Top 5 festivals, shows to see in Ottawa area this weekend

CBC Ottawa music columnist Jessa Runciman has taken a look through all the festival offerings this weekend to come up with a list of must-see shows, including artists like Low, A Tribe Called Red, METZ and See Spot Run.

Ottawa Explosion, Westfest, Festival Franco-Ontarien all happening this weekend

Lisa LeBlanc @ Festival Franco-Ontarien (Major's Hill Park) w/ Anique Granger, Tricia Foster, Scarlett Jane, Genevieve Toupin, 8 p.m., $15; $30 for festival pass

Lisa Leblanc is playing Festival Franco-Ontarien at Major's Hill Park on Thursday night. (CBC Music)
A handful of festivals are worth checking out around Ottawa this weekend, including one at Major's Hill Park: the Festival Franco-Ontarien. For 39 years it's been a celebration of all things francophone in Ontario, with music playing a big part. To kick off the festival on Thursday, Acadian banjo-shredder Lisa LeBlanc is headlining at 9 p.m. At age 24, she's already got a platinum-selling self-titled album under her belt, much of which was written when she was just a teenager in Rosaireville, N.B. With a population of 40 people, it's maybe not so surprising that Lisa felt the itch to take her talents to the bigger stages of Montreal, where she lives now. The Festival Franco-Ontarien will also feature acts like Marie-Mai on Friday night, and Pierre Lapointe and Marc Hervieux on Saturday night. Day passes are $15 and a festival pass is $30.

See Spot Run @ Zaphod's w/ Suns of Stone, My New Project; 8 p.m., $7

The show booked at Zaphod's for Friday night might feel like a trip down memory lane. Think 1999, Y2K, Mod-Robes and the song "Weightless," by Montreal's See Spot Run. The band achieved Canadian one-hit-wonder status for that song, and they went on to tour with bands like the Stone Temple Pilots. Then they sort of dropped off everyone's radar. See Spot Run continued to make music and play shows, eyeliner and over-sized sunglasses intact. They don't even mind that 15 years later, "Weightless" is still the song they're best known for. You can watch See Spot Run play that song and newer ones at Zaphod's alongside openers Suns of Stone and My New Project at 8 p.m. for $7.

Ottawa Explosion @ multiple venues, Wednesday to Sunday

White Poppy is playing Ottawa Explosion at the Mugshots courtyard on Saturday night. (White Poppy)
I'll be spending much of my weekend running between venues, in large part because Ottawa Explosion Weekend started Wednesday and runs through to Sunday night. This might just be the biggest Ottawa music festival under everyone's nose. It brings together a huge number of bands from all across North America at a handful of venues downtown, to play punk, garage and experimental pop music. One act I'm looking forward to catching over the course of the weekend is White Poppy — spacey, reverberant pop from Vancouver. They'll be playing in the Mugshot's courtyard behind the Ottawa Jail Hostel on Saturday night, but I'll have to show up late because I'll be coming from Ritual around the corner, where Ottawa natives METZ will be performing with Odonis Odonis and Boyhood. And all that after taking in the lineup at Club SAW throughout the day. This gives you a sense of how much there is to take in! Buying an Explosion pass for $60 gets you any show happening over the course of the festival's five days, but you can also pay for shows individually at the door (prices vary).

Westfest @ Westboro Village, all weekend

"Sisters" by A Tribe Called Red is featured in this week's episode of Unreserved. (CBC Music)
Meanwhile in Westboro Village, 14 blocks of Richmond Road are getting overtaken by the annual Westfest street party this weekend. The festival is free, so it's a perfect excursion if you want to head out with the family in tow to check out local vendors, food trucks, bouncy castles in the Kidzone — and, obviously, Canadian musical talent the likes of Ashley MacIsaac, George Leach and locals A Tribe Called Red. The latter are headlining Westfest's closing night on Sunday. You can access the main stage through the entrance right in front of the LCBO, next to the Superstore on Richmond Road.

