Sunday, July 13, 2008

Robert Randolph delivers at Bluesfest

Robert Randolph at Bluefest

The show I was itching to see all week finally arrived. Robert Randolph was in town.

Anders Osborne at Bluesfest 2008

But first I had some time to kill so I headed over to the Black Sheep Stage to see Anders Osborne who I've caught at Bluesfest the last 2-3 years. He hails from New Orleans and can wail like a hurricane on his old beat up strat (likely pulled from the floods).

Canned Heat at the Ottawa Bluesfest

After Anders I jumped over to the main stage to check out Canned Heat. They played the classics "On The Road Again" and "Goin' Up The Country" and then mixed in some jumpin' blues boogie. Crowd was massive and many were up and dancing.

Robert Randolph at Bluefest

Leaving Canned Heat early I waded through the crowd watching the show and then what must have been another flood of fans waiting for Sam Roberts on the Rogers Stage. I arrived with about 15 minutes to spare and headed right up to the rail in front of Robert Randolph's pedal steel guitar. Sweet. I killed time by shootin' it with some young guy beside me who was noticeably pumped about seeing Robert after first being introduced to him on Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Fest DVDs.

A minute into the show some guy taps me and those around me on the shoulder and asks us to move so he can see the show from his chair. WTF? First any tit-wank should know that the front area of the stage is standing room only. Sit if you like but don't assume that if you plunk your chair down between sets in front of the rail center stage that you then can expect to actually sit and see the performance. Second, this is Robert Randolph and the Family Band. If you know anything about his live show you'd know that his sole goal is to get the crowd involved. You want him thinking Canada is full of half dead white folk in folding lawn chairs? (which is about right for many of these shows)

Needless to say I told him to stand like the rest of us.

Robert Randolph at Bluefest

Robert's live performance is simply something one has to experience in order to fully appreciate. The "Family Band" consists of his brother on drums and his cousin on bass who takes lead on vocals from time to time. Oh, and there's some white dude on piano - technically not part of the immediate family.

Robert Randolph at Bluefest

The show is high energy and in some ways spiritual. Once in a while Robert would break away from his pedal steel to either dance or sing from atop his rickety old wooden chair.

Robert Randolph at Bluefest

At one point in the show he broke out a square shaped guitar and jammed out a tribute to Bo Diddley. The crowd loved it.

After a couple of warnings by organizers to wrap it up, Robert winked as his bandmates and kept right on rockin'. Crowd loved that even more. When he finally thanked everyone and left the stage I turned around to see a sea of smiling faces and not a single person sitting. True dat.

After the show I wandered over to the Roots Stage to see the end of David Maxwell's show and then The Power Hour with Tony D. Tony brought two or three Bluesfest artists up on stage but no Robert Randolph as I had secretly hoped. Around 10:30 I headed back to the River Stage to catch the end of Don McLean. Turns out I timed it perfectly as I caught the infamous "American Pie" encore. The nostalgic crowd was singing right along at the top of their lungs.

Another great year for Bluesfest come and gone. Looking forward to hearing next year's line-up.

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