Aussies The Little Stevies: Not So Little Anymore

August 30, 2011 8:16 am

The Little Stevies’ lives truly are like a little folk song. This traveling trio from the land down under have not only mastered the laidback strums and effortless harmonies that contribute to that feel-good folk sound, but whether or not they know it, they coincidentally have an upbringing and ongoing narrative that re-assures they are in the right genre.

Sisters Sibylla and Bethany Stephen were blessed with heavenly voices and gusto for performing that might have been influenced by their own Mother and her musician yesteryears. The siblings grew up experimenting with their natural vocal talent – an activity they preferred to do without Mom and Dad hovering around – and now can admit it was probably in their favour that Mom’s former bandmate is the father and dear friend of their current bassist, Robin Geradts-Gill. Continuing the family pastime, the friends grew up close knit and musically curious – perhaps the golden ticket to the delightful and breezy folk harmonies that now make up The Little Stevies’ live performances.

Sisters Sibylla and Bethany Stephen

“It’s wonderful that our parents kept really great friends, and then had babies who were us,” laughs Beth through her charming Aussie accent. “They understood what we were trying to do – whether it was childhood dance routines, choirs or forcing them to be our audience members. They got it.”

The brood of next-generation music spawns picked up their instruments later in life and learned from scratch how to make those heartfelt folk melodies ring from them. “It’s really beneficial to learn with someone, because you actually go through every single step of the process together,” says Beth.

The inexperienced strums and goofy sing-a-longs lead to the official birth of The Little Stevies, a band that now exudes confidence and not an ounce of amateurism after their nearly six years playing stages. Combining their artistic talent with Sibylla’s (or “Byll’s”) music business degree, Robin’s filmmaker background and Beth’s years spent studying music – it seems as if the power trio has all the ingredients to continue their rise to folk fame.

The release of their sophomore album ‘Love Your Band’, which first highlighted the threesome’s cheery lyrics and minimalistic instrumentals, led them to the US for their first dip of the toe in North American music waters. Overwhelmingly positive responses and buzz caused the Stevies to pull out the bigger guns during their second album’s recording session in LA; guns that included uppity melodies, larger percussion, complex harmonies and undeniably catchy concepts.

The album release launched an extensive North American tour that supported stops all throughout the US and Canada, a cross-country drive from Vancouver to Ontario (that came with observations of strange Canadian traffic lights, how often we say “anyway” and the magnificent Rockies), and a multi-festival line-up that included the Ottawa Folk Festival.

“Walking onto the concert grounds, it was just such a big space and we were unsure how we could fill it,” Bethany remarked at the Hog’s Back Park setting, where the band played a live afternoon set and an inviting 25-minute acoustic performance last Saturday evening. “But, it was fantastic to see how at the end of the day we actually did.”

According to Stephen, the festival atmosphere was also a wonderful introduction to meeting other bands, seeing what they do, and discovering new music for their own pleasure.

Ottawa Folk Festival

“The more you play live music, the more you find yourself comparing and thinking about other bands critically as opposed to actually just enjoying them,” says Bethany. “The festival is a great way to sit back, take in and appreciate new things.”

Their sunny and modest demeanor most likely attracts fellow festival musicians to discover and befriend the kindhearted threesome themselves, considering their humble and infectious on-stage presence. Almost constantly exchanging knowing and friendly smiles with each other and the audience throughout a given set, it’s impossible not to fall in love with their impeccable harmonies and bond.

The bond which they call natural after “unconsciously working together and reading each other’s movements” for so many years, is one that comes across as refreshing and genuine in an age of rock star mentality and flash.

Although as we speak the trio is jet-setting back to their homeland for a rest after an album and video release, the storyline of their Australian folk song is certainly not nearing an end. Their “marriage”-like relationship is one that will sustain, despite all of the cutthroat ins and outs of the industry, because they’ve got a sound that grows bigger with every release, and an anything-but-flighty connection. After decades of learning about music and now re-teaching it to the masses, the jolly folk-family will keep singing for whoever will listen, because blood, in this case, is much thicker than fame.

