It was a packed bill Friday night at the House of Targ with Doc Hopper, Steve Adamyk Band, Audio Visceral, Laureate, and Matt Charette all gracing the stage.
Doc Hopper—the headliner for the evening—is a 90’s punk band from the North East US named after Doc Hopper, who was the owner of Doc Hopper’s French Fried Frog Legs chain of fast food restaurants in The Muppet Movie. As a bonus, Mikey Erg, of the Jersey pop punk legends The Ergs!, is currently playing with the band as they tour, which was quite anawesome surprise.
They played a solid fast hitting set of pop punk which took me back to my younger years of the late 90s when I was just discovering this style of music. Now, I never really listened to Doc Hopper other than a few songs on some mix CDs (remember those?!) but they had a sound that I was always very fond of. The song that really caught my ear and stuck with me was “She’s a Coke Head,” which is not the most uplifting of songs I know, but it was damn catchy. I also loved that the lead singer and guitarist gave a shout out to Punchbuggy, an infamous local punk band from the 90s, and asked if Scallen was at the show and then said “he is probably actually sleeping at this time, actually all our friends are old and tired.” There was a pretty excited group of folks who were moshing and dancing for much of the night. I don’t think they really knew any of the bands, but were just there for a good time. It was a lot of fun to see and definitely upped the energy in the room.
Steve Adamyk Band joined on stage by friends and former members during their set at the House of Targ in Ottawa.
The Steve Adamyk Band were on fire as always, bringing their local punk rock to the stage. The three-piece band opened with a new song which sounded great and they played another new song later in their set, which hopefully means we are getting new Adamyk on wax soon. Steve Adamyk is one of the most prolific punk rockers in the capital so you never really know what you’ll get as a set list, but on this night we got the aforementioned new songs, a bunch of tracks off his 2016 release Graceland, including favourites “Carry on” and “Swallow you whole,” as well as some deeper dives into the back catalogue. It was awesome to watch him play “I Fought for the U.S.A.” and have Dave Williams of Crusades and Black Tower, and former Adamyk band member Davey Quesnelle jump on stage to sing along. Adding to the moment was the fact that Davey was working at the time and was still sporting his perogie making apron. Good times were had by all for sure.
Audio Visceral dressed to chomp and rocking out at the House of Targ in Ottawa.
Steve Beauchesne, owner of Beau’s and guitarist of Audio Visceral, took to the stage sporting a sweet Pacman suit. Audio Visceral is made up of Steve and two other Beau’s employees. Yeah they make some of the country’s best beer and still find time to be in a pretty cool punk band. Some people have too much talent…but I digress. Once they finally got started (damn it Garry!) they powered through their first six songs without really taking a break, except maybe to have a sip of Lug Tread. They played a hilarious song called “I Suck” which doesn’t appear to exist online anywhere but the lyrics had me in stitches. Hopefully the fact that they are playing this new song and a few others means a second album is in the works. I know us fans will certainly drink it up…
Laureate playing at the House of Targ in Ottawa.
Pop-punk foursome, Laureate, from Montreal, were the first full band to play on this night. The band beautifully builds off of vocal harmonies between guitarist Giancarlo and bassist Erin, who essentially share the role of lead singer. This is complemented by some intricate guitar work by the other guitarist, who at times brought me back to the finger picking ways of screamo and heavier bands, particularly when they tap out the strings on the neck. It was fun to watch and he was really rocking out. The band’s set featured a minor setback when the bass started phasing in and out. Members of Steve Adamyk Band were quick to try to help, fiddling with the amp and providing a new patch chord. In the meantime Erin powered through, and what could have been a disaster really allowed us to focus on their impressive and really tight harmonies in the absence of the bass. This band needs to play Ottawa more often given that Montreal is not that far, and their sound really fits in with a lot of what is happening in this city. Check them out, especially their new record Landmarks and get ready to sing a long at their next show.
Matt Charette kicking things off Laureate playing at the House of Targ in Ottawa.
Opening things up was something completely different than the rest of the show. Matt Charette, a singer songwriter from Boston, played more folk and country than punk rock with his acoustic guitar and harmonica. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining as he has an awesome voice, is a great story teller, and certainly has some punk rock running through his veins given his lyrics and the Black Flag cover he chose to play. This was his second ever show in Canada, the first one being the night before in Toronto, and someone decided to play a trick on him and rewrite his setlist. The “custom” list included all covers by bands such as Nirvana, Metallica, The Cure, and Dead Kennedys. While he did play some covers, his original tracks were great. I especially liked “City Streets.” All in all, this night was chalk full of great bands and great times.
A cold Friday night, good friends, an incredible line-up, and an unlikely venue made this show one of the most unforgettable nights. The Legion was nearly empty when I showed up but by the very end of the night, the floor was packed with punks.
The show opened with Tightlip ferociously taking the stage after a screeching sound check. They blew the doors wide open and allowed people to warm up to the vibe that would overtake the night. The band didn’t hold back from bellowing bass lines, frantic guitar riffs, staccato drumming, and vocals that cut through the air in the form of screams. The elements combined all set the pace for the night and brought a rage to the scene.
The vocals were unfiltered, unperfected, roaring, and raw. They were filled with emotion, emitting frustration and anger outwards and filling the crowd to the brim with energy.
The drumming was heavy with use of the snare and cymbals. Each beat came in an extremely quick succession of one another–something that each drummer that night pulled off skillfully. Sometimes the crash of the cymbals and screams were synchronous, adding a layer to the songs played that only contributed to the harsh soundscape. Both the bass and the guitar melded together, having frantic and rushed conversation that squalled back and forth. Outbursts came from both ends, sometimes even so intense that guitar strings snapped.
Tightlip brought a tight-knit aggressive sound that burst with anger and radiated energy. They created this musical mess that dominated all while emanating a frantic sound that the crowd warmed up to and got lost in.
