One of Ottawa’s finest exports, Souljazz tore it up with their triple saxophone onslaught. Their latin-afro-funkadelic-soul stylings never disappoint. A stellar set from start to finish with great songs off their latest album Solidarity and some older tunes for the “old school Babylon” faithful. My night was complete when they dropped “Freedom no go die,” my favourite track. They even found time to have Gary “Slim” Moore, from New York, join them on stage Kingpin.
As always Pierre Chrétien, keys, and Philippe Lafrenière, drums, kept the band on track never missing a beat. Marielle Rivard treated the Francophones in the room signing a beautiful French number. All in all, you should never miss a Souljazz Orchestra show, and I am sure the sellout crowd would agree with me.
I wished for everyone to be early, not only so they could get in, but to check out Ikebe Shakedown. One of the most refreshing opening acts that I have seen in a long time. If you don’t want to dance to their funky trombone driven tunes, your are not alive. This seven piece from Brooklyn is so electric and contagious, with members from Lee Fields’ and Charles Bradley’s touring bands. Nadav Nirenberg laid down some mind blowing solos on the trombone. The band offers tons of unexpected beauty, like a flute solo on one track. And not to be outdone the bongos and sax unloaded on us to wrap up their set.
As the festivities continue here in Toronto, the week seems to be going by pretty fast since there’s always something to do. The whole week started a bit rough, on Wednesday evening my train to Toronto from Ottawa was delayed a grand total of 4 hours because of a freight train derailment along the way. But Thursday proved to be much better, the Marriott Hotel at the Eaton Centre was bustling with bands, industry folk, and media all over the place. It was really exciting to be a part of that. That afternoon I met with PledgeMusic founder and CEO Benji Rogers to speak about the company’s Canadian launch this week at CMW. It was a pleasure to speak with him, as we exchanged our (opposing) views on our respective hockey allegiances and discussed many aspects of the Pledge Music platform. That interview will be posted in the next few days.
Later that eve, I decided to catch some of the Audio Blood showcase at Dakota Tavern. The first band was Cai.ro, a band I had seen recently and spoken with in Ottawa. Seeing and hearing them play to their home crowd was a really good experience, and the sound was (surprisingly) really good. The acclaim they’re getting for their work is well deserved; lead singer Nate Daniel’s vocals are powerful and enthralling, and the band’s backing harmonies and instrumentals are so well put together. Following that performance, I ended up at a small venue/cafe called May on Dundas St. West to check out my pals from Ottawa in Roberta Bondar. As always, their energy and stage presence made that place almost manic, as bassist Gary Franks told the crowd to draw in closer to the stage. Although the sound was not as clear as previous shows I’ve seen of theirs, it was exciting to see them play their Toronto album release to a small crowd of zealous fans wanting more. As the night was winding down, I headed back over to Dakota Tavern to see Ottawa’s indie favourites Amos the Transparent. I was a bit surprised at how many people stayed out, considering the next day was a work day. But, as always, Jonathan Chandler led the way in what was a strong set.
Friday I got the chance to explore some of Queen St. West and the venues around there. I began by heading over to Tequila Bookworm, a small but comfortable atmosphere for music. Pledgemusic was holding a coffeehouse that featured a few artists and delicious coffee. The charming space really set the tone for the afternoon, as a few of us dealt with the lack of seating by sitting our asses down on the floor. I caught the performances at the end of the afternoon, the first of which was Dominique Fricot. Accompanied by a violin and stand-up bass, his performance was very impressive. He included a few stories of his past, bands he was in, and how it all led him to be where he is now as a solo musician recording under his own name. His songs were very refined, and he has some serious skills on guitar. You can tell he’s a seasoned songwriter. The act that could possibly go down as my favourite all weekend was a NY-based group called Lucius. Fronted by two beautiful ladies with incredible vocal talent, the band’s performance actually induced emotional responses from the crowd. Yes, the girl beside me had a few tears. I was absolutely blown away, the band’s raw and animated performance in the cafe really captivated all of us. In particular, the song “Don’t Just Sit There” left us all speechless as the song builds. I recommend this band to all.
