As soon as I walked down the steep black stairs and into the basement that is Ottawa’s very own House of TARG, I wasn’t only greeted by the lights and noises of the pinball machines but by the familiar faces of the members of The Great Sabatini. Before the event began, I was introduced to Jack (Jack Moves) and mainly stuck around either him or Rob (The Great Sabatini) and once the clock struck 8:40, so the show began.
Jack Moves opened, bringing a tremendous amount of talent to the table, and setting the standards high. With only a loop station at his disposal, I questioned what the performance would be like. I was pleasantly surprised, however, and Jack looping over his own voice was unlike anything I’ve seen before. Every song was built up from scratch and on the spot despite having already written and recorded them for his album. What was the most impressive was the capabilities that he possessed when creating specific sounds for the song he would perform, from the beat to the melody line, everything came from his voice. There were falsettos he later turned into harmonies and even layered certain lyrics over others. He was quick on his feet and certainly did not miss queues. Live looping is a make-or-break thing, and Jack has certainly made it.
His quick rhymes and whit payed off when it came to his lyrics and the sound effects created. With lots of small technical specs, it was important to stay on top of what was being done, and the sheer efficiency that I saw was beyond comprehension. The performance fell nothing short of jaw dropping and his creativity, when it came to producing specific sounds, certainly came in handy. If you listened to any of his music without knowing how it was being produced, it would have you fooled into believing it was created with synths.
After I had gotten all my photos and Jack had ventured to his merch table, I stopped to speak with him. Through the whole night, he was a very pleasant and modest person. You could throw a conversation at him about curling (which was discussed prior to the show) and he would engage in it. Unfortunately, conversation became a difficult task once The Great Sabatini ripped out some powerful chords and drumbeats for a quick sound check. With the very strange string of sounds and words uttered into the microphone, Steve made it known that something absolutely wild was about to go down.
I’m not typically the kind of person who throws myself into death metal shows and has the time of my life. I’m the kind of person who’s selective about their metal bands, and I certainly make sure they’re fantastic live and check their supporting acts but as soon as I saw The Great Sabatini were playing TARG, I shot a message to Matias about coverage. Maybe it was because they were inspired by some of the greatest metal bands that have existed and carried a very intense yet well-crafted sound, or maybe it was how friendly they were all in all the last time I showed up to one of their shows. To be frank, I’m still not sure which it is.
This time, I left my earplugs at home (although there is a small part of me that regrets that because I’m sure to lose my hearing by the age of twenty-five, I also don’t regret it all that much). I heard the solos much clearer this time around, and although the drumming was deafening (thank you Steve), it added many dimensions and really created that powerful and angry sound you find in death metal. The bassline stood out and there wasn’t a member of that band who didn’t become one with the instrument they were playing, and even though each one of the men screamed the lyrics into the microphones, they didn’t fail to keep up with their expertly crafted songs. Their setlist, handwritten but clearly well selected fell nothing short of impressive and made sure you got lost in the music no matter which band you meant to go see that night. Everything managed to meld together so well that you’d think it was done by someone who’s been known as a professional for the past twenty years. Both instances where I’ve seen them, they’ve blown me away (and this time my hearing).
The last performer of the night was a band called Swarm of Spheres. Truth be told, until a few nights ago, I hadn’t even heard of them but as a band that was described as something between sludge and stoner rock, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. All the information I had about them was either about the genre they played or that Mark McGee was an incredible drummer – the best some had ever seen. These two facts certainly were made apparent when the time came for them to perform. The trio took the stage with such ferocity they might as well have blown the low ceiling off of TARG. Mark went at the drums like Dave Grohl did back in his Nirvana days but despite how loud he was, his technique was mastered. The bassline, thanks to Andrew Rashotte, was incredibly strong and prominent throughout each song which is probably one of the factors that really drew me into the sound this band was producing. That bassline, and everybody in the room, buzzed with energy despite the show drawing closer to midnight than anticipated. Jay Chapman shred on the guitar and his string bends were skilfully placed. He clearly had a knack for intense bends and he got right back into the songs he played after executing them without fault.
