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Weekend Roundup: Best Bets for July 15 to 17

The Lion King comes to Ottawa. Photo credit: ©Disney, photo: Joan Marcus.

Friday, July 15
It’s opening weekend for Lion King, the Disney adventure that has been part of childhood memories ever since Mufasa told Simba about the circle of life. More than 40 actors bring the African tundra to life in the Tony Award-winning Broadway version of this story about the animal kingdom, which is on at the National Arts Centre from July 14 to Aug. 7. Listen for classic songs like “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” by Elton John and Tim Rice, as well as tunes exclusive to the theatrical production.

Ottawa-born comic John Hastings records his first DVD this weekend at Yuk Yuk’s @ The Prescott. Wouldn’t it be cool to be a part of the career of an up-and-coming stand-up comedian? One who started his career doing improv at Nepean High School? Working in Montreal for the past five years, Hastings has been nominated twice as the XM Canada’s Next Top Comedian — in fact, he’s the only person to be nominated twice — and won the Just For Laughs Homegrown Comedy Competition last year. Fingers crossed he does his bit about his stint as a telemarketer (check it out on his website) when he performs on Friday and Saturday night.

HOPE Volleyball Summerfest takes over Mooney's Bay. Photo credit: Ottawa Tourism.

Saturday, July 16
Each year, more than 25,000 players and spectators head to HOPE Volleyball Summerfest to bump, smash, and dig their way to v-ball glory (or just to cheer and check out some hard bodies). With this year’s concert line-up featuring Tokyo Police Club and local band The Balconies, as well as a verified attempt to name 2011 the “Largest One Day Volleyball Event in the World” by The Guinness Book of World Records, this is sure to be one heck of a party. And with proceeds going to local charities, you can feel even better about your day of fun in the sun. Registration for playing is sold out, but spectators are free to watch (non-registered participants must purchase a wristband to access the HOPE amphitheatre for concerts, $25). (more…)

Weekend Roundup: Best Bets for July 8 to 10

Friday, July 8
The second year of Music and Beyond, the new classical music and multi-disciplinary arts festival brings in the big guns: orchestras, choirs, bands, wind ensembles, recitals, and small ensembles team up to offer classical music in its many variations. Even more interesting, the fest hosts a bunch of other arts and cultural disciplines ranging from poetry to yoga to food and wine. The opening weekend kicks off with “Breaking Ground: Music by Women Composers,” a children’s “Music Adventure” at Saunders Farm with 100 dancers and artists performing outdoors, and Trevor Pinnock conducting the National Arts Centre Orchestra in the complete orchestral suites of Bach. Runs July 7 to 17.

In case you didn’t know, it’s the International Year of Chemistry, and the Canada Science and Technology Museum is celebrating with “Chemistry Uncovered,” which runs July 7 to 10. Discover the role that chemistry plays in everyday life while taking part in hands-on experiments, watching a magic show with a scientific twist, and even getting to taste liquid nitrogen ice cream (yum!). Special events include “Sweet Chemistry” on July 9 and 10 with cookbook author and scientist Christina Blais, as well as an outdoor screening on July 9 of David Cronenberg’s The Fly.

A mosaic by Alice Hinther.

Saturday, July 9
After a three-year hiatus, the lovely summer event Glebe Art in Our Gardens and Studio Tour is back. Spend a day (or two) exploring the Glebe, where 14 artists will be displaying their work in nine different gardens. Some of the works on offer include Alice Hinther’s whimsical pieces from repurposed everyday items, digital images by Jaan Krusberg, and lifelike scenes by Heather Bale. The tour is on July 9 and 10.

The Classic Theatre Festival. Photo credit: T.H. Wall.

Remember Bewitched? Well, the Classic Theatre Festival in Perth is opening its season with the play that is said to have inspired the television series (and, ultimately, the 2005 remake with Will Ferrell and Nicole Kidman, for those of you who don’t remember!). First produced in 1951, the romantic comedy Bell, Book, and Candle by John van Druten continues to captivate audience with its mysterious female lead and witty quips. The play will be on July 8 to 31 from Wednesday to Sunday. (more…)

The Bluesfest Experience

Hot summer sun, thousands of cheering fans, and five outdoor stages make for a spectacular concert-going adventure. Here is WHERE’s day-by-day walk through of some of the 2,000 blues, R&B, soul, gospel, pop, world, and rock musicians taking the stage at this year’s Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest.
By Misa Kobayashi.

