Protest the Hero made their triumphant return to Ottawa Friday night during the 10-year anniversary of their 2nd studio album Fortress.
Some bands have been accused of dialing it in on these types of anniversary tours, but that certainly wasn’t the case for Protest the Hero. They looked to be having a lot of fun on stage, especially lead singer Rody Walker. The crowd was channeling that energy singing along at the top of their lungs, sometimes louder than Rody himself, and moshing up a storm.
Rody’s vocals have truly improved since I last saw them and the instrumentation—always the band’s strength—was as tight as ever. While the band did play the album from start to finish, as one does on the anniversary tour, they still worked in some variances most notably the awesome bass solo they worked into “Palm Read.” It was also great to see the band adorn hats—captain, first mate, cowboy,police and construction—just as they did in the video for “Limb from Limb.”
The night wasn’t just about the music though. Rody stopped the show for a word from their sponsor Machete Premium Cuts a long-standing local clothing line. However it was actually a clever ruse for the owner to proposes to girlfriend on stage. Who happened to have gone to a Protest the Hero show for their first show together. She said yes, and there was much rejoicing.
It also can’t be a Protest the Hero show without some fun banter from Rody.
“Whats the deal with venues in Ottawa always being so hot?” he mused. “Its always so hot here except when you go outside… Ottawa must be the capital of pneumonia.”
He also later went on a hockey tangent about how the Vegas Golden Knights are going to win the cup and complete the Cinderella story and “Marc-Andre Fleury will be shaking Crosby’s hand and saying ‘Nice try, Sid.'”
As they prepared the play the last two songs on the album, Rody let the crowd know that they would play the songs, take a break for a few minutes, and then be back so the crowd didn’t have to call for an encore. The band rocked the songs, took their break, and came to drop a new song on us and then two songs off post-Fortress albums. I’m sure many wanted some of the older songs, but you have to respect and understand a band’s desire the play songs they wrote more recently.
The show was incredible and Protest the Hero’s performance can only be described as epic and full of majesty.
On March 24th, packed with punks, was Ottawa’s very own House of TARG. Legends made a comeback alongside some of the finest hardcore punk bands in the community. The sets warmed everyone up on the brisk spring night and made a good end to the day.
Merciless, absolutely brutal, and loud enough to tear the floor up with nothing but the roaring of the guitars are Ottawa locals, Wire Cuffs. So weighted that it pulled us in, the sound beat through our chest. Particularly prominent basslines, punch-packing power chords, and vocals that rip through the stuffy basement air.
The raged vocals tied into the aggression of each song, creating an unclean and raw energy. A release of energy so unconstrained that when unleashed, it got everybody moving erratically, the lyrics seem to not only draw screams from the band but that crowd as well. Quite literally ripped from the throat, as opposed to the diaphragm, the vocals were unfiltered and pulled from within. They’re what you’d imagine the shredding of vocals chords sounds like, but in a way that encompasses frustrations and angst.
The guitar and bass were steady but rather abrasive. Both complimented one another, equally heard. They were the source of the steady flow of rage. They held a sharp and cold edge to them that resonated with bitterness the closer you listen. They chugged on, almost playing a game of cat and mouse with each other, dissonant and seemingly off key from time to time. Overwhelming, the two instruments fill you with emotion and allowed you to release them due to the tempos they set. Earsplitting and turbulent, the guitars shocked us with the sheer power of their anger and strength of emotion they convey. The riffs were structured and quickly executed, like second nature to the guitarists. They stood out on their own and pull your ear in.
The drumming was cold and thrashing, with heavy use of the ride and crash cymbals. Booming and rattling away, with a partially open high hat it acted as the metronome but far more emotionally driven. The drummer went all out and didn’t hold back. Crashing mercilessly into each part of the drum kit, there wasn’t a sense of playing carefully despite the precise timing. The drummer got into this as the crowd got lost in his performance, fueled by raw power, irritation coming across in each beat. This comes across prominently in Alien Vampire Invasion.
With a new ferocity and new tunes, DOXX took to the stage next. Opening with a new song, as opposed to Human Waste CEO, the band sunk their rage into the crowd and got their fists pumping and bodies moving in time with the rhythms set. They were boisterous, enraged, and provocative, the band only gets better with each release—and heavier.