Toxic Thoughtsbrought forth a theme as heavy as their sound. Their music resonated with anger and aggression reflecting the struggles of being in one’s own body. The songs were held up by the drumming and supported by the bass line. Together these two components packed a punch that got the crowd roaring.
The guitar playing and controlled feedback added to the emotion of each song. Following closely with the bass line, the band incorporated it into the mass of pure noise and allowed the listener to really feel the emotions behind the music and vibrate within them.
Vocalist Felix Lahbabi-Granger threw himself around and thrashed about without regard as he bellowed into the microphone. Watching him provided a visual to the lyrics and it showcased a very real struggle that people deal with.
Starting with a slow progression and gaining volume and hostility as their set progressed, Toxic Thoughts kept the crowd stomping right along until the end.
DOXX brought a frantic and sporadic sound to the table, deconstructing the compositions to sew them back together loosely around Jeff Hurter’s bass line. Even the structure of the guitar solos danced around the heavy-handed bass. It’s dirty and messy but with a handle on chaos.
The band played with emphasis, accentuating heavier parts by slowing the otherwise quick pace. Through Kieran’s drumming, in particular, one felt the build-up to the release of tension and aggression. They were absolutely hostile and cold but completely balanced. The smooth progressions between that slow and heavy pace to the quick and bitter rage that overtook it was virtually flawless. Britt’s skills on the guitar kept the emphasis on the ferocity of each song. Even the shifts in pace felt smooth as opposed to feeling forced and out of place. It was an organised mess that added a depth to the songs that one may not expect.
Sof’s lyrics had strong socio-political views but they were delivered in a series of screams that carried a controlled tonal range. A rumbling grit that emerges from deep within and transitions to high pitched—it clawed at us and dragged us in. Her vocals played with the contrast of smooth and gritty but they carried a sound so impactful that you didn’t need to try and listen to it, you just had to let it hit you.
Refreshingly infuriated–that is the sound that Cell introduced to the crowd. It was pure noise with little to no differentiation between the bass or guitar–but don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad thing. The bass and guitar turned into a dynamic duo, thundering through the room.
The guitar was ferocious and echoed the bass, loose feedback kept a constant through the set. Through bleeding the guitar and bass line together, the solos really packed a punch and stuck out like sore thumbs. I found that through this technique, there was a deeper appreciation for all the solo work that was done.
The screams came out in bouts of fury. They were careless but well thought out, they progressed from calm to infuriated. It was high energy, fueled by what seems like pure anger with a twist of carelessness. The distorted vocals seemed to tear a sense of warmth through each of the songs. Don’t let that fool you though, the punch was packed into the screams that seemed to paint the room green and overturn the warmth. They held the old school punk feel, creating this nostalgia all while channeling an inseparable aggression and bringing something completely new to the table.
GAZM, a punk band from Montreal, delivered a full-blown performance without a single falter in the energy they emitted. Due to my synesthesia—the ability to see sound as colour—I noticed that GAZM painted the atmosphere all shades of oranges with hints of red speckled throughout. They sent off anger in waves but never burdened the crowd with it. Instead, the crowd too released the deep-rooted emotions, but in the form of a mosh pit. The sound that emitted is abrasive and aggressive but held enough warmth to envelop you in it and draw you in with ease.
The vocals were ragged and torn, ripping through the crowd without mercy. The lyrics, in combination with the cold drumming, the buzzing guitar, and the weighted bass created this burst of looseness and prompt people to open up a mosh pit. You begin to understand how the emotions and tension are released once you get sucked into one.
The quick succession of each drum beat prompted the thrashing and shoving, each instrument building and adding fuel to the fire. There seemed to be a release of anger in it. The band created noise that brought together shrill bends on specific notes that occur almost melodically. GAZM brought a sound to the room that is warm, save for the drumming, and you could hear it in the notes that are played.
They’re a band that can bring out emotion without leaving you with a burden to carry them past the present moment.
Each of the bands were loud, aggressive, and pack a punch which left a positive impact on those who attended. The show itself was one for the books, so next time these punk bands play a show, grab a friend and head on down. And remember, if someone falls, pick them right back up.
It was another snowy day in Ottawa and another great day for a Megaphono showcase. This time it was an afternoon show at the Record Center with Ottawa’s Mushy Gushy, Area Resident, and Saint John, NB’s Little You Little Me.
Mushy Gushy blasted out of the starting block playing their first four songs with no breaks, and barely slowed at any point during the set fitting in as many songs as possible. The boys were on fire and so tight as they rocked songs from both their tapes and even treated us to a new track. They played “Summer Lusting” off their first tape Tight Snake. Not a much better way to remember that sunny days will in fact return than a song with the opening line of “Everyone wants to fuck in the summer time” while the snow was really coming down outside. The band played an assortment of fun and energetic tracks from Tight Snake and their more recent release, More Butter. The crammed in crowd at the Record Center was really digging the music with a lot of heads bobbing around. The new song they played was pretty smooth and I hope that means the band will have a new release for us this year.
Cory from Mushy Gushy laying down some riffs. Photo by Els Durnford.
Opening for Mushy Gushy was Area Resident, which is the musical project of CBC traffic man Doug Hempstead and friends. On an afternoon like this one, he was probably much happier behind his drum set singing his songs than talking about traffic in a snow storm. Doug is a story teller, whether it is the lyrics of his songs or between songs, the man has tales to share. I guess it pays off to spend your days working in a news room. With help from fellow CBC web and radio personality Kristy Nease, and Carleton University music instructor John Higney, Hempstead impressed the crowd and filled the room with warm vibes all around.