Bayshore opens new Farmer’s Market

August 23, 2011 9:05 am

The freshness factor in Ottawa has hit an all-time high, as one of Ottawa’s leading shopping centres opened a new open-air farmers’ market this month, providing area residents with the very best that Mother Nature has to offer.
Following a tremendously successful opening on Aug. 3, community leaders and shoppers celebrated the new Bayshore Farmers’ Market with an official launch party, complete with live music, buskers, and horse-and-wagon rides.
Bay Ward City Councillor Mark Taylor and Bayshore General Manager Denis Pelletier took part in an official ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Photo by: Sam&Mary Photography

“There are approximately 7,000 people in our immediate neighbourhood who don’t have easy access to a grocery store,” says Pelletier. “This project has answered the call for fresh, local produce and foods.”

The pilot project, over two years in the making, kicked off with over 2,000 shoppers stopping in for freshly picked fruits, vegetables, baked goods, sweets, and local meats.

The Market will be open every Wednesday, from 11am to 6pm, outside the shopping centre, with easy access to transit and free parking. The new project is a satellite location of the Ottawa Farmers’ Market. The group currently operates a similar market in Orleans, with its home base at Lansdowne Park.

For their part, the City of Ottawa is extremely excited to introduce something new to west-end residents. “The response from the residents of Bay Ward has been tremendous,” said Ottawa City, and residents are extremely excited about the project.

Photo by Sam&Mary Photography

Councillor Mark Taylor. “Having access to fresh and nutritious foods close to home has been a priority for our city’s west end residents and, thanks to Bayshore, that’s now become a reality.”
The new market is one of many initiatives in the works at Bayshore. With a number of new stores ready to set up shop, the centre is quickly establishing itself as the premier shopping destination in the city. Perfect timing too, since back to school shopping will now be a one-stop and healthy experience for kids and parents alike.


Ottawa International Film Festival Premieres in Style

August 19, 2011 12:55 pm
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The Ottawa International Film Festival (OIFF) is not a household name – yet. However, judging from its impeccably-organized kick-off party, which took place Wednesday evening at Ottawa’s Gordon Harrison Art Gallery, it may well be heading in that direction. The festival started off with a bang. Party-goers got to witness a preview of the diversity of participants in this year’s event, an enthusiastic and able group of festival organizers, and even a mayoral send-off.

OIFF Premier~photo by Bryan Jones

What better way to legitimize an event, then by an opening speech by the mayor? Ottawa’s mayor elect, Jim Watson, elaborated his well-wishes for the festival, while tying it to his commitment to arts development in the city. Watson oversaw the passing of a financial arts pledge in city council a few weeks ago, and is in the midst of promoting his new-found arts vision for the city – in addition to the already-approved Arts Court renovations and Landsdowne expansion.  He clarified that his wish and commitment is to “support the arts at the local level.”

So where does OIFF fit into that plan? He explained to Ottawa Life Magazine that OIFF “is in its growing stages. We’re not at the same level as TIFF [the Toronto International Film Festival], but [OIFF] is a great opportunity to support the local talent in our nation’s capital.” When further asked why he now seems to be focusing on broader arts funding, he explained that, “While arts funding is often the first thing that gets cut, people should look at it as part of the economic fabric. It attracts jobs, employment, and tourism.”

Mayor Jim Watson with founder of OIFF, Nina Bains

Nina Bains, the festival’s Executive Director – and most fervent fan – rounded out the speeches of the night, thanking the crowd that came out. OIFF’s story really begins with Bains, the initial mastermind behind the festival. Bains had been working at a 9-to-5 government job when her life circumstances changed: she became a single mother after a separation, and met her current partner who, she eagerly explains, “dreams big.” She describes looking back at her days as a film student at Carleton University, and remembers how watching the cult hit Donnie Darko captivated and changed her. This may be the reason behind OIFF’s big attraction this year: Aaron Ryder, the executive producer behind Donnie Darko.

Like many brilliant and too-often-unrealized ideas, the first concoction for the festival came from the ground up – in this case, from a large in-home movie theatre. Bains wanted to have friends over to watch films, and came up with the idea of expanding it to the community. They had their first screening at a community centre on Elgin last year, starting with the 72-Hour Film Challenge. “The response was overwhelming,” Bains exclaims. This time around, things are evolving even beyond what she first imagined: “We’re not just trying to get bigger; the filmmakers are forcing us to get bigger.”

