RBC Ottawa Bluesfest: Foo Fighters, Bryan Adams, Beck, Shawn Mendes, Brett Eldredge, Ghostface Killah lead the way in 2018

Foo Fighters headline July 10.

Good things do come to those who wait.

That’s certainly the case for Mark Monahan, the executive director of RBC Ottawa Bluesfest. After five years, the legendary Foo Fighters are making an appearance at the festival this summer.

The band, formed by the grunge god Dave Grohl, will headline on July 10, starting the second week of this year’s festival which runs from July 5 to July 15.

For Monahan, “Foo Fighters is one of the few bands the festival hasn’t done and one of the most influential rock bands of the past 20 years.

“I know the agent I just said to him, ‘Any year you want to do something in the northeast, we want to be in on it. I told him this five years ago. Last August he said, ‘Hey Mark, this is the year. … It’s not always the measure of the money. It’s a question of is the timing going to work? And it did.”

Beck is has committed to appear in 2018.

Another booking that has been percolating for some time is the appearance of the enigmatic musical butterfly Bek David Campbell aka Beck.

‘We have been chasing him. He’s always been on our list but he’s kind of an elusive guy.” The festival has been close before but no cigar. This year he’s signed.

Other acts of note include Shawn Mendes, Bryan Adams and the previously announced Dave Matthews Band.

Bryan Adams opens it all up on July 5. Photo: Simone Cecchetti

The festival also continues to reach out to fans with a broad sweep of genres including country music led by Brett Eldredge topping that list. There’s hiphop and rap with Ghostface Killah and Shaggy and there’s lots of EDM with acts such as Zeds Dead.

For those pining for vintage rock, there will be Jethro Tull, led by the flute of Ian Anderson and celebrating 50 years of progressive rock.

As usual there are acts in the lineup that may not immediately jump out to the casual fan. For Monahan, these are the pleasant surprises he tries to include every year.

One of those is “Sturgil Simpson. He is someone I have felt is an amazing (Americana) artist, in terms of his integrity in not bowing to the Nashville music machine. He’s been doing stuff on his own and been very successful.”

Greta Van Fleet (L-R): Sam Kiszka, Josh Kiszka, Danny Wagner, Jake Kiszka. Photo: Michael Lavine

Simpson has really broken out in the past year or so including snagging a Saturday Night Appearance.

“I’m always trying to cast around for guys like that, that honestly wouldn’t play the market. He’s sort of rising to becoming a headliner.”

A true unknown gem of a band that Monahan believes will be on the rise up is Greta Van Fleet, featuring three brothers named Kiszka. They may hail from Frankemuth, Michigan known for having the world’s largest Christmas store, but they sound like Led Zeppelin, he says.

“I saw them at the Bowery Ballroom in lower Manhattan. It was a sold out show and they just blew me away.”

There is a lot of local talent on this list including including Juno-nominated MonkeyJunk, The PepTides, Brock Zeman, Amos the Transparent and J-W Jones. Monahan, who is the president of the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition, has always included local bands in Bluesfest. He is especially high on the locally based harmonic wizard Catriona Sturton and a new hip hop act called Black Iri$h. For those who remember and those who just like good music there are the reunited The Town Cryers.

This year’s festival opens with a headlining concert featuring Bryan Adams and it will close with hardcore rockers Rise Against.

Monahan says about 90 per cent of the lineup in this earliest announcement ever is set.

“When you have most of the lineup done, why not announce it? We started making offers in July and August.”

The earlier start means more time to plan logistics and order the festival schedule. The festival team will be filling the concert slots over the next few weeks.

As for tickets, pre-sales are on Thursday, on-sale begins Friday. Details will show up on the festival website ottawabluesfest.ca.

There is a new pass available for 19-25 year olds.

The pass will be $20 more expensive than the youth pass which will now cut off at 19. The festival is trying to entice slightly older young adults to buy passes.

In response to public interest, the festival decided to create a pass that was more accessible for young adults who can’t afford the full adult pass, he said.

Another issue, he says, that will be sorted over the next few months will be improved security on the Canadian War Museum site.

Last year’s event was plagued by instances of sexual assault, fighting and hospitalizations because of intoxication. One evening young fans toppled gates and threw rocks, striking at least one security guard.

“We will be in next few months making an announcement around logistics and security in response to the feedback we received from people,” Monahan said.

“We recognize people’s concerns. … We have dealt with many things over the years and we will come up with solutions for this.”

Ghostface Killah

Here’s the list so far:

Foo Fighters
Dave Matthews Band
Shawn Mendes
Bryan Adams
Rae Sremmurd
Sturgill Simpson
Rise Against
Brett Eldredge
Three Days Grace
Jethro Tull
Zeds Dead
Jessie Reyez
The War On Drugs
Courtney Barnett
Colin James
St. Paul & The Broken Bones
Oh Wonder
Ghostface Killah
Machine Gun Kelly
Naughty By Nature
The Strumbellas
M. Ward
Greta Van Fleet
Keys N Krates
Benjamin Booker
Dear Rouge
Kodie Shane
Beth Hart
The Spencer Lee Band
Chelsea Cutler
Nick Lowe with Los Straitjackets
Larkin Poe
RL Boyce
The Julian Taylor Band
Fortunate Ones
Jupiter & Okwess
Andrew “Jr. Boy” Jones
Molly Tuttle
The Suitcase Junket
Sweet Crude
John Németh
Hat Fitz & Cara
Steve Hill
The Texas Horns
The Split
Red Young
Liza Anne
Mr. Sipp
Bob Log III
A.J. Croce
The Lachy Doley Group
Anthony Geraci
Brandon Santini
Vanessa Collier
TJ Wheeler
Alanna Sterling & The Silvers
Amos the Transparent
Andrew Cassara
Andrew Waines
Animal Confession
Aspects & Rita Carter
Black Iri$h
Brock Zeman
Catriona Sturton
City Fidelia
Cody Coyote
Her Harbour
Joe McDonald & the Walkin’ Hawks
Kimberly Sunstrum
Krystal Jyl and the Jacks
Morris Ogbowu
Ray Montford Group
River City Junction
Stone Age Man
Tara Shannon
The Angelina Hunter Trio
The Bank Street Bonbons
The PepTides
The Town Cryers
Vicki Brittle

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.