In May of 2015, Eric and I had a crazy idea. We joked about going to Pouzza Fest – a Gainesville, Florida, The Fest-style music festival – and film all the Ottawa bands. We even went so far as to joke about making an actual documentary. We are by no means documentarians or filmmakers, but we do tell stories on this website, and that is something we are pretty passionate about. In that respect, we declared ourselves pseudo-raconteurs of the people and music in Ottawa, and that it wouldn’t be so far-fetched to actually make this thing happen. Well, folks – we did it.
After 4 days of filming and keeping on pace with the loud and late nights, we caught all the Ottawa acts slated to play Pouzza (except Crusades, who had to pull out for personal reasons). Those bands were Dead Weights, Jon Creeden & The Flying Hellfish, Fresh Hell, Jonathan Becker & The North Fields, Rich Chris, Sidelines, The Tenenbaums, and The Valveenus. We had more than our fair share of fun, and it was definitely an experience I’ll never forget. Plus – it’s Montreal. There’s something about the city that makes everyone who visits fall in love with it.
This documentary is by no means a masterpiece. In fact, technically it is a piece of shit. We recorded almost everything with our phones and learned video editing on the fly. After all, it’s a punk rock festival named after poutine on pizza, so I don’t think we’re competing for an Oscar anytime soon. Even though some of the video is a bit shaky and there is audio that you can’t hear at points, it was filmed and edited with care. After spending a lot of hours cutting and splicing the footage, we ended up with this product.
We want to give a huge thank you to the bands for being involved, and all the folks who helped make this project possible! It was like exploring uncharted waters for us, and all the friends who helped us learn new programs and teach us some tricks of the trade – we salute you.
We couldn’t be more stoked to be co-presenting the next instalment of the I Can’t Believe It’s Not series with Arboretum Festival on December 3rd. This time around, they have chosen to perform the seminal 1977 Fleetwood Mac classic Rumours, and what better way to do this album justice by getting together some of Ottawa’s best?
The familiar lineup includes Caylie Runciman of Boyhood, Rolf Klausener of The Acorn, Martin Charbonneau of Fevers, Mike Dubue and Pascal Delaquis of Hilotrons and Jon Hynes. The last show in the ICBIN series was covering Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, so this one is a total departure from that. Previous shows in the series also included The Strokes – Is This It and Nirvana’s Nevermind, and it seems to keep getting better and better. There will also be a pre-show screening of the Talking Heads documentary Stop Making Sense, which is an essential one to see for any music lover. Don’t miss your chance to hop on board and see this incredible album played live at the beautiful St. Alban’s Church.
We’re giving away a pair of tickets, so now’s your chance to score some free passes!
How to enter
Tweet at @OttawaShowbox and @ArboretumFest with the hashtag #ICBIN the title of the Fleetwood Mac song you’d be most likely to belt out at karaoke. If you don’t have Twitter, just email your answer to music [at] ottawashowbox.com and you’ll be entered into the contest. Only one entry per person.
Winner will be announced over Twitter at noon on Wednesday, Nov. 25. We will contact the winner via whichever medium they entered the contest.
Good luck, and see you there!
Thursday December, 3 / St. Alban’s Church
$10 adv. / $15 at the door
All Ages/19+ / Licenced / Fully Accessible
questions/concerns, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
For the 7th year, Beau’s Oktoberfest has come and gone. Once again, it was an amazing weekend of delicious beer, tasty food, great bands, fun activities, and good friends up in Vankleek Hill, Ontario.
Eric and Matías run through the 10 most memorable moments (in no particular order).
1) Taking Part in Traditional Oktoberfest Festivities
E: Yes, believe it or not, there are things to do at Oktoberfest other than drink. Last year I tried my luck at the keg toss for distance and did pretty horribly in the rain, hitting my leg with the keg and bruising it pretty badly. This year I set out to try something new – the sausage eating contest. It was scheduled for 2 p.m. on the Saturday, so I figured that worst case it would be a free lunch. Sitting beside a previous champion I could feel the pressure mounting. The goal is to eat as many 1/4 pound sausages as you can in 10 minutes. The only catch is that no contestant can fall three sausages behind first place, or thou shalt be eliminated. I had a great pace through my first five sausages, eating one a minute and competing, but then as I slowed the others stayed steady. I was eliminated upon completion of my 7th sausage as someone started their 11th. I managed to finish about 5th place out of 12 or 14 competitors, and I am OK with that.
Keg toss for height at Beau’s Oktoberfest in Vankleek Hill.
2)Watching the Team Contests
E: One of my annual highlights is watching the team competition. People get all dressed up and compete in co-ed challenges of keg toss for height, distance and accuracy. Every year the teams look like they are having an amazing time laughing and high-fiving all the way through. Next year Ottawa Showbox will be looking to enter team of our writers and local musicians to give it a whirl.
Skater dropping in from “The Brown Recluse” into the half-pipe at Beau’s Oktoberfest in Vankleek Hill.