She sees new ideas being inspired out of the coming together of talent, as OIFF provides an arena for local film networking: “What was really interesting was that somebody said ‘I don’t know all these people.’ So I said, ‘This is great, OIFF can bring all these filmmakers together.’”

After Bains gave her thanks to the crowd, the party really began. This was, after all, a celebration. Party favours were distributed, fruit cocktails and delicious blue – the official colour of the festival – martinis were catered, and cheese plates were stacked. Party-goers mingled amongst the paintings, even spilling out onto Sussex Drive. Julie Lan of PopChampagne – Ottawa’s premiere pop blogger – summarized the general mood: “The atmosphere was full of creativity and enthusiasm. It was a pleasant night and I’m thankful to be a part of it.”

Party goodies; all organized by Starfish Events

Meanwhile, the lofty expectations did not end with OIFF organizers. The invite-only crowd saw the coming together of local acting talent, filmmakers, and all the important in-betweens that make up a film crew. Resident filmmaker and general man-about-town Luca Fiore – actor in the 72-Hour Challenge winning Polar Bear Love, and in another local screening, A Sensitive Subject – said he looks forward to “a lot of fun and [his] curiosity to be quenched” during the festival. Ivana Borojevic, Luca’s co-star in Polar Bear Love, echoed Bains’ hopes by being pleasantly surprised at the turnout: “I’m just surprised to see the mayor here, and just how the Ottawa arts community is coming together. It’s for people to be inspired and stay inspired.” Finally, Nicholaus Hillier, the man behind A Sensitive Subject, said that it’s nice to be recognized in one’s home town, having just come back from a showing in Chicago.

Juli Strader, PR OIFF

Another invitee was Kevin Burton, President of Digi60, Ottawa’s original digital film festival. Digi60 is screening several of its 2010 films at OIFF on Saturday. Burton really buys into Bains’ vision, telling Ottawa Life that OIFF rightly encourages collaboration, rather than competition: “OIFF shares our [Digi60] mandate of getting Ottawa filmmakers noticed. I thought, ‘We’re a filmmakers’ festival, they’re a film festival, it’s a good fit.’”

Gathering from general party-goers’ sentiments, it seems that Bains is in the midst of realizing that lifelong dream.

So, what is there to see and do at the actual festival? The festival kicks off with film screenings Thursday, and ends on late Sunday. Highlights include the world premiere of the anticipated local feature Kennyville, which screens on Friday, as well as the Digi60 run of short films and Music Video Challenge, both taking place throughout the weekend. No doubt, the biggest and most international attraction is the alluded-to evening with Hollywood producer Aaron Ryder, taking place on Saturday. Ryder will be presenting two of the most well known films under his production-belt: Memento and Donnie Darko. Make sure to check out the Ottawa Life Magazine blog for updates on all OIFF festivities.

To see a full schedule of events, go to the OIFF website at

Rascal Flatts End Capital Hoedown 2011 on a High Note

August 14, 2011 10:08 pm

Zeus must be a country fan. Despite weather predictions of thunder showers all day on Saturday, the last day of Capital Hoedown saw sunny skies and warm temperatures.

The day began with a performance by the Hoedown Showdown winner, a country band with a rocker edge called Wyatt. Their sound was similar to that of Emerson Drive or Rascal Flatts, and the growing crowd cheered and clapped throughout their set.

After 193,000 votes for over 103 artists, the band was selected by voters as the winner of OURSTAGE.COM’s ‘Capital Hoedown Showdown’ contest. The group, which consists of four members, flew to Ottawa as one of the top three contenders, and took the stage to seal their spot as the selection for the Saturday performance.

The Halifax-based sister duo, The Keats, were the second act of the day, and entertained the crowd with their upbeat tunes. The band has a hint of the twang of classic country acts, and had a great take on the Rankin Family’s ‘Feel the Same Way Too’. They encouraged the audience to sing loudly along with ‘Hey Brad Paisley Won’t You Take Us on Tour’, changing the words midway to cater the lyrics to tonight’s headliner Rascal Flatts.

The Keats are proof that talent runs in the family – all but one member are connected through blood or marriage. Lead singers and twin sisters Sharlene – who is pregnant – and Jolene both perform with their husbands and brother, as well as “our brother from another mother”, joked Sharlene.

