Halifax Takes Ottawa: Walrus and Wintersleep rock Ritual

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Photo of Walrus rocking Ritual Nightclub in Ottawa by Kane Wilkinson (Dusty Organ)

Hosted by Spectrasonic and Ritual Nighclub, psychedelic pop band Walrus put on an impressive opening set for fellow Halifax-natives and Canadian alternative rock band Wintersleep.

The band casually took the stage, only to rock our faces off with their mind-bending riffs, which both contrast and compliment singer John Murphy’s soothing vocals. The most striking aspects of their performance were the intricate guitar, bass AND drum solos interwoven throughout the set, as well as the flawless and unexpected tempo changes during “Banger”. If you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing the experimental tunes of Walrus live and you’d like to know what The Beatles’ and The Sadies’ love child would sound like, catching a show during their ongoing Canadian tour is definitely worth your while. If you can’t make it to a show, be sure to grab a copy of their newest EP Glam Returns, available on Bandcamp.

By the time Wintersleep came on, Ritual was packed with fans awaiting a premiere of The Great Detachment, set to release the following day, and hoping to hear some old favourites. Wintersleep didn’t disappoint, opening with new track “Lifting Cure”, and proceeding with an array of songs from their early and recent albums. Not big on small talk or banter, they kept interludes short and sweet with humble nods and “thank you’s”, which could only make someone love them more. The band elicited enthusiastic sing-alongs during “Weighty Ghost” and “Oblivion”, catering to hardcore fans and less dedicated listeners alike. Even though The Great Detachment had yet to be officially released, the band had offered an online streaming preview via Clash Magazine, which gave listeners just enough time to get a feel for the new album and learn some of the words. New singles “Amerika” and “Santa Fe” were performed with such infectious energy that you couldn’t help but politely dance your heart out in true Ottawa fashion.

The crowd went nuts as Wintersleep closed their set with “Miasmal Smoke & Yellow Bellied Freaks”, only to be even more satisfied when they came back with a fantastic three-song encore. Finally, fans were blown away during the nearly 10-minute finale as the band jammed out to “Nerves Normal. Breathe Normal” from their 2006 album Untitled.

There was certainly no shortage of headbanging, hip-shaking or-crowd roaring Thursday night. Cramming a mass amount of music lovers into a small-scale venue, in which you can stand pressed against the stage and make awkward eye contact with your favourite musicians, is something Ottawa does best. A big thanks to Spectrasonic and Ritual for hosting such an amazing show, and to Walrus and Wintersleep for making us forget how hella self-conscious we are about dancing in public.

The Great Detachment dropped March 4th and it’s phenomenal. You can purchase the new album and get more info about Wintersleep’s tour here – get ready Canada, they’re heading west!

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