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Ottawa Explosion Weekend: The scrappy young upstart festival

By Lee Pepper on June 20, 2013

With all due respect to Bluesfest, it does tend to dominate the summertime conversation around music in Ottawa.  Fortunately, the Bluesfest juggernaut is not the be-all and end-all of Ottawa music festivals, with more and more scrappy young upstarts springing up in recent years.

One of these upstarts has gotten substantially larger and more mature this year (they grow up so fast!).  Ottawa Explosion Weekend, which runs from Wednesday, June 19th to Sunday, June 23rd., boasts over 100 local and visiting acts, diverse but tending towards punk.

While the majority of shows will be taking place at Club Saw (67 Nicholas St), there will also be music at Vertigo Records (193 Rideau St.), St. Alban’s Church (454 King Edward Ave.), Babylon (317 Bank St.), and other venues. The venues are close together with the idea that attendees can stroll, romp, or stagger from one show to another.

This is the third year of Ottawa Explosion. It grew out of Gaga Weekend, which brought together bands from Ottawa’s Going Gaga Records and others from 2008 to 2010. Ottawa Explosion organizer Emmanuel Sayer was also the mastermind behind Rock ’n’ Roll Pizza Party, the late, great weekly event that combined free pizza with raucous, eclectic music.

Local bands playing include Camp Radio, Organ Eyes, Roberta Bondar, Steve Adamyk Band, and the Yips. Visitors include Holy Cobras from Montreal, Thalidomy Kids from Moncton, and Tyvek from Detroit.

Currently at Oz Kafe (361 Elgin St.), there is also an associated poster show, featuring the work of Ottawa artists and designers such as Ben Jensen, Dirty Donny Gilles, Russ Proulx, and Jennie Lynn MacDonald.  There will also be associated pre- and post-show parties, including “HULLabaloo!” on Friday from 1-3 PM, a pool party BBQ at Parc Fontaine (120 rue Charlevoix, Hull, QC).

The organizers of Ottawa Explosion say of the fest:

“Every year we try to make it a little bit bigger and hopefully a little bit better. Every year we realize what we can actually pull off and then the next year we try to make it a little crazier. I feel we’ve definitely achieved that this year. We’re going inter-provincial this year which is exciting. Also people will be getting wasted in a church on Friday night which I find funny.”

There you have it.  A $60 bracelet will gain you access to all of the shows, and to a private party at Vertigo Records on Friday, June 21st. Individual tickets are also available to the shows, at $10 or less.  For more information, see