Bluesfest Day Five: Fetty Wap, Jake Owen, RL Grime, and July Talk

After a one-day break, Bluesfest was back with its most diverse single-day lineup yet on July 11.

Kicking things off on the Bluesville Stage was Harea Band. The up-and-coming band from Ottawa brought their unique fusion style to the stage, which they describe as “sexy soul and disco infused pop,” using instruments such as synthesizers, electric drums, and keytars.

Lead singer Matt Harea made the show even more exciting with his strong, soulful vocals and by leading the rest of the band in choreographed funk dance moves.

Opening the City Stage for the evening was a highly-anticipated performance by Fetty Wap and Monty. From the moment the concert began, the hip-hop superstars kept the mostly teenage crowd engaged, as they danced around the stage performing their well-known hits such as “Trap Queen,” and “My Way.” Long after the concert started, eager fans were still sprinting through the festival gates trying to get as close as possible to the front.

Continuing the festival’s series of country acts, Florida-native Jake Owen headlined the evening on the City Stage. Owen brought his fresh and bright-sounding style of country music to the stage, accompanied by a full brass band.

In addition to playing his original songs, Owen performed a series of covers, including “Ring of Fire” as a tribute to county music legend Johnny Cash. Overall, Owen’s upbeat performance seemed to stand out better than the previous country artists who have performed so far at this year’s festival.

At the same time, fans of RL Grime packed the grass in front of the Blacksheep Stage to watch the DJ put on a visually spectacular show featuring video screens, smoke, and pyrotechnics. During songs such as “Stay For It,” RL Grime built the crowd up, until the area in front of the stage was a mass of people jumping up and down in unison.

But, the most outstanding performance of the evening came from Toronto’s July Talk. The multi-Juno Award-winning alternative rockers delivered a high-energy and intense show to a tightly packed crowd on the Claridge Homes stage.

Despite being a band that has only been around for five years, July Talk brought numerous loyal fans to the show, including Ottawa resident Arne Berg, who helps run the online fan group July Talk SuperFans and has now seen the band live 75 times. Standing in the front row, Berg received an onstage shout-out from the band, thanking him for his dedication, as well as a shot from a bottle of Jameson whiskey poured by lead singer Leah Fay.

“The first time I saw them, I didn’t know who they were when they walked on stage—they totally blew me away in 30 seconds,” Berg said. “An added bonus of their live show is how nice they are—I became friends with them over the years.”

Before beginning with the song “Picturing Love,” Fay took the time to acknowledge that the land they were on is the traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe First Nation, emphasizing the importance of reconciliation and promoting new treaties with Indigenous people across Canada.

Fay and fellow lead singer Peter Dreimanis carried the performance by displaying their juxtaposing stage presence. Fay, a trained contemporary dancer, gracefully moved across the stage while projecting her sweet voice. As a contrast, Dreimanis moved across the stage with staggered and aggressive movements, while powering through songs with his deeper, darker and grittier voice. The two display a truly unique and eccentric on-stage dynamic.

Towards the end, as fans cheered and demanded an encore, July Talk returned to the  stage to perform two more songs. After the show, Fay and Dreimanis came out from backstage to sign autographs and take pictures with fans.

“We had such a great time,” Fay told The Charlatan. “This audience seemed super engaged and we couldn’t have asked for a better night.”

Photo credits: Meagan Casalino