10 artists you can’t miss at Ottawa Explosion Weekend


by Emma Kenny

With the infamous Ottawa Explosion Weekend just around the corner, it feels like summer has finally arrived in the capital. Join in the fun of this amazing fest with our top ten picks below and reject the idea that Ottawa is boring.


Eva Moolchan has been making noise and waves under her stage name Sneaks in the DIY punk scene of Washington D.C. since 2014. We love the way that Sneaks takes up space with her minimalist, mechanical beats and deadpan vocal style. Get bopping at her set at the 27 Club, Thursday June 14, at 11:00 PM.


Local hardcore punk stars DOXX will be making their third appearance at OXW this year. Fronted by the grotesque glamour of Sof Shu’s vocals and look and backed by relentless riff and driving drumbeats, this set is guaranteed to be a fun time. Catch them live at the Dom, Friday June 15, 10 PM.

Crossed Wires

This hazy pop-punk trio of Halifax shredders are not to be missed. The dripping guitar melodies of Kayla Stevens put you in mind of a melting ice cream cone while the rhythmic bass and catchy lyrics of Heather Grant get you hopping. They’ll be playing on Saturday June 16 at 2:30 PM - check the OXW website for the TBD venue.


A three-piece post-punk/garage outfit from Montreal, Heather’s has been rocking together since 2012. Their most recent album, Midnight is a Place, was released last month. The group’s nostalgic, grungey sound will have you feeling like Buffy Summers out at The Brass for a night. See them Friday, June 15 at Black Squirrel Books, 11 PM.

Fruit and Flowers

This four-piece punk rock band from Brooklyn, NY has been touring relentlessly  all last year promoting their debut EP Drug Tax, and we’re very stoked to see them come to Ottawa. Emotive guitar and warm, assured vocals give the group a sound like summer nights in the city. They’re live at the 27 Club on Wednesday, June 13 at 11:15 PM.


Get lost in the solo instrumental/experimental project of Gan, also known as respectfulchild. Their stage moniker is the direct English translation of their Mandarin name 敬兒, and their layered, intricate soundscapes act as a way of seeking meaning in that name after a lifetime in the predominantly white environment of the Canadian Prairies. See them live on Friday, June 15 at 10:00 PM in the cozy nook of Black Squirrel Books.

Blood Beach

Halifax trio Blood Beach is keeping rock music cute with feedback heavy, bass-driven tracks designed to make you fall back in love with pop punk. Their noisy tunes will get you in the pit, and the fun, bratty vocals of Taylor Furey will surely be the cherry on top of this sonic sundae. Come jam Halifax style at 2 PM at the Clocktower, Saturday, June 16.


OXW gets bilingual this year with Quebec QC punk trio Victime. The group released their new LP, La Femme Taupe, in February and here to remind us what punk is all about. Their combination of polished riot grrl vocals with noisy guitar and dependable drums will definitely get you dancing. Don’t miss out on their set - Thursday, June 14, 10:00PM at the 27 Club.


An emerging Anishinaabe artist and producer from Toronto, Ziibiwan will take you on a journey through their ambient electronic visions. Their debut EP Time Limits was released in 2016, and since then they’ve continued to work and perform at a variety of fests. Ziibiwan creates mystical soundscapes to get you out of your body and into the fabric of the universe. Catch them Friday, June 15 at Black Squirrel books at 1 AM.


This four-piece Montreal-via-St. John’s band brings the party with their repertoire of power pop bops. BBQT supplies sharp guitar riffs and relatable tracks, all with a distinctive east coast flavour. With genius lyrics that play on high waisted shorts and being high and wasted in shorts sung in Amery Sandford’s sweet tones, this group truly has something for everyone. Join the kitchen party Friday, June 15 at the Clocktower at 8:15 PM.

Opinion: Dragon Boat Festival Falls Short

By Tiffanie Tri

The Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival is a celebration of the traditional sport of dragon boat racing. The festival website says that it is "part of a larger Chinese cultural tradition that goes back 2,400 years." So why aren't there any Chinese artists in the festival's music lineup?


Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival is a not-for-profit organization that survives on public funding. It receives funding from the government, including Canadian Heritage's Building Communities and Heritage program which is designed to increase opportunities for local artists and heritage performers to be involved in their community through festivals and events. It is also designed to allow local groups to commemorate their local history and heritage. As part of the program's eligibility criteria, applicants must "encourage local community engagement through activities that promote, celebrate and preserve local performing and visual arts or local heritage".

Sure, Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival presents the work of local artists, with several Ottawa-based artists in its lineup. However, there is little attempt to present the work of heritage performers. Only one act in the lineup includes an Asian musician: Birds of Bellwoods bassist Kintaro Akiyama.

Not only does Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival fail at presenting opportunities to heritage artists, the gender diversity of the festival lineup is also appalling.