The guitar riffs Brit played appeared to be layered, the effect of being split into two parts prominent through their newer songs. The guitar appeared to have it’s own voice more so than before and tore through the crowd with its roar. Merging high and low notes to create a new dynamic, the guitar chuggedwith weighted chords to radiate an abysmal provocation of anger within the crowd. Sharp and expeditious, Brit didn’t hold back, putting tremendous energy into each song that rips from her guitar.
Jeff’s bass playing shook the floor with its sheer power. Prominent but leveled out with the guitar, it seemed to not back the guitar but in fact, drew more attention to itself and Brit’s playing due to the contrast in tone and octaves. The bass roared, and due to the slight distortion and delay, there was a fuzz to it. It backed the beat but has a mind of its own, split away and adding a depth to the songs.
Kieran’s drumming was hard and fast. Thrashing and crashing he got the crowd into it—high energy and booming, the snare became a prominent aspect of each song, later joined by the cold and vehement cymbals. Besides the bass, the drumming shook the core with its sheer power. It set the merciless tempo and conveys the emotions through each abrasive beat.
Sofia’s vocals not only get better with each performance, but manage to convey more emotion each time. The delivery is relentless and in your face, only mellowing out to be able to emphasize the growls that rip themselves from her throat. Sofia’s vigor is wild and the screams that she built up are warm yet venomous. They ranged from higher screams to ones drawn from deep within, the control behind each of them was unfathomable.
After Doxx, Asile took the stage. Ottawa locals took a twist on the night, spitting out lyrics in French instead of more commonly used English. Asile dominated and put forth a ferocious energy that encouraged some headbanging and fistpumping. It was pure hardcore punk that incorporates guitar solos and riffs that remain brief and punchy.
The vocals hardly needed to be strained, the screams were unified in nature and remind me of D. O. A, they drive the spirit of the songs forward. Even if incomprehensible to those who don’t speak French, the delivery was so raw and driven with passion that it still catches peoples attention and gets them riled up and ready to mosh. It’s not so much about the lyrics themselves, but rather the delivery.
The guitar was wildly overdriven and generated such strength in intensity that it became nearly impossible not to listen for all the little technicalities—at least for me. From the few pick scrapes, to tremolo picking, and of course the precise hammer-ons and pull-offs, the guitarist knew no bounds. The riffs in C’est Qu’on Nous Dis, in particular, stood out as cold and paint the warm backbeat blue. Like a magnet, the solo work pulls you in due to the contrast it sets to the pieces.
The bass is by far one of the most prominent features. It’s deep and literally shook the floor, rattling in your rib cage as a result. It held a steady flow of feedback while pounding into our ears. It’s the backbone, the steady support that bursts through obnoxiously. It’s the crackling fire—angry, warm, and comforting. It glowed and radiated a distinguished and eloquent fury.
The drumming was fervent and rolled in with such severity that it nearly blew our eardrums out the second it began. It was the cause of the overwhelming hot-cold thrashing beats. Mauling with a sheer force of power was a great contrast between the warm sound of the toms and the chaotic and frosty cymbals. Each beat came in quick succession of the previous one, they ended up rolling into one another. It radiated a sheer unstoppable force that is difficult to match. The drummer showed no mercy to the drum kit, seemingly releasing every emotion into it. With the cold that comes with the cymbals, there was the bit of harsh yellow that peaks through as the crashing resonates.
The headliner of the night was Ottawa’s very own The Fucking Machines. A decade-long wait for a new release has come to an end. With rumbling screams, heavy-handed power chords, and shallow but resonant drumming, they wrapped up the night. They brought forth the spirit of D. O. A. and Reagan Youth all at once. The quick pace and progressions really drew from old school punk from the 80’s and 90’s.
The vocals were unconventional and not quite what one would expect, but they complimented and created an opposition to the deeper and heavier guitar and bass playing. The mesh between the two vocalists added dimension to what was being screamed and accentuated the lyrics for a more forceful delivery. While the screaming wasn’t the deep and booming screams you associate with hardcore of today, it added a refreshing flavour to the mix, holding more traditional and spoken screams as opposed to ones linked melodically.
