Five years on, Marvest keeps harvesting a bounty of local music

Marvest is celebrating five years of presenting local acts in unique venues such as Kunstadt Sports. Photo: Gilles Vezina

After five years, the Marvest festival of local music shows no signs of slowing down.

Marvest will take place this year on Sept. 13 and 14. The companion event to the CityFolk festival taking place in Lansdowne Park will happen in some 28 different spaces — from hair salons to bike shops to restaurants and pubs — up and down Bank Street in the Glebe.

That’s the largest number of venues in the history of the event, says Emma Francis, who runs local programming for Marvest along with her role at the annual RBC Ottawa Bluesfest.

In those diverse locations, some 74 artists and ensembles will perform. That too is the most ever at Marvest.

“It is pretty remarkable given the way it has grown so exponentially,” she said in an interview. “The first year we had just under 20 venues.” In fact, the number of acts in Marvest now rivals the number of locals performing at Bluesfest, packed into a much shorter period of time.

There are obvious fits in places such as Irene’s Pub, which has been there from Day One. But there are some surprising ones such as Kundstadt Sports with performers playing alongside the bikes.

“Something that we have noticed,” Francis said, “is that there can be turnover as new businesses emerge in the Glebe. It is neat to see venue owners of previous establishments passing on some positive things about Marvest to new owners, who then reach out and want to be on board. It passing the torch along.”

One place that often throws people is the Bank of Montreal branch at Lansdowne Park.

“Everyone always says, ‘the actual branch?’ and we say, ‘yes, the actual branch’.”

Hair salons and barbershops are also on board.

“People there for an appointment can enjoy some live music,” Francis said.

That all leads to a new ‘rolling’ venue this year. The festival has partnered with Lady Dive Tours to run an open air free shuttle up and down Bank Street from the Queensway to Lansdowne.

There will be live music on the shuttle which will stop at three locations so people can hop on and off. Dubbed the Magic Marvest Bus, the shuttle will feature singer-songwriters Dylan Holton, Colin Wylie and Krista Hartman who offer different forms of music from country to psychedelic experimental to folk pop, Francis said.

Another new offering will happen at Fourth Avenue Baptist Church where Eleni Mandell will lead a songwriting workshop; Tom Wilson will talk about his autobiography Beautiful Scars and the Snotty Nosed Rez Kids will explain how they started. All three are also performing at CityFolk. Also new this year: Marvest is hosting the What’s in a Song showcase at the Glebe Neighbourhood Activities Group community centre on Third Avenue at 2 p.m. Spoken word poet, arts educator, creative entrepreneur and performance artist Jamaal Jackson-Rogers will lead the event.

In addition, the festival has opened up the Marvest lineup to a few acts from outside this region. There are nine bands coming from Toronto, Montreal and other parts of eastern Ontario.

“Marvest remains first a foremost a showcase for local acts,” Francis said. “This is the first year we have decided to showcase emerging artists from Toronto, Montreal and other parts of rural Ontario. We felt there were a number of artists keen to perform and we didn’t want to remove all opportunities to explore the Ottawa market. It never hurts to diversify the crowd coming through for Marvest.

“These bands get to see Ottawa and it also offers visitors a chance to check out the great businesses in the Glebe.”

Here are some shows patrons might want to check out at Marvest. First up, Friday the 13th:

Anna Ludlow

Francis started with a Celtic East Coast fiddle showcase at Cabana’s Kitchen featuring Jessica Wedden (9 p.m. to 9:45 p.m.) and Anna Ludlow in back to back performances (from 10 p.m. to 10:45 p.m.). Wedden is a 16 year old fiddler, trick fiddler, step dancer and composer who has played the Festival of Small Halls where she opened for Ashley MacIsaac. “She continues to take our breath away,” Francis said. Ludlow just finished a 15 month run with the musical Come from Away in the Toronto production. Originally from Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Ludlow has been influenced by her Celtic ancestry. She has just released her second album Wherever You Go.

Over at Irene’s (10:30 p.m. to 11:15 p.m.), the brother and sister duo MACK & BEN (Mackenzie and Ben Di Millo) are offering what they describe as ” groovy, smooth, harmonious and heartfelt pop and soul. “They play in other bands such as The Commotions. This is their new project and it harnesses their talents front and centre.” They’ll be followed by the Mackenzie Rhythm Section (11:30 p.m.12:15 a.m.) who have been offering solid soul and funk since formation in 2010. “That will be a neat one to check out for the groove,” Francis said.

John Allaire

Marvest welcomes John Allaire with a new folk project this year. He’s playing with a band the Fi-delities featuring banjo and upright bass. “It totally fits with the Marvest feel,” she said. He’s at Bowman’s Bar & Grill (11:30 p.m.12:15 a.m.) 

Jonathan Pierce, formerly with Winchester Warm, has gone solo. He plays Crust & Crate (9 p.m.9:45 p.m.). He’s packing a new album called Systems that “moves from sparse confessional ballads to dense hypnotic indie-rock song stylings.” Also at Crust & Crate that night are the hair metal men Mushy Gushy (10 p.m.10:45 p.m.) and Jon Hynes (11 p.m.11:45 p.m.) whose latest release is called Cardinal Giant.

