Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bluesfest in Ottawa

We decided to take a break from all the prep. work -- just a few more weeks! -- and headed down to Lebreton Flats to meet Kae at Bluesfest. The name is a misnomer -- even the organizers joke about it now -- with Sam Roberts and Jackson Browne on the bill that night.

The bus was packed with riders carrying folded camping chairs by the time it reached the venue. We joined the throng that was being directed away from the busiest entrance, and were in and outfitted with our "of drinking age" bracelets in no time.

The array of food stands was really impressive. I don't remember having that wide a selection in years past, although the last one we went to was in front of City Hall (a few years ago now, I guess). Tea and Kae had hot dogs -- Tea, with poutine, and Kae, with sweet potato fries -- and I had a fantastic turkey and pancetta panini with a pasta salad on the side. The Indian food -- Rose's, I think -- looked great and seemed very popular, The Works was there; it was all very expensive, of course, but really tasty and well organized. We also enjoyed Kettle Corn popcorn and a Nutella-topped Beavertail before the night was through.

They had a bigger selection of beers and wines at "The Lounge", so I found myself there regularly. One of my many runs stands out, though: I was in line for another beer -- they had Creemore Springs Lager, which, unlike their pilsner, I really enjoy -- when I saw this guy making his way back down the line asking a question. When he got to me, he asked, "How many are ya gettin'?"

"One," I said.

"Would ya buy me one?" he said.

"Sure," I said.

His eyes had looked a little glassy, but that perked him right up. Clearly he hadn't had much success with the venture, and had expected more of the same. After a bit of head bobbin', chuckling, and muttering "Great!", he realized he hadn't given me any money and began patting his pockets. Coors was $6, so the five- and twenty-dollar bills to his name brought on a deep pondering as he tried to figure out how to ensure we both had enough legal tender to complete our transactions separately. Before I could tell him the fiver was good, he ran up to the front of the line to bum a loonie off his buddies.

That settled, Stephen, as he introduced himself, looked much relieved, commenting, "That's really good of you. I mean, I'm not a bad guy; just looking to get a bit more beer is all." -- the policy was two per customer per transaction, as I later found out, although I still kept buying one beer at a time all night for some reason.

So Stephen and I were chattin' away -- turned out he's a Newfie too -- and we're about two-thirds of the way through the line when he got that concerned look again. "Hang on now; what'd'you get outta this?"

"Don't worry about it, man," I said.

"No, no; you were nice enough to help me out, so I wanna do something for ya," he said, and wouldn't be dissuaded.

Funny enough, what he finally settled on -- again, after much deliberation -- was to buy my beer. This turned into a double rye 'n' coke once we were at the counter, but, hey, I wasn't complaining. We chatted a bit more after that, and, before breaking off to go back to our groups, Stephen said, "Good eye contact, man; keep it up." Hilarious! The kindness of slightly-inebriated strangers prevailed again!

Oddly enough, it was the festival atmosphere that really captured my attention that night. Sam Roberts put on a really good show, and we did wander over to take in some of Jackson Browne's performance, but, for the most part, we just hung out, chatted with other friends we ran into there, and made runs to The Lounge. After the bus ride home, we capped off the night with more good times and music in the form of drunken Rock Band! Superstar!