Only two of the 18 acts are fronted by women and only seven of the 18 acts are not all-dude acts, with the majority of these non all-dude acts being mixed acts, some of which have only one female artist embedded in a group of dudes.


Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival lineup pictured without the all-dude bands.

But back to the original question: Where are the Chinese artists in a festival that supposedly celebrates Chinese culture? This is a part of a larger conversation and problematic habit of Western society "picking and choosing" what it wants to accept or not accept from other cultures. Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival exemplifies this behaviour by paying lip service to Chinese culture (a paltry description about Dragon Boat Tradition on its website) while shutting out Chinese artists.

Given that it receives public funding to build heritage and “inclusive” community, the Festival should look for Chinese and other Asian artists to feature on their lineup.

It should also include heritage artists that perform traditional Chinese music, dance, sports and activities. Not only do I believe that the citizens of Ottawa would be interested in learning about Chinese culture, but given that Ottawa has such a vibrant Chinese community, there is no shortage of Chinese artists and cultural activities that could be included.

The greater danger of activities like the Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival is that they benefit from cultural traditions of an ethnic community without any real inclusion of culture or heritage. This leads to the co-opting and erasure of the culture and heritage of the community these festivals are supposed to be celebrating. Representation matters.

At the current rate, Dragon Boat Festival is more likely to be associated with white, male indie rock bands than Chinese culture. If the Festival wants to benefit from Chinese culture, it's time to step up and truly support and showcase Chinese heritage and culture.

Representatives from Dragon Boat Festival could not be reached for comment.

This article appears in the May 2018 edition of Ottawa Beat newsprint, page 7. 

Girls+ Rock Ottawa named United Way Ottawa GenNext Community Builder of the Year

We are happy to announce that Girls+ Rock Ottawa has been named a Community Builder of the Year by United Way Ottawa! Every year, United Way Ottawa's Community Builder of the Year Awards celebrates the people and organizations that work tirelessly, passionately and collectively to help make change happen in our community.

We’re honoured, inspired and humbled to be named a recipient of this award & we look forward to keep growing our impact in the community.  A huge THANK YOU goes out to everyone who has supported us: our amazing volunteers, campers, parents, friends, businesses and organizations. We couldn’t have done this without you! 

To learn more about the Community Builder of the Year Awards and join us at the Awards Gala on May 31st:


By Ariane Bell Vila

Great news: singing is a skill like any other - the more you actively work on it, the better you become!

I believe that everyone can, and should sing. You don’t have to be an aspiring professional singer to take an interest in learning more about the instrument you carry with you at all times. That said, singing can definitely leave people feeling vulnerable, and there is a strange expectation that in order to be a singer you have to already have a well-developed voice and a perfect musical ear.

I believe that everyone has their own unique singing voice. Here are three ways to uncover yours:

1. Practice makes permanent

Practice is everything, and it’s not just about practicing songs. You should regularly be warming up, training your musical ear, practicing breath control as well as body awareness, and more!

2. Don’t be limited by categories

Voice types such as alto and soprano exist, but don’t let these categories dictate how you explore your instrument. Saying “I’m an alto” and never singing any mid to high notes is limiting, because you’re intentionally ignoring part of your instrument. It’s like playing a piano but ignoring the upper and lower-most octaves entirely because you are used to playing on a miniature keyboard. You might not sing in a certain range in performance, but it’s still worth exploring and developing the entire range of your instrument in the practice room! (P.S. Voice types can change throughout your life as your body changes).

3. Confidence is a skill

Just like you can practice singing, you can also practice dealing with nerves and stage-fright. BulletproofMusician does a great job explaining a technique called centering (and many other great articles about practice and performance anxiety in general) which can be incredibly effective with practice.

Above all else: be gentle, patient, and kind to yourself and your voice. Your best singing today may be different than your best singing tomorrow, and that's ok!

For more tips and advice to find your unique singing voice and conquer stage-fright, download our FREE Vocal 101 Guidebook! 



FOONYAP on her musical inspirations and challenges

We stood outside in a snowstorm with FOONYAP after her set at MEGAPHONO 2018 to learn all about her musical inspirations, as well as the biggest challenges she has overcome in her music career. She talks about how letting go of what she thought music was "supposed" to sound like allowed her to fully tap in to her creative self and create music that tells her story, a hauntingly beautiful blend of folk and electronic.

“I've been playing violin since I was four but what inspired me to start making my own music was I finally let go of how I thought music should sound and I just started making the melodies and compositions that came out of me.”

Born in Calgary, FOONYAP started playing violin when she was four. Embedded in classical music, Catholicism and Chinese culture, FOONYAP struggled with conformity, alongside a need for acceptance. Her latest album reflects her tumultuous journey to self-discovery.