The band Siberian Breaks has caught Francis’s attention. “They are kind of an instrumental psychedelic band. They call themselves as Baffin Island house band. They pull a lot of inspiration from the Canadian winter and northern Canada. ” Members of the band used to be in another Ottawa ensemble called Trunk. At the Clocktower Brew Pub (10:30 p.m.11:15 p.m.)

Also on the radar is a synthpop showcase at Collabo-X-Cafe featuring Townes, aka Matt Radich, whose latest release is the EP, Ancestor (9 p.m. to 9:45 p.m.)  and Valois, a five piece band from Ottawa (10 p.m.10:45 p.m.) 

Saturday the 14th:

It’s a packed day of music, Francis said.

She started by mentioning two Ottawa area singer-songwriters Alexandra Sullivan who has two shows one at Banditos (2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.) and at Purple Urchin (2:45 to 3:15 p.m.) and Jillian Kerr who is at SEN (1:15 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.) and Plush Beauty Lounge (2:45 p.m.-3:15 p.m.


KONAH is a new voice on the Ottawa scene. Konah Raynes started singing at age 10 in his father’s church after the family moved to Ottawa from Africa. He’s known for  YouTube venture which has him posting covers of hit songs such as Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop This Feeling which features Mayor Jim Watson and several Ottawa firefighters. he’s at Collabo-X-Cafe (1:45 p.m.-2:15 p.m.) and Banditos (3 p.m.-3:30 p.m.).

The brother-sister duo Fonts (Daniel Rosales and Jesse Rosales) are originally from Caracas, Venezuela. They were at Marvest last year when “they were just getting their footing so we wanted to showcase them again,” Francis said. With an album on the horizon, Fonts are at The Element High School (2 p.m.-3 p.m.).

Subtle Curves is an alternative soul band from Ottawa. They have just released their first EP which they compare to 2001: A Space Odyssey. They’ll be at a new Marvest venue Eldon’s restaurant (10:30 p.m.11:15 p.m.). Isaac Vallentin is based in Montreal these days, but he has strong ties to the Ottawa area. His latest recording is the EP Amateur (11:30 p.m.12:15 a.m.).


Over at Studio B Urban Hair is a whole lotta girl power starting with Ottawa’s self-described “living room dream pop band” Sparklesaurus (9 p.m.-9:45 p.m.). Also performing is Triple (10 p.m.- 10:45 p.m.) Sisters Eva and Madeline Link started in Ottawa and now are based in Toronto. The final part of this triple bill is Toronto based garage rocker Luna Li (11 p.m.-11:45 p.m.).

Marvest favourite, Amos the Transparent is back on the bill. With 10 years and five albums on the resume, the band is hard at work on a new EP. They play Irene’s (10:30 p.m.11:15 p.m.). 

Another popular Ottawa veteran Brian Asselin (of The Commotions) has formed a new duo with David Gaw. They’ll be at Crust & Crate (11 p.m.-11:45 p.m.)

Finally the Ottawa jazz ensemble Tiny Cars (Gabriel Paul, Louis Perron, Garrett Warner, and Christian Lascelles) will be at at Crust & Crate (10 p.m.10:45 p.m.). Their debut EP, The Truth About Snake Oil, was released in 2018.

Here is the full lineup of local acts:

Alexandra Sullivan; Alison Rose; Almyr Jules; Amos the Transparent; Angelina Hunter Trio; Anna Ludlow; Brian Asselin Duo; Bruce Enloe; Cee Lawrence; Champagne Sundays; Chris Zimmerman & The Weather; cicæda; Colin Wylie; Dana Sipos; David James Allen; Dirty Sheep; DJ ROZ; Drae; Dylan Holton; Five+None; Fonts; Fools of Love; Good Advice; Graven; Harea Band; Havelin; High Waters; Isaac Vallentin; JFUN; Jack Pine and The Fire; Jamie Douglas & The Powergoats; Jessica Wedden; Jillian Kerr; John Allaire and the Fi-Delities; Jon Hynes; Jonathan Pearce; KONAH; Kate Weekes; Krista Hartman; Kyle Meagher; Li’l Andy; Luna Li; Lyle Odjick & The Northern Steam; MACK & BEN;  Mackenzie Rhythm Section; Maple Grove; Mayhemingways; Mushy Gushy; Paolo Stante Band; Patrick Rock; Pimienta Blanca; Piper & Carson; Sara-Danielle; Siberian Breaks; Sing Song Party Time; Sophie D’Orléans; Sparklesaurus; Spencer Scharf; Subtle Curves; susan o; The Pale Light; The Rifle & The Writer; The “Self-Help” Club; The Tackies; Tiny Cars; Townes; Trevor Alguire; Triples; Tulips & Devilships; Tyler Kealey Band; VIBEBYMELO; Valois and Yvon Leroux.

For more information on acts playing at Marvest: For venues and locations:

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.