Lynval Golding of The Specials performing at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Monday, July 8th, 2013 ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO/Mark Horton
I finally saw The Specials! No offence to Iconoclast, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, and Mother Mother, who did a great job…but I FINALLY SAW THE SPECIALS.
When The Specials were added to the line-up I lost my mind. They are a British two-tone ska revival band formed in the late 70’s and were the first ska band I ever listened to. On many nights my dreams have taken me to their show, but never did I think it would actually happen…well it did. From the moment they opened with “Do the Dog” to closing with “Too Much Too Young,” I was skanking non-stop like no one was watching (here is video to help you learn how to skank). They played a bunch of tracks of their self-title album, including “Concrete Jungle,” which felt very appropriate given with all the development going on at Lebreton Flats now. The band commended us on being “the land of no litter.” The crowd went insane upon the first note of “Doesn’t Make it Alright” and “A Message to You, Rudy.”
Now for the bad part. The whole band looked like it was having a riot on stage except for the lead singer. Several times there was trouble with his mic. When it died out at one point he threw it to the ground and grabbed another. Later on he kicked his water bottle and the stage side sound man. And when they played their final track “Too Much Too Young,” you could not hear him at all. Fed up he sang from the back of the stage and finished by dropping the mic and walking away. The rest of the band stuck around to salute us and thank us. But not even that could ruin this moment for me. The Specials are the highlight of my festival so far and will be very hard to overthrow.
How about the rest of the day, which was chalked full with some great tunes. Ottawa’s high octane rockers Iconoclast kicked off the day at the River stage. There loyal fans, and some new ones, came to see them instead of camping out for Rush. This was a great decision. They played a couple of really rocking new songs, “Another Reason” and “Nothing Owed,” that they hope will find themselves on the next album which is set to be recorded in the fall. They were shooting a video during the set, so who knows maybe yours truly will be making his music video debut. The boys look like they are having a lot of fun on stage, leaning on each other, bumping into each other and sporting smiles the entire set. They closed with the title track from their last album “Are We Dying.” Good show gents.
As soon as Iconoclast finished I rushed to the Claridge Homes Stage for a glimpse of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Thanks in large part to a scheduling change I was able to catch about five songs. Decked out in a flowing white gown, Grace Potter was looking gorgeous, and sounding even better. They did a great cover of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl.” Afterwards she said “We love you Canada, thank you for giving us so many amazing musicians.” No problem Grace, it is our pleasure. I really like the song “The Lion The Heat The Beat,” and it was very cool to see the whole band on drums for the finale.
I could talk more about The Specials here, ok I will. Another highlight from their set was watching all the different ages groups dancing together. There were young teens skanking it up beside people with a full head of grey, it was a lovely sight. Also awesome, was watching the bouncers signing along, especially to “Monkey Man,” a song about them.
Ok, ok, ok, you get it. Closing out the evening was British Columbia’s Mother Mother. Readers of the blog know I’m a sucker for female vocals, and Mother Mother has two female back up vocals, who both also play keys. Their voices are very complementary to one another, and mix very well with the lead singer’s. About three songs in, out of nowhere I hear the very familiar guitar of the Pixies’ song “Cactus,” of which they played half and then flowed perfectly into another Pixies’ song, “Gauge Away.” This blew me away, not sure how many other people recognized it, but at least a few people beside me did. Later on they dedicated their song “Simply Simple” to Rush, who “are way too complex, but we love them anyway.” This captures how I feel perfectly about the rock legend. Just when I thought they were sticking it to solo heavy classic rock, the lead singer/guitarist did a solo.
They later pulled out an electric banjo and played the excellent “Wrecking Ball.” Regaining his guitar they launched into another cover, why not right? The crowd lost it to “In Bloom,” by Nirvana. Mother Mother delivered a great set overall, but it felt like they ran out of gas near the end, as they finished with three slow anticlimactic songs.
Monday marked the half way point of Bluesfest, being a glass half full guy, that means there is still 5 great days of music left! Tuesday is a day off, but we are back in full swing on Wednesday.
Nate Ruess of fun. performing at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Sunday, July 7th, 2013 ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO/Marc DeRosier
Mother Nature gave us one day off Saturday, but on Sunday the rain returned with a vengeance at Bluesfest. No matter–fun., Tegan and Sara, Wu-Tang Clan, Her Harbour and Everlast made it all worth while for me.
