The Tim Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival returned to Monney’s Bay June 21 to 24 for its 25th Anniversary with its annual great lineup of free concerts.
Photographer Aidan Thatcher took in the sights and sounds of the first three days which featured Wintersleep, Broken Social Scene, Sam Robert, Hollerado and many more. Check out photos of each performance below.
Day one featuring Sam Roberts Band Sam Roberts Band, Crown Lands, Amos the Transparent and M.T. Walker
Day two featuring Broken Social Scene, Dizzy, Ellevator and Gianna Lauren
Day three featuring Wintersleep, Hollerado, Fast Romantics, Rebelle and Old Man Grant
The headliners that will grace the stage at Mooney’s Bay include Sam Roberts Band (21st), Broken Social Scene (22nd), Wintersleep and Hollerado (23rd), and Matt Mays (24th). If all those Juno award winners and Polaris Prize nominees aren’t enough to get you excited for these free concerts, note that they will also be joined by Crown Lands, Amos The Transparent, M. T. Walker, Dizzy, Ellevator, Gianna Lauren, Fast Romantics, Rebelle, Old Man Grant, Birds of Bellwoods, Midnight Vesta, Rory Taillon and Craig Cardiff.
So mark your calendar, stock up on sunscreen and get ready to head down to Mooney’s Bay in late June to cheer on some racers and take in some most excellent performances.
As Ottawa enjoyed its seemingly first weekend of summer weather, a lively crowd descended on Day 3 of CityFolk for some throwback nostalgia and some first glimpses of buzzworthy bands.
To start the night, Suitcase Junket played the Ravenlaw stage to a crowd split between fresh ears and those who were so impressed with his late show on Day 2 of City Folk, that they came out for a repeat performance. He was mindful of that dynamic and played a largely separate setlist, save for a few overlapping tracks. His folksy blues sound was a hit with the crowd, with songs like “Swamp Chicken” and “Busted Gut” particularly resonating. His ability to multitask with a seemingly endless array of instruments is mesmerizing, think Shakey Graves crossed with Owen Pallett (though there were no loop pedals in sight). Playing several tracks off of his recent release Pile Driver, he described himself as such, driving around a pile of instruments to win over audiences, something that he certainly achieved on this evening.
Following Suitcase Junket was Brooklyn’s Big Thief, a band with two incredible releases and a significant amount of buzz (particularly due to this masterpiece. They played with a pared down ensemble which fit with the intimate Ravenlaw stage. Lead guitarist and vocalist, Adrianne Lenker was magnetic, deftly weaving from whisper to wailing guitar solo. Highlights included “Paul”, “Shark Smile,” the aforementioned “Masterpiece,” and haunting “Pretty Things” (with lyrics like “there’s a woman inside of me, there’s one inside of you, too…” resonating even more live).
The unfortunate scheduling of Canadian indie rock legends Broken Social Scene 15 minutes into Big Thief’s set had an impact on crowd size as well as the atmosphere, with Big Thief’s intimate songs having a subtle backdrop of muffled Kevin Drew vocals. Though Lenker expressed some frustration to that extent, the band powered through, and we’re hopeful they return for us to have an opportunity to enjoy them under ideal circumstances (rather than take a Sun Kil Moon approach to a grievance with Ottawa Folkfest scheduling).
Though Ottawa has enjoyed live performances from various members of the Broken Social Scene collective over the past few years (Kevin Drew at Arboretum 2014, a particular highlight), seeing them all together (well, most of them) is a rare treat. About to kick off a North America wide tour to support their latest release, Hug of Thunder, the set was a power-packed hour of hits new and old (as well as a brief cover/singalong of “Total Eclipse of the Heart”).
New member Ariel Engle filled in admirably for Feist on Hug of Thunder’s lovely title track and both she and Amy Millan did “Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl” justice. While the crowd was enthralled throughout, a short passionate speech from Kevin Drew about the state of the world and a call for the crowd to cathartically yell as loud as they could made closing tracks “Cause=Time” and “Ibi Dreams of Pavement” particularly meaningful. As they closed the set (and for many, the evening), many wondered aloud why the heck they weren’t headlining tonight’s show.
Amanda Marshall bounded onto the City Stage next and she did her best to prove the scheduling skeptics wrong. Playing for the first time in more than a decade, she joked about the lack of Netflix and Uber when she last hit an Ottawa stage. There were no signs of rust, as she dove into her back catalogue with a tight seven piece band for an assembled crowd of passionate Amanda Marshall fans and curious BSS holdovers. As “Sunday Morning After” and “Trust Me (This Is Love)” began, many in the crowd exchanged an “Oh, I remember this song” look. Her biggest hit “Birmingham” followed and sufficiently delivered, sending many of her fans to the promised land (you know, the one beyond the lights of Birmingham…?).