Justin Moore's latest album, Outlaws Like Me.

After posing for photos and signing a few autographs, Justin Moore took the stage. The handsome singer-songwriter sang songs off of his new album, ‘Outlaws Like Me’, including his recent hit ‘Small Town USA’. Naturally, the singer had to slip in a “small town Canada eh” during one of the choruses.

Moore, who grew up in a small Arkansas town of 300 people, had magnetic stage presence, and had no problem encouraging the crowd to sing along to ‘If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away’. It was his first time in Ottawa, but there is no doubt that Moore will be welcome back anytime.

At 5:45pm, Easton Corbin began his set, and the audience went wild for his hits ‘A Little More Country than That’ and ‘Put a Girl In It’. The singer, who grew up in the smallest county in Florida, Gilchrist County, has an impressive voice that seems tailor made for country music. He also happens to be easy on the eyes! Some of the cowgirls were sporting shirts declaring their love for Corbin, while others expressed their feelings by screaming at the top of their lungs. However the crowd showed him, Corbin left knowing he had plenty of fans north of the border.

After a male-dominated afternoon, Sara Evans walked on stage to a roar of cheers. The gorgeous singer is finally back after a six-year hiatus from her previous album. Her latest offering is ‘Stronger’, and the record has been received better than she could have imagined. Said Evans of the title track, “I thought this record was done, but ‘Stronger’ was dropped on my lap from heaven above.” The singer thanked the crowd for helping to make the song of her biggest, and went on to perform ‘Stronger’ while nearly everyone in the audience sang along.

Evans has a voice that holds your attention – stunning, crisp vocals that sound almost better than they do on the radio. Her hits ‘When You Were Cheating’ and ‘Suds in the Bucket’ were fan favourites, as was her final song – a rendition of Cheap Trick’s ‘I Want You to Want Me’. The singer, who wore tiny jean shorts and a white lace tunic, is currently touring with Rascal Flatts.

Rascal Flatt's 'Nothing Like This'

Rascal Flatts rounded out the night, closing the second annual Capital Hoedown with a spectacular performance. The production was a sight – bright, coloured lights swarmed the stage while digital projections whirred by on the band’s set, their sound booming out of the speakers so that even those in the very back could feel the music. Their first song, ‘Why Wait’, was a perfect beginning, and the crowd stood in awe of lead singer Gary Levox’s incredibly powerful, clear voice.

Levox’s vocals is part of what has made Rascal Flatts one of the most successful acts in country music – the band is one of only four country acts to debut six consecutive studio albums at #1. The crowd sung along to nearly every song the band performed, including ‘Bless the Broken Road’ and ‘Fast Cars and Freedom’. I was, however, very disappointed that they didn’t sing their first big hit, ‘Mayberry’, which is still one of my favourite country tunes.

Jay Demarcus, the band’s bass player and harmony vocalist, joked with the crowd about his top reasons for coming to Canada – which he described as Rascal Flatts’ “second home”. “The top is beer”, Demarcus laughed, followed by the ladies. He then went on to imitate the hoards of female country fans he witnessed strutting around Le Breton Flats in a short skirts and cowboy boots.

These appropriately-dressed female country fans are only some of the millions of people around the world being turned on a genre that is filled with incredible talent, artists and music that many have previously ignored. Country is now cool, and is a celebration and appreciation of the things that make Canada and the United States so great. From trucks and horses to whiskey and women, country artists will sing about just about anything and make you proud to be associated with it.

Rascal Flatt’s Demarcus bellowed loudly to the crowd – “country music is taking over the world!” And if the success of Ottawa’s Capital Hoedown is any indication, he’s right.

The Queens of Country Draw Huge Crowds on the Second Day of Capital Hoedown

August 13, 2011 9:15 pm

With the success of Thursday’s show, I had doubts that Friday could top the likes of Kenny Chesney and Doc Walker. But Jason Blaine, Billy Currington, Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood certainly gave them a run for their money, playing to a packed Le Breton Flats on a warm evening.

