Festivals bring live music to you this weekend in Ottawa

TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, House of PainT hip-hop festival and the newcomer, City Sounds, bring music and arts to local neighbourhoods and online starting this week.

Three music festivals kick off this week in Ottawa

The first in a series of City Sounds concerts takes place Friday at 6 p.m. by the iconic Chinatown Royal Arch on Somerset Street West near Bronson Avenue. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Ottawa gets its groove back with three local musical festivals opening this week. 

City of Sounds 

"Show your love for local music by showing up," says Jamie Kwong, executive director of Ottawa Music Industry Coalition, the group responsible for launching City of Sounds, a brand new music showcase that will deliver 24 free live concerts to neighbourhoods across the city.  

Kwong says the region's music makers need to feel the love after being sidelined for more than a year as music venues closed and touring opportunities dried up. Reuniting musicians with appreciative audiences will boost their morale and put money in their pockets, she added. 

"This has been one of the hardest hit groups as a result of the pandemic," said Kwong. "This is a direct way that the city is investing in the music industry into our local musicians, creating paid opportunities." 

Jamie Kwong, executive director of the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition, which is responsible for launching the new City Sounds event. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

OMIC teamed up with local business groups and the City of Ottawa to put together City of Sounds, not only to boost the local music industry, but to support small local businesses by staging events in various neighbourhoods.

Local groups The Powergoats and Unsociably High will launch the series on Friday at 6 p.m. at the municipal parking lot by the Chinatown Royal Arch on Somerset Street West near Bronson Avenue. Patrons are invited to bring along their lawn chairs and blankets. 

Unsociably High features vocalist is Tiffany Wallace, left, and guitarist Brendon Bartlett. (Ora Walker Photography)

On Saturday, Jessica Pearson and the East Wind will be joined by Tara Shannon for a matinée performance at 2 p.m. in Westboro's Lion Park. Later that evening at 6 p.m., Danielle Allard and Jumpin' Joel Flash will entertain at Casino Lac Leamy Plaza in Lansdowne Park.

All concerts are free. 

Kwong says measures will be in place to ensure physical distancing at the locations and they're working to introduce mobile sites on hand for those who want to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

'Toddler version'

Catherine O'Grady from the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival says they felt like they were learning a new way to plan a festival in 2021. (Submitted by TD Ottawa Jazz Festival)

The TD Ottawa Jazz Festival returns with a hybrid mix of free live concerts from local jazz musicians, plus a series of artfully produced, pre-recorded videos from marquee artists including Kathleen Edwards, The Barr Brothers and the Andrew Downing Project, with tickets purchased online

Executive producer Catherine O'Grady says she's "super excited" the festival is able to safely host in-person musical events this summer.

"These artists can only play in their living rooms and basements for so long," said O'Grady, "They just need really to have that energy, that electricity that only audiences can provide."

She called this year's jazz festival the "toddler version" and they are taking baby steps toward normalcy. 

"We did a lot of stumbling getting this mini version together because a lot of our usual suppliers, partners, collaborators just aren't around anymore because of COVID," said O'Grady.

"We felt like we were babies learning the business for the first time."

Kathleen Edwards performs a virtual concert with the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival on Friday at 9 p.m. (Submitted by TD Ottawa Jazz Festival)

She admits some audiences are fatigued by the virtual aspect, but serious music lovers will enjoy the unique mash-ups and performance sessions offered online.

"These are kind of the chamber projects that we typically would have put into the National Art Centre studio ... it's for people who really want to listen to the music," said O'Grady,

Live performances are taking place in Confederation Park, the NAC Fourth Stage, and various small clubs including Live on Elgin, Irene's Pub and Gigspace.

Space is limited and reservations are required.

House of PainT 

Veronica Roy hopes to return the House of PainT hip-hop festival to the Dunbar Bridge in 2022. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Veronica Roy, executive director of House of PainT, says this summer's hip-hop music and arts festival is more of a "young-adult version" than years past.

While Roy plans to bring the festival back to its home under the Dunbar Bridge next year, the art-making and dance performances will be spread out over various locations over the next few weeks.

"We're going out into the streets and we're connecting with other communities and other parts of the city. And so it feels kind of like growing pains and growing up in a weird way," they said.

House of PainT has also partnered with CKCU, Carleton University's campus radio station, to broadcast world premieres and recording sessions from a variety of hip-hop musicians. It's also offering families the chance to bring the festival home with a locally curated box of activities and souvenirs.

This locally curated box of activities and snacks will be on sale at the hip-hop festival. (Samantha Smadella)


  • This story has been updated to reflect the fact that the Jazz festival's virtual performances are prerecorded, not streamed live.
    Aug 20, 2021 9:08 AM ET


Sandra Abma


Sandra Abma is a veteran CBC arts journalist. If you have an event or idea you want to share, please do at