Low @ Ritual w/ Orienteers; 8 p.m., $18

Low are playing at Ritual on Tuesday night. (Low)
Taking a peek ahead to next week, a Minnesota band is arriving in Ottawa on Tuesday. Low have been a consistent presence in indie-rock music since the early 90s, and are sure to draw a devoted crowd to Ritual, where they'll be playing. In fact, a lot of the band's shows take place with the audience sitting on the floor to listen, which says something about the unique type of intensity Low bring to their shows. Their last album, "The Invisible Way," was produced by Jeff Tweedy of Wilco in Chicago, and features more of Mimi Parker's voice than any of the band's previous nine albums; her husband, Alan Sparhawk, delivers the other half of the songs. Low is playing with Orienteers on Tuesday. 8pm, $18.


Thursday, June 12

  • Lisa LeBlanc @ Festival Franco-Ontarien (Major's Hill Park) w/ Anique Granger, Tricia Foster, Scarlett Jane, Genevieve Toupin, 8 p.m., $15; $30 for festival pass
  • Faraway Neighbours @ Black Sheep Inn w/ Lakes of Canada, 8:30 p.m., $10
  • Ottawa Explosion @ Club SAW w/ Tropical Dripps, Ketamines, Pretty Pretty, Tweens, The Stand GT, Zex, Vacation, TV Freaks, Black Tower, Cauldron; 7 p.m., $10
  • Ottawa Explosion @ Ottawa Art Gallery w/ Organ Eyes, Bonnie Doon, Sheer Agony; 9 p.m., $5
  • Ottawa Explosion @ House of Targ w/ Slim & Popular, The Reverb Syndicate; 9 p.m., $5
  • Destroy Clocks @ Avant Garde w/ BMBSHL, Monsun, Tindervox; 8:30 p.m., $5
  • Allstars Blues Thursdays @ Irene's w/ guest host Parker Estabrooks; 9:30 p.m., free
  • Nightbox @ Mavericks w/ Rush Midnight, Kate Schroder; 8 p.m., $12
  • Adam Saikaley Trio @ Raw Sugar Cafe; 8 p.m., $5

Friday, June 13

  • Ottawa Explosion @ Ottawa Art Gallery w/ Jon Creeden, Robots! Everywhere!; 4 p.m., free
  • Ottawa Explosion @ Club SAW w/ Outtacontroller, The Famines, Tough Age, Protomartyr, The White Wires, Wasted Potential, Dig It Up, The Creeps; 7 p.m., $15
  • Ottawa Explosion @ Mugshots w/ Dead Future, The Abandos, Ultrathin, DJs; 10 p.m., $5
  • Ottawa Explosion @ Cafe Dekcuf w/ The Dark Plains, Hashed Out, Black Love, Milanku, Loviatar; 8:30 p.m., $10
  • Ottawa Explosion @ House of Targ w/ The Petit Fours, The Guggenheimer Quartet; 9 p.m., $5
  • Jack Pine & the Fire @ Black Sheep Inn w/ The Dusty Drifters, 8:30 p.m., $10
  • James LeClaire @ The Branch w/ Shawn Donnelly, Jasmine Netsena, 9 p.m., $10
  • Westfest w/ DJ Lakes Distrikt, Smoke Wagon Blues Band, Maria Hawkins Band, River City Junction, George Leach; 5 p.m.-11 p.m., free
  • Marie-Mai @ Festival Franco-Ontarien (Major's Hill Park) w/ Shawn Jobin, Karim Ouellet, Celeste Levis; 5 p.m., $15; $30 festival pass
  • See Spot Run @ Zaphod's w/ Suns of Stone, My New Project; 8 p.m., $7
  • The Jivewires @ Pub Italia; 7 p.m., free
  • Death Cake @ Irene's w/ Cloud City; 9:30 p.m., $10
  • Fiddlehead Soup @ Pressed w/ Ali McCormick & Blackstrap Molasses; 8 p.m., $5
  • Ritual @ Montgomery Legion w/ Prophets, Abraxas, Hemispheres, Edge of the Earth; 6:30 p.m., $10
  • Cardboard Crowns @ The Rainbow w/ Grre en Famille, Freshly Cut; 9:30 p.m., $10
  • Carpenters @ Avant Garde w/ The Brook, Elementals, The Ballroom Babies; 8:30 p.m., $5