Jason Blaine

Jason Blaine started out the night with an easy listening set, his crisp, classic country voice preparing the crowd for a night of incredible music. The Pembroke, Ontario native sang many songs off of his upcoming third album – ‘Sweet Sundown’, out September 27 – including his next single, ‘They Don’t Make Them Like That Anymore’. The singer explained that the song was inspired by his 78-year-old grandfather, and became choked up when he noted that both of his grandparents were watching in the crowd. “Every single lyric in this song is absolutely true,” said Blaine.

Following Blaine in the line-up included Billy Currington, who started his set with a fan favourite, ‘That’s How Country Boys Roll’. The popular singer had the crowd going, performing hit after hit while onlookers sang along. Currington’s #1 hit, ‘Pretty Good at Drinkin’ Beer’ was sang to deafening cheers – apparently this crowd could relate to the songs’ subject matter!

The Georgia native is becoming a powerful hit-maker on the country music scene, with an impressive ten Top 10 hits and six #1 songs. He is now touring with Kenny Chesney, promoting his newest album, ‘Enjoy Yourself’.

Miranda Lambert

Capital Hoedown has not failed with ensuring each artist takes the stage at the time recorded on the program, and Miranda Lambert sauntered out on time, at 7:30pm. The 25-year-old star is known for her honest, somewhat aggressive lyrics, with songs like ‘Gunpowder and Lead’, ‘Kerosene’ and ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ making for hard-rocking hits that have captured the hearts of country fans.

Lambert celebrated her place as a top female artist, her energetic performance punctuated by a pink guitar and sparkling pink microphone. Fans cheered as the singer performed hit after hit, singing along to the beloved lyrics without missing a beat.

Lambert’s powerful vocals mesmerized the audience when she slowed things down for ‘The House That Built Me’, which won Song of the Year at the 2010 Country Music Awards. The singer swept the awards show, with nine nominations and four wins.

After the sun went down, it was time for Carrie Underwood to take the stage. The beautiful country superstar – who until recently called Ottawa her home while her husband, Mike Fisher, played for the Ottawa Senators – emerged wearing a sleek black blazer, navy sequined t-shirt and black skinny pants with leather accents.

Carrie Underwood

Underwood began by singing her upbeat single ‘Cowboy Casanova’, after which she joked that she was keeping track of how many bugs she had swallowed. “I’m already at three!” laughed the singer. She later gushed that it was great to be back in Ottawa, and in dedication to her northern fans and husband, changed the lyrics from ‘American Girl’ to ‘Canadian girl’.

Underwood went on to impress everyone with her vocal versatility, delivering a rendition of Aerosmith’s ‘Walk This Way’ and Guns’N’Roses’ ‘Paradise City’. Finally, she indulged fans with her smash hit ‘Before He Cheats’, and surprised the audience by bringing out Miranda Lambert for a mix of her song with Lambert’s ‘Gunpowder and Lead’. With ‘Gunpowder and Lead’ being my favourite Lambert song, I was not alone in my excitement that the singer did not, as we had all previously thought, let us down by failing to sing the popular single.

To say the least, the Underwood-Lambert duet was an amazing end to an incredible day of country music, and a perfect lead into the final day of Ottawa’s biggest summer party.

Kenny Chesney Jump Starts Capital Hoedown to a Screaming Crowd

August 12, 2011 11:15 pm

“We’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time!”

Everyone in the crowd on the first day of the 2011 Capital Hoedown could agree with the day’s second act, Tara Oram, who said  that she and her band had been looking forward to the event since the day they were asked to perform.

Oram, who hails from Gander, Newfoundland, played to a packed field of rowdy country fans, including her mother, who watched proudly from the very front of the crowd.

Tara Oram

The Canadian singer looks shockingly similar to Carrie Underwood, and is just as beautiful from ten feet away as she is in her photos. She is funny, energetic, and has a voice as strong as her fan base. Oram’s first album, Chasing the Sun, was nominated for a 2009 Juno for Country Album of the Year, and won an ECMA for Country Recording of the Year. She also nabbed the Rising Star Award at the 2009 CCMA’s, and even performed at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Oram had the crowd dancing with her newest single, ‘1929’, from her latest album Revival. She sang her own tunes, as well as Sheryl Crow’s ‘Strong Enough’, to round out her set.