After much hard work, sweat, and good laughs in between, the night drew to a close. When I had the time to actually step back and look around I noticed that a good portion of the crowd was composed people from other local bands who came out to support their friends, some were fans, and some were just at TARG to enjoy the live music but sneak in a few games of air hockey during the sets. I found a few people, and spoke to them including Steve, earning a pat on the back from him and being told that he had yet to use the photos of them I took back in February. After this, I slowly made my way out but not before stopping to say goodbye to Rob. Despite the influences of the band and how metal they might look, I guarantee they’re the sweetest people. Rob made sure I stayed safe and in touch, ending the night with a pleasant note of “friends don’t say goodbye, they say see you later.”
The Ottawa Rock Camp for Girls hosted an incredibly empowering event at the YMCA-YWCA last weekend featuring three local bands. They all took the stage with raw energy and incredibly unique voices that blew away the crowd – myself included. Not only that, but each differed in genre and style of performance.
The first act was a young musician by the name of Kae Rose. She performed as a solo artist and stunned the crowd with her talent. Her sweet voice melded with the power of her electric guitar and sorrowful lyrics really brought emotion into the room and swept people away with the messages behind each of her songs. Most were heart-breaking, and seemed to feature struggle but there was always the element of hope hidden behind each one of them. The small moments where she broke the character she depicted on stage were incredibly endearing moments. She wasn’t afraid to admit that she had messed up and if she ever did mid-song, she got right back on her feet without a moment’s hesitation just like a pro. The smile that graced her face as the crowd cheered for her was one that melted hearts.
Each of the songs that she performed were composed by her, save for one. She skilfully performed Ticket to Ride by The Beatles, her voice adding unique dimension to the song that I never even knew I needed to hear. The last song performed was a song she wrote called Drown. It captured everyone’s attention due to the hopeful message the song delivered using melancholic tone. There wasn’t a person in the room who wasn’t cheering for Kae by the end of her set. She was humble and kind, thanking the audience for listening to her performance after it was over and despite how reserved she seemed her vocals were spilled out with elegance yet intensity.
The second act was a band by the name of Distilled Water, who while having technical difficulties revealed that the name of the band was a split second decision. They were waiting for their turn to play a show at their school and flipping water bottles (a trend among youth) when they found out that they needed a band name in order to play the show. The first thing they had seen was the “distilled water” label on the plastic bottle and the name stuck with them to this day. Not only did they cover a wider range of genres, including a cover of a song by Modest Mouse, they threw in a jazz piece as their last song adding a saxophone solo into it.
What impressed me most wasn’t the steampunk-looking saxophone, but rather the band’s ability to switch instruments. They were missing their drummer so they improvised, having each member switch their instrument for the three songs they performed. The drummer turned into the bassist, the bassist into the drummer. Even the singer changed for each song. The guys in the band had a vast amount of talent that needed showcasing. They managed to effortlessly hit every note and did it with such skill and precision.
Miss McLeod had a stunning performance at the YMCA. Photo by Sara Osmanovic/Ottawa Showbox.
The final act was the one that surprised me the most. She was an eleven-year-old girl by the stage name Miss McLeod. As soon as she started to belt out the words to the song “Ex’s and Oh’s” by Elle King, I stared in awe – first at her, and then turned to Els and nothing but the words “holy crap” left my mouth in that moment. She agreed with an “oh my god.” We were both gobsmacked. This is no exaggeration. The MC had mentioned that she had praised Miss McLeod for her voice, but I was not at all prepared for what was to come out of the young girl’s mouth. Her voice was strong and powerful, never missing a single note, and always keeping to the beat. She managed to match up to Elle King’s pretty nicely, and although that isn’t the genre I’m usually into, I was incredibly astounded at the performance itself.
From sweet and melodic to the gritty and rough vocals of the second chorus, she had mastered it all. Not only was she capable of a ragged voice, but her vocal range was incredibly large for someone her age. Her vocals covered a broad range of musical stylings including the rock ballad “Sweet Child of Mine” by Gun’s ‘N Roses. Her vocal stylings were impressive, going from alto notes to high sopranos and even some falsetto’s that she managed to blend into the song naturally. She brought the house down with her performance. She made the audience feel included by getting three girls from the crowd to compete in an air guitar contest during Slash’s guitar solo featured in that song. Besides that, the sweetheart had brought candy and glow sticks (or as she put it – “magic wands”) with her. Her performances filled everyone’s hearts with happiness and love for her, and the crowd even got up and danced as opposed to staying seated as they had the rest of the show. This encouragement was seen through all the performances, but especially for this eleven year old wonder.