Tegan & Sarah

Opening day of the festival kicks off with a bang (as it should!) with the 13-piece psychedelic indie band Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros. Beloved Canadian duo Tegan and Sara follow up with their catchy folk-rock, playing at the same time as the The Flaming Lips (who put on a heck of a show last year).

Today offers an awesome sequential line-up between two of the main stages. First up is the reggae-influenced pop of Canadian band Bedouin Soundclash on the MBNA Stage, followed by the hip hop and live instrumentation of The Roots (now the house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon) on the Claridge Homes Stage. After that, head back to the MBNA Stage to close down the night with the laid back, acoustic funk of singer/songwriter Ben Harper.

Our top three picks for today offer totally different sounds. Check out the rock and roll boogie of The Sheepdogs; this Canadian band is one of two unsigned acts in a Rolling Stone competition who are vying for the magazine’s cover and a recording contract. Girl Talk is also playing, pumping out dance tracks that sample hit songs, which have made him a leader in the mash-up generation. The Steve Miller Band rounds out the night with fan favourites like “The Joker.”

Wanda Jackson

Start off with a performance by Wanda Jackson, the 70-something Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and “Queen of Rockabilly,” whose famous fans have included everyone from Elvis Presley to Jack White. We also recommend the sexy, bluesy rock and roll of The Black Keys.

Starting today at noon, the festival boasts a line-up of shorter shows in a variety of genres, giving you a great bang for your buck and a sure fire bet you’ll discover someone new to add to your iPod. Big names for the evening performances include Erykah Badu and The Tragically Hip.

Grammy Award-winning Peter Frampton lights up the stage with his incredible guitar skills. His stop at Bluesfest will serve up songs from Frampton Comes Alive!, which is one of the top-selling live records of all time. Equally nostalgia-inducing are the ’80s pop anthems of Huey Lewis & the News.


Hot Date: Canada Day Gets the Royal Treatment

Canada Day on Parliament Hill. Photo credit: NCC/CCN.

If there was ever a year to head to the capital to celebrate Canada Day this July 1, this is it! Not only is there a jam-packed line-up of entertainment (Sam Roberts and Great Big Sea being two names of note), but also the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be taking part in the noon show on Parliament Hill as part of their first official overseas trip as newlyweds. Other activities happening throughout the day at Major’s Hill Park and Jacques Cartier Park include dance performances, a slam-dunk show, kite-flying, and a DJ party, topped off with the spectacular fireworks show at night. So don your red and white clothes, paint a maple leaf on your face (whether you’re Canadian or not), and get ready to wish Canada a big, royal 144th birthday.

Weekend Roundup: Best Bets for June 24 to 26

The International Chicken and Rib Cook-Off on Sparks Street.

Friday, June 24
Meat lovers, prepare yourselves: The International Chicken and Rib Cook-Off is back for another year at Sparks Street Mall. Running June 22 to 26, this all out meat festival serves up chicken, pulled pork sandwiches, and ribs, all slathered in an array of tasty, tangy sauces. Crowds descend on the mall at lunch time (beckoned by the smell), so head on over (with napkins in hand) for lunch, dinner, or just a snack. Teams from Canada and the United States compete for the top rank of best rib choice, best rib sauce, best chicken choice, and best chicken sauce.

Saturday, June 25
Just when you thought Ottawa couldn’t get any more festivals, FeverFest was born. This brand new independent music festival in Old Ottawa South will showcase a diverse crop of immensely talented Ottawa musicians. Headlining the event is the Goodluck Assembly, and you can also expect the “2009 Online World Beatboxing Champion” Julia Dales (who’s performed for Ellen Degeneres), The Murder Plans, the White Wires, ACRES, Monobrow, Brendan Flynn and the Terrible Liars, and Winchester Warm.

JF Robitaille plays the Raw Sugar Café.

In advance of JF Robitaille‘s debut LP Calendar (which comes out July 5), the Montreal singer/songwriter’s making the rounds at stages in Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa. He performs tonight at Raw Sugar Café. His style is perfect coffee house music — straddling the line between sweet and melancholy, folk and pop — which has earned him supporting sets for names such as Julie Doiron, The Dears, and Sean Lennon.