E: The addition of skateboarders and a bunch of punk rockers to Oktoberfest may have been one of the best decisions made by organizers. This year they took it up a notch moving setting up a real stage for the bands and placing the half-pipe in a picturesque location perfect for sunset photos. The skaters blow me away every year as they drink beers and defy gravity, flying all over the place on the half-pipe. This year I was also around to catch the keg jumping. This is where a skater propels his body as fast as he can on his skateboard towards a row of kegs (seven of them when I arrived) and then hurls his body over those kegs, leaving his board behind and hoping to land on a board setup for him on the other side. Yeah it is wild. Antique Skate Shop also essentially built a diving board they called “The Brown Recluse” which allowed skaters to drop into the half-pipe from several feet higher than the tip of the pipe (as seen in the photo above). The highest successful drop I saw was from an extra 7 feet in the air I believe. Wild!
The Flatliners rocking the Black Forest stage at Beau’s Oktoberfest in Vankleek Hill.
4) New “Punk Rock” Stage Set-up
M: The Black Forest stage area was a major addition and improvement to the festival grounds and live music experience. In previous years the secondary music area was located on the far opposite corner to the main stage, where the midway was set up this year. While that was all well and good, there was no actual stage and people watching the bands were relegated to tight quarters and pretty terrible sight lines. This year the establishment of the Black Forest stage alleviated those issues, creating an open and separate area for people to hang out and enjoy music that wasn’t at the main stage. Some intense performances by locals Mother’s Children, NECK,HELLbros! and Crvsades (guitarist Emmanuel Sayer cut his hand and unknowingly wiped his own blood everywhere) and The Flatliners from the GTA, who played their brand of punk rock to a loving crowd that sang along the whole time. From skaters tearing up the half-pipe, guilty pleasure dance jams, to ear drum destruction – the Black Forest area was a prime hang location.
E: This year House of Targ set up a little games booth near the Black Forest stage. For $1 you could compete against their number 1 wizard in a multitude of games ranging from spin the wheel, rock paper wizard, dice, and war. As Hellbros played on stage I challenged the bearded wizard to war, even though I am a pacifist and also am smart enough to know a wizard could destroy me in a real war. I shuffled the cards and dealt us each a card face down. I was then encouraged to place my card against a speaker on the table so the wizard to do some magic to it. After several weird magical sound effects we flipped our cards. He flipped a measly 6 while I flipped the all-powerful Ace of Spades. As I flipped the card, HELLbros! launched into a cover of Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades.” Needless to say we were all blown away. It was magical.
6) The Eternally Delicious Cask House
E: The normal beer tents are great and every year Beau’s make some incredible beers that I love. But the highlight is always the Cask House or Craft House, however you decide to call it. As in years past, the Cask House killed it again. There were over 70 amazing beers for festival-goers to sample this time around. This year’s set up was really cool. Instead of having a wall of casks and no lines, so a free for all, this year it was a trailer with taps on both sides and winding lines on each side. In my opinion, it was organized much better and patrons seemed to agree. Some of this year’s highlights from the cask area were Cigar City Brewing‘s Hunahpu’s 2015 (imperial stout), Left Field Brewery‘s Grandstand (American pale wheat ale), Ommegang Brewery‘s Hennepin Farmhouse Saison (farmhouse ale) and Bellwoods Brewery‘s Bring Out Your Dead (Cognac barrel aged imperial stout). One of the cooler/strange beers was the Peanut Butter Milk Stout by Belching Beaver Brewery. It was like drinking liquid peanut butter with a smooth stout finish. Quite delicious, but glad it was only a 9 oz. sample.
The singing of the German national anthem during the official keg tapping ceremony at Beau’s Oktoberfest in Vankleek Hill.
7) Ceremonial Keg Tapping
E: The ceremonial tapping of the keg on the main stage is always fun to see. Not everyday I hear the German national anthem and Canadian anthem sang, hear polka music and get handed free beer. On top of all that this year the good folks at Beau’s brought out four candidates for the area to join them on stage. And as Steve Beauchesne of Beau’s said, “There is one thing all parties can agree on…BEER.” It was a nice tough though, just another opportunity to invite people to vote and get informed.
8) Camping is the Best
E: Camp. Just do it! No need to find a designated driver. No need to sit on a crowded school bus. No need to fight with big crowds to get it. Sure it is a little cooler at this time a year but plan ahead because camping is one of my favourite parts of the festival. It means your night doesn’t end early like everyone elses. You can hangout with a bunch of like-minded people, enjoy a campfire, just really take it all in. And this year they had breakfast burritos for us to pruchase the next morning. Camping is the safest, least stressful, and most enjoyable way to ensure you really take it all in.
Fucked Up killing it on the main stage at Beau’s Oktoberfest in Vankleek Hill.
