Every year RBC Ottawa Bluesfest plays host to dozens of concerts by local artists. It’s part of the festival’s commitment to the scene in Ottawa-Gatineau.
This summer, as in past years, about a third of the concerts presented on the grounds of the Canadian War Museum will be by local and regional artists. That’s some 45 different concerts.
This year, said Emma Francis, who leads the way on local programming for the festival, Bluesfest broadened the reach of the submissions to include emerging talent from the Toronto and Montreal areas. As music is growing in Ottawa, the connections between the three cities is expanding.
“We were getting a lot of emerging talent looking to play Ottawa and expand their reach,” Francis said. “But under our old rules we couldn’t accept them without agent representation which isn’t always realistic for many artists.”
“We decided that majority of artists would be from the Ottawa-Gatineau region but we would allow some emerging artists from closer to Montreal and Toronto as well.”
Typically the festival gets about 500 applications for gig. This year the number jumped to 750 submissions.
“It was really interesting to see what was coming out of the woodwork. You think you will get the usual suspects every year but without fail there are names you have not seen before. It’s really refreshing and great to see new projects,” she said.
Here are some bands that you may want to take in as you wander past the festival stages.
Children of Indigo is a folk trio from Ottawa featuring Mitchell Jackson, Natasha
Pedersen and David Campbell. They cite as influences, The Paper Kites, Hollow Coves, and The Lumineers. They met at the University of Ottawa. The
group released a debut EP called Trails a year ago. Expect a second in the fall. “These are three young people just out of university,” Francis said. “They are an interesting group to watch. They put a single out on Spotify called Magnum and after six months it had more than 90,000 streams. We have been watching them because they have been applying for a little while. Suddenly they have just made a bit of space for themselves.” They be in the Barney Danson Theatre on July 6 at 3:30 p.m.
Garcons is as duo made up of a singer-songwriter Deelo and a producer/director Julian Strangelove. They got in the studio together in 2017. The result is a debut EP called Body Language. “They have the funkiest music videos,” Francis said, “and the have gotten attention from BBC Radio One and The Fader. They are funky, they are hip hop but it’s kind of hard to pigeonhole them. They took us by surprise and we knew we had to have them on the bill. Catch them on the Videotron Stage on July 10 at 6:30 p.m.
HOROJO Trio: Sometimes mid-career artists from Ottawa find a new iteration and that lands them in the festival. That’s the case with this blues trio featuring JW Jones, Jeff Rogers and Jamie Holmes. “JW has a JUNO nomination and Jeff and Jamie are two of the the most dedicated musicians in Ottawa. We have had different variations of their work in past. Jeff will easily play 250 shows a year. These are three solid musicians with a new new project and we are excited to feature it.” July 14 at 8 p.m. in the Barney Danson Theatre.
Marie-Clo is Franco-Ontarian alt-pop and synth. She is a strong writer, Francis said. But more than that “we were drawn to her because she sounds incredible and has an enthralling presence when you watch her.” Her band is also a force in the local music community with their presence on So Sorry Records and with Pop Drone. “It’s nice to support artists who are giving back to the community, Francis said. “We do have in our artist application, a question about community engagement because it is nice to see who is leaving their mark here. Her group is definitely doing that.” Barney Danson Theatre on July 4 at 6 p.m.
Mia Kelly has been a longtime friend of the festival. She started in the Be in the Band program and was in it for several years. “She was always a rockstar on stage and seemed totally in her element,” Francis said. “She has been in the Festival of Small Halls and at Marvest. Now we will have her at Bluesfest. Hers is a story that shows growth” including a debut EP called Cardboard Box. Barney Danson Theatre July 14 a 5 p.m.
No Mistakes in Space are indie rockers and friends who make music together. They are fronted by Kyla Hidalgo, who is a graphic artist when she’s not writing songs. She’s also a member of Girls+ Rock in Ottawa. “That was another thing that was interesting. The band was great and then you dive into their engagement with local music scene. That’s really impressive. It was kind of the icing on the cake,” Francis said. “They were also new to me with a unique sound and also a professionally produced music video. It’s impressive now to see videos bands put out now. These groups are talented musically and the visual takes it to another level.” July 6 at 5 p.m. in the Barney Danson Theatre.
Silent Winters is a new folk duo. They were nominated in two categories at the 2017 Canadian Folk Music Awards — for emerging artist of year and for ensemble of the year. Olenka Bastian and Jonathan Chandle are also the lead singers of the popular Ottawa band Amos the Transparent. They have a new album out called The Duke Hotel. “This is another of those new projects where talented musicians we want to continue to support appear in a new form,” Francis said. The local scene is a fluid one, she says, making it like completing a puzzle when putting a lineup together. July 14 at 6:30 p.m. in the Barney Danson Theatre.
Vi was a contestant on CTV’s The Launch along with a slew of Ottawa-based artists. The edgy proponent of Dark Pop can boast of having a million streams on Spotify “She has certainly made a statement for herself,” Francis said. Her first EP blackwater was well-regarded and now fans can expect an album in the fall. It helped that she got to worked with veteran producer Ryan Tedder on The Launch. July 14 at 6:30 p.m. on the City Stage.
Here are some artists who cracked the Bluesfest lineup from Toronto and Montreal:
Del Hartley was born in Ottawa and now calls Toronto home. He is an R&B ’90s soul singer. He too was on The Launch which helped kickstart his career. July 13 at 3:30 p.m. on the City Stage.
U.N. Jefferson is a Motown inspired soul band based in Toronto with a great live show and a “really full sound,” said Francis. Their latest self-titled album was produced by Jacksoul guitarist Justin Abedin. July 13 at 6:30 p.m. on the Videotron Stage.
Mike McKenna Jr. now is in Montreal but he is originally from Cape Breton and he brings a Maritimer’s sense of story into his indie pop folk. “I had found his music on Spotify even before opening up the submissions. And I was pleasantly surprised he had applied,” Francis said. July 7 at 4:30 p.m. on the Bluesville Stage.