Since 2012 the Doldrums Festival has been an annual respite from the cold and slushy tail end of winter in Ottawa.
This year, the two-night festival is taking place at Club SAW in the heart of the nation’s capital on March 24 and 25. Doldrums Festival is a great example of independent Ottawa organizers and musicians working hard to showcase the best and brightest this city has to offer. This year’s edition features all local acts and is made possible thanks to the support of community-oriented businesses such as CHUO 89.1 FM, Dave’s Drum Shop, Spaceman Music Ottawa, Happy Goat Coffee Co., and Ringbill Records.
If you’re into dreamy, psychedelic and experimental vibes, night one is a sure bet with a solid dose of synth and effects-driven acts – Destroy Clocks, Church of Trees, Kate Schroder and sbsst. Leave your preconceived notions at the door and be prepared to be taken on an otherworldly musical adventure.
Night two shifts gears from the whimsical to the rocking, as Saturday focuses more on electric guitars and grandiose percussion as the driving force. Expect an all out party filled with energy, as performances by Prayer Wheels, Nightshades, Shadowhand and The Vile Bodies are sure to get the crowd going.
So this weekend, escape the winter blues and march your way through Ottawa’s slushy sidewalks to Club SAW for two great nights of local music with a little bit of something for everyone. Check out a recent interview with Church of Trees by Sometimes Always below.
Music festivals don’t just grow on trees. Whether it’s a small-scale boutique festival like Sappyfest or a large-scale behemoth such as Osheaga, festivals are the end product of a whole lot of teamwork, labour hours logged, blood, sweat – and sometimes tears.
When Garett Bass decided to move forward with a new music festival called Bangers & Mash, he knew it wouldn’t be a simple undertaking. His first rodeo was 2015’s FOLK IT ALL Festival, a packed night-long event at The Rainbow which saw a number of heavier folk and country acts hit the stage, including headliners The Jerry Cans. But 2017 offered a new opportunity to bring together musicians that share a common funky thread – soul music.
“After seeing momentum build this past year, I feel like it’s a now-or-never moment to put these bands in the spotlight and help people realize the level of talent we have here,” explains Bass. “I felt like it was time to do something similar to FOLK IT ALL for the soul music scene here, which I’ve been in entrenched in for the better part of the last decade.”
The idea took form last year when Bass and his wife went to Blakdenim’s CD release at Mavericks, where a number of bands and DJs were showcased in a small amount of time. They did short and punchy sets, all acts shared the backline, there was an MC handing out prizes in between, and afterwards they reveled in how incredible and efficient it was.
“So I decided to do a soul festival where bands play their ‘bangers’ – I thought, ‘let’s get as many acts as we can into one night with the simple rule of playing only their best songs and then getting off stage as quickly as humanly possible.”
As a member of Ottawa’s own Slack Bridges, and a past member of bands such as Steamers, Tea For the Voyage, and Mackenzie Rhythm Section, Bass is no stranger to the stage. However, organizing is a different beast altogether, so he made sure to gather a team of dedicated organizers to help him from the start.
One crucial member of the team is Ed Lister, a musician himself and founder of London Gentleman Records. Lister is a member of Chocolate Hot Pockets, Thrust, Eru-Era and an impressive Chaka Khan tribute act, and has joined forces with existing bands such as The Hornettes and The Split.
“I chose Ed to run his own stage, because he’s been the number one instigator of action and collaboration in our soul scene,” Bass says. “Ed moved here from the UK a few years ago, he plays in more acts than I can count and has helped encourage collaboration between artists all over Ottawa.”
While there are some collaborations occurring in town, it’s difficult to define a particular soul music “community” in Ottawa. There are festivals such as Ottawa Explosion, Arboretum Festival, and Megaphono that act as a crucial hub for musicians to coalesce. However, there has been a gap between the soul music fans and the musicians themselves – a gap which Bass means to fill.
“Just look at The Souljazz Orchestra shows, which have been sold out and for years. People trust anything those guys put out. The Jazz Fest late night series has been a huge success for people who love to dance to live rhythms such as Snarky Puppy, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Tennyson. Sharon Jones played here over half a dozen times to crowds of intense fans. Our most successful local nights are generally funky DJ nights such as Double Barrel or Timekode where people can go dance to DJs spinning soul music in its most authentic form – the 45 record.”