9) Fucked Up Stole the Show
M: Whether you’re a fan of punk or not, if you haven’t seen Toronto’s Fucked Up play live then you’re simply missing out. For over a decade Damian Abraham and the band have used a mix of deranged and wild stage antics and fun and loud punk rock to take things to another level. They haven’t slowed down much at all over the years, and this year’s Beau’s Oktoberfest main stage performance was no exception. The band played some of their best songs including “Black Albino Bones” and “The Other Show,” dipping into their repertoire to blow the audience away. Damian didn’t hesitate to get the crowd involved, jumping off the stage and singing a good portion of the set all the way into the audience. We all got a chance to give him a hug and sing into the mic, and he didn’t miss a beat. Although the cold wind was blowing and the rest of the band was bundled up, Damian showed very little regard for self-preservation as he took off his shirt and belted out his vocals. The mosh pit was like a whirlpool and the overall energy of the festival got kicked up a notch after Fucked Up took the stage.
10) Smooth Operators and Amazing Volunbeers
E & M: After seven years running, the festival just seems to improve every time around. From the big additions, like punk rock area and skateboarders a few years ago, to more behind the scene things like a media tent to charge your devices, Beau’s is going in the right direction. Yes, this is in large part of their great team of organizers, but year after year I am amazed by how engaged and enthusiastic all their volunteers are. It probably doesn’t hurt to call them volunbeers either. Bravo to the entire Beau’s family and their amazing group of volunteers, can’t wait to see what you’ll have in store for us next year. Here’s an obligatory picture of Eric in a banana suit.
With autumn quickly rushing in, that can only mean one thing. Yes, it’s almost time for Beau’s Oktoberfest happening this weekend, October 2nd and 3rd. Our friends at Beau’s have really raised the bar this year – the 7th annual fest includes an exciting blend of great music, fun activities, and, of course, delicious craft beer all weekend long. Last year Beau’s Oktoberfest saw more than 19,000 attendees over the two days, and raised $106,000 for local community groups and charities.
Passes are selling out quick, and Saturday general admission are already gone. However, we are GIVING AWAY A PAIR OF WEEKEND PASSES!!! Please note that bus transportation is no longer available. So if you missed the early bird boat, there is still hope.
Live music on Friday night from Yukon Blonde, The Dears, The Pack A.D., and The Elwins
Plus performances by… Tom Green and Canada’s polka king – Walter Ostanek!
A total of 14 Beau’s beers on tap, including 5 brand-new beers
28 local restaurants bringing their best Bavarian and seasonally-inspired cuisine
“Craft Haus” tent with beers from 40+ different local craft breweries
Activities: Keg toss, sausage-eating contest, malt sack races, partner-carrying race, and more
United Way’s Charity Bike Ride from Ottawa – (Bus ride back for rider and bike!)
Members of Barleyment Homebrew competition
Custom, hand-built midway with Beau’s themed games and prizes
Kinderfest: a non-licensed family area with activities and entertainment
Skateboarding demo area
School of Bock tastings and beer education sessions with beer & food experts
Traditional German dancing and entertainment during the day
Shuttle from fairgrounds to Beau’s brewery for free tours and tastings
We had great weather for this last day of CityFolk, with sun shining and a breeze blowing to confirm that fall is indeed on its way.
I got my festival day started at the main stage with the smooth country stylings of Lucinda Williams. She’s been at this a while, and it took her a few songs to find her energy, but with the help of her solid backing band, she showed the crowd that she’s still got her grit. As I headed to the next show, the breeze brought me the sounds of her finale, in a rousing rendition of Neil Young’s Keep On Rocking In The Free World.
Over at Raven Law, I caught a young talent I’d never heard of before, Terra Lightfoot. Her hair-whipping, guitar slamming performance was immediately alluring to the eyes and ears. Again, I’m a sucker for artists who so clearly love performing, and Terra is absolutely one such person. Her blues/country-influenced guitar playing coupled with her booming soulful voice was just undeniable. It’s thick and booming, but smooth as butter. She sang like if Janis Joplin hadn’t smoked a million cigarettes. And the crowd was loving it. Graciously introducing her band, she invited the crowd to join in the backing vocals on their cover of Sam Cooke’s classic Bring It On Home To Me. Swoon.
Regaining the strength in my knees, I headed back to the main stage for another sister-recommendation (for anyone who read my Saturday Marvest piece, I’ve started taking some of her musical suggestions after years of me showing her stuff, figured it’s time to change the dynamic).
As I walked into the field, the crowd erupted for Passenger taking the stage. I thought it was a band but nope, just one dude on acoustic guitar. He commented on the apparently frequent confusion, saying “This is Passenger, but really it’s just me. My name’s Mike.” This soft-spoken Brit was a well-loved addition to this festival lineup, with a huge turnout for him. While waiting in the beer line, I did an eyebrow-raise at his request for the crowd to please be quiet as possible throughout his set. But when her got around to telling a few sensitive stories about how encounters on his solo travels had influenced his songwriting, the crowd indeed fell surprisingly quiet. Not typically my cup of tea, but I do like a good storyteller, and he even threw in a couple of lovely dynamic covers of Simon & Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence and Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark”. Pretty meta, Mike. I like it.
The end of the Passenger set was a pretty incredible sight, as the crowd belted out his big hit “Let Her Go” to end the regular set. Not only was it mesmerizing to hear thousands of people singing one song in unison, but also hear them scream the melody after he left the stage to entice him to come back for an encore. He obliged, and was visibly touched by the crowd’s methods. A perfect way to keep the energy going into Wilco’s set.