That night we headed to The Garrison for drinks and some ear damage from A Place to Bury Strangers. I had been meaning to listen to this band more, since I didn’t really grow up on them like a lot of their loyal fanbase has. I caught a good part of their set, and their instrumental tirades and on-stage madness. It was strangely refreshing to get to see a band with so much energy play the shit out of their instruments, destroy their strings, play with strobe lights (there should have been an epilepsy warning), and send us home with our eardrums bleeding.
Saturday was tons of fun too, starting with a loft party thrown by Audio Blood for Pledge Music. Lots of peeps were there, including Rollie Pemberton (Cadence Weapon), and others in the industry. I finally got to see Acres of Lions play an intimate, yet exciting set that got everyone at the event pretty pumped. After a few drinks, we headed to The Great Hall on Queen W. for Fucked Up’s Long Winter Series finale, a night that I’ll definitely remember. The Sadies were supposed to headline the bill Saturday night, but word on the street is that they ditched because they originally thought Fucked Up was playing. When they found out they weren’t, they dropped out. So it goes. The highlight of that night was Cold Specks playing a beautiful set in the side room of The Great Hall, where she played to a reasonably small group of us. Her voice drowned out everything around us, and proved to be one of the most powerful set of the week for me. The Besnard Lakes took forever to get on stage, and ended up playing a disappointing set. At that point we decided to head home and call it a week, but one can only imagine what the Long Winter night would have been like if Fucked Up had been there. All in all, terrific week!
Here are some photos, I hope no one is offended by how terrible the photography is.
Day 1 at the Marriott Hotel Eaton Centre
Cold Specks @ The Great Hall
Pledge Music Launch loft party presented by Audioblood
Dominique Fricot at the Pledge Music Coffeehouse @ Tequila Bookworm
A Place to Bury Strangers @ The Garrison
Roberta Bondar @ May
Fucked Up’s Long Winter Series finale at The Great Hall
Toronto’s Teenanger, sporting two members from Ottawa, brought their heavy bass driven snotty punk rock to a jam packed Mugshots. The crowd was loving it, with a non-stop moshpit, crowd-surfing and some singing along. Teenanger must have felt right at home. Lead singer, Chris Swimmings, spent a lot of the set in the crowd much to fans’ delight. If you missed them this time, you can look for Teenanger in Ottawa in June, playing the Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2013.
Home town favourites, The Yips, took to the stage before Teenanger for their tape release party (is this a new thing?). Opening with PGLM, off their new EP, the Yips play some sweet rock ‘n’ roll that you have move to. Singer, Kerri Carisse, has some hints Karen-O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in her great voice. The crowd was dancing from the very start and also got some crowd-surfing in. Check out their newest release, on Ottawa label Bruised Tongue, as you don’t want to be left behind on this one.
The old-school punk rock sounds of Average Times opened the night. Their high tempo makes you want to listen to them as you skateboard on a hot summer day. Both guitarists and the bass player all sing, which adds a lot of depth and variety to their sound. A very fun opening act.
This was the first time I went to Mugshots for a show and not just open-mic. The tunnel style layout paired with no riser, is not ideal for seeing a show, as most of the crowd cannot see the band. But the sounds is excellent and the ambiance lends itself perfectly for some grimy rock shows.
And not to forget, the show was a mini fundraiser, with some of proceeds going to support CHUO 89.1 FM.
Yes I said tape, as in cassette. If you have never seen Roberta Bondar, you are missing out on some of the best dark garage rock in town. Roberta Bondar, not to be confused with Canada’s first female astronaut, played powerful songs with flares of danceyness and pristine moments of organized chaos. Lidija Rozitis has an amazingly chilling voice that pairs so well with the sound the band pumps out. They blasted through a set full of great songs in front of a packed house, including one of my favourites, STD.
At the end of the set Lidija invited everyone to, “come party at the jail with The Yips, that is where we are going!”
Before Roberta Bondar, the crowd was treated to a no-holds-barred noisy rocking set by Hamilton’s WTCHS. Stopping only to take a sip of beer, this foursome let their music do the talking. Great rock and very tight transitions teamed up with eery backing vocals and driving drums make WTCHS a must see. Call me sexist or chauvinist if you must, but there is something about a female drummer that makes me weak in the knees, and she sure can whale. If you like non-stop no bs loud rock, check out this band.
