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Concert Photography, Concert Reviews, Music, Ottawa Bluesfest 2013

Concert Review: Ottawa Bluesfest 2013 (Day 9) – Björk, Ra Ra Riot, Stars, Death Grips + More

By: Scott Penner (@ScottPenner) –

Björk. (Photo: Mark Horton/RBC Bluesfest Press Images)

Iconic Icelandic singer and one-woman art installation Björk, who is eccentric as she is legendary, performed on the Bluesfest main stage last night. With several other bands recently banning fan photography at their shows, including She & Him, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Björk enacted a similar policy during her 15-song performance.

With five screens behind her, which depicted the Earth, nature and everything in between, the surprisingly small crowd of about 9,000, which was about a third the size of the previous day for Great Big Sea, allowed even the fans “all the way at the back” a decent view of the stage. While fans lacked in numbers, they certainly had far more dedication. It was hard to walk anywhere in the park without seeing elaborate costumes everywhere, and it was also equally hard to find a Björk fan that found her performance to be anything less than fantastic.

The audible experience of Björk’s show is simply paramount as visuals were kept to a minimum, especially a 14-member all-female Icelandic choir called Graduale Nobili.

A highlight for any science geek would have been the use of dual Tesla Coils, which sent bolts through several songs including “Thunderbolt”, “Heirloom”, “Jogaa” and “Possibly Maybe”, which only heightened Björk’s intensely visual performance.

Throughout Björk’s 15-song set, she plucked songs from a span of albums throughout her career, going back so far to her 1997 album Homogenic, including the trip-hop gem “Hunter”, the serene “Unravel”, and the intense “Pluto” and most recently to her 2011 multimedia project, Biophilia, including “Cosmogony”, “Thunderbolt “ and the thunderous “Mutual Core”. However what was most strikingly absent from her set was several fan favourite singles including “Human Behavior”, and “Big Time Sensuality”.

Björk ended her set with a bang, literally, as several bursts of pyro shot into the air during “Nattura” and set closer “Declare Independence.”

Arguably drawing the biggest crowd of the day was Canadian Indie pop quintet Stars, who headlined the Claridge stage, just in time for the sunset. Vocalist Amy Millan’s first address to the crowd was just after the third song limit for photographers arrived, “Hello Ottawa, Goodbye Photographers”.

With a loud and active crowd, Stars pulled tracks from their 13-year career, including several tracks from their most recent album, The North, including the synth-drenched set-opener “Theory of Relativity” and the title track.

The Stars-ignited dance party extended far into areas of the field where view of the band was limited or even non-existent but nobody seemed to care, as space for dancing was far more important.

Near the end of their set vocalist Torquil Campbell made a heartfelt comment about how it was a “huge night” for them as they were sharing the “same field” as Bjork, which only solidified Campbell’s modesty and appreciation he has for his contemporaries.

Sacramento California-based experimental hip-hop trio Death Grips, which consists of MC Ride, drummer Zach Hill and Andy Morin on the electronics, blasted right into their abrasive and angry hip-hop/punk rock hybrid style that was perfectly juxtaposed to the stylings of Austra or Stars. While Death Grips lacked Hill on drums, the duo of Morin and MC Ride was anything but lacking.

The robotic and abrupt movements of Morin behind the keyboard was almost as entertaining to watch as the flailing body of MC Ride as he screamed into the microphone. Throughout their set, Death Grips ignited screams from the crowd and even small mosh pits. We hope that Hill will be behind the drums the next time Death Grips comes to town.

Toronto-based indie electronic band Austra, who released their third studio album, Olympia, on June 17th via Paper Bag Records, performed on the Claridge stage to a large dance party of a crowd. Vocallist and keyboardist Katie Stelmanis said very little while on stage between songs and instead focused on delivering their synth-soaked music.

Opening their one-hour long set with “What We Done?”, which also opens Olympia, jolted the crowd into an all-out dance party, which they followed up with “Forgive Me”, “The Villain”, and “Lose It” from their 2011 Polaris Music Prize short-listed debut album, Feel It Break. If you’re into The Knife, Cocteau Twins or Depeche Mode, you need to check out Austra.

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Björk
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Ra Ra Riot
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Stars
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Death Grips
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Austra
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Mykki Blanco
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Imaginary Cities
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Half Moon Run
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