Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Countdown to Osheaga: Alt-J

Two more days until Osheaga. That's right, people. Brace yourselves...

Who I'm REALLY excited to see: Alt-J.

If you have not yet checked out this group, do it now! I am not kidding... This British band has been making waves since their debut album was released last year, and rightly so. "An Awesome Wave" is a phenomenal album. I'm just sad I wanted so long to get my hands on it.

After one listen, I was hooked. Completely hooked. There isn't one track on the album that I don't like. Yeah it's THAT good...

I have a hard time figuring out exactly what style of music Alt-J is... Pop? Electronic? Trip Hop? Who knows... All I know is that it sounds great. This is the band that I am most looking forward to checking out at Osheaga on Friday.

Check out the video below for Breezeblocks, which is a great video and an even better song! Enjoy!

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Countdown to Osheaga: Ellie Goulding

Who's ready for Osheaga? Only 3 days left!

Who I'm excited to see: Ellie Goulding.

I was looking forward to seeing her live in Montreal last January. Unfortunately, something happened suddenly that prevented me from going to the show.

I've been listening to Goulding's latest album "Halcyon" non stop for months. Lately, I've been listening to it a lot while I go running. It's the perfect blend of pop and electronic music. Also, this girl's vocals are fantastic!

Although I've heard that Goulding's live performances are either hit or miss, I'm still excited to see her set at Osheaga.

Check out Goulding's cover of Alt-J's "Tessellate". The song is stunning and so is the video. Enjoy!

Board Games & Beyond

Originally published on Couch Assassin.

Do you like board games? Of course you do. Well, Ottawa, you’re in luck because Monopolatte is in town.

Monopolatte is Ottawa's only board game café. According to CEO David Narbaitz, the city was lacking a place to play board games that was inviting to new people. “There are a lot of places to play board games but they tend to be in the basement of comic book shops and they’re not exactly open to first time board gamers,” said Narbaitz. “I wanted to create [that] space.”

Bringing his idea to life was not as easy as Narbaitz expected. It took a year to find the ideal location for Monopolatte, and then it took another year to renovate the space. “Because the space was classified a residence, and not a commercial space, we had to deal with the City of Ottawa in order to reclassify the space,” explained Narbaitz. The initial plan was to open in the Fall of 2012, but the reclassification process took seven months. After a long wait, Monopolatte finally opened its door on June 18th.

Monopolatte's collection of board games began with Narbaitz’ personal collection of 150 games. It now includes over 720 board games. Narbaitz has traveled and hit up every Value Village from Ottawa to Toronto to stock up on games. He also attended the Great Glebe Garage Sale for a few years. Overall, the hunt for all these board games took between 2 to 3 years. As for the newly released board games, Narbaitz buys them new.

Other than board games, Monopolatte offers food and coffee as well as other drinks. "We do have people who don't play board games who just come for the food, so that's a good sign,” shared Narbaitz. The cafe will soon serve alcohol.

Patrons must pay a $5 cover charge to participate in the fun. "Where other restaurants make money by turning tables quickly, we can have a table that stays here for five hours," explained Narbaitz. "This helps cover some of the costs, including acquiring new games, and having staff available to teach the patrons the rules of the games." Monopolatte currently has nine staff members, with up to four employees working during busy evenings.

After being in business for over a month, Narbaitz has noticed a trend. "As of now, the cafe is busier between 6:30pm to 9:30pm," he said. "During the day, it's quieter." Narbaitz explained that it's good to have fewer tables during the day. "We have more time to sit down with [patrons] and teach them a more difficult board game that could take 20 minutes to explain. Unfortunately, that's not the type of individual care that we can give every table during the busy times. During that time, we get to explain the shorter games that might take five minutes to explain."

On Tuesdays, Monopolatte hosts a special event called Beats and Boards, where a DJ sets up in the cafe while people play board games. The event is in conjunction with Raw Sugar Café, who have been hosting this event for a while. Both locations have a different DJ and a different set of games. "We also plan to do other events in the future," shared Narbaitz.

Some of the more popular games include Cards Against Humanity, King of Tokyo, Tsuro and, of course, Settlers of Catan. Settlers of Catan is not your thing? Don't worry. According to Narbaitz, Monopolatte will have a game for everyone. "Anyone can come in and find something in the collection that they like," he said.