Saturday, Day 4 of CityFolk was wild and jam-packed with shows all over. Of the numerous acts playing around the area, I caught Of Monsters of Men, Evening Hymns and Will Butler at CityFolk and Lost to the River, Steamers, Jon Becker and the North Fields, and Jack Pine and the Fire thanks to Marvest.
After a very busy Friday, I was back at it Saturday and ready to go. The day started off with Will Butler, member of Arcade Fire and brother of Win Butler. His solo project is quite different from Arcade Fire, but every once in a while you can hear a little Win in his voice. The electro-pop sounds were very welcomed on a nice sunny afternoon. Opening with possibly my favourite track “You Must be Kidding,” the fun dancy electro moments with female backing vocals sometimes teleported me to watching Handsome Furs live. It was a very entertaining set by a group I hadn’t given enough time to yet. I will fix that.
I had to cut the Will Butler set short because Evening Hymns were beginning at the Raven Law stage. Riding high off the release of their brand new album Quiet Energies just one day prior, Evening Hymns played an absolutely beautiful set. Evening Hymns is the creative adventure of Jonas Bonnetta, and featured talented local musicians John Hynes and Pat Johnson.
They opened with the first song on the new album, “If I Were a Portal” which included a sweet bongo solo by Hynes. Bonnetta wanted to let Ottawa know just how special we are to him. “This is our CD release of sorts,” he said. “We came here before Toronto just so you know,” he added with smirk. The band played more songs off the new album as Bonnetta told stories about the album and specific songs throughout the set. The song that really struck a chord was “Rescue Team.” Bonnetta introduced the song saying that they were about to slow things down, and with such a beautiful and moving song he can slow it down anytime.
As the sun gave way to clouds that kept getting darker and Evening Hymns finishing up, I made my way to The Sheepdogs. Well, for a little bit. I tried to get into it and understand what the huge crowd toughing out the rain were into, but alas I could not. I decided instead to go check out locals Lost to the River instead. Sitting down with friends, sipping on local craft beers and watching the band for the first time since taking on their new sound and new name (formerly Miss Polygamy) was quite nice.
The five piece is led by a charismatic Sean Tansey on guitar and vocals. The band featured some great musicianship with excellent banjo, violin and pedal steel guitar which is always a treat. This was also an album release of sort as the band launched it self-titled six song EP. Great to hear live versions of “Bloody Mouth” and “Eternal Space Trip.”
It was now time for one of the biggest headliners of the festival, Iceland’s best known export since Bjork, Of Monsters of Men. The band was very excited to be playing Ottawa for the first time since forming in 2010. Lead singer and guitarist, Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, made sure we knew. “We are so happy to be in Ottawa and we are not going to let a few drops of rain take us down.” They wasted no time playing big hits like “Mountain Sounds,” “King And Lionheart” and “Crystals” in the first half of the set much to the joy of the thousands in attendance. Don’t worry, “Little Talks” made an appearance later. The band played a great set and made everyone it ever rained.
It was now time for me to leave CityFolk and go immerse myself in Marvest. First stop – The Unrefined Olive. Yes, that’s right, an olive oil and balsamic tasting bar where one of our local favourites Steamers was playing. The band was dressed to the nines as many of the six-piece had been to Jon Creeden’s wedding earlier that day. Something about them all decked out and the fact that we were surrounded by fancy olive oils and vinaigrettes really added to the moment. Steamers were on point as always opening with “Years,” and getting the crowd really into it with “Head North” and “Stay Here to Bleed.”
Just as quickly as my time with the Steamers began, it ended as I headed over to Original Burger Joint for Jonathan Becker & The North Fields and Jack Pine & The Fire. We were packed in pretty tight for some great folk, delicious burgers, and crisp local craft beers to end the night. Jonathan Beck & the North Fields also very well dressed, and were very well received by a crowd of people mostly hearing them for the first time. You can’t talk about Becker and not comment on the awesome rasp to his singing voice. He has surrounded that voice and guitar playing with other very good musicians. It was a great set as per usual.
Finishing off the night was Jack Pine & the Fire. The band was playing as a three-piece on this night, featuring acoustic guitar, electric guitar and a double base. They kicked things off with one of my favourite tracks of their’s “Lost in New Orleans.” A great track to set the tone for their performance. The folk and alt-country band were all smiles and thanked the crowd. “This is great, one of the best crowds in a long time.” They also had great news that a new album, the first since 2011, is being released September 25th at St. Albans Church.
I think most folks can agree that it’s pretty darn cool to see live music in places that don’t usually host such events. From bakeries to bookstores, the Glebe was all lit up with festival-goers roaming show-to-show with packed little crowds in every venue.
I started my evening at the north end of the neighbourhood, plotting my trajectory southward toward Lansdowne and the hub of Cityfolk. First stop: FarmTeam Cookhouse at Bank and Clemow, to see Tindervox. I wanted to make a point of seeing this band after missing them at the Elementals album release show last week at House of Targ, and I’m glad I caught this one. The dimly lit atmosphere of the packed pub, with most people in the bar seated chatting at tables, was a great fit for the band’s blend of slow-burning grunge and floating shoegazey guitars. Really cool stuff. First time seeing the band, and certainly won’t be the last.