Kicking things off with the smooth and catchy song “Riverside,” they caught the crowd’s attention right away. Not only are the songs really good, but a lot of them actually have comical back stories. One of the funniest pieces was that while he was crowdfunding for one of his albums, a friend of his said he would donate but only if he wrote a song based off a bizarre OPP press release. The release was about some young kids who broke into a cottage in Lanark County and then drove away in a pickup truck, only to end up in the river. Then, of course, they refused to turn themselves over to the cop and just sat in the truck for 20 hours. Hempstead would have been remiss not to write a song about it, and “Lanark Double Soaker” ended up on the final cut of Area Resident’s latest album Delano. Another great track was “Warm It Up First” which is about the man who stole gold from the Canadian Mint by smuggling it out by putting it up his…well, you know. All in all, things really picked up as Area Resident played to the full house.
First up on the bill was Saint John, NB’s Little You Little Me. These guys have been around for quite a few years now, and their energy on stage showed no signs of slowing down. While I only caught the last few songs of their set, they set the mood for a snowy Saturday afternoon in Ottawa by playing some crunchy rock and roll for us to forget about the cold. Their brand of pop-laced garage rock is something that Canadian music fans are soaking up, and the guys took the stage with big smiles and set the tone. They played songs from deeper in their catalogue, and newer ones from their most recent EP entitled In Under Fourteen Highly Concentrated Minutes. These guys do a great job a sharing vocals and rocking their respective instruments. Each song got the crowd grooving along with them, and the band was clearly having a great time. Not to shabby for a bunch of guys who drove from Saint John to Ottawa the entire night before. But hey, that’s what bands do! Looking forward to these guys making their way back to Ottawa soon. All in all, it was another successful show at The Record Centre, and everyone left with smiles on their faces.
With the snow lightly descending on the nation’s capital, the NAC’s Fourth Stage was a perfect setting for a Friday night Megaphono showcase featuring Trails, Luka, and Keturah Johnson.
This was my first time at the Fourth Stage in a long while, and what a beautiful room it is. It really helps create a very intimate setting for a performance, especially when it is a sold out standing room only show like this one.
Trails performing on the Fourth Stage of the NAC during Megaphono 2018 in Ottawa.
Headlining the night was Ottawa’s Allie O’Manique, better known to most as Trails. In just a few years she has really gained a lot of momentum in Ottawa as one of the truly up and coming artists in town. Now you may find it hard to call someone up and coming when they have already opened for Andy Shauf in the UK, but Trails stills feels so new and fresh to me. She has so much potential, which in itself is pretty scary but mostly exciting.
O’Manique certainly knows how to turn on an eerie haunting edge to her vocals which melds perfectly with the instrumentation of the backing band on this night, Especially on songs like -“Mourning/moaning/morning/snowing ” from her debut full length album The Past Is Coming Fast. Of course, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have local musician extraordinaires—Philippe Charbonneau, Pascal Oflaki, and Jamieson Mackay—as support on stage.
While much of the music has a much more mellow and psyche feeling to it which can both serenade you to sleep or ease you into deep meditation, the band did switch things up a little on one song. The rowdier jam was maybe a little too much for them though, as guitarist Jamieson Mackay blew a string. Like a true champion he powered through. However, there was a moment of worry when he told the crowd he might not be able to play the “sweet lick” at the end of their powerful finale “Leave Her Be.” Luckily for us, he found a way and capped off the absolutely song which she wrote and arranged with Jonas Bonnetta of Evening Hymns, and really shows the growth and immense potential for more.
Luka impressing the NAC crowd at Megaphono. Photo by Els Durnford.
Setting up Trails’ set was poet and crooner Luka Kuplowsky and a group of smooth rock n roller from Toronto who perform as Luka. Kuplowsky, rocking an acoustic guitar with no strap, reminds me of early Lou Reed in how he almost speaks over the music more than singing most of the time and delivers poetry with the upward intonation in his voice at the end of his lines. I was immediately hooked from the first song “City By My Window” to the amazing closing track “O My Heart Is Full” which is a near perfect song in my opinion, have a listen.
If the singer’s smooth stylings weren’t enough, he is surrounded by very talented musicians, including an extremely entertaining drummer and a dynamic flutist—yes, a flutist. I believe there were more flute solos in the performance than guitar solos, which is not something you see every day. One of my favourite songs from the night was “Quick Reflex” off his latest album What Kind of Animal, which tells the story of a hand-me-down baseball cap with a beautiful melody and finishing with a roaring crescendo in the live performance. This was just one of many very impressive moments of pure chaos with the soft vocals, off beat drumming, rapid guitar and bass strumming and racing the flute that really took the performance to the next level.
Keturah Johnson serendating the NAC crowd during Megaphono. Photo by Els Durnford.
Opening the night was another stellar local performer, Keturah Johnson, who on this night was flying solo and without her The Heavy Medicine Band companions. Johnson is absolutely masterful at looping her own guitar and incredible vocals, then playing and singing over those loops. It had my jaw dropping right away. Johnson’s vocals are so powerful and filled with passion and sometimes darkness that there are moments that make your spine tingle.
Her solo performances takes the time to fully craft the song, but the end result is beautifully layered beyond any a regular solo performance delivers, and the process is like watching someone play a bunch of smaller tracks that perfectly fit together. It is comparable to watching and old-school DJ craft a mix on vinyl from scratch, except this is being performed with very different instruments. And Johnson has no fear of the sounds of the classics even with the “modern” looping technology songs like her finisher “Conduit” shine on her influences like Pink Floyd in all the right ways.
On February 3, 2008, The Balconies took to the stage for the first time here in Ottawa. The band probably didn’t know what the future held at that time, but they quickly jumped down the rabbit hole into the unknown. Shows led to tours, tours led to funding, funding led to albums, which ultimately led to more tours. Their fan base grew from being their Ottawa friends to friends around the world, playing stages from SXSW to Europe.
Saturday night’s show was one of two for the band’s final send off for those loyal hometown friends and fans. Friday’s show appeared packed from the many Snapchats and Instagram stories floating around, and a line quickly grew outside The 27 Club despite the snow beginning to fall. The Love Machine reunited and opened up the night, and they too drew many familiar faces which were easy to spot as they wore shirts clearly reading THIS IS LOVE. Sing-a-longs of their early songs solidified that fans were in the house, and even those who weren’t familiar were able to sing and dance along to their catchy songs.
