Canadas Talent


July 27, 2016

Ottawa Bluesfest Survival Guide

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Written by: CT
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Bluesfest survival guide main pic

By Kelsey Cueva

Photos obtained from official Ottawa Bluefest Facebook page

Whether you’re a tourist or a local, there are tons of things to do in Ottawa in the summertime. Between taking the OC Transpo downtown, brunching at the Byward Market, shopping at Westboro Village, strolling by the Rideau Canal, or taking in the sights at Parliament Hill, Canada’s capital has a lot of fun activities to offer during the sunny season. But if you’re from the 613, you know that summer has kicked into full gear when the RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest comes to town.

Every July, Ottawa hosts the highly anticipated RBC Bluesfest, which according to Billboard Magazine, is ranked as one of the top-ten music festivals in the world alongside the ever-famous Coachella, Bonnaroo, and the UK’s Bestival. Since the festival first ran 22 years ago, Ottawa Bluesfest has evolved from a three-day event to a multi-staged, two-week showcase that features the best of both Canadian and international music. The event continues to grow more and more popular with each passing year. In fact, in 2007, the festival had to relocate from Majors Hill Park to the more spacious LeBreton Flats Park just to accommodate for its growing attendance and popularity.

In recent years, the festival has curated some of the most diverse musical line-ups of any outdoor music festival in Canada; for instance, some of the big ticket artists from this year’s lineup included Duran Duran, Schoolboy Q, Nelly, Future, Earl Sweatshirt, Sam Hunt, Lindsey Stirling, Awolnation, Cashmere Cat, Madeon, Alessia Cara, Zeds Dead, Holy Fuck, PUP, The Lumineers, City and Colour, and main headliner, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, whose performance this year drew a record-breaking audience of 40,000 people. Whatever your music taste is like, Bluesfest has something for every type of music lover. Overall, the festival presents great artists, is fairly affordable (as wristbands for those aged 10-21 start at about $125 for the full two weeks) and is guaranteed to be a great time!


Photo credit – Various photos from the Ottawa Bluesfest Offical Facebook Page

Top row, left to right: Nelly, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, City and Colour

Middle row, left to right: The Lumineers, Future

Bottom row, left to right: Duran Duran, Alessia Cara


As someone who is not native to Ottawa nor has ever attended a music festival, I did not know what to expect upon stepping onto the festival grounds… but I’m thrilled to say that I had so much fun attending the final weekend of Ottawa Bluesfest 2016.

Whether you’ve been to Bluesfest before, or you’re a tourist from out of town planning to check it out for the first time, you’re going to have to come prepared. That’s why we here at Canada’s Talent have put together a little “survival guide” on how you can make the best of your experience at Ottawa Bluesfest:

1.     Buy your tickets well in advance.

The earlier you buy your ticket, the better, because you’ll find yourself saving a lot more money. The prices on single day passes skyrocket closer to the date, and can go upwards to about $100 on days when more popular artists are scheduled to perform. Meanwhile, Full Festival passes range from $125 – $150 if purchased early enough.

2.     Bring cash.

While most vendors do take debit/credit, going through the process of taking out your card, putting in your pin, entering your pin, yada yada yada, can get tedious – especially if you’re trying to catch a good spot to see your favourite artist. With cash you can simply pay, grab, and go!

3.     Bring some water and snacks.

Don’t want to spend money on festival food? You’re welcome to bring in snacks and water bottles, so long as long as they are unopened prior to entering the festival gates. Eat up and stay hydrated!

4.     Keep a copy of the schedule and plan out your day.

Whether you grab a physical copy at the gates, or save it on your phone, having a festival schedule will come in handy and help you plan out your evening. This way you can ensure that you don’t miss out on any of your favourite artists! Your friends might tease you for being a stickler, but you’ll be the first person they come to when your group tries to figure out which artist to see next.

5.     Bring sunscreen!

Since Bluesfest is an outdoor festival, you’ll be spending a lot of time under the sun. Slather up, protect your skin from those nasty UV rays, and don’t forget to re-apply!

6.     Pack some tissues (or a roll of toilet paper).

Let’s face it, public washrooms suck. And while festival staff tries their best to keep things clean and convenient for concert-goers, it can be hard to keep up sometimes. Do yourself a solid and come prepared if you know you have a small bladder and think you’ll be spending some time in the port-o-potty.

7.     Come dressed for the weather.

Figuring out what to wear can be a hassle, especially for outdoor events. About 90% of the time you’re pretty safe to go with shorts and a t-shirt, but the final weekend of this year’s Bluesfest was pretty rainy. On days like those, you can pack a light jacket or portable rain poncho. For those cold nights, you can wrap a flannel around your waist to wear for later. And whatever you do, ladies, do not wear a romper. Yes, you’ll look cute, but think about that port-o-potty… gross. If you’re really looking for some fashion inspiration, you can check out @bluesfestfashion on Instagram – they repost #ootd’s and anything RBC Bluesfest fashion related!

Rain or shine, the show must go on!

Photo credit – Ottawa Bluesfest Official Facebook Page

8.     Wear closed-toed shoes.

Ditch the flip-flops and sport a comfy pair sneakers. Sure, they may not go with your outfit, but you’ll be glad you wore shoes when you get shoved into a mosh pit. Would you rather lose some style points or a toenail? Yeah, you can thank me later.

9.     Exercise care when it comes to alcohol (and other substances).

We don’t mean to sound like your mom here, but you’re going to be at a music festival – it’s a given that people will be using (and potentially abusing) substances. Just be sure to stay safe, stay smart, and refrain from trying anything you haven’t in the past because it would suck to have your festival experience ruined because of a bad trip, or even worse, get kicked out altogether.

10.  Use the buddy system.

Because what if you get lost? Or your phone loses battery? Stick with a friend, and you’ll make it to the end.


 Because honestly, it would really suck to get lost in this crowd.

Photo Credit: Ottawa Bluesfest Official Facebook Page


  1. 11.  Use social media!

Take tons of pictures, use and follow hashtags, and stay updated with what’s going on at the festival. Ottawa Bluesfest even has a mobile app that you can download that includes maps, set times, and other fun stuff!


  1. 12.  Get to the front of the stage.

Especially if you’re short – you’ll want to be able to see the concert! If you get to the stage early you’ll give yourself some time to chill out before the set, and figure out the best angles to take pictures.

Excited fans waiting to check out XXYYXX.

Photo credit ­– @ottawabluesfest Official Instagram


13.  Use your manners.

So you’re a little late to the set and you want a good spot. There’s no need to shove, others want to watch the show just as much as you do. A simple “excuse me” will do the trick, and believe it or not, it’s a much more effective way to navigate through the crowd too!

14.  But if that doesn’t work…

… just pretend you’ve lost someone. Your friend, your, mom, your sibling, your crazy uncle, whoever. It’s not as honest, but you’d be lying if you say you haven’t at least considered it. Either way, you’ll end up finding a comfortable viewing point to watch the show.


and finally,

15.  Have fun!

Live it up, soak up the sun, and enjoy some great music alongside the company of your friends.
Until next year, Bluesfest!



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