Next I made my way down Bank Street in search of the next thing. I know i said I was planning a straight line down Bank, but we all know that old saying about the best laid plans of monsters and men… or something like that. I decided on Irene’s next, to catch The Maxim Cossette Combo. Max used to front the long-standing rockabilly outfit The SickSickSicks who, now with some lineup changes, have rebranded as the Cossette Combo. I arrived to a line outside Irene’s, so was only getting glimpses and snippets of the show from outside, as I chatted with strangers in line, and waved to some friends inside (who actually ended up leaving before I got in).
Marvest (Photo from Instagram: @URockRed)
I figured I was missing more than just this show so looked at my schedule, and noticed The Gallop were already kickin it at the Wild Oats Bakery so I hoofed it back a few blocks to squeeze on in. I couldn’t get a very good view from inside, so i opted for the sidewalk view. Much better. And more breathable. I don’t know the guys in the band personally, but when they saw me waving to a friend inside (this sounds familiar…), they waved back and it dawned on me that the whole crowd was probably wondering who this random guy is waving and smiling to everyone from outside. Anyway, the band was an excellent fit for Marvest. Definitely check out their album on Bandcamp because it is a really good listen.
Next I was heading to meet my sister at Aberdeen Pavilion because she works with this guy who plays this band or something and they’re apparently pretty good. The band is High Waters, and turns out they’re awesome. The crowd was big, and full of love for the band as they churned out a range of tunes that mixed elements of post-rock, indie and even a little R&B at times. The singer’s Patrick Watson-esque vocals were just gravy. I was gonna say “icing on the cake,” but I can’t picture gravy being a fitting icing to any cake… Except this one apparently. I can’t overstate my love for a live band who are visibly enjoying themselves, and these guys were all smiles. Great performance, great reception. They also just released their new album on September 19th, so don’t sleep on that one!
My last stop for the evening was back at the Original Burger Joint, for folk/bluegrass strummers Jack Pine & the Fire. Here I was again, watching from the sidewalk but let me just note that that I was enjoying every performance I saw, regardless of where exactly I was standing. Just the atmosphere of this whole festival, seeing so many new and familiar faces out and about enjoying the occasion, was more than enough for me to call Marvest a success.
I want to send my special thank out to the festival volunteers, directing crowds, offering schedules, and just being lovely smiling faces everywhere there’s music. You folks are glue that holds festivals together.
CityFolk has a new location, new setup, new programming, and new name. The only thing that stayed the same is delivering great acts to Ottawa music lovers.
A fair warning that much of this review will be in French or even bilingual as Lisa Leblanc and Les Soeur Boulay stole the show.
The highlight of the night for this music lover was fun-loving, banjo-slaying, Acadian songstress Lisa Leblanc on the Raven Law stage. She killed it as always and proved herself once again to be one of my favourite live acts. Mlle Leblanc était exceptionnelle et on point. Après quelques chansons elle a dit: “Ça vas être un show franglais… tu sais à Ottawa tout est traduit.” Elle a gardé sa promesse.
Tout le show, elle sautait du français en anglais, parfois elle arrêtait pour traduire ce qu’elle venait juste de dire en français pour “the English people.” Elle a joué plus de tunes en français, mais il y avait de la musique pour tous grâce aux chansons de son album le plus récent Highways, Heartaches and Time Well Wasted. Une de ces chanson est “Katie Cruel”. Avant de la jouer elle a dit, “this next one is an old folk song. All old folk songs either end in death or alcoholism. This one does both.” Lisa Leblanc joue le banjo comme personne d’autre, pis son sens de l’humour est captivant. Elle a toujours un gros sourire pendant le spectacle, c’est claire qu’elle s’amuse et la foule s’amusait en masse au même temps. On chantait à voix haute tout le spectacle. Avant de jouer “Kraft Dinner”, une chanson d’amour à des nouilles couvert de fromage, “I wrote a love song about Kraft Dinner, need I say more?”
Elle nous a aussi joué quelques nouvelles chansons, dont une instrumentale sur le banjo qu’elle a écrit lorsqu’elle était à Dead Man Flats en Alberta, et voulait faire une randonnée mais avait peur de se faire manger par un grizzly. Et une des chansons d’amour la plus canadienne possible intitulé “5,748 kilometres”. Les paroles: “Let’s get this straight you’re in Vancouver and I’m in New Brunswick… That’s a six-day drive if you don’t stop to pee too much, this is the dumbest idea I’ve ever had but I love you.” Avant de jouer “Aujourd’hui, ma vie c’est d’la marde” elle a dit, “Hey, you can learn to swear in French with this song. Tonight is a good day.”
Pour conclure son spectacle elle a demandé à la foule si nous voulions un cover de Shania Twain ou de Motörhead. Je n’ai jamais entendu une foule crier Motörhead aussi fort de ma vie. Lisa et son band ont d’abord joué “Ace of Spades.” Un banjo a jamais rocké autant!
