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Scott Helman’s debut album, Augusta, was the perfect way to display his range of musical abilities. With songs spanning from acoustic ballads to poppy summer tunes, Helman brought energy and fun to Bluesfest this year. A full band of young musicians have been touring with him to accompany Helman on songs like “That Sweater” and to all play drums on “Cry, Cry, Cry.” Since his album only has seven songs, he played for us a few covers including Leonard Cohen’s “Bird On a Wire,” and the classic “Folsom Prison Blues,: mentioning he wasn’t a country musician before giving us a rockier solo version, which the band later joined in on. The crowd, full of teenage girls (Helman’s on the fast track to being a teen heartthrob) erupted in cheers as he ended his set with single, “Bungalow.”

There’s no doubt about it; Arkells were a fan favourite, with the crowd quickly increasing by the hundreds on Sunday night. Its surprising that the Hamilton band wasn’t put on a bigger stage but they made it work, telling stories about how some of their songs came to fruition. “Never Thought That This Would Happen” for example, was all about finding trouble in the Canadian summertime, which seemed quite fitting for the rowdy audience. Before starting into “11:11” from their newest album High Noon, Max Kerman regaled us with his account of arriving in Ottawa that morning before heading to a local park to act as a busker. This may seem odd but it was all in the name of love as a fan had told Kerman that “11:11”was a special song for him and his girlfriend and would like for the Arkells lead to play it while he proposed. As the happy couple attended the show, the audience let out a round of applause before the band moved into a few songs from their debut album, Jackson Square. After finishing their set, the crowd chanted for more and out came the Arkells to play the much-loved “Leather Jacket.”

Photos courtesy of Mark Horton & Ottawa Bluesfest