“Places like Irene’s and Bar Robo have picked up and have started weekly/monthly nights of funk jazz, and Mike Mikkelsen has been using his connections to host lots of local live and mixed soul music at Kinki’s Kitchen. Yet, I find the weird thing is that some of these bands still don’t know one another, there’s little collaborating within a genre that is historically built on collaboration.” All that to say, it’s clear that there’s no shortage of love for soul music in the capital.
Bangers and Mash will take place on the evening of March 18, and have two stages at two adjacent venues – Black Squirrel Books & Coffee and House of TARG – that will operate simultaneously. Live music and DJ sets will be staggered between each, giving concert-goers the option for either.
The impressive local lineup includes Mackenzie Rhythm Section, The Hornettes, Slack Bridges, Tropikombo, DJ Magnificent and DJ Zattar at House of TARG, while Chocolate Hot Pockets, Mack & Ben, Blast From the Sun, DJ Jas Nasty and The Full Time Groove hold the fort at Black Squirrel Books & Coffee.
“Basically anytime there’s a DJ on at Black Squirrel, there’s a band playing at House of TARG, and then it flips,” Bass clarifies. “We’re going to recommend that people plan their night well, as there may be times when one of the two venues is at capacity. Fortunately, there’s lots of amazing stuff to see!”
Bangers & Mash will take place on March 18, ticketing and event information can be found at www.bangersmashfest.com. This article appears in the March Edition of Ottawa Beat newsprint in the OSBX column.
3 days, 13 venues, and 4147 pictures later, MEGAPHONO 2017 is done for another year. I was honoured to be a part of such an event and help capture moments throughout. The festival brings together individuals from all areas of the industry to appreciate the time and work that goes in to creating their art. I could talk for days about the performances and people I had the chance to experience, but I would much rather let the photos speak for themselves. Enjoy!
Night two of MEGAPHONO took me to Black Squirrel Books to see Bonnie Doon and Lonely Parade.
There is something very interesting about watching bands play surrounded by shelves stocked full with books. The intersection of serious songs and historical works with lighter and sillier tracks and the graphic novels is quite fascinating to me.
Lonely Parade playing at Black Squirrel books – Photo: Els Durnford
Unfortunately I arrived too late to catch Scary Bear Soundtrack, but heard they did a wonderful job as usual. Fortunately I did make it in time for Lonely Parade, the great three-piece from Peterborough. A lot of the songs they played were new songs and didn’t have names yet, they introduced two songs as “That was just New 3 and this next one is New 5.” It has been a lot of fun watching the band grow up in front of my eyes over the years and these new songs certainly show them tightening up musically. They have come a long way from when I discovered them and their song “My Mom Got Hit on at a Punk Show,” four years ago.
Lonely Parade also found time to squeeze in some of their “older” songs much to the joy of many there, including the tracks “Johnny Utah” and “Night Cruise.” They also dedicated a song to Bonnie Doon and mentioned how excited they were as “We are totally going to pizza shark later.”
Lesley Demon rocking out at Black Squirrel Books – Photo: Els Durnford
Bonnie Doon took the stage with a couple of members in cheerleader regalia and pompoms cheering for the Ottawa U Gee Gees. Bonnie Doon also played a lot of new songs and let us know that a new album is coming out this spring on Record Centre Records. Some of these new songs saw the band being joined by saxophone player Mara. It was a very unexpected and cool addition to their noisy garage sound. A lot of their stage banter revolved around their love for Buchipop culminating with the band playing a song they called “Buchipop Hole,” cementing their love for refreshing local kambucha beverage brand. They capped off their great set with words of advise “This one goes out to Lonely Parade… do not get the pepperoni…” and then they played fan favourite “Pizza Shark”
Year three is in the bag for MEGAPHONO and once again it brought me to very cool venues to discover bands that I had never heard before and see bands that I love. Well done to the entire MEGAPHONO team!
Photo of New Swears enjoying a guitar brew – Photo by Els Durnford
It is that wonderful time of year again. That time were we can escape the freezing cold of Ottawa in February by jumping into venues across the city to see some of Ottawa and Gatineau’s finest acts, as well some from out of town performers during MEGAPHONO.