Mal/aimé on overcoming self-doubt and pursuing your passions

We caught up with Yolande Laroche from mal/aimé after their MEGAPHONO 2018 show to talk about overcoming self-doubt to pursue what you want.

Mal/aimé is an Ottawa-based trio that combines clarinet, guitars, and percussion with synths, drones and electronics to create ambient and atmospheric sounds. Laroche, classically trained on the clarinet, is a joy to watch live as she takes the instrument to new horizons through vocal and percussive effects. 

Laroche spoke about the challenges she faced in getting started in music, and how she overcame barriers by surrounding herself with people who support and pushed her. Her advice: Be confident and action-oriented. When you encounter a challenge, figure out your next move and act on it. 

Silla + Rise on how their culture inspires their music

If you haven't checked out Silla + Rise, you need to take a listen here. Nominated for Best Indigenous Music Album Of The Year at the 2017 JUNO Awards, Silla + Rise blend Inuit throat-singing and futuristic dancefloor beats to create a unique combination of innovation and tradition.

We sat down with Silla + Rise before their show at MEGAPHONO 2018. In this insightful chat, they spoke about how their identity influences their music and how music connects them to their culture. Listen in and let us know what you think!

Get Your Coin, Girl: Lido Pimienta talks self-sufficiency and not letting anyone steal your magic

By Emma Kenny

In striped pants, an oversized black windbreaker, and a fabulous pair of platforms, Lido Pimienta made a striking image in the plain white space of General Assembly during her MEGAPHONO panel talk on a Saturday morning.

She began by fiddling with the mic, removing it from the stand so she could pace the concrete floor in her irresistibly dynamic way. She was magnetic from the moment she stepped in front of the room, immediately asserting her own importance.

Through tangents and call-outs – “If you just want to sing about flowers and that boy who doesn’t call you back, this talk is not for you!” – Pimienta delivered a beautifully cyclical story of her life and work, peppering practical advice in to a discussion of her past experiences and dreams for the future. Painfully honest and self-aware, she didn’t shy away from discussing past mistakes or failures, and transformed each of those episodes into moments of growth and learning. In short, she delivered some straight-up wisdom to a totally captivated crowd. Talk about someone who has magic.

Part of what makes Pimienta so special is that in an industry that is swimming in all-white, all-male acts – look no further than this year’s disappointing Bluesfest lineup for a local example – she centers women of colour and Indigenous people in everything she does. Unapologetic in her attitude, Pimienta described how she moved from the “very macho” culture of Colombia to London, ON at age nineteen, drawn by what she refers to as Canada’s “fantastic PR.” In London, she and her mother encountered aggressive racism, but Pimienta refused to be held back. She transformed her pain into music, as she had been doing since her time in a hard-core punk band at age 13.

With a long career that is showing no signs of slowing down, Pimienta has a lot of advice to give. Her practical recommendations include getting familiar with Arts Councils and SOCAN, in order to best protect yourself and your art and ensure that you can make money off your passion. She also encourages artists to become “students” of music, learning where their sound or genre comes from and how it has been co-opted by western societies. Pimienta advises you to say “no” to events that don’t serve you or your goals; Pimienta acknowledges that it can be hard to say “no” if you don’t get invited that often in the first place, but she reminds her audience that disingenuous offers will get you nowhere. She also encourages you to learn about contracts, publishing and royalties, and don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues how much they’re getting paid to play shows or festivals.


“Know that what you do deserves more…Always have receipts. Protect your art.”


Some of her other advice is much more personal. Pimienta described the “rock star” image that she felt oppressed by when she began performing; rude, late, drunk, trashing hotel rooms and venues. Pimienta rejects this behaviour and image in favour of extreme professionalism. “The highest standard I follow is my own.” She asks: Do you want to make money off your music or do you want to make money and use your platform to uplift, help, and inspire others? The question feels rhetorical, and reminds us that Pimienta has bigger dreams than just the kind of car she wants (although she has those dreams too, despite not having a drivers licence; a black on black on black Jeep with an all leather interior) and inspires us to dream not only bigger, but better. To dream of how we can turn our good fortune, our gifts, our privileges, our gains into justice for those who don’t have what we do.


“If you don’t take it seriously, no one will. And no one should.”


Pimienta has had her share of setbacks. She recounts a chilling story of an agent who lied to her to get her to agree to go on a tour and then dragged her name through the mud by cancelling countless dates all over the world, without her knowledge that they had been booked in the first place. She tells of the record labels who lauded La Papessa but insisted that she wait a year to release it, suggesting to her that she take that time to lose weight and change her image. In the face of it all, Pimienta was unwavering. “My music is about my soul,” she says, touching her hand to her heart, “not about how I look.”

The death of her brother and the illness of one of her main musical collaborators also served to delay the release of her Polaris Prize-winning album, which she says was ready to put out in 2013. Ultimately, Pimienta released the album on her own, an act that cemented La Papessa as a tool for her healing.

