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Let Kate Plan Your Date

March 14, 2016 11:49 am
Let Kate Plan Your Date

Photos courtesy of Kate McNamara

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching and love is in the air. But, we all know how stressful it can be to plan that perfect date with your partner. Enter: A Date by Kate.


McNamara. Photo by Emily Beekmans.

Kate McNamara began planting the seeds of her business after years of being in love with, well… love. While waiting tables a few years prior, McNamara met multitudes of couples who shared their happy stories of coupledom. McNamara would ask what their secret was to a happy marriage. One pair in particular told a tale of being separated for 13 years due to one partner’s service in the NAVY. That couple found a new chapter once their kids were out of the house and retirement began. They began going out to dinner dates, and McNamara was inspired.

Aside from waiting tables and hearing stories of love, McNamara tells me that she always had a knack for party planning and hosting. So, when two sets of engaged friends asked her to plan a date for them instead of a traditional wedding present, McNamara was tickled pink. McNamara began planning the date centered on what she knew each couple liked. When the couples returned, enthralled with the adventure, McNamara knew she had something special on her hands.Document Namedfbhsbw_2

After coming up with a clever name for the business, McNamara created a website the next day. People quickly began to show interest, and the business blossomed. For the past two years, McNamara has been sending couples out on unique dates around the city. What can a couple expect on a Date by Kate?

“They can’t expect anything,” McNamara laughs. “The idea is to just show up and be open minded. So that’s all I ask.” McNamara makes sure to base activities around the couple’s lives and interests. “If they’re not athletic, I’m not sending them to any sports. It will be all around what works for them.”

Arranging A Date By Kate is simple. All you have to do is choose a date package, choose the big day that the date will happen, and then send in the request. McNamara (and company) will take it from there; Document Namedfbhsbw_21getting in touch via questionnaire or phone call to figure out what the couple enjoys doing, contacting businesses around the city to arrange activities, and crafting the date package to ensure a personal, unique and exciting experience.

The types of couples who want a Date by Kate vary, although McNamara has noticed many busy middle-aged couples become enticed by the thought of a date being planned for them. “No one has the time to spend three or four hours calling a bunch for businesses to plan an elaborate day,” she explains. Students have also approached McNamara to plan a date. Let’s face it: sometimes take-out and Netflix just doesn’t cut it.

It’s hard for McNamara to pin down her favourite date that she’s ever planned, although she admits that a special and personal father-daughter date was one of the sweetest.

“Whenever the mom was gone, they would resort to eating beans and wieners for a meal. So, I prepared beans and wieners and dropped them off at World of Maps. They set up a little table for them to have lunch there, in the middle of the map store, because they always travel together.”

The key to all of these dates, it seems, is creativity.

“People don’t think that they’re creative, or they don’t think they could do something like this. The biggest thing is that creativity means saying to yourself, ‘why not?’”

Intrigued? You can find out more at adatebykate.com.

Young Women Lead the Way for Change

10:48 am
Young Women Lead the Way for Change

On February 5th, one of the most iconic figures of the feminist movement, Gloria Steinem, insinuated that the young women who supported U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders did so because they were ‘following the boys.’ This statement sparked a backlash and outraged many, especially young feminists. For many of them, Steinem is an inspiration; but this statement undermined their agency and their ability to think critically – no matter which candidate they prefer.

What this comment highlights is that contemporary feminisms value the intersectional analysis of oppressions. Young feminists will not vote for a woman just for the sake of her being a woman. They care about much more than gender and it is time for us to listen to them. They see feminist issues as inseparable from, and deeply intertwined with, racism, colonialism, classism, LGBTQ issues, poverty, ableism and all forms of oppression.

In fact, young women are at the frontlines of some of the most significant social movements of our time. From Idle No More, to Black Lives Matter, to the movements for reproductive justice and refugee rights, they are speaking out against all forms of social injustice and are taking centre stage. One can only recall the iconic image of Amanda Polchies in Elsipogtog holding a feather in the face of a line of riot police, in defence of her land. Or Widia Larivière and Melissa Mollen-Dupuis spearheading Idle No More Quebec.

