Ein Prosit! It’s Oktoberfest!

September 25, 2016 11:51 am


All photos by Andre Gagne.

When you’re a reporter at Beau’s Oktoberfest and you’ve forgotten your notepad you have to rely on some relatively hazy memories coated in a layer of partially transparent jelly once morning rolls around and you sit down at your desk. Am I really recalling a collective of bananas engaging in a tug-of-war with what could possibly be Ambassadors to China?  Did a man in a dress really offer me a small goat in exchange for a beer token? Why do I have so many photographs of my feet? 

Now, before you all go and get your lederhosen in a bunch and cry foul that the good brewers at Beau’s are holding this Oktoberfest in September, take a glance over to our beer loving friends in Germany. Munich’s opening ceremonies actually began last Saturday. Besides, if you’re doing it right, a few hours into the festival you won’t even know what year it is let alone month!

Once upon a time, the town of Vankleek Hill (population just under 2,000), was known as the Gingerbread Capital of Ontario. Before you break loose form the fairgrounds hoping you still have enough room in your belly next to your bratwurst and beer gravy poutine for a sweet treat, these gingerbread houses are examples of Victorian-era architecture. I mean, you could try to eat them but the homeowners might take umbrage to the bite marks in their rooftops. The town also has a nice 9-hole golf course, is home to the Vankleek Hill Cougars soccer team and boasts only one set of traffic lights.

Then, in 2006, along came Beau’s.


Father and son brew masters Tim and Steve Beauchesne had a vision: to open a brewery on Canada Day and make the best beers they could. They’re entire first batch, all 5,300 pints of it, sold out before they actually opened and it’s been a rapid ride on a river of ales, stouts, and lagers ever since. When the brew became so successful it seemed only natural to celebrate with a popular festival in the tradition of Germany’s yearly event. They looked no farther than their own backyard to host the party.

What they didn’t expect, however, was the amount of people that would show would effectively nonuple the town’s population over night! Yup, that’s nine times 2,000 for a whopping 18,000 and climbing thirsty festival goers.
oktoberfest-2016-10-of-32w“The number of guests far exceeded expectations, which was at the same time thrilling and a bit overwhelming,” says Jen Beauchesne, the “Not-so-Corporate” Communications and Media rep for the brewery.

“Logistics for a festival of this size are always a challenge – in fact, we now have a person who works on this festival year round, so everything goes smoothly. It’s a bit easier now that this is our eighth year doing the festival, but Oktoberfest planning starts pretty much right after the tents come down from the previous year.”

Beauchesne tells Ottawa Life that a lot goes into the planning of the festival to ensure it’s not a sit-around kind of event. Headlining bands like this year’s Vancouver alt-rockers 54-40 and hip hop sensation k-os are booked months in advance and new brews to be rolled out in time for the festival are crafted half a year before.

“The weeks leading up to the festival are always a sprint with last-minute set up, with volunteers helping to decorate and get everything into place. By the time the gates open, it’s time to raise a glass and say “ein prosit” with a few thousand of our closest friends!” says Beauchesne.


Busloads of people bedecked in their Oktoberfest best are shuttled in from Ottawa, Montreal and Cornwall to fill the grounds with all types of merriment over the two-day event. Perhaps needing to work off the copious amounts of beers sampled, a group joined in a malt sack race. Now, placing your two feet in a sack and hopping towards a blurry finish-line may not seem like the best idea for somebody who staggered into the sack to begin with, having trouble maintaining balance without the bag, but it’s hilarious to watch and cheer on your favourites from the sidelines.


Feats of strength, skill and endurance like the race are all part of the fun of the fest.

oktoberfest-2016-31-of-32wSure, watching a person stuff a couple of pounds of sausage into their mouth over a ten-minute period may not be for you vegetarians out there but damned if it isn’t fascinating to watch!

oktoberfest-2016-30-of-32wStein holding –where one keeps a full stein of beer at arm’s length and cannot let it drop– is a popular event because, win or lose, you get to drink the beer afterwards. The event that packed in the most Bavarian Apline hat-wearing fans into the seats, however, was the keg toss.

Last year, over 100 people entered to see how far they could lob a keg.

The competition was open to both men and women though at least one patron thought he’d dress for both looking rather snazzy with his forest of beard complimenting his flowing dirndl. I don’t know how the judges decide where to put oversized and extremely excited bananas but even it got a throw.


With the main stages offering traditional music as well as a smattering of other styles over the fest, a skate park and the School of Bock (an interactive class where patrons could learn more about beer and food pairings), one could see what Jen means by it not being a festival where you sit around for long.

oktoberfest-2016-5-of-32wEven a lot of the food was meant to be extra portable. Things like the bizarre and tasty chicken, potato and cheese filled waffle cone, Union Local 613’s chicken fried hotdog  and, of course, pretzels were good choices for those on the move.

But, let’s be honest, the biggest star here was the beer.

oktoberfest-2016-21-of-32wBeau’s Lug Tread, Tom Green Beer, Golden Vox, Return of the Mumme, Ginger Wolf,Life on Juniper and more were flowing from the taps at a rate that could possibly fill up a swimming pool every hour. This writer’s personal favourite –and what may account for these jelly-haze recollections– was the chocolaty One Ping Only. At 8.5%, it was one of the only brews they served you in a smaller cup! For those needing more, there were over 50 extra brews over in the Craft Haus to sample.

“In the beginning, when we were just starting out, we found the best way for people to learn about our beer is to put a glass of it in their hands. Events are a great way to do that. Beer is something that brings people together, and by getting involved we can be a business that also does good in our local communities,” says Beauchesne

This month Beau’s looked to do some good in another community as well. Last week they announced that they were raising funds to build a women-owned-and-operated brewery in African republic of Rwanda. Beau’s will provide financing, expertise and training for the brewery and is looking to raise $95,000 to cover costs for a bottling line. Those who want to lend support to the Rwanda Craft Brewery Project can do so online for the next 60 days, at www.beaus.ca/rwanda.


Weekend What’s Up- September 23-25

September 23, 2016 9:24 am

Here at Ottawa Life, we’re always looking for fun events that our city offers each weekend. Here is what the city has in store for you this September 23-25. See you there!


Harmonic Generation Auditions, Ottawa Public Library, September 25
Harmonizing has always been your interest? Join this weekend’s Harmonic Generation auditions on Saturday, September 25th from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in room B125 at the Ottawa Public Library located on 120 Metcalfe Street. All vocal parts are welcome to audition.
For more information please visit:
www.harmonicageneration.ca or call (613) 836-6070.

Ottawa International Animation Festival, Downtown Ottawa, September 21-25Animation Festival
Join this year’s celebration of 40 years of the International Animation Festival. Somewhere you can learn and talk about the best animations from around the world. Stay tuned to know more about celebrated stars, studios and characters; don’t miss out! From September 21st to 25th in Downtown Ottawa, 120 Daly Avenue. For more information, please contact: (613) 232-8769.

Beau’s Oktoberfest, Vankleek Hill, September 23-24
From a Malt Sack Race to a Sausage Eating Contest, that’s right, it’s Beau’s Oktoberfest time! Starting on Friday, September 23rd to Saturday, September 24th, on 92 Main Street West, Vankleek Hill, Ontario. Enjoy an afternoon full of fun activities and lots of prizes! Gather all your friends and don’t miss this great event! For more information, please access: http://www.beausoktoberfest.ca/

ferris-wheelCarp Fair, Carp, September 22-25
Don’t miss out on this year’s Carp Fair! Known as the “Best Little Fair in Canada”, Carp Fair will be taking place from September 22nd to September 25th at 3790 Carp Rd, Carp, Ontario. Gather friends and family to enjoy a lovely afternoon with musical performances and agricultural exhibits. For more information, please access: http://carpfair.ca/

Great Canadian Theatre Company, Ottawa, September 20 – October 9theatre-masks
Make sure to get your ticket for this weekend’s performance of The Gravitational Pull of Bernice Trimble, presented to you on the GCTC stage. Written by Beth Graham, the story unfolds the life of Bernice, a mother of 3 children who finds out she has early onset Alzheimer’s. From September 20th to October 9th, gather friends and family for a journey into the world of entertainment. For more information regarding showtimes, please access: www.gctc.ca 

The Gratitude Project at the Foyer Gallery

September 21, 2016 4:54 pm

The Foyer Gallery invites you at attend “Gratitude,” photography exhibition based on photos received from Ottawa residents.

