Festival Guide: Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival 2016

Boats, boats, boats, and more boats.

From June 23 to 26th, Mooney’s Bay transforms into the festival grounds for Ottawa’s Dragon Boat Festival, with teams from around the world coming to compete. Every year, thousands of spectators come to take in the action with their beach-front view, enjoying the heat of June and the excitement of the races. But once the rowers have retired for the day, the real fun begins on land.

Although there is plenty of entertainment and events during the day, Dragon Boat Festival takes it up a notch at night, featuring some of Canada’s best artists for their nightly concert series.

Photo by K.NE
Photo by K.NE

Best part: It’s totally free.

Before the festival kicks off, check out all the bands that are set to take the stage with our Festival Guide.

Follow Dusty Organ on Twitter and Instagram for exclusive content and live updates of all the free shows during the festival, and follow my personal Instagram for bonus, behind the scene content.

For more information on Dragon Boat Festival, head to their website.


Modern Space

6:30 PM

With the success of their major label debut Before Sunrise EPToronto’s Modern Space are making a leap into the Canadian indie rock scene. Following in the footsteps of The Arkells, and Hollerado, their upbeat, energetic pop rock style is second best to their irresistible live performances.

As the opening act to the free concert portion of the festival, this spirited Canadian five-piece are not to be missed.

The Muscadettes

8:00 PM

California meets Montreal – the best way to describe twin sisters Kathleen and Chantal Ambridge, and their music with The Muscadettes. Originally born in Silicon Valley in California, but having spent their youth living in Montreal, the Ambridge twins have turned their upbringing into lo-fi surf pop rock, best described if the Beach Boys were the Beach Girls and they toured in the underground music scene.

Their catchy riffs and dynamic live performances are just a few reasons to catch the Montreal duo and their band this festival.

July Talk

9:30 PM

After teasing their upcoming release with the hit single “Push + Pull” earlier this year, Toronto alternative rock group July Talk have reappeared on the music world’s radar since finishing up a tour last year. The band’s gritty, bone-crushing alt-rock is just the tip of the iceberg. The incomparable and unpredictable relationship between lead singers Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay on and off stage will not only leave you guessing, but in awe of their stamina and passionate endurance.


The Beaches

6:30 PM

Although named after the waterfront neighbourhood of Toronto, indie rock group The Beaches aren’t here for a quiet stroll through the sand. They’re here to rock n’ roll similar to the leaders of fem-rock like Janis Joplin and more recently HAIM. Formed back in 2013, The Beaches released their Heights EP in 2014 and have a number of singles under their belts to showcase during their performance at Dragonboat this year.

Ria Mae

8:00 PM

Halifax musician Ria Mae released her self-titled sophomore album earlier this month, and the alt-pop singer-songwriter is ready to make some noise outside of the East Coast. Along with the success of her 2015 hit single “Clothes Off”, Ria Mae has also shared the stage with the likes of Elle King, Classified, and Buck 65, and now she is bringing her croon-pop style to Ottawa.

Mother Mother

9:30 PM

I hope you’ve brought your dancing shoes. Vancouver indie pop band Mother Mother are bringing their irresistible, contagious pop tunes to Dragonboat Festival, and you’re invited. With five chart-topping albums to date, including their latest Very Good Bad Thing from 2014, they have been re-shaping the indie pop scene since their debut in 2007.


Pony Girl

6:30 PM

Ottawa experimental pop rock band Pony Girl have been climbing the ladder in the local music scene since their 2013 debut release Show Me Your Fears. Since then, they have played all of Ottawa’s biggest festivals, including Bluesfest, CityFolk, and the Ottawa Jazz Festival. With their latest release Foreign Life from November of last year, the young Ottawa band have sharped their skills and dug deep into their creative toolbox. Bringing their mesmerizing “artsy” folktronica sound to the big stage, Pony Girl are a secret gem in the Canadian music scene.

Nap Eyes

8:00 PM

Halifax is becoming increasingly known for their lo-fi/indie pop scene, and every so often, a band makes their way west to Ottawa, another city well-known for the genre. Nap Eyes are one of those bands that have branched out into the rest of Canada, and after releasing their second album Thought Rock Fish Scale earlier this year to positive reviews, they’re bringing their “slacker-rock” sound to the nation’s capital.


9:30 PM

Toronto indie pop band Alvvays have been riding out the success of their 2014 self-titled debut, and who’s to blame them; “Archie, Marry Me” quickly became the indie pop song of the summer. Pulling bits and pieces from ’80s indie pop and newer minimalist rock influences, Alvvays create a sugar-coated style that’s just the right kind of sweet. Although they haven’t formally released any new material, Alvvays have been touring and playing new tunes whenever they can, so we can expect some  exclusive content.


Loon Choir

5:00 PM

One, two, three, four…five…still going…six, seven, almost there, eight, annnnnd Nine.

Nine members form the Ottawa progressive pop group Loon Choir, and each contributing their own layer to the ice cream cake of their avant-garde music. Synthesizers, drums, guitars, violins, bagpipes, and harmonies stack together to create the complex, organic sound. Their 2015 album All Of This and Everything Else, which features their lead single “Bug”, was described by CBC as “one of their hidden gems of 2015…the kind of record that will remake its shape with every listen. It can be as big or as small as you need it to be. It belongs to you”.

Young Empires

6:30 PM

Toronto indie electro-pop group Young Empires have a certain energy to their music and an even more powerful dynamic on stage. Their latest album The Gates brought the sensational title track, highlighting their low, bass-driven electronic-rock music.

A Tribe Called Red

8:00 PM

If you have any connection to the Canadian Aboriginal community, there’s a very good chance you’ve heard of A Tribe Called Red. Not only have they been providing the Canadian electronic music scene with their phenomenal blend of powwow and dance music, but also acting as ambassadors for First Nation communities and activists. Politics and Human Rights aside though, A Tribe Called Red have an unstoppable dynamic and infectious style that unites everyone together to let loose and dance. They’ll be bringing the festival to a close on Sunday night, so be ready for a fantastic finale.

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