A review of the opening night of Ottawa Bluesfest: Mother Mother, Tokyo Police Club, Funeral Lakes, and Orville Peck

[Photographer Ross MacDonald and reviewer Karen Coughtrey were on site. – AC]

Thursday July 4th was night 1 of Ottawa Bluesfest and the acts on the RBC mainstage did not disappoint. With a lineup consisting of Funeral Lakes , Tokyo Police Club, Orville Peck, and Mother Mother, there was no question it would be a good night of music.

Kingston group Funeral Lakes kicked the festival off with a stoic but solid and enjoyable rock performance, somewhat reminiscent of Mazzy Star.

However, the night really got going when Tokyo Police Club took the stage for the Ottawa stop on their farewell tour.

Although it seems to be par for the course for this band’s Bluesfest performances (happened in both 2014 and 2021), the rain was the only disappointment of the night (as it had not been forecast and caught an unsuspecting crowd off guard) but it did not deter the sizable group of fans forming one of the larger early evening audiences Bluesfest has seen of late, determined to take in this farewell performance.

Tokyo Police Club opened with ‘Breakneck Speed’ and then ‘Hot Tonight’ and ‘Favourite Colour’ before the rain really started to come down. They managed to play three more numbers, the first of which was ‘Box’ which they announced was perfect timing, before the weather deteriorated just enough that they were forced to take a break.

Although some fans would seek shelter most would stay right where they were and the band declared the crowd legends when they retook the stage and continued their show with ‘Be good’.

It is unclear whether they had to cut anything from the setlist due to the rain but the band would play 13 songs in total, not saying a whole lot to the crowd, other than to thank them for being here on their journey as a band, choosing to pack their time with their tunes and closing with ‘Your English Is Good’.

It was clear from the attire of some of the crowd that many had come out on this wet evening for the next act of the night, and Orville Peck did not disappoint as he brought his Stampede Tour to the Bluesfest RBC mainstage.

Orville opened his set with ‘Big Sky’ and ‘Turn to Hate’ and the set also included ‘C’Mon Baby, Cry’, ‘Lafayette’, and ‘Dead Of Night.’ His deep voice and old school (70’s) country stylings are irresistible and although he maintains an air of mystery with his ubiquitous mask he is a true showman and owns the stage with his western attire and bold tattoos and was clearly gaining fans of all ages among those unfamiliar with his music.

Orville also did not chat much with the crowd, choosing to pack his time with music but he did explain about his 4th album, Stampede, an album full of collaborations and covers, dropping Aug 2nd, 2024. He played several numbers off the new album including ‘The Hurtin Kind’ (a collab with Midland) and ‘Conquer the Heart’ (a collab with Nathanial Rateliff).

Although he didn’t say much to the crowd he was clearly attuned with them and stopped performing briefly when he noticed something happening in the crowd that required attention. This occurred during ‘How Far Will We Take It?’ a collaboration with Noah Cyrus off the new album and the crowd in Ottawa narrowly missed the chance of seeing them perform it together as Noah is scheduled to take to the Bluesfest River Stage on Night 2 (Friday, July 5th) but unfortunately Orville is scheduled to be performing at Montreal Jazz Fest.

Among the songs off the new album he performed was one he explained was most on brand for him, in case any one wasn’t sure if he is a gay cowboy, and ‘Cowboys are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other’ appears to be a new fan favourite, the song is a Ned Sublette cover and a duet with Willie Nelson on Stampede.

He of course also closed with a fan favourite and the crowd was clearly pleased to hear his hit ‘Daytona Sand’ from his sophomore 2022 album Bronco.

It was soon time for two things to occur. Mother Mother to headline the opening night and unfortunately for the rain to drench the crowd again. This time no rain break would occur and the audience seemed to revel in the wet evening.

A creepy recorded voice would welcome Mother Mother to the stage and they would open with ‘Nobody Escapes’ off their new 2024 album Grief Chapter moving straight into something from the opposite end of their discography ‘Arms Tonite’ from their 2008 album O My Heart.

The crowd would come alive with excitement and sang along with full voices as they played ‘Hayloft II’ and would be no less enthusiastic later in the set when the band played ‘Hayloft’ to end their main set.

Lead singer Ryan Guldemond was full of words of wisdom he wished to share the crowd and he begun by explaining that the ‘Matrix,’ which they played with a sneaky cover of The Pixies’ ‘Where is My Mind’ mixed in, is a song about life, a song about death, and a song about living life the way you want to.

As the rain poured down Ryan would impel the crowd to thank our beautiful planet for keeping us hydrated and when the crowd was asked if they wanted to band to keep going, they responded with a clear and resounding “Yes!” He would continue to check in on the soggy crowd throughout the night, always thanking them for their beautiful energy which he explained is medicine for the soul and what is needed to save this planet.

In the same vein he introduced ‘Body’ saying it was anyone present who doesn’t always feel comfortable in their own skin. Implying we can all relate on some level and need to greet and treat each other with love and compassion.

Mother Mother of course has at its heart a brother-sister duo and Ryan could not be more proud of his big sister Molly. He beams with pride when he watches Molly perform the first song he ever wrote for her to sing and also found on their first album ‘Sleep Awake’.

One highlight was an acoustic medley of older fan favourites that included ‘Dirty Town’, ‘Neighbour’, ‘Wisdom’, ‘Ghosting’, ‘Little Pistol’, and ‘It’s Alright’. Although hearing the full versions of these songs would have been great, it was a fantastic way to squeeze many fan favourites into the set.

Reminiscing on having been a band for twenty years Ryan explained they like to play their songs stripped down because it reminds them of their humble beginnings and as an intro to ‘Wrecking Ball’ he had the following to say to the aspiring songwriters and musicians in the audience:

“It’s nice to look back and remember that everything starts small. Sometimes just a little private notion in the corner of your mind, or one song in a bedroom, nobody knows it, no one has heard it but you want to share it with the world but it feels like a scary proposition and the mountain looks way too steep and daunting. If anybody here feels like that’s where they are at in life, on their journey, we just want to let you know that we cannot wait to hear your song. We cannot wait to see how your beautiful unique mind expresses itself in this world. You’re the only person who can deliver your gift, you’re the only person for the job so you might as well do it. Just take it from us, it takes a while. It wasn’t until 15-16 years into it that things opened up beyond Canada and we had plenty of opportunity to quit. I’m in a band with my sister. We had plenty of opportunities to throw in the towel. This one goes out to the dreamers who need a little nudge. It’s about breaking down the obstacles that stand in between yourself and your most beautiful sacred unique truth.”

‘Verbatim’ and the aforementioned ‘Hayloft’ with ‘Video Games’ mixed in ended the main set and then the crowd was treated with the new album title track ‘Grief Chapter’ and ‘Burning Pile’ as an encore before sending the soaked crowd home to warm up and dry off with Ryan’s most concise yet maybe wisest words of advice of the night “Be safe out there… Don’t be too safe out there.”

Tokyo Police Club
Dave Monks – lead vocals, bass
Graham Wright – keyboards, guitar, vocals
Josh Hook – guitar, vocals
Greg Alsop – drums, percussion

Mother Mother
Ryan Guldemond – lead vocals, guitar
Molly Guldemond – vocals, keyboard
Jasmin Parkin – vocals, keyboard
Ali Siadat – drums, percussion
Mike Young – bass, keyboard

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38542 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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