After all the excitement, the rambunctious crowd was thanked by the MC’s, and were asked to sit tight and listen for just a minute before the jam session was to begin. When everyone calmed down, they went on to say that they had suddenly lost a dear friend who had been part of the Ottawa music community for many years. It was evident on the faces of those around that it really hit home. The crowd that night was asked to donate to keep the programs running and to keep the music community in Ottawa blooming because it was something that would have been wanted by him.
All in all, the night was filled with a mixed bag of emotions, all evoking positivity and hope in the youth that showed up. Some were inspired to start creating and spark a change, form their own fierce girl rock bands, or even start with the small baby steps of picking up their first instrument. If you ever find yourself itching for inspiration, be sure to check out the Ottawa Rock Camp for Girls and their rad events. Even if some of the stylings may not be to your taste, I promise that you will not regret showing up and viewing the vast amount of talent that these young people possess.
I ventured out to The Brass Monkey on the west-side of town for a heavy night with Every Time I Die, Knocked Loose, and Harms Way.
This was the first time I went to a show at The Brass Monkey (out near Hunt Club and Greenbank) and let me tell you – I was impressed. As someone who grew up in that area, I remember playing pool there a few times in my younger days, but they have really transformed the place. A raised stage, guardrails, sprawling bar, and excellent sound. Don’t let the distance scare you away from shows at The Brass Monkey, it is very much worth the trip.
Nostalgia on this night went much further than the venue and my old stomping grounds. This was a night of hardcore and heaviness that really brought me back. From the moment I walked in a heard Harms Way, I looked at my buddy and we reminisced about how we used to love bands like that 14 years ago. I don’t listen that genre as much as I used to (not even close) but it makes me really happy that people still make and love this music. As the band from Chicago let loose, people took advantage of the space to dance and “open that shit up.” Space that would diminish as the night progressed.
Knocked Loose live at The Brass Monkey in Ottawa.
Next up was Knocked Loose from Kentucky. They kept the heat on and the crowd was into it. There was a good group of people at the front screaming along as others threw down behind them. The crowd listened to every word, when told to open it up they did, when told to two step they danced and when told to spin it they started the circle pit. It was really fun to watch. My favourite tracks of the performance were “Oblivion Peak” and their closer “Deadringer.” Once again, I forgot how much I love this music and the adrenaline rush it creates.
It was now time for the main event – Every Time I Die. I have been a fan of this band since high school. I think it all started in grade eleven when I was in a band and one of the guitarists would often play Every Time I Die in his truck. I went into the show not being particularly familiar with the band’s last two albums, and having read a review about the Toronto show, I expected a lot of the new stuff. The new albums are great, but I was there for the older stuff I had listened to hundreds of times but never seen live. I braced myself.
Every Time I Die gave the old time fans almost everything we could have asked for, and the fans responded by crowding the barriers to sing along for the entire show. Yes, they played a few new songs off of their latest album Low Teens, but they dug deep and went back through their catalogue which spans over decade long. Opening with “Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space” off Ex-Lives from 5 years ago, the set featured fan favourites “We’rewolf,” which was dedicated to the bartenders, “The New Black,” “Floater,” “Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Battery” and “No Son of Mine.”
Every Time I Die rocking out at The Brass Monkey in Ottawa.
My highlight for sure was one of those deep cuts, “Ebolarama” off of the 2003 album Hot Damn! I hadn’t danced all night, I had watched and given people space and just listened to the band. But as soon as the first chord was strummed I was taken over with glee and adrenaline. I stayed off to the side for a bit but then had to enter the pit and have a time. I don’t think I have ever enjoyed an elbow to the eyebrow so much.
As much as I was loving life in the hot sweaty basement, so was the band. Lead singer Keith Buckley said “It’s fucking horrific outside. I can’t think of a better place to be than a bar where you can sweat with all your friends.” He also did the great thing of giving a big shout out to the bouncers who were working hard to keep every safe while letting us have fun and express ourselves as we needed. Big ups to Mike Postma and the crew.
