For one weekend of the year, people from all parts of Ottawa storm the streets of Westboro for Westfest, one of city’s most popular festivals.
On Sunday night, the music program showcases Ottawa musicians. The headliner, Mighty Popo is a Rwandan refugee whose music is steeped in African tradition – he is also one of Canada’s rising stars.
Others groups in the line up may not be as well known as Mighty Popo but they are talented musicians who rock the city on a daily basis. Silver Creek is one of those bands; Shawn Tavenier is the lead singer and an avid fan of Westfest.
“I Found Westfest by accident,” says Tavenier. “I was over at a friends place, we had just been sitting out back playing some tunes, and then we heard the music and we went for a stroll. All of a sudden there was just this festival there in the street and I have been hooked ever since.”
Tavenier is all about promoting local artists and bemoans the fact that Ottawa musicians are often overlooked. He says that there are a great many bands that play in the larger festivals, like Blues Fest, but that no one really knows they exist.
“We opened for Blue Rodeo two years ago – there’s this local band playing in front of 25,000 people and then the next day I am playing for six drunks on a stool at the Highlander pub,” says Tavenier.
He feels that Westfest not only attracts a broad audience because it is free, but because it has a community feel about it.
“They haven’t just put on a music festival they have created a community initiative,” says Tavenier.
Silver Creek is a five-piece band of dudes who love to jam together. Like most bands they tour when they can – in February they spent three weeks in the United Kingdom – and when they are not touring, they record.
Silver Creek’s latest album Princes and Kings was recorded during winter in a small studio in rural Pennsylvania. Tavenier says being stuck in a recording studio for over a week was more than intense.
“That’s it. There’s no escape, you get cabin fever and maybe after a day or two people start to go crazy, maybe drink a little too much,” says Tavenier. “You are not eating right and then all this madness gets thrown into the pot at the same time and it adds to the music.”
The album they recorded is long, 15 songs written “with the intention of each song depending on the one before and after,” says Tavenier.
Tavenier writes most of the songs with input from the band.
“I’ll write the basic idea, the lyrics and the fundamental structure of the song. Then I bring it to the band and they flush it out and then we work on it until its done, and they’re almost never done,” says Tavenier.
Tavenier says he has difficulty letting the album go but he finally did and Princes and Kings will be released in September. Until then the band will play at different festivals throughout the summer – beginning with Westfest.