[Coverage of this year’s even comes from Ross MacDonald (photos) and Karen Coughtrey (text). – AC]
Night two of Ottawa Bluesfest (the first was devoted to country and rap) may have brought in record numbers to watch the Canadian queens of country music but Ottawa’s pop punk fans were equally keen and showed up early, and in numbers for night two of the fest which was featuring PUP, Billy Talent and Weezer on the main stage.
PUP was stoked to see such a large crowd of early comers. The band, just back from Europe, declared it was the best welcome home, and treated the crowd to a raucous 15 songs from across their discography.
PUP, used to performing in dingy smelly basements, couldn’t help but mention multiple times what a big night it was for them to open for Billy Talent and Weezer on an outdoor stage; but the early crowd were not only there to watch those later bigger names. The band’s first album came out in 2013 and there were many in that early crowd clad in PUP merchandise.
They opened with ‘Morbid Stuff’, played ‘Totally fine’ and ‘Waiting’ off their latest record and went all the way back to the beginning playing ‘Reservoir.’ And although the lyrics have little to do with weather, their song ‘Sleep in the Heat’ was a fitting addition to the setlist considering the extreme heat of late.
Although the band was formed in the 2000’s there is a real 90’s feel to them, including the band’s original name Topanga, named for the female lead in the 90’s sitcom Boy Meets World. The graphics displayed behind them also had a 90’s feel from the melty bubble font of their name bringing to mind corner store ice drinks, the rotating Microsoft Word Art window and their name displayed over a pentagram bringing to mind how Paganism became prominent in the mainstream in the 1990’s.
They closed the set with ‘DVP’, a riff from AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’ and in one final statement a member dramatically wrapped themselves in the trans flag before leaving the stage.
PUP drew in a large early crowd but the audience continued to grow and the main bowl was nearly full when Billy Talent took the stage. Flashing graphics of churchlike stained glass windows below their biker skeleton band logo, they had the crowd on their feet from the first notes of ‘Devil in a Midnight Mass’.
Billy Talent would also marvel at the chance to play with Weezer, a band that influenced their own music greatly and was one of the first bands they covered. Speaking about their early days they also commented after playing the first track they recorded as Billy Talent, ‘Try Honesty’ from their 2003 self titled album that this summer marks 20 years since its release and 30 since the formation of the band.
They didn’t have much else to say to the crowd and although some teasing of the local NHL hockey team fell awkwardly flat the crowd didn’t hold it against them and seemed to thoroughly enjoy the setlist of greatest hits the band performed for them and even were very into the brand new song ‘End of Me’ which had many singing along.
The crowd was also treated to a special appearance, Aaron Solowoniuk, the original drummer who has been on hiatus due to MS, who joined them for ‘Pins and Needles’ and ‘Surrender’.
Weezer, the night’s headliner would appear on a stage transformed into the dashboard of a car to take the audience on a wild indie rock road trip across North America.
The setlist and graphics were just as fun as you’d expect and the crowd could forget how hot and squished they were and just get taken away on the imaginary road trip that saw cartoons of the band morphed into well known landmarks such as Mt Rushmore. The crowd too got a little silly to match their energy. With the heat, shirts came off and a member of the audience pretended to surf through the moving crowd during ‘Island in the Sun.’
The band too seemed to be having a good time and took a commemorative photo of their Ottawa stop on their very real road trip. They checked in with the crowd regularly and shared stories behind some songs such as Susanne, a song they wrote for a secretary at the record label Geffen who was very kind to them and the awkward experience of singing it to her.
Favourites of the night were the predictable, ‘Beverly Hills’, ‘Undone – The Sweater Song’, ‘Say It Ain’t So’, ‘Hash Pipe’, and the surprise Metallica cover ‘Enter Sandman’.
They closed of course with “Thank You and Goodnight” before reappearing for their encore which ended as one would expect with their mega hit ‘Buddy Holly’ which led to a happy crowd exciting the festival grounds in good spirits.
Stefan Babcock – vocals, guitar
Steve Sladkowski – guitar, backing vocals
Nestor Chumak – bass, backing vocals
Zack Mykula – drums, percussion, backing vocals
Benjamin Kowalewicz – lead vocals
Ian D’Sa – guitar, vocals
Jonathan Gallant – bass, vocals
Loel Campbell – drums
Aaron Solowoniuk – drums
with Loel Campbell – drums
Rivers Cuomo – lead vocals, guitar, keys
Patrick Wilson – drums, backing vocals
Brian Bell – guitar, talk box, keys, backing vocals
Scott Shriner – bass, keys, backing vocals