Be sure check out Monopolatte, located at 640 Sommerset Street West.


Beats & Boards
Every Tuesday 6pm to 11pm
Monopolatte & Raw Sugar Café

Image by Nathalie Freynet

Monday, 29 July 2013

Countdown to Osheaga: Two Door Cinema Club

The countdown is on! I'll be heading out to Osheaga in 4 days and I am really excited!

Because the lineup was not as good as I anticipated, I decided to only buy a day pass for Friday, seeing as 99% of the bands I wanted to see are playing on that day.

Who I'm excited to see: Two Door Cinema Club.

I discovered Two Door Cinema Club about two years ago. My best friend was absolutely obsessed with the band, and she said I would probably enjoy it. She was right!

The indie rock from Ireland has a bit of a pop flavour to their sound. Their debut album "Tourist History" was released in 2010 followed by their second LP "Beacon", which was released last year. Although "Tourist History" is a great album, I am absolutely obsessed with "Beacon". I've been listening to it non stop for a few months now. The album is definitely worth checking out. I can't wait for their set at Osheaga!

Here's the video for my favourite song "Handshake", off the album "Beacon". Enjoy!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Announced: New Agnes Obel Album

Yesterday on Twitter, I found out that Danish singer/songwriter Agnes Obel will be releasing her second album this Fall. The new album, entitled "Aventine", will be available on September 30th. This is a follow up to her debut album "Philharmonics", which was released in the Fall of 2010.

Agnes Obel appeared on my radar a while ago after I heard her cover of the song "Close Watch" on Perez Hilton (I know, I know...). Her version of this song was absolutely breathtaking and I was hooked!

Her voice is beautiful yet raw and her sound is a bit dark and vulnerable. Her voice along with the piano is pure perfection. Also, she is absolutely stunning! I can't wait for the new album. In the meantime, check out the video for "Riverside" below. Enjoy!

Monday, 22 July 2013

Review: Groenland @ Mavericks

I like being wowed when I go see shows. And I was very wowed when I went to Mavericks last night to check out Groenland.

Last week, my friend Elly invited me to go to the show the same day I stumbled upon the band's poster. When I saw it, I remember thinking: "I should go see this. I would probably like it."

I headed to Cafe Dekcuf to find that the show had been moved to Mavericks. Great news, seeing as this venue is more spacious than Dekcuf.

The opening act was the Orienteers, a local band. I really enjoyed their quiet, melodic sound. It reminded me of Raised by Swans, a band from London, Ontario that I really enjoy. The sound of the lap guitar added so much electricity to the music, I loved it. The only thing I did not like is that the crowd was loud and it was distracting during the Orienteers' set. I can't wait to catch these guys play live again soon.

Photo: Cindy Boyce
Then it was time for Groenland. There was quite a bit of people for a Sunday night show. From the looks of it, many friends and family members of the group were in attendance. It felt like a homecoming of sorts. Also, the band announced that this was the last show of their tour.

Hailing from Montreal, the band is comprised of six members. Luckily the venue was changed because I highly doubt all those people would have fit on the tiny stage at Cafe Dekcuf. Also, I should add that all the members are equally talented and charming, not a bad combination.

The group played music mostly from their first LP "The Chase". Their style of indie pop is fun and whimsical - you can't help but dance! I love seeing musicians having a blast playing together on stage, and this was definitely the case. I especially love that there was both a violin and cello. This added so much depth to the music.

Be sure to check out Groenland when they play Osheaga on August 3rd. Check out their really fun video for "The Thing I've Done" below. Admit it, you really want to party with them too!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Bluesfest: Day 11

Sunday, the last day of Bluesfest. Finally! As much as I enjoyed seeing the many live shows, I was ready to get back to my real life and rest up.

After my very last volunteer shift, I headed to the River Stage to catch Monkey Junk. The Ottawa group won a Juno last year for Blues Album of the Year and have been getting lots of praise in the Canadian music scene.

Afterwards, we walked back to the Claridge Stage where J.W. Jones was playing. We only stayed for 3 or 4 songs before we headed back to the main stage for a prime spot for the next show: Alice in Chains.