I got my day started by dancing around to Ottawa’s own and very awesome FEVERS. Check these guys out now before they explode and leave you behind. Check out Matias’s review of them later on on the blog.
It was time to get nostalgic and check out one of the OGs (Original Gangster) of rock, Everlast. The man has an awesome raspy rocking voice. Everlast is way more than just the two or three songs (“Ends,” “What it’s Like” and “Put Your Lights On”) most of the crowd knew. He played a new song, “I Get By,” which had amazing politically charged lyrics and threw in a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” To top it of his band can really play. Highlighting this is the one and only Philip “Fish” Fisher from the extremely influential band Fishbone.
Soaking wet from spending almost three hours in the rain I headed inside the Canadian War Museum to see Ottawa’s Her Harbour in the Barney Danson Theater. I am a big fan of this local gem, but this performance had a little extra for me. I had never seen Her Harbour as more than a duo, they were a five piece this time. The added depth was incredible, and there is no better sounding stage at Bluesfest, than Barney Danson. The band’s haunting sound was heard by a nearly packed house and they played my favourite song “Green Bellows.”
Enough was enough with all that rain! But nothing could stop me from finding my little brother Philip and sharing a beautiful sibling moment… experiencing Wu-Tang Clan together live. With hundreds of Ws in the air in excitement, you could cut the smoke–I mean anticipation–with a knife. Allah Mathematics, Wu’s official DJ gave us a Clan history lesson playing a bunch of old tracks, before calling out his brothers.
Members of Wu-Tang Clan performing at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Sunday, July 7th, 2013 ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO/Mark Horton
This moment was all about brothers. Spending this show alongside my little brother, who has had his whole life drastically changed over the past few months, having his sight stolen from him, was so special for me. Watching him sing every single word, having him lean into me so we could sing along together and the smile that never left his face… made me sometimes forget Wu-Tang were on stage ripping it up. Sharing live music with a loved one means the world to me, I love you Philip. Wu played a great mix of tracks, but we were blown away by them playing “C.R.E.A.M” as well as “Ice Cream” in the same set. And of course they played the crowd favourite, “Ain’t Nothing to Fuck Wit.”
After all that excitement I decided to take it down a notch and go check out Hannah Georgas for a bit and recharge. She has a darling voice and it was just what the doctor ordered at that point.
I then returned to the main stage area to find a friend and catch some Tegan and Sara followed by fun. to end the first weekend. I have never been a huge Tegan and Sara fan but have enjoyed some of their music. I can now say they are more my style live than on record. From the light show to their beautiful mix of voices, the girls put on a good show. They played some of the tracks I was most familiar with, such as “Back in Your Head,” so I got a chance to sing along. They were a little more rocking than expected.
It was now time to cap of the night with some fun. These gentlemen are entertainers. They put on an incredible show. From their seemingly limitless energy, the light show, the ever-changing video screen behind them, the lead singer’s gold microphone and their upbeat dancy music, they get you hooked. There were three or four girls behind me who could not help themselves but scream, “I love you!” after every single song. fun.’s music and energy is infectious. Nate Ruess, the lead singer, who kind of looked like a very sweaty Matt Damon, could totally feel the love.
“This might be the biggest show we have ever played. Bluesfest you fucking rule,” he said. Later on he added, while wiping tears from his eyes, “This is the coolest thing that happened this year,” after the crowd had cheered so loud and non-stop he could not even start to sing the next song.
I am pretty sure they played every song people wanted to here, including “Carry On” and “We Are Young,” and no one expected (at least I did not) “Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones. Eleven p.m. came and went and fun. were not done. They came back for an encore around quarter after and played the much anticipated “Some Nights,” to close out the night and say screw you Ottawa by-law.
The first weekend is done and the day I have been anticipating for over a decade has finally arrived. I will see the legendary ska band The Specials tonight!
Neko Case performing at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Saturday, July 6th, 2013 ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO/Mark Horton
With the rain nowhere in sight and the heat blaring, day three belonged to the ladies, well mostly. I was busy on Saturday, making it to nine different acts.
