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2015 RBC Bluesfest draws large crowds with mixed genre festival

Photo: Marta Kierkus

Almost 30 minutes after the scheduled start time, a platform of lights lowered towards the Bell stage at Ottawa’s 2015 RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest and Kanye West finally walked out. The antsy crowd instantly forgave West’s tardiness as the familiar beats of his 2007 hit  “Stronger” pounded out of the speakers.

West was not the only well-known artist at this year’s Bluesfest, but he was the one that most attendees were there to see. Almost 25,000 people cheering on the rapper as he performed a mix of his lesser known songs and hit singles.

West’s trademark cocky attitude and reminders that the audience would “remember this night for the rest of (their) lives” made the show more of a performance than a concert. Although West’s performance was undeniably entertaining, I don’t think it’ll be something I’ll be talking about in a few months, let alone ten years.

Although West may have been the star of the weekend, there were many other big artists that  performed at the festival. From Canada’s Marianas Trench to Cee Lo Green, the festival featured something for everyone.

Australian rapper Iggy Azalea performed on the Bell stage on July 11, in spite of a mass cancellation of North American tour dates. Although her performance didn’t draw quite the same crowd as West did the night before, she still had thousands of fans singing along to“Fancy” and “Black Widow.”

The festival also featured many up-and-coming artists. During West’s set he called out one of these smaller artists, Chance The Rapper, who had performed on the same stage earlier that day.

Francesco Yates and Scott Helman, two other lesser-known acts, also performed to moderately large crowds mixed with huge fans and audience members who were new to their music.

Blue Rodeo, a Canadian country rock band, closed the first weekend of the festival on July 12, drawing a relaxed crowd of mostly older fans who have likely been listening to them since they formed in the 1980s. This was a big change from the younger, more excitable crowds that Azalea and West drew the prior two nights.

The Arkells, a Canadian favourite from Hamilton, Ontario, also performed on Sunday night. Although they were performing on one of the smaller stages, the crowd they drew filled up the entire field they were set upon, pushing onto the sidewalks.
Well known for connecting with their audience, the Arkells drew a laid back yet excited crowd. They paused between songs, telling anecdotes about their trip to Ottawa and a heartwarming story about frontman Max Kerman helping a man with a proposal to his girlfriend earlier on in the day.

Although Bluesfest may have moved away from its blues roots in recent years, it’s still a beloved festival to both locals and tourists who come to town for it every year. If it keeps attracting big names from a wide array of musical styles like this years lineup, it will only continue to grow.