Now, I wouldn't call myself a fan of Alice in Chains. The only reason I went to check out the show was because of my partner, who is a big fan. I did know some of their material but I hadn't given the band much of a chance. Well, that definitely changed after seeing them live. Wow!

The group put on a great show with lots of energy. They played a lot of older material, especially from their second album "Dirt". They also played songs from their latest album "The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here", released back in May.

Then I hurried back to the Claridge stage for the lovely Serena Ryder. As you know, I am a huge fan of her latest album "Harmony". I was really bummed to have missed her show last Winter at Mavericks so this was time for redemption.

Ryder was in a great mood and seemed genuinely excited to be playing. She interacted a lot with the crowd, and shared many of her experiences with the audience, including her battle of depression. I really appreciate when artists allow themselves to be vulnerable and share some of their struggles with the world, especially mental health issues.

Her setlist including many songs off "Harmony", including "Fall", "For You", "Heavy Love", "Baby Come Back", "Mary Go Round" and "What I Wouldn't Do", my favourite song of the album. She finished her set with "Stompa", which the crowd really enjoyed.

Afterwards, Yukon Blonde was playing at the main stage. I had seen these guys at last year's Folkfest and they are really good. I checked out a few songs, before venturing to the River Stage to catch Los Lonely Boys. They started their set with a wicked cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child". Unfortunately, we decided not to stay there long, and headed towards the Claridge Stage in an attempt to see B.B. King.

The keyword here is attempt. We attempted to get to the Claridge Stage. However, no one could get to the Claridge Stage because there were so many people squeezed into a significantly small space. First, not putting a legendary blues artist on  the main stage was a huge mistake. All of the entrances and exits were blocked, and people were not moving. A huge safety hazard!

I was starting to feel claustrophobic so we (eventually) left and stood behind the gates. We stayed for one or two songs but then we just left. The show was already ruined in our minds so there was no need to stick around. 


Overall, I think that this year's Bluesfest ended on more of a sour note. As a event planner, I absolutely hate when important logistical details are overlooked. I hate it even more when they are not addressed afterwards. However, this year's festival had some great shows but a lot of technical issues (especially sound issues), which really unfortunately for one of North America's best music festival.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Bluesfest: Day 10

The last week-end of Bluesfest! I thought it would never come... Believe me when I say that working full-time, going to shows and blogging about it (all while battling a cold) is exhausting.

Saturday, I completed a volunteer shift then hurried over to the main stage to catch Half Moon Run. I had heard great things about the group, but never had the opportunity to listen to their material. I also knew of them because they supported Metric on their tour last year. Man, was I ever blown away! These guys are beyond energetic and sounded fantastic. The crowd absolutely loved them and with good reason. I can't wait to catch these guys in action again.

Then it was time for Imaginary Cities on the Claridge Stage. I had heard of the group before, and I was expecting some electronic music. The sound was not quite what I was expecting but the group was good. It was more indie pop than electro. The group, from Winnipeg, is just starting out but is doing very well. I expect we'll be hearing more about this band in no time.

Seeing as I was flying solo at the time, I decided to venture to other stages to see what was happening. I was lucky to stop by the River Stage and see the Dardanelles. These musicians are from Newfoundland and their music has a very traditional East Coast sound. I love it! It reminds me of home. The crowd gathered at the stage was having a blast and dancing in the sun.

One of my most anticipated shows of the festival was Austra. I saw the group perform at last year's Osheaga (and later ran into lead singer Katie Stelmanis on St. Catherine Street) and I absolutely love their music. I am a huge fan of their first album "Feel It Break" and their second album "Olympia" is getting a lot of buzz since its release in June.

The group played a mix of new and old songs, including "Lose it", "The Choke", "The Beat and the Pulse", "Forgive Me", "Home" and "Painful Like". The crowd was having a blast!

Check out Austra's latest video for the song "Painful Like".

Then Death Grips took over the main stage, and it was like being hit by a train. A loud, aggressive train. The group is comprised of one DJ and one MC. Both look scary and terrifying. At some point, I was frightened. A friend of mine described the sound as "Dubstep Death Metal", which I think is very fitting for what it was. I didn't dislike the music. I found the concept interesting. However, it was way too loud, and the group was not a good fit for the festival (in my opinion).