On a cold Ottawa winter night (despite it being 10 degrees last Saturday), I had the warmest welcome to the friendly Centretown cafe venue of Pressed. Greeted by Outside I’m a Giant’s front man, I knew it the night was going to be warm and inviting. Naturally once inside I decided this warm night would be paired with comfort food. So Mac&Cheese is my natural choice. As I sat, scarfing down the dish in record time, I was greeted by more friendly faces from the band and promoters. Seriously, I felt so welcomed.
Jonathan Becker started the night off. He brought to the stage a nice mix of acoustic folk punk. His voice carried the carefully written lyrics that narrate stories within his songs.
I love when I can learn something at a show, or after a show in this case. I like to think I have been to my share of drone shows, but something about Veldrones set seemed different. I couldn’t put my finger on it, and desperately reached out to many asking what it was and why I wasn’t able to put two and two together. Thankfully, people put up with my millions of questions, and gave me a list of other artists to listen to. He is different in his sound, mainly because he sways from the norm in terms of what ‘traditional’ drone typically is.
He brings together a combination of his new wave electronic sound, and upon looking further into it, he describes what is ‘Post-Sokkie,’ connecting with his South African roots. This fusion is what made up this combination sound I hadn’t prepared myself for. I found this set contrasting to the rest of the night in many ways. The warmth of the room took a turn to distance as Velodrones sat in silence, sending his waves of intricate sound through the room. Behind him, his projected his theatrics onto the small space of wall between the venues red curtains. A dash cam of videos, driving down different highways. Giving physicality to the distance portrayed by the music.
Outside I’m a Giant began their set by turning off the main stage lights, opting for a small house lamp. This quickly brought us back to the warm intimate environment. Humming through songs accompanied by a violin and steel guitar they elaborated on where songs originated. Connecting with the room, but also to their fellow musicians, sharing stories of inspiration of how songs came from seeing each other play live. I sat mesmerized on the floor in front of the stage. Finding myself forgetting that I was needing photos. I took in the music, leaving my camera in my lap. They carried us through the rest of the night. Closing off the set explaining that they didn’t have merch, but had chocolate bars for a school fundraiser.
A few weekends ago Matias and I traveled to Toronto to see Japandroids play two nights at The Danforth Music Hall.
The minute these tickets went on sale we snatched up a pair online and got really excited. You see, Japandroids hold a very special place in the Ottawa Showbox story. Four years ago around this time, I met Matias and a few months later we bonded over the track “Younger Us” while at one of my lowest points, having recently come out of a long term relationship.
It was something special to see the band live with my good buddy and hear them play the song that truly connected us and changed my commitment to the city of Ottawa from football coach to music journalist. It was a very powerful moment.
Japandroids brought the best out of the crowd at Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall. Photo: Matias Munoz/Ottawa Showbox
After talking to someone at a party, I sent Matias my resume to work for Ottawa Showbox. I included clippings and a cover letter as if it was this big time production. Matias probably read it in his boxers sitting on the couch eating cereal. One of those clippings was of a Flatliners’ show I covered, which struck a chord with Matias and he knew we had to meet. Not long after I sent my application, we met up and chatted about shows, music, and the Ottawa scene.
It was kind of funny teaming up with a guy pretty new to Ottawa to cover a music scene I grew up in. The only thing was, I had been very disconnected from the “scene” and the wonderful people in it for almost 5 years. I wrote my first piece for Showbox in February 2013, and in March of that year my girlfriend of nearly 6 years and I broke up. We all know how love scars your heart, just listen to Japandroids. I quickly shifted all my attention to going to shows and writing. To be clear, my ex-girlfriend didn’t keep me from it, but this new found time and emptiness was filled with the passion of using my journalism degree and the love for my city and its music burst from the seams all of a sudden.