It’s that time of year when we descend on Lansdowne and the Glebe for CityFolk Festival. This year’s main festival and Marvest lineups pack some punches, and we’re excited to hit the pavement and start checking out some of the performances. One of the great things about festivals like CityFolk is that music lovers can exit their comfort zones and experiment with new artists they’ve never heard before. There’s nothing quite like unexpectedly walking to a stage and hearing something great for the first time. We’ve compiled a list of some of our top picks for this year’s main festival, and we encourage folks to get off the beaten path and try something new. We hope you have a great time!
Top Picks for CityFolk
The Suitcase Junket
Thursday, September 14, 10:15pm – 11:30pm – RavenLaw Stage Friday, September 15, 6:00pm – 7:00pm – RavenLaw Stage
The Suitcase Junket is one man band Matt Lorenz from Massachusetts who combines a guitar, old instruments and items from junkyards. His guitar jangles and slides, his voice is raspy and his percussion is played by his stomping, sometimes 3 or 4 different instruments at once. This one man band thing isn’t a gimmick to cover anything up, it is so well done that if you close your eyes you would think you were watching a full band. But I recommend you keep your eyes open and take it all in.
Thursday, September 14, 7:30pm – 8:30pm – RavenLaw Stage
To put it simply, Jenn Grant is Canadian indie music royalty. She is a highly decorated musician winning Nova Scotia Music Awards early on in her career, only to soar to greater heights with a collection of wins over the years at the East Coast Music Awards. Even more, she’s been nominated for the Polaris Music Prize longlist and JUNO nominations for her albums Honeymoon Punch and Compostela. She has toured the world endlessly and broken new ground with soundscapes and themes that electrify the soul on her new album Paradise. Her live performance at CityFolk is one to circle on the schedule.
Broken Social Scene
Friday, September 15, 7:30pm – 8:30pm – City Stage
Broken Social Scene isn’t just a band—they’re a music collective synonymous with modern Canadian indie music. The band is widely recognized as being at the epicentre of Canada’s indie rock revival in the early 2000’s, bringing together the varied talents of all its members and associated acts (including members of Metric, Feist, and Stars) and stunning the world with its orchestral, yet modern brand of “baroque pop.” While members Brendan Canning, Kevin Drew, and others have since splintered off to pursue solo projects, Broken Social Scene continues to play for audiences far and wide, demonstrating why their extraordinary catalogue is timeless.
Sunday, September 17, 5:30pm – 6:30pm – City Stage
Alfie Jurvanen, a.k.a. Bahamas, broke out onto the Canadian music scene with his acclaimed album Pink Strat. Songs such as “Hockey Teeth” and his cover of Wreckless Eric’s “Whole Wide World,” Bahamas took the fast lane into the hearts of Canadian music fans. It wasn’t long until his following albums received further critical praise, with multiple JUNO nominations and a couple wins to take home with him. He’s shared the stage withThe Lumineers, Feist, Howie Beck, Jason Collett, Jack Johnson, The Weather Station, and many others.
Sunday, September 17, 8:30pm – 9:45pm – City Stage
Rodriguez who some of you may know from the great film “Searching for Sugar Man” made about him recorded his first song 50 years ago. The singer-songwriter from Detroit, Michigan, is an inspirational poet armed with a guitar, countercultural thoughts and a lot of life lived to regale you with. Seeing Rodriguez perform will be like living a chapter of an American music history book, and not to be missed.
Tank and the Bangas
Sunday, September 17, 7:30pm – 8:30pm – RavenLaw Stage
Tank and the Bangas will be the most original and different act of the entire festival. Hailing from New Orleans, they mix vocal stylings ranging from rap, classic hip-hop and soul while pairing it with some funky musicianship. Their shows are energetic they will bring you to your feet to dance and take you on a trip to bangaville.
Sunday, September 17, 4:30pm – 5:30pm – RavenLaw Stage
Is a young vocalist from Guelph, Ontario, who draws on her skills as a spoken word poet, powerful voice and an acoustic guitar to capture her audience. She hasn’t just captured crowds’ ears and hearts, but also Timber Timbre’s Taylor Kirk who produced her debut five song EP, Mama.
