Ottawa Night at Westfest

Summer is here and with it means the beginning of festival season! I decided to go check out Ottawa Night at Westfest in Westboro last night. One of the great things about this festival is that even though it has grown immensely in the last few years, it still retains a community-oriented feel.

Westfest 2011

After coming back from Australia, walking through Westboro reminded me of Byron Bay with it’s hippie town vibe, quirky local shops, and support for the arts. You can see this reflected in Westfest itself in each detail, from the fact that it is (and always will be) free, to the large handmade candles adorning the stage.

We arrived around 7 pm to catch Silver Creek, a great choice for this year’s lineup with their own brand of rock and roll with a kick of country. You can hear influences of The Band and also the Black Crowes in their songs, and the calibre of the playing and the singing of this group makes seeing them live really worthwhile.

Shawn Tavenier (lead vox and rhythm guitar) laid down powerhouse vocals, holding some notes for an impressively long time, especially on a new tune, “Dangerous Girl.” His endless energy and charisma makes it seem like he was born to be the lead singer in a rock and roll band.

Silver creek at Westfest

Blair Hogan did some great lead guitar work, while Shane McEwan and Mark Laforest held down a solid rhythm section. The band mentioned they have been touring over the past few months and they really demonstrate live that they have been putting in some good work. With an upcoming record soon to be released, the band gave Westfest listeners a taste of new material. One of these new songs features Jeff Rogers and his soulful voice, accompanied by an up-tempo, haunting country style that gave me chills and is still stuck in my head today.

Silver creek at Westfest

The next band to play was The Murder Plans, and they had a totally different sound and approach to their music. Whereas Silver Creek seems to be a band that you need to dance along to, I found that The Murder Plans music attempted to draw you into a listening trance. Their songs created a spacey, brooding mood. They would be a great band to listen to as Halloween approached – with their strange arrangements of guitar chords, creepy organ sounds, and ghostly backing vocals, they created a very unique and enjoyable sound. They were a bit reminiscent of Radiohead and The Killers, and they were definitely the most unique and quirky of the bands that played last night.

Murder Plans at Westfest

As the sun started to set, Marc Charron took the stage – and when I say took the stage, I mean it was literally just him, but he filled up the entire stage with his enthusiasm. He held down a one man band show with the crowd firmly on his side the whole time. While Marc plays, all four of his limbs are on the job. Not only is he singing and playing acoustic guitar, but he is also playing drums with his feet (kick drum on the right and snare or high hat on the left). Apart from the obvious multi-instrumental talent he has, he was so warm and positive towards the audience and very appreciative of his spot at the festival, which he truly deserved.

Marc Charron at Westfest

His songs have a chugging rhythm, with themes of Canadiana running through them. I caught some lyrics like, “No matter where I go, I can’t stop thinking about the snow.” He captivated his audience, and we were all were more than happy to sing along to his catchy choruses.

As a local festival, Westfest was so well organized and enjoyable, that despite the threat of rain, people were out in masses to hear some great local bands. Listening to these musicians made me realize all over again how lucky we are to have such amazing and diverse homegrown talent here in Ottawa.


  1. Pat says

    Great write-up! We are indeed very privileged to have such amazing and diverse homegrown talent here in Ottawa.

  2. Lisa Sullivan says

    Hey Mel, I wasn’t able to attend Westfest this year but thanks for filling me in. Just like your blog from your trip to Australia, I truly felt like I was there! I was thinking that you should go on more trips so that I can see the world with great detail without having to get there myself!


  3. Brett says

    Sorry I missed the shows and fun at WestFest, sounds like it would have been a blast. Particularly since I would have known two of the three performers/bands on a personal level.

    As always Mel, you did a great job describing what I missed. Too bad I was busy sleeping off the Relay for Life from Friday. Maybe next year I’ll take in WestFest.


  4. Chelsea says

    Sounds like it was a great festival! Too bad I missed out on it recovering from the rely on friday. Love your focus on local musicians, it’s awesome to read such vivid descriptions of their sound so I know who I would like to check out. Keep ’em coming :)

  5. Shawn says

    Thanks for sharing your take on such a great local festival, and for the kind words about the show. Great Blog! Can’t wait for more posts!

  6. Geri says

    We could hear it last night from our place, sounded good and we were sorry to have missed it, we were out of town until later last night and couldn’t make it to the end. First year we have missed WestFest in a while so it was great to read all about it, thanks!

  7. Andrew says

    Well, I went to Westfest and I really enjoyed it this year. I was at last years as well and got to see Sloan. This years didn’t have the really big name but I think that the musicianship and song-craft that these bands showed was tip-top. And you pretty much described what I thought to a tee. My favourite was The Murder Plans for sure, good to chill out to. I enjoyed the bands and I enjoyed reading about them again in your blog.

    Thanks a lot,


  8. Amanda says

    Sounds like an amazing time! Wish I could have been there. Can’t wait to check out some of the bands you mentioned.

  9. Donnie says

    Loved the take on the bands. Its great to hear some great feedback on some of Ottawa’s homegrown talent. Shawn T. and Silver Creek are really coming on. Hope your blog can end up being a regular review! We need more local feedback on Ottawa music from local writers who are familiar with the Ottawa music scene. Hope to hear more from you on the upcoming Bluesfest.

  10. says

    This is a great write up on a great Ottawa festival! I didn’t get a chance to experience it this year but you really did capture the spirit of the festival.

  11. Emily says

    Thanks for sharing Mel! Unfortunately, I was out of town for Westfest, but after reading your blog – I feel like I was there!
    Looking forward to future posts…

  12. Carolyn Van Duyse says

    Now I really regret not going,sounds like it was fantastic!! I love your attention to detail,made me feel like I didn’t miss a beat. Looking forward to reading more of your blogs :)

  13. says

    Arrgh, didn’t know he was playing at Westfest, just down the road from my house!! Was unfortunately in Toronto that weekend. Would’ve loved to check it out.

  14. Bonnie says

    Melanie your write up on WestFest plus the pictures gave me a clear picture of what was there and it sounded great so I will make sure I don’t miss it next year.

  15. says

    Great post, Mel! Sounds like a nice mix of acts. If my two little ones are up for it, we’ll be checking it out next year.

  16. says

    Awesome photos, Mel! You really captured the spirit of the event and venue. I love Westboro…definitely one of the coolest areas of Ottawa.


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