BluesFest wraps up this year on Sunday, July 15th. Photo: Mark Horton.
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2018 lineup sees former U of O talent, international stars

For anyone who’s been in Ottawa lately, you’ve probably felt the high temperatures that have stuck around since the Canada Day long weekend. But while the weather may be hot, the acts at this year’s RBC BluesFest are hotter, ranging from big names like The Foo Fighters and Rise Against, to local talent such as The Bank Street Bonbons.

Now in its 24th year, the festival continues to be a success, with artists of the likes of Kanye West and Lady Gaga gracing its stages in the past. And although these internationally recognized names draw out large crowds, BluesFest is also an opportunity for lesser-known talent to make itself heard, especially in the often cut-throat business of the music industry.

BluesFest kicked off this year on Thursday, July 5th at LeBreton Flats Park—the permanent home of the festival since 2007—with a diverse set, including Jupiter & Okwess, originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Algonquin-Anishinabe Youth Hand Drum from the Kitigan Zibi and Barriere Lake First Nations reserves. Bryan Adams and Passenger later took to the stage on opening night, paving the way for 10 days of the hottest blues, folk, pop, and rock hits.

Despite its name, BluesFest caters to a wide range of music tastes and genres, with artists such as Montreal-based Chromeo performing dance-rock hits like “Jealous,” and pop sensation Shawn Mendes, who hails from Pickering, wooing the crowd with tracks from his latest self-titled album on the first Saturday of the festival.

Montreal-based band Chromeo performed fan favourite, “Jealous” at this year’s annual festival. Photo: Mark Horton.
Shawn Mendes performing at Bluesfest. Photo: Mark Horton.

The festival is also seeing some former University of Ottawa talent in The Peptides. The vibrant nine-person ensemble is performing at BluesFest for their third year on Sunday, July 15th, representing the Ottawa music scene.

Singer DeeDee Butters, bassist Andrew Burns, and keyboardist and manager Scottie Irving all attended the U of O, and according to Irving, events like BluesFest are the perfect opportunity for local artists to break into the music scene. “This is where it all starts. Opportunities like BluesFest are so precious for local artists because we really get that testing your festival experience opportunity.”

On Sunday, The Peptides will be debuting tracks from their upcoming album, Galapagos, Vol. I, set to be released in October.

According to Irving, the diversity and range of talent at BluesFest adds to the experience for festival-goers, and this is reflected in The Peptides’ own music. “We call ourselves pop, but really what we mean by pop is drawing on a variety of popular genres, so we do draw on blues, of course, but we also draw on punk or jazz and other kinds of pop.” The ensemble also has a unique visual element to their performances, which will be partly reflected in their recostuming for BluesFest in anticipation of their upcoming album release.

In addition to the cool acts, H2Ottawa is bringing a new element of refreshing taste to the festival. The U of O based H2Ottawa initiative will be selling reusable aluminium water bottles to attendees. Launched in March of this year, H2Ottawa’s goal is to educate the public about the issues related to access to clean water and the issues with plastic water bottles.

The bottles are being sold for $5 at the merchandise tent, with 50 cents from each sale going to charity.

“It’s important for people to understand that there are water fountains everywhere at BluesFest, and that’s local Ottawa water that the city works really hard to keep clean and tasting great,” said Celeste Digiovanni, founder of the initiative and U of O student. “These bottles are just a vehicle for that message—we don’t need to support exploitative companies that take water from disadvantaged towns to resell to us at 1,000 times the price.”

Digiovanni hopes to continue selling the reusable bottles at festivals and concerts, including this September’s CityFolk festival, and has a partnership in the works with the Museum of Science and Innovation.

BluesFest wraps up this Sunday, July 15th, featuring Three Days Grace and Ottawa rock group Animal Confession. So for anyone making their way to Lebreton Flats for the tail-end of the festival, stay cool by picking up an H2Ottawa bottle and enjoy the final days of this signature summer event here in the capital.