The exhibition is the culmination of a project launched by the Gallery earlier this year, asking Ottawa residents to show the things that made them feel grateful. Big things or little things, they wanted to see it all.

1-rattanMembers of the Foyer Gallery are grateful for their gallery space and the artistic freedom that comes with having a space of their. They wanted to pay it forward and give the public a chance to show their work in the Gallery, too. As artists, members believe that creative expression is vital, so they wanted to give other people the opportunity—and the encouragement—to participate in a creative process. Foyer Gallery thought it would be interesting to create something as a community.  They hoped that people would show unique and unexpected sources of gratitude.

The public responded with more than 100 photos that expressed their sense of gratitude. The Gallery has photos from students, photos from seniors, and everyone in between. They are displaying all of the photos received in an online show and in the gallery from 27 September through October 16. It’s the perfect way to celebrate Culture Days, as well as with the Thanksgiving season! The opening reception is on Sunday, October 2 from 1-3 pm. Please join!

The Foyer Gallery is an artist-run center located in the Nepean Sportsplex that showcases original works of art created by a juried group of emerging and well-established visual artists from the Ottawa region.


From the Rock to the Capital, Séan McCann’s Road to Recovery: Part 1

9:32 am

Photos by Dave Howells / Artwork by Meaghan Smith

Séan McCann stood facing the two men he’d spent 20 years of his life with. As musicians, they travelled miles together for hundreds of nights in song. Now they were silent.

It was two months before a tour that would celebrate their band. Soon the sound of thousands of screaming fans would thunder into his ears like the wild Atlantic combers of his Newfoundland home but, on this day, the years, fans, accolades, and memories have culminated into one difficult choice. For two decades McCann was part of Canada’s biggest party band, Great Big Sea, and soon it would be over.

It was a time of great change for a man who has struggled with alcoholism since a parish priest poured him his first drink as a child. The very same man he trusted would also sexually abuse the young McCann, something the musician has only recently become more open about facing along with his drinking.

Two years prior to deciding to leave the band, McCann’s wife gave him an ultimatum: he would have to quit trying to kill himself with alcohol or risk losing his family. To do this he knew he had to uproot not just professionally but altogether. This also meant leaving the the place he called home.

It wouldn’t be the first time. As a child his family moved from the small fishing community of Gull Island, Newfoundland to St. John’s where he would eventually meet bandmates Alan Doyle, Bob Hallett and Darrell Power. Together they would tour the world but at that moment, looking back on the his journey, he knew a different path awaited.

It would be a road to recovery, one that would eventually lead him to a solo career, sobriety, an unexpected twist as a speaker for recovering alcoholics, and a new life in nation’s capital.


In the first part of Ottawa Life’s interview with McCann the musician openly discusses his roots, his demons as well as overcoming them, time spent with Great Big Sea and what lead to his decisions to leave the band.

Ottawa Life: You grew up in a pretty small village. What was life like on Gull Island, Newfoundland?

Séan McCann: The McCann’s have squeezed a living out of Gull Island for six generations. I was only a full time resident for two years but I did spend all my summers and holidays “around the bay” with my grandparents and got to experience rural Newfoundland living prior to the Cod Moratorium in 1992. One of the first things the government did was destroy all the local slipways and wharfs to deter small boat owners from fishing illegally. Those days will never return and I am grateful to have been there before the end. I remember the old ways in song (“England”, “Son of a Sailor”)  for my children.

What perpetuated the family move to St. John’s?

Employment has always been an issue in Newfoundland. My father and mother both found jobs in the great big city (population 250,000) so I guess I got to experience the best of both worlds.

sean-12Can you tell me about your early experiences with music growing up?

There was a piano in our house that nobody played but the radio was on constantly and someone was always singing along. All parties and family gatherings were held in the kitchen and stories and songs were always encouraged and expected so you wanted to have one handy just in case you were called upon.

You had a horrible experience with a priest as a teen. How do you feel that shaped your life?

My parish priest approached me in the confessional when I was 14 years old. I was young and innocent so instead of being alarmed and wary, I just felt “special” because God’s representative on earth had singled me out for attention. My parents invited him into our home and we all felt “special”. Then he began to sexually abuse me and I didn’t feel very “special” anymore. The “horrible experience” left me feeling hurt, ashamed, angry, and betrayed. It is a scar that will never heal.

I understand he was also the one who  introduced to you alcohol?

He poured me my first drink.

If you could talk to that man now what would you say?


In adulthood, you have been more forthcoming about that abuse. Even to your parents. Has that helped you personally and do you feel the admission brought you closer to your family?

I have learned that you cannot overcome your problems unless you are willing to face them. For over thirty years I used alcohol and drugs as anesthetic to cover up my constant pain and it almost killed me. Five years ago I finally faced my fear and my past is no longer my prison. The Truth is not always an easy thing to accept but just because a thing is hard doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. My relationship with my family is no longer rooted in secrets so I believe it is stronger than ever. I am not a victim. I am a survivor.

You were getting a Masters in Folklore when Great Big Sea was formed. What made you want to pursue that and is that element still very important to you?

I guess I was looking for a real job that I wouldn’t hate. I loved folk songs and felt like it might be fun to pursue them as a career but after just a few classes I realized  the real fun was not in documenting but actually doing it and I will keep on doing it as long as I can.

However did you get the nickname Shantyman?

Every good band has it’s “screamer” or “power singer” and in Great Big Sea this task fell to me. Shanties were sung by sailors to help them work more efficiently by hauling together in time but the lyrics often gave voice to their deep dissatisfaction and sense of injustice. In Shanties I hear the sound of social revolution.

sean-7What was the music scene like in St. John’s while you were there and how did you incorporate yourself into it? 

St. John’s always was and forever will be full of cheap bars with decent bands and five bucks cover will get you a lot further musically than it really should. Dense in traditional culture and controversial history, St. John’s feels closer to Dublin than Ottawa. There is no easier place in North America to get drunk. It is Canada’s own New Orleans. I grew up in the shadow of Figgy Duff, The Wonderful Grand Band, and Ryan’s Fancy. I could see them any given night for a fiver and might literally bang into them on the street the next day. It was like walking among giants. I started my first band Rankin Street with Bob Hallett and Darrell Power when I was 23 years old. I had just bought a guitar but I couldn’t play a chord. I never occurred to me that this might be a problem.

So from Rankin Street to Great Big Sea. How did the band form from your perspective?

Rankin Street was locally very successful but had run it’s course after two years. We had a full house at Nautical Nellies one night and I wanted to get away from the crowd for a quiet pint on our break so I crossed the street to the Rose and Thistle where a duo “Staggering Home” were playing. It was a blue comedy act. One of the dudes was Alan Doyle and even though there were only six people in the bar he played the room like it was Wembley Stadium. He even brought a light to shine on himself so his antics would not go unnoticed. He was willing to do just about anything for attention and that is exactly what a band needs if it wants to be big. We started rehearsing the next week.

The band didn’t take long to find success, with Up only being released a few years after your first gig together. Did the success surprise you all and how did it change you personally?

Our first album was actually the self titled 1993 independent release Great Big Sea. We played every dive in the Maritimes and managed to sell about ten thousand copies on cassette. Warner Bros didn’t really understand us but they could see the financial potential and wanted in. We released Up on Warner in 1995 and it went on to sell almost 500,000 copies. We were all really focused and worked very hard so our success was not a surprise to me. We made a lot of money. What surprised me was how empty that can feel when you are hiding from the truth.

What’s one of your favourite Great Big Sea road stories?

Myself and Alan were out drinking way too much at the Belly Up Tavern in Aspen, Colorado after a very poorly attended show at The Wheeler Opera House. It was March 14th, 2010 (our annual St. Patrick’s week always failed greedy attempt at the american green beer cash grab) and the rift in our relationship was already rearing it’s ugly, angry head. I really can’t remember much about the details or who started the row but the next morning I woke up all scratches and dents and I knew that our growing frustration with each other had unfortunately gotten physical. Alan called and asked me what happened (his memory apparently as impaired as my own) and we both apologized to each other profusely and decided to gather for a walk once our respective raging hangovers subsided enough to withstand the glare of the mountain sun. We later found our severely dehydrated selves in the John Denver Sanctuary down by the Roaring Fork River laughing off our foolish altercation and letting the spring air repair our rum soaked hearts. The slow moving river soothed us both and I remember feeling warm. Much has happened between now and then and not all of it has been good but I will always remember the peace I felt that day down by the river walking with my friend, working to overcome our differences, willing to forgive.  I wrote the song “This Life is an Ocean of Love” for Alan.

sean-4You mention band riffs. Did you find, with so many creative members in Great Big Sea, it was a struggle to get your songs on the albums or was it really a collaborative effort?

