The Apex Jazz Band + Swing Dynamite @ Babylon, Children's Wish Fundraiser, Thursday

One of The Apex Jazz Band's crowd favourites is "(You Scream, I Scream, We All Scream For) Ice Cream." I'm having a hard time imagining licking a cone with this never-ending winter. No matter what the thermometer says, the calendar says Thursday is the first day of spring! The Apex Jazz Band's music feels more "rum-runner" than rum-raisin. Ice Cream is one of many in Apex's fine repertoire of Dixieland jazz standards.

While I was learning my ABCs and getting my hands slapped for eating houseplants, Apex was laying some fine jazz on vinyl record. Over the next 37 years they have played events as diverse as a jazz club in Nuuk, Greenland to a couple of local funerals. Apex Jazz Band will be at Babylon Thursday night as part of an event called Ragin' Cajun Speakeasy: Relive the 1920s New Orleans Style. It's a fundraiser for the Children's Wish Foundation. Swing Dynamite is also on the bill along with a burlesque show. Tickets are $20 and starts at 8 p.m., so shine up your wingtips for a great cause.

Bry Webb + Jennifer Castle + Jonathan Pearce @ Zaphods, Friday

Bry Webb Ottawa Music pick

Bry Webb performs Friday night at Zaphod's. (CBC Music)

This happens more often than not, but I had a hard time deciding which great show is a "Putz Pick" for Friday. Should it be “Frenglish” dance duo Radio Radio at Ritual? Should it be rock legends The Coopers Brothers, with their giant list of special guests including Amanda Rheaume, Colin Cripps of Blue Rodeo and Monkeyjunk?

Or, should it be Monkeyjunk who is racing from that guest-gig at Centrepointe Theatre in Nepean to The Rainbow in the Market to headline the first of two nights? (That includes next Saturday, which Mayor Watson declared "Monkeyjunk Day" after the trio played on Ottawa Morning last year!).

I ended up picking none of the above (though they are all solid). One of my two official Friday picks is playing in the market as well. The lovely Jennifer Castle and local sweet-guy songwriter Jonathan Pearce get to join the Yazata of Canadian indie music, Bry Webb. He's the voice of beloved on-hiatus band Constantines.

In 2009, Bry moved to Guelph with his new wife and they had a baby. A couple years later he released his solo debut called The Provider, a nod to his new role as dad-husband before music-man.

The gentle, sleepy song "Rivers of Gold" was an indie hit, but it had been written back in early Constantines days, when the band first played the Dawson City Music Festival in Yukon in 2005. It didn't quite suit the rock and roll of his band so it seemed he saved it for his eventual solo project.

Bry Webb plays Friday at Zaphod's, the usual 8:30 start and it's $10. Don't miss openers Jennifer Castle and Ottawa's own Jonathan Pearce (of Winchester Warm). They are the perfect warm-up! 

Fevers + Pony Girl @ The Blacksheep Inn, Friday

My other official pick is about a 30-minute drive from downtown Ottawa, but you don't need to worry about bringing your car. Fevers have arranged for a “Pay-What-You-Can” bus ride for fans to get out to The Blacksheep Inn. Regular CBC listeners will know I have a special thing for Fevers. I'm a lyrics person who also likes to dance, and this band does that well. I also like to think (at least once in a while).

Opening for Fevers is Pony Girl, whose true art-pop will expand your mind while tugging at your heart. Like Fevers, Pony Girl is an Ottawa band led by dual songwriters who also sing. It's dreamy, ambient, sometimes.

The thing with this band is one track will make you toe-tap gently, maybe sing along, and the next one will transport you to an imaginary film of your own mind's making. Pony Girl's album Show Me Your Fears is something very special and its only crime is that it needs more ears to hear it!

They'll bring those evocative soundscapes to life at The Blacksheep Inn Friday, opening for Fevers. The party bus, when I last checked, was most likely to meet at The Museum of Nature with a load-in between 7:30 and 8 p.m. — first-come, first-served. Be good and throw in a fiver for the band and driver.

