Luke Combs show brings the Bluesfest to its climax

It’s a rare night at Bluesfest where tickets for the day are sold out in advance, but that was the case for Combs, as around 30,000 people turned out to see the 32-year-old Nashville star.

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The RBC Ottawa Bluesfest reached an all-time high since pre-pandemic times, as a spell of great weather and top-notch entertainment made LeBreton Flats Park the place to be over the weekend. end.

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Ottawa-born superstar Alanis Morissette was expected to entertain a local crowd in her first appearance at Bluesfest on Sunday, and Jack Johnson won us over with his sweet charm on Friday, but it was Luke Combs’ outburst on Saturday night that propelled the festival above in terms of attendance and beer sales.

It’s a rare night at Bluesfest where one-day tickets are sold out in advance, but that was the case for Combs as around 30,000 people turned out to see the 32-year-old Nashville star , illuminating the grounds of the Canadian War Museum, its first show in the nation’s capital. It was the biggest Bluesfest crowd since the Foo Fighters drew nearly 40,000 people in 2018.

Back then the challenge of getting around the crowded plaza and queuing for beer, food and porta pots was boring, but this time it was all part of the fun we didn’t have had during pandemic shutdowns. Even patrons who said they waited over 45 minutes for a beer on Saturday took it without hesitation, just happy to be back at a festival.

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Multi-platinum, award-winning artist Luke Combs performed on the RBC Stage at Bluesfest, Saturday, July 9, 2022.
Multi-platinum, award-winning artist Luke Combs performed on the RBC Stage at Bluesfest, Saturday, July 9, 2022. Photo by Ashley Fraser /Postmedia

Supported by his band of aces, Combs was also in good spirits, starting the night with 1, 2 Many, an ode to overconsumption that saw him shoot a beer at the appropriate line in the song. “Are you ready to party?” he later asked in his North Carolina drawl, “because that’s what we’re about to do.”

Sure enough, it was an epic party for a crowd in which cowboy hats outnumbered face masks by about 200 to one, despite the latest public health advice recommending masks. It was also a landmark night for drinking, according to festival boss Mark Monahan, who ranked it as one of the five best selling beer nights in the festival’s 28-year history.

But between punches and beer binges, there were moments of genuine connection, like when Combs’ irresistibly rich baritone embraced heartfelt ballads such as She Got The Best of Me, The Kind of Love We Make and Houston, We Got A Problem, inviting everyone to sing along.

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More than once, the burly singer-songwriter surveyed the vast crowd of smiling faces and seemed to pinch himself, flashing back to the day he arrived in Nashville at the age of 23 hoping to make a name. Never in a million years, he says, has he imagined himself on a stage in another country singing in front of so many people.

“Without you, there’s no show,” he said during a round of thanks, emphasizing the importance of fans. “You are the most important thing.”

Multi-platinum, award-winning recording artist Luke Combs performed on the RBC Stage at Bluesfest, Saturday, July 9, 2022.
Multi-platinum, award-winning recording artist Luke Combs performed on the RBC Stage at Bluesfest, Saturday, July 9, 2022. Photo by Ashley Fraser /Postmedia

Combs’ feel-good performance capped off an evening of eclectic programming that also included an incredible, intense and high-energy performance by world beat king Femi Kuti, son of the legendary Fela Kuti, on the SiriusXM stage, as well as a treat for blues fans on the scenic river scene.

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This roots extravaganza was anchored by the tremendous guitar work of Canadian blues rocker Colin James, who was flanked by two guys from Ottawa, Steve Marriner on bass and Anders Drerup on rhythm guitar, as well as drums, keyboards and the Texas Horns, the festival’s resident horn. section of Austin, Texas. The jam apparently continued into the early hours at the Rainbow Bistro after-party.

A change to the festival lineup this year has the music starting at 6 p.m. on weekends instead of earlier in the afternoon, an adjustment which Monahan said was part of an effort to keep things simple in case of cancellations related to the pandemic. Doors open at 5 p.m. daily (except Monday, which is a public holiday).

As for the slow bar service, Monahan says part of the problem stems from the number of newly recruited volunteers who have had to learn their jobs quickly. A last-minute rush for volunteers last week left little time for training.

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A sold-out crowd cheered on Luke Combs on the RBC Stage at Bluesfest, Saturday, July 9, 2022.
A sold-out crowd cheered on Luke Combs on the RBC Stage at Bluesfest, Saturday, July 9, 2022. Photo by Ashley Fraser /Postmedia

“Part of it was about numbers and just being rusty in some cases,” he said, adding that staff were working to streamline the process. “Yes, it took longer to get a beer, but you can see the waiters are working hard. We had 15 beer stations open on Saturday, and people got their beer, trust me.

Perhaps the best-managed aspect of the festival is the free bike storage, east of the museum, where volunteers can store up to 1,200 bikes in a secure area. In my experience, whether arriving or departing, it was so well organized that there was never a line of more than two or three bikes. After the LRT blackout on Saturday night, which closed Pimisi station and forced people to walk to Gare de Lyon, cycling is clearly the best way to get to the festival.

After a day off Monday, the festival continues through July 17, with a weekday headliner slate that includes DJ Marshmello and soulman Michael Franti on Tuesday, rockers Alexisonfire and Sum 41 on Wednesday and another star from country, Luke Bryan, Thursday.

For updates and information, visit ottawabluesfest.ca.

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Multi-platinum, award-winning recording artist Luke Combs performed on the RBC Stage at Bluesfest, Saturday, July 9, 2022.
Multi-platinum, award-winning recording artist Luke Combs performed on the RBC Stage at Bluesfest, Saturday, July 9, 2022. Photo by Ashley Fraser /Postmedia

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