First up was Cold Specks. Opening with the whole band on stage, Al Spx sang the first song with not an instrument playing but her magical voice. Her booming voice was center stage of all songs, with all the instruments turned way down. I really liked the song “Blank Maps,” and a new song they played that she introduced as “this song is new, it doesn’t have a name yet. It is fucking loud.”
Off to the River Stage I went to catch up with Steve Earl’s son, Justin Towne Earl. He plays some sweet folky rock, perfect for fans of his father and Jason Collett. He made my day by covering The Replacement’s “Can’t Hardly Wait.” He also played some pretty nice originals like “Single Mother” and “Black Eyed Suzy.”
Needing to take a shade break, I sauntered over to the Black Sheep Stage for some jams by Adrian Lux. Not my favourite style of EDM, but it was good background sound for a little relax and a beer.
Re-energized and ready to go, it was time to see some blues. Yes, I saw blues two days in a row at Bluesfest, I am impressed. Nick Waterhouse, was delivering smooth blues rock with some beautiful backup singers. His grooving guitar playing on “You Been On My Mind,” made me glad I stopped by to check him out.
It was then time to completely change speeds and see the super dancy styling of Fitz and the Tantrums. They have some pretty sweet ska reggae undertones that force you to move around. And if somehow you could hold back, they covered “Sweet Dreams” which had every age group into it. Fun stuff but I had to leave before the end of the set to go get close for the one and only Neko Case.
She won my heart when I was younger thanks to The New Pornographers, and her voice still always made me melt. What could make seeing Neko Case any better? Having my old friend Amelia and new friend Elsie in front of me going nuts for every song. “I love this song!, “Oh my god no way!” could be heard as the first chord of every song was played. Neko is hilarious between songs and amazing during. She played a handful of good songs off the new album which is not released yet and several of my favourites, including “People Got A Lot of Nerve,” “I Wish I Was the Moon” and “Hold On.” The latter is when Amelia and Elsie really lost their minds.
Unfortunately the sound man had some trouble with the mic and laid some feedback on us every once in a while, and I was insulted by the amount of stubborn party poopers with their lawn chairs all set up. By the looks of it they were all camping out for Dixies Chicks over two hours in advance, and taking away space from the Neko fans. At least they got to hear some amazing music from Neko, but I am not sure they deserved it though.
Once again I desired a change of pace and headed back to the Black Sheep Stage for Toronto’s Dubstep, Drum and Base and all around awesome, Zed’s Dead. I don’t care how most feel about dubstep, don’t care if it can be predictable at times, for me it is punk rock techno. The crowd was in an absolute frenzy from start to finish. Hands in the air, dancing, crowd surfing and hollering, someone even threw some panties on stage. The duo sampled Prodigy’s “Breath,” Jay-Z’s “Dirt Off Your Shouder” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.” They have grown a lot since the days of seeing them at Babylon with 100 other people. In that time they have also evolved to not get corned into being just full of womp womp and drops. Their integration of old school reggae sounds and new dance creates a great atmosphere. They closed out with some of my favourites from their older stuff, playing their remix of Blue Fountain’s “Eyes on Fire” and then Massive Attack’s “Paradise Circus.” Zed’s Dead Baby!
On my way to Sharon Van Etten I decided to give the Dixie Chicks a chance for a few songs. I have to admit I don’t give them the credit they deserve as musicians. They have an excellent band with them, and the girls hold their own on their instruments. It’s just really not my thing.
So with that experiment done I could go catch the smooth soulful rock of Sharon Van Etten. The very cute and so overly thankful Sharon and her band played some wonderful tunes. Her song “Serpents” really caught my attention, lyrically and musically. Check it out. As they prepared to finish their set, she said “This is our last song,” which the crowd responded to with boos and unrest. “Let’s see what happens,” she responded with her cute little voice and a smile. They then launched into “I’m Wrong,” which was absolutely beautiful, especially with the bass player using a bow on his bass. They did return for an encore and that spelled the end of my evening.
Saturday was a lot of fun, and I can not wait for Sunday. Let the madness continue and the good times roll.
Dave King of the band Flogging Molly is seen here performing at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Friday, July 5th, 2013 ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO/Mark Horton
Two years ago my friends from Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Marianne and Russel, drove down for Bluesfest. That night we got poured on for Rise Against and then the Black Keys got rained out. Here we were two years later and as we made our way from the parking lot to the festival, it was raining sideways. Jinxed? Who knows, but the acts we saw certainly made it all worth while.