My MEGAPHONO adventure for 2017 began by going to two venues for two completely different experiences. St. Albans Church for Bry Webb, Pony Girl and Trails was beautiful, thought provoking and allowed one to sit down in the dimly lit room, close their eyes and let the brain wander. Afterwards I headed to a crammed Barrymore’s for New Swears and Partner, which was a sweaty, chaotic night cap of a show.
Trails kicking things off at St. Albans Church
My night began with the dreamy psych sounds of Ottawa’s Trails. This was my first time seeing Trails and was I ever pleasantly surprised. The beautiful soundscape and imagery this solo performer creates was amplified by the setting, a 150 year old church. Songs like her opening track “Sun Go” set the stage for what was to come. She made great use of looping pedals to layer her own voice over itself which really blew me away and added so much depth to songs like “Mourning/moaning/morning/snowing.” And just for good measure, she threw in a cover of “Unfucktheworld” by Angel Olsen. Don’t sleep on Trails, I can only assume the sound will continue to grow and wonder.
Pony Girl lighting up our night at St. Albans Church.
The next act desn’t surprise me anymore because I have seen them so many times, but Pony Girl never ceases to amaze me. I have watched the band grow and mature into a very solid act that Ottawa should be proud of. They are wonderful musicians and their collective creativity has really started to take them to new heights. One thing about Pony Girl that can never be overstated, is that they have a clarinet player who is the focal point a few tracks and that is just really cool. The band’s ever growing maturity was on display during their introduction of their song “Dirty Picture.” Singer and guitarist Pascale Huot said of Dirty Picture, “this song is like my Facebook feed in a song and that’s a bad thing…be critical.” Speaking of all the terrible images and hateful text we come across every day on our screens. The band capped off their set with “Please Do.” I think I can count on one hand the amount of bands out there that can transition as smoothly as Pony Girl from rocking a high energy jam in the midst of the song right back into the track in unison without skipping a beat. Pure magic to see live.
Bry Webb capping off the night at St. Albans Church
Capping off my night at St. Albans Church was Bry Webb, known to many as the lead singer of Guelph’s Constantines. This was certainly not a Constantines set and I really appreciate that of lead singers who branch out as a solo act to do their own thing. The set began with Webb, acoustic guitar in hand, and Rich Burnett on lap steel guitar, which resulted in a mellow folky sound which was music to my ears. He treated us to some new songs including “What I do” which had some absolutely beautiful finger picking in it by Webb. A few songs in, they were joined on stage by drummer Nathan Moore (Minotaurs) to play “Rivers of Gold.” Moore then stayed with them for the rest of the set. The addition of drums certainly picked up the pace and made the set become a little more rocking, but still stayed rooted in folk.
Just before beginning to play his great song “Big Smoke,” Webb spoke of how needed this show was in times like this. “This is a good time to play music in a room of people who want to listen to music… it’s important to find opportunities to transcend fear,” he said. “May all your rooms be filled with people free of fear.” Very timely words. For the last song, Moore left his drums leaving Webb and Burnett to finish up covering Michael Hurley’s “O My Stars.” A beautiful track.
Josée Caron of Partner rocking so hard it hurts. Photo by Els Durnford
I then made my way to the ghost of shows past, Barrymore’s Night Club for a very different experience. After the never ending mandatory coat-check line was passed, I got too watch the much hyped Partner. The excitement is certainly not unfounded as they sound great and are a lot of fun live. Their crowd engagement between songs almost always resulted in laughter and their song topics are far from being shy or boring. The band is fronted by two openly lesbian singer-guitarists, one even sporting a “Beers and Queers” t-shirt. They played songs about learning that Ellen Page came out, about eating chips in the other’s room without them and making a mess, as well “Everybody knows you’re high,” which is pretty self-explanatory. They then played a song about their love for passionate amateur lesbian porn that they said they only play for crowds they are having fun with, good job Ottawa. The crowd was certainly having fun as well. Great set by an up and coming Canadian band from Sackville, NB that will certainly be turning heads and pleasing eardrums.
