Big festivals can be pretty overwhelming, and seeing as how Ottawa Bluesfest is one of the largest in North America, it is no exception. One of the best parts about music festivals, in our opinion, is that you get a chance to learn about some really great artists that you may not have heard about before. Yes, the huge headliners are an obvious draw. But don’t underestimate the potential for smaller, lesser-known acts to blow you out of your seat. For the last few years we’ve provided some of our picks for you to check out, and we’ve done it again this year. So strap yourselves in and get ready for some of this year’s non-local talent at Bluesfest.

If you haven’t gotten your passes yet, find more information here.


PUP

Thu, July 14, 6:00PM
Monster Energy Stage

PUP at Gabba Hey in Ottawa, 2013 (Photo by Ming Wu / Photogmusic)

PUP is without a doubt one of the most energetic and frenetic live shows you can see. This four piece punk ensemble just released one of the best albums of the year, The Dream Is Over, which is fuelled by non-stop touring, partying, and hanging with your friends. If you love beer, catchy riffs, and unapologetic lyrics, PUP are not to be missed. Be warned – there will probably be a rather raucous mosh pit and crowd surfing during their set. (Photo by Ming Wu / Photogmusic)

 

Alessia Cara

Wed, July 13, 7:00PM
City Stage

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Canadian pop-R&B singer Alessia Cara is a young artist that is heating up on the charts nationally. Her recent fame is purely a result of her talent, as she would consistently upload acoustic songs from a number of genres on YouTube over the last several years. Eventually she started turning some heads and has exploded into the industry with her songs “Here” and “Wild Things.” Cara’s potential is undeniable and unlimited, and she is certainly an artist to keep an eye on.

 

Pierre Kwenders

Wed, July 13, 6:00PM
Black Sheep Stage

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Pierre Kwenders is a Congolese-Canadian musician that is on the forefront of fusing musical genres in Canada. Kwenders sings in English, French, Lingala and Tshiluba, and is often cited as a modern spokesperson for Africa, blending traditional African music and beats with hip hop, electronic and pop to create a truly unique sound that is catchy as hell. He has been nominated for World Album of the Year at the Junos, and also has a Polaris Prize nomination under his belt. Kwenders’ music is infectious. You’ve been warned.

 

Coeur de Pirate

Fri, July 8, 7:00 PM
City Stage

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Béatrice Martin is an amazing talent with an incredible voice. Whether you understand French or not, Coeur de Pirate’s music knows no boundaries and its sheer beauty and honesty will make you melt. It is also important to note that her latest album features English songs if you needed a little more convincing. (ES)

 

Half Moon Run

Wed, July 13, 9:30PM
Black Sheep Stage

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Now based in Montréal, this band hails both from BC and Ontario and can really get a crowd moving. If you love dancing to the sounds of indie rock or swaying side to side to finger picking over the sound of driving drums these gentlemen are perfect for you. What is really fascinating about their live performance is the number of instruments each member plays during a set, especially when several members take to percussions all at once. (ES)

 

Wolf Parade

Sat, July 16, 9:00PM
Monster Energy Stage

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When Montreal’s Wolf Parade went on an indefinite hiatus in 2010, it was like a knife through the heart for many of us die-hard fans out there. Would they ever get back together? Would they leave us hanging forever? Well, the answer is “no.” Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug have both been hard at work with multiple other projects in the last several years, keeping their instruments warm for the Wolf Parade reunion announced in early 2016. This seminal Canadian indie band is not to be missed, and absolutely rip on stage. Oh yeah – they’re recording new music, too.

 

The Tallest Man on Earth

Fri, July 8, 9:00PM
Monster Energy Stage

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When it comes to soulful, poetic folk music, there are few that do it better than Kristian Matsson a.k.a. The Tallest Man On Earth. Many have compared his unique style to that of Bob Dylan, and it might seem strange that a Swedish singer-songwriter has internalized and been influenced by the Americana folk tradition so deeply. But don’t be fooled into thinking he’s trying to mimic something that he’s not – Matsson’s music is in a league of its own. If you love intricate guitar, beautiful storytelling, and music that hits you at the core, The Tallest Man On Earth is your jam.

 

Skratch Bastid

Thu, July 7, 11:30 PM
Casino du Lac-Leamy Free Programming

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Okay, let’s mix it up here a bit (pun intended). Halifax’s Paul Murphy, known by the stage name Skratch Bastid, is one of Canada’s illest and most respected DJs and producers. He has gained international attention for his lightning fast hands, high-level collaborations, and sharp ear, playing an average of 200 shows per year and touring everywhere from Southeast Asia to Brazil. After all of this, you’d think that his energy level would dip a bit, but you can expect an all-out party at every single show of his.

 

Holy Fuck

Sat, July 16, 8:00 PM
Black Sheep Stage

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You’ve never heard anything like this before. Toronto’s Holy Fuck technically makes electronic music, if we have to reduce them to a genre. But they do it without all the looping and pre-programmed jargon that goes along with that kind of music. They’re a band, and they play music that refuses to be constrained by any specific “sound.” Refusing to use laptops or backing tracks, Holy Fuck creates an undeniably memorable live experience by using all kinds of instruments (and some other objects) to recreate electronic-sounding textures, rhythms, arrangements, and noises. They have been nominated for a Juno and shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize.

 

Champion and His G Strings

Thu, July 14, 11:30 PM
Casino du Lac-Leamy Free Programming

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DJ Champion has been involved in the Montreal music scene for the better part of two decades, and is showing no signs of slowing down. Maxime Morin’s appreciation for all kinds of music is reflected in his own work, as he embraces everything from pop and rock to soul and electronica. This is eclecticism at its finest, and it is sure to get you up and moving in no time.


For full festival line-up, click here.

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