Frank Turner took the stage with his band the Sleeping Souls and quickly apologized for bringing British weather with them. I could care less about the rain as soon as he spoke the first word the opening song ”Four Simple Words.” Turner and his boys played a mostly high energy set, but did slow down to do an awesome cover. He explained that one of his favourite bands out there is Winnipeg’s The Weakerthans, and that ”if you don’t know them you should go buy everything they ever released.” He then played their song ”A Plea From a Cat Named Virtute,” I was impressed with how many people in the crowd knew the words sang along.
You cannot go to a Frank Turner show and not get caught up in all the crowd participation opportunities. From the clapping, to singing with him, to being back up vocals, to counting down songs, they are a band that refuse to let you sit around bored. They closed out with ”Photosynthesis” and ”Still Believe.” ”Photosynthesis” had the whole crowd singing a long to ”I won’t sit down, I won’t shut up and most of all I will not grow up!” Mr. Turner your rock n roll can save our soul!
With the rain finally slowing it was time for a shot of Ireland thanks to Flogging Molly. The Guinness never stopped flowing and the Celtic punk rockers delivered a great performance. This was probably one of the only chances for people to get rowdy and mosh, and close to a hundred people took full advantage. Lead singer, Dave King, asked at one point, ”I know this is Bluesfest, but you have no problem with some green right?” They dedicated their song ”Selfish,” to their ”ol’ pal Frank Turner,” and played a great mix of newer and older tracks. Digging deep to play the songs that brought me to love the band over 10 years ago, such as ”Drunken Lullabies” and ”Rebel of the Sacred Heart.” They even played one of my all time favourites, ”If I Ever Leave This World Alive.” You have to love a punk rock band that integrates banjo, accordion, violin and mandolin into their act. Flogging Molly never disappoint.
Now the rest of my night involved stage hopping as I was not attached to any of the headliners. I first made my way to the River Stage for She & Him. Not even the ultra cute Zooey Deschanel and the talented M. Ward could keep me there for more than a few songs. They aren’t bad, but after a high octane Flogging Molly set, the light indie sounds could not capture me. The go-go dancers/back up singers was a nice touch though.
Then off to the Black Sheep stage we went, to do something crazy. Yes that is right, we headed to see some actual blues at Bluesfest. Let that sink in for a second. Ok you still with me? Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters were playing there. As we crested the hill to look down upon the stage we arrived just in time for a sweet sax solo followed by Ronnie shredding on his guitar. We were grooving along and enjoying it, when all of a sudden we could hear Metallica from a far. This is when we decided it might be time to go check out Zac Brown Band, as they were covering “Enter Sandman.”
On our way there we stopped for a little beer refill, only to find Nathen Maxwell, the bass player for Flogging Molly trying to get himself a drinking bracelet. I was next in line when he finally convinced them that he was in the band and of age. I got a chance to talk with him for a bit and as I thanked him for the great set, he reached over and grabbed a bug off my sleeve. “What is this thing?” he said as he placed a thing that resembled a dragon-fly maggot on the table while it shook from side to side. He then poured some of his beer on it and said “If it is going to die, it might as well die drunk!” We all had a laugh, kind of dark though. And then continued on our way.
Zac Brown Band was exactly what I expected musically, country music about drinking and heartbreaks with a bunch of twang. But appearance wise, he looks more like he should be part of a metal band than a huge country star. The crowd was huge (country music sells, man) and singing every word. Just when I thought we would have a decent little end of the night with some fun country, even if it is not my bag, a fight broke out beside us. Yup, country music sometimes brings out the best in people. Stuck around for a couple more songs and then called it a night as we were soaked.
Day two in the books. What do you have waiting for me, day three?
It’s that exciting time of year when Bluesfest is upon us, promising two weeks of music-packed evenings, rain, suffocating humidity, and a whole bunch of sweaty people. The first day was no exception, as clouds tumbled in from afar and looked as if they were ready to offload some serious precipitation on us. Luckily, it was a near miss as the storm seemed to hover just north of LeBreton. The sun did eventually come out, saving us from yet another stormed-out Black Keys set.