Great Big Sea had a very clear and specific mandate. We were part Newfoundland tourism commercial and part “Celtic Boy Band”. The formula worked but it really didn’t leave much room for imagination. Our set list barley changed for fifteen years and most of my songs never made it into the studio. Bands are hard and consensus is almost impossible when egos get involved.

Was there a catalyst that finally made you give up drinking?

I believe in a Higher Power. Her name is Andrea and she is my wife. Five years ago (November 9th, 2011)  she gave me an ultimatum. I had to stop immediately or I would lose her and my two boys (Keegan and Finnegan) forever. I am lucky that she loved me enough to give me that ultimatum because it ultimately saved my life. I haven’t had a drink since.

What were some of the other things you did to overcome the drinking?

The first year of my sobriety was extremely difficult. “Drinking Buddies” are not your true friends and they tend to scatter when the liquor disappears. I felt very isolated and I really wanted to drink but instead of reaching for the bottle, I reached for my guitar. “Old Brown” has stayed at my side from the very beginning and has literally held me up for many a pub anthem. I poured my heart into that old guitar and began to write new songs. These songs enabled me to say things that were just too hard to say and did much to encourage my recovery. They eventually became “Help Your Self”.

Around this time you started thinking about leaving the band. Can you tell me what went into your decision?

Great Big Sea was Canada’s biggest party band. Every night for us was Saturday night whether that was Wednesday in Winnipeg or Tuesday in Sault-Saint Marie. Our daily rider consisted of: 1 bottle single malt scotch, 4 bottles of wine, and 48 beer. This is what I had to walk past every day I went to work. Great Big Sea was a great place for an alcoholic to hide but a very bad place to attempt a recovery.

How did you break the news to them and how was it received?

On January 7th, 2013 I told Alan and Bob that I could no longer continue in the band and that I intended to leave in April 2014 after our greatest hits/20th anniversary (XX) tour was over. My news was accepted and received in silence and we did not speak about it on the bus during the entire tour. In fact, we didn’t speak at all. It was the hardest time of my recovery and I am really glad it’s over.

What do you miss the most about being in GBS?

The money.

Do you totally write out a possible reunion with the band?

We are all on very different life paths. While I respect our past together, I now look forward to brighter future apart.

In the second part of our Interview, McCann discusses his move to Ottawa, his work with other recovering alcoholics, how he spends his time in the capital as well as is new solo album and tour which has him performing at the National Arts Centre on October 22nd. Tickets can be purchased here.

A Wasteland Experience Like No Other in Fallout 4

September 20, 2016 2:37 pm

In-game screenshots taken by Isabel Payne. All rights belong to Bethesda Softworks.

After almost a year after its release, does the post-apocalypse game Fallout 4 live up to the hype? The answer is a big bold and italicized YES! After over 140 hours of exploring irradiated ruins, fighting horrifying mutated creatures and rescuing settlements, Bethesda’s post-apocalypse RPG lives up to the intense hype it built after its announcement at last year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo.

As a huge fantasy RPG fan, I’ve always loved exploring the different landscapes like lush forests and seeing all the different creatures and settlements. The idea of trading in my spells and swords for guns (and the occasional board with a nail through it), as well as playing in what seemed like an empty and dead wasteland was unappealing. After a little convincing I gave Fallout 3 a shot and a few days later, I found myself over 20 hours into the game, settling in as a IMG_0544resident of Megaton and constantly reloading the game to keep my loyal pooch Dogmeat alive. Next, I was racing around the Mojave Desert in Fallout: New Vegas with my robo-dog Rex, battling Ceasar’s Legion and a gang of old ladies with rolling pins. In the latest instalment, Fallout 4 brings you to the Commonwealth, a wasteland that was once Boston. Play as the Sole Survivor in a hunt for your son which begins as a simple quest but quickly turns into something much more complex.

When Fallout 4 was announced for current-gen consoles, I was ecstatic to see what all the same quirks and humour of Bethesda’s previous Fallout games were included, along with a whack-tonne of awesome extras. One thing that really caught my attention was how customizable this game is compared to previous Fallout games. Players who want to start playing right away can choose from the default faces and body types, or if you’re like me, you can spend huge amounts of time making sure your character looks just the way you want them to. Fallout 4’s character customization is so vast that people have managed to create in-game versions of popular tv show characters or real life celebrities.

Wasteland style: Megaton hair, armoured red dress and fashionable glasses. Unstoppable.

Wasteland style: Megaton hair, armoured red dress and fashionable glasses. Unstoppable.

Customization in Fallout 4 goes beyond character creation. Instead of scavenging around for ammo and stimpacks, you’ll find yourself excited to find some tin cans or crazy glue. You can level up your character with specific perks (there are 278 in total) and use them to create mods for your weapons and armor. You can now also build new settlements using scrap materials found across the Commonwealth and recruit settlers to live and work there. It’s only in Fallout 4 where I can kick butt while still embracing my feminine side. My character’s fabulous armour comes in the form of a red sequin dress modified with ballistic weave, and I’ve been known to take down Deathclaws in power armour decked-out with bright pink flames.


For music lovers, the game also contains an excellent soundtrack that comes with a vast amount of variation. Choose Diamond City Radio for music from and similar to Fallout 3’s Galaxy News Radio. For something a little different, you can make your adventures a little more pleasant and your battles a lot more epic with Classical Radio, or simply enjoy some radio dramas with Silver Shroud Radio. If you get sick of the radio, however, the ambient soundtrack, composed by the amazing Inon Zur (who also did Fallout 3, Fallout Tactics, Fallout: New Vegas, and the first two Dragon Age games) is, simply put, gorgeous and perfectly captures the atmosphere of the game.


Beyond customization are the endless hours you can spend exploring the vast Commonwealth. The map is packed full of fun Easter eggs and secrets like the Swan at Boston Commons or the siren at Lynn Woods, which makes exploration actually worth it and a whole lot more fun. While there aren’t many huge settlements, it is still fun to find them and explore all the shops and quests within them. One thing I found about the main quest itself is that they can be conflicting in terms of faction quests. While the game notifies you at certain points that proceeding with a quest will make you enemies with another faction, it doesn’t always tell you. Saving often solves this issue. The fact that you can do quite a bit of each faction’s quest line also motivates me less to replay the game to see the different outcomes.

Fallout 4 already has five DLCs to enhance your experience with the game. Nuka-World, the final DLC for Fallout 4 which was released on August 30th and looks like it’ll be one heck of a good time.

Rain Can’t Dampen Joy

September 18, 2016 10:19 am

All photos by Andre Gagne.

It may be nine hours before Vance Joy is set to walk on the stage to the screams of hundreds of fans but one of them was already there. Sarah Allegra, clutching a homemade sign and bearing a temporary tattoo with Joy’s name, is first in the CityFolk line. Soon the festival gates would open and she’d sprint her way to the front of the stage ensuring a clear view of her idol, full of hope that maybe he’ll see her out there in the dark.

Sarah Allegra was ready early for Vance Joy.

Sarah Allegra was ready early for Vance Joy.

“I feel like his music his really heartfelt and you just feel like you want to give him a hug listening to it,” the student said, her head tilted to one side listening to Joy’s sound check in the distance.

Allegra didn’t realize that later that day she’d actually be able to give Joy that hug but, before then, she had a long, wet wait in front of her. There always seems to be one at least one drenched day at this festival and, despite organizers hopes it would all pass quickly, the rains came early to CityFolk Saturday and only offered minor temporary reprieves to fans like Sarah.



Basia Bulat performs in the downpour.