Friday, September 15, 6:00pm – 7:00pm – City Stage
Raised by a preacher and a teacher for parents, he learned early on about the power of music and its importance. He channeled this to create guitar driven rhythm and blues which he has taken all around North America. In doing so he has turned a lot of heads, including The Roots and Mavis Staples, who he has collaborated with on a couple of tracks. That should speak for itself.
Friday, September 15, 7:15pm – 8:15pm – RavenLaw Stage
Having only been active since 2015, Brooklyn’s Big Thief has made some serious strides. Their most recent album, appropriately titled Masterpiece, are a collection of songs that are carefully composed and beautifully arranged. Fans of modern songwriters such as Angel Olsen, Waxahachee, and Frankie Cosmos will fall into Big Thief’s music with great ease. This band is definitely one of the hidden gems at this year’s festival, and I am honest when I say that I can’t stop listening to their music lately. So try them out, they’re a guaranteed hit.
Local shoutout: Danielle Allard
Saturday, September 16, 3:00pm – 4:00pm – City Stage
As summer winds down, there’s still some outdoor music that Ottawans have to look forward to. Although CityFolk typically signifies the end of warm days, it also consistently brings in some major international acts that bring out the big crowds to Lansdowne. Even more, the festival is an excellent opportunity to scope out some of Ottawa’s most exciting acts at Marvest, and find some lesser known and up-and-coming bands on smaller stages. Headliners this year include Jack Johnson, Father John Misty, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Jenn Grant, Matt Mays, Broken Social Scene, as well as many more talented artists playing Marvest, as well as others coming in from across North America.
Be sure to check out the CityFolk lineup here, and this year’s Marvest lineup/sampler here.
We’re giving away two full festival passes to this year’s CityFolk Festival! Read on below to enter and have a shot at winning the grand prize.
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So what does it take to win? Simple. Just fill out the form below and answer the question below. The draw will take place on Wednesday, September 13th at noon.
Which neighbourhood do the Marvest local showcases take place?
The inaugural WuFest began last night at Blacksheep Inn, bringing music fans, friends, and new faces out to celebrate local arts and culture… and Ming Wu! Here’s a little blurb I wrote recently to summarize what it’s all about:
We are very happy to be partnering up with Blacksheep Inn and CHUO to make the inaugural WuFest happen! WuFest is a weekend-long celebration of local arts, music, and culture, named after one of Ottawa’s most prolific and omnipresent concert photographers, Ming Wu. Through Ming’s blog Photogmusic, he has provided us with a de facto photo essay of the city’s concerts, festivals, and cultural events since 2008. In fact, when I first started Showbox back in 2012, one of the first people to help me out and allow me to post his photos was Ming (since his were way better than my crappy phone pics at the time). Many of us know of Ming as an institution in Ottawa, and his photos really do tell a story. His passion for music and all things local is something that we should all try to aspire towards.
We recognize the importance of this kind of dedication and commitment to our city’s music scene, and are very proud to be a part of WuFest.
One thing that was very apparent this past weekend is that WuFest is more than just a festival celebrating local arts and culture. It’s about bringing people together, a microcosm of the scene where friends, acquaintances, those who actively participate and those who are new all gather under one roof. That is, the roof of Black Sheep Inn.
Friday night is when things all got started, and after a little mixup with the party bus, everything got sorted out and about 20 of us were on our way. Black Sheep is one of my favourite venues, for obvious reasons. It’s a family-run establishment that curates incredible music and harbours some of Canada’s best acts. Furthermore, the sound is impeccable. Every time I go to see a show there, I’m blown away at how incredible the waves of noise sound when hitting my eardrums. Props to Mike Dubue who really made our experience this past weekend that much better by coordinating all the audio for bands and making it sound just right. Much thanks to Kelly and Paul Symes for making this whole thing possible!
The first act of the fest was Moonfruits, an adorable local duet comprised of Alex Millaire and Kaitlin Milroy. They mentioned that the first time they played together in front of people as Moonfruits was at one of the 4in1 Sessions that Ming put together, so there was a genuine Wu connection there. I hadn’t heard much of their music before, but I had seen Alex Millaire solo in years past and was fully aware of the incredible technical skills he possesses.
Moonfruits did not disappoint, as they captured the love of the crowd right away. Playing songs in French and English, the duet serenaded us throughout their entire set. Their music was folky, but with a twist. The dynamic between Alex and Kaitlin was perfect, and one could instantly discern how much chemistry was at work here. What I liked most was that neither one overpowered the other – it was a balanced and orchestrated performance that mixed technical instrumentation with equally complex vocal arrangements. The band opened with “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” which turned out to be a spectacular rendition of the Talking Heads song that we all know and love. They certainly did it justice. To top it all off, they ended with “Enjoy Yourself,” a song written by Guy Lombardo which was later covered by ska acts such as Prince Buster and The Specials.
