Arts & EventsWestfest Spreads Some Homemade Jam

Westfest Spreads Some Homemade Jam

Westfest Spreads Some Homemade Jam

Photo by Andre Gagne

This year’s Westfest is dedicated to you! Yes you, Ottawa, and festival founder/co-producer Elaina Martin hopes you like “Homemade Jam” because that’s what she’s serving up in a big, tasty spoonful! The 13th annual free festival returns with an entire line-up devoted to local music, spoken word and family entertainment.

When the Westboro BIA voted to utilize an opt-out clause in a two year contract forcing a move, Martin had to think fast. She rolled with the punches and with the support of a community she helped foster every June she decided to change things up a little bit.

“Everything is new this year,” said Martin, invigorated and full of positive energy as she launched the line-up for the summer festival at Orange Gallery on March 24. “We’re bringing a whole new look and feel at its new home at Laroche Park in Mechanicsville.”

With the shift to the greener location, three days of diverse local content on the new Thom Fountain Team Stage, a night devoted to family programming and an after party it’s not hard to see why Martin is excited.

“It’s going to be one hell of a party,” she says.

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Souljazz Orchestra headlines June 4

That party begins on Friday, June 3 with programming the whole family can enjoy. Martin urges all to bring the kids, dogs and cooler full of snacks but, also, bring along some drums. The festival kicks off with the popular and energetic Westfest Tam-Tam. Sing along with children’s entertainer Derek McKinley,stick around for a Rock the Arts puppet show sure to make the wee ones smile and then be mystified with a magic by Rynestone. Later in the evening the Junkyard Symphony will bring a 12-foot robot to the stage and pluck folks out of the crowd to play some of their unique instruments. Capping off Friday’s family entertainment will be the Metis family dance troupe, Prairie Fire.

With the kids back in bed the stage will highlight some of the best spoken word artists in the city like CBC Ottawa Poetry Face Off winner John Akpata. Afterwards you can head on over to the Elmdale Oyster House for the official Westfest After Party. Hosted by the Queer Mafia, the party promises to be get you dancing into the wee small hours with DJ Sammy Rawal, J-ill and the Yes Yes Y’all Cru.

Related: Westfest All-Star Fundraiser Packs Orange Gallery With Music, Art and Support 

Luther Wright and the Wrongs play June 5
Luther Wright and the Wrongs play June 5

Catch a few hours of sleep because it all starts up again at 11 a.m with a rock and roll adventure on Saturday, June 4. 75 grade 4, 5 and 6 students from the Churchill School of Rock will be performing songs of war, peace, politics and social injustice. They will be followed by the Ottawa Junior Jazz Band. Other performances throughout the day include sets by Velvet Revolution, Angelique Francis and more spoken word with Ritallin. When not joining the colourful balls of lighting that are The Peptides, Rebecca Noelle belts out soulful songs solo with a flash of funk. She’s on at 5 followed by the hip hop poetry troupe Missing Linx, rock and soul band The Lionyls and brother’s Matt and Curtis Chaffey’s group The Split.

Headlining Saturday night is a group National Geographic has called “beyond badass”! They are the Souljazz Orchestra and they continue to push the limits of a sound that melds Jazz, Soul, Afro, Latin and Caribbean styles in one explosive party. You haven’t quite experienced one of their legendary live shows until you are drenched in sweat and unable to stop dancing.

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There’s just as much packed into Sunday, June 5 starting with classically trained pianist Yaa-Hemaa. The Fernando Scatozza Band will bring some blues, jazz and a touch of fusion to the festival with the John Punch Band and festival favourite Tara Holloway playing into the afternoon. Indie-rockers Lemon Cash take the stage at 4 p.m. followed by some old school acoustic blues by Bone. Check out the digs on Uncle Bob! Other performances include the Voices of Praise Gospel Choir, First Nations hip-hop artist Cody Coyote, Two Spirit hand drum singer David White Deer Sharette, and the Troubadours, a new band Martin and her partner Cara Tierney discovered while eating salad near their home. Ottawa Country Music Hall of Famer Lucky Ron, playing sold out Saturday shows at the Château Laffayette since 1986, performs at 8:15. He’s been doing his one-man show for over 20 years and was awarded the Order of Ottawa back in November.

Following a premiere drag performance by a grand matron of the local drag scene, Bella Straight, the country-twang of Luther Wright and the Wrongs will cap off the festival. A former member of Weeping Tile, Wright went another direction with his new band for a sound that can only be described as what might happen if punk and bluegrass got together one wild, boozy night and, nine months later, unleashed Punkgrass into the wild. He’s done an alt-country version of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Enough said!

The year’s festival also includes an Indigenous Pavilion, a live mural painting, a Food Truck Zone, an extended Kid Zone and an Artisan and Business Park with more than 40 local businesses taking part. As Martin will tell you: “Ain’t no party like a Westfest party”.

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