Sammy Scorpion of New Swears covered in the bands mess. Photo by Els Durnford
Now for the last act. With an explosion of confetti and a showering of silly-string, we all became day dreamers in the wee hours of the morning with New Swears as they kicked off their set with “Day Dreaming.” Ottawa’s kings of party-punk certainly held nothing back as they headlined the night. I have seen New Swears countless time and it is always raucous, chaotic, fun and good for many laughs. When you see how hard the crowd goes during a New Swears set you would think they were a much heavier hitting punk band slamming power chords at lightning speed. But, anyone who has seen or heard New Swears knows that is not their shtick. They do however write really catchy songs about partying and romance.
They treated the crowd to a few new songs, which sounded full of potential to grow into favourites, that will appear on their upcoming album which they promised will be released in the spring. One highlight that must be mentioned was the weird moment when the band played “Two Darts” a love song about saving one of your last smokes for your sweetie and Belmont ads were playing on the screen to the left of the stage, which turns out they were playing all night…Can you even advertise cigarettes like that anymore? Well that’s beyond the point, back to the punk show.
The band finished super strong just laying down crowd favourites after crowd favourites like “Paradise” into “See You in Hull” into “No Fun” and capped with “Stay Gold.” Nothing like finishing off a set after 1 am with the line “don’t you wish your boyfriend was a punk like me.” Oh New Swears promise you’ll never change and we’ll promise to stay rowdy.
The 2017 Megaphono Festival has begun, and has already rung in a number of successful music panels, events, and shows, bringing in a collection of talent from across Canada, the US, and beyond. On Thursday, February 2 at Barrymore’s, Partner joins I.D.A.L.G. and New Swears for what is expected to be nothing less than the punk rock party dreams are made of.
Hailing from New Brunswick, Partner’s Josée Caron and Lucy Niles are a musical match made in heaven. Their songs, which mix the uplifting sound of indie pop with the rough energy of post-punk, perfectly encapsulate the feelings of young adulthood.
Previously bandmates in Killer Haze, Caron and Niles decided to create new music based on the fleeting events and ideas of everyday life. Their Bandcamp lists intimacy, friendship, sexuality, and drugs as some of the elements behind their song writing – in what they call “part-musical act, part-teenage diary, and 100% queer”.
A large part of the artists’ musical inspiration comes from their sexuality: both open lesbians, being gay is a central part of the band’s identity.“It’s not that we thought it was a radical thing to talk about,” says Niles. “We’re not the first gay people to make music. We just decided that we were tired of not talking about it, to not be known as a gay band. It’s way harder to not talk about your sexuality than it is to talk about it,” she says.
The pair’s honest and accepting attitude towards sexuality allows it to be an important but relaxed element of their sound – it’s there, they’re not hiding it, but they’re not pushing it either. “It permeates your life in funny and mundane ways,” says Caron. This lighthearted style resonates in the band’s humorous and authentic songs and music videos. One of their most popular singles is entitled “We’re Gay but Not for Each Other.” Other singles include “The Ellen Page” and “Hot Knives,” both punchy songs that use playful lyrics to depict controversial subjects with a modern and nonchalant attitude.
As a young band, Partner has established a steadily rising career. They’ve already had a successful start to 2017, touring throughout Canada and the United States. It’s the band’s first time at Megaphono, returning to Ottawa after playing at the Arboretum Festival last year.
“It’s been great to play all across Canada,” says Caron. “We’re really lucky to be welcomed by various fests.” Niles agrees, saying “it’s been really cool to see people who are into the same stuff all over the place, but don’t know each other necessarily… there’s a common kind of bond.”
For the future, expect an announcement from the pair in the next month with “an exciting development” on their upcoming record. “We’re always kind of working on songs,” says Niles. “We have a lot of ideas we’ve been working on over the course of years.”
Partner’s easygoing attitude, loveable sound, and honest lyrical talent ensures a solid future for the band – their music is high-energy and high quality, appearing impressively professional while maintaining youth and authenticity. While you eagerly wait for their studio record, you can catch Partner at Barrymore’s tonight, February 2, at 10:30 pm. Ticketing and Megaphono wristband information can be found here.
Megaphono: verb. To amplify that which is heard locally, so it may reach a broader audience.
February 1-3, 2017 // Ottawa & Gatineau.
Jon Bartlett is the music industry veteran that started the Ottawa’s newest music festival, which is going into its third year. It’s a little bit weird, a little bit quirky, and very Ottawa. It’s still flying under the radar of many in the city. Yet Megaphono offers something totally different – it’s not just about bringing people to the show, it’s about who they are bringing to the city.