But Oram wasn’t the only Canadian talent to grace the stage this evening. After year of touring with her family band – which includes 2004 Canadian Idol winner Kalan Porter – Mackenzie Porter, who won the Nashville North Star competition just this summer, also won over the crowd with her killer vocals and amazing stage presence. Porter’s Nashville win allowed her to secure some very coveted performance opportunities, including opening for tonight’s Kenny Chesney and Doc Walker.

Mackenzie Porter

Porter, who was relatively unfamiliar to the Capital Hoedown crowd, captured the attention of all with her incredible energy, powerful voice and impressive violin skills. She sang a set of mostly her own songs, aside from the Dixie Chick’s ‘Sin Wagon’, which included a tune titled ‘I’m Cool’ about the time she fell on ice in front of a boy she liked in high school.

‘Fourth of July’ was another Porter tune, as well as ‘Last Night’, which, said Porter, we were the first crowd to hear. If the Capital Hoedown reaction to the catchy song is any indication, ‘Last Night’ would be a perfect choice for a radio single. Mackenzie Porter is currently writing and recording her upcoming debut album.

Third to hit the stage was Doc Walker, another Canadian group from Portage La Prairie, Manitoba. The group consists of lead singer Chris Thorsteinson, and guitarists Dave Wasyliw and Murray Pulver.

The band played a mix of old favourites and new songs, starting out their show with ‘Get Up Now’ – an appropriate choice to get the crowd excited. They also played the song that started it all – their first big hit, ‘She Hasn’t Always Been This Way’.

Doc Walker’s new album is titled 16&1, which is described on their website as a trip down memory lane with “a big old bush party waiting at the end of it.” The album was recorded in Thorsteinson’s old schoolhouse in Westbourne, Manitoba. When the school closed down, the singer bought the property – which is located just across the street from his parent’s home – with his father and turned the building into their very own ‘Old School Studio’.

Chris Thorsteinson and Dave Wasyliw of Doc Walker

As a huge fan of the group since hearing one of their first singles, ‘North Dakota Boy’, I was thrilled to see that Doc Walker was just as talented onstage as they are on the radio. Thorsteinson’s vocals were accompanied by the sound of a legion of fans singing along, and it was clear I was not the only fan.

After a successful slew of opening acts, the crowd was ready and roaring for the night’s headliner, country superstar Kenny Chesney.

Chesney played a mix of his biggest hits, which poured out of the impressive sound system at a level that you could not only hear, but feel. With his signature tropical flair, Chesney sang his popular warm-weather hits ‘Summertime’ and ‘When the Sun Goes Down’, as well as other favourites like ‘Young’ and ‘I Go Back’.

Chesney described how he got his start playing at a Mexican restaurant in college. “Just give me a guitar and a tip jar!” the singer joked. He gave us a taste of his college shows, setting up in front of the microphone with just his acoustic guitar to play his latest single, ‘You and Tequila’. Listening to just Chesney’s voice and his guitar, it is clear why the man is a country superstar – his talent is undeniable, as is his ability to pump up a crowd with his lively stage performances.

After exiting the stage, Chesney was lured back on by the cheering crowd to sing one more smash hit – one of his earliest successes, ‘She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy’. Judging by the reaction of the ladies in the crowd, it isn’t just Chesney’s tractor that women find sexy!

With the night ending on an upbeat note, the fans of Capital Hoedown streamed out of Le Breton Flats cheering, laughing, and ready for round two.

Theatre Festivals in Full Swing

August 10, 2011 2:35 pm

You don’t need to hit Stratford or Shaw this summer to catch some great shows.  Head to the Downtown Rideau festival. The Fling spans 45 days with 65 performances in 10 shows at 7 venues with a selection of comedy, drama, dance improv and music. It may be half over, but there is still a lot to see between now and when it ends on August 27. For example, you can catch the Irish playwright Hugh Leonard’s farce The Patrick Pearse Motel which highlights this year’s Fringe Festival (and also includes Roller Derby Saved My Soul and Playing for Advantage).  If you missed Fringe, you can still brush up on new and local talent.  Check out all the Summer Fling details at There is a lot going on.