One problem with music festivals is that timeslots clash. Jimmy Eat World and Bahamas were on at the same time, so Eric and I split up and went our own ways to cover our respective acts. I suppose you can’t be two places at once, but we got about as close to doing so as possible. As I sauntered over to the Bell Stage to catch Jimmy Eat World, the sun started to break through and that festival rush really hit me.
Jimmy is one of those bands that I don’t listen to much any more, but still hold close to my heart. Throughout my teens and just into my 20’s, Jimmy was that band that my adolescent self could relate with, fitting right in with the pop-punk heroes of that era. I nestled into a nice spot close up and got there right in time to hear “The World You Love”, which is an anthemic song about how everything as you know it changes as you get older (my interpretation, anyway). I was transported into my 19 year-old self at this point, at the cusp of adulthood and dealing with friends moving away and new responsibilities.
Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World at RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Thursday, July 4, 2013. RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO/Marc Desrosier
Their set continued with old and new. They played many songs like “Futures”, “Work”, and “Pain”, off Futures, which is my favourite album by them, and older ones such as “Sweetness”. I had seen a live DVD by them years ago and lead singer/guitarist Jim Adkins’ vocals were horrendous (perhaps poor audio quality). I think deep down I had assumed that any live performance would be the same outcome, but I was so relieved that the opposite was true. His vocals were spot on, and the band played like the seasoned veterans they are. They continued with new songs off their record, including “Damage” and “Appreciation”, which weren’t as epic as their older tunes but still well-written and catchy nonetheless. Perhaps not as relevant as they used to be, Jimmy Eat world still won over audience with their strong catalogue, ending their set with “The Middle” and getting the crowd to dance their hearts out.
Next on the bill for me was DVBBS (pr. “dubs”), a Toronto-Based electronic duo consisting of bros Alex and Chris Andre. This music isn’t really my thing, but I’m always down to check out different styles if it sounds good. Hearing about these dudes online, I found out that they’ve shared the stage with Tiesto, Steve Aoki, MSTRKRFT, LMFAO, and Calvin Harris. Their mixes were well done and I was impressed with their choice of samples, which included Florence and the Machine, Icona Pop, and a mix of genres including rock and reggae. Pretty much, it was party rock central, and I was one of the oldest guys there. You know, like the only guy at the party with a full beard. Despite my slight discomfort with this realization, the set was solid as people went nuts when the bass “dropped”.
I left DVBBS a little early to stake out a spot for The Black Keys at the Bell Stage. They eventually emerged and began their set with “Howlin’ For You” off Brothers. Right off the bat it was apparent that someone fucked up. Not the band though, the sound guys messed up lead singer Dan Auerbach’s vocals AND guitar. The problem persisted throughout the set, some songs were worse than others in this respect, but their performance was legendary nonetheless. I had seen The Black Keys at Lollapalooza 2007 before they made it big with Brothers, and coincidentally, the power went out during their set. Add on a massive thunderstorm at Bluesfest 2011 that almost forced them to cancel their performance, and I begin to think I’m a curse upon the band.
I don’t know what else to say other than that Black Keys are one of this generation’s defining bands, bringing real rock and roll, raw musicianship, and impassioned stage presence to the fold on a consistent basis. The spectacle was mesmerizing, as Patrick Carney slammed his drumset into oblivion and Dan Auerbach showed his true skills while masterfully dominating his guitar’s fretboard. The Keys played newer, more well-known material from Brothers and El Camino, such as “Next Girl”, “Tighten Up”, “She’s Long Gone”, “Gold on the Ceiling”, and “Little Black Submarines”. With each of these, the crowd played a back-up vocal role while reciting each lyric word for word. During the quiet acoustic verse of “Submarines”, Dan brought out a beautiful-sounding steel hollow-body acoustic guitar. Between verses, the lights went out, only to lighten up again with Dan equipped with his electric to finish off the song loudly and intensely. Songs like “She’s Long Gone” boasted perfectly over-driven guitar tones from Dan and thunderous percussion from Patrick, reminding me why this band has been a saviour of music in an age of prepackaged shitty rock bands.
Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys on Thursday, July 4, 2013. RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO/Marc Desrosier
The rest of the band left the stage mid-set so that Patrick and Dan could play some old school songs with just the two of them. Playing one of my favourite from their pre-Brothers era, “Your Touch”, the sound was so genuinely good that it was hard not to rock out a bit. People were crowd surfing and jumping all over. The band ended their set with “Lonely Boy”, and “She’s Long Gone” a great song off their album Attack and Release.
Other than the two people that passed out around me, and a near fight between two older women, the night was a really positive experience. Here’s to hoping the rest of the festival follows suit!
Alex Clare performing at 2013 Bluesfest on the River Stage. Photo credit to Marc DesRosiers
The capital’s most anticipated music festival of the year has finally arrived, Bluesfest 2013 is off and running.
Starting my festival experience this year was Barrie, Ontario’sBahamas. As I headed to Lebreton Flats the sky was full of dark clouds and a thunderstorm warnings looming. But Bahamas was too good for the sun to stay hidden and it finally rid us of the clouds and partied with us. Not only did Bahamas brighten our day, he had wonderful advice on how to survive the festival, ”Stay hydrated and drink light beer. Just kidding go really hard tonight and get your money’s worth.”
The only other time I saw Bahamas he was a solo act. This time around he had a full band and two amazing female back up vocalists which added so much depth. He played my favourite song, ”Hockey Teeth,” and then topped it off with a rocking cover of OutKast’s ”Hey Ya!”
I have always heard great things about The Cat Empire, but I had never seen them before. I decided not to miss it this time and am I ever happy I did. Their Latin gypsy styling with a dash of ska is pretty awesome, and even more so when you realize they are Aussies, not South American. Cat Empire had this one song that had absolutely everything. There was awesome brass, a bongo solo, a DJ scratching, two different vocals and a whole lot of dance. I like how almost every song became a jam session. A wonderful moment of the set was when they got polka circles going through out the crowd. Their new song, ”Still young,” had such an amazing super ska sound to it that now I really can not wait until The Specials.
With so many people flocking to headliners The Black Keys and Adventure Club, I made my way to Alex Clare for a combination of both, rock and some drum and bass.
The start of the set was the best ten minute delay ever, because I still got to hear three Black Keys songs while waiting. But once the Brit got going, it was easy to forget the Keys and be absorbed by the beauty. His incredible voice reminds me of Tracy Chapman during the ”Fast Cars” era. Complementing that voice was the excellent effects applied to the bass adding the DnB dynamics. I just wish it would have been louder. His originals were good, ”Caroline,” blew me away because I am such a sap. What really impressed me were his two covers, Etta James’ ”Damn Your Eyes,” and Lead Belly’s ”Irene (Goodnight Irene).”
Day one is in the books and it was a day of firsts. First time I saw Alex Clare, first time I saw Cat Empire, first time I saw Bahamas with a full band, first day of Bluesfest and first day of my vacation. Let’s go Bluesfest 2013, nine more days of music, sun and good times.
Saturday night I stepped into a world of tattoos, lingerie, bearded women, sword swallowing, glass crushing, stripteases, nose nailing, a bear trap, fire and lovely music.
A bearded lady, Ms BonBon Bombay took care of the introduction of the Blue Mushrooms Sirkus Psyshow, ”We are special… a slice of death, humor and a lot of love.” The stage was set and the insanity never stopped from there. From strongman The Mighty Leviticus bending a steel rod on his head and putting his hand in a bear trap and then playing tug-o-war with it, to the Mysterious Gitana Georgia dancing with flaming fans. There was something for every freak.
Stealing the show for me though was the sword swallowing feats of the Infamous Istvan Betyar. He swallowed a balloon sword which was very different. But the most outrageous part was when he swallowed a 24 inch long blade. To preface this Ms. Bombay informed us that the Guinness Book of Records removed sword swallowing from the book because two people died attempting to swallow 22 inch swords…this was 24. And to top it off, he had some lovely lady from the crowd remove it for him. That is a lot of trust vested in a stranger. And to all the skeptics, he stabbed the sword through the stage, it was legit.
The Blue Mushrooms Sirkus Psyshow is definitely a show worth seeing, but maybe not for the faint of heart.
Before the freak show there was the beautiful soft piano playing of Ottawa’s own Flying Hórses, accompanied on the violin by Karolyne LaFortune (also known as Kerosene Misfortune). Dressed in burlesque style outfits, they played a couple of instrumental pieces to set the mood. They both also opened the night with a few darling songs earlier on.
