Summer festival fever!

June 24th, 2014 by  |  Published in Concerts

l'Outaouais en Fete

A picturesque stage scene on the banks of the Ottawa River during l’Outaouais en Fête.

Photos: Terry Steeves

The first day of Summer has arrived, and with it, a vast array of art, cultural, sport, and music events for all ages in the Ottawa-Gatineau region. With the weather having fully co-operated over the weekend, there was no shortage of things to take in for the eyes and ears. The Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival at Mooney‘s Bay, Summer Solstice Aboriginal Arts Festival at Vincent Massey Park, The New Art Festival at Central Park in the Glebe, the Ottawa Fringe Festival, and of course, the Ottawa Jazz Fest were just some of the many that were (and still are) in full swing, bringing out many in celebration of everything Summer.

Impossible to squeeze them all into one day, I decided to stick to exploring two festivals…one in its first year here in the capital, and the other located across the Ottawa River in Aylmer, Quebec, in its 38th year.

I spent the earlier part of the day exploring a festival in its first year, Glowfair, from June 20th – June 21st…a celebration of music, light, and performance art. Eight blocks of Bank St. from Slater to Gilmour were cordoned off, allowing for nothing but pedestrian traffic and restaurant/bar patios extending out into the street. At night, state-of-the-art technology light projection split onto the building facades, transforming the area into an open air art gallery of vivid colour. Music of multiple genres was everywhere, all day and into the night, with three stages, highlighting performers hailing from all across North America. Various DJ’s intermittently spun their dance inducing tunes, creating an outdoor club atmosphere on the street.


View of Bank St. at Glowfair 2014.

I arrived on the scene mid-afternoon to find Terry Moshenberg on the League of Rock stage, inviting those with closet musical talent to climb aboard and experience the thrill of performing with a live band of professional musicians. Moshenberg, together with Topher Stott, acted on the idea of offering adults with playing/singing skill, a chance to immerse themselves in a band scenario, with the help of a roster of experienced musicians, coaches, and producers. Since 2007, the LOR has now spread to cities across North America, geared to individuals and groups who might otherwise never find an opportunity to experience the thrill and team building spirit that a band and live performance can provide.

Soon after on the same stage, we enjoyed the sounds of Ottawa’s Latino Rock 4-piece sensation, Azucar Jam, who had quickly gathered a crowd of dancers onto the street with their infectious sounds of summer. Lead singer, Androcles del Corral, would often climb down from the stage while singing…winding his way through the audience, and encouraging onlookers to join in on the dance. Look for this busy and talented band on a host of outdoor and indoor stages in the city.


Ottawa’s Latino rock band, Azucar Jam, heat things up at Glowfair on Bank St.

I later made my way down Bank St., to plunk myself down on one of the many outside patios. More enticing sounds of live music were coming from the Atomic Rooster, leading me inside to pleasantly discover the Rod Williams Band, who were pumping out some serious Blues on a late Saturday afternoon. This talented 4-piece consisted of some of Ottawa’s finest: Mike Turenne on bass, über talented Jansen Richard on drums (filling in for Bill Brennan), recording artist and guitar sensation JW Jones, and the amazing harp playing skills and vocals of Rod Williams. It was clear I would remain here for awhile before heading over the border into Aylmer.


Rod Williams and his incredible line-up of musicians, perform at Atomic Rooster during Glowfair.

In contrast to Glowfair’s inaugural event, I later skipped over to the Quebec side to enjoy the sights and sounds of another festival celebrating their 38th year…l’Outaouais en Fête. Stretching along the beautiful beach front of Aylmer’s Parc des Cèdres, this long running festival includes family oriented outdoor activities, an amusement fairground, artisan stands, food and licensed beverage concessions, fireworks, and of course, French Canadian musical acts. Beginning with one day, and one stage in 1976, l’Outaouais en Fête was created around Quebec’s national holiday, St. Jean Baptiste Day, and for families to celebrate all things Francophone. Since its inception, the annual festival has expanded to a five day event, showcasing both big name musical acts as well as up-and-coming artists from Quebec.

l'Outaouais en Fete

Quebec’s legendary rock matriarch, Marjo, performs at l’Outaouais en Fête.

Tonight, I arrived to catch Quebec’s rock matriarch, Marjo, who is known for her strong, belting voice and dynamic stage performance. After singing in a string of musicals back in the mid-seventies, she joined the already formed and successful band, Corbeau, who were mainly made up of members from the renowned French band, Offenbach. In 1984, she left to begin a solo career, achieving huge success with her string of hits throughout the next 20 years. Making my way as close as possible to the front of the stage for photos, I soon found myself enveloped by her adoring fans of well over 1,500 strong. Marjo, and her 4-piece powerhouse rock band delivered all her big chart toppers: Illegal, Provocante, Les Châts Sauvages, and the soulful delights, Doux, and Ailleurs. The vibe in the air was electric, ringing with the voices of the crowd who were familiar with her vast repetoire. At 61 years of age, her commanding stage presence and energy astounded me, and I felt strongly inspired by her powerful Edith Piaf flavoured vocals. Her performance was followed by French Canadian superstar, Eric Lapointe, who delivered his brand of metal infused rock to his hungry crowd of followers. Lapointe still reigns as the most successful male music artist in French Canadian history, having sold well over a million albums in his 20 year career.

As the night drew to a close, I began the journey home, having spent a fully satisfying and well-rounded day immersed in the cultures and festivities of two very exciting and lively annual events from both sides of the Quebec/Ontario border…one old and one new. I realized how fortunate I am to be living in an area where I can experience such a wealth of celebration, and enjoy music of multiple genres and languages. I look forward to the many more sights and sounds of summer yet to come!

l'Outaouais en Fete

Amusement park sights at l’Outaouais en Fête…

Comments are closed.