It is almost impossible to listen to popular radio these days without hearing a song new or old by USS. They brought that same type of energy and then some to the show Monday night. While The Elwins and Shotty Horroh might not be as well known, they are certainly worth checking out after their great performances.
Our photographer Aidan Thatcher was there to capture all the action. Have a look to the gallery below.
What’s the best way to cure the Monday blues… well a rock show of course. Black Pistol Fireand Thunderpussy took over the Algonquin Commons Theatre a few weeks back with enough guitar and drums to shake the depths of Nepean to its core.
Touting their debut self-titled album, Thunderpussy—an all-female rock band from Seattle—started the night off with a sound that instantly demanded the crowd’s attention. Frontwoman Molly Sides, with her dynamic voice, belted out songs exuding power and pure rock n’ roll. All the while, she commanded the stage with moves that kept the audience glued to her every step, kick, and head bang. Lead guitarist, Whitney Petty, hit the stage decked out in metallic clothing, and played riff after riff, complemented perfectly by Leah Julius on bass, who took her place on the other side of the stage. The drums were no different. Ruby Dunphy, punished her drum kit, and kept the ground shaking as the rock quartet showed that their presence in Ottawa would not soon be forgotten. All in all, Thunderpussy slayed their set and had everyone in the crowd amped up and dreaming of hitting their level of rad.
Shortly after 9pm, Black Pistol Fire took the stage to an audience that was full of anticipation. The Canadian duo, originating from Toronto, are known for their unbelievable high-powered live performances. I knew they would be good, but hell, I didn’t know they would be mind-shattering. The pair, Kevin McKeown, guitar and lead vocals, and drummer Eric Owen, played harder, louder, and with more intensity than could ever be imagined from a two-piece rock band, on a Monday night. With influence from bands like the Black Keys and The White Strips, Black Pistol Fire has made their mark on rock n’ roll. Their hit song, Lost Cause, from their 2017 album called Deadbeat Graffiti dominated, having secured the number one spot on Billboard’s Canada Rock National Airplay for several weeks running.
That Monday night McKeown surpassed all the hype that surrounds his stage presence. He tore through guitar solos that had the crowd mesmerized and jumping along with him. His stomps of sheer energy bled off the stage as he climbed over the security gates and joined the crowd, never once missing a chord. Every solo brought more intensity and ignited roaring cheers.
Owens, who of course went shirtless, was no different. He pounded his drum kit and kept us focused on his larger than life beats. Playing off each other’s energy, Owens triumphantly led a full-blown attack throughout every song, leaving no survivors. Owens left it all on the stage and brought moments that will be impossible to forget, such as jamming out with a maraca in one hand, while still pounding his drum kit with the other, hitting every beat with impeccable precision.
Black Pistol Fire struck a perfect balance between blues, soul, and rock n’ roll, with songs like “Speak of the Devil,” that satisfied your craving for their unique sound, while dishing out flawless guitar riffs. Playing “Bully” as their pre-encore set, the duo victoriously tore through guitar solos paired with drum beats that reverberated through your spine. Owens tossed his drum stick to eager fans and exited, with McKeown by his side, only to be summoned back by a chant of “BPF.” As the guys played one last song, I could still feel the blood pulsing through my temples—looking around the room, I knew I wasn’t alone. Dazed and confused, in a moment of haze and amazement, my ears ringing and heart pumping, I could tell the crowd was awestruck. If you appreciate raw unearthed talent paired with an energy that will keep you on the edge, begging for one more song, BPF is the band for you.
Juno-award winning band Dear Rouge are in Ottawa supporting Lights tonight at Algonquin Commons Theatre, and it’s sure to be a fun weeknight on campus. The band released their second full-length album, Phases, last month, and are touring with Lights as a supporting act for a string of shows in 2018. After winning a Juno for breakthrough group of the year in 2016, Dear Rouge have their sights set high. I chatted with power couple Drew and Danielle McTaggart in advance of tonight’s show.
Tickets for tonight’s Ottawa show can be found here. Check out our rapid fire Q&A session below:
Rapid Fire with Dear Rouge
Q: If you had to choose any dream career outside of music, what would it be?
Drew: Vacation tester. I think my mom saw that on Oprah or something.