Megaphono is a showcase festival, which means they’re hosting music industry representatives to demonstrate regional talent. “There’s an appetite for Canadian music, and our city has way better than average music.” says Jon. Yet, we haven’t built a reputation much beyond our boundaries. That’s one of the goals of the festival, and one of the reasons why hosting industry scouts is a great investment for the city. Beyond showcasing the talent of local artists, it is part of building Ottawa’s creative brand. In this capacity, music, film, theatre and other creative industries are doing a lot of heavy lifting. “That’s what makes a good city,” says Bartlett, “I’m more optimistic than I was 5 years ago. There’s so much happening that I had no idea about. It’s made me want to dig a little bit, explore.”
Musicians from this region, Ottawa and Gatineau, can certainly represent. We have some success stories, but Bartlett admits “we don’t have a great reputation for being the mavens of championing our own artists before other people do.” Megaphono acts like an ear to the ground for hard-working artists, picking up sound bites and making sure they’re heard by the right people. It’s a well-curated festival, which is helpful to music industry reps, but equally so to normal people that don’t necessarily have time to follow the local scene.
The Ottawa Scene
Speaking about Ottawa’s music scene, Bartlett revealed some of the challenges of making it as a musician in Ottawa. It seems as though one of the biggest barriers for a musician committing to it. “People have cushy jobs. It’s harder to walk the plank and take that risk… Maybe that’s why those people move away. You need the friction of [pressure] to motivate yourself.” Geographically, we’re also quite spread out, so staying local can limit a musician’s growth.
Her Harbour performs at Megaphono’s 2016 secret warehouse tour. The festival uses unconventional venues to be more memorable.
Another challenge is Ottawa’s federal side. As Bartlett says, “We are bureaucratic Jedis. Everything is steeped in taking way too long and making decisions because two people wrote letters of complaint… You live downtown in a city.” Noise brings vibrancy, and we’ll have to embrace that as a city in order to grow.
There are opportunities of being based here – and one of the big ones is that we’re right between Montreal and Toronto, which are “the two main Canadian places you should be playing anyway”. There might be fewer resources, but part of the appeal of Megaphono is that it holds panels to share knowledge, and enables networking.
Building Cultural Capital
It’s not every day you speak to someone who is so upfront about the music industry being, well, a business. Those connections are happening more and more, and people are starting to buy into the economics of it. Jon spoke about one of the festivals sponsors this year, Lixar. “They really get it. Businesses are starting to understand that if you want to attract workers and you’re doing things that involve creativity – and a lot of those high tech industries do – people aren’t going to want to move here if there isn’t a vibrant music scene. That might actually be the most important thing to get people to move to a city.”
Megaphono, the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition, and many other players are working hard to bring the city “to a place where the economic value of a good music scene is recognized, beyond filling hotel rooms during festivals, beyond being a handout to the arts – because investments in trying to build this industry are, dollar for dollar, a way better investment than most industries.”
Is Ottawa cooler than we think? We’re getting there. Let’s keep investing.
We think we have finally recovered from another amazing two days out in Vankleek Hill for this year’s Beau’s Oktoberfest. This was my fourth year attending Oktoberfest and once again it did not disappoint. So much happens during these jam-packed two days. Here are the highlights from this year:
Six eighths of The Empty Steins, your Beau’s Oktoberfest Team Challenge Champions.
Competing in the team challenge
Every year I go watch the team challenge and every year I write about how much fun it looks and how cool it is to see so many people competing while raising money for charity. In years past, this joy was saved for organizations and businesses that signed up well ahead of time. This year, for the first time, they opened the team challenge up to the public. Obviously I jumped all over this and entered a team. And when the dust settled from the malt sack race, beer soaked sponge slingshots and tug of war, and after the total donations were counted, our team – The Empty Steins – were victorious. Big shout out to the other teams, the organizers and everyone who cheered loudly.