Then, it was back at the Claridge Stage for Stars, who I had missed at the Arts & Craft Field Trip. I wouldn't consider myself a huge fan of the group, but I do enjoy their music. Their performance was fantastic and I think I may have become a bigger fan after their set. Seriously, these guys put everything into their live shows. You can't help but love them!

Ra Ra Riot is another band that I missed at Field Trip so I definitely wanted to catch part of their set at Bluesfest. Before I headed home, I stopped by the River Stage where they were playing. Their sound totally surprised me. I was thinking it would be a much sound but it was . Also, I was not expecting a violin and a cello on stage.

The headliner of the evening was Bjork. Honestly, I never really listened to her music so I had no intention of seeing the show. I did stop by the main stage for 2-3 songs. Bjork sounded absolutely amazing! Based on what I heard, she put on a great performance and her set was one of the festival highlights this year.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Bluesfest: Day 9

Friday night was a beautiful day. The weather was perfect for an evening at Bluesfest. First thing we did when we arrived to Lebreton Flats was head over to the River stage to catch Loon Choir. The Ottawa group has been making waves in the city, especially within the last year. I've seen them perform a handful of times, and they are great. I was lucky enough to interview the band for a piece I wrote for Couch Assassin last Winter.

Me, G & our lovely nieces at the River Stage
My main reason for attending Bluesfest that night was to check out Matthew Good. Those who follow my blog know how much I love Matt Good. I've seen him live probably close to 8 times (so far...), and his music has played a huge role in my life. One of his live shows even inspired me to get a huge tattoo last summer.

His setlist was almost exactly the same as his performance at Bluesfest in 2010 but I didn't care. One song I did not expect to hear was "Non Populous" from his last album "Lights of Endangered Species". Such a beautiful song, and it lasts over 8 minutes. He also played two new songs that he released  on his website last May. His new album "Arrows of Desire" will be released on September 24th. I can't wait! You can check out my French review of the show here.

After Matt Good, my partner and I met up with a friend of mine and her two adorable kids. We walked around Bluesfest, and made our way to the River Stage, where the little one danced to the music of TJ Wheeler and Friends. Adorable!  

Great Big Sea was the big headliner of the evening. However, I wasn't interested in seeing them play so we went to the Barney Danson Theatre to check out Trampled Under Foot. I'm so happy we did.

These three siblings are from Kansas City, and play straight up blues and rock music. They are phenomenal! Seriously... The sister, who plays bass and guitar, has an amazing voice and great stage presence. The two brothers (one plays guitar, the other the drums) are also talented as well. I really love the idea of sibblings playing music together. Also, their band name is based on a Led Zeppelin song. How badass is that! Check them out below.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Bluesfest: Day 8

On Thursday, I was officially on assignment for Sors-tu and I had a lot of bands to cover at Bluesfest.

When we arrived on site, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion was rocking out on the main stage. Although the band has the word "blues" in its name, it sounded more hard rock to me. The group was somewhat entertaining, and it seems like frontman Jon Spencer had a bit of A.D.D. I applaud his dedication to this music, but after a while, it just became a bit too much. Also, screaming the word "blues" in the mic does not make your music more blues!

Then we headed to the Claridge Stage to check out LP. I discovered this singer/songwriter at last year's Folkfest and I absolutely love her! A tiny Bob Dylan lookalike, she came out on stage, rocking the ukulele. Not only is she super adorable, her voice is out of this world! Definitely worth checking out. The crowd was showing her lots of love. A fan even gave her a painting and a bouquet of flowers.

LP was playing for four other musicians, and she said this was their first time playing together as a band, which was quite surprising. These guys have such a great synergy and they seem to really enjoy playing together. She played some of her older material as well as some new songs. If you ever get the chance,

Finally, it was time for the Tragically Hip, whom I had never seen live before. I wasn't sure what to expect but these guys were on fire. There was so much energy coming from the stage! Gordon Downie was a madman. His stage presence is so weird and corky... I honestly thought he was intoxicated. Nope... Turns out that's just his thing. It was really entertaining!

