Photos by Sara Osmanovic
The closer it drew to 8:00pm, the more the feeling of knowing something good will come out of what I’m doing settled and eventually completely took over. This feeling – remember that I’m talking about it.
Just beyond the arch of Chinatown is a small bar by the name of Bar Robo. Despite what you may think of music clubs – grimy, unwashed bar, people asking for beer by the pint – it isn’t what you’d expect. The atmosphere was warm and friendly, and the place was very tidy, had neon lights, some large potted plants, and cushioned seating. Having only seen the bar in photos, I always thought it had a mellow vibe, but as soon as I entered it, my gut feeling was only confirmed.
The first act, The C.H.U.D.S, came on at around 9:00pm (I admit I messed up and showed up an entire hour early). They proved to be the most difficult to photograph, with Imogen (the lead singer) constantly moving around, kicking over chairs, and flipping tables, and Brenda (the bassist) having her hair in her face at all times.
The band gets up in your personal space and the members really immerse themselves in every song they perform. Not only did I enjoy their sound, which I can describe with having tones of thrash punk with a unique twist, making it their own. They heavily touch upon the societal injustices that trans people face every day, and just how poorly they’re treated. This is why I really admired them, they’re a band that is very open about trans rights and they’re very active in getting awareness out in spite of how difficult it is.
Audrey (the guitarist) threw in many amazing riffs that sound like they were very well thought out, melding so well into every song. The band even toys with having controlled feedback, which is often hard to fit into songs naturally. James’ drumming added intensity to the overall sound the band had and really set the pace for each song. It seemed to determine the energy the room held and got everyone moving, and of course Imogen played a huge role in that as well.
After they had finished off their loud performance, I managed to talk to a few people, and learned that out of all the bands James was in, this one was the one with the most meaning. I have never listened to any of his other bands, but I decided since the person knew James for a number of years, I would take their word for it. I believe this especially because the whole focus of the band is to amplify the voices of people who identify as trans. They voice their pains, struggles, and how they matter. They sing and scream about the trauma they face daily, and about the violence they face from society. They do not hide from what they are and they stand very firm in their beliefs. The band is a reaction to the expectation of being respectable and quiet, as Imogen had told me. She even brought up how she sings about resistance, drug addiction, and cis complacency.
She even touches on the hypocritical side of punk. Punk has always been considered a genre that’s meant for everyone. Everyone is welcome to the punk scene, everyone can be a part of it. It’s about resistance, and never letting anyone take you alive, so why are trans people being out cast from a genre that is supposed to include, to resist, to bring awareness to important and pressing issues? Within this band’s violence is liberation.
It didn’t take long for Street Eaters, a duo from California to begin their performance. They took the two instruments people care about the least and transformed them into a full-throttle truewave punk band. They really impressed me with the coordinated drumming and signing brought forth by Megan March. This is something that’s incredibly difficult to do. Not only was this something that blew me away, but it was also the way that John played his bass. The approach is unconventional – he played it as if it was a guitar. This produced a heavy and gritty garage sound and shook the floor with its raw power. Their singing and shouting melded together and really brought the mood of their songs together. If you like Black Flag, I’m sure you’ll find yourself loving these guys.
Their commentary about Ottawa’s weather was accurate, but they bounced back with that if we were to go down to the USA, we could insult their weather patterns as well. After this, they performed a song that they seemed to sarcastically admit wasn’t about the hail storm they experienced while coming up to Canada. The song is called ‘To the Ice’ and it’s from their new record The Envoy which you can pre-order on their Bandcamp.
They closed off with the joke of “we’ll do you one better, we’ll play one more song” after suggested they cut their set down to two more songs. The song they closed off with was one they claimed to be about punching Nazis in the face, in reference to the event that occurred a couple of months back with Richard Spencer. This one seemed to strike a fire in both of the musicians that I had seen glimpses of throughout the night, but never with such intensity.
After they finished up, I managed to speak briefly to Megan, who was incredibly down to earth, and despite the angry sound of the band, was incredibly kind. We spoke of the band briefly and a very small amount about photography regarding the band before I let her go do whatever she was set to do. During this time, a few other people had piled in and had come to support their friends in the next band.
When Warp Lines came on, I immediately recognized their lead singer and guitarist Johnny from the TARG show a few weeks back with Steve Adamyk Band, however don’t let that fool you into thinking this band had the same sound. Although possessing some of the same roots, the sound is dirtier and grittier. Technically classified as pop-punk, these guys really nailed that heavy punk rock we were there to see. The trio brings a lively performance with them, coordinating very well with each other. The dynamic the guys have was incredible, sharing smiles throughout the songs they played. They drumming relies on crash cymbals and a very heavy beat all thanks to the wonderful Dave Sec whose technique impressed me. The riffs thrown in by Johnny, in their song ‘Weak Signals´, where perfectly placed and the string bends added a new depth to the song. Some riffs were kept light to contrast how heavy the entire song was and yet, it oddly fit so well. The bass, played by Kurt Rafuse (of The Yips/Tropical Dripps) shook the floor and made itself stand out in every single song they performed. It’s no doubt that this band is not afraid to bring out the bass.
If you listen to Steve Adamyk, PUP, or Hollerado, Warp Lines is a band that you’ll find yourself drawn to without a doubt. They’ve lively and really immerse themselves in their performance and despite bordering pop punk, they don’t fall into what the stereotypical association with that genre is. In a way, they grasp it, make it their own, and bring a new flavour to the punk and pop punk scene of Ottawa.
The night ended on a really positive note and gave me the opportunity to speak to a few more people, Johnny was one of them. He’s a very sincere and approachable person despite how serious he may look. Once you jump into conversation with him, he’s a really pleasant person to talk to. I also managed to say hello to Steve (Steve Adamyk Band) and Pat (Telecomo) who came out to support their friends. Now, remember that feeling I told you about in the very first paragraph? That feeling is something I had during the entire time I was in the small bar in Chinatown. This was without a doubt one of the best shows that I’ve been to, and the whole night the atmosphere was filled to the brim with positive energy.
Overall, any of these bands mentioned above are worth seeing live because you’ll either never find the recordings no matter how far you delve into the World Wide Web, or if you do, the recordings will never do the band justice and will never possess the same grit, grime, and liveliness that their live performances hold. That being said, make sure to catch The C.H.U.D.S and Warp Lines at Ottawa Explosion weekend in order to hear their sick tunes live and raw.