Marvest is a bountiful harvest of local music in the Glebe

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

As the CityFolk festival settles into Lansdowne Park, the event known as Marvest continues to reap a bounty of music.

Marvest is a weekend of music performed by local artists in businesses and venues in the Glebe neighbourhood around Lansdowne Park.

The third edition of Marvest will have 19 different venues, says Kelly Symes, who programs the event on behalf of CityFolk, up from 12 in the first year. The event is done in partnership with the Glebe BIA.

“Marvest is an off-shoot of CityFolk,” Symes says. “We don’t program many local acts in CityFolk so Marvest is pretty much a celebration of local music; a music harvest. for anyone wondering what the words comes from.

“The premise being that shops and restaurants open their doors throughout the Glebe. People can go in these shops that will stay open late on the weekend and hear some great local music for free.”

It can be a surprising and unexpected night. One of the places that will feature a performer this year is The Unrefined Olive. The olive oil shop has been a staple since year one.

“Some of best shows have taken place there,” Symes said.

“We also have Aroma Espresso Bar, a Bank of Montreal branch, Miss Tiggy Winkles, The Papery. You can have a musical experience and a shopping experience at the same time.” There is also a barber shop and a gelato place.

The inspiration for Marvest is the annual SXSW (South by Southwest) Festival in Austin, Texas. But, Symes says, Marvest has taken on its own personality because, she believes, of the strength of the community in the Glebe.

“It’s very much a local, community oriented event. We have such a wide variety of venues. It has definitely developed into it’s own thing.”

Planning what artist goes in which venue is a bit of a military exercise. There are a lot of moving pieces.

“We program the artists in each venue. In first year put a hip hop show in Unrefined Olive. We didn’t want to do a traditional singer-songwriter in the small shop setting. But we are a bit more careful now. We aren’t going to put a full drum kit inside the olive oil shop, for example.”

In bigger venues they will put in a larger ensemble.

In Kunstadt Sports, a children’s performance was staged.

“We were thinking about what kind of people are going into the business, that maybe families are going in the bike store. So that’s how we programmed it.

“We want everyone to have a great experience: the bands, the business owner, the audience. We need it to work.”

On Marvest weekend, the venues clear a spot for the artists and they stay open late. The shows go until midnight later, in fact, than the CityFolk shows at Lansdowne.

“We are trying to celebrate local live music within a fantastic community. We are showcasing local artists in small venues that people know. And we are creating a unique experience that  happens once a year.

Symes says she is always looking for artists who are emerging or more established performers who are in a new projects.

An example of the latter is a project called Beyond Spain, which is the latest project of Alex Harea.

The inspiration for this collaboration, Symes says, came from time spent by Harea on the Camino pilgrimage in northern Spain.

JK3 is an off-shoot from Pony Girl.

Another new collaboration is JK3 which flows from the fertile brains of Jeff Kingsbury on drums, Julien Dussault on guitar and Greggory Clark on bass. They are all members of the very popular local band Pony Girl.

“This is a cool instrumental trio that will add four other musicians. This is something most people haven’t seen yet and Marvest will give the audience a window into the new project.

“Hopefully all these bands will be able to develop an audience that will come back and see them play throughout the year. Marvest is a bit of a launching pad.”

In the first year organizers booked more established bands to get the festival set. But it has evolved. With short sets of about 45 minutes, the event has taken on the feel of a showcase, she says.

“It’s a  musical tasting menu. For people who like to jump around this is the place. You can go and see 25 artists over two days. It’s a lot of fun.”

The artists also benefit because when they submit, their applications are considered form both Marvest and RBC Bluesfest which has its own strong local component.

“It accomplishes many things for us,” said Symes, (who also programs the Festival of Small Halls series that begins in September too). “We get to see a lot of music as a result. We make a pretty concerted effort to see as many live shows as we can throughout the year. But this is definitely a great chance to get a better idea of artists we haven’t seen.”

Submissions run every year from Nov. 15 to Jan. 30. About 50 acts are invited to Marvest. Bluesfest takes about 75.

“Because we give an opportunity to emerging bands, it might be more realistic for them to make Marvest than Bluesfest.

For now the Marvest festival will concentrate on including more businesses in the Glebe before expanding to a new part of town in a big way. Venues on Old Ottawa South and in centre town have taken part but the main emphasis remains the Glebe.

This year’s Marvest is on Friday Sept. 15 from 9 p.m. to midnight and on Saturday Sept. 16 with  family friendly shows from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and then again shows from 9 pm to midnight.

CityFolk, itself, runs from Sept. 13-17.

Symes says to watch out for these acts:

Mister & His Sister: “They are an indie, alternative brother sister duo from Kanata. They play catchy melodies and been performing for 10 years in the Ottawa Valley. They are a fun one to catch.

The Chocolate Hot Pockets.

Chocolate Hot Pockets: “This is a four-piece funk, hip hop, blues band. They have definitely become a live favourite around town. They play interpretations of what they call Fat Back Funk and neo soul. They are a later in the evening dance show in a bigger venue.”

The Okies: “This is an indie folk rock band from Aylmer. They have played the Outaouais festival of emerging artists (FOE) the last few years and won the coup de coeur award.”

Here is a list of Marvest venues. (For more information on Marvest, please see

1. Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s, 809 Bank St.

2. Clocktower Brew Pub, 575 Bank St.

3. Lindt Chocolate Shop, 825 Exhibition Way

4. Whole Foods Market, 951 Bank St.

5. Aroma Espresso Bar, 200 Marche Way #109

6. Irene’s Pub, 885 Bank St.

7. FarmTeam Cookhouse, 683 Bank St.

8. Craft Beer Market, 975 Bank St.

9. BMO at Lansdowne, 100 Marche Way #106

10. Pure Gelato, 843 Bank St.

11. The Unrefined Olive, 151A Second Ave.

12. Industria Pizzeria + Bar, 225 Marche Way #107

13. Kunstadt Sports, 680 Bank St.

14. Arrow & Loon Pub, 99 Fifth Ave.

15. Fifth + Bank, 99 Fifth Ave.

16. The Papery, 850 Bank St.

17. Capital Barber Shop, 590 Bank St.

18. Metro Music, 695 Bank St.

19. Pints & Quarts, 779 Bank St.

For more information on CityFolk, please see

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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.