Finally the time had come for the much anticipated final show for The Balconies. The stage presence of lead singer Jacquie Neville energized the crowd, getting them to jump along to their favorite songs along with her signature hair flipping throughout the set. Though the small venue made for an intimate final evening, she was quick to point out the family support in the room, letting everyone know her grandmother, and other family members were in the house continuing to support them. The set began relatively early for a headliner, which meant the audience was in for a 90-minute set to tie-off the ten year journey of the band. During the final song (pre-encore) Jacquie hopped off the stage into the audience to have a sing-a-long, hug it out with some family and friends before hopping back on stage pointing out that everyone looked like they had cut onions before coming out.
As the band re-entered for the encore, they took a moment as they emotions of the room hit the stage and reality set in that these were the final moments for the band. A slow song to capture that emotion first, before getting the energy back up to end the night. Joined on stage by The Love Machine, they danced it out with the crowd before giving Ottawa one final bow.
I often go into shows with little to no knowledge of the bands that are playing that night. However, upon hearing Deathsticks was playing Pressed, I knew that that was a show not to be missed. Although the show started a bit late, it didn’t have an effect on the length of each set.
Dark Plains, a local band, ripped through the murmurs of the crowd as they began their set. A steady and prominent bass line with a heavy tone dominated the room and the guitar creating dissonant riffs. One of the first things that caught my attention other than the obviously booming sound slicing through the silence was the ability the guitar had for carrying the songs while the drums rattled in your chest. It was almost as if one would take the song apart while the other put it back together and it created a unique dynamic that was easy to get wrapped up in.
Some songs would start out with a drum solo instead of with the bass, and it really set the tone and mood for the rest of the song. The atmosphere was dark but the energy was high in these moments. The uniqueness of the drums struck me, they were loud but in a few places they’d go off beat only to jump back on beat and flow and meld together with what the rest of the band played.
During the guitar solos, the bassline would be the backbone, seeming as if everything would wrap around it and this is a factor that didn’t allow the solo’s to punch you in the face with high intensity. It rather pulled people into it and allowed them to immerse themselves in the soundscape that they were presented with. Sometimes you’d hear notes that were off key but that just pulled you into the intricately orchestrated songs more because it made everything that came after sound that much better.
The vocals are almost a contrast to the music being played. They take a more mellow approach and create an overlay to the aggressive drumming, bass, and guitars; but when unified in harmonies they can pack a punch and emphasise themselves above all else. The combination of vocals mirroring the aggression in the written music got me to move my feet and nod along but it also seemed to get people to lurch their bodies in choppy, staggering, and abrupt motions.
WLMRTburst through with a fiery passion, the aggressive sound making itself present and known despite the songs being relatively short. I noticed people thrashing to it, throwing their bodies into those of others without a care and that goes to describe what the music itself is. It’s an overpowering bassline, reverberated guitar riffs, odd electronic sounds via soundboard, and the drumming that packs punches in quick succession.
Vocals cut right through the medley of sound and it’s something you try to decipher through the reverb – and maybe you manage to, or you don’t, but it’s enough to grasp your attention and drag you in by the collar of your shirt. Shrill when the songs progress and unfold but they’re no strangers to a more melodic approach. Delivered with a twitchy but fun-loving carefree attitude, the vocals really help loosen you up and get you into the weighted sound of the bass, the fuzz of the guitar, and the manic drumming.
WLMRT is a band that smashes everything together in ways that you wouldn’t imagine. It’s like that one weird combination of food that you never thought would work but does. I find that this is because there’s so much going on and because everyone seemingly marches to the beat of their own drum but that’s very far from the case. It’s something that’s so close to old school punk—pure distorted noise that throws you dead centre into the scene that they’re creating, and that’s something that keeps drawing me in.
Don’t even bother trying to deconstruct any Deathstickssong because it’s not something you’ll ever be able to do. The Ottawa band is confusing, aggressive, and beautiful, and brings genuine meaning to the name Deathsticks. By the end of the night, I’m sure only one pair of drumsticks didn’t end up broken in half.
The band sounds like a fully formed band, and I suppose they are, but if you’ve never heard or seen them, you’ll be shocked to know that they’re a duo. Every component of their music is well timed that it shocks the listener, you can’t try to listen to them, just listen, observe, and let yourself be swept away by the aggression and anger.
There’s not a single aspect that seems traditionally composed. Every musical “rule” has been rejected—from the very first song they played, where Matt rubbed the guitar strings with his hand, a technique that is seldom used to the very end of the set. Deathsticks strayed from any rules that would have been imposed and transformed intros into messy white noise.
The drumming is chaotic and the guitar steady but completely unstable. Laura knows exactly what to do and how to keep it in control, almost as if the instrument is just an extension of an arm or a leg. It seems to come as second nature and watching it is mesmerising. The consistent use of the ride and crash cymbals adds a contrast to the deep boom off the bass drum and the rattling of the snare.
Spoken words or off-beat screaming, the duo have seemingly mastered the music. The feedback, crashing drums, roaring power chords and screaming solos, all contributed to something that I had once stated would happen if they were to play in a dingy bar—that’s right, a mosh pit. Not only does the music grow wild but the crowd with it.
The set may leave you wondering “what the fuck was that?” the first time you hear them, but truly the only way to answer that question is with the simple words “controlled chaos”.
So maybe next time that you find yourself in a rut and itching to do something with your night, find a show any one of these bands are playing and let the music drown you. You won’t regret it for a second – not even when you wake up the next morning with your ears ringing just as much as the previous night.
Deathsticks and WLMRT have recently released a split LP with Nushu and Nightbummerz which you can listen to here. Check out the show photos below.