Classic Theatre Perth

In Perth, the Classic Theatre Festival opened, which features Jan de Hartog’s comedy The Fourposter. This show follows the couple from their nervous wedding night, through to childbirth and parenting, to their mid-life crisis, and the final realities of aging. It is one of those rare plays that combines charm, depth of character, dramatic tension, and comic relief in a manner that makes audiences feel good about the promises of love, and the possibilities of life. First staged on Broadway in 1951 (starring real-life couple, Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy), The Fourposter deals with issues that couples from all walks of life still face today as they age together.  For more details, check out


As I mentioned in my last blog, I was hoping to get to Montreal to hit the Osheaga Music Festival (  I did make it and it was definitely worth it. I managed to catch Eminem and I have to say, the guy is a rapping genius. He was brilliant. (Check out 60 Minutes’ profile on Eminem with Anderson Cooper, One amazing surprise of the festival was high funkstress Janelle Monáe, who was absolutely fantastic!  Next year, if you get the chance, take advantage of Montreal’s proximity and catch Osheaga.  It lived up to every expectation, even Mother Nature held the rain off until the end of the shows.

Next, it’s off to the see some local talent at Summer Fling. ( Stay tuned…


Gearing Up for Capital Hoedown 2011

August 4, 2011 9:06 am

“Ottawa is going to be floored at what we have in store for them.” Denis Benoit, the man behind Capital Hoedown, seems more excited than anyone about the results of the festival’s second running in Ottawa.

Benoit, President and CEO of Concert International, came up with the concept for Capital Hoedown in 2008. Initially, the first event was to take place in the summer of 2009, but after discovering the amount of work involved, Benoit decided to push the date back one year to ensure the event could launch in the highest quality.

So, in the summer of 2010, Capital Hoedown was born. The event debuted to rave reviews, with media headlines such as “Capital Hoedown a Rip Roaring Success” giving the Concert International team the drive it needed to make this years’ show even better. Benoit describes receiving over 1000 emails from fans and people who had attended the event, offering praise and suggestions for how to improve for the following year. “I personally read all of them myself, and we’ve addressed a lot of the issues we had last year and listened to what people wanted,” says Benoit.

Listen they did. Capital Hoedown is back, and it is BIG.

“Our production this year – staging, sound, light, video – is going to be the biggest production since the Rolling Stones were here. We want to create an experience, it’s not just going to see a band perform.”

Capital Hoedown Headliner Kenny Chesney

Benoit explains that it is now the country shows, such as that of one of Capital Hoedown’s headliners, Kenny Chesney, that are leading the pack in live show experience. Naturally, the show must match the caliber of the artists – and, says Benoit, “we didn’t hold back this year.”

In addition to Chesney, this year’s acts include Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Rascal Flatts, Doc Walker and Sara Evans. Even the opening acts are huge, with Mackenzie Porter, Tara Oram, Jason Blaine, Billy Currington, Wyatt, The Keats, Justin Moore and Easton Corbin rounding out the line-up.

Benoit explains that country music is the fastest climbing genre of music, with more artists crossing over to targeting the younger demographic. Favourites like Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift penetrate mainstream radio stations, while acts like Zac Brown Band and Rascal Flatts have released monster hits that are staples on any person’s iPod – country fan or not.

Capital Hoedown Headliner Carrie Underwood

So how did Benoit choose this year’s A-List line-up? “I’m a huge country fan, and I like putting shows together from the perspective of a fan. I shopped for my favourites, and it just worked out. We have the biggest country acts – even our opening acts are huge!” Says Benoit, “we really lucked out this year.”

For those of you who believe you don’t like country music – you’re wrong. As a die-hard country music fan, I have converted many a naysayer into a country-lover. Benoit says that anyone who is not a country fan who comes to Capital Hoedown this year will leave a country fan. The friendly atmosphere of the festival paired with the feel good party music of this year’s line-up make Capital Hoedown Ottawa’s biggest summer party – a party that no one should miss.

Says Benoit, “a lot of festivals come and go, and we’re going to be the one to stay. We’re just going to get bigger and bigger. People always ask me how it can get better after what we have in store this year, and I say – stay tuned.”


Capital Hoedown runs from August 11 to 13 at Le Breton Flats in Ottawa. For more information visit


Bytown Productions: Lights, Camera, Satisfaction!