Fest days like these are one’s where volunteers should be issued an umbrella and kayak with their standard issue t-shirt. The weather kept the afternoon crowds small but, on the plus side, it meant shorter lines for craft beer inside the Aberdeen. Patrons did have to sidestep around some buckets and puddles, however, as the roof sprung a few leaks. Stage staff were quick to toss plastic over instruments and sound equipment both inside and out making the stages resemble some kind of crime scene for shows by The New Pornographers and Basia Bulat. All in all, a perfect for day for some Dan Mangan “Bummer Jams”.

“This is nice, but I’m not getting dumped on by rain. The sun can’t shine every day,” said Mangan, overlooking the first big festival crowd of the day. The singer would eventually step out and be pelted with a few drops himself during his solo, acoustic show that afternoon.



CityFolk volunteers take advantage of empty Kids Zone to get their faces painted.

The rain was oddly enough producing a drought elsewhere on the
grounds. The Kids Zone staff –hoping youngsters eager to see the afternoon performance by Canadian children’s entertainer Fred Penner would have energetically streamed in by now– resorted to painting each other’s faces.

“They’ll come and we’ll be ready,” the now cat-faced man, also known as John Currie, said to his team and they soon did as families packed the Aberdeen for Penner’s show.


Families and kids alike joined Fred Penner in songs and dance.


Fred Penner smiles at a packed Aberdeen Pavilion.

Penner wisely broke out “Ain’t Gonna Rain No More” early in the show that, at least for an hour anyway, became a musical daycare for both kids and parents. Now in his 44th year as a performer, many of those in the audience were raised on his music and are now passing it along to their kids and grandkids. The glum weather could not stop the smiles inside the pavilion.


Julia Jacklin performed for those looking to get out of the rain and into a leaky Aberdeen Pavilion.

All this time Sarah Allegra patiently waited in the day’s downpours, her Vance Joy sign more protected then she was. If the long wait in the rain only yielded a chance to see Joy perform it all would have been worth it. However, a greater reward was given to Allegra when she won a local contest to meet her idol backstage. While she waited in the gathering crowd that afternoon she snapped some photos of herself along with a friend also braving the weather that were noticed by the festival. Soon the unbelieving fan was ushered through the gates, passed security and into the receiving end of that hug she spoke about nearly nine hours earlier.

‘I couldn’t believe I’d actually met him,” said a still beaming Allegra shortly after her encounter with Joy. “He’s really nice and gives good hugs.”

Vance Joy somehow stopped the rain for his Saturday night CityFolk show.

Vance Joy somehow stopped the rain for his Saturday night CityFolk show.

“Do you like walking in the rain?” sang Joy with a witty smile, opening the show with “Mess Is Mine”. Sarah Allegra was surly one of the dampened masses cheering in a crowd that abruptly forgot how wet they were. And then, four songs into the Australian singer’s set, the rain suddenly stopped. It’s hard to know if anybody noticed, though. This crowd probably would have stood there in an ice storm fuelled by the warmth in Joy’s songs. Every time the singer changed instruments, when he smiled, or brushed one of his curly hairs away from his forehead, the crowd cheered. Even the ukulele received an ovation!

cityfolk-day-3-34-of-40w“There’s a good vibe out there tonight,” said Joy as the umbrellas started to come down.

His near 90-minute set consisted of popular tunes like “Riptide” and “Georgia”, tearjerkers like “From Afar” and some nods to Fleetwood Mac and Paul Simon with covers of “The Chain” and “You Can Call Me Al”. By the time he played his last tune, “Fire and the Flood”, there had thankfully been more of the former then the latter in a show that could have gone on all night.

Rain or no rain, for fans like Sarah Allegra, that would have been just fine.



  1. Mess Is Mine
  2. Red Eye
  3. Winds of Change
  4. All I Ever Wanted
  5. Play With Fire
  6. Straight Into Your Arms
  7. The Chain (Fleetwood Mac cover)
  8. My Kind of Man
  9. From Afar
  10. Wasted Time
  11. Georgia
  12. Best That I Can
  13. Riptide
  14. You Can Call Me Al / Cheerleader (Paul Simon / OMI cover)
  15. Fire and the Flood

Book Review: The Weather Inside

September 17, 2016 10:40 am

It’s summer in Toronto, and the snow and ice are relentless. Too bad no one but Avery can see it.

Avery Gauthier can’t get far enough away from her past: the death of her beloved father, the abuse she suffered as a teen, and the religion that tore her parents apart. A reality-refugee, she’s managed to keep the chaos of her former life at bay… until now.

When her husband returns to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, her estranged mother wants back in, and the snow—invisible to everyone but Avery—piles up and up and up, Avery is forced to face her greatest fears. She looks to the outside for help, to her mysterious superintendent and the comforts of a local weatherman, only to realize that the solutions lie where the problem does: within.

A twisted, darkly funny and redemptive tale, The Weather Inside will leave you wondering where the line is drawn between what’s real and what’s imagined, and why Armageddon isn’t always the end of the world.

Advance praise for The Weather Inside

The Weather Inside is a mighty examination of faith and love. Saso masterfully shows why these are two different words. Gritty and heartfelt and hilarious in all the right places, this book is a gift for readers who are looking for something fresh.”
– Bradley Somer, author of Fishbowl

“A debut novel that is both heartbreaking and hilarious. Emily Saso is a unique and daring new voice.”
– Rebecca Rosenblum, author of The Big Dream

Freehand Books
Kelsey Attard

Top 5 Ice Cream Places

10:00 am
Pure Gelato Ice Cream

Summer might be almost over but still there’s some sunny days to come. Also, doesn’t an ice cream taste good no matter the weather? We found five places serving a cold treat that will put you right into ice cream heaven!

1. Moo Shu Ice Cream
In case you want to try something more exciting than strawberry and vanilla ice cream, Moo Shu is the place to eat! Moo Shu’s recipe for success: Local dairy, premium dark chocolate and creative flavours. Be prepared to try delicious flavours such as Mango Lassi, Matcha Green Tea or Vegan Piña Colada. Our favourite? Black Sesame. Yum!
Moo Shu Ice Cream

2. Mantovani 1946
Mantovani 1946, the “Italian artisan gelato, café, pastry & franchising”, is placed right in the ByWard Market. It serves delicious gelato flavours and tempting Italian desserts. Most people’s favourite flavor is the “chocolate hazelnut” – since it tastes like cold Nutella. The owner of Mantovani, Oreste Mantovani, even won an award at the 2015 Gelato Festival in Italy. That’s promising, isn’t it?

3. Stella Luna Gelato Café
Stella Luna is probably the best known place for good gelato in Ottawa. Most people in Ottawa would recommend to go there and they are right! The Café has a lot more to offer than just their popular, handcrafted, artisan ice cream, which got awarded the 4th best gelato in North America. Listed as one of “Canada’s Best 100 Places to Eat”, they are also serving gourmet panini, hearty soups, buttermilk waffles, decadent desserts and specialty coffees. Both ambience and food in this family owned restaurant are great and we could spend hours and hours at Stella Luna enjoying these two things.

4. Pure Gelato
Open until late on Elgin Street (12 am on the weekend), Pure Gelato is the perfect spot for your late night ice cream cravings after having some drinks in the pubs nearby. Offering so many flavours to choose from, Pure Gelato is making it a hard decision for ice cream fans on what to pick. Most peoples favourite flavour is Rocher. Other popular flavours: Pistachio, Skor and Lemon Sorbet. We say: whatever flavour you pick, you won’t be disappointed! For those who crave something even sweeter they also serve crepes.

Pure Gelato Ice Cream
Les Chocolat Favoris
Hazelnut Praline, Maple Vanilla, Salted Caramel, Crunchy Hazelnut, Creamy Coffee, Orange Burst, and Cookies & Cream, that’s the names of some of the real chocolate coatings you can choose from at Les Chocolat Favoris. To create your very own chocolate dipped ice cream cone, you choose a soft serve flavour first, then choose a coating and to make it look even nicer. You can also get it sprinkled with colourful sprinkles. Since ice cream and chocolate is probably the best combination ever, there isn’t really a bad choice to make at Les Chocolat Favoris!

Other popular ice cream places we can recommend:

Oat & Mill: They might not have an ice cream store but they did create something totally new (at least to us): aat cream! It’s ice cream made out of whole grain oat in many delicious flavours. Definitely worth a try! You can order it online or try it at the farmers market.