The guitar was ferocious and incorporated the rushed progressions that resemble ones of punk bands from the 80’s. It was played with heart and passion, no holding back. The pick slides are essential to this band and they add to the songs and performance so that it doesn’t remain as constant. The guitar wailed and groaned, overdriven and furious.
The bass rumbled below the guitar and became increasingly prominent underneath solo work. It held a fat sound that was distorted by the rest of the soundscape, however, it still pushed through boldly. Muddy but tight, it supported the guitars and burst through the sheer strength and volume the drums hold. Be mindful—it’s heavy and absolutely booming, and may be concealed, but could burst your eardrums over all else.
The drums had a washy and full feeling to them. They were booming and warm, enveloping each song in the beat. The fills came in spurts, incorporated without using the typical structure, they added emphasis before screams or before the guitar flows back into it’s odd. The drumming sounded shallow, but the booms of the drumstick hitting the drum itself was so forceful that it resonates through House of TARG.
All in all, the bands are ones to look out for. Their delivery is immovable and so forceful that you feel the emotions conveyed from them to you. With new releases from them, and comebacks, it would be a shame to not keep your eye out for their shows. I guarantee that whether you’re sober or had one too many drinks, you’ll enjoy them if hardcore punk is up your alley.
I love showing up to the Algonquin Commons Theatre just before doors open. The lines of people eagerly awaiting the show make it clear just how full the theatre will be. Wednesday night was no different, as crowds of people lined up for the highly anticipated Lights show. Recent attention has only increased the artists already large following as she was showcased heavily during last month’s Juno Awards in Vancouver, as her album Skin and Earth won Pop Music Album of the Year.
Opening the night, from Toronto, DCF brought his hip hop sound and beats, along with a colorful wardrobe. The crowd ate up his energetic set as he played to them reaching out across the photo pit.
Recently interviewed by Ottawa Showbox, Dear Rouge was up next. Let me just say. JACKET ENVY. Unreal fashion choice in the form of a metallic gold crop bomber jacket added extra funk to an already crazy set. Grabbing the mic stand and leaning into the crowd, jumping, hair flips, the whole shebang. The crowd loved this set, and it really warmed them up for the headliner. If you get the chance to see Dear Rouge yourself, I highly recommend it.
Lights closed out the night with extreme energy. The crowd was on fire (like her hair) and added stage elements like a giant light board behind her added extra theatrics to the set. Choosing her lights thoughtfully for everyone in the room we were assured that the set, though occasionally hard to shoot, looked great for those in the audience. Her songs are catchy, and fun and her stage presence reflects that. Her overall artistic abilities shone through from start to finish, with passes adorn with her featured graphics (Did you know Lights is a graphic novel artist?!).
Overall this show was on fire from start to finish. Awesome openers made way for a wicked set by Lights. The crowd was feeling it the whole way through, which just increased the energy of the room.
It is not every day that you get to see Blink 182, Green Day, and Everclear all in one show, let alone in a small intimate basement venue setting. This past Saturday that is exactly what happened for the lucky ones who filled House of Targ to the brim Saturday night… well not exactly.
This was the 10th installment of 90’s Punk Rock Cover Night, a night which features members of local bands covering songs from their favourite punk groups of the 90’s for a good cause. Nights 9 and 10 were back to back and raised $2540 for Evelyn Horne Women’s Shelter (offering young women aged 12 to 20 immediate access to safe housing) and For Pivots Sake (a non-profit organization founded by Antique Skate Shop to engage and mentor youth in the Ottawa community). This is an awesome initiative by one of the hardest working people in the music scene in Ottawa—Ska Jeff—hosted at one of the coolest venues in Ottawa—House of Targ. Now to get to the music.
Quinnzelle covering Blink 182 at House of Targ.
Playing this night was Quinnzelle doing Blink 182 songs, Radiodazed covering Green Day and members of The Suffering Booth playing Everclear. Most of the bands focused on playing their favourite songs as opposed to just playing the typical radio hits from the bands. People will surely have mixed opinions about that approach, but I thought it was a fun way to do it, and the non-stop mosh pits for Blink and Green Day corroborate that. That being said every band did sneak in a couple of hits for the fans. Quinnzelle played a couple of my favourites like “Carousel” and “Aliens Exist,” while also giving the crowd what they wanted with “All the Small Things” and “What’s My Age Again?”