Ming had some prints for sale up on a board at the back, some of which were his most notable shots. They included photos of Silkken Laumann, The White Wires playing a house show, Rich Aucoin at Cafe Dekcuf, and more.
The second and final act on Friday night was AroarA, from Montreal. AroarA is another duet comprised of two incredibly talented musicians who also happen to be husband and wife. Andrew Whiteman is a former guitarist in Broken Social Scene, and played a major role in creating some of BSS’s best music. Their 2013 album In The Pines is named after a book of the same title by American poet Alice Notely. The book, which contains 14 poems about a woman going through Hepatitis C treatment, is the basis for the 14 songs on their original EP and In The Pines LP.
This is very unorthodox, but an intriguing way of bridging music and poetry. After all, they aren’t so far apart. Their music is beautifully composed and each song is given a number instead of a song name. Their music jumps from being delicate and atmospheric (“#3”) to being explosive and intense (“#12”) and everything in between. Messing around with experimentalism has served them well, as AroarA explodes into melodic and invigorating songs that push the limits of folk and pop as we know it. I can honestly say that I enjoyed every single song that they played (so much so that I couldn’t help but buy the last vinyl that they had for sale). I was completely enthralled by Ariel’s vocals – her voice enchanted and seduced us all. Her powerful, and at times raspy, voice added another dimension to AroarA’s performance, particularly since the sound in the room accommodated it so well. Although Andrew didn’t sing as much, when he did his voice complimented Ariel’s in just the right way. His instrumentals were intricate and brilliant, as one would expect. I definitely suggest catching AroarA next time they’re in town, as their live show is something to behold.
As the night wrapped up, we all got on the bus and made our way back to Ottawa from Wakefield. We all began belting out songs spontaneously, making the yellow schoolbus our stage. We all sang together, as one. Bangers such as Enrique Iglesias’s “Bailamos,” Billy Joel’s “The Longest Time,” and Bryan Adams’s “Summer of ’69” were sung, as well as the most epic performance of the night – Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. It was like we were all in Wayne’s World, except in a school bus instead of the mirth-mobile. Phil Castiglione, a.k.a. Robots!Everywhere!! and also in The Steamers, treated us to a few of his songs like “Ottawa Explosion” and that we all sang with passion and conviction.
The weekend portion of this year’s Arboretum Arts Festival took place in Waller Park at Arts Court, and there was even more going on than last year. Walking in, one was overcome with alluring sensory experiences. The setup was fairly similar to last year’s edition but with more art installations, a backyard BBQ, a myriad of food options, and visibly more folks excited about coming together to celebrate the occasion.
Eric and I both made an observation that was very heartwarming and exciting at the same time: the majority of people out at the festival were ones which we had not seen at shows before. This is a big deal. That means more people are hearing about these little pockets of Ottawa and involving themselves. Hell, a lot of them even brought their kids and they were dancing. You know that something is going right at Arboretum Festival when you see newly-bipedal children dancing their diapers off to punk rockers like Steve Adamyk Band (with ear protection, of course).
Jon Schofield & Jon Bennett of The Yips. (Photo: Jeff Watkins)
After old friends and new friends shared a few laughs and consumed a few local brews, Ottawa’s own The Yips took the stage. It was Halloween in the summer, with rave ghosts out in full force getting some sun. I only got there near the end of their set, which was a bummer because they are still one of my favourite bands all around in town. Their crunchy and unforgiving sound is aggressive to a point, and then pulls back at key points. Zach and Jonny’s guitars thrive off of each other, unfurling a mysterious and piercing equilibrium that many bands can only dream of. Kurt’s ferocious bass works in the same way as Jon Bennett’s drumming – potent, unrelentless, and absorbing. Let’s all have a séance!
Mike Dubue of Hilotrons. (Photo: Jeff Watkins)
Hilotrons were next and impressed everyone at the festival immediately. I am not as familiar with Hilotrons as most Ottawa-born music-lovers, mostly because I moved here after they released some of their biggest albums. I quickly discovered that Mike Dubue is a pretty incredible songwriter and composer, albeit an eternally mysterious character. In any case, he really let loose at Arboretum and was definitely in his element. This time around Hilotrons were composed of a few other familiar faces in the scene – Adam Saikaley on keys, guitarist Alex Moxon, as well as Phillippe Charbonneau and Pascal Delaquis drumming. Honestly, I cannot believe how these guys play in so many bands and know how to play so many instruments! Along with Dubue, this Hilotrons incarnation had people moving around lots with permanent smiles on their faces. The set was diverse in sound, ranging from eclectic experimental noises to a full-out dub/reggae banger. Some bands sound the same throughout their whole career, and part of Hilotrons’s appeal is never knowing what is coming next. A choice addition to the evening and a perfect prelude to Kevin Drew.
