Ross and what may have been the festival’s first performance by a drag queen. Priyanka is the Canadian who found fame as the winner of Canada’s Drag Race, a reality-TV talent show, in 2020. 

Orville Peck on stage.
Orville Peck. Photo by JULIE OLIVER /Postmedia

For Peck, the show was basically a makeup date after illness forced him to cancel last year’s Bluesfest booking. Back then, he was scheduled to open for superstar Shania Twain on one of the biggest opening nights the festival has ever had. 

This time, there was some initial debate as to whether Peck should have taken top billing instead of Mother Mother. With his deep baritone and stylish stage presence, wearing a suit topped off by a lux cowboy hat and with his signature mask over his eyes, Peck was a confident and assured performer, backed by a first-class band. One highlight of his set was the campy gay-cowboy anthem, Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other, to be included on Peck’s upcoming album, Stampede, as a duet with the legendary Willie Nelson. 

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The singer of Canadian indie rockers Mother Mother at the mic
Mother Mother headlined opening night of the 30th edition of Bluesfest Thursday at Lebreton Flats. Singer Ryan Guldemond talks to the crowd. Photo by JULIE OLIVER /Postmedia

Speculation over billing order was put aside when the Vancouver indie-rockers Mother Mother took the stage and never let up, blazing through the second downpour. Lead singer Ryan Guldemond was on fire, his intensity matched by bandmates Molly Guldemond and Jasmin Parker. 

When he paused for a breath, Ryan marked the Bluesfest anniversary by calling it a “beautiful, ritual celebration” of music, family and culture. Following your heart and expressing yourself freely were also part of the night’s message. 

“This is a song about life and living it the way you want,” Ryan continued, veering into The Matrix, a song with a chorus, “‘f— no to living in the matrix,” that rejects a digital-first world.

Living on one’s own terms was also a theme with Priyanka, who performed choreographed routines to backing tracks on the SiriusXM stage. She cast back to that night Shania played the main stage in 2023 with a lip-synched cover of Man, I Feel Like a Woman, surely a drag-queen anthem. 

Priyanka radiated positive energy as she performed to a super-enthusiastic batch of fans, but the show was marred by the sound bleed from the DJ spinning tunes next door at the new, on-site Crazy Horse Saloon, located in the spot that used to hold the ferris wheel.

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On a night when efforts were made to showcase different forms of gender expression, it was an unfortunate blunder.

Bluesfest continues until July 14 with Canadian rockers Nickelback headlining the main stage on Friday, 50 Cent and Killer Mike on Saturday, and Maroon 5 and Carly Rae Jepsen on Sunday.

More photos from opening night

Bluesfest
Mother Mother headlined the 30th edition of Bluesfest Thursday at Lebreton Flats. Here, Ryan Guldemond plays with his sister, Molly Guldemond (left) and Jasmin Parkin (right). Photo by JULIE OLIVER /Postmedia
Bluesfest
Mother Mother headlined the 30th edition of Bluesfest, which opened Thursdayat Lebreton Flats. Here, Molly Guldemond belts along with her brother. Photo by JULIE OLIVER /Postmedia
Bluesfest
Mother Mother headlined the 30th edition of Bluesfest Thursday at Lebreton Flats. Here, Ryan Guldemond plays with his sister, Molly Guldemond. Photo by JULIE OLIVER /Postmedia
Bluesfest
Mother Mother headlined the 30th edition of Bluesfest which opened Thursday at Lebreton Flats. Photo by JULIE OLIVER /Postmedia
Bluesfest
The 30th edition of Bluesfest got underway Thursday at Lebreton Flats with gruelling heat and two heavy downpours, but none of that dampened the crowd’s enthusiasm for the likes of Orville Peck (pictured). Photo by JULIE OLIVER /Postmedia
Bluesfest
The 30th edition of Bluesfest got underway Thursday at Lebreton Flats with gruelling heat and two heavy downpours, but none of that dampened the crowd’s enthusiasm for the likes of Orville Peck and Mother Mother. Photo by JULIE OLIVER /Postmedia

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