Radiodazed covering Green Day and looking the part at House of Targ.
Radiodazed took to the stage to the intro of the video for “Nice Guys Finish Last” wearing Green Day masks to look the part, which was quite a nice touch. The band focused mostly on the early catalogue staying in the 90s playing songs off of Kerplunk,Dookie, Nimrod and more. They did something pretty cool for everyone’s favourite song “Basketcase” by inviting someone on stage from the crowd to play on a fake guitar and sing. The fan, Matt, killed it and was rewarded by being granted the right to trash the guitar on stage. What really blew me away was the fact that this band is the same band that played my University of Ottawa communications frosh week 13 years ago when we all get dressed up fancy thinking we were going to the nicest club in Gatineau after the casino but instead were taken to a dirty dive bar to see a punk band play. I distinctly remember the immense joy I felt when I saw the drummer’s huge red mohawk.
Getting things started were 3 members of The Suffering Booth covering one of my all time favourite bands—Everclear (thanks dad!). They also avoided playing the big hits like “Santa Monica” and “Father of Mine” which left more room for great tracks like “Heartspark Dollarsign,” “Amphetamine,” and “So Much for the Afterglow.” It was a lot of fun to go back to these songs which meant a lot to me growing up.
Ev has synesthesia, and they incorporate their sensory experiences into music reviews. Synesthesia is a condition in which the brain links a person’s senses together in a rare manner, prompting unusual sensory responses to stimuli. People with synesthesia, for example, might see a certain color in response to a certain letter of the alphabet. Those who experience synesthesia “hear colors, feel sounds, and taste shapes” in a remarkably consistent fashion.
The night kicked off with Future States, a Montreal/Ottawa-based band who took the stage and ripped out some melodic tunes. The band classifies themselves as art-pop, however they held a certain aspect of rock-soul to them. With resonant synths and dissonant and eerie harmonics, their sound was light and mystic, filled with air.
The drumming was cold and curt, not particularly resonant but it set the atmosphere to the songs. Presented in a carefree and free-spirited way, the beat was exact. The punctuality of each beat, each abrupt stop and sudden start adding a charming character to the tunes. Relying on cymbals to create that cool tone the drummer painting the background an icy blue.
The vocal ranges were a calming and warm monotone that entranced you once paired with the synths. If you were to close your eyes, they could paint the world a warm sunny yellow, swirls of gold. The voices are almost haunting especially when paired with dissonant notes, leaving you with chills but in the most memorable and pleasant way. The soft vocals take you away into a dreamland, creating a new false reality with each song—the next always better than the last.
The synths add diversity to each song, overlayed and creating odd loops and feedback. High pitched and hollow, the synths add contrast to the otherwise full sound the band holds. With little sounds that can only be described as onomatopoeias to fill and tie together, the band wouldn’t sound so complete without it.
The guitars are soothing and dissonant. They almost don’t belong and sound abrasive against the rest of the progressions. Taking control and tying the pieces together, Future States take control of the dissonance and use it to their advantage. Short little bursts or fully-fledged chords, snippets of them all whisk the listener away with their lightness. Playing with tonal range, somber at times, they create a contrast to the pieces while bringing a unity unique to each respective track. The bass playing, while not all that prominent, is a required backbone to the bands sound. It deepens the beats played and rumbles in the background. It’s a sound you feel but you don’t hear it unless you carefully listen for it. It fills the void while layering its power into the songs with eloquent subtlety.
The headliner of the night was a post-punk band from New York called Pill. They bring a warmth to punk with rhythmic hollow sounding drumming and with the eccentric use of the saxophone. There is only one other punk band I know of that has incorporated the sax into their songs.
Soft and soothing, known to hold a rough edge, the vocals came flying at you without mercy. Melding together with the guitar and bass well, and when sung over the sax, the lyrics hold a strange and eerie power.Afraid of the Mirror is a song that you can clearly hear this within. Delivered rhythmically and with power, a hidden melancholy finds itself behind the voice. The lyrics are emotionally driven and politically oriented. High to low notes belted out with a breathy air, it adds a sensuality and emphasis to certain lines.