Kevin Drew, the main man behind the beloved Canadian art-rock music collective Broken Social Scene, was the headliner of the night. The mood was set and glimmering lights were everywhere, with a cool breeze making the night that much more enjoyable. Before the band came on, Arboretum co-founder and artistic director Rolf Klausener introduced the band by telling a nice story about how Kevin Drew helped to disseminate The Acorn‘s first record to all the cool kids.
For those expecting the explosiveness and immensity of what BSS puts forth, Kevin Drew isn’t trying to fool anyone into jumping on his bandwagon. I liked this album because it sounds like Kevin Drew – slightly twisted with inescapable arrangements and songwriting that bleeds the words “fuck you, this is what I am.” However, Darlings is not as audibly dense and does not contain any hidden messages. With song titles like “Good Sex,” “Body Butter,” and “Mexican Aftershow Party,” Drew doesn’t try to obscure his intentions with the album in any way. It’s an album about developing strong bonds and connections, with people, with music.
On stage, Drew was joined by some familiar collaborators like Ohad Benchetrit of Years and also BSS, and Dean Stone of Apostle of Hustle. Also joining him was Charles Spearin, with whom he started KC Accidental that inevitably led to the genesis of BSS. Almost immediately, the energy was flowing from the stage as they played “You In Your Were,” a song that boasts Leslie Feist’s vocals on the record (having her join Drew on stage was just dream, of course, but one has to dream).
Drew paused momentarily to express how great he thought the festival was, and admired his surroundings. I should also mention that he would return with BSS in the future, a promise that all of us here in Ottawa will hold him to, I’m sure.
Kevin Drew. (Photo: Jeff Watkins)
During “Mexican Aftershow Party,” a group of happy dancers from the happy moshpit busted out some sparklers and lit them, creating a really beautiful view for the rest of us. We were also treated to Ohad’s version of “Sea of Love” by Phil Phillips, a rendition that demonstrated just how talented he is and completely left the crowd in awe. Drew also reached into the past to play other incredible compositions such as “Anorexic He-Man” from his pre-Y2K KC Accidental days.
The set only grew stronger as it went on. Nearing the end, he played stripped-down versions of the BSS tracks “Lover’s Spit” off 2002’s You Forgot it in People (which he conceded included lyrics alluding to masturbation) and “Superconnected” from their 2005 self-titled release.The renditions were surreal, almost as if we were getting a private show and hearing songs played like this for the first time. The crowd was belting out the words and melody, and while perfection was far off, Drew seemed to really enjoy having everyone join in. They ended prematurely and realized that they still needed to play for half an hour, so they teased us with a bit of Queen before launching into an all-out stage jam. Yes, they made up an incredible untitled song just for us Ottawans. Deal with it! The night ended with the smooth and sexy song “It’s Cool,” and we all released ourselves from the grip of an alluring Friday night at Arboretum Arts Festival.
Just remember. We as a community have an obligation to hold Kevin Drew to his word. Broken Social Scene at ARB 2015, okay?
The Arboretum Festival, Ottawa’s new music and cultural showcase has done it again. They assembled another great line-up full of some of my favourite local bands (Steve Adamyk, The Yips, New Swears, Pony Girl…) and great out of town talent. What is most exciting, is that this is only the first round of announcements.
The festival takes place outdoors August 18 to 23 on the historic grounds of downtown Ottawa’s Arts Court. But the ever growing festival is also expanding region-wide to include programming in over a dozen venues, clubs and restaurants around Ottawa-Gatineau.
Take a look below and have a listen to all the wonderful talent coming to the Arboretum Festival this year.
Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene posted a video for “Good Sex”, the first single off of his upcoming solo album Darlings. According to Pitchfork, Drew put out a “call for couples to appear in his new video ‘engaged in passionate and intimate sexual moments’ and ‘in various states of undress.’ He explained, ‘I’m looking for real couples to come make out on camera for the greater good of vulnerability.’ ” Not only is the song great, but it’s really refreshing to see real couples (not actors) of all types expressing genuine passion for one another. Plus, who doesn’t like super sexy NSFW music videos? It fits the song perfectly. Read more here.