a peek inside the fishbowl

20 Jul, 2015

One afternoon at Ottawa Bluesfest

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Ottawa

Lonely chairs at Ottawa Bluesfest

I have to confess, I’ve never been to Ottawa Bluesfest. I generally don’t love crowds, sweating, or standing around… so really, there is little reason for me to go. The music festival scene is such a big part of summer in Ottawa, and I’m perfectly content to stay out of it. Isn’t that awful? Anyway, Mark and I were offered passes for the Saturday shows and we decided We Had To Go Because if We Didn’t We Totally Suck at Being Ottawans.

Spoiler alert: we had the best time.

We decided to bike to Bluesfest, which was Awesome Decision #1. It’s an easy bike ride down the river and supervised bike parking on site was quick, friendly, and efficient. (Not to mention free/by donation!) We simply shoved our helmets into Mark’s pannier, exchanged our bikes for tickets, signed the book, and went on our merry way.

Entry to the concert area was similarly quick and efficient. Tap your card on a turnstile and go. I was really happy to see the layout of the stages. Crowd-phobic visitors could easily control how close they wanted to be to the action and how much space they needed around them and still have a pretty good view, thanks to a couple of really good viewing screens. (Yay!)

Food concessions were a sight for sore eyes. Gone are the hot dogs and hamburgers of yesteryear! Okay, they’re still there, but in a diminished capacity due to the plethora of fantastic food choices that were available. Mark and I both opted for Pad Thai, which was Awesome Decision #2. No lineups either!

A decent pad thai, found at Ottawa Bluesfest 2015

In hindsight I wish we’d brought a blanket or foldable stools to sit on, but this was no biggie.

First in our lineup was Interpol. I’d never actually heard of them, but quickly realized this was going to be good listening:

Interpol at Ottawa Bluesfest 2015

Interpol at Ottawa Bluesfest 2015

We had an hour to kill before the next show, so we sauntered over to the other stage, where Air Supply was playing. They aren’t exactly my brand of music and I found it all quite humorous. We bought drinks and wandered the different areas and exhibits, while they crooned in the background. This is a view of Air Supply from the roof of the War Museum (I had no idea one could wander up here):

View of Air Supply at Ottawa Bluesfest, from the War Museum

DJ at Bluesfest Ottawa, 2015

Eventually we made our way back for Simple Plan. At first it appeared as though we were the oldest people there in a 20-metre radius, but I was ok with that. (I later realized the older folks were almost all at the back.)

I think this photo is my favourite of the bunch. (Click to enlarge. Look for the guy with the blue-tinted glasses taking a crowd selfie):

Simple Plan at Ottawa Bluesfest 2015

I am fascinated by crowd dynamics and the psychology of crowds. How do they behave, and why do they do what they do? I probably spent as much time watching people as I did the band. We were fairly close to the stage (although not as close as we could have been) and halfway through the concert, two girls pushed their way into the crowd and stood directly in front of us. They were so close their hair was brushing my arm. And it happened to the people next to us as well. It’s clear, that at these kinds of concerts, if you have any visible space in front of you, you run the risk of someone coming in and filling it. The funny thing is, I didn’t say anything when the new people stood in front me and obstructed my view. And the people next to us were visibly annoyed and didn’t say anything either. I would never have the wherewithal to assert myself and push through a crowd to get a better view in this way. Yet many people do it, and when they’ve done it, they pretend they didn’t just do it, and that they’re not blocking anyone’s view even though they almost always are. Weird.

Simple Plan at Ottawa Bluesfest 2015

Regardless, it a was youthful and fun and Simple Plan put on a very good show. The audience loved them, and Simple Plan seemed to enjoy themselves too:

Simple Plan at Ottawa Bluesfest 2015

Next in the lineup was Deep Purple. Mark and I decided it was a good time to pack it in and ride home. Bike pickup was painless and we were soon on our way. We drove home along the river in the dark, which was cool. We saw shadows of geese on the river and the odd firefly in the grass.

We passed cyclists with no light on their bikes. Crazy!

Downside of Bluesfest for me was the smoking. There’s no smoking allowed in the music area but there were a lot of people who were smoking on the down low. And the clouds of drugs and public drunkeness don’t inspire much confidence either, but that’s what we’ve come to expect at this kind of event. There will ALWAYS be one girl, sitting on the ground, sobbing in the arms of a police officer. (I’m not even kidding.) Other than that, our one day at Bluesfest was pretty good. Although I do wonder that happened to the sobbing girl…

7 Responses to "One afternoon at Ottawa Bluesfest"

1 | Lynn

July 20th, 2015 at 10:44 am


We’ve never been either – I’m not into the crowds or the smoke, and I just don’t see it as a kid-friendly event and our kids are at an awkward age where a babysitter seems like too much yet they are too young to left home alone for a whole afternoon. Maybe when they’re old enough to want to go, they’ll drag dear old mom along with them :).

2 | Bob LeDrew

July 20th, 2015 at 11:04 am


For the alternative to megafests, you could always go to a house concert … ;-)

3 | gudfude

July 20th, 2015 at 1:17 pm


Mmmm…pad thai by Angry Dragonz. Parked at corner of Gloucester and Lyon.

4 | Misty Pratt

July 20th, 2015 at 1:29 pm


lol…drunken girl sobbing is SO true. Every time. We love shows and fests of all kinds, although sometimes the crowds are bothersome. I enjoy folk fest more than I do Bluesfest. I have found the lineup in the past couple of years hasn’t been too interesting!

5 | Bob LeDrew

July 20th, 2015 at 1:45 pm


I continue to be amazed that more people don’t know about one of my favorite music festivals — Stewart Park Festival in Perth. It takes place in a beautiful city park setting with the Tay River splitting the two stages, the musical acts are consistently great and diverse, and there’s an after-hours portion. And IT IS FREE (although they’ll happily take your donation). Sadly, it’s taken place for this year. But mark your calendar for third weekend in July 2016.

6 | andrea tomkins

July 21st, 2015 at 6:28 am


I knooooow! I need to check it out. I’ve heard so many great things about it. Thanks for the reminder Bob!

7 | Things I am loving: MEC bike light >> a peek inside the fishbowl

July 21st, 2015 at 9:49 am


[…] my socks off. I used it for the first time in total darkness riding home along the Ottawa River after Bluesfest and was amazed at how much light this thing generated. It has a ton of good things going for it: […]

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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