When the cold Ottawa winds start nipping around this time of year, there’s no better way to escape frozen realities of the north than going to a loud and sweaty show. That was certainly the case on Friday night, but the weather didn’t prevent people from coming out in droves to check out a special show at The Brass Monkey on Ottawa’s west side. Hailing from Brampton, The Flatliners headlined the night and played their groundbreaking 2007 album The Great Awake front-to-back. They were joined by A Wilhelm Scream (AWS) from New Bedford, MA, who also played their album Career Suicide from start to finish, never missing a beat. Both acts were preceded by London, ON’s Single Mothers and Little Junior.
After a lengthy trip from downtown to The Brass Monkey, I made my way into the venue for the first time to the sweet, sweet sound of Single Mothers exploding on stage. Approaching the place, I was surprised to find it located beneath a strip mall. Not exactly what you’d expect, but The Brass Monkey extended the whole way along and was packed to the brim with folks from all over Ottawa. It was pretty impressive to see that many people come together at this out-of-the-way venue for a show like this, but the sound there is known to be one of the best in town and that counts for something.
Single Mothers has been picking up steam since their debut LP Negative Qualities was released into the world in 2014, and gained notoriety for their brash and untethered live performances. This one was certainly no exception, as the band cranked up the energy immediately. The crowd wasn’t quite ready to warm up and get moving yet, but got there by the end of their set. Single Mothers released their second album, Our Pleasure, earlier this year and played a combination of tracks from both of their full length records.
Lead vocalist Drew Thompson channeled the full force of his band with his trenchant vocals in tracks such as “Half-Lit” and “Overdose,” seemingly ripping up his vocal cords with throaty and guttural delivery. But Thompson never relented, as he and the band kept the crowd locked-in with untamed stage antics and infectious punk rock. The group bucked any critics by playing a dynamic set which featured newer tracks such as “Leash” and “Long Distance,” offering us a glimpse into a side of the band that is more than the blunt-force trauma of distortion, but also layered with melodic elements and lyrical prowess.
I wasn’t that familiar with AWS going into this show, as melodic hardcore isn’t really my thing. But I gave their 2007 album Career Suicide a solid listen ahead of the show and was genuinely impressed by the sheer magnitude of the band’s sound. Although it’s not the kind of album I’ll put on every day, I appreciate how well it is composed from start to finish and looked forward to how it would translate live. I should also say that I appreciate that they named their band after a hilarious sounding stock sound effect, a recognizable scream which we’ve all heard in movies before.
AWS exploded into their set with a trio of fast-paced heavy hitters in “I Wipe My Ass With Showbiz,” “5 to 9,” and “The Horse.” Right away the crowd lovingly started belting out each line, word for word, as lead singer Nuno Pereira egged each audience member on with his interactive stage presence. His jugular seemed to protrude more and more with each song, and his liveliness was reciprocated by some of the die-hard fans up front. The onslaught that is Career Suicide continued, and the 15-song tour-de-force was fully realized in this live setting. The band’s tightness is undeniable, as each member seamlessly plays off the others without missing a single beat. Pereira took pause to tell a quick story in the middle of the set:
“It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years! We got a message from the guys in Flatliners on MySpace asking if we could join them for their record release shows. We said ‘fuck yeah’ and had a great time doing it.”
The only thing that detracted from the music for me was extended guitar solos throughout, as I’m not a big “solo” guy. This detraction is merely preference, and certainly had nothing to do with the skill of the band members. AWS’ tendency to blend old-school So-Cal punk rock with metal and even prog-rock is a bit of a stretch at times for my liking, as the sprawl across styles can be distracting. But there is a definite primal feel to their music, an intensity and attitude that are distinctive and comparable to bands like Propaghandi. The near-perfect live execution of the complex song structures on this record are worth seeing, even for a layman like me who might not be as familiar with AWS’ catalogue.
The headliners of the night, The Flatliners, took the stage last and performed their much-loved 2007 sophomore album, The Great Awake. The band were Canada’s ska and punk rock darlings of the 2000’s, getting noticed by Fat Mike of NOFX’s label Fat Wreck Chords and getting the opportunity to play with well-known bands associated with the label at a young age. My first experience seeing them was in Detroit in 2008, opening for NOFX and No Use For a Name just after the release of The Great Awake, and I have fond (sweaty and bloody) memories of that show. Needless to say, a lot of us at the show were really amped to see the album played live front-to-back.
Right out the gate, the punching percussion of “July! August! Reno!” thundered from the stage and the raucous crowd burst into moshing as expected. “What do you do when doing what you love gets you nowhere? It gets you nothing. These loaded guns are nothing until they’re fired,” is a sentiment most of us endure at some point in our lives, and a powerful beginning to their set. Immediately after, the band transitioned right into my personal favourite, “Eulogy.” The song is a young person’s account of the death of someone close, a friend or family member, perhaps for the first time. This one hits hard for those of use who listened to it in the wake of tragedy.
The set went forward full-speed, and those who love the ska beginnings of The Flatliners got down to “The Respirator” and “Mastering the World’s Smallest Violin” but the band’s turn towards punk rock on this record was as well received in 2017 as it was in 2007. Chris Cresswell’s in-your-face vocals were absolutely mind-boggling throughout, which is a mystery to me since he’s abused his vocal cords for so many years. This album in particular is not a walk in the park, by any stretch.
The band ripped through their set, sweating up a storm and playing highlights such as “Mother Theresa Chokeslams the World,” This is Giving Up,” and “Hal Johnson Smokes Cigarettes.” Scott Brigham backup vocals and guitar riffs enveloped the crowd and kept the energy high until the very end.
The love for the record was felt through everyone that night, and I’m sure many of us had lost our voices by the end of the night. Overall it was a big treat to see all these bands play together, and have a hell of a party out in the suburbs of Ottawa.