August 2, 2011 1:17 pm

The slogan for Ottawa’s Bytown Productions is, “You celebrate life we capture life”. We live in a world where home-made video is as easy as aiming and shooting. Sites on the Internet have made posting the best (not always the best) of our amateur efforts a breeze. From the diverse results available on-line, and after far too many, “come and see our, ‘insert your event here’ “, videos and pictures, there is comfort in knowing that for those special events and occasions there are talented professionals who can provide that extra special polished touch for that perfect video capture.

Andrew Mesley and Ryan Mantha are the two founding members of the Ottawa’s Bytown Productions.

Videographer: Ryan Mantha

I had the opportunity to ask Ryan and Andrew about their company and all that’s behind the lens at Bytown Productions. They were candid and eager to tell me their story:

JD: Tell me a bit about the birth of Bytown Productions; what brought you two together to create the company?

R&A: Bytown Productions was started in September of 2010. We have grown up in Barrhaven and had been friends for most of those years. We both graduated from Algonquin College. Ryan is a graduate of the TV Broadcasting program and Andrew from the Business Administration program. It has been a long time goal to start our own business and we felt our skills were best suited to a video production company. Jobs were not plentiful when we graduated so we decided to make our own.

Business Manager/Video Assistant: Andrew Mesley

JD: What is the range of work that you do – the genres and styles?

R&A: The products that we offer are video production for weddings, music videos and corporate services…promotional work and special events. We also do video conversion such as Beta, VHS, 8mm, VHSC, 8mm tapes to DVD as well as DVD editing. We produce video/photo slide shows and photo scanning of old photos and slides.

JD: Why should I come to Bytown productions over anyone else in the city?

R&A: As recent graduates we are trained in the latest video production and post-production techniques. We have the latest state of the art equipment and absolutely love what we are doing. Our enthusiasm and desire to go above and beyond in order to satisfy our client’s needs is our primary goal. Being a young company we have a lot of flexibility in the services we provide and are willing to tailor our services to meet the needs of our clients.

JD: Is there any interest in stretching out into full length features, production for television, documentaries or artistic videography?

R&A: Our primary goal at this time is to continue working in our current areas of expertise to further develop and expand our company by providing the high quality service that our clients have come to expect. We are definitely considering expanding into feature, tv (and) documentary production as future projects.

JD: What makes Ottawa a good place to set up shop in your business? What is it about the creative atmosphere of Ottawa? Schools – the people – unique economy?

R&A: Ottawa is a terrific place to set up business due to the very diversified nature of our economy. The financial climate in the city is optimistic and people are executing their plans and not waiting for that ‘up-tick’. The city is becoming a hot spot in movie (and) TV production. With favorable economies people are expanding their marketing and there are a lot of weddings in this town. We are also in an interesting area geographically with many smaller centers within a manageable radius.

JD: With continuing advances in computer and web applications, all making homemade video production easier, why should I be going with to you guys for wedding or special occasion videos?

R&A: Never was it truer that you get exactly what you pay for. Usually for weddings and special occasions you only get one crack at getting it right. The technical skills needed for knowing what is the great shot, lighting, audio and producing a finished product that is professional and brings back great memories does not come from a computer program. The hands-on skill and knowledge of a professional videographer brings the artistic element to a level that ‘Uncle Bob’ just can’t produce.

JD: What drives you guys? Influences? Muses?

R&A: The excitement of being able to take a business from a concept to a living viable entity at this stage of our lives is a driving force for both of us. Seeing the delight on the face of a client when we have exceeded expectations and being able to salvage family memories from obsolete technology is very gratifying. Our future is wide open to possibility and as we further develop our company we know that Steven Spielberg started somewhere too. From an artistic point of view the great directors Coppola, Lucas, Hitchcock and yes, Spielberg are our heroes and our inspiration.

Andrew and Ryan have a genuine love for a well done project. They get a charge out making people happy and do that by being good listeners and by seeing each of their customers as unique. Personal memories, dreams and celebrations demand a strong sensitive acumen. That combined with professional agility with the ever expanding technology of video and video production and you have a perfect match.

For more information about Bytown Productions, or to chat with Andrew and Ryan about your next dream or celebration, please refer to their contact information below:

c/o 67 Townsend Drive, Ottawa, ON, K2J-2V2

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