Bourbon & Spice Burlesque from Ottawa put on a tantalizing show. With a mix of signing from the gorgeous Ophelia Rogue, a dash of flamenco dancing by Kerosene Misfortune and the Baron, and a pinch of very cute choreography by La Belle de Provence Girls.
One lucky patron was having his 30th birthday. He was treated to what they called a ”Dirty thirty supreme fiesta,” or as I call it, a semi-blindfolded striptease. The striptease, by Kitty Kin-Evil was capped off with a cupcake with a lit candle on it resting on her back, which the patron blew out. She then smashed on her but and let him lick it off.
The world of burlesque and freak shows is not one I was very familiar with, but it is one hell of a show and there seems to be a pretty good amount of it going on in Ottawa.
The greatest music weekend in Ottawa, Ottawa Explosion, came to a close Sunday June 23 at Saw Gallery.
Beautiful weather returned, as yYesterday’s rain was long gone and replaced with the blazing hot sun.
Boyhood were added last minute to close out the fest but I had to run to Jazz Fest for David Byrne, so for me Roberta Bondar was the concluding act.
The Ottawa gloom rockers were and excellent finisher for a day that saw a ton of great bands once again. Roberta Bondar played an awesome set, with a fog machine complementing the ambiance perfectly. The set was not all darkness though as Emmanuel came around with cupcakes for everyone and Roberta Bondar lead singer ,Lidija Rozitis, kept inquiring if anyone had a pool for a pool party. Love the sound of the new track ”Salt” live and as always ”STD” is just so a wicked tune.
Setting the stage for Roberta Bondar was Mannequin. They played some spacey rock with a lot of echo on the vocals. I really liked their sweet instrumental jams, there is no lack of creativity with this trio from Ottawa/Montreal.
The big hair garage rockers from Victoria, BC, Babysitter took care of business. The guitarist had a freaking awesome looking see through guitar. Absolutely loved the songs ”Gotta be Me Gotta be Free” and ”Holiday.”
The oddest band of the day was The Pink Noise. The Montreal band comprised of keys, a guitar with a ton of pedals, drums and singer, do some odd music but it grew on me as the set went on. Their cover of the Ramones’ ”Outsider,” was pretty awesome. Their last song ”Nowadays,” had me completely won over.
From oddest to youngest, Grime Kings, were for sure the youngest band playing, as only one legal drinking age. The Belleville boys are way too good for such young lads, and they already have an album and an EP under their belt. I was really impressed with their set, even if their are the self-proclaimed ”worst tuning band on the planet.” The bass player can really lay down the riffs, which is a nice twist on most punk and garage bands. It was very cool of them to work in ”I Want You (She’s so Heavy),” by the Beatles into their noisy finale.
One of the coolest moments of the day belonged to Organ Eyes from Ottawa. For their last song they invited the drummer from Roberta Bondar, Tyler Goodman, to join them. He had a floor tom and just wailed on it, so much it was falling over so a crowd member held it for him. The fan then raised it in the air and Tyler kept banging (photo below). The rest of their set was quite fun as well, with some cool sound effects from the bass player’s pedals.
Ottawa’s Swollen Eyes opened with a steady dose of garage. Half way through their set the pizzas they ordered arrived. They put them down on the ground in front of them and told the crowd to eat up. When only one piece remained a friendly wrestling match broke out between two guy, which finished with one having the slice slapped on his face….delicious. I really like the band’s song ”Not the Same.”
Well that is it. My Ottawa Explosion experience has come to an end, but what a wicked whirlwind of a weekend. I plan on writing up a summary of my highlights sometime this week as well as a feature length article for Herd Magazine, so keep your eyes peeled for that. Ottawa my heart explodes!
With the rain pouring down it was a nice day for a white wedding with the New Swears!
Ottawa’s party boys all dressed in white garbage bags, started the show with Davey Quesnell (Pregnancy Scares/Steve Adamyk Band) dressed as a priest. He asked ”Audience will you take the New Swears as your band? News Swears will you take the audience as your fans? You may now kiss the band!”