Here at Girls Action Foundation, we just celebrated our 20th anniversary. For the last two decades we have worked nationally towards girls’ and young women’s empowerment. As an organization that keeps its ‘ear to the ground’ and is responsive to the needs of a network of over 300 grassroots organizations across the country, we can say with confidence that girls and young women still care to identify as feminists.  More importantly, we have learned in our work that we cannot empower young women without speaking of the multiple and interconnected realities they face.

As we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the women’s right to vote this year, and celebrate the women advocates who have come before us, let’s also celebrate the future of feminism today, led by young women. Let’s not assume young people know less, have experienced less, struggled less – instead let’s listen to them and find a way to leverage the strengths of all experiences and perspectives.

Let’s also use this milestone, as well as the broadening of feminism as understood and led by young women, to encourage the creation of more intergenerational spaces, where women of all generations can all learn from one another and work together.

Finally, let’s remember that this year the Canadian International Women’s Day theme is about women and girls’ empowerment. What better way to mark this day than celebrating young women’s power as change-makers!

Saman Ahsan 2Saman Ahsan is Executive Director of the Girls Action Foundation, a national charity helping to create the next generation of strong Canadian women, based in Montreal. 






Myriam photoMyriam Zaidi is the Girls Action Foundation Communications and National Network Coordinator. She is responsible for liaising with a network of more than 300 organizations that work with girls and young women across the country.

Twelve Bluesfest Picks to Get You Stage Hopping

March 13, 2016 1:48 pm
Twelve Bluesfest Picks to Get You Stage Hopping

Photo of Wild Child.

RBC Bluesfest
has been about diversity in programming since the day “The Big Man” Clarence Clemons raised lips to sax in Major’s Hill Park back in ’94.

“One thing you absolutely cannot argue is that this festival packs quite a bang for your buck!” says Karen Christensen over on the 2,500 plus member Facebook group Ottawa Bluesfest Fan Page. That bang comes from an ever expending line-up that brings in something for just about everybody. Last year about 300, 000 music lovers descended onto the Flats for two weeks, and it’s not just the blues that are filling that grass with sneakers, sandals, Doc Martins, some bare feet and a whole lot of cowboy boots.

“It is an annual tradition to attend with my daughter. Despite our age difference, the variety of acts from retro to current always makes it an enjoyable experience,” says fan Benoît Robert.

It’s been a week since the 2016 line-up dropped. The Snapchat/Twitter guessing games are over and the usual gripes and praise about who is coming and who isn’t (sorry Dave Matthews fans) are ebbing. This year’s offering has been pretty well received, especially amid the concerns that the low Canadian buck would hinder organizers, limiting them to more home grown acts than usual.

“I think this is one of the more diverse line-ups I recall in recent years,” says Paul Nusbaum on the Facebook page. “Personally I am excited for the 80s bands, but even then they didn’t focus primarily on one genre.”

You should know the headliners by now. Flea and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers are going to rock the place, you can get your 80s on with Duran Duran and Billy Idol, break out your Bass Pro caps and denim for Sam Hunt and Brad Paisley and sing along to CCR hits with John Fogerty, but here’s a few picks that aren’t headlining the main bowl to expand your experience and get you stage-hopping.

Boy & Bear (July 7)
Five-piece Indie Folk-Rockers from Australia, Boy & Bear formed in 2009 and released album number three last year. Limit of Love showed that the band wasn’t going to be labeled, as the album adds R&B, synths and new wave to their style. They’ve had plenty of success in their homeland and here’s your chance to hear why.

The Tallest Man On Earth (July 8)
His grainy voice has been compared to Bob Dylan, but Sweden’s Kristian Matsson doesn’t consider his work part of any musical tradition. A bit of a recluse in his early days, he avoided giving interviews in hopes that his music might speak for itself. An introvert who works through his shyness on stage, his songs are little confessions and he claims his recent release, Dark Bird Is Home, may be a little too personal.

Brandi Carlile (July 9)
She’s been singing country music since the age of eight, and gained some recognition playing Seattle clubs before Columbia Records snatched her up in 2004. One year later, Rolling Stone called her one of the 10 artists to keep an eye on. Six albums down the road, Carlile is still receiving acclaim, drawing on influences from a range that includes Radiohead, Patsy Cline and Freddie Mercury. Her recent release, the more rock based The Firewatcher’s Daughter, shows she’s not afraid to genre push.