Opening up the night was Couples, from Montreal. Their set started off with some slower tracks, but by their third song it was clear that they were only going to get better as they went on. As per the theme of the night, they played straight forward no filler garage rocking tunes. Lead singer, Adam Fiore, thanked the crowd for showing up for their early set. “If this was Montreal no one would be here, so thanks for coming out early.”
Café Alt has a great artsy feel to it with stained glass hanging in front of the overhead lighting and rocks with pieces of glass on them hanging from the ceiling deflecting light. They have a psychedelic colours and images playing on some projection screens and top it all off with $3.50 Kichesippi beers.
I just wanted to give a little shout out to whomever was playing the music between bands, great choices!
Friday night March 15, Babylon was host to one of the best dance parties of the year, thanks to Silkken Laumann and the Hilotrons.
Ottawa’s Silkken Laumann (not the rower) teleport you back to the eighties and the new wave explosion. Fog machine blarring, crazy lighting and psych-house jams. They are quickly becoming one of my new favourite Ottawa bands. The band is comprised of lead signer Rolf Klausener, Adam Saikaley and Pat Johnson, all of whom some may recognize as the folk band the Acorn. These are men of many talents. Such a fun act to see, do not miss the opportunity to break out your dancing shoes and be blown away by these guys.
Headlining was the Hilotrons front man Mike Dubue joined by Adam Saikaley. Following the great performance from Silkken Laumann could have been a daunting task for many bands, but not for this Ottawa duo. Opening with a bunch of awesome sounding mixes of tracks off the new Hilotrons record, they got the crowd right into it. They quickly filled the stage back up by inviting Rolf and Pat from Silkken, as well as Paul Hogan from the Hilotrons to join them. The show then became a crazy freestyle dancey jam session. Mike informed the crowd that they were about to improvise in E minor at 120 bpm. They were so tight you could barely tell they were improvising. Once finished with their 120 bpm session they reved it up for a 140 bpm jam. To finish up the set, the stage cleared out except for Mike, who concluded with a beautiful rendition of Runaway Heart.
Once the live music wrapped up, the Visions dance party was in full effect. The 5-headed DJ super team of I8A4RE, Matt Tamblyn, Gregular, Silkken Laumann’s Adam Saikaley & Pat Johnson, had non stop beats raining down the crowd. You could feel it in your shins.
To top it all off, the show was a fundraiser for Arboretum 2013. Arboretum is a is a boutique music, arts and food festival in Ottawa. This year the festival is scheduled for the weekend of August 16 and 17. Last year’s festival saw Andrew Vincent, Cadence Weapon, Catriona Sturton, Jokers of the Scene, Ohbijou and many more hit the stage.
John Carroll, one of Ottawa’s premier storytellers, wowed a jammed packed Pressed Cafe, Saturday March 9th.
The boisterous cafe grew eerily silent as soon as John struck his first chord. Opening with the title track from his new record, “Everyone smokes in hell,” he set the tone for a great night of blues and folk rock.
The night was not all about John Carroll though. Joining him on stage throughout his set was Catriona Sturton (renowned harmonica player) and Philippe Charbonneau (on bass).
Never one to be shy about rambling on between songs, John shared stories ranging from crossing the border through farmer’s fields to commenting on how you can’t be cool in Kemptville without owning a truck.
With a telephone patched in and duct taped to his mic stand he created a very cool effect on his voice for songs like “The Devil Comes Quick When You Call His Name” and “When the Robots Come”. “When the Robots Come,” was one of my favourite parts of the evening since Catriona interlaced playing the harmonica with slow-motion robot dance moves while attacking John.
After John’s set, Catriona took to the stage. The Ottawa multi-instrumentalist traded in her harmonica for an electric guitar and played original pieces, such as her song about her love for S & G Fries between Carling and Maitland. Catriona may very well be the cutest person in the entire music industry. With her soft voice, cute and funny rhyming lyrics, you can’t help but have a smile on your face during the entire set. My highlight of her set was a gorgeous piece where she looped several harmonica blasts (imagine Final Fantasy/Owen Pallett with a harmonica) while strumming along on her guitar. Catriona is a complete treat to see live as a solo artist and as a harmonica player adding great depth to someone else’s sound.