The Black Forest Stage
The Black Forest Stage made it’s debut last year and was back in fine form this year. The stage mostly features punk and garage rock and is hosted by Antique Skate, House of TARG, Vans, Pouzza Fest, and Ottawa Explosion. Once again this year it was the place to be with an absolutely killer line up featuring the likes of Steve Adamyk Bank, Solids, Lost Love, Camp Radio, Audio Visceral, Pale Lips, Wasted Potential, Brutal Youth and more. The stage also hosted an early morning Saturday Folkin’ Wake Up with some acoustic stuff to start you off slow. The highlights from this stage have to be Waste Potential bring up up Jordy Bell from The Creeps to play “Wait a Minute” and then Dave Williams from Crusades to play a track. Pretty awesome seeing the local bands getting that kind of respect. Also worth noting was the bloody blast that was Brutal Youth’s performance. I simply don’t know of many bands that have that much energy live.
Members of Antiques Skateboarding crew ripping it up on the halfpipe. Photo: Eric Scharf
In the shadow of the Black Forest Stage lies a halfpipe where many skateboarders entertain all weekend. You can find them hanging out and riding rather casually most of the time, but at a few very specific moments they let it all hang out. Whether it is during their “Gladiator” style combat where you must stay on your board while trying to remove others from theirs or when they pushed each other to the limits during a sort of best trick competition, the skaters are a sight to be seen. One thing I love about it is when people see something they like they are encouraged to throw beer tokens into the halfpipe for the skaters, I even saw some people throwing in a few bills. A photo album with some of the skateboarding I took in will follow soon.
54-40 showing that they still have it as they play on the main stage at Beau’s Oktoberfest 2016. Photo: Eric Scharf
The Main Stage Headliners
Between the team challenge, the Black Forest Stage and the Craft Haus, I didn’t have much time to check out the main stage this year. However I did watch the headliners both nights, and even though both have hyphens in their names, I was impressed for very different reasons. On the Friday it was a trip down memory lane to watch 54-40. Leading up to the show I spoke with friends about how I knew I liked 54-40, but couldn’t really think of that many of their songs. Once the band started playing I found myself singing along to every song except the new ones and having a great time. On Saturday night it was time for Beau’s collaborator K-Os to wow the stage. He played his hits and was great with the crowd, but my favourite part was when he went off freestyling, especially when he took a shot at Drake. From Canadian alt rock one night to Canadian hip-hop the next, the headliners closed out each night in style.
Remi Royale entertaining the crowd between set at the Black Forest stage at Beau’s Oktoberfest 2016. Photo: Eric Scharf
Remi Royale and the mystery of his stolen belt
This is not so much a highlight but more of an important event. Ottawa’s beloved punk rock crooner Remi Royale had his infamous hot dog championship belt stolen from the side of the Black Forest Stage. Royale was providing MC duties and singing a few songs in between bands, just doing what he does. Unfortunately some miscreant took off with his beloved belt, the item that harnesses all his special powers. If anyone knows anything that could help get the belt back, please email us at email@example.com and I am sure we can hook you up with a pretty sweet reward.
Brutal Youth were bloody brilliant as they closed out the Black Forest stage at Beau’s Oktoberfest 2016. Photo: Eric Scharf
The Food Selection and Quality
Every year I am amazed at the selection and quality of the food vendors we have to choose from on the festival grounds. There are so many inventive options, like chicken and waffles in a cone, bugger balls stuffed with smoked bacon and cheese, perogies, many kinds of schnitzel and so much more. My food highlight was Pure Kitchen’s tempeh Bavarian meatballs with roasted onion gravy served with potato hash topped with leeks, sauerkraut, pickled beets and apple sauce. Oh man am I ever hungry now.
The selection at the Craft Haus, night one wasn’t even done and stuff was sold out.
The Craft Haus
The Craft Haus is the very special tent beside the main stage where one can taste a plethora of delicious beers from many breweries. Beau’s special releases at Oktoberfest are great, Life on Juniper is one of the tastiest beers I have ever tried, and available in the other beer tents, but there is just something so special about the choices and different flavour and finishes within the Craft Haus. One of the most interesting beers was Forked River Brewing Company’s Wicked Wench which is a barrel aged sour stout. Order this beer if you ever really want to confuse your pallet. I could go on and one about all the really great beers I sampled in the Craft Haus, like Stack Brewing’s Stack ’72 an imperial IPA or Block 3 Brewing Co.’s The Epic, a chardonnay brett barrel aged saison, but instead of reading about it, just make sure not to miss out next year.
