Once again this year this festival lived up to the expectations I have for it (it is one of my favourite Canadian music festivals so my expectations are fairly high) and actually managed to surpass them. My expectations were not the only things the festival surpassed as once again this year it broke its own attendance records. Over the 10 days of the festival over 250,000 people attended with the daily attendance figures averaging out to roughly 27,500 per day. That is incredible!! The six stages (4 outdoor and 2 indoor) showcased about 175 live acts which the music going public ate up with a spoon. What was not to like at a festival where the musical highlights included shows by those high-energy boys from Newfoundland Great Big Sea, young upcoming rockers Metric, the living legend Etta James, and festival favourites Blue Rodeo. The largest crowds were at the Nelly Furtado, Etta James, Blue Rodeo, and Wilco shows. Let's not forget about the other stages, where shows by Luke Doucet, Dickey Betts, Junior Brown, The New Pornographers, and Dave Alvin drew sizable crowds. Special attention should be paid to the closing night which took on the theme of a disco party. All those in attendance (10,000 strong) were dancing and shaking their booties like it was still 1976. The success of the evening should encourage the festival organizers to do another theme night next year.
Not a festival that ever seems to rest on its laurels there were several improvements at Ottawa Bluesfest this year. Number one being the attempt by the festival to be good citizens ecologically. If you have ever seen the grounds of an outdoor festival after it has finished you know that there is usually tons of garbage to pick up. Well, in order to be more green and less wasteful this year the festival introduced recyclable beer cups. That is no small thing because at music festivals a healthy amount of beer is sold. The Ottawa Bluesfest also encouraged festivalgoers to come by bike and provided monitored areas to lock up their bikes. The festival also used biodiesel this year for all its transportation vehicles. Second initiative happened because an ingenious, probably older, mind came up with the idea to have an area at the Main Stage where only people in lawn-chairs could sit. This offered some tired feet a chance to sit down without having an obstructed view. This worked beautifully for the most part. Brilliant! The final significant change was the fact that one of the stages (MBNA stage) was moved to Lisgar High soccer field and this was to give more room for attendees to this stage. This shows that the festival is not interested in settling and wants to bring in popular acts for us to listen to.
Despite all the success at this year's festival, executive director Mark Monahan predicts changes to the format and structure of the festival next year. This is a guy who wants to keep pushing the festival to get bigger and better every year. I think that is great and cannot wait to see what is in store for us next year.