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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.