Bluesfest, NAC team up for drive-in concert series

Ottawa Bluesfest and the National Arts Centre, both sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic this summer, are teaming up to deliver a series of live drive-in concerts, beginning at the end of July.

Sam Roberts, Patrick Watson, Tim Hicks among headliners to perform live at Zibi starting July 31

Drive-in concerts could help ‘get industry back to work,’ says NAC producer

2 years ago
Duration 1:14
Heather Gibson, executive producer of popular music and variety at the National Arts Centre, says artists and production experts are looking to get back to work after months of COVID-19 cancellations.

Ottawa Bluesfest and the National Arts Centre, both sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic this summer, are teaming up to deliver a series of live drive-in concerts, beginning at the end of July.

Headliners Sam Roberts Band, Patrick Watson and Tim Hicks are among the roster of artists who'll be performing on an outdoor stage at the Zibi site in Gatineau, Que., while concertgoers enjoy the music from the comfort and safety of their vehicles.

"We're just happy that we can start to do something that will hopefully lead to a revival of the music industry, which has really been devastated by the pandemic," said Bluesfest founder and executive director Mark Monahan.

Juno-winning Ottawa jazz musician Kellylee Evans will perform on July 31, the opening night of the concert series. (Xavier Chauvet)

Starting July 31, music lovers will be able to drive to the site on the Ottawa River, park two meters apart, tune in on their car radios and watch the concert from their vehicles. If physical distancing rules are relaxed by the end of July, concertgoers will be able to sit in lawn chairs beside their vehicles.

The list of confirmed artists includes:

  • July 31: Marie-Mai, Donovan Woods, Terra Lightfoot, Julian Taylor, Kellylee Evans.
  • Aug. 1: Sam Roberts Band, Shad, Haviah Mighty, LeFLOFRANCO.
  • Aug. 7: Patrick Watson, Basia Bulat, Zaki Ibrahim, Asuquomo, Silla and Rise, Geneviève et Alain.
  • Aug. 8: Tim Hicks, Kira Isabella, Chris Labelle, Crystal Shawanda, Lyle Odjick & The Northern Steam, Amanda Rheaume.

"We're making sure that we're representing a wide variety of musical genres, emerging and established artists, local and Indigenous artists," said  Heather Gibson, the NAC's executive producer of popular music and variety.

Ottawa to get drive-in concerts through Bluesfest, NAC collaboration

2 years ago
Duration 1:12
Mark Monahan, executive director of Ottawa Bluesfest, says Ottawans will be able to park two metres apart and listen to live music from the safety of their vehicles.

Current travel restrictions limited organizers to inviting musicians from Ontario and Quebec, but Gibson said as rules loosen they hope to include artists from across the country and add more dates to the concert series.

"It's a bit of an experiment, there's no template for how to do this," said Monahan, who imagines the outdoor concerts as "sort of tailgate party without people actually gathering in large groups."

Montreal-based art rock quartet Patrick Watson are scheduled to perform Aug 7. ((EMI Records))

Forced to cancel his 26-year-old summer music festival because of the pandemic, Monahan said he was determined to find an opportunity of bring live music back in a safe environment by working with public health officials and following provincial guidelines.

  • Gates open at 6 p.m., show starts at 7 p.m and ends at 10:30 p.m.
  • Concertgoers are encouraged to arrive early to secure a good parking spot.
  • Cost: $75 per vehicle. Tickets must be purchased in advance and will be scanned upon entry.
  • Tickets go on sale Tuesday, June 23, at 10 a.m., and can be purchased here.


Sandra Abma


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

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