The drumming is warm and hollow, it keeps a steady and almost jazz-like beat while incorporating elements of punk fills fueled with aggression. Splashes of yellow incorporated in by the ride and crash cymbals drive forth the glow and vibrancy of the songs. Simultaneously, the drumming picks up leads to a more frantic beat that by consequence delivers a more frantic and anxious performance.
The incorporated saxophone adds a brazen edge to each song—wild and skillful, layered haphazardly. Despite sounding wild, carefree, and disorderly at times, the sax adds a completely new layer to post-punk that is often overlooked. Deep and rumbling, high pitched and cathartic, the incorporation of the saxophone gives a unique twist to the band’s dynamic. It paints new colours onto the vivid palette their music creates and breaks the so-called norm of post-punk.
Guitar reverberating, the sound seemingly delayed but played with grace or played wildly – dropping the guitar onto the ground to add effect, unconventional methods used to create the unclear gritty sound. The guitar playing becomes frantic at times, others it slows to small riffs that build up to a powerful chord progression. Fun thrown into playing with heart, the guitarist interacts with the other band members – and photographers, getting in their space instead of vice versa.
Sure to get heads bobbing and feet moving was the deep and incredibly prominent bassline. It rattles in your rib cage and shakes the floor with its power. Legato or staccato, the bass is the one element besides the sax that sticks out like a sore thumb. The absolute simplicity creates a statement of its own, making it easily enjoyable. Progressions one can’t ignore, steady swirls of deep wine reds blend into the rest of the soundscape. At times, when combined with the sax and guitar, it creates an absolutely frantic and unimaginable chaos. It’s distinguishable and catches your ear the second the notes belt out.
The two bands contrast and oppose each other in sound and pairing the two together creates an interesting and ear-catching dynamic that should be seen. Both captivating in their own ways and senses, art-pop and post-punk, they’re bands that know how to entertain and include. If they drop by to play a show near you, don’t miss out. They’re sure to put on a dreamy yet electrifying show guaranteed to get you on your feet and moving.
The Bronson Centre was packed Wednesday night as fans eagerly awaited the headliner, Dashboard Confessional, to hit the stage. Arriving early to get a good spot, a crowd was treated to not one, but two awesome openers for the night. Gabrielle Shonk was first on the bill. The Quebec City native provided a chill start to the evening, and will be playing her hometown tomorrow as the tour makes it’s way east.
The Elwins brought with them their usual high energy set as they played fan favourites. A fun personal connection to the Elwins that always brings a smile to my face is that they were the first show I ever photographed, and it took place at House of TARG. Their high energy set got the crowd prepped and ready for the highly anticipated Dashboard Confessional.
When Dashboard Confessional took the stage, they kicked things off with a slower song turned sing-a-long. It was clear by the crowds energy that the whole night would be filled with sing-a-longs even as the songs picked up the pace. The high energy, audience participation and taking requests all made the night more special as the band played through crowd favourites.
When asked, the crowd was made up of a pretty even mix of those seeing the band for the first time and those who are veterans to DBC shows. This mix had no effect on how loudly they were able to sing, each time putting a smile on the band’s faces. Originally from Florida, the band spiked in popularity in the early 2000’s as they released their indie/emo albums including full albums and EPs. In February of this year, the band released a new album Crooked Shadows with Dine Alone Records.
The idea is excellent. Who wouldn’t want to go to a punk show in a decommissioned Cold War bunker? The Diefenbunker is a place that captures the imagination, and it has a certain amount of mystique. The night of punk rock, zines, and crafts at this historic site had been building anticipation for a few months.
Granted, it’s not easy to get there. The museum knows this, and provided a free shuttle to and from downtown Ottawa. No excuses!
Here’s how the night went down:
Back of the bus
30 minutes is a reasonable distance. I’ve travelled longer for a concert.
It’s a similar distance to the Blacksheep Inn in Wakefield, though the countryside offers different things. Outside the window was a rural-industrial landscape—I was particularly taken with the sign advertising “culverts.” It may not be a covered bridge, but it’s arguably more important to be exposed to the outlying areas of a city, especially if you like tap water and well-maintained infrastructure. (I do.)