The same applies to Pascale’s All Natural Ice Cream. There are delicious, creative flavours such as avocado honey lime, vegan toasted coconut, goat cheese or strawberry lemon but there’s no ice cream shop. You can get the yummy treat at the Ottawa Farmers’ Market and at other local shops around the city, though.

Sweet Jesus just opened its first store in Ottawa in August and causes the same long line ups as it does in Toronto. It does taste good but we think the slogan “bless your mouth” could be changed to “bless your Instagram” since no one ever leaves the place without taking a picture of the tasty-looking creations.

Dairy Queen is old but gold. It might have a fast-food-touch but we still find it d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s. Ice cream with lots and lots of chocolate, cookies and other toppings in it? Can’t go wrong with that! Just reading the names “Royal New York Cheesecake”, “Royal Rocky Road Brownie”, “Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Smash” or “Salted Caramel Truffle” make our mouths water.

In case you like your ice cream more liquid than solid, Holland’s Cake and Shake might be your place to be. Still cooling you down on a hot day and just as much to die for as the other ice cream places.

Pork on Pork Love at Baconpalooza

September 16, 2016 12:00 pm

All photos by Andre Gagne.

The sizzle. The smell. The crunch.

What was once a breakfast side dish is now a Canadian obsession. Bacon mania has reached the Capital and The Canada Agriculture and Food Museum shared the passion for all things bacon with their second annual Baconpalooza.

unnamed3From September 9 to 11, the Museum hosted the mouth-watering festival, complete with cooking demos hosted by celebrity chefs, free samples, live music, craft beer, market vendors, and food trucks.

“Baconpalooza ‎was conceived as an opportunity to combine a favourite food for many people with the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum’s objective to have visitors engage with new food literacy skills, educational content and a fun fresh air experience. The Museum team has worked really hard this year to incorporate even more cooking demonstrations and live music to the menu with 7 stellar chefs, 8 local bands, 12 food trucks to cater to different tastes and 10 vendors that have unique products showcasing bacon or pork,” explained Kerry-Leigh Burchill, Director General of the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum. unnamed4

“We wanted to do something risky,” quipped Alex Benay, CEO of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation. “We wanted to attract a different audience than we would normally have here. [We want to show that] it’s ok to have fun at a museum.”

Spread out over three days, this year’s festival increased the number of craft breweries and Ottawa-based vendors, helping out the local economy.

“Not everybody agrees that we should eat pork or bacon, but we are allowed to have a discussion around it. Some people won’t agree with it, but we are an agriculture museum and we talk about the food industry. The pork industry is part of it.”baconpalooza-1-of-1

“Bacon is a great food on its own, but it can make other foods so much better,” mentioned celebrity Chef, Steph the Grilling Gourmet. “[It] is a product of a really fatty and not very well-loved piece of meat that is gets transformed, through different stages, into something that is absolutely magnificent.”

Chef Steph demonstrated how to make his pulled pork-stuffed portabella mushroom caps, wrapped in bacon, and grilled on his incredible 27 foot custom BBQ rig.

Chef Shane Kennedy of the WORKS stated, “Now we are finding all these new ways of making bacon,” before listing candied bacon, bacon creme unnamedbrulee, and bacon cocktails. “Bacon has been this food that’s been around for thousands of years and now we realize we can do a lot more than slice it and smoke it.”

Scotch eggs prepared by The Albion Rooms, apple bacon pie gelato from Stella Luna, bacon wrapped spring rolls from Angry Dragonz, bacon jam from Lowertown Canning Company, and bacon lattes from Joe the Dog Coffee were just a few of the delicacies available at the festival.

Fun, educational, and delicious, this is an event to get hog wild for!


A Wild First Night at CityFolk!

10:53 am

cityfolk-day-1-16-of-28wcityfolk-day-1-2-of-28wAll photos by Andre Gagne.

Perhaps it was the appearance of a near Harvest Moon hanging above The Great Lawn at Lansdowne Park that created such a rambunctious atmosphere on the first night of CityFolk. Maybe, but I have to think it had something to do with kicking off your festival with the Dropkick Murphys!

“Ya’ warming up out there? It’s hard to be the first match in the box trying to start a fire,” shouted lead singer Al Barr to a 6:15 p.m. crowd that would only get larger (and colder) as the night progressed.


The Dropkick Murphys all bring the party!

Warming up, he asks? How about an early inferno? The Massachusetts Celtic punk band had no problem striking that match and igniting a blaze that would set the tone for the night, a good thing because the temperature tends to drop rapidly at this festival.

cityfolk-day-1-1-of-1wRousing anthems like “The Boys Are Back”, “The Gang’s All Here” and “Bastards on Parade” got the usual Dropkick mosh pit going passed the “No lawn chairs beyond this point” signs. The warning was headed, especially by those who remember what the pit was like the year the band played Bluesfest before Huey Lewis.

While the bodies were slamming and flailing near the front of the stage other danced dents in the lawn by the beer vendors, one rowdy patron miraculously pulling off a fit of spasms without spilling a single drop of his Heineken! Further on up the lawn patrons enjoyed picnics while kids took to the hill to roll down or dizzily do some moshing of their own.


As promised by festival Executive Director Marc Monahan, some of the congestion last year caused by repeatedly having to scan in tickets between the stages was elevated making for a better flow of people looking to stage hop.

“The main challenge last year was moving people around the site. The location of the Great Lawn worked really well but the fact that people had to stand outside the Aberdeen and Horticulture buildings, that was some resistance,” Monahan told Ottawa Life from his office last week. “This year we’re changing that.”

Other new additions include a curtaining off of the BMO Stage inside the Aberdeen and cushier seating areas scattered about the pavilion. The seats were a good place to take a load off and enjoy some craft beer. With selections from over fifteen brewers to sample, the craft beverage area was almost a festival onto itself.

There’s no better time to shop then when you’ve had a few beers in you, at least one Dropkick Murphys fan slurred at me. Artisans like the Strut Jewelry, Wunderkammer and Adorit were just some of the places you could go to accentuate your festival wardrobe. Near the entrance patrons could bid on silent auction items like autographed Dropkick Murphys memorabilia, dance lessons and a stay at the Arc hotel.


The Ramblin’ Valley Band were just one of the local acts shinning on night one of the festival.

Like that moon hanging above like a distant spotlight, it was a night for local acts to shine. The Ramblin’ Valley Band brought out the hootin’ and hollering to the Aberdeen while the psychedelic pop flowed out of Future States and over the crowd gathered at the Horticulture Building’s RavenLaw Stage. Outside back on the City Stage, Rolf Klausener (aka The Acorn), was dealing with some of the rowdy residue leftover by the Dropkick Murphys.


The Acorn perform on the City Stage.

“Here’s to onion rings,” Klausener said jostling with a marginally inebriated audience member who decided to loudly make known what he was munching on. Not to be outdone, the musician also would give a shout out to beagles because, well, it was just that kind of night.

With the mosh pit moving inside, English sing-songwriter –and ludicrously amazing guitarist– James Bay headlined an evening much to the elation of what appeared to be a crowd now solely populated by his fans. Considering the course he was on with the wall of screams he was about to hit, “Collide” from last year’s Grammy nominated Chaos and the Calm was a perfect show starter.


James Bay performs to a jubilant crowd for his Ottawa debut.

“So turn it on, we can go wild / If it’s what you want, fire at me,” he sang, asking the audience if they were ready to sing. No problem there, James! The crowd hung on every word as though they were programed to be in sync with the singer. Popular tracks like “Best Fake Smile”, “When We Were on Fire” and “Sparks” continued to fiery motif.

“I don’t want to just see you, I don’t want to just hear you, I want to feel your fire,” bellowed Bay to a crowd who wouldn’t stop singing even when he intro’ed “Scars” with a little instrumental Elvis. The singer was clearly taken aback by the enthusiastic Ottawa crowd for his city debut, repeatedly thanking them for their adoration and backing vocals.

As mentioned, the more boisterous crowd had headed inside the Aberdeen for what may have been the wildest show of the night and, folks, when you’re on the same evening bill as the Dropkick Murphys that’s saying something!


What begins with the passing around of a large jug full of an unknown alcoholic beverage and ends with a song called “Let’s Get Wasted”? A show by Skinny Lister of course! The UK six-piece put on a show that really should have plummeted the crowd through the pavilion floor with the velocity of their foot stomping. It was the group’s first time in Ottawa as well and they weren’t holding anything back.