To conclude the evening John and Philippe returned on stage to play “I Put a Spell on You,” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, an instrumental jam and finished the night with a the blues classic “Baby, Please Don’t Go” by Big Joe Williams.
You can catch John Carrol every Wednesday night at The Lafayette for free, which will feel like stealing for any of you born before Napster.
One of the elements I hoped to add to the site was more coverage of punk, hardcore and metal in this town. So with my latest post, Ottawa Showbox is about to get loud!
The Back to the Sources tour rolled into to town Wednesday night and ripped it up at Club Saw. The headlining act, Beheading of a King‘s lead singer, Fred Beaulieu, is an excellent showman, constantly interacting with the crowd and looking so into his songs it hurts. The band played a very energetic set which was capped off by their newest single Handcrafted. The crowd went crazy for Beheading of a King several times throughout the set with the biggest pits of the night.
The highlight of the show for me was the third band, Take the Earth Beneath Us from Vancouver. They have everything I look for in a band; great energy, excellent stage presence and above all an amazing sound. You know what to expect from headlining acts such as Beheading, but this band blew me away. From the opening track “You’ve started a War” to the wall of death they set up, to getting people to start crowd surfing which lead to someone in a wheelchair floating above hands. To top it all off lead singer, Cody Muraro, walked around after their set handing out free download cards of their music. A total class act.
After Take the Earth, the stage was full with Afterimage. This six-piece from Barrie, Ontario is composed of 3 guitarist, a bass player, a drummer and a lead singer sporting a lion’s mane styled epic hairdo. Armed with great melodies and plenty of depth, thanks in large part to the three excellent axe men, Afterimage plowed through a rager of a set.
Opening up the night was a couple of Ottawa bands, Obyrne and All Fallen Angels. Obyrne did a great job for a band playing their first show ever. I am sure as they get more experience under their belt, the scene will hear more about them.The lead singer of All Fallen Angels brought a ton of energy to the stage, throwing down to his own tracks. He is quite the force on stage. Both acts played all original which is a good sign for the Ottawa metal scene.
To finish I must say that there is nothing more heart-warming at a metal show than to see middle-aged parents head bobbing along to their children’s songs. You have to love local metal shows!
Not knowing what to expect, I worked my way over to the Hintonburg Public House on this lazy Sunday to check out the Wellington End Music and Food Festival. My curiosity was rewarded as I was blown away by two beautiful singer-songwriters from Ottawa.
The Public House is such a cool little spot. It is very cozy and rustic with an all-wooden entrance and a matching bar where plenty of local craft beers flow from the taps.
First to grace the crowd on March 3rd, was Erin Saoirse Adair, of Three Little Birds’ fame. Accompanied by a guitarist, a drummer and a cello player, Erin started off her set with Ukulele in hand. The quartet played a pretty upbeat and happy set, just like the shinning smile that never seemed to leave Erin’s face. She and her band of merry men played a great show, covering quite a diverse group of themes from love songs about trees, to the weather in Ontario, to the story of her life titled Drunken Cliché. My favourite piece was, No Confusion, which is a beautiful song with a wonderful musical arrangement. This song really takes off when the cello kicks in.
Following Erin was Keturah Johnson who apologized for not having a band. I am sure this apology seemed silly the moment Keturah began to sing . I can’t remember ever hearing someone with such an incredible diversity of sound in their voice. At moments, it was a very powerful, booming and passionate voice that had you on a roller coaster ride of emotions with her. Other times, she was soft and peaceful; ready to sing you a lullaby. There is definitely an old-soul yearning to be heard within her. Keturah played several great original tunes as well as covers by Joni Mitchell, Townes Van Zandt and an amazingly moving rendition of Cary Anne Hearst’s Hells Bells, as the crowd demanded an encore. Make a point of seeing Keturah any chance you can. You will not be disappointed, I promise.
What an excellent way to spend a Sunday afternoon: great food, great drinks, great people and two wonderful musical discoveries. Well done Wellington End, I just hope that I can catch more of the festival next year.