Archer (July 9)
His baritone blues seems to have stepped out of a 1940s Alan Lomax recording. But this isn’t your usual Delta Blues. These wind-worn tales are born from the vagabond soul of Archer under Australian skies, wandering the hills and valleys of his homeland or resting by the Murray River to strum a tune that Lead Belly may have sung if he were here to do so.

Earl Sweatshirt (July 9)
Uk’s The Guardian once called him the “world’s most notorious teen rapper.” Former member of the LA hip hop collective Odd Future, he’s been dropping rhymes since grade 9 when he was posting tracks up on MySpace. Now in his early 20s with two albums and some recent releases on SoundCloud, Sweatshirt sites the influence of Jay-Z, MF Doom and Eminem, though his music isn’t afraid to be vulnerable. It often highlights his anti-social nature with personal, deeply introspective tracks.

Wild Child (July 10)
Since forming five years ago and writing tunes in a tour van, singers Kelsey Wilson and Alexander Beggins have gone from playing for nine people to an impressive set at Bonnaroo for 5,000 . Their brand of indie pop includes a cello, ukulele, banjo and a trumpet. The sound is a blend of folk and pop that results in a lively stage show from a group who thrives on energy from the crowd. They claim to know all your secrets and will sing them back to you.

San Fermin (July 10)
If you haven’t heard of baroque pop before, let Brooklyn’s San Fermin be your introduction. A graduate from Yale, bandleader Ellis Ludwig-Leone sought some solitude in Banff to write his debut album. He says the 8-piece San Fermin is an indie rock band with a brass section but he’s selling himself short. Take a listen to tunes like “Sonsick” or “Deadalus (What We Have)” to hear what happens when pop and classical collide.

The Decemberists (July 13)
No other band works in rocking guitar solos, a lead singer with a distinctive voice, eclectic live shows with wild audience participation, gut wrenching ballads, old folklore and sea-shanties quite like Portland’s The Decemberists. They are back after a five year hiatus with new album What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World. Some might have caught lead singer Colin Meloy’s set at Folk Fest two years ago. Consider that an appetizer to a full course. This group is amazing live but try to get there before they get devoured by a giant whale as they did to end their set back on New Year’s Eve.

Lindsey Stirling (July 14)
Where, oh where do you file a Lindsey Stirling? Well, she’s a raised-Mormon classically trained violinist, singer and performance artist with a side career in motivational speaking. She’s a YouTube sensation with stunning videos that you can travel the world by watching. She’ll play gorgeous covers of Imagine Dragons, John Legend and even the theme from the Legend of Zelda series but, quick as a hiccup, will turn a Celtic melody into a high energy dance vibe suited for the club scene. All that is what’s bringing you to the party but what’s keeping you there are two words: Dubstep Violin.

Pup (July 14)
One fine day they all quit their jobs, went on a tear and formed a band. Pup is a Canuck punk rock foursome from Toronto, a group of school friends that tore up the scene in 2013 and haven’t showed any signs of slowing down. Last month Rolling Stone called them one of 10 new artists you need to know about.

Paper Kites (July 16)
More fine indie-folk from Australia, though you might not be able to tell from the recent release with a tinge of the electric that periodically seems to visit an 80s night club. What do you expect from a concept album of tunes all written between midnight and four A.M.? This is a group that likes to experiment with that style adding strange sounds, unique instrument combinations and some fantastic harmonies

The Peptides (TBD)
Ottawa’s party band! Trust me, you will not see a more colourful unique band this year. I recently described them as a painting by Andy Warhol hanging on the bridge of a neon green alien starship being piloted by the B-52’s Fred Schneider blasting rainbow fire into the stratosphere. Or as Scott Irving, the group’s keyboardist, would tell you, think of a neon-rainbow/neo-gospel, well-oiled Where’s Waldo Rube Goldberg machine strewn with silk, soul, fedoras and funk!

The Peptides are not the only way you can catch some local talent at the festival this year, as we will cover in a future piece. Amos the Transparent, Jill Zmud, Amanda Rheaume, The Steamers, Monday I Retire and The Wicked Mercy are just a few of the Ottawa and area bands that you can check out.

Bluesfest runs from July 7-17 with tickets and passes on sale now.