The group played hits like "Poets", "Bobcageon", "Ahead by a Century" and "Courage". The crowd was energetic and happy, and the weather was perfect.

Before we left, we stopped by the River Stage to see Kenny Wayne Shepherd, an up and coming blues guitarist. I had never heard of him but my partner had. This guy is amazing! There's a lot of hype around this guy, and for good reason. Apparently, this guy has played on stage with Stevie Ray Vaughan and people have said he's the next B.B. King or Eric Clapton. Pretty remarkable accolades.
He did perform a wicked cover of Jimi Hendrix "Voodoo Child".

See my French review of the shows here.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Bluesfest: Day 7

There was no programming on Day 6 of Bluesfest, which was a much-needed break for everyone. The next day, I returned to Lebreton Flats for my most anticipated day of Bluesfest.

First, I was able to catch a bit of Animal Collective on the main stage. I was really impressed! I really enjoyed the experimental/psychedelic sound of the group and the crowd was really into it! There was even a bunch of people dressed up in animal costumes. Love it!

** It was announced the next day that Animal Collective had cancelled the remaining of their July tour dates due to an illness. Therefore, Ottawa was pretty lucky to get to see the group!

Afterwards, it was time for Solange, who was playing to a nice crowd at the River Stage. The singer looked stunning in lovely red dress, giant hat and long braids. From the beginning, you could tell the sound was way off. Everyone could tell, especially Solange. Many times during her set, she apologized for the sound. A source told me that she told the audience that this was the worst sound guy she had ever worked with. She was apparently so fed up, she finished her set earlier than scheduled.

Passion Pit was playing at the River Stage, which I was excited about, seeing as that stage is my favourite. However, with the sound issues during Solange's performance, I was really hoping that the techs would have figured out the issue. Unfortunately, the sound wasn't much better for Passion Pit.

The show started off strong with "The Reeling". The group played songs from their latest album, including "I'll be Alright", "Carried Away", "Take a Walk", "Constant Conversations" and "It's Not My Fault, I'm Happy". 

This was my fourth time seeing Passion Pit, and I am a huge fan. However, this was my least favourite performance of them that I've seen (out of the four shows I've seen). Not that the group didn't give a good performance (because they did), but the sound and the crowd weren't great, and that counts for a lot. Also, their show at Osheaga last year was so fantastic, it's hard to beat.

I was hoping to catch a bit of A Tribe Called Red, but I was only able to catch one song. However, there was a big crowd gathered at the Blacksheep Stage to catch the hometown boys in action.

Overall, Wednesday was more of a disappointment for me, although I'm happy I discovered Animal Collective.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Bluesfest: Day 4

Sunday was a big day for me at Bluesfest. At least it was supposed to be until I got sick.

I headed out to Bluefest early Sunday morning for my volunteer shift. I wasn't feeling well, but I assumed it would pass. After an hour, it became clear that I wasn't going to feel better anytime soon.

After my volunteer shift, I headed home and slept for about three hours. I woke up, ate some soup, then put on my rain boots, and headed back to Bluesfest. I probably should have stayed in bed but nothing was going to prevent me from seeing Tegan and Sara. Their latest album "Heartthrob" is fantastic and I've been listening to it obsessively for months.

The ladies started their set with "Drove me Wild" followed by "Goodbye, Goodbye", one of my favourite songs off the latest album.

They played many songs from "Heartthrob", including "How Come You Don't Want Me", "I Was a Fool", "Shock to Your System" and "I Couldn't Be Your Friend".  They also played some of their older material, including "Call It Off" and "Back in Your Head".

They finished their set with "I Feel it in My Bones" and "Closer".

The twin sisters are absolutely charming and they interacted with the audience a lot. They seemed happy to be playing at Bluesfest.

Overall, a great performance that was worth getting out of bed for.

Some of the acts I missed include Everlast, the Joy Formidable and Hannah Georgas. I was also looking forward to checking out Her Harbour and Dynamite Motel, who were both playing in the afternoon in the Barney Danson Theatre.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Bluesfest - Day 2 + Day 3

On Day 2 of Bluesfest, I did some volunteering and went home. There was nothing on the schedule that particularly interested me so I decided to catch up on some much-needed sleep.

