After two years of COVID-imposed absence, the Ottawa Dragonboat Festival made its triumphant return Friday night, along with its free concert series. Friday night’s show featured two local openers, Stoby and Frown Line, and was headlined by The Strumbellas. The sweltering summer heat drew in eager concertgoers of all ages, and by the time the Strumbellas hit the stage, there was a substantial crowd at Hog’s Back Park. The night sky was filled with beach balls, fireflies and cell phone flashlights throughout the set. New Strumbellas singer Jimmy Chauveau made quick work of engaging and getting up close and personal with the crowd, who were only too happy to share the mic with him during the song “The Sheriff” and when he asked, “Can we get the whole place bouncing for this one?” as they launched into their song “Young and Wild.” More on the Strumbellas here with this recent Apt613 interview.
The Dragonboat Festival offered another free concert Saturday night with headliner Serena Ryder and local openers Rebelle and Steve Neville (I was unable to make it in time to catch Steve Neville’s set). Local rock darlings Rebelle played a raucous set, including their most recent single, “Kicks,” as well as an authentic cover of Nirvana’s “On a Plain.” Fans turned out in droves to see headliner Serena Ryder, and I was more than happy to be seeing her for the second time in a month after the Rainbow benefit show earlier in June. Backed by a tight rhythm section, Serena’s set was playful and fun. She spoke of her most recent album, The Art of Falling Apart, as documenting her mental health journey and learning how to treat herself better, a theme that resonated with fans, especially on songs like “Waterfall” and “Better Now.” Serena will return to Ottawa for “An Intimate Evening With Serena Ryder” in November at Centrepointe Theatre.