The Once Upon a Slam Finals are tonight, with the top eight story slammers from the year competing for the crown and to be named the first-ever Ottawa story slam Grand Champion. For those unfamiliar with “slams,” they are open sign-up competitions where the performers tell a narrative within a certain time limit (no reading from a paper!), and are scored by members of the audience. Ottawa’s monthly story slam series is held the fourth Friday of every month at the Mercury Lounge, and it all comes down to tonight when the top story slammers go head to head. (more…)

Hot Date: Sled Island

June 22 – 25

Now five years running, indie and alternative music fans rule the roost for four days every June at Sled Island. The festival has had a knack for offering a diverse range of music by promoting local Calgary acts like Woodpigeon and Chad VanGaalen as well as international stars, like Dinosaur Jr. and Cat Power. This year, English punk legends The Buzzcocks and American rockers Blonde Redhead headline the festival. Various venues, visit www.sledisland.com for tickets.

Weekend Roundup: Best Bets for June 17 to 19

The Time Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival.

Friday, June 17
Cheer on 5,000 paddlers from more than 190 teams at the Tim Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival, the largest of its kind in North America. This free, three-day party boasts non-stop racing, kid-friendly activities, and live music (performances include Steven Page from the Barenaked Ladies and Ash Koley). Watch in awe as teams of 20 (plus a drummer and a steersperson) propel these massive boats forward with lightning-fast times. The festival runs until Sunday.

Centre d’exposition L’Imagier debuts its latest exhibition today, called “Hommes en voie de distinction.” This group show invited eight artists to take a personal and current look at the notion of “gallantry,” and showcases eight very diverse perceptions of this word. The exhibit takes a fresh look at what gallantry could be in a present-day context, and is presented in a variety of mediums that include installation, painting, photography, audio art, and video.

In honour of National Aboriginal Day, the Summer Solstice Aboriginal Arts Festival offers a chance to experience and celebrate diverse Aboriginal cultures. The usual festival activities are on the bill (pony rides, a petting zoo, bouncy castles), but you can also explore an artisan village, which features interactive arts workshops, demonstrations, vendors, and traditional food. There will also be live performances taking place throughout the weekend, with an international competition powwow, a headline show by Shane Yellowbird, an “Aboriginal Canada We’ve Got Talent!” competition with more than $15,000 in prize money, and a cultural showcase featuring traditional and contemporary Aboriginal arts. It starts today and runs until Sunday, rain or shine. Note: the festival is free but donations are gratefully accepted.

Lindi Ortega

Saturday, June 18
Singer/songwriter Lindi Ortega from Toronto brings her upbeat, folk-infused brand of country to Cafe Dekcuf after the recent release of her latest album, Little Red Boots. A unique genre she refers to as “a roadside motel love affair between old school outlaws and country darlings,” her tunes will have you swaying in your seat and tapping your (cowboy boot-clad) toes. Interesting fact: she’s opened for UK band Keane and Kevin Costner’s band The Modern West. (more…)

Hot Date: International Children’s Festival

May 24 – 28

Step Afrika

Be both educated and entertained during get-on-your-feet performances at the Calgary International Children’s Festival. Artists from Italy, Scotland, The Netherlands, Australia, USA and Canada perform in productions like the black light puppet performance of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, or Step Afrika!, which teaches about world cultures through interpretive dance and music. At the Epcor Centre for Performing Arts, call 403-294-9494.

Hot Date: Cavalia

May 25 – June 5

Watch trick-riders, acrobats, tumblers, bungee artists, dancers and over 40 unescorted horses seamlessly following cues to run in formation, line-up, form circles and interact with each other, in Cavalia, a cruelty-free “Cirque-du-Soleil” like performance. Set in North America’s largest touring tent rising 100 feet into the air, each act artistically depicts the inextricable bond between horse and human throughout the course of history. At Canada Olympic Park, for tickets, call 1-866-999-8111.

17 Things We Love About Ottawa in May and June

1) "i think i can" plays at the NAC.