Skinny Lister’s Lorna Thomas.

What started as a trickle soon became a torrent as curious people heading to their cars or for the bus after the James Bay show were detoured inside by the jubilant folk punk stylings of the Greenwhich group. With a sound that blends the best of the Pogues and Mumford & Sons with a stage presence that can only be likened to a prison riot, it was a perfect bookend, paired smashingly with the Dropkick Murphys, to night one.

“I joined this band to get into festivals for free,” said singer Lorna Thomas passing out the band’s jug of liquid madness. “The best thing about festivals is you share your drinks.”

They were dancing near the soundboard, they were dancing behind the curtain, they were making out in the crowd, they were passing out on the lawn and even when Skinny Lister took to the audience for their encore, Lorna standing amongst the raised cups of brew atop a base that read “Party to the People”, the crowd was still ready to go on. To think, tonight is the real full moon fever.

Bring it on CityFolk!

Weekend What’s Up, September 16-18

1:28 am

We don’t enjoy telling you this, but it’s the last weekend in summer.
To make up for that, we found some great events for you to enjoy this weekend!

Ottawa CityFolk Festival, September 15-18, Lansdowne Parkandre-gagne-cityfolk-09-20-2015-6web
Summertime is festival time and on summer’s last weekend Ottawa once again offers a four-day celebration of music and dance! Having Vance Joy, James Bay, Bryson Tiller, Dropkick Murphys, X Ambassadors, The New Pornographers, and many more rocking the stage at CityFolk, you will be having a blast for sure. The festival is family-friendly, community-focused, culturally diverse and committed to sustainability and eco-friendly initiatives.
Check out the lineup and ticket pricing on their website!

Gold on the Hill, September 17, Parliament Hill
Help raising awareness for Childhood Cancer on the Parliament Hill! Dress as a superhero and participate in the walk of heroes with Ottawa’s Mayor Jim Watson to support the 10,000 Canadian children currently fighting cancer, to celebrate those who have become survivors and to honour the lives lost to this disease. Offering face painting, Rock the Arts Puppets, Molly Penny, inspirational speeches, music and crafts by Camp Ooch the event starting at 6 pm is a fun event for the whole family.

Family Movie Night Under The Stars, September 16, Beckwith Park Film
What’s one of the best things about summer? Enjoying the warm evenings outdoor before the days get shorter. Beckwith Park is a bit of a ride away, so why not go on a day trip with your beloved ones to spend some time at the Mississippi Lake and the enclosed bird sanctuary before you snuggle up in your lawn chairs and blankets to watch the movie “Finding Dory”? There will be a Canteen open for movie snacks. Showtime is 7.30 pm.

theatreMurder Mystery Ottawa, September 17, Red Lion
In case the weather doesn’t want to fit into our last summer weekend plans, head to the Red Lion in the Byward Market on Saturday night! Every Saturday “The Codfather”, a live Murder Mystery popcorn theatre, promises to put the fun back in funeral. Having the chance to get a mugshot and sign the memorial book, it will be a murderously fun experience for sure. Get your tickets before they are sold out!

Canada Army Run, September 18, City Hall Running and jogging
Tie your shoes and run for a good cause! The Canada Army Run is one of the most inspiring events in the country, where civilians, Canadian Armed Forces personnel and runners of all ages and abilities run, walk, and roll together to show their pride as Canadians and as runners. Since 2008, Canada Army Run has raised more than $1.6 million in support of Soldier On and the Military Families Fund – two CAF financial support programs that provide assistance to ill and injured soldiers and military families in need.
Since almost all spots for the 25,000 participants are taken, hurry up and register now for the 5K or the half marathon!


West End Studio Tour, September 17-18, Ottawa
This is for all the artsy people: The annual West End Studio Tour is a free walking, biking or driving tour of artist’s studios located in the “near” west end of Ottawa. The dynamic collective of artists collaborate to warmly invite you into their work spaces to discover and explore their creative process expressed in an exciting and diverse range of art media and genres. Combine discovering the work of artists with enjoying some craft beer or artisan food at the local eateries to make sure that your day will be great! In case you can’t make it this weekend, the West End Studio Tour will be held next weekend as well.

A ‘Volunteer Rendezvous’ at City Hall

September 15, 2016 2:12 pm

In exactly one week, Volunteer Ottawa will be hosting its Volunteer Rendezvous at City Hall – connecting prospective volunteers with a wide selection of organisations looking for help. On September 22nd between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., Volunteer Ottawa welcomes one and all to come join the fun, learn about volunteer opportunities available in Ottawa, and make lasting connections with people and organisations in our community.

Cleverly dubbing this event a sort of “volunteer speed-dating,” the organisers at Volunteer Ottawa are excited to be hosting this free event. Shelley Ann Morris, Volunteer Ottawa’s Membership Coordinator, says that the event is for anyone and everyone looking for volunteer work. This event is the perfect opportunity for families to come together to find a cause they would like to support as a team, for new Canadians to learn about Ottawa and make friends, or for new graduates to make connections in their field and build up their resume.

Since there will be about 40 different associations at the Rendezvous, there will be an organisation in attendance to suit everyone’s interests, whether you would like to work with kids or seniors, focus on environmental issues or the arts, or help people with disabilities or those new to Canada. Some confirmed attendees are the Canadian Cancer Society, Free the Falls, Vanier Museoparc, and City of Ottawa Volunteer Services.

Ms. Morris says that attendees of the Rendezvous should bring “an open mind, curiosity and a willingness to explore all kinds of volunteer opportunities.” This event is the first step in starting a conversation about helping others in our community and creating lasting memories for all involved. It’s going to be a fun, enlightening event, and we hope to see you there!

Piecing Together the Abstract

September 14, 2016 10:48 am

Photos by Alex Mazur.

Have you ever let your mind wander while watching passing clouds floating through the sky? Suddenly those white wisps look like a sailboat, or that fluffy cloud looks unmistakably like a cuddly bunny. This psychological phenomenon is called pareidolia, an instance where the mind recognizes familiar patterns in shapes that aren’t actually there.

Patrick Nunziata, a young artist from Toronto, inspired by this trick of the mind, uses similar symbolic interpretation to form his abstract paintings.

totes-1150990He begins each piece of work by laying out text on his canvases, using words inspired by anything from a McDonalds bag lying around his studio to breaking news headlines. He then uses the positioning of those letters to construct a painted pattern overtop until the words become obscured. There is therefore a recognizable message inspiring the work, but the meaning is hidden from the viewer’s understanding.

“The viewer will be looking at the painting and they feel like they’re reading, but they’re unable to comprehend what they’re reading. It sort of opens up people’s ways of looking.”

Nunziata believes that artists in all forms, whether it’s poetry, film, or painting, are currently playing with the way people interpret meaning; creating layered work that keeps people’s minds active and critical. He strives to create pieces that offer a new perspective each time they’re viewed, like peeling back layers of a never-ending onion.

A graduate from the University of Western Ontario, Nunziata said his professors there helped him transform his natural inclination for art into something more refined.

“I started out being really interested in graphic arts, like graffiti and that sort of realm and when I went into university, it matured into this; the shapes broke up into this abstract field type of art.”

p1150297His pieces are as cerebral as they are beautiful; they are meant to admired but also to be deciphered, even if they can never be quite figured out. This is what makes his art fresh and interesting.

“You could have a beautiful painting, a portrait of someone, a picture of a horse, or an architectural painting of a building, but that will always be what it’s perceived,” said the young artist. “I’m trying to make it so open, so accessible, it can be anything that one really wants it to. In that sense, creating art that won’t expire.”

4-material-for-beausejour_40-47_nunziata-1Nunziata also uses bold colours, rich pastels, and unique mixtures of patterns to create pieces that can’t be ignored; which is why in some cases you can catch a streak of scintillating glitter running through his canvases.

“I wanted to appropriate that sense of that superficial, poppy sort of feeling that comes with using glitter, and associate that with the fine arts,” said Nunziata. He hopes one day to use Swarovski Crystals, if only his wallet will allow it. The use of varied and juxtaposing materials is also a way that the artists likes to break up traditional interpretation of meaning in art.

