So excited was Marjolaine Hudon to see one of Canada’s greatest musical artists in concert last night that the regional president of RBC played Shania Twain’s catchy tunes during her drive downtown to LeBreton Flats Park for the opening night of RBC Bluesfest.
She didn’t hold back, either. Hudon had her sunroof open while cranking up the volume on such hits as Man! I Feel Like a Woman!
“I’m a big fan,” she told OBJ social at the RBC Suite, where she and her team hosted dozens of guests. “I was blasting the music. It brought back good memories.”
Burovision is tripling the size of its downtown office, taking over the entire second floor of 300 Sparks St. as an ode to ‘people-first’ offices.
RBC has returned for its 12th year as title sponsor of Bluesfest — one of the largest outdoor summer musical festivals in Canada.
The event is one of six summer music festivals that the bank supports across the country through RBCx Music. Hudon said she’s really proud of their commitment to the arts.
“It fills my heart when I see this,” she said, gazing out at the sea of happy faces that filled the festival park on an unusually hot summer night. According to organizers, the attendance that night was more than 30,000 people.
Twain, 57, was a hit. Her elaborate stage design featured a space western odyssey theme. While her platinum blonde long hair was a new look, some things never change, like her taut tummy. It was accentuated by her daring red attire. As for the audience members, they waved their cell phones in the air, much like the Bic lighters of yesteryear.
Bluesfest isn’t just a good time; it also helps the local economy. An impact study done several years ago found that Bluesfest generates around $40 million. The number is probably even higher these days, said executive director Mark Monahan, who’s expecting between 40,000 and 50,000 visitors to Ottawa over the course of the festival.
The community event touches the lives of many Ottawa residents, he also pointed out, citing research that shows at least one person from one quarter of all households in Ottawa attends RBC Bluesfest. “The impact is tremendous in terms of the reach. It has become, more or less, the summer celebration.”
Monahan said he was grateful to be joined again this year by a solid team, with only a couple new faces in his core group of 40.
“It’s really great,” he said of having such competent and experienced colleagues. “It just makes big problems very small.”
When asked to identify his favourite part of the music festival, he half-joked that it’s the final day.
“I love the music and I love the people, and it’s amazing to see everyone out(side),” said Monahan. “Still, it’s a relief when it’s over. It’s such a burden on your shoulders to pull it off and to pull it off in such a way that people want to return.
“There’s a stress level to it, but I do have moments where I can actually sit back and live in the moment, and just hear a great band,” said Monahan. “That’s one of the things I most enjoy.”
Soaking up the festival vibes was Erin Benjamin, president and CEO of the Canadian Live Music Association. She was thrilled to see RBC Bluesfest kick off with a performance by Twain, who got her start as a small-town Canadian country singer before becoming one of our nation’s “most iconic performers,” she pointed out.
“It really reminds us who we are, as Canadians, and why an artist like Shania has been able to weave her music through our entire lives,” Benjamin said of a singer-songwriter whose music has been heard on airwaves and in public spaces for three decades.
“For those of us of a certain age, I think she represents a real coming-of-age of Canadian music, and especially Canadian country music,” said Benjamin, who’s also on the board of the Ottawa Board of Trade.
There were many in attendance that night who’d recently watched the Netflix documentary Shania Twain: Not Just a Girl, which chronicles some of the adversity the artist has had to overcome, both professionally and personally.
“Her story is incredible; she never gave up,” said Benjamin. “It’s amazing to have her back in Ottawa and to be able to celebrate with Shania on LeBreton Flats.”
Spotted in the RBC Suite were such guests as Kathryn Tremblay, award-winning CEO of Altis Recruitment. One of Ottawa’s recent Forty Under 40 Award recipients, Joseph Pamic, vice-president of corporate development at Power-Tek Group, was in the crowd. So were Carleton Mushroom owners and brothers Mike and Fernando Jr. Medeiros. Guests also included Rick Iafelice, president of Main + Main Asset Management; Karen Sparks, executive director of Wesley Clover Parks; Richcraft Homes CFO Stephane Chartrand; and Shirley Westeinde, president of Westeinde Properties and a board member with Orkidstra. She was later seen grooving to Twain’s music with her 19-year-old granddaughter, Marieke Bakker-Westeinde.
All the sponsorship suites are catered, with food provided by The Ottawa Mission’s Chef Ric’s, a successful social enterprise that trains unemployed individuals to work in commercial kitchens.
Other big names featured during Bluesfest include Pitbull, Death Cab for Cutie, Mumford & Sons, Weezer and Foo Fighters. In addition to Twain, there’s other Canadian talent, including French-Canadian artist Charlotte Cardin. For a full lineup of artists and schedules, check out ottawabluesfest.ca.