On Day 3, after two volunteer shifts, I headed to the Claridge Stage to check out Fitz & the Tantrum. Usual scenario: I had heard of the band yet I had not previously heard their music. Despite not knowing what to expect, I was really looking forward to seeing the band. Verdict: I was really impressed! The group sounded fantastic. Frontman Michael Fitzpatrick and frontwoman Noelle Scaggs are electric on stage; they have great chemistry. Their music is a great blend of pop and soul.

Then, it was time to see Neko Case at the Bell Stage. This is one of the performances I was most looking forward to. However, it was a big disappointment. Case sounded great except the sound overall was terrible. You could hear way too much feedback, and it was really frustrating, especially since the American singer/songwriter has such a lovely voice. Despite this, I stayed for the whole performance.

After on the Claridge Stage, Belle & Sebastian took the stage. Although I wasn't quite sure what to expect, they delivered a good performance. It was definitely hard for them to follow Fitz & the Tantrum (especially in terms of stage presence and energy) but they still managed.

Having heard their soundcheck earlier that day, I knew I wanted to see the Dixie Chicks. Judge me all you want, but I went to see the Dixie Chicks and I LOVED their performance! They started their set with "Goodbye Earl". They played all the songs I really enjoy, including "Traveling Soldier", "Cowboy Take Me Away" and "Not Ready to Make Nice". They also performed their cover of "Landslide" from Fleetwood Mac. Overall, a fantastic performance and the ladies sounded fantastic!

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Bluesfest: Day 1

On Thursday, I headed out to Lebreton Flats bright and early for Day 1 of RBC Ottawa Bluesfest.

First, I headed to the River Stage to check out Femi Kuti. I had heard of Femi Kuti but did not know much about him. Apparently, he is the oldest son of Fela Kuti, who was the pioneer of the afrobeat genre. The sound wasn't great at the River Stage but the group of musicians and the dancers were entertaining. I really enjoyed the style of music.

I slowly made my way to the Bell Stage to catch a bit of Jimmy Eat World. I'm not necessarily a fan of the band, but I do like some of their songs ("Drugs or Me" and "23" are both fantastic). I was quite surprised; the band looks and sounds exactly like they did 10-15 years ago! A good crowd had gathered at the stage and you could tell a lot of hardcore fans were back to their 12-year old selves that afternoon.

At 8pm sharp, I went back to the River Stage to check out the Cat Empire. I had heard lots about the group, and I couldn't wait to experience them for myself. All I can say is wow! Not sure what I was expecting, but I wasn't expecting them to blow me away like they did. The group was so energetic, and their sound was rock, ska, and funk all mixed together. A perfect fusion! People in the crowd were happy and dancing. It was perfect summer music.

Finally, the headliners of the evening, the Black Keys. I had attempted to see them at Bluesfest two years ago, and after waiting in the rain for over an hour, I decided to go home. This time, I thought I would check them out and see what all the fuss is about. I like some of their songs but I would not necessarily call myself a fan. As soon as the set began, I just knew this wasn't going to go well. The sound was atrocious... You seriously couldn't hear anything! I couldn't even tell what song they were playing (apparently it was "Howlin' for You"). Many people in the crowd were pissed off (myself included). After three songs, the sound didn't get better so I just left. What a waste!

In the mean time, Alex Clare was playing at the River Stage. I stopped by to check him out although I had never heard of him. Turns out I had heard his song "Too Close" before. Alex Clare has an amazing voice. He reminds me of David Gray. His performance was good, the people seemed happy. His blend of R&B was soothing and relaxing... And with the view at the River Stage, you can't go wrong.

On my way out, I dropped by Adventure Club at the Blacksheep Stage (former Electro Stage), who had create a giant sea of dancing people. The energy at this show was absolutely insane! I stayed for 1-2 songs then headed home but I was really impressed. The dubstep duo, based in Montreal, seemed to have taken the crowd on a high, and they appeared happy to stay there! I hope I get to check out these guys again in the future.