I went from not knowing the guy to hanging out with him 2, 3, even 4 times a week. We quickly became best friends. A few months after we started hanging out, Matias’ long term relationship also came to an end. I will never forget the night of just hanging out the two us talking about what was next for us and the site. Matias put on Japandroids, a band I knew but hadn’t followed closely for a while. When “Younger Us” came on something just took us over. This is what we wanted. We wanted to party, hang out, go to shows and have people in our lives we could call up who were already in bed and would say “fuck it” and get up to go out instead. I listened to the song non-stop. On my way to work, at work, at the gym, on my way home… it became all- encompassing, it was the theme song to our friendship. It was very rare to not play the song at least once when we hung out together at one of our places.
“Give me younger us!” we, Matias, Tony and myself, sang at the top of our lungs. Photo by Devon Salmon
This made the shows in Toronto extra special. Yes, the new album is absolutely phenomenal and from the starting distortion and very first drum beat of the opening song “Near to the Wild Heart of Life” we were amped and singing along. The set was wonderful and had a little bit of everything covering the band’s discography. To top it all off, it was held in the absolutely beautiful Danforth Music Hall. It took 13 songs, but it was finally time for “Younger Us.” As soon as we heard the very first strum of the guitar we both jumped in glee and threw an arm over each others’ shoulder and sang so loud we probably drowned out the band for nearby fans (sorry about that). A magical moment in my life and our friendship. It was as special the second night when we could share the moment with some more Ottawa pals who came down for the show.
After 4 years and probably close to 500 posts, it took a band from BC playing in Toronto to remind me and reignite my love and commitment to Ottawa and its beautiful music scene. Here is to many more nights, many more shows, and to forever being younger us.
What happens when three singer-songwriters meet, become friends, and start to help each other out? I had a chance to sit down with Carleton Stone, Breagh Mackinnon, and Dylan Guthro, who all grew up in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Each having their own successful background in music, they told me about how they came together at the Gordie Sampson Songcamp, and from there, Port Cities was born.
Each a successful solo musician in their own right, it is no surprise that their collaboration has become its own fusion of sound, making their experimental vibe unique. Since meeting their mentor/friend Gordie Sampson, they have been working to create, perfect, and record their debut album. When asked to describe the journey of making this album they simply said “meat and potatoes.” Insisting that the album, which they have been working on for a year, has been worked down to the core. Expanding on the DIY style of writing and recording they have chosen, something that is both accessible and nourishing to the tight-knit music community they know and love.*
Port Cities revisited Ottawa, opening for folk power-house Rose Cousins on February 17th at the NAC. Listening live, their harmonies silenced the lively room of eager Rose Cousins fans. A crowd comfortable with artist interaction they sat mesmerized by the young singer-songwriters. Between songs, the crowd did not hesitate to let the trio know how they were feeling, making comments like “I can’t wait until you play at my house!” in reference to a tour contest the group is putting on to win a house show.
They promised their set wouldn’t make you cry like Rose’s inevitably did. (Trust me, you would have cried. Been there, done that, got the T-Shirt… literally) They were right, and started the show off on a strong high note, and kept the momentum from start to finish.
What’s next for Port Cities? They have a new album, and they are out to show the country. (You can give this debut EP a listen here.) They have been touring the country with folk power-house Rose Cousins, who has also recently released a new album.
My recommendation? Keep an eye out for these folks.
*Inspiration for their music is drawn from the artists’ personal tastes and backgrounds. When asked what song they didn’t write but wish they had, two of the three musicians mentioned Paul Simon’s Graceland.
The best way to get through a cold winter week in Ottawa is with a rock and roll show on a Wednesday night, especially when Heat and ONFIILM are playing.
I discovered Heat a few years ago when they played during MEGAPHONO at the absolutely incredible venue, the Diefenbunker in 2015. That night I knew this band would be something special, and since then they have become one of the best bands to come out of Montreal since Arcade Fire, in my opinion. Yeah, they are that good. The band’s latest album Overnight is an absolute gem that continues to showcase the bands talent. They have a modern twist on new wave/post-punk sound, think of this day and ages Lou Reed or Psychedelic Furs.
Draped in a cloud of smoke the band treated us to late night jams on hump day at the Dominion Tavern. They opened with “The Unknown” and “Lush” off their new album. The drummer does a great job of combining his electronic drum set and standard kit, pretty impressive to watch and hear both played at once. Mid set they doubled down on songs off their first album Rooms playing the title track and “Susisfine,” giving the crowd a taste of the sound that made me fall in love with them. They then played “City Limits”and dedicated it to a friend of a friend whose dog recently passed away and lead singer Susil Sharma said “all dogs go to heaven, right?” Like I needed another reason to love this band.
