If you’re looking for a bustling music scene, Canada’s Capital does not disappoint. From local music celebrities, to state-of-the-art concert venues, to cozy live music bar and nightclub hubs as well as a myriad of outdoor music festivals, Ottawa has a music scene for every type of music lover. Come to Ottawa to take in a major stadium or arena act or see some up-and-coming names. Famous bands such as The Tragically Hip played in Ottawa before making it big. Rock icons The Rolling Stones even shot their Streets of Love video in beloved Ottawa bar Zaphod Beeblebrox!
One of Ottawa’s biggest music celebrities is singer-songwriter Paul Anka. Born in Ottawa on July 30, 1941, Anka attended the city’s Fisher Park High School until he became a star with his hit song Diana at 16-years-old. This now classic song is one of the best singles ever sold by a Canadian-born artist! After Diana, this Ottawa native enjoyed a successful career with ABC/Paramount Records and went on to collaborate on many well-known songs such as Tom Jones’ She’s A Lady and Frank Sinatra’s My Way. Anka’s music repertoire includes more than 20 Billboard Magazine chart topping albums and more than 20 single hits. He was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2005.
Another homegrown celebrity is Alanis Morissette, an alternative-rock songstress who was born in Ottawa on June 1, 1974. Morissette rose to fame in 1995 with the release of her first international album called Jagged Little Pill, which sold more than 33 million copies globally. During her career, Morissette has won 16 Canadian Juno Awards as well as seven Grammy Awards. Morissette grew up on Queensdale Avenue in Ottawa’s suburban south end.
2009 World Beatboxing Champion Julia Dales also calls Canada’s Capital home. Dales discovered beatboxing at the tender age of six. The now 22-year-old folk-pop artist plays guitar, writes songs and uses beatboxing to create drum beats for her own original tracks. Dales’ YouTube.com videos have been viewed more than nine million times by fans that include notable celebrities Justin Timberlake and Ashton Kutcher.
If you’re looking to get acquainted with Ottawa’s music scene, the city’s summer music festival circuit is a great place to start. From roughly July through to the fall, Ottawa offers a plethora of high-end outdoor festivals that are host to upcoming local and world-renowned music acts.
One of the city’s most popular festivals is RBC Bluesfest. Taking place each July, “Bluesfest” as it’s known locally, offers a little bit of everything from blues, to jazz, to rock and even country music’s hottest acts. Past Bluesfest line-ups have included Journey, Lady Gaga, Keith Urban and Snoop Dogg. This festival is ranked by Billboard Magazine as one of the top ten “most successful” music festivals in the entire world!
Mid-June to early July is when the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival takes place. This festival started in 1980 as a small weekend affair, but it has since grown over the years to a premier Ottawa summer event. The “Jazz Festival” as it’s known locally, hosts many popular jazz acts as well as more than 290,000 jazz music enthusiasts each year. And as the festival’s last day always falls on Canada Day (July 1), it offers free concerts for all. Each July 1, you can enjoy an action-packed day of free outdoor concerts, great food and spectacular fireworks!
And if classical music peaks your interest, you’ll want to visit the city during the “Ottawa Chamberfest.” Taking place each year from late July to early August, the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival offers an array of classical music concerts in various Ottawa-area churches. Ottawa’s Chamberfest is the world’s largest chamber music festival in terms of the number of concerts and artists it offers. Here, classical music enthusiasts can take in more than 100 performances from 450 artists from around the world.
Or if indie music is more what you’re after, the city is host to Westfest in mid-June and CityFolk in early September. Each festival offers an eclectic mix of musical performances as well as dance and visual art performances. Also, Westfest is unique in terms of content as it works to promote both Canadian and Aboriginal established, mid-career and emerging contemporary artists.
But though most of Ottawa’s premier music festivals take place during the warmer weather months, you can still catch major acts throughout the year at one of Ottawa’s premier concert venues such as the downtown National Arts Centre (NAC) and Canadian Tire Centre (CTC) in the city’s west end. The NAC is Ottawa’s cultural hub, being home to the NAC Orchestra of Ottawa as well as many world-class ballets, theatre and musical theatre productions. The CTC is where you’ll find headliner performances from popular artists such as Britney Spears, AC/DC, Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift.
Ottawa is also home to TD Place Stadium at Lansdowne Park, which opened just this summer. This 24,000-seat venue is home to local sports teams the Ottawa REDBLACKS and the Ottawa Fury FC. But like the CTC, this new stadium is expected to host music headliners in the near future.
If you’re just looking to relax with a drink and a good live band, Ottawa’s downtown ByWard Market neighbourhood is where you’ll want to be! During the day, “the Market” as it’s known locally, is home to local farmers, artisans and boutiques. But the area becomes the epicenter of Ottawa’s nightlife after dark, where live music can be easily found on any night of the week at any time of year. Some notable market live music spots include Zaphod Beeblebrox on York Street, a cozy grouping of pubs known as the Heart & Crown Irish Pubs on Clarence Street and The Rainbow Bistro on Murray Street.
“The Rainbow” as it’s known locally is Ottawa’s very own House of Blues, offering evening acts as well as matinées. Like Zaphod Beeblebrox, The Rainbow also has a claim to fame having hosted performances by famous Blues Brother Dan Aykroyd, who is an Ottawa native. And just outside of the ByWard Market, down on Bank Street, you’ll find Barrymore’s Music Hall. This charming Vaudeville theatre was originally built in 1914 and has since been host to bands such as U2, Radiohead and The Tragically Hip before they became music superstars. This is THE place to see up-and-coming bands in the city.
Whether you have tickets to the hottest show or you just want to see some independent local acts, Ottawa is sure to have a music scene that will suit your mood.