I encourage everyone, every year, to camp. I commend Beau’s for coordinating shuttle services in hopes of eliminating anyone’s urge to drink and drive, but I would much rather camp over night than have to cram into a yellow school bus with no washrooms all the way back to town. Not only do you not have to suffer through that bus ride, the party keeps on going as this year’s camping featured late night movies (Beerfest and Strange Brew), popcorn and canteen open early and late. Camping is also a great way to meet people as it is a little less noisy and rambunctious as one the festival grounds. Now if only they could find a way to have the campground licensed…
Staff and volunbeers
I think I mention this every year, but everyone I interact with, from Beau’s staff members to volunbeers, are so very nice and excited to be there. Whether it was coordinating media passes, participation in the team challenge, volunbeers serving me a drink or the ones walking around answering questions, everyone was just so positive and play an integral role in making Beau’s Oktoberfest so wunderbar.
Festival goers honing their flip cup skills at Beau’s Oktoberfest 2016. Photo: Eric Scharf
The Oktoberfest crowd
One thing that really impresses me is the behaviour of all those in attendance. When you consider that you have thousand of people displacing themselves in order to consume alcohol, I didn’t witness a single fight or any sort of misbehaviour. It is very refreshing to attend an event of this nature and see so many people having a great time and not experiencing any real problems.
Photo of Basia Bulat in NYC earlier this year by Elizabeth Durnford (Ottawa Showbox)
As I sat looking out at the grey, wet and cold Glebe, I considered just staying in the car and driving home. My Saturday had not been going as planned, and the idea of standing out in the rain for a few hours at a festival was pretty close to the bottom of the list of things I wanted to do. Basia’s latest album, Good Advice, was playing as I watched the rain hit the windshield and I knew that my Saturday would probably only get worse if added the regret of missing Basia Bulat, so I shut off the engine, threw up my hood and stepped out in to the rain.
I got to the main grounds area to be greeted by a sea of ponchos and umbrellas. People had been there for the long-haul of the day, seeing The New Pornographer’s set that preceded Basia, leaving the stage with high energy and smiles. I was ready.
This wasn’t the first time I had seen Basia live. My first experience was seeing her opening at the Bronson Centre in 2014. She stole the entire show for me, rocking the autoharp and charango, and I’ve followed her ever since. My most recent encounter with her was when I had the chance to see her do her birthday show at the Bowery Ballroom in New York. The combination of rain and CityFolk policy made it so I wasn’t able to take in more then my phone for a camera. So I’ve included pictures from that show, because her majestic AF stage presence needs to be recognized and appreciated.
Basia has a combination of detailed lyrics, unique instruments, which set her out from other musicians, and of course, that stage presence that warmed up the freezing and soaked crowd. Putting herself on the very edge of the stage just so she could be with us in the pouring rain, she was appreciative of the crowd sticking around, checking in and thanking us multiple times. She sadly left the charango and auto harp out of this set, and one can only assume it was because fear of water damage, which is fair. Regardless, her set was unreal and everyone was more then happy to stand in the rain to hear her.
I’ve been describing the show as a musical cleanse. Basia’s sound and lyrics, mixed with the downpours that happened throughout the set, combined with the fact that I ended up going solo, meant that the set hit the soul, and man did it feel good.
Basia Bulat is on the short list for the Polaris Prize that is being announced tomorrow (Monday Sept 19th) in Toronto. As well she hinted that she would be back to play Ottawa at the National Arts Centre next year, though no set date could be found in my research. More to come on both of these items as things get announced.
This year’s CityFolk festival has arrived, and we’re happy to bring you our picks for the 2016 edition. In this one, we’re exploring a variety of artists – some more established and in their prime, some that have been around for ages and still conquering the big stage, and others that are emerging and creating jaw-dropping new music ready to explode onto the scene.
We implore you to have a listen to the artists we’ve carefully chosen, however it is also important to do a little exploring. Sometimes the best part of a big music festival is seeing an intimate performance on a smaller stage, discovering hidden gems on your own. So here they are, our picks for CityFolk 2016.
CityFolk takes place at Lansdowne Park September 15–18, and artists play on multiple stages around the grounds. See the full schedule and purchase your passes here.