Take my word for and see this band soon and any chance you get because they will not be playing little intimate venues much longer. This band really should explode.
ONFIILM rocking the Dominion Tavern in Ottawa.
Before Heat was Ottawa’s very own ONFIILM. The bands which started as an art project, plays some psychedelic rock filled with distortion, guitar solos, and vocals that take you back a few decades. Their live show features glitch art videos produced by the band made from 80’s VHS tapes, as well as two dancers. It makes for a busy stage but it doesn’t effect the bands ability to deliver the rock to the crowd. During the set they dedicated their track “Good Ones” to the guitarist’s uncle who recently passed away and loved the Dominion, they had their last beer together there about 6 months ago. It was a powerful moment. My favourite song from their performance was “Listen.” There is just something about the opening vocals which build and build and build, that just captivated me. It was great to see the band live after interviewing lead singer and guitarist Jordan Criag earlier this week, you can read that piece here.
Their live performance is definitely worth checking out if you are looking for some cosmic sounding rock and roll.
Night two of MEGAPHONO took me to Black Squirrel Books to see Bonnie Doon and Lonely Parade.
There is something very interesting about watching bands play surrounded by shelves stocked full with books. The intersection of serious songs and historical works with lighter and sillier tracks and the graphic novels is quite fascinating to me.
Lonely Parade playing at Black Squirrel books – Photo: Els Durnford
Unfortunately I arrived too late to catch Scary Bear Soundtrack, but heard they did a wonderful job as usual. Fortunately I did make it in time for Lonely Parade, the great three-piece from Peterborough. A lot of the songs they played were new songs and didn’t have names yet, they introduced two songs as “That was just New 3 and this next one is New 5.” It has been a lot of fun watching the band grow up in front of my eyes over the years and these new songs certainly show them tightening up musically. They have come a long way from when I discovered them and their song “My Mom Got Hit on at a Punk Show,” four years ago.
Lonely Parade also found time to squeeze in some of their “older” songs much to the joy of many there, including the tracks “Johnny Utah” and “Night Cruise.” They also dedicated a song to Bonnie Doon and mentioned how excited they were as “We are totally going to pizza shark later.”
Lesley Demon rocking out at Black Squirrel Books – Photo: Els Durnford
Bonnie Doon took the stage with a couple of members in cheerleader regalia and pompoms cheering for the Ottawa U Gee Gees. Bonnie Doon also played a lot of new songs and let us know that a new album is coming out this spring on Record Centre Records. Some of these new songs saw the band being joined by saxophone player Mara. It was a very unexpected and cool addition to their noisy garage sound. A lot of their stage banter revolved around their love for Buchipop culminating with the band playing a song they called “Buchipop Hole,” cementing their love for refreshing local kambucha beverage brand. They capped off their great set with words of advise “This one goes out to Lonely Parade… do not get the pepperoni…” and then they played fan favourite “Pizza Shark”
Year three is in the bag for MEGAPHONO and once again it brought me to very cool venues to discover bands that I had never heard before and see bands that I love. Well done to the entire MEGAPHONO team!
Photo of New Swears enjoying a guitar brew – Photo by Els Durnford
It is that wonderful time of year again. That time were we can escape the freezing cold of Ottawa in February by jumping into venues across the city to see some of Ottawa and Gatineau’s finest acts, as well some from out of town performers during MEGAPHONO.
My MEGAPHONO adventure for 2017 began by going to two venues for two completely different experiences. St. Albans Church for Bry Webb, Pony Girl and Trails was beautiful, thought provoking and allowed one to sit down in the dimly lit room, close their eyes and let the brain wander. Afterwards I headed to a crammed Barrymore’s for New Swears and Partner, which was a sweaty, chaotic night cap of a show.