1) National Arts Centre performances like the tap/hip-hop show i think i can

2) The colourful costumes and dancing at Carivibe

3) Access to an abundance of farmers’ markets come spring

4) Bon Appetit, a top-notch food and wine show that benefits local charities

5) The Trial of Louis Riel, a historical re-enactment play

6) Hosting fantastical shows like Cirque du Soleil: Quidam

7) Rideau Valley Roller Girls play May 28 and June 25. Photo credit: Helen Kriemadis.

7) The rock’em, sock’em attitude of the Rideau Valley Roller Girls

8) Being at the epicentre of Canadian politics

9) Enjoying art outdoors at The New Art Festival

10) Lobster poutine, on the menu at the GNAG Lobster Kitchen Party

11) The oh-so-good International Chicken-Rib Cook-Off

12) Festival season. Enough said. (more…)

Ha ha Halifax

Bob Marley headlines the Halifax Comedy Fest. Photo: Chris Smith

Top comics from across the country descend on the city for a side-splitting month

By Trevor J. Adams

Spring is always a laughing matter in Halifax. Every April, comedians from across the country (and further afield) take over the city’s stages for the Halifax Comedy Fest.

The festival kicks off on April 13 with the Opening Gala at Casino Nova Scotia. Comedian Bob Marley (not to be confused with a certain reggae singer) headlines the lineup. A darling of the 2009 festival, Marley is a local favourite. Lately, Marley has been winnning fans stateside with a successful nightshow circuit, performing on The Late Show with David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and Craig Kilborn. Joining him are John Wing, Andrew Grose, Derek Edwards, Doug Funk, Elvira Kurt, Mike Wilmot and Pete Zedlacher.

On April 14, the show goes back to the Casino for Comedy All Stars. One of the highlights of that show is sure to be the insanely funny Sean Cullen, most famous for his raucous parody songs (such as the Meatloaf send-up “Never Too Fat to Rock and Roll”). The lineup also includes comedian Trevor Boris, the acerbic pop-culture commentator from Much Music’s Video on Trial. On the same day, the Seahorse Tavern on Argyle Street hosts Dylan Mandlsohn, Graham Clark, Jon Steinberg, Jonny Harris, Ted Morris and Lachlan Patterson.

The party moves to the Dalhousie Arts Centre on University Avenue on April 15. Newfoundlander Mark Critch, famous for his portrayal of firebrand Danny Williams on This Hour Has 22 Minutes, headlines The Gala of Laughs. Marley, Edwards and Kurt also return for encore performances.

The Lower Deck pub in the Historic Properties hosts a comedy matinee on April 16. With two live shows in the afternoon, the cozy pub
welcomes Dylan Mandlshon, Graham Clark, Heidi Foss, Jon Steinberg, Peter Anthony, Sunee Dhaliwal, Debra DiGiovanni, Graham Clark, Jen Grant, Lachlan Patterson and Nile Seguin. DiGiovanni, another Video on Trial alumnus, is one of Canada’s top unappreciated comics and at her best in a small venue like this—it’s sure to be a memorable show.

The festival concludes on the evening of April 16 with the Gala Finale at the Dalhousie Arts Centre. Several festival favourites return for one last laugh. Mark Critch hosts; the roster includes DiGiovanni, Jonny Harris, Jen Grant, Wing, Nile Seguin, Scott Falconbridge, Cullen, Stewart Francis and Greg Hahn.

In addition to the Halifax Comedy Fest, the city hosts great live comedy events throughout the month.

•    Joker’s Comedy Club on Spring Garden Road and Yuk Yuk’s on Hollis Street host regular shows, with new comics weekly.
•    The Newfoundland comedy group Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers bring their warm-hearted take on East Coast life to the Dalhousie Arts Centre on April 8 and 9.
•    Montreal’s fabled Just For Laughs comedy festival presents Irish hot shot Tommy Tiernan at the Dalhousie Arts Centre on April 29.

Editor’s Choice: Nova Scotia Icewine

Sweet, decadent and rare—there’s nothing quite like icewine. And this province makes some of the world’s best, a fact celebrated during February’s Nova Scotia Icewine Festival. And if you’ve read this far, odds are good you’ll want to take a couple bottles of the internationally acclaimed treat home with you. Find a new favourite at Bishop’s Cellar on Lower Water Street. The wine boutique boasts numerous vintages, including Benjamin Bridge Borealis, Blomidon Ortega, Gaspereau Valley Icewine, Grand Pré Vidal and Jost Ortega.