OK, I’m back. Yes, it’s true. The summer festivals are announcing their schedules, and as I peruse the sunshine opportunities, I note that one of the headliners for Bayfest in my hometown of Sarnia is Kiss, or as all Southern Ontarians of a certain age like to pronounce it, in our best Arthur Penhallow voice: KISS.
Now this makes excellent sense in Sarnia because Bayfest’s artistic mandate is to not worry too much about the artistic mandate. Bayfest’s goal is large crowds. (As the legendary Hollywood producer Don Simpson put it, “What are my films about? Bums in seats.”) In this context, booking Counting Crows almost counts as some kind of risky, Fellini-esque artistic choice. I have never been to Bayfest, but I’m told it is two weekends of sun and fun. And goodness knows it’s lovely down by the water.
But if I need my fix of Kiss, or as we like to pronounce it, KISS, I needn’t go all the way home this July, for they will be playing in Ottawa too. Here the circumstances are maybe a bit more head-scratchy, because in Ottawa Kiss is playing at the Bluesfest. (So will those noted Delta slide-guitar specialists, Styx.)
One of the enduring pastimes in Ottawa has been to proclaim that, “Of course, the Bluesfest doesn’t bring the real blues musicians.” It’s often a pretty funny thing to hear, coming from people who spend most — well, all — of their year listening to even less of the real blues than I do. In fact, Bluesfest is quite clever: It brings a lot of major bums-in-seats names, often with a tenuous or non-existant relationship to blues music — this year there’ll be kd lang, Ben Harper, Blue Rodeo, The National, Cake — so it can lure crowds to hear more authentic blues acts. This year, for instance, there’s Hubert Sumlin and, um, Styx. Oh well.
I, however, will be easy to please, because this year’s edition does feature Ornette Coleman, and that is awesome.