Saturday, June 14

  • Ottawa Explosion @ Club SAW (daytime) w/ King's Quest, Dad Jokes, Grime Kings, Old & Weird, Idle Bloom, Feral Trash, Big Dick, Low Culture, Needles//Pins, New Swears; 12 p.m., $10
  • Ottawa Explosion @ Vertigo Records w/ The Abandos, TV Freaks; 6 p.m., free
  • Ottawa Explosion @ (evening) w/ Voicemail, Sonic Avenues, Steve Adamyk Band, The Marked Men, Pookie & The Poodlez, Primitive Hearts, Strange Attractor, Nervosas, Crusades; 7:30 p.m., $15
  • Ottawa Explosion @ Ritual w/ Boyhood, Odonis Odonis, METZ; 9:30 p.m., $15
  • Ottawa Explosion @ Avant Garde w/ Dead Weights, Panic Attack, Latex Squad, The Dagger Eyes, Asile; 10:30 p.m., $5
  • Ottawa Explosion @ Mugshots w/ Prince Vali, Hard Science, Zones, White Poppy; 10 p.m., PWYC
  • Ottawa Explosion @ Cafe Dekcuf w/ Black Oak Decline, Drones, Merderahta, Kloven Hoofs, Alaskan; 9 p.m., $10
  • Ottawa Explosion @ House of Targ w/ Electric Ruin, Slow Mover; 9 p.m., $5
  • Awna Texeira of Po'Girl @ Black Sheep Inn w/ Luther Wright, Chris Brown (of Bourbon Tabernacle Choir), 8:30 p.m., $10
  • Catriona Sturton @ The Branch, 9 p.m., $8
  • Westfest w/ DJ Lakes Distrikt, Tam-Tam w/ Dr. Lee, Brock Zeman, Shawnee, The Peptides, The Sons of Scotland, Ashley MacIsaac; 4 p.m.-11 p.m., free
  • Marc Hervieux @ Festival Franco-Ontarien (Major's Hill Park) w/ Pierre Lapointe, En Bref, Stef Paquette; 4 p.m., $15; $30 festival pass
  • Harea Band @ The Rainbow w/ Monday I Retire, Suits 'n' Toques; 9 p.m., $8
  • Drew Nelson Band @ Atomic Rooster, 4 p.m., free
  • Tara Holloway @ Atomic Rooster w/ The Fays; 10 p.m., free
  • Carolyn Fe Blues Collective @ Irene's w/ Steve Groves Trio; 9:30 p.m., $12
  • Shred Kelly @ Mavericks w/ Shannon Rose & The Thorns; 8 p.m., $10
  • Nile Groove @ Zaphod's; 8 p.m., $5
  • Trouble Clef @ Raw Sugar Cafe w/ Kelly Sloan; 8 p.m., $10
  • Skullians @ Luneta Cafe w/ Murder State, WAR FAIR, Brain Damage, Machine Gun Dolly; 7 p.m., $8
  • Main Street Market Band @ Pressed; 7 p.m., $10

Sunday, June 15

  • Westfest w/ DJ Lakes Distrikt, Matthew James Weiler, Pony Girl, Fevers, Last Supper, Good2Go, A Tribe Called Red; 3 p.m.-11 p.m., free
  • Ottawa Explosion @ Club SAW w/ Pink Wine, First Base, Average Times, Mother's Children, The Mandates, Blue Angel, Best Fiends, Kappa Chow, The Yips, Roberta Bondar; 1 p.m., $5
  • Silver Creek @ Black Sheep Inn w/ Ilvekyo, 4:20 p.m., $7
  • The Ridgemont Revelers @ Irene's; 9:30 p.m., free
  • Pheonix @ Atomic Rooster; 6 p.m., free

Tuesday, June 17

  • Low @ Ritual w/ Orienteers; 8 p.m., $18
  • Bison @ Cafe Dekcuf w/ Biipiigwan, Sombre; 8 p.m., $13
  • Crazybones @ Avant Garde w/ Onionface, Sarah Logan, Baked Goods; 8:30 p.m., $5

Wednesday, June 18

  • Giant Hand @ Raw Sugar Cafe w/ Old Seed; 8 p.m., $8
  • Raw Nerves @ Luneta Cafe w/ Bloodnail, Police Funeral; 8 p.m., $5

About the Author

Jessa Runciman

Associate Producer

Jessa Runciman is an associate producer with CBC Ottawa, and an avid music fan and show-goer. You can follow her on Twitter @jessarunciman.