Sparklesaurus performing at Marvest. Photo: Emilie Azevedo/Fulcrum
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Series of free concerts took place across the Glebe in intimate venues

“Thank you for being here, instead of being out to see Leon Bridges. We don’t need them anyway!” said Isaac Valentin midway through his set at Eldon’s, near the intersection of Bank Street and Second Avenue. This sentiment, mostly of appreciation and presence, lingered in the air at Marvest, a free concert series tied to CityFolk Festival which ran from Sept. 12-15.

As CityFolk grows in popularity and draws more and more prominent acts to Lansdowne Park, including Robert Plant and Snotty Nose Rez Kids this year, people might question the point of going out to small local shows and missing out on the big acts.

But Marvest functions as a springboard for incredible local talent that won’t just sweep into town once a year for a festival. 

Marvest musicians are invited to perform at local venues in the Glebe, and here you’ll find a well-distributed mix of artists, ranging from those who are just getting their feet wet to those who have departed on world-wide tours and are retiring back to their base here in Ottawa.

There are also workshops hosted throughout the day, and there’s even a Magic Marvest Bus that shuttles patrons up and down Bank Street. The biggest incentive is, of course, that these shows are all free.

The hosting venues range from the Clocktower Brew Pub by Highway 417 to the Craft Brew Pub at Lansdowne Park, and include cosy diners like Eldon’s, cafes, and the Fourth Avenue Baptist Church. This year there were 28 different participating venues, and each one hosted multiple acts throughout the night. 

You can sit down and take in multiple shows at one venue, or you may decide to visit multiple spots hoping to see as many of your favorite acts as you can. Most shows last 45 minutes.

The shows at Marvest are arguably more interesting and more entertaining than the typical sound and light show you come to expect at concert mainstages. Not only does Marvest offer you the opportunity to see musicians in a more accessible environment, but it also provides you the opportunity to get to know these musicians in a personal manner, and before they break into the mainstream. 

Marvest performer Luna Li is a glimpse of the future turned present. This isn’t simply an assessment of her appearance, though the vibrant pink/red hair and the sparkling, silver dress speak for themselves. 

“As an artist, I want to ensure proper ethnic and female inclusion in my music,” Li says. Li herself is a classically-trained musician, with more than a decade of tutelage under her belt, though you might be surprised to learn of this. Her music diverges heavily from her background, and if you are ever an audience member to one of her shows, you’ll be treated to some mesmerizing shoegaze, dream pop.

Marvest drew crowds to intimate venues across the Glebe. Photo: Emilie Azevedo/Fulcrum

In her performance at the Fourth Avenue Baptist Church, onlookers were treated to a spectacle of a band, one that is as much unheralded as they are undiscovered. The church’s acoustics heightened the experience tremendously (not to say that the band needed a helping hand).

Midway through her act, Li started a tape loop of a guitar chord progression and pulled out her violin.

“I want to play a piece about appreciation. Don’t feel any pressure whatsoever,” Li said as she put her classical training to good use. 

Audience members were invited to take a moment to think about anything really during the soothing violin piece, and were instructed to give their feelings awareness without judgment. After playing the short instrumental, the band got back to their electropop, dream garage music, as if nothing happened, and even performed songs from their most recent release, Silver Into Rain

In the candlelit interior of Eldon’s at Bank Street and Second Avenue, attendees were offered quite a different experience from the scene inside Fourth Avenue Baptist Church. Valentin was set up near the front portal, and the seating felt close and intimate.

“I have difficulty offering up anything profound. Any small sort of message will not be able to convey much significance,” Valentin said when asked if he has any specific message for the people.

“I have many friends around the world, and through them I get to truly hear about these events, removed from the lens of media. I believe that we are living in an interesting and quickly changing period of time” added Valentin. “Believing that we are living in an interesting time period is not just a thought, it should be approached as a state of mind.” 

Playing slow, sentimental ballads, while parsing them out with recited poetry, the atmosphere of Valentin’s show reflects both the comfortable zen of Eldon’s and his introspective nature.

Valentin’s music is about breaking down our barriers and the lifeless constructs we conjure up to remove ourselves from experience and feeling, through sharing his own life experiences or in questioning societal trends.

When you see an artist like Valentin live, you feel the music, and it’s hard to imagine a show like his taking place on any bigger of a stage.


  • Spring 2022: Desiree Nikfardjam Fall 2021: Zofka Svec 2020-2021: Aisling Murphy 2019-2020: Ryan Pepper 2018-2019: Iain Sellers 2017-2018: Ryan Pepper