Trails kicking things off at St. Albans Church
My night began with the dreamy psych sounds of Ottawa’s Trails. This was my first time seeing Trails and was I ever pleasantly surprised. The beautiful soundscape and imagery this solo performer creates was amplified by the setting, a 150 year old church. Songs like her opening track “Sun Go” set the stage for what was to come. She made great use of looping pedals to layer her own voice over itself which really blew me away and added so much depth to songs like “Mourning/moaning/morning/snowing.” And just for good measure, she threw in a cover of “Unfucktheworld” by Angel Olsen. Don’t sleep on Trails, I can only assume the sound will continue to grow and wonder.
Pony Girl lighting up our night at St. Albans Church.
The next act desn’t surprise me anymore because I have seen them so many times, but Pony Girl never ceases to amaze me. I have watched the band grow and mature into a very solid act that Ottawa should be proud of. They are wonderful musicians and their collective creativity has really started to take them to new heights. One thing about Pony Girl that can never be overstated, is that they have a clarinet player who is the focal point a few tracks and that is just really cool. The band’s ever growing maturity was on display during their introduction of their song “Dirty Picture.” Singer and guitarist Pascale Huot said of Dirty Picture, “this song is like my Facebook feed in a song and that’s a bad thing…be critical.” Speaking of all the terrible images and hateful text we come across every day on our screens. The band capped off their set with “Please Do.” I think I can count on one hand the amount of bands out there that can transition as smoothly as Pony Girl from rocking a high energy jam in the midst of the song right back into the track in unison without skipping a beat. Pure magic to see live.
Bry Webb capping off the night at St. Albans Church
Capping off my night at St. Albans Church was Bry Webb, known to many as the lead singer of Guelph’s Constantines. This was certainly not a Constantines set and I really appreciate that of lead singers who branch out as a solo act to do their own thing. The set began with Webb, acoustic guitar in hand, and Rich Burnett on lap steel guitar, which resulted in a mellow folky sound which was music to my ears. He treated us to some new songs including “What I do” which had some absolutely beautiful finger picking in it by Webb. A few songs in, they were joined on stage by drummer Nathan Moore (Minotaurs) to play “Rivers of Gold.” Moore then stayed with them for the rest of the set. The addition of drums certainly picked up the pace and made the set become a little more rocking, but still stayed rooted in folk.
Just before beginning to play his great song “Big Smoke,” Webb spoke of how needed this show was in times like this. “This is a good time to play music in a room of people who want to listen to music… it’s important to find opportunities to transcend fear,” he said. “May all your rooms be filled with people free of fear.” Very timely words. For the last song, Moore left his drums leaving Webb and Burnett to finish up covering Michael Hurley’s “O My Stars.” A beautiful track.
Josée Caron of Partner rocking so hard it hurts. Photo by Els Durnford
I then made my way to the ghost of shows past, Barrymore’s Night Club for a very different experience. After the never ending mandatory coat-check line was passed, I got too watch the much hyped Partner. The excitement is certainly not unfounded as they sound great and are a lot of fun live. Their crowd engagement between songs almost always resulted in laughter and their song topics are far from being shy or boring. The band is fronted by two openly lesbian singer-guitarists, one even sporting a “Beers and Queers” t-shirt. They played songs about learning that Ellen Page came out, about eating chips in the other’s room without them and making a mess, as well “Everybody knows you’re high,” which is pretty self-explanatory. They then played a song about their love for passionate amateur lesbian porn that they said they only play for crowds they are having fun with, good job Ottawa. The crowd was certainly having fun as well. Great set by an up and coming Canadian band from Sackville, NB that will certainly be turning heads and pleasing eardrums.
Sammy Scorpion of New Swears covered in the bands mess. Photo by Els Durnford
Now for the last act. With an explosion of confetti and a showering of silly-string, we all became day dreamers in the wee hours of the morning with New Swears as they kicked off their set with “Day Dreaming.” Ottawa’s kings of party-punk certainly held nothing back as they headlined the night. I have seen New Swears countless time and it is always raucous, chaotic, fun and good for many laughs. When you see how hard the crowd goes during a New Swears set you would think they were a much heavier hitting punk band slamming power chords at lightning speed. But, anyone who has seen or heard New Swears knows that is not their shtick. They do however write really catchy songs about partying and romance.