There was slight miscommunication with the transportation company, which led to the shuttle attendees waiting an extra half hour for the buses to arrive. Still, everyone was very patient. I am not a punctual person myself, which means I’m not allowed to be annoyed when I have to wait.
Finally, a blue wayfinding sign indicated the Diefenbunker was near. The anticipation builds.
It could be the most unique entrance to a venue in this town.
Strolling down the blast tunnel into nuclear safety, I couldn’t help asking the delighted visitor next to me — “Have you been here before?” It was curiosity, not a pick-up line, and she she was literally bouncing.
“This is my favourite place in the world!” she said, “I’ve been here almost ten times.” Her friends confirmed that she does, in fact, talk about the Diefenbunker frequently.
After turning a sharp corner and greeting the staff, we descended 70 feet underground.
The Blast Tunnel. Photo by Shawn Katuwapitiya.
The cafeteria is the largest room in the Bunker, and the linoleum tiles provide a historic ‘50s feel. The hall is quaint and well-maintained.
That evening, visitors could make their own pins, enjoy beverages and $1 pizza, and contribute to a zine being prepared by Possible Worlds, which is a gallery and workshop space in Chinatown. Someone at my table was gluing a picture of a sea mammal to a page. “I came for the zines,” she said to me. “I’ve been reading them for a while but I’ve never made my own.” I later heard from a musician recovering from a knee injury, who also appreciated the alternate activities, because it meant that he didn’t feel any pressure to stand for the entire evening.
I spent some time flipping through the zine library on display, but I admit – I was there for the music.
The Mess Hall. Photo by Shawn Katuwapitiya.
Built to protect the Bank of Canada’s gold reserves in case of emergency, the vault is a safe pretending to be a room. There is a sense of danger and protection while inside. It is metal and concrete, with nothing to absorb sound. The sound technician was uneasy and explained that minimizing the reverb would be a challenge.
For each performance, the atmosphere was unique and exciting. The setting enabled us to suspend our disbelief, and I was pleasantly surprised that each band had representation by grrl rockers. Turns out, punk pairs surprisingly well with both feminism and nuclear destruction.
Bonnie Doon made quite an entrance in hazmat suits, engaging the audience with tight riffs and tales of the outside world. They are fixtures on the Ottawa music scene, but I’d never seen the group before. Their stage presence and accessible melodies will capture the casual listener, and they invited audience members to spray paint them after the show. Would recommend.
They were followed by DOXX, who were more hardcore and also louder. I could feel the sound tech starting to sweat, but luckily I had earplugs. I’m a person who is often drawn in by lyrics, and while I couldn’t identify many words during this set, I still enjoyed it. Punk has a certain rawness that is especially evident during a live show.
Nightshades were up next, and I enjoyed the first song. However, the idea of making my own crafts was at that point more appealing to me than listening to music, and I stepped out of the vault and sought out the button-making station. It was creative magic.
Nightshades make some noise in The Vault. Photo by Shawn Katuwapitiya.
What is it about the intrigue of the Cold War era that feels like a good fit for the Diefenbunker?
I spoke to a self-identified ‘retired punk rocker’, who provided his opinion on the location. “It’s an iconic and triumphant moment for punk rock. We’ve taken over a government sanctuary.”
I further inquired about the philosophy behind the punk movement. According to him, punk is about “not letting anything you are born into – be it race, wealth, gender, not letting that define you. It’s about finding individualism in a world that is trying to tell you who you are.”
Ottawa’s very own Aviv took the stage Thursday night at House of TARG. They brought a mellow and funky energy with them and spun intricately coloured patterns with their sound. The riffs they played took the form of laid-back jazzy licks with a rock kick to them. The sound soothed and threw you into a whirl of serenity all while it whisked you into its own world.
Guitar, in combination with they keyboard, accentuated the warmth in the songs while the rest of the instruments cooled it down. The two instruments would intertwine and paint the atmosphere deep orange and reds, the high notes accentuating yellows. The band played rhythmically and each beat fell into step with another. They created a dreamy soundscape through melodic keyboard playing backed with soft drumming.
The vocals were smooth as honey and held a certain lightness to them that’s hard to replicate. Backed by bandmates’ deeper and more ragged sounding voices, it expanded the atmosphere and opened up House of TARG to more than just the basement it was. Captivating, entrancing, and moving, the vocals set the mood and made it hard to turn away.