Overall, a strong first day at Bluesfest, with the Cat Empire definitely stealing the show!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

A Look Back: Ottawa Jazz Festival

I like to listen to all kinds of music, but jazz isn't my usual go-to type of music. Five years ago, a friend of mine asked me to volunteer for the Ottawa Jazz Festival. She wanted to volunteer but didn't want to go do by herself. I had volunteered for almost every other festival in the city so she knew that more than likely I would agree to do it. 

I really enjoyed volunteering and seeing shows that year.  When checking out shows at Jazzfest, I never know what to expect, which is a huge part of the fun. I also find that the musicians playing at the Jazzfest are always so talented. At least,

For the last three years, I haven't been going to the festival because of my work commitment with the Ottawa Fringe Festival. I did manage to catch Robert Plant & Band of Joy two years ago (which was phenomenal, by the way). 

This year, Sors-tu asked me to cover a few shows at the festival. Armed with my media pass, I couldn't wait to check out some shows.


On the first night of Jazzfest, I was excited to check out the Heavy and Dr. John & the Nite Trippers. The Heavy were fantastic! This group, from London, England, blends jazz, rock, soul, blues and funk. They are super energetic, and I don't think they were impressed with the huge crowd of lawn chairs. However, by the end of their set, the crowd was off their lawn and on their feet.

Later, Dr. John & the Nite Trippers graced the stage. I had never heard of this group, and had no idea what to expect. The group had a  cool, funky, voodoo New Orleans sound. Although the group wasn't as energetic as the Heavy, their music was still great. See my French review here.

Sunday evening, a large crowd gathered to check out David Byrne & St. Vincent. Although I had low expectations for the show, I was still a bit disappointed with the performance. Both musicians sounded great but their performance was lacking. No energy or real emotion was conveyed. Honestly, their backup musicians stole the show, in my opinion.

Later that evening, I checked out Young Galaxy, who were scheduled to play as part of the After Dark series at the OLG stage. The set started a bit late, due to the fact that thunderstorms delayed the David Byrne & St. Vincent show. However, the wait was worth it! The group played songs from their latest album "Ultramarine", which has been receiving lots of buzz in the last few months (including being shortlisted for this year's Polaris Music Prize). Their setlist included "Pretty Boy", "In Fire", "Hard to Tell", Out the Gate Backwards", "Fall for You", and my favourite song right now, "New Summer". Frontwoman Catherine McCandless was flawless and the group gave a great performance. The sound was less than perfect, but I still enjoyed every second of the show. If you were in attendance, I was the crazy one dancing in the front row, wearing a Metric t-shirt.

On Wednesday, the Doobie Brothers were headlining the festival. The group was replacing Aretha Franklin, who cancelled her appearance due to health issues. I was scheduled to write about Ms. Franklin, but I went out to Jazzfest anyways, although I had no idea who the Doobie Brothers were. At least, I thought I had no idea who they were. Truth is, I have heard lots of their material before (we all have, I bet), but I just didn't know it. They played some of their greatest hits, including "Jesus is Just Alright With Me", "World Gone Crazy" and "Listen to the Music". To be honest, I was really impressed with their performance. The band has been in existence since 1970 and they are still rocking! They sounded fantastic, and I'm thrilled I was able to catch their set. Check out my French review here.

On the last Friday, it was time to check out the Bad Plus. This is the only group that I saw during the festival that played traditional jazz music. The musicians were quite entertaining, especially the drummer, who would would take out random objects to hit his cymbals with them (like a red ball, plastic containers, etc.) Check out my French review here.

Later at the OLG stage, the Herbaliser burned down the house (or tent). I knew a bit about the group, seeing as I had the opportunity to interview bassist/producer Jake Wherry for a piece I wrote for Couch Assassin. The Herbaliser blends several genres of music, including jazz, funk, soul and hip hop. The group has  been playing together for almost 20 years! Watching them play was quite an experience... The group was explosive and the musicians' energy levels were out of this world, especially the brass section. The group had special guests, including MC Ghettosocks and MC Timbuktu, who will be playing some shows with them in other Canadian cities. The crowd went absolutely nuts and the evening soon turned into a giant dance party. It was amazing!

Overall, I am thrilled about my experience at this year's Ottawa Jazz Festival. See you there next year!