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Canada's Bluefest Returns!

As part of our Showing Love newsletter, Faith celebrates the return of festivals in the wake of COVID-19...

Bluesfest– one of Canada's largest outdoor music festivals – is back after two years of closure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since 1995, Bluesfest had grown to welcome more than 250,000 fans each year before the pandemic: all the more impressive given that the event is run by a nonprofit organisation aiming to give local artists a platform alongside the global stars.

The festival attracts a varied audience to Ottawa, with the aim to support “emerging and diverse musical genres”, from country to rap to the original blues. This year my night epitomised that unifying aim. Fittingly starting with Canadian blues band Lyle Odjick & The Northern Steam, Odjick mesmerised the audience with some ridiculous blues harmonica.

Next up was self-described ‘eclectic rock’ band A Short Walk To Pluto. Hits such as "Mary's Paper Boat" "Last Hero" and "The Flood" were lapped up by the crowd as the group seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves. I was later lucky enough to bump into Emma Armstrong, and I am happy to confirm that she was extremely kind and humble, despite her otherworldly vocal talents.

The night ended with Guyanese-American singer and rapper SAINt JHN. A total genre-switch breathed new life into us, and as SAINt JHN stopped the performance periodically to check-in, ask questions and even lead a prayer – in that moment we all felt like old friends.

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 made us more isolated, and the cancellation of Bluesfest was devastating for fans. But this year it has brought us together again to celebrate all types of music, and create moments of connection between perfect strangers; we couldn't be happier for its return.

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