Danielle – Cirque de Soleil gymnast. One of the ones that does the scary tight rope.
Q: Favourite movie?
Danielle: Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
Drew: That’s three movies!
Matias: Technically, it’s kind of like one really long 11-hour long movie.
Danielle: Fine, I’ll say the Two Towers then!
Q: Any hobbies that most fans wouldn’t know about?
Drew: I like bridges. I don’t know how that’s a hobby, but I like them.
Danielle: Ok, I want to change my answer then. Bald eagles.
Q: Favourite pizza toppings?
Drew: Ok, wait, then if I had to just have one topping on a pizza then I’d say cheese over pepperoni.
Q: Star Wars or Star Trek?
Drew: Star Wars.
Danielle: Star Wars, as of late. But I grew up on Star Trek. It was really hard for me when it switched. It was kind of sad, so now I like Star Wars better.
Q: Best Halloween costume growing up?
Drew: Ohhhh! Robin Hood. Because in my quiver I would be able to put all my candy.
Matias: That’s really, really smart.
Danielle: I think I was a cheerleader a couple times. Made my own pom poms.
Q: Place that you want to visit most, but haven’t yet.
Drew: South America. I’ve been to every other continent except South America and I really want to go there.
Danielle: Um, yeah. I was going to say that. But I’ll say Scotland. That would be cool.
Arriving to line-ups that wrapped around the hallways outside of the Algonquin Commons Theatre was a sure sign that it was going to be a Friday fans would remember. The lobby was buzzing with the VIP ONE OK ROCK fans who had just had a meet and greet with the band, and the crowd ran through open doors to get the best standing room spots. The first band up was New Jersey-based band Palisades who brought high energy to keep the already buzzing crowd in high anticipation. Set It Off was the second band, showing the crowd exactly how they got their name through jumps and crowd interaction. They held their intensity throughout, continuing the build up for the eagerly awaited headliners.
When ONE OK ROCK hit the stage the energy peaked as the crowds sang along to their catchy songs. In Japan, these guys sell out massive venues, and their music videos get tens of millions of views on YouTube. The fervour of the crowd was met with passionate stage presence, including high jumps and hair flips from the band. Needless to say, they made a lasting impression on everyone in the room.
The Cat Empire formed in 1999 and have since been touring the world with their unique and eclectic scope of jazz-inspired pop/latin/funk/hip-hop fusion party music. The band released their 6th album Rising With The Sun in March of this year, on their own label, and they play in Ottawa on July 28th at the Algonquin Commons Theatre.
This interview is also being broadcast on CHUO 89.1FM Thursday July 28th at 2:00PM. It will be streamed live online here and archived here.
I spoke with Harry James Angus, lead trumpet player and vocalist in the group, and asked how they continue to be inspired and keep things fresh for themselves.
HJA: Over the years, what we’re trying to do has changed a little bit. Back in the day we were really interested in a lot of different music from around the world and our basic way of doing things was for one song to copy the music of Eastern Europe, then for another song we’d copy the music of Cuba. It was really fun and we got a reputation for being a band that does everything, but after a while we started to feel like we’re just kind of borrowing from everyone else without really being a part of the traditions that we were borrowing from. So the last two records in particular, we’ve tried to find a way to make music that sounds like it comes from everywhere, but doesn’t necessarily delve too deeply into one tradition or another; that is just like a big parade of sounds from around the world. In a sense, what we’ve done is actually focussed more on what I suppose you’d call “nuts and bolts songwriting”, like just melody, lyrics, rhythm and chords, but then around that we’ve just tried to make it really colourful and explosive and interesting, drawing on whatever ideas seem to fit. I would say that We’re not drawing heavily on anything particularly, it’s just the sound.
AC: Does this sound come more naturally at this point?
HJA: Yeah the last two records, which we did with the same producer, have been a really fun process because a lot of the songs grew out of just playing in the studio and getting a rhythm that feels good and creating songs quite spontaneously. Whereas in the past we always kind of rehearsed up before going into the studio. We’re really trying to capture more of the chaotic energy that you get in our live shows and I suppose that kind of helps.
AC: So if you’re trying to capture more of a live sound on record, what can you offer in your current shows that isn’t on this new record? I mean if you’re trying to capture the live sound you’ve established over the last number of years, is there more of a challenge to make the live show even more explosive and colourful?