After selling out three nights in a row in Halifax to start the tour, and playing some shows in Quebec, Ben Caplan rolled into Ottawa Sunday night, February 10 for a show at Mavericks.
“The driving was good, we seemed to arrive in every town just after the storm had hit,” said Caplan. “I brought a booklet of CDs full of old mixes I made in high school. So that helps for the drive also.”
With luck and nostalgia on his side, he took to the stage with a guitar, a piano and a Mason jar. He opened the show with Birds with Broken Wings. After this, there was never a moment where the crowd was not either singing along or laughing at Caplan’s banter between songs. If music does not work out for him, which I strongly doubt for someone nominated for two East Coast Music Awards and who is about to tour Australia and Europe, there will always be stand-up comedy.
Caplan soon revealed the mystery content of the Mason jar. He explained it was tea, Tabasco and whiskey to cure the strep throat that he caught the day before the tour began. “Tabasco is your friend.”
The Nova Scotia Music Awards Entertainer of the Year got the crowd involved early with his sing along “I Got Me a Woman.” As he tried to explain the sing along, the crowd sang right back on the first try and blew Caplan away. “YouTube is fucked. I haven’t put that song on an album and you guys know it — It’s the best.” The crowd was hooked.
It is hard to hear Ben Caplan’s voice and not draw connections with the iconic Tom Waits. Caplan made it even harder as he sat down at the piano and delivered a wonderful cover of Waits’ “You Can Never Hold Back Spring.” He then flowed into two new songs “Nights Like This” and “Belly of the World,” delivering on the promise he made me during a pre-show interview. In that same interview Caplan said that we should expect a new album this year.
The highlight of the night might have been when Caplan helped the crowd set themselves free with “Ben Caplan yoga”. “Living within the rules of society is a lot like winter; you gotta put on your parka before going out into public. What that means is you are all bundled up and sometimes you just want to go crazy… Walking around in society you can’t just scream out loud.” He then invited everyone to “unbutton the metaphorical parka and scream at the top of [their] lungs on the count of three… and remember don’t be shy, if we all scream together no one can hear you scream.” The crowd screamed and then joined in and repeated after Caplan’s “ra-dadada-dadadadada-dada” at the beginning of “Conduit.”
To close out the set Caplan played two fan favourites off his 2011 album in the time of the great remembering, “Down by the River” and “Stranger.” During the crashing end of “Stranger,” Caplan had his entire leg pressed on the keys as he threw himself off his bench to the floor.
After regaining his feet he said, “I’m going to kibosh the encore and play one more song.” He then summoned Taryn Kawaja, who had been his trusted merch girl for the evening. She joined him at the piano with a second mic to play a brand new song he wrote a week ago, the eerie “Under Control (far as anyone’s seen).”
Before Ben Caplan was Her Harbour, an Ottawa singer-songwriter you will surely be reading a lot about over the year. Gabrielle Giguere’s voice, which ranges from soft and sultry to harrowing with emotions from deep within, sang her poem-like lyrics that danced over the playing of her autoharp. Be on the lookout for her upcoming album, Winter’s Ghosts in a few months and don’t miss out on a chance to hear her live.
Opening the show was J.P. Hoe. He started his set off with a very catchy track that got the crowd swaying and paying attention from the get go. Throughout the set he interchanged between acoustic, electric and a ukulele. He sang songs about an uncle the family never talks about because he joined a cult and a song he wrote about the real back story of Ms. Claus. A very entertaining way to begin the evening.
Herd Mag is up to no good, starting to get involved in wicked events like this one. If it’s anything like the Issue 01 Launch Party at Fall Down, we’re in for quite a ride. The Acorn are back in action after a year or so off to work on some other ventures, and they’re bringing along Ottawa’s kick-ass noise rock quartet Roberta Bondar. And word on the street is they are both working on new material, which is super exciting (The Acorn’s new album well be titled Vieux Loup). And just to top things off there’s going to be a post show dance bash with KitchenPARTY… Cancel all events in your schedule, because this is going to be one hell of a night. Is anyone else as stoked as I am right now? Holy shit.
+ post-show dance party with KitchenPARTY
Friday January 25, 2013
Black Sheep Inn / Wakefield QC
tix: $10 adv. available at www.theblacksheepinn.com