Once the formalities were done it was time to get some beer, and they opened with ”See You in Hull,” which starts with ”didn’t make it to the beer store, so see you in Hull!” As they started rocking our faces off, inflatable animals and palm trees, confetti, silly string, rings, play money and more was launched into the crowd. Quite the spectacle!
The crowd was crowd surfing, moshing and all around rowdy the entire set. New Swears played with great energy and made a mess of everything. They separated the crowd for a wall of death, and then played the passive and slow jam ”Paradise.” They closed out the set with ”Rather be Dead” and then walked off away from the madness.
On day four I saw a lot of great acts at Saw Gallery. Teenanger from Toronto played before New Swears. Teenanger, have this sort of old school hardcore feel to them. The drummer was rocking a really nasty shiner on his right eye and the band played a great set. I really like the song ”Surveillance” and the anthemic ”Conflict of Interest.” The lead singer said ”it has been nice seeing so many friends at Explosion, it has been a Broverdose.” And I can’t not mention that they played ”Gnar” which is about amazonian psychedelic shrooms. They closed with the lead singer saying ”New swear up next, let’s get drunk!”
A band called Hollywood played in place of The Kidnappers from Hansburg, Germany. Hollywood was some great fun rock. The crowd loved the addition, as they were dancing and singing along. I really enjoyed the song ”Cold Ones.”
Sugar Stems, from Milwaukee, brought their very fun pop rock to Ottawa. Their light and upbeat music was a nice change of pace. I really liked the combination of voices, with female and male vocals who are very different from each other. I dug their new single ”Like I Do,” it is great and I recommend it.
I was lucky enough to see Chit Chat in at a private and intimate show at Vertigo Records the day before. They were excellent once again. The Ann Arbor rockers delivered a really rocking rendition of ”Will Never Know,” which is quickly becoming my favourite track of theirs along with ”Attitude.”
Ottawa’s very own Street Meat where not what I expected. Reading their name on the schedule I imagined a bunch of scruffy looking dudes, you know meat from the street. Instead it was two lovely ladies on vox, a drummer and an iPod. The whole set was dedicated the drummer’s daughter, who was front row and center and danced the the entire time. ”Sex Pose” and ”Lady Porn” did the trick for me. Check them out when they play around town, they are quite unique.
Thalidomy Kids, from Moncton, NB, capped off a three band run from New Brunswick. I truly enjoyed their opening song, ”Spirochaete.” Their dark punk sound was perfect for the gloomy rainy day we were having.
The psychedelic punk sounds of Astral Gunk shook up those who decided to come out early. The boys from Sackville, NB, were clad in Hawaiian shirts and shades. They played a great set that saw many instrument changes. The band just kept switching, bass player to guitar, guitarist to drummer, drummer to guitarist and vocals. Very cool and groovy band, I hope to see them play again.
Before Astral Gunk was Noise Hounds also from Sackville, as they are two of the members of Astral Gunk. This rocking duo of drums and guitar did a good job. They did not say much, but they did introduce their song ”Space Cadet” by saying ”This is our only song that matters, it is about falling in love with an alien.”
Ottawa’s one man punk explosion, ROBOTS!EVERYWHERE!, had the task of opening the day. Hung over like most of the crowd, Phil and his drum machine got the party started. He had a bunch of zombies, i mean fans, singing and dancing at 1 pm, no easy task. The sing-a-longs of ”I Miss my Best Friends” and ”Call Me Some, Looking for Some Time” were a lot of fun. He also changed the words in ”Taco Party” to ”Burrito Party” in honor of the delicious vegan goodies being sold at the back. The sweaty and always entertaining ROBOTS!EVERYWHERE! is worth checking out every chance you get Ottawa.
Something different about Saturday was that they had comedy between sets, hosted by local comedian Greg Houston. The comics tried hard but due to lack of crowd interest and sorry, but not being all that funny, where shown up by a first timer. Davey Quesnell (Pregnancy Scare/Steve Adamyk Band) mostly known for shredding on the guitar made his comedic debut. The funniest part was his excellent story about brother in law and Tim Commerford of Rage Against the Machine and now Black Sabbath. His brother’s nickname is Ozzie yet he had no idea who Black Sabbath was and simply drank beer and went golfing with Tim one time in the States. His brother still refers to the band as Black Tiger. Davey ended his stand up with some gospel for the crowd, ”The only scene that matters is the scene you are a part of.”