The Diversity of Bluesfest - 12 Picks To Get You Stage Hopping - Image (7)

Rage Against the Winter Blahs with Doldrums 2016

March 12, 2016 11:00 am
Rage Against the Winter Blahs with Doldrums 2016

It was the fall of 2011 and Lucas MacKenzie and his band New Teeth had just performed a set at Bluesfest. The festival grounds were full, the stages pumping out band after band and everyone seemed to be having an amazing time. For local bands like MacKenzie’s, the summer fests were a prime spotlight. Yet, with the sun pouring down upon him that hot July day, he was thinking towards the winter.

“Man, I wish these types of opportunities existed year round!” he thought. Then it dawned on him. Why couldn’t it?

“The Ottawa scene was in a transition. Ottawa Showbox wasn’t that established, Herd Magazine didn’t exist, Megaphono was a dream, Bruised Tongue was a shadow of what it has become and I felt like it needed another hub,” explains Mackenzie. “I had so many friends in all these disparate and disconnected circles of bands. I wanted to bring people together during a time of year where it can really feel like the city has shut down.”

MacKenzie decided to put together a collection of shows for the winter days of listlessness before the big festivals rolled into town along with the better weather. He choose the fitting name of the Doldrums Music Festival and turned it loose in February of 2012. The first year saw sell out nights with performances by over 15 bands at three different venues. Since then, the festival continues to give local talent unique places to perform like Café Dekcuf and Pressed.

“The main mandate has been to showcase local acts at a time when the local scene needs opportunities,” says MacKenzie who has since moved to Toronto and has turned the festival over to new organizers.

This year Doldrums takes place at Club Saw and, sticking to MacKenzie’s framework, highlights a varied mix of local bands over two nights.

Creep Wave. Image c/o Creep Wave's Bandcamp page.

Creep Wave. Image courtesy of Creep Wave’s Bandcamp page.

“The Ottawa scene is currently in a period of diversification and change – particularly as a result of the hard work of women and femmes of colour and a new generation of people putting on their own shows and starting their own bands,” says Brittany Neron, guitarist and vocalist for the powerpop group Creep Wave performing on the 19th. They believe festivals like Doldrums offer a lot of diversity for bands who might not generally play together and allows for more exposure to a wider audience. “Often, smaller festivals can function with a more DIY ethic than the larger festivals too, which is great.”

Chris Love, singer for the experimental pop duo Pith and the Parrenchymas agrees. The band formed after previous projects were grounded and, together, they moved into the post-rock, psych and pedal board realm which Love basically breaks down as guitar music. They play on the 18th.

“Small fests like Doldrums are fantastic because as a band you get the best of both worlds. The beauty of playing a fest, big or small, is that for once you as the

Pith and the Parenchymas. Photo courtesy of Owen Clayton.

Pith and the Parenchymas. Photo courtesy of Owen Clayton.

musician don’t have to worry about all the logistics of hosting or promoting your own show,” says Love mentioning that festivals like this one help with one of the of the main problems with the DIY music circuit. “We’re supposed to be our own promoters, our own managers and turn our own houses into venues. Personally, I suck at all those things. So it’s amazing to have all that handled for you and know that all the contingencies are taken care of by the fest.”

Richard Vaughan, bassist for Elementals (performing on the 19th), looks forward to being able to connect with other local bands at Doldrums. The group got a boost at the end of 2015 when Ottawa Showbox called their release I’m Not Here, I’m Not Real “a doozie of a first album” and placed it in their top local releases of the year.

“We get compared to Nirvana a lot, which is something we are going to try and Rage Against the Winter Blahs with Doldrums 2016 - Image (1)avoid for our newer material,” says Vaughan adding that though their Doldrums show on the 19th will either be a train-wreck or organized chaos, he guarantees it will be an all-around spectacle. “We’re all maturing musically, listening to a wider range of artists, finally settling into a sound of our own that will continue to grow and evolve.”

With a variety of local sound to choose from, whether you want to hear some dream pop, SYNTH DOOM, experimental electronica, emo psych or garage punk, MacKenzie can look back from his new Toronto home and see that winter festival creation born on a hot summer day five years ago continues to thrive.

“It’s two nights of lovingly curated music, representing the very best of what the diverse local scene in Ottawa has to offer,” he says. “Rage in the face of winter!”

Doldrums Music Festival 2016 Lineup
Club Saw – 67 Nicolas Street
Doors 8pm

March 18th
Pith & the Parenchymas

March 19th
Warp Lines
Creep Wave
Slow Dawn

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