Sweet Alibi + The Dusty Drifters @ Almonte Old Town Hall, Saturday

Winnipeg Folk Festival

Sweet Alibi are taking part in Almonte's Old Town Hall's Folkus Series on Saturday night. (Mike Latschislaw)

Saturday night I have another out-of-town recommendation. Unfortunately, there’s no party bus for this one but it’s definitely worth the scenic drive to Almonte. The Old Town Hall's Folkus Series concludes Saturday night with Winnipeg's Sweet Alibi. It's a trio of women who can just as easily channel Adele as cover Woody Guthrie.

Their latest single, "I'll Wait," fits snugly into the former category. However, the trio's first album leaned more towards the folk spectrum, think Good Lovelies or Be Good Tanyas. It's probably a nod to that half of their two-album repertoire that inspired Folkus to put Ottawa string band, The Dusty Drifters, in the opener spot.

Sweet Alibi makes gorgeous crossover folk-pop, so those two bands are going to be a feast for the ears Saturday night at the Almonte Old Town Hall. Treat yourself to a sweet supper at Heirloom Bistro before walking over to the hall for a 7:30 start. If you can't make the old-timey theatre show (such a perfect venue for the sound), you will have a chance to hear Sweet Alibi on Wednesday in the Glebe (Ottawa) at Irene's with Lynne Hanson. 

NQ Arbuckle (CD release) @ The Blacksheep Inn, Saturday

"I come from a cheap town, I like hot dogs...

What Neville Quinlan is saying in the song, "Cheap Town," is he has simple tastes. I'm not a fan of hot dogs, so if I were to liken Neville's band NQ Arbuckle to food, I'd say it's like a good piece of steak. (I'm a simple prairie girl, honest!) You get hearty soul food that, if you buy a quality cut, doesn't need fancy sauces or spices. Simple salt and pepper dress it up just fine.

NQ Arbuckle's songs are thoughtful, sometimes a little wry, and always perfectly crafted thanks to Neville's bandmates Mark Kesper, Peter Kesper and John Dinsmore, who are among the finest in their genre. The band has a brand-new record to peddle at the Blacksheep Inn tonight, so heading there is a good chance to pick it up and take in a quality concert at the same time.

Part of what is great about NQ Arbuckle live is the sideshow bandleader Neville often provides. He tends to barrel through a show leaving me wondering if his poor acoustic guitar can handle the pounding he's giving it. He's irreverent and funny, if sometimes sloppy, but again, that trio of quiet professionals behind him lend a perfect counterpoint to his exuberance.

I have never left an NQ Arbuckle show disappointed and I can't say that about many bands I've seen as many times as this one. The Blacksheep Inn is their favourite venue to play, so pack it tonight to welcome them back to Wakefield. Tickets are $20 and the show starts at 8:30 with no opener.

Justice RF + Royal Streets @ Mercury Lounge, Saturday

Justice R.F.

Justice RF and The Royal Streets are performing at the Mercury Lounge on Saturday. (Justice R.F.)

For folks who aren't likely to head anywhere off the public transit lines, I recommend seeing Justice RF and The Royal Streets at Mercury Lounge in the ByWard Market Saturday. Royal Streets came to my attention through sheer cosmic fortune. Last Canada Day I was eating supper on the back deck with my family. There was some fantastic music bouncing off the brick walls of the old houses in our neighbourhood.

After we finished we toted the kids out the front door to go see where the tunes were coming from, since they were obviously being played live. Two doors down, the university students were hosting a July 1 keg party, complete with Royal Streets in the backyard. My two-year-old and I lingered watching this young band I'd never heard of, but was instantly smitten by. High recommendation for this one! Fresh indie-pop with his and her vocals, smart song-writing, this is a band to keep your ears and eyes on.

While you're driving to Wakefield or Almonte for a pre-show supper, you can tune in to Bandwidth at 5 p.m. Once again I'm focusing on the CBC Searchlight competition for Canada's next big thing. Ontario has hundreds of entries and all of us at CBC Music are impressed at the kind of talent that pops out of the internet woodwork for these kinds of things. I spoke to newbie Emily Reid about her debut album and Jessa Runciman chatted with Ottawa rapper & DJ duo: Buck n Nice. 