Remaining shows on tour for The Flatliners
12/09 Montreal, QC – Club Soda ^
12/14 Long Beach, CA – Alex’s Bar ^
12/15 Phoenix, AZ – Marquee Theatre %
12/16 Las Vegas, NV – Brooklyn Bowl %
01/12 Chicago, IL – Cobra Lounge
01/13 Pontiac, MI – The Crofoot Ballroom #
^ with A Wilhelm Scream
% with Descendents
# with Twin Peaks, PUP
On Thursday night, crowds escaped the damp, rainy Ottawa streets and piled into a dimly lit Bronson Centre to witness an evening of ambient, atmospheric music. Headliner Timber Timbre visited Ottawa for the fourth time in 6 years along with support from Ottawa’s own Boyhood Scattered Clouds.
Scattered Clouds took to the stage first, rising out of an ascending red fog. Performing as a 2-piece band with Jamie Kronick on drums and Philippe Charbonneau on guitar, keyboard, and vocals, this band was the most surprising act of the night. In terms of style, Scattered Clouds describe themselves as “dark, experimental, and post apocalyptic.” These characteristics could not be more fitting. Beginning their set with a heavy presence of baritone guitar and an emphasis on drums driving the synths, the band achieved a sound that could easily be equated to a modern day embodiment of a Joy Division b-side album, with an “Ian Curtis- esque” vocal tone. The second half of the set however, transitioned into an emphasis on synth and a precision in instrumentation. Creating an atmospheric 80’s dance vibe, the band achieved a type of lo-kfi sound that left the audience in a state of euphoria. Waking from this set with the harsh Bronson Centre lighting was like waking out of a heavy, romantic dream.
When the lights dimmed again, our good pals Boyhood took to the stage. Clad in flared pants and turtlenecks, Boyhood did not fail to deliver their staple moody, noisy sound. As always Caylie Runciman delivered raw and airy vocals that harmonized beautifully with her band, and provided an emotional and unpolished set completed with songs that morphed and melted into one another. Giving us a taste of what is to be expected from the upcoming album Bad Mantras, which will be the bands first album since 2012, the set featured the bands catchy “Drivin’” and “He Don’t.” Beginning with keyboard, Caylie swapped over to guitar midway through the set where she went to town in an emotional and raw guitar solo. It’s easy to get lost in a Boyhood set, and this was no exception.
Last but not least, Timber Timbre finished the night in almost total darkness, with only subtle lighting sweeping the stage. A glass of liquor sat idled on an amp to the right, Taylor Kirk began playing what seemed like it would be the entirety of his most recent work, Sincerely Future Pollution. However four songs in, the set took a detour towards an intermingling of a huge sample of his work, ranging from his self titled back in 2009 to his most recent. Detouring the set with Hot Dreams, the band’s instrumentation, and deep, sultry vocals, the song was delivered with a raw, sensual and emotional demeanour.
This specific Timber Timbre performance was unlike many others. His previous shows in Ottawa, which included a performance in Ottawa’s first Baptist Church in 2011, a set at Folk Fest in 2012, where he performed alone with a kick drum, and even his set at Jazz Fest in 2015, stuck pretty tightly to the delivery of the songs on the album. However, this set tended to use the style in the albums as backdrops for experimentation and improvisation with melody and pace during the performance, providing unequivocal authenticity. Most notable in this performance was the “Curtains?!” jam session that lengthened the song by about two extra minutes with intense instrumentation. The night ended with a 3-part encore beginning with “Grand Canyon,” that delivered an expressive and theatrical but emotive and raw finale.
This show captured a unique energy that seems to have been strengthened by the uniqueness of all the bands but also the ways in which they played off of one another. They each brought an atmospheric sound and seamless instrumentation, as well as a hard punch in the heartstrings with their raw vocals, lyrical movements, and honest and authentic delivery. The perfect ambiance to fit the creepy environment that is the Bronson Centre on a rainy evening, this show was not one to miss.
House of TARG, a timeless venue that brings all sorts of people together through pinball, perogies, and concerts, held one deafeningly loud and soulful show on the night of November 9th. The lineup held a promise that the show would be one that the audience wouldn’t forget, unless they were drunk off their asses—and it delivered.
Opening with a roar was Black Oak Decline and they didn’t fail to capture the attention of the crowd and drive a new energy that I hadn’t seen in the atmosphere before. With precise and quick scales and solo work for the guitar. It’s quick and hard to follow but if you just let yourself listen, you get swept up in the emotions the music drives. It’s numbingly loud and sure to leave your ears ringing for the next two and a half days, which is something I can vouch for.
The bass is sludgy and grimy. There is nothing, absolutely nothing clean about the sound of this band. The bass is played almost like a guitar in the sense that there’s a lot of scales and jumping around within the basslines. But it’s deep, you can feel it rumble in your chest, and shake the floor. It over-driven and powerful and holds structure all while being the least structured seeming part.
The drums embody heaviness to them and they’re cold and distant. They resonate with you the longer you listen to them. While they do follow the rhythm, they also tend to veer off and create a unique space for themselves, straying from the conventional path. The make the songs sound full and create an atmosphere to get lost in. There are moments where it seems that the drums lead because of their sheer force.
The vocals are ragged, almost torn, they’re strained to the max but in such a way that it’s not unpleasant to listen to. They leave you in awe. I don’t typically enjoy intense screaming of lyrics throughout songs entireties but this band has showcased how to properly execute it without being overbearing and without overwhelming the audience. Whether it’s the stylings of the screaming itself or how it blends into the rest of the music, I can’t say. All I can say is that raw emotion is thrust into every single note played and sung. It’s something the band clearly enjoys doing and their presence is well known once they step on stage. It’s not overwhelming or in your face, but the band isn’t afraid to get up in it.
The second act was Pyrrhon who blew the crowd out of the water. The sheer energy presented found a way to take over the room completely. They find a way to take death metal and turn it into an artwork that entrances you and leaves you wanting more after they’ve finished up their set. The movement across the stage, seeming minimal on House of TARG’s stage, was very forward and the body language emits intense emotion.