Along with his personal projects, Nunziata has side projects that keep him busy. He does commissioned work, and has created unique pieces out of logos and brand colours for the likes of Canada’s Walk of Fame, TD Bank and RBC Bank.

He has also gotten in the handbag business. His visually jarring prints lend well to the clutches and purses that he decorates with his bold patterns.

In fact, Nunziata uses the boldness of his paintings to make his works accessible, so they works hanging on your wall or off your shoulder. His paintings draw viewers in with brightness and impact, and then invite them to get lost in their patterns to see whatever they want to see, like searching for shapes in the clouds on a sunny day.

Blind Pilot Guides Us Through the Storm

September 13, 2016 12:37 pm

Images supplied by Blind Pilot.

Some bottles and bikes, a cheese grater, and a bucket helped shaped the unique beginnings of Portland, Oregon indie-folk band Blind Pilot. Clearly, the common trajectory to musical discovery was not the path Israel Nebeker and Ryan Dobrowski were on when they started busking together on the streets of England armed with a lot of musical talent and things to bang on. Then there was the time the two loaded their instruments onto bike trailers they built themselves and peddled between Bellingham, Washington and San Diego performing at over two dozen stops along the way…even when their bikes were stolen! Despite their name, these pilots had a path to blaze, eyes wide open, and it didn’t matter if it was unconventional.

Others noticed too! Word started to spread about the band on the bikes and, in the midst of all this, Blind Pilot released their debut album 3 Rounds and a Sound. It was exceptionally well received reaching number 13 on Billboard’s Top Digital Album charts.

“When your biggest dream ever starts actually happening, it’s a strange and amazing feeling of inevitability, disbelief, and luck,” Nebeker tells Ottawa Life before the band rolls into town for a show on CityFolk’s RavenLaw Stage on September 15.

The duo would add more members to the band in 2009 which flushed out a new colourful pallet in their sound. A second release, We Are the Tide, followed to more praise. As Blind Pilot’s popularity began to climb the band took a break that would last five years and lead to their most personal release to date. During this time Nebeker lost his father to cancer and his relationship of 13-years ended. There was much cause for reflection and change, personally and for the band.

The resulting album, And Then Like Lions, is soul baring and while it doesn’t shun sadness it also seeks out the light. There’s those cracks Leonard Cohen sang of, where the brightness breaks through and there’s hope to lift you. It takes you into the storm of loss and grief but ensures you have a map to navigate through it.

For Nebeker, it was the hardest stage of his life. Now, with his collection of songs of reflection, thankfulness and courage, he delivers his catharsis from the stage as he moves forward.

Though they’ve now ditched the bikes for more conventional touring wheels, Ottawa Life chatted with Nebeker about his time touring on two wheels and how it shaped his song writing as well as boldly facing his recent losses through his music.

Ottawa Life: Let’s get the bike trip out of the way, first. I gather you must get a lot of questions about it being a rather unique part of the band’s history. What inspired that tour and what went into some of the logistics of pulling it off?

Israel Nebeker: It was one of the best things I’ve done in my life. Ryan and I set off on that tour intending Blind Pilot to be a summer project, but the further we went the more the trip took on significance and became a metaphor for what we both wanted to be making in music. As much as we’ve talked about it by now, and as much as I disliked that story becoming the story of our music for years to come, I’m really grateful for how that tour set the tone for the band and the music to come.

 Can you share with me some of your favourite memories from the bike trip?

We were in Northern California and decided to take a route that went through more remote and beautiful stretches of the coast. I remember being out in the middle of nowhere at this campground that had an amphitheatre up a hill in the middle of all the campsites. We went from site to site and invited people to come hear us play at dusk. We played for about twenty people and most of the time it was so dark in the middle of this deep forest that no one could see a thing. It was amazing, getting to play for strangers that we couldn’t see, and who couldn’t see us, in the middle of a beautiful forest. We could have been making music anywhere or nowhere. That one will stick with me.

I read that even on that tour you had doubts about the band working. Did that experience bring you closer in what, I’m sure, were moments of madness?

It did. There was a spot where we hadn’t found any legitimate shows to play in a few hundred miles of biking. Ryan was ready to throw in the towel and continue just with his bike (and to be fair, his drums were heavier than my guitar). But we reassessed what it was we were doing and what our intention was. That was an important spot, to almost give up. It made us realize what it was we really wanted to be succeeding in.

Busking also played a part in the formation of the band. Can you tell me a bit about your time playing on the streets of England?

Ryan and I were in a study abroad program together in Newquay while we were attending University of Oregon. We saw how much people liked buskers, and didn’t treat them with a negative stigma, as is the case in the United States. I had my guitar and Ryan put together a drum kit out of a scratch pad, bottles, a cheese grater, a bucket, and some other things. We made so much money right off that we felt a bit guilty and decided that whatever we didn’t need for food and expenses, we’d spend buying drinks for people we’d meet in the pubs and clubs there. It was a great summer.

How do you feel those experiences shaped you and your music?

They shaped a lot of how I approached songwriting and connecting with an audience. If you can hold a space while you play that allows for a constant stream of changing listeners, that’s a pretty sturdy space to make music from.

Such experiences must generate a greater intimacy with your audience. How do you find the shifts to larger crowds like you might experience at the CityFolk Festival?

Actually, I find larger audiences just as intimate, but in a different way. At least, that’s how it is when it’s a good show. When you’re connecting like that with a whole theatre full of people, and you’re all sharing that experience together at once, there’s an intimacy there that is strong and hopeful.

In 2009 you decided to expand upon being a duo into an all-out band. What caused the shift in direction?

We wanted 3 Rounds and a Sound to have more instruments than we could play, so we invited friends and musician around Portland to come record parts. We got lucky and some great players came and sat in, and that was the start of what would become the six members that it’s been since then.

3 Rounds and a Sound achieved recognition quickly. Were you surprised by that at all?

When your biggest dream ever starts actually happening, it’s a strange and amazing feeling of inevitability, disbelief, and luck.

Speaking of the first release, did you feel much pressure to emulate the first albums success on We Are the Tide?

Not at all. I couldn’t remake the albums I already have even if I wanted to. That holds importance to me because I can see how I’ve improved as a writer and musician, but also I appreciate who it was that made those first albums.

What are some of the ways you come at writing, getting those ideas out of the head and onto the page?

Snippets of songs come to me when I’m not looking, or in dreams. The work is finding the rest of them and what they mean. I’ll try anything it takes. Usually I’ll go hike and hunt for words, or I’ll give myself short writing assignments. When it gets desperate, I’ll pull out the big guns and fast until the song is finished.

blindpilot_andthenlikelions_coverartYou are now on the heels of your third release. What went into putting And Then Like Lionstogether?

It was a long and revealing process each step. It took the majority of two years for me to write, and then another full year to record.

It’s been five years between releases. What were you all up too?

A lot of life happened for each of us. We toured on We Are The Tide until 3 years ago, and then a lot happened in our personal lives after that.

This album is born out of much loss in recent years (the ending of a relationship, the death of a parent). Was it difficult to pour it all out into a more personal releases then your previous albums or did these tribulations serve as a cathartic release?

I don’t see the other two albums as any less personal. This one made me have to learn a new way of writing, though, and about topics I didn’t know much about before.

Where do you have to dig internally to bring such songs into the light?

I think of them more as already out in the air, and I just have to get myself to a place of listening really honestly.

Does playing them live each night help you move forward?

It does. It’s nice when they become familiar and mean something personal to other people, because then they take on an entity of their own away from me and I can hear them as a listener too.


Book Review: The Worthington Wife

September 12, 2016 11:36 am

New York Times bestselling author Sharon Page returns to the aristocratic world of lords and ladies in a gripping new novel

After the death of her beloved fiancé, the Earl of Worthington, in the Great War, Lady Julia Hazelton is no longer interested in marriage. Instead she is devoting herself to the struggling people on her own family’s land and at Worthington Park- the sprawling estate of her former fiancé- which was left without a male heir… until now.

Americal Calvin Carstairs finds his life as a bohemian painter in Paris interrupted when he learns that he is the new Earl of Worthington- head of the family that once thought Cal wasn’t good enough to lick their boots. Cal still blames his elitist relatives for their deaths of his mother and father, because after disowning his father for marrying a poor commoner, the Worthingtons refused his parents aid on their deathbeds.