They treated the crowd to a few new songs, which sounded full of potential to grow into favourites, that will appear on their upcoming album which they promised will be released in the spring. One highlight that must be mentioned was the weird moment when the band played “Two Darts” a love song about saving one of your last smokes for your sweetie and Belmont ads were playing on the screen to the left of the stage, which turns out they were playing all night…Can you even advertise cigarettes like that anymore? Well that’s beyond the point, back to the punk show.
The band finished super strong just laying down crowd favourites after crowd favourites like “Paradise” into “See You in Hull” into “No Fun” and capped with “Stay Gold.” Nothing like finishing off a set after 1 am with the line “don’t you wish your boyfriend was a punk like me.” Oh New Swears promise you’ll never change and we’ll promise to stay rowdy.
Jessica Ruano (above) is the Creator and Director of The Ghomeshi Effect, which was created to explore sexual violence, especially in the justice system. The title references former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi, who was acquitted of six charges relating to sexual assault after courts ruled there was insufficient evidence to establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
From a cheese and jam sandwich to Shakespeare’s foils, unusual pairings can reveal new things. This was the case on January 22nd, when Ottawa-based PepTides played the Gladstone theatre in support of The Ghomeshi Effect. which is a “verbatim” dance-theatre piece exploring sexual violence. It’s “verbatim” because the script was created based on interviews with survivors of sexual violence, and the words are presented as they were spoken.
This collaborative fundraiser came about because Amelia Griffin, choreographer for The Ghomeshi Effect, had recently worked on the PepTides new music video: 202 Washington DC. When The PepTides were asked if they wanted to participate in a fundraiser, keyboardist and manager Scott Irving said it wasn’t even a question. “It’s an important piece of theatre and we wanted to support it”.
The Peptides began their set with a dramatic entrance for their song “Homme Love Whore”, followed by a half-hour of feet-tapping, head-nodding, body shaking beats. (Well, torso shaking beats – most people remained seated). Following this introduction, interplay between the two productions began, with actors from The Ghomeshi Effect performing excerpts from the show and contemporary dance to the retro-soul-pop of the PepTides.
While music is no strange pairing to theatre (perhaps you’ve heard of Broadway?), there was something novel about the dynamic that presented itself with this performance. The PepTides were their usual energetic selves – you can tell they have fun when they perform. However, songs that would usually be light-hearted took on new meaning when contrasted with scenes from The Ghomeshi Effect. The dances featured strong physical dynamics, especially in the scenes with several actors. It was about more than the words; the stories were equally told by the expression of movement. It’s appropriate, because these are stories that unfold through the interaction of bodies.
It’s a complicated discussion. How do you speak about power and violence without making people uncomfortable or defensive? How does this reality of intimacy express itself, when the conversation is meant to be inclusive to a broader demographic? Firsthand accounts might only be only revealed to close friends and confidants, and so the Ghomeshi Effect offers a rare viewpoint: a truthful and anonymous accounts of sexual violence, and the impact that these experiences have on individuals and on society as a whole. Bringing these stories together into a single narrative reveals larger patterns about power.
Uncomfortable as it might be, it’s a stark reality. The statistics speak for themselves: in Canada, approximately 1/3 of women and 1/5 of men have experienced sexual assault, and that increases significantly for women who are Aboriginal or transgender. Only about 6% of all cases are reported to police. Stranger danger? Yeah, that’s not a thing; approximately 80% of incidents are inflicted by someone known to the survivor. It’s heavy stuff, but that’s why we feminists need dance parties. Ultimately, you can’t speak about power and its expressions without feeling something. However, this fundraiser only piqued my curiosity to see the theatre piece in its entirety.
As one of the vocalists said, “This is serious subject matter, but we’re still going to have a good time!”. On this front, certainly, the performance was well put-together. The upbeat music of The PepTides broke the tension between sets, and the audience was able to focus on the conversations happening throughout the performance with minimal heartache. By acknowledging and analyzing both the devastating and the uplifting elements of sex, the performance came across as a tribute to, and a necessary critique of, intimacy and modern dating.
Check out The Ghomeshi Effect at the Gladstone Theatre every night until Saturday, January 28th, or catch the reprise at Shenkmen Theatre on Thursday, February 2nd. Ticket price and purchasing information can be found here.