Photographs by Neil Van.

The rain stopped for a lovely overcast evening at the second day of Bluesfest 2016. With 22 years under their belt, Bluesfest does the festival experience right; five stages, multiple food and drink options, and attractions including contests, lounge areas, a pop up record shop and the fashion squad – allowing attendees to perfect the “festival look” with braids and flowers in their hair. 

With my personalized Bluesfest schedule, pen, paper, camera and phone in hand; I was ready for my first night at the festival. The early evening crowd trickled in slowly. The spectators for Lucas Haneman Express were setting up yoga mats close to the stage, finding a nice spot on the rolling grassy hill or the perfect spot to settle their lawn chair to view and relax to the sound of this groovy band on the Black Sheep Stage. The sound of Lucas Haneman Express was smooth and soulful lulling people to sway or bob their heads to the music. 

The atmosphere in the Barney Danson Theatre was that of a Blues lounge; there was a bar to the side, low round tables with chairs filling the room and a few high top tables at the back to perch on. This crowd was warm with their applause and appreciation of the reflective pieces Fire Antlers performed. 

I joined a packed crowd in front of the main City Stage to experience Coeur de Pirate. Beatrice Martin is a true entertainer and the passion could be felt oozing into the crowd. This bilingual performer draws you in with her vocals and piano playing as well as her interpretive dance moves. Her captivating presence led you to all but forget there was a full band backing her up. The loyal listeners were transfixed by her compassion, holding on to every word that moved them. She was incredibly personable, conversing with the audience and having them take part in the performance with clapping, dancing and singing along to her familiar bilingual songs. 

Wanting to see as many bands as possible, in the span of five hours, I danced over to the Monster Energy Stage to get up close and personal with The Revivalists. When I say close, I mean I almost brushed hands with lead singer Dave Shaw when he climbed down off the stage and sang on the other side of the fence. This seven-piece band brought a large, vibrant crowd that did not stop moving. Their unique style transformed used saxophone and trumpet to create a sound that made you want to rock! I grew fond of the crowd and stuck around the Monster Energy Stage to listen to the Tallest Man on Earth. Passionate fans of the band flaunted years of loyal following to this talented folk singer. One attendee, who was set up in a Muskoka chair with a broken ankle, exclaimed “he is my ultimate favourite” and sang along the whole set word for word.