City Stage Thu, September 15, 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM
There’s no way that we were going to make this list without giving some love to The Acorn. The brainchild of Ottawa’s Rolf Klausener, The Acorn is easily one of the greatest musical exports the nation’s capital has to offer. Although Klausener began this project as a series of home recordings in 2002, he has shown no sign of slowing down having just released the acclaimed album Vieux Loup last year. While dabbling in other ventures, Klausener has always stayed true to The Acorn and its intimate, textural, and poetic underpinnings.
Guided By Voices
RavenLaw Stage Fri, September 16, 10:00 PM – 11:15 PM
If there’s one band that has been relentlessly putting out music since the 1980s, it’s Guided By Voices. Mind you, the lineup has changed a lot over that time – however principal songwriter Robert Pollard has been the rock that has kept GBV’s creativity flowing. These guys are influenced by a lot of the British invasion garage rock (our kind of shit), psych, prog, and even post-punk, but no matter what you have to appreciate their gritty, DIY approach to music. This band is as genuine as it gets, and a breath of fresh air in today’s current mainstream music industry climate.
City Stage Fri, September 16, 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM
At just 19 years of age, Illinois’ Kwenku Collins has made a big name for himself not only as a songwriter, but as an MC and producer as well. His unique style and approach to making music have garnered him praise from major music critics around the globe – and he’s just getting started. 2016’s Nat Love LP has launched Collins into the big leagues, with ear-melting tracks like “Ghost”, “Vanilla Skies”, and “Stupid Rose” capturing listeners and never letting them go.
The New Pornographers
City Stage Sat, September 17, 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM
When you think of the Canadian indie rock renaissance over the last decade and a half, there’s one band that everyone agrees is a staple – The New Pornographers. Forming in 1999, this band is on an esteemed list of bands like Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire, The Weakerthans, The Constantines that poured a tank of gas on a national music scene that was largely barely smouldering embers as the millennium came to a close. In 2009, Rolling Stone magazine ranked the band’s second studio album, Electric Version, No. 79 in the “100 Best Albums of the Decade.”
City Stage Sat, September 17, 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM
Basia Bulat has become a household name in Canadian music, proving over the years that she is as talented with her lyricism and songwriting as she is versatile in her sound. Cutting her teeth in the Ontario indie folk scene, she has separated herself from the pack as an artist that consistently outdoes herself. She’s shared the stage with Arcade Fire, The National, Nick Cave, Daniel Lanois, St Vincent, and her Juno/Polaris-nominated LP TallTall Shadow achieved national recognition and regular airplay on CBC. Her 2016 album of sorrow and redemption called Good Advice is shortlisted for the Polaris Prize this year.
BMO Stage Sat, September 17, 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Julia Jacklin in an emerging artist that you should definitely keep your eye on. Her debut album Don’t Let the Kids Win is an introspective examination of life in your 20’s, and the minimalism in instrumentation contrasts beautifully with the lyrical depth that Jacklin explores so eloquently. At 25, she is sure to make some big waves, following the footsteps of musicians such as Courtney Barnett and Angel Olsen in her honest and intimate style.
RavenLaw Stage Sat, September 17, 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM
We love Northcote. Why, you ask? Matt Goud a.k.a. Northcote is a hard working and relentless guy with a tough exterior, but on the inside he’s got a spectrum of emotions that spill out through his music and into our ears. This small-town Saskatchewan songwriter brings a wealth of life experience to the table, and tapping into his influences which range from country to hardcore and punk rock. Whether they are anthems or lullabies, his songs of loss, love, small-town living and growing up are themes most of us can connect with. Springsteen and Gaslight Anthem fans are sure to fall in love with this guy.
BMO Stage Sun, September 18, 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM
At 20 years old, don’t think that youth makes Julien Baker naive. Growing up in the Memphis DIY scene, Baker has faced the challenges of coming of age as a queer person in the South. Moreover, she unapologetically discusses topics such as drug abuse and depression on her debut album Sprained Ankle. Through the bigotry and hate that swells in that part of the US against marginalized LGBTQ communities, Baker’s beautiful, powerful voice and songwriting shines through as a ray of hope. She’s the kind of artist that makes writing such emotional, intricate songs look easy. Although short in stature, she is without a doubt one of the most inspirational artists to hit the stage at this year’s CityFolk festival, standing tall amongst the rest in our mind.