Canadian Musicians Prove Their Worth Across the Capital

Photos by Emily Jefferies and Andre Gagne

It started with the TD Green Room and ended in a 1970’s stucco basement. I made my way across the city Saturday to witness the growing mass of talent our country is always pumping out.

I briefly caught the Fan Fare at Rideau Centre, with hundreds of fans lining up to speak to the selected artists. All ages were itching in line and on escalators to ask their questions and to shake hands.

I then moved onto the Lord Elgin TD green room, where a showcase of performers entertained an intimate room of friends, family and media.  

The Lytics from Winnipeg, Manitoba played a four track set that definitely helped rejuvenate the recovering room from the night before. Their synced energy through 60’s R&B and old-school soundscapes was what everyone needed to kick off the vast day of Canadian music.  Legend Jim Cuddy took the stage with his sons, that could have been mistaken as seeing triple if you didn’t know any better. You could feel the concentrated support and warmth in the room as every act went up, which in part was also thanks to the open bar and fresh food smorgasbord that was offered.  A few more hours to give some young emerging musicians their moments, and then I was off to experience night two of JUNO Fest.

First up was Flying Hórses at St. Alban’s church. She had already begun as I entered a few minutes late into a placid ambiance.

As guests rounded the corner, the scene was just Jade Bergeron, a piano, and rows of focused eyes, all surrounded by beautiful Gothic architecture. Her transportive cinematic scores demanded everyone’s attention, that no one minded the popping cans at the backside bar. It’s no wonder she has worked alongside Oscar nominated composer Dustin O’Halloran, and award-winning director Alexandre Richard.  She is such an angelic talent to witness in the flesh, as most left the church with body chills.

Next was Townes at Zaphod Beeblebrox. Matt Radich is a multi-instrumentalist from Oakville. Surrounded by his guitars, mics and synthesizers, he took the stage with pure honesty and humour. As the crowd rolled in for his early set, Matt warmed them up for the rest of the night with his Hot Chip and Diamond Rings inspired beats. There was nothing not to love about him as he made the crowd laugh throughout his set. Youngblood from Vancouver jumped up next. Their contrast of dreamy, breezy grooves and dark, pulsating sounds seduced all ears and bodies on the floor. Alexis Young and her sixties inspired sequined dress hopped into the crowd at one point to tempt the fans even more. They came to the capital to conquer the Beeblebrox stage, and without a doubt that’s what they did.

I moved over to Rainbow Bistro to mix it up a bit before having to jet down south.  The house was packed as I waited to be let in. Lyle Odjick and the Northern Steam were inside heating up the house with their original blues numbers. After explaining my need to get in for a few snaps, I thankfully skipped the line and pushed my way through the masses. Lyle was sweating hard from all the soul and energy the band was putting into their instruments. The classic Chicago riffs had everyone moving. As I was leaving, I somehow swiftly caught a server’s falling tray of drinks (which undeniably was influenced by the band’s smooth rapture), and raced out the door to the Glebe.

Once again, I came upon another packed bar at Irene’s as William Prince and his guitar were playing for a concentrated and loving audience.  It wasn’t a shock, as he had just won the Contemporary Roots Album of the year. His storytelling and genuine heart he puts into his playing makes you forget about life’s stresses and forces you to be present. The Leonard Cohen vibes were flowing in and out. It was a shame I only had twenty minutes before needing to run off my last event. Thank you William for slowing down time, even if it was just for an evening in Ottawa.

I ended the night with Weaves at House of TARG. There’s no perfect way to categorize them, which is exactly what they want. The four-piece band came over from the big city to end the evening on a wild and high note, and that’s exactly what they did. The vivid vintage outfits, mixed with their experimental sounds made for an unforgettable time. An impromptu mosh broke out mid show, which lead singer Jasmyn Burke calmly brought attention to post-song, as she walked through the crowd dragging her mic chord behind, in order to bring some control to the room. After 45 minutes of melodic twists and turns, the band flawlessly capped it off with the National anthem. It was carefree, un-judged, and un-named, and everyone couldn’t get enough.

Thank you to all the musicians who came to the Capital this weekend for the JUNOs. This nation is overflowing with talent. You just need to open your ears, eyes and search engine.