Now, Cal can exact the revenge he’s long craved- by selling off the estate, turning his snobbish relatives out of their home and destroying Worthington Park forever.

When Julia meets the brash new heir to Worthington, however, she supects he is not vengeful monster he claims to be. As the new earl, Cal is responsible for everyone on his estate, including the underprivileged tenants Julia has vowed to protect. She is determined to help them by proving to Cal that Worthington Park is actually worth saving.

At first, Cal believes Lady Julia represents all that he hates- privilege, snobbery, entitlement- but he soon sees that her selfless action and caring nature belie everything he’s always assumed about aristocrats. Then Cal realizes that behind Julia’s ladylike exterior lies a woman of fiery passions, much like his own, who hungers everything her upbringing has denied her.

Julia is determined to show Cal how much good he can do by preserving Worthington Park and assuming the title; Cal is equally focused on introducing Julia to everything life has to offer beyond her English gardens and aristocratic duties.

When a series of ghastly murders and an old, fabled spell- known as the Curse of the Worthington Wife- threaten their lives, Cal and Julia must choose between the things they once thought were all they ever wanted.. or a future together that will require them to make the greatest sacrifices of their lives…

Sharon Page is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has written erotic romance, historical erotic romance and historical romance. Sharon’s books have won many awards, including two RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards, the Colorado Award of Romance and a Golden Quill. Sharon was nominated by RT Book Reviews in 2013 for Career Achievement in Erotic Romance.

Harlequin- Harper Collins Publisher
Lisa Wray
(416) 445-2732

Exploring Hintonburg with PorchFest

September 11, 2016 6:13 pm

All photos by Andre Gagne.

Once meaning a simple covered entry over a doorway, the porch has evolved over the last 125 years as a place where families gather, kids play and, if you’re Hintonburg, a spot to watch some great music being performed. Hundreds roamed about in a drizzle of rain Saturday afternoon for the second annual PorchFest, one of the city’s newest and more unique festivals that strives, for at least one day, to turn neighbourhood porches into places of music and community.

This is just another addition to a neighbourhood that continues to expand culturally. Home of the Hintonburg Happening, Sounds Simple Music Series, nearing Westfest and, of recent, controversial street libraries, Hintonburg has really started to shine for some of the best this city has to offer, especially if you’re a music fan!

Founder, organizer and PorchFest performer Ken Halin calls Hintonburg a “special little district”. His family moved to the area to be closer to a furniture shop they owned and, since then, have watched the entire neighbourhood transform into one of the cooler parts of the city.

“It’s now busy and there is strong community support for art and music. The businesses are social and they are run by people who care,” Halin says. “It has its problems but it works through them with the community and elected representatives. We love this little hub.”


Ken Halin belts out a tune from his porch.

The idea for the festival was given to him by a costumer and, digging a little deeper, Halin found ProchFest models in Montreal and Hamilton to build upon here in Ottawa. After discussing the idea with the Hintonburg Community Association he found there was much support and, as he likes to say, soon they were singing from the rooftops…err, porches!

“Organizing a festival is a major task and you always have to be ready for the unexpected,” Halin tells Ottawa Life. “This year we included the local business as well, creating even more of a logistical wizardry. I don’t think they taught this in college. This year’s challenge is that we ended up with fewer porches than expected but balanced by way more community business support to host musicians.”


The Pouch Cotatoes.

Even with the condensed number of porches, there was still a lot to choose from scattered about the neighbourhood. Kim, my PorchFest wandering companion from last year, and I met at the Bridgehead on Fairmont where the Pouch Cotatoes were just warming up for some a capella harmonies that instantly made you want to get your haircut by a quartet. Neither of us needing a trim, however, Kim and I settled for lattes and started roaming.

We didn’t necessarily plot out our route. Sure, you can make a map and be precise but when it comes to PorchFest Kim and I settle on aimless rambling as a trajectory. We discover more neighbourhood and pleasant surprises that way. Our first came from high above Irvin Street with Imaginary Landmarks were set up on a balcony overlooking Tooth and Nail Brewery.

“Hope you can hear me down there,” the lead singer shouted before launching into some guitar pop riffs.

The songs trailed behind us as we walked on to see Ken himself set up on his own porch belting out some piano rock. Elsewhere, festival goers could catch a show by the Moonfruits who strummed their dreamy folk pop in the Hintonburg Public House or dance out on an Oxford Street lawn with the Ottawa Valley Ramblers.

Stephanie Halin, co-organizer with partner Ken, was excited for what the second year of the festival brought to the neighbourhood. She was out walking around herself collecting donations and selling some of the new PorchFest merch. However, she was quick to stress that they want to keep this as down to earth and low key as possible.


“We’re trying to keep this unlike the big festivals, keep it free for the audience and the donations are a way to give back to the musicians,” she says, adding that the concept of developing the new festival not only got them motivation in a community sense but also, for Ken, musically.

Halin says that one of the most rewarding things for her and her husband is the sense of community experienced during the festival and how neighbours who had lived so close together for many years finally would meet and have a conversation.

Last year the festival had just over 20 performers. This year PorchFest had a roster of 50 different groups spread out over the afternoon. Community members had no problem opening up the neighbourhood the foot traffic and, at least for people like Deborah Ironside, sharing their porch again for the performances.


As The Jimmy Tri-Tone Band performed in the background, Deborah told me about how the porch we stood on was entirely rebuilt by her father from the ground up. She’s very proud of it and on this day, when the rain came, she dragged some chairs out onto it so people had a place to stay dry while watching the show.

“It’s a gorgeous porch, wide and open and I just love music,” she said, explaining why she was a PorchFest host returnee. “After the next group I think I’m going to wander to somebody else’s porch for a change!”

As we talked we watched as a larger crowd gathered on the lawn and more people, perhaps confused by what was going on, walked by, eyes locked onto the band, before turning the corner. I had to laugh as a father pushing his child in a stroller hurried by the crowd, both father and infant turning at exactly the same time to see what was happening up on the porch.


It’s easy to see what was turning the heads. The Jimmy Tri-Tone Band was amazing. Though both Almonte natives, Randelle Ashley and James Walters never crossed paths in their hometown only meeting later in life. James started playing guitar as a kid, strumming away at family bonfires and Randelle took piano lessons and later moved towards the base. Today, playing an acoustic set on guitar and mandolin, the group shared stories on how some of their songs came to life, their travels, living in near woodland solitude and, of course, along with some of Deborah’s windchimes, played some beautiful music.

“I’m really happy we got to be a part of this,” says Ashley. “It’s nice watching people stop by on the street to watch music.”


At PorchFest, you could introduce yourself to a lot of different musical styles and explore local acts you may not have known existed. Ottawa has a lot of musical talent out there. Over at 55 Spadina was the hip-hop rhymes of Rap Legend Jesse Dangerously, at the Tooth and Nail they were toe-tapping to The Backsliders Bluegrass Band, Mister D. and Garrison were playing the Blues at 58 Stirling and Julie Corrigan was sharing her wonderful songs inside the Record Centre. That’s just a sampling of what you could have experienced walking around Hintonburg Saturday afternoon.

Book Review: Saving Her

3:07 pm

Christian McPherson’s exciting new novel is a portrait of a woman coming unglued after devastating events send her spiraling out of control. Between popping pills and drinking vodka, Julie Cooper tries her best to do what she has always done: carry on. But when the line between what is real and what is imaginary becomes blurred, a psychotic breakdown lands her in a mental hospital. She desperately needs to get out if she has any hope of saving herself.

Author of the poetry collections The Sun Has Forgotten Where I Live and My Life in Pictures, as well as the novels The Cube People and Cube Squared, Christian McPherson lives in Ottawa with his wife and two children.
“Like the protagonist herself, Christian McPherson’s powerful new novel Saving Her hits the ground running and never lets up. As a reader, you find yourself running right alongside the indomitable Julie Cooper, eager to find out what happens next. It takes a craftsman to compel the reader like that, and as a writer Mr. McPherson is just that.” ~ R.W Dunlop,  author of A Clap for Cadence.


Now Or Never Publishing 
#313, 1255 Seymour Street, Vancouver
email: chris@nonpublishing.com
web: nonpublishing.com     
phone: 604.992.9960

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