Ottawa is hopping as the crème-de-la-crème of the Canadian music industry descends on Canada’s capital to celebrate! The JUNO Awards were last hosted in Ottawa in 2003 but the party is bigger and better this time around.
Canadian icon William Shatner will be the host of the awards themselves on Sunday, April 1 but there are plenty of other activities — from a hockey game with musicians and former National Hockey League players to a huge autograph session to a series of concerts in great local clubs — to keep you busy. Or sit down at one of the JUNO pianos located in public places around town and regale passers-by with your talents!
No matter when you visit Ottawa, though, you should explore Ottawa’s thriving live music scene. Here are just a few venues to check out:
- Zaphod Beeblebrox (named after a character in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series) just celebrated its 20th anniversary in March 2012 and shows no signs of stopping! Owner Eugene Haslam consistently books acts before they become famous, including Ben Harper, Alanis Morissette, Ani DiFranco, Our Lady Peace, Jewel, the Dandy Warhols and more! The Rolling Stones filmed their Streets of Love video at the club in 2005.
- Pubs: Ottawa loves its pubs and most of them provide live music, often with no cover charge. The Heart & Crown in the ByWard Market neighbourhood has 7 nights a week of music while Irene’s Pub in the Glebe neighbourhood has a great Thursday night blues jam and Saturday afternoon open stage along with regular weekend shows. D’Arcy McGee’s on Sparks Street has a regular Wednesday Night Kitchen Party.
- The Elmdale Tavern in trendyWellington West neighbourhood takes its live music—and its beer—seriously. There’s something happening almost every night: from rock to folk to alternative to poetry readings to you name it!
- If you’re into blues, it’s worth the walk up the stairs to the Rainbow Bistroin the ByWard Market district. It’s a strange layout (think rustic ski chalet) for a live music club but it somehow works. All the greats have performed here and they continue to program a solid set.
- If DJs are more your thing, head down to Babylon Nightclub on Bank Street for their Friday night and Saturday night Dance Parties. Or nearby Barrymore’s Sunday night Retro 80s parties. In the ByWard Market, try the 21st century soul club that is Mercury Lounge.
- For some live jazz, head to Bank Street’s Café Paradiso or downstairs at Vineyards Wine Bar Bistro in the ByWard Market.
- For something a little edgier, you’re best at Mavericks or Café Dekcuf, both on Rideau Street. Bring your earplugs!
What are YOUR favourite places to hear music in Ottawa? Let us know in the comments below!