The drumming came in warm or cool, giving an R&B soul to the alternative rock sound held through the set. Even the crashing of the cymbals came in pools, and the muted snare and toms really added an atmospheric and summery feeling to the soundscape and threw you into a hot summer day to relished in.
The bass was muddled together with the melody and added some stability to the pieces. It thrummed in the background and added stability along with weightedness. Due to its smooth incorporation into each song, you might not have heard the bass but you felt it in your heart and chest
O Neptune started their set next and blew the crowd out of the water. The incredible vocal range paired with the sombre minor scales and careful progressions really set the tone for their set. Soft vocals, ranging from alto to soprano in smooth transitions proved warm in sharp contrast to each piece. They’re the first thing to draw you in, and they do so by the collar of your shirt.
The guitar playing started out soft but transitioned into something more intense, drawing clear blues influence the deeper into the songs it went. Rough and distorted, it called to the soul and splashed a deep green through the blues. You can see and hear this in the song “Take Me Away”. In the beginning, it was shaped into a more mellow R&B chord progression but took the form of something more intense, mellowing out only when it neared the end.
The drums followed along with the intensity, seemingly setting it and not only building it. They provided the backbeat but were not a discarded element or component despite not being in your face overpowering. Each beat tied together created a consistency to the pieces that would have been lacking had the drums not added their own fills. The drumming added a punctuality to the otherwise forlorn and dissonant sound.
The bass melted into each song, slow and progressive. It opened their sound wider open and created a deeper and multidimensional feeling to their music. This effect was achieved especially due to the disparity between the basslines and the powerful soprano vocals. Subtle and harder to hear, it still makes all the difference. Omitting the bassline would have taken away the magnitude the songs held.
Sparse keyboard playing added air and lightness to each piece. It complimented the vocal range throughout despite keeping a seemingly monotonous feeling to it. It was a key factor in the ensemble and tied everything together through its grace and humbleness. Not a single note made a big deal of itself however, it was prominent and hit hard.
No Hits at House of Targ
No Hits, Ottawa locals, are that summer indie band that brings warmth to even the coldest months. Through the banter, inclusiveness, and their intricate sound, they manage to make taking the stage seem like something they’ve done many times. The five performers display their evident friendship through minor interactions that only solidify their performance.
Though mostly having played covers, the originals they peddled out were captivating and got the crowd singing along. The guitars paired with the airy drumming played on the idea of aimlessly driving as the summer breeze whips your hair around your face. It meddled with greens, blues, and the warmth of dandelion yellows crackling through it all. The noted played were higher and the licks were ones that filled your heart to the brim.
The gentle notes struck on the keyboard backed the idea that it was lighthearted and they lifted the songs off the ground, giving an extra dimension to the songs. It was light and carefree, but conveyed and carried out the message of the wistful lyrics wordlessly despite not syncing up with the lyrics.
The bass accentuated the high notes struck on the guitars and pulled the soundscape together in an orange glow. Though faintly heard, it protruded as soon as the pace slowed, allowing it to have its own moment. Rather than drowning it out completely, the take on it feels like that of “Not My Girl” by Tokyo Police Club—present, essential, glowing—but you need to listen for it. When the sound broke, the bass line served to pull it back together.
The vocals captured the essence of the band in all the right ways. Passionate, sorrowful, and emotive, they moved the crowd, they moved me. The lyrics sung are a contrast to the instrumental and prove to be much more melancholy than the band sounds. Christiana and Keean both alternate between who takes the lead but both voices are unique and fit the respective individual perfectly. The emotions poured from each in their own way and painted the room with deep purples. Their voices were light and easy to listen to, smooth with a bit of a monotonous edge. It encased the sorrowful meaning behind the lyrics well.
When it comes down to it, these bands are ones that you don’t want to miss. Whether you need to laugh or cry, they cover the entire range of emotions you could experience. They’re bands you listen to at one in the morning and weep, or you listen to them and dance around your house. If that’s not your thing either, maybe you tap your toes to the beat. Either way, these individuals are a talent you wouldn’t want to miss seeing live. And if you so happen to have synesthesia, enjoy the colourful experience—it’s an unbelievable one.
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.