Moving fluidly between contemporary issues and events from her past, Pimienta acknowledges that we live in a nation of lies and limitations, and women of colour and Indigenous people are most directly and frequently punished by systems we like to believe no longer exist. (For example, in Canada, Indigenous men make up 25.2% of all incarcerated men, and Indigenous women make up 36.1% of all incarcerated women.) By talking explicitly about Indigenous sovereignty, music reparations, black power, and espousing her brand of take-no-bullshit feminism in both her music and conference talks, Pimienta centres the experiences the people our systems make most vulnerable. Pimienta is a force for good in the industry, her talk a stark reminder to never underestimate the power of music.

Join us on Spotify!


Girls+ Rock Ottawa is now on Spotify! We'll be putting together playlists full of amazing women and femme artists for you to enjoy and discover!

To kick things off, here is a playlist to make your Mondays a bit easier. We'll be updating it weekly as we put out more #MusicMonday posts, and making new playlists! Give us a follow on Spotify if you don't want to miss out! Is there an artist you'd like to see featured on #MusicMonday? Let us know!

Artists to watch at MEGAPHONO


By Emma Kenny

MEGAPHONO is back this year to give Ottawa a showcase of some the best indie and emerging artists around! If you’ve been following us, you know we’re very excited about the amazing and diverse artists that will be in town. There’s something for everyone at MEGAPHONO 2018, so put on your parka and get ready to navigate the slush puddles, because this fest is worth ending your hibernation for.

Here are 10 MEGAPHONO performances featuring artists you won’t want to miss. Don’t forget to check out our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for the other rad artists we’ve already featured!



If you like dreamy synth sounds and moody lyrics, you’ll love Lake Urmia. Kat Pavelic and Elsa Mirzaei make muted melodies with a wide emotional range, addressing topics of queer identity, diaspora, and friend-love – you might find yourself dancing and crying.







Fronted by illustrator, video game designer, lyricist and vocalist Shane Keyu Song, Century Egg makes sweetly sincere indie-pop that’s fun as hell. With lyrics sung in both Mandarin and English that cover topics ranging from love and chosen family to eating tasty food, Century Egg will have you laughing and bopping.







Simpson is a renowned Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg artist, musician, poet, storyteller, and writer. Her compelling and powerful work disintegrates the boundary between story and song, showing the permeability, flexibility, and compatibility of two disciplines. Let Simpson carry you away and make you think deeply with her layered lyrics about the land, spirit, and body and sensuous arrangements.



Local surf-rockers Bonnie Doon have released their first full-length album and they’re ready to celebrate! Let them take you to a beach party in the middle of February with their sludgy, wavy jams. Grab a slice of pizza and get ready to get sweaty.



Originally Nguyễn Anh Thư, King Kimbit has was born and raised on unceded Algonquin territory and has travelled all over North America and Jamaica performing and recording. King Kimbit shares a message of love and light in her rhythmic poetry accompanied by musical arrangements. Celebrate the resiliency of women and the world in the face of the white cis heteropatriarchy with King.



If you like soulful vocals and experimental beats, you’ll flip for Muzzy Legault. An Ottawa singer-songwriter with a background in dance and theatre, Muzzy has been creating since a young age. Inspired by Aaliyah and TLC, Muzzy is creating music that spans the genres of jazz, rap, and hip-hop. Keep an eye out for more projects of hers coming in 2018 – you definitely don’t want to miss out.



Get fuzzy with Sparklesaurus, the Ottawa dream-pop group spreading glitter wherever they go. Felicity DeCarle’s vocals are nostalgic of 90s alt-girls, crooning emotionally raw lyrics that weave between shimmering synths and a powerful rhythm section. Sparklesaurus will take you on a journey that may sometimes be dark but always has a silver – and shiny – lining.



An Anishinaabe musician, visual artist, media artist, traditional powwow dancer and artist, and arts educator, Melody explores the possibilities and potential of the viola through a wide range of genres, collaborating with other artists like Lido Pimienta and working solo. Often incorporating laptop looping and processing, their music pushes boundaries and moves from minimalist to evocative to ambient to danceable. Get carried away on sonic waves that will put you in every kind of mood.



Feel as much and as powerfully as you did when you were fourteen but with the maturity that the world has forced on you with Grace Marr. Her precise and far-ranging vocals will make you swoon and rekindle your dreams of nailing every high-note for a room full of captivated strangers.



If you’ve always thought that you were too soft for punk, Nightshades is here to prove you wrong. With songs ranging from garage rock to grunge to post-punk to alternative, there’s a little something for everyone in a Nightshades set. Mallory Giles’ graceful vocals tell bittersweet stories against the backdrop of a bassline tinged with darkness. Let Nightshades put you in the right mood to cope with the rest of winter.