The drumming is aggressive, almost confrontational. It leaves you in absolute awe and lets you feel the intense emotion that may course through the band. It’s almost in disorder and sounds rather distressed but it’s certainly not at a tempo that just everyone can keep up with. Perfect for head banging, the beat slows down and speeds up, keeping it interesting and allowing those listening to really get a feeling for the bands style. The beats come off in quick succession one after another most time and it’s common to hear rolls on the snare drum.
Dylan’s guitar playing is dissonant and angry. The distorted and overdriven sound was a staple for this band. With controlled feedback to add to the messy sound, it really grabbed your attention and ripped you right out of any preconceived notions on what the band would sound like live. With heavy power chords and added tremolo it brought the guitar parts to life and almost embodied them as something otherworldly. It breaks order and creates a balanced chaos with the drums and vocals.
Doug the vocalist pours every ounce of his being into what he’s screaming and it shows. With the way he moves around to how he controls his screaming, it fall absolutely nothing short of impressive. High and low notes interlace and destroy every preconceived notion of what harmonies should be. His vocals are not meant for the background, they deserve the fullest and uttermost attention due to the sheer heavy and weighted vibe it gives off.
The bass is a distorted, disorganised mess that somehow ends up being unified with everything else. It’s assertive and demanding but doesn’t let down in the least. This component, tied in with the drums are what rattle the core and entrance you, leaving you wanting to hear more. The scales played are not simple but they’re played with such an air that it’s made to look almost effortless.
Next up was a band by the name of Yautja who originate from Nashville, Tennessee. Their sound dissonant in terms of instruments however when it comes to vocals, prepare to be swayed by the cloudy heaviness that they possess.
The guitar providing intensive and strong power chords that are part of a masterpiece of its own. No sound goes without purpose. Pushing boundaries with the much lighter contrast that the guitar provides to the vocals while maintaining a heavy presence impressed me to no end and will continue to beckon attention. It keeps you on your toes and doesn’t let the stressed feeling go all while holding its own unconventional structure. The guitar vibes with a whole different frequency and it sticks out.
The vocals take a drastically different turn. Deep, in your face, and raspy. The lead singers aren’t afraid to strain any vocal cords, or to scream their hearts out to the crowd that’s more than willing to listen to the beautifully constructed chaos. The songs are held together, it seems, by a thread. In this case it would be the vocals, placed in just the right places. Any sense of convention is otherwise completely obliterated.
Tremolo effects rang through the bassline without hinting at any ounce of mercy. It hits you in the face forcefully without even laying a finger on you. A strong prominent bassline is a good bassline to me, and even better the sloppier and more pronounced it is. It’s nothing short of impressive and captivating. It’s hard to follow so you just let yourself embrace it and listen. It rattled the floor, and there wasn’t part of me that could deny it. I wholeheartedly believed that being so close to the bassist along with amps and speakers would give me arrhythmia. The bass folds into each song, crashing into the guitars like a wave during a brutal storm.
The literal crashing is brought by the drums and creates the effect of everything nearly falling apart. It’s everything that you want to hear from the drums when immersing yourself in metal. Heavy hits falling onto the snares and toms, relentless crashing of the cymbals, and pure energy radiating off the drummer, it’s hard to ignore. While the drums intertwining with the guitar and bass parts makes the whole thing sound as if it’s imploding on itself, it holds it’s backbone and creates something the bassline can lean on without overpowering it.
Inspiration ripped from Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden, Montreal’s own The Great Sabatini took the stage and created a loud and fitting end to the high energy night. They incorporate different genres and roll it into what can only be described as a sludgy doom metal. With aspects of what’s considered a musical canon and heavier gauge strings for the guitars and bass, energetic, aggressive but warm drumming, and the riotous screaming, the members create a sound that while containing sporadic elements, is so solidly unified that it’s impossible not to listen to.
The guitar parts which are played by Rob and Sean challenge and push boundaries, and with their new material, which is yet to be released, you hear the distinct tones overlapping in a confusion of sound that one tries to make sense of. It pushes your ear and begs you to deconstruct it because it’s so masterfully done. The soloing that Rob brings forth is some of the work I admire most. It’s skillful, distraught and slurred together, full of life and soulful aggression. Keeping up with him is a task but he puts every ounce of his being into it. He pours his heart into it and you can tell that with every note he plays is his pride and joy.
People always say that there’s a sparkle in someone’s eye when they’re doing something they love, and that passion was definitely behind Rob’s eyes.
Sean pours his soul into his screams and he gives it his all. It doesn’t go unnoticed, and besides his riffs and enraged power chords, this is what gets the crowd going. He jumps right to it—cut the bullshit, this is what it’s about. The progression of the higher notes keeps the crowd on their toes and the contrast provided by Rob brings them back down. Personally, and this comes as a great shock believe me, I would pick seeing The Great Sabatini over Metallica in a heartbeat. It’s progressive, gritty, and grimy.
The drumming Steve provides is one that that leaves you with very high expectations for other drummers. He’s outstanding with incredible control over the sound he wishes to produce. Sometimes warm, other times cold, loud or toned down, he has total control. His drumming has character, almost alive in its own way and everything you thought you knew be damned. It was deafening and powerful, enforcing the message behind every song. It will not only blow your mind but also your eardrums. It’s just the right amount of hysterical and yet its incomparable to any other drummer I’ve seen or heard.
Joey might as well have bumped the bass up to an 11 because it’s dominating and rips your attention towards it whether it’s isolated or incorporated into the self-imploding sludge. The fact that it’s frenzied in most songs is what sets the tone and it truly adds depth to the performance. Beautifully channeled and timed, the bassline could do no wrong. It pushed and it pulled creating an individual soundscape that would be thoughtfully incorporated into the overall experience the band created as a whole.