LISTINGS

Thursday

  • Irene's All Stars Blues Thursdays w/ guest host Peter Newsom @ Irene's, 9:30 p.m., free
  • Algonquin College "Ragin' Cajun Speakeasy" w/ The Apex Jazz Band @ Babylon, 8 p.m., $20
  • Northlander @ The Rainbow, 4p.m., Free
  • Reggae Night w/ Roots Movement @ The Rainbow, 10p.m., $7

Friday

  • Bry Webb + Jennifer Castle + Jonathan Pearce (of Winchester Warm) @ Zaphod Beeblebrox, 8:30p.m., $10
  • Dance Laury Dance with Aly, HellBros! @ Mavericks, 9p.m., $12
  • The Ya Yas [Rolling Stones] @ Irene's, 9:30p.m., $10
  • Fevers + Pony Girl @ The Black Sheep Inn, 8:30p.m., $10 (PWYC bus ride to Wakefield!)
  • The Folk + Adverteyes @ Pressed, 9p.m., $8
  • Frank James Band (Early Show) @ The Rainbow, 4p.m., Free
  • MonkeyJunk (Late show) @ The Rainbow (2 nights Pre-Juno Party), 9:30p.m., $15
  • The Coopers Brothers w Special Guests:  Les Emmerson, Peter Fredette, Colin Cripps, Monkeyjunk, Amanda Rheaume @ Centrepointe Theatre, 8p.m., $45
  • Ty Hall & The Biz + Sharon Nutzati @ Raw Sugar, 8pm door, $7
  • Radio Radio @ Ritual Nightclub, 10p.m., $21
  • David Newberry & Jenny Berkel @ Kaffe 1870

Saturday

  • NQ Arbuckle (CD release) @ The Black Sheep Inn, 8:30p.m., $20
  • Brock Zeman + David Newberry @ Irene's, 9:30p.m., $10​
  • Hornswater (Early show) @ The Rainbow 4p.m., Free
  • MonkeyJunk (Late show) @ The Rainbow (2 nights Pre-Juno Party), 9:30p.m., $15
  • Rod Williams Band @ Atomic Rooster, 4-8p.m., Free
  • Glorious MoonRockets @ Atomic Rooster, 10p.m., Free
  • Ewashko Singers Schnittke's Concerto for Choir @ St Joseph's Church, 174 Wilbrod Street, 8p.m., $25 general / $20 students and seniors / children under 12 free
  • **Sweet Alibi + The Dusty Drifters @ Almonte Old Town Hall (finale of series)  7:30 Doors, 8pm show, $30 Winnipeg's Sweet Alibi and Ottawa's Dusty Drifters: $30 at folkusalmonte.com, Mill Street Books (Almonte), Compact Records
  • Chris Page + Elizabeth McDermott + Leslie Dishslayer @ Raw Sugar, 8pm door, $tbd
  • Ron Hawkins with Luther Wright @ Kaffe 1870, 9p.m.

Sunday

  • Passage to Easter: Choral Concert in the Russian Orthodox Tradition @ St. Xenia Cathedral, Kanata, 3p.m., $20
  • David Gogo + Steve Marinner + Mélanie Brulée @ The Blacksheep Inn, Wakefield, 4p.m., $15 adv
  • Open Blues Jam. Host: Al G Wood @ The Rainbow, 4p.m., $3                                        
  • Sunday Blues with The Drew Nelson Band @ Atomic Rooster, 6-9 p.m., Free
  • Bend Sinister + Miss Polygamy @ Raw Sugar Cafe, 8p.m., $8
  • Andrew Michelin @ The Rainbow, 8:30p.m., $5
  • Dynamite Motel @ Atomic Rooster, 10p.m., Free
  • RockRaiser: Lucas Haneman + Airliner Blues Band + Arms of the Girl + Eric & Erik + Robert Farrell + John-Alan Slachta + Coffee&Cardigans @ Greenfield's Pub & Eatery, 3-9pm, $10 (all proceeds towards the Ottawa Independent Living Resource Centrer: an organization that supports persons with disabilities). For tickets, contact Sasha at sasha-ileap@oilrc.com OR 613-236-2558, ext. 227.

Tuesday, March 25

  • The Pack A.D. + In Heat + Pkew Pkew Pkew @ Zaphod Beeblebrox, 8:30p.m., $15

Wednesday, March 26

  • The Sweet Alibi with Lynne Hanson @ Irene's Pub, 88 Bank Street, 8p.m., $15