5 live music shows to see in Ottawa this weekend

Freak Motif, Oliver Jones, Socalled, Planet Smashers and Cher top Jeanne Armstrong's picks.

Freak Motif, Oliver Jones, Socalled, Planet Smashers and Cher top Jeanne Armstrong's picks

Calgary-based collective Freak Motif plays the Mercury Lounge Thursday night. (Freak Motif)

Freak Motif @ Mercury Lounge, Thurs. April 24

Freak Motif reminds me of a more frenzied version of Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, the Chicago-based all-brass band featuring eight brothers — but replace eight brothers with eight young dudes from Calgary who jam together every week in each others garages. Freak Motif calls its horn section the weapons of brass destruction.

When the band started in Calgary, it was pretty unwieldy. Sometimes six people would show up to a jam session — other times, 35. And when the band plays a show, it does not discriminate. Freak Motif has played everything from house parties to parades.

As for the venue this time around, the band is making its Ottawa debut at Mercury Lounge on Thursday night at 9 p.m. Tickets are $8. More info on the band here.

Oliver Jones @ NAC Studio, Thurs. April 24

Jazz legend Oliver Jones plays Thursday and Friday night at the the NAC studio. (Justin Time Records)
If you prefer tickling ivories to trumpets — Oliver Jones might be just the trick. Jones is largely seen as one of Canada's current jazz piano masters, since Oscar Peterson passed away in 2007. And what's interesting is that Jones has a personal connection to Peterson. Jones grew up in Little Burgundy, the same Montreal neighbourhood as Peterson — and his piano teacher was Oscar's sister, Daisy.

Over the years, Oliver Jones has become a jazz favourite in his own right and his shows are always packed. If you want a chance to see him live, you should grab tickets fast. He's playing on Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m. at the NAC Studio. Tickets are $58 each. 

Planet Smashers @ Mavericks, Fri. April 25

I'm going to add one more pick from the brass section. The Planet Smashers are all about high-octane, infectious ska. They're so well-known in their hometown of Montreal that one music critic has called them "the Salisbury steak of the Montreal ska scene."

The Planet Smashers celebrate 20 years at Mavericks Friday night. (Photo: Susan Moss)
They had a hit song in the ska scene back in 1999 called Life of the Party and true to that song, they're still partying hard. In fact, on Saturday night the band will celebrate 20 years together at Mavericks. That's not to mention their newly-released eighth album, Mixed Messages. So if you feel like dancing, head down to Mavericks on Friday night. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $17.

Socalled @ Black Sheep Inn, Fri. April 25

Josh Dolgin, better known by his stage name, Socalled, is a man of many talents. He's a spoken word artist, rapper, record producer, puppet master, poet, and multi-instrumentalist with a soft spot for the Klezmer.

His latest album, The Season, is less of an album and more of a soundtrack. It's a score he wrote to accompany a puppet musical he produced by the same name, which stars forest animals that leave hibernation only to discover that aliens have invaded. He only performed this musical once a few years back in Montreal — but he's got enough whimsy as a performer to keep you entertained.

Montreal musician and artist Josh Dolgin, aka Socalled, plays at the Black Sheep Inn Friday night. ((National Film Board))
He's at the Black Sheep Inn Friday evening. The night kicks off at 8:30 p.m. and tickets are $12 advance.

Cher + Cyndi Lauper @ Canadian Tire Centre, Sat. April 26

Cher. She's a legend in her own right. Still performing — in pasties, no less — at the ripe old age of 67. How could I leave her off this list?

Here's a confession: If I could turn back time, I would probably have chosen a different pop star to idolize as a 10 years old. Cher marks a milestone in my life: her 1999 album Believe was my saving grace as I sat, bored, in the backseat of a car during a winding cross-Canada road trip. And my first-ever concert? Cher. Maybe it's the voice. Maybe it's the auto-tune.

She's back in town for a farewell tour, aptly named Dressed to Kill. Her costumes range from Native American headdress to Gladiator, not to mention her wild wig collection.

Cher's Dressed to Kill tour stops into Ottawa Friday night at the Canadian Tire Centre. (Cher/Twitter)
Since this may be the last time to catch Cher  this is her "farewell" tour, after all — you may want to buy tickets fast. Cher plays with Cyndi Lauper on Saturday at 8 p.m. Ticket prices range from $25.75 to $131.25 (although, good luck getting the cheaper price for tickets; most are sold out already.)

Lynn Miles + Kaleigh Watts @ Black Sheep Inn, Sat. April 26

For something a little more low-key, the always affable Lynn Miles takes the stage at the Black Sheep Inn Saturday night. Many listeners are familiar with Lynn — so I'd like to tell you about Kaleigh Watts, who is opening for her. For someone who still hasn't put out an album yet she's got an old-soul kind of voice. She does have plans on putting out her first album this fall, though. It's called Smoke Lake, and she's recorded most of it on the portage trails in Algonquin Park. Kaleigh Watts takes the stage before Lynn at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance.

Thursday April 24

  • Freak Motif +UP & UP Concert Series @ Mercury Lounge, 9 p.m., $8.
  • Oliver Jones @ NAC Studio, 8 p.m., $58 (also performs on Friday).

Friday, April 25

  • Socalled @ Black Sheep Inn, 8:30 p.m., $12 adv.
  • Jerry Leger and The Situation + Rey Sabatin of the John Henry's @ Zaphod Beeblebrox, 8 p.m., $8.
  • Oliver Jones @ NAC Studio, 8 p.m., $58.
  • The Jivewires @ Irene's Pub, 9:30 p.m., $10/$6 for students.
  • Lindy Vopnfjörd @ Pressed Cafe, 8 p.m., $10.
  • Planet Smashers @ Mavericks, 8 p.m., $17 adv.

Saturday, April 26

  • Cher + Cyndi Lauper @ Canadian Tire Centre, 8 p.m., tickets range from $25.75 to $131.25.
  • Lynn Miles + Kaleigh Watts @ The Blacksheep Inn, 8:30 p.m., $20 adv.
  • Greg McEvoy @ Avant Garde, 5:30 p.m., $tbd.
  • Still Winter Hills + The Dead Bees @ Irene's Pub, 9 p.m., $8.
  • Bet. e and Stef @ La Grange de la Gatineau, 8 p.m., $28.75.
  • Amanda Cottreau @ Angela's Bed and Breakfast, 7 p.m., $20.
  • Hornswater @ The Rainbow, 4 p.m., $tbd.

Sunday, April 27 

  • Caroline Leonardelli @ Southminster United Church, 3 p.m., $20/$10 for students.
  • Brothers Chaffey @ Atomic Rooster, 6 p.m., $tbd.

Wednesday, April 30

  • A. J. Vincent + Saturnfly + Tall Trees @ Zaphod Beeblebrox, 8 p.m., $10.