Alex Silas and the Subterraneans keeping it fresh at CityFolk in Ottawa.
After Lisa, we watched Wintersleep. The Ravenlaw stage area was packed for their laid back alt rocking ways. I watched about half their set, enough to hear “Weighty Ghost.,” and then headed to see local act Alex Silas & The Subterraneans. I got there just in time to see a packed stage as other locals The Adding Machine and Eddie Quotez joined him for “Zombeez.” The high energy hip-hop act backed by live music was an excellent change of pace. Silas and his band were on point especially during “This Town,” “Mouton Noir” and his new song “Champagne.” He topped it off by popping a bottle of champagne and passing it around. The crowd wanted more than just champagne though, they wanted more music. So Silas and crew came back for an encore that flowed so smoothly, and even included a Pat Benetar reference and the great line “I don’t have the word to describe the curve of your lower back… but.” As always a real treat.
Walk Off The Earth playing at CityFolk in Ottawa.
Before Lisa Leblanc was Walk Of The Earth, a band that made it big off of Youtube videos of them performing covers going viral internationally. This band has come a long way from the time I saw them performing as a ska/punk three-piece at Warped Tour in Montreal, say six years ago or so. Now the stage has six people on it, plus sound techs that join in often to play along with them and there are nearly as many instruments as an orchestra on stage. The crowd of all ages absolutely loved them packing the main stage area and singing as loud as they could. They played all the hits, such as “Red Hands,” “Rule the World” and “Summer Vive.” They even gathered all around one guitar to play their great rendition of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know.”
Les Soeurs Boulay au CityFolk à Ottawa.
Back to French as Les Soeurs Boulay kicked off my evening. Après avoir joué leur première chanson, elles ont demandé “combien d’entre vous parlez français?” et était pas mal surprise par le nombre de monde qui ont crié. Les sœurs, Mélanie et Stéphanie Boulay, jouent du folk super fun et cute. Elles m’ont vraiment impressionné parce qu’en les écoutant enligne avant leur spectacle je croyais qu’il aurait un band avec eux quand elle joue live, mais ce n’était pas le cas. Chacune joue la guitare ou le ukulélé et le tambour, des fois tout au même temps. En plus, Mélanie joue le kazoo pendant quelque chansons. Pas mal sharp. Elles étaient tellement choyés d’être sur la scène. “C’est la troisième folk fest de ma vie et entre un à l’autre j’oublie a quelle point ca me fait du bien. Quelle beaux moments,” elles ont dit. Les Soeurs Boulay ont joué plein de chansons de leurs premier album, Le Poids des confettis, tel que “Cul-de-sac”, “Des shooters de fort sur ton bras”, “Ton amour est passé de mode” et mon préféré “Mappemonde”. Elles ont aussi joué des nouvelles chansons et ont annoncé qu’elles lancent un nouveau disque, leur deuxième, dans un mois. Elles ont conclue en disant : “On vous remercie de sortir de chez vous et de vous rassembler pour voir de la musique. C’est tellement important!”
With the new addition of Marvest to this year’s CityFolk festival, nine acts have been given the opportunity to release new music at Aberdeen Pavilion. Fans of music will be given the chance to experience what Ottawa’s best have to offer, and maybe even find a new favourite band to follow in town. We’ve laid out all the artists releasing a new album this weekend, along with all the information you need. So go on, get out there, and check out what treasures this year’s Marvest has to offer!
September 17, 2015, 12am @ House of Targ (1077 Bank St.) – $5 Cover Fee
James Leclaire is ready to release his fourth studio album, These Weights, which focus on some of the darker and more troubling times we experience in life. These Weights was recorded analog, live off the floor and has a truely live feel to it. His raspy, whiskey soaked voice, small-town working-class sensibilities, and powerful storytelling capabilities make James Leclaire and the Cable 22’s a strong addition to Marvest this year.
Silas and his crew are releasing their sophomore followup to 2014’s Roots at Marvest this year. Silas describes Tunnels as introspective, and all about transitions and connectivity to different parts of the self. Hip hop at its core, Silas’ music blends all kinds of genres together, making his music accessible, unrestrained, and relatable to listeners. This album will be a big step forwad for Silas and his band, charting a path in a new direction. Check out a beautiful acoustic rendition of his song “Lions & Tigers & Bears” featuring fellow Marvest artist Amanda Lowe.
Ilvekyo (pron. ill-veck-yo) is a pop-rock band that consistently makes irresistibly catchy and fun songs since their formation in 2011. If you’re familiar with their catalogue of songs such as “Subtle Dance Moves”, “Easy To Love”, and “Downtown Girls,” then you know exactly what this band is capable of – getting folks off their asses and dancing uncontrollably. The first single called “Out of Control” off the new album by the same name has a distinctly folk-country sound to it, with the same honesty and zest that has always been present in their songs.