If you asked me to come see a legendary band with you on a night where the four bands I spoke of were performing, I’d have to object. Shocked? So am I but they fall absolutely nothing short of talented and driven with a sound that will leave your ears ringing for days to come. They’re all deeply underappreciated bands that created vivid soundscapes that you’ll find yourself immersed in once you give them a listen.
When you see the familiar name on a concert poster stapled or taped to a street sign, take note when and where these bands are performing because I guarantee that you’re not going to regret it in the least bit. Your ears might object to it the next morning (and in the long run), but in the moment you’ll be wanting to hear more. There will always be Bandcamp, but trust me, no justice will be done to these wonderful bands. Their shows are a must.
Japandroids made their triumphant return to Ottawa this past Sunday after nearly a decade away. They brought with them Cloud Nothings, a gritty garage rock band from Cleveland, Ohio, who made their Ottawa debut at the Bronson Centre.
I fell into Cloud Nothings as they were dropping their third album, Attack on Memory, back in 2012 and never looked back. Their 2014 followup Here and Nowhere Else and their 2015 split with WAVVES called No Life For Me were equally impactful—each had their own character and feel that I thoroughly enjoyed. This is one band I had somehow missed at all the festivals and shows I’d been to over the years, and their perceived avoidance of Ottawa was truly a bummer.
But that all changed Sunday night, as this stacked bill had no problems packing the Bronson Centre’s main floor. Cloud Nothing have seemed to always tow a line of self-defeatism, the “down-and-out” rockers on Attack on Memory finally pulled through and found a semblance of purpose on the gritty followup Here and Nowhere Else. So when Life Without Sound emerged earlier this year, it was exciting, yet I was skeptical and unsure of what to expect. However, when the needled dropped for the first time, it was like a breath of fresh air. The band’s new songs translated incredibly well live, and band members fed off each others stage energy. The album itself comes off as more refined, more direct, and less chaotic than their previous efforts. Songs like “Up to the Surface” and “Enter Entirely” are more restrained than much of their catalogue, and the John Goodmanson’s production gives Life Without Sound a more cohesive and refined feel.
On the stage, Cloud Nothings were tight as hell and nailed every moment of their performance. With this kind of music, it’s easy to get lost in the fuzzy riffs and percussive thunderclaps, but the band strung their set together with ease and precision. Dylan Baldi let loose on a number of occasions and didn’t hesitate to crank up the rasp and scream into his mic. One feature of the set that stood out was drummer Jayson Gerycz’s total domination of the kit. On multiple occasions, he took the spotlight and commanded the drum set with reckless abandon. His tirades were a welcome fixture in their performance, particularly at the end, as he seemed to lock eyes with the all audience members at the same time while pounding our senses with his kick. If Ottawa didn’t know Cloud Nothings before, they sure do now.
Japandroids rocked the Bronson Centre on Sunday Night.
Next up was Vancouver’s Japandroids, pleasing the audience with their much anticipated return to the capital. Lean vocalist and guitarist Brian King noted the long absence, and shared a funny story with the crowd about their last Ottawa gig. The duo formed in 2006 and slugged it out in the Vancouver scene for years, often taking a DIY approach to music and putting together their own shows and do short tours in the area. They put out a couple of EPs in 2007 and 2008, but started to turn heads with their debut LP Post-Nothing. With irresistible jams like “Heart Sweats,” “Young Hearts Spark Fire,” and “Wet Hair,” this is about the time that I fell in love with the band.
Their second LP Celebration Rock was released in 2012, and was almost universally acclaimed by major music publications. It is also pretty much my favourite album of all time, but I digress. Japandroids dug deep into their catalogue and played songs spanning their 3 LPs and gave fans old and new everything they wanted. The tone was set right away as they opened with the title track of their latest record Near to the Wild Heart of Life, an all-out rock and roll anthem that immediately unleashed the energy of the crowd. The crowd indulged in the vocal refrains (“oh oh oh’s”) which has become such a staple in Japandroids tracks, and a truly unifying force. Given the current state of things in the world, picture hundreds of young folks yelling the chorus:
“And it got me all fired up / To go far away / And make some ears ring from the sound of my singing, baby”
The group played older tracks such as “Heart Sweats” and “Young Hearts Spark Fire,” as well as many off of Celebration Rock like “The Nights of Wine and Roses,” “Fire’s Highway, and my personal favourite “Younger Us” (which I would like to be played loudly at my funeral, but I digress).
Japandroids delivered a full dose of raw and unhinged emotion in every song they play. David Prowse’s drumming was as great as ever, but his vocals were noticeably improved since the first time I saw the band back in 2013. His back up presence boosted the overall impact of each song, and it was clear that the two of them had each song down to near perfection. King kept the audience engaged at all times, and didn’t let up throughout the set even though the heat and lack of ventilation in the Bronson Centre was getting noticeably worse as they played.
Even new songs with a different instrumental approach such as “Arc of Bar” and “North East South West” were performed immaculately, and if anyone in the crowd was not on the board with the new record, they were hidden by bodies flying and silenced by the screams of many.
King took a quick pause to share an anecdote about their last time in Ottawa:
“It was at Ottawa Bluesfest in 2009, I think. And it was pissing rain. We were having the best time, but the stage crew was rushing to cover all of our gear with tarps to get the hell out of there. They just wanted us to stop so they could go see Kiss play on the other stage.”
All in all, the group did what they do best—giving the audience the best possible performance. Coming off a raucous night in Montreal (which my friends and I also attended), the Ottawa show was just as impactful—if not more so, only because anticipation had been building for almost a decade. They closed out with one of their biggest songs, the triumphant anthem “The House That Heaven Built.” With fists pumping in the air, shirts soaked with sweat, and vocal cords bursting at the seams, we all sang our god damn hearts out and yelled like hell to the heavens.
My only advice is this: if you haven’t listened to or seen Japandroids before, do it. They are what rock and roll infused with punk rock look like in 2017, and their music will pick you back up on your feet when the world knocks you down.