September 19, 2015 @ 11pm @ FarmTeam Cookhouse – Free
Since their formation in 2009, the 9-piece band Loon Choir have taken Ottawa by storm. Not only that, they’ve toured across Canada, and grown as a band in the process. Coming off the success of their 2012 album Fire Poems, Loon Choir digs even deeper with their new release All of This and Everything Else. Working with a diverse array of themes – everything from alienation and anxiety to community – the album offers a more vivid look at what this ensemble is really about. Their rich and full sound will appeal to Canadian indie rock lovers across the country, and you’ll be sure to hear many of these songs on CBC Radio if you’re dialled in. They are one band that are not to be missed.
Have a first listen of the new album in its entirety here.
Moonfruits is the name given to a band of two lovebirds, Alex Millaire and Kaitlin Milroy. The recently married couple are releasing their follow-up to 2014’s Debut, which was received with much acclaim and praise. Millaire’s intricate, serenading guitar work is perfectly complimented with Milroy’s beautiful vocals, creating a concoction and chemistry that is rarely seen in today’s world of music. Be sure not to miss Moonfruits, as they are a treat for any showgoer.
Lost to the River, formally known as Miss. Polygamy will release their debut album at Marvest. The band’s songs are intimate, textured, and contain the heart and soul that many of us have come to love about Canadiana folk music. The record also features special appearances by other local musicians including Tom Thompson of Orienteers, Jessie Lyon of Snowday, singer-songwriter Danielle Allard, and Brodie Conley of Future States. Lost to the River are a great retort for those who say “there is no folk at CityFolk.” Not only is there some folk and Canadiana, there are great local contributions.
Thursday, Sept. 17, 11pm @ House of Targ – $5 cover
Goodnight Mara is High Waters’ first full-length album. Building on their great debut EP, Gather Wish, the local art-rock band is reminiscent of early Radiohead with their simple yet textured sound, eerie yet beautiful sound and thought-provoking lyrics.
Thursday, Sept. 17, 10pm @ House of Targ – *$5 cover
The Brook are creating East Coast inspired folk in the nation’s capital. Led by Newfoundland-born songwriter Sarah Murphy they play very catchy songs that will get you clapping, stomping your feet and ooh oohing along. The EP is all about the trials, tribulations and dishonesty involved in modern millennial relationships. On top of all that the title track, “Sweet Talk,” focuses directly on the dating app Tinder.
John Allaire is the truest example of a road warrior, playing over 120 shows a year for several years now. Formally the front-man for the legendary Town Cryers in the ’80s and ’90s, Allaire’s new album South of Solitude’ is the 16th career release. The folk-rocker perfectly encapsulates a folk festival through sound, story and personality. For someone looking for actual folk music at CityFolk, Allaire joined by his loyal band of merry men, The Campistas, are not to be missed.
Since its inception in 2012, Arboretum Festival has increasingly become a seminal part of Ottawa’s cultural identity. Its organizers – primarily Rolf Klausener and Stefanie Power – are sharpened blades, cutting through all the music and food industry bullshit to bring us something real and something to call our own. I have had the pleasure of being at each and every Arboretum thus far, and watching it grow has been a wonder to witness.
However, this growth and development doesn’t come without hard work and dedication. At many points I’m sure there were times where the organizers wanted to jump ship, because that would be the easy thing to do. But creative people are a little crazy. Sometimes it can feel like you’re standing still on the train tracks, waiting for the train to come and run you over. But the reward for creating and maintaining something such as Arboretum is unparalleled. The importance it has had for the arts in our city cannot be understated.
I was out of town for the first few days of the festival this year, and was only able to make it onto Albert Island late in the afternoon Saturday when the music had started. There were a series of crucially important panels earlier in the day that I had to miss for logistical reasons, which I regret not being able to attend. We will post all the videos of these panels as soon as they are made available, as they help demystify much of the issues surrounding the unceded First Nation’s territory (upon which lied the new location of Arboretum Festival this year on Albert Island) and how it relates to communities in Ottawa/Gatineau. The precursor to these conversations were meetings that were held months back:
We had a chance to meet with a council member at Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, we spoke with activists from the Free The Falls movement, others from the Algonquin community, had ongoing discussions with Windmill, and concerned members of our community. […]
One thing we did see was a common need amongst all parties for awareness and harmony for all people, not only here in the Outaouais, but globally. Instead of cancelling the festival, we decided to move forward and facilitate public discussions, offering people a chance to come to the land, ask their own questions, and learn from those willing to share. The chance to connect is what made all the difference for us, and we hope it will for you as well. – Team ARB
As the final day of Arboretum 2015 got rolling on the music portion, I entered the beautifully decorated grounds only to see many smiling faces in this little paradise. The sounds of Montreal’s Saxsyndrum (Art Not Love Recs) were coming from the main stage, which was perfectly erected between the two warehouse buildings on Albert Island.
This experimental drum duo, to the best of my knowledge, was originally from Ottawa and has since relocated to Montreal. The band started with Nick Schofield on percussion and David Switchenko on tenor sax, but have since expanded to a full band, giving them a fuller and more radiant sound. Saxsyndrum’s music is in a class of its own, as their instrumental layering and obscure song structures captivated the growing audience in front of the stage.
The digital and electronic elements of their music is tempered by the incredibly talented instrumentation, creating a sonic blend that is electrifying to listeners. A highlight of the set was seeing A.P. Bergman of Montreal’s soundscape specialists Year of Glad provide powerful and enchanting vocal parts, with such ferocity that his veins barely made it through in tact.
Regrettably, I missed the great new band New Fries open things up at the Alley stage in Hull, only to catch their last frenetic song in exchange for finding sustenance for the rest of the night at Subway. To get an idea of their live show, read the review I wrote about their Sappyfest performance a few weeks ago (new the bottom of the review).
New Fries set the dial to “weird” perfectly for the next band to play the Alley stage – Hull’s Fet.Nat. This band is one of the region’s most imaginative, bizarrely creative acts. Their music is laden with groove and funky undertones, yet strewn with disjointed arrangements, irregular time signatures, socially derisive vocal diversions by singer JFno, and otherworldly instrumental experimentations. Alongside JFno reside some incredibly talented musicians – Linsey Wellman on saxophones, Pierre-Luc Clément on guitar, and Last Ex/Timber Timbre’s Olivier Fairfield on drums and synth. Their latest album, 2014’s Poule Mange Poule, was one of our favourites of the year.
Their set started off with an impromptu choir containing around ten people of all ages. This was a new experience for all of us, and only added to the chaotic nature of their music when performed live. They brought up Phillipe Charbonneau (Hilotrons, Scattered Clouds) to be the choral conductor, and he did an excellent job. JFno got the audience involved and closer to the stage, and even teased the people up on the balcony at Gainsbourg Pub as they watched on. Many people that were just there to have a drink and were unfamiliar with the bands looked pretty confused, wondering what all the commotion was about. But Fet.Nat played their obscure sounds and the vibe loosened up as people got into it.
The children in the choir were a little apprehensive at first, but then embraced the fun on stage as they screamed, and particularly seemed to enjoy making exotic bird sounds at one point in the set. JFno even lifted up his shirt half way through the performance, probably because there was a bachelorette party of some sort happening nearby. I don’t know. All in all, Fet.Nat did what they do best – push boundaries while delivering entertainment that you won’t find anywhere else.
Next up was Weights & Measures. They are a three-piece instrumental math rock band formed in the late 90’s in Ottawa, and rarely play shows anymore. I was unfamiliar with these guys before the Arboretum announcement, probably because I wasn’t in Ottawa back then. Their drummer is Jeremy Gara, and he also the drummer for a little band you may have heard of called Arcade Fire. With his primary commitments in Arcade Fire aside at the moment, he seemed happy to be back home to play with his old band. Gara, along with his bandmates Kevin Jagernauth and Samir Khan, completely took over Hull with their performance. Although it was about a 15 minute walk from the main festival area, the Alley Stage in Hull actually drew a significant crowd of people.
I can’t overstate how impressive Weights & Measures were live. Even after 11 years apart, their riveting guitar riffs, thunderous percussion, and penetrating bass lines blended together as the crowd watched in awe. Everyone that was there now understands this band was so well respected, as they made their complex and intricate arrangements seem easy. Their songs were explosive, robust, and at times hypnotizing. Many times throughout the set it seemed like a song was ending, and everyone cheered, only to find out that the song was not over and vice versa. Hopefully Weights & Measures will continue to play more shows, as their music remains timeless and can blow away just about anyone that appreciates music.
As I headed back to the Main Stage on Albert Island, Austra‘s performance had just begun. She was the final artist on the main stage, signalling the final set of the regular Arboretum program. She has become a synth-pop staple in Canadian indie music, delivering song after song of catchy and energetic compositions. I like to think of Austra and her band as Canada’s CHVCHES – even those who don’t appreciate pop music can get on board with how good their songs are.
As usual, Katie Stelmanis’ enthralling vocals took centre stage. Even with thumping beats and bone-shaking synth, Stelmanis’ classically-trained vocal chords were the most impressive instrument on stage. Her voice carried over over the Ottawa river, bounced off the Gatineau Hills, and ran wild through the Ottawa Valley. They played some new tracks that I failed to hear the names of, which could be an indication of a new LP sometime in the future. With everyone returning from the Alley Stage, the crowd was filling up in the main stage area and many started dancing – a bodily reaction that is almost inevitable when listening to Austra’s music. After playing some crowd pleasers such as “Lose It” and my personal favourite “Beat and the Pulse,” Austra bid the crowd adieu, but not before letting us all know that the Arboretum performance was her favourite Ottawa show yet. I think we’re onto something here.
The night capped off with a bizarrely intense set from Toronto’s Phédre in the warehouse. I really enjoyed their set, but found their music very difficult to describe. However, I highly recommend them to those with open minds, as their music and videos really push boundaries. DJs Matt Tamblyn and Zattar finished off the night by doing what they does best – they just keep the sweaty party going. All in all, this year’s Arboretum offered so many new things for the community, and not only provided great music for us to experience, but also challenge us to think, engage, and acknowledge the mountainous issues our region’s aboriginal communities face.