HJA: It’s a really slippery concept trying to capture your live energy. I don’t think it’s as simple as doing what you do live, on a record. Because often what you do live, when you try to put it on a record, it just doesn’t have the same power to it. Making a record for us has always been a quest to recreate the chaotic energy of the live show, but I suppose in a more palatable setting because our live show’s often devolve into pretty serious chaos, so that’s always been a challenge for us. Everyone has their own idea of what a produced record sounds like. The last two records we’ve done, most of the playing has been almost completely live but I think to a lot of people, it would appear to be a more heavily produced record than what we’ve done in the past, but thats just because we spent more time being creative with what things actually sound like in mixing When it comes to the live show, we’ve never really changed or thought about it too much, we just try and play our songs and try and leave room for spontaneity and thats what we’ve always done.
AC: Yeah one thing I tell people when I try to sell them on coming to your shows, I’ll tell them “They’ll take a 3 minute song and make it 9 or 10 minutes!” and that’s kind of the chaos you’re talking about.
HJA: Yeah that’s right. W’ve never tried to do that on a record. and we’ve had this plan that we’ll make this record as short and concise and mainstream as possible, and then people come to the show and hear the keys do a 15 minute atonal solo and maybe they’ve never seen that kind of thing before but we’ve kind of tricked them into it. I often get this feeling that people who are big fans of our records and our song-writing, who come to our concerts for the first time and maybe that kind of thing isn’t to their taste, and maybe the opposite as well; I think someone people come to our show who’ve heard out record and thought maybe it wasn’t for them, and them when we go deep into that more intense kind of improvised thing, that really resonates with them. So, you know, it’s a complicated band that way because you cant pin it down. I can’t really terll you what the music is, and you you listen to the record and you dont know necessarily what the live shows gonna be like, and vice versa.
AC: I’m sure you get this question here and there, but what kind of band are you?
HJA: I just say we’re a party band. At the end of the day, I believe that all the principles that were at play in early jazz music, are the same principles that we’re using. Which is about improvisation, but also about kind of harnessing energy and building energy with the crowd. Creating something where it’s not just the band doing the thing they rehearsed that’s really cool and they do the same thing every night. but kinda using the crowd as a wave you’re surfing. You have to read it and you have guess when to do certain things. If it works, then it’s awesome and when it doesn’t, the crowd is like “well at least they tried.” I feel like often if we don’t have the right kind of crowd, we can kind of fall flat because we rely on the crowd so much. It’s when people come to see us who have had the experience before, they bring it and without that energy coming from the crowd, we can kinda suck.
This past Friday, the Algonquin Commons Theatre boasted a sold out show headlined by Toronto’s jazz-hip hop trio BADBADNOTGOOD. Earlier in the week tickets were already sold out as news spread about the headliner’s return to Ottawa after a raucous performance at the Centretown United Church in November. With the hype still lingering from that performance a few months before, Ottawa’s die-hard fans came out of the woodwork to attend the show.
Even before the doors opened, ticket holders were already lining up to get into the well-lit and spacious venue, where only the floor seating was open. This created an atmosphere that was intimate, but also allowed the crowd audience to enjoy the professional quality lighting and sound of the theater.
The night’s lineup consisted of an eclectic pairing with Busty and the Bass, a self-professed “electro-soul/hip hop collective”, which started off the evening with upbeat rhythms, a wicked horn section and powerful vocals. Their songs ranged from Daft Punk-esque slow jams, to disco-infused pop hooks punctuated by rap. The band opened with “Models”, an infectious song off of their latest album GLAM, which concluded with a disco-soul feel that immediately set the mood for the rest of their performance. “Right Kind” followed shortly after and effectively combined an auto-tuned chorus with an overall hip-hop feel, allowing one of the keyboardists to show off his rap flow.
The band’s stage presence and overall energy was infectious and soon the crowd was bopping along to their catchy songs. Throughout their set they maintained the same atmosphere with coordinated stage presence. It was clear that the band members were enjoying themselves as they engaged in call-and-response riffs and some members switched back and forth between instrumentation and vocals. Finally, their set wrapped up with an impressive sax solo, à la Kenny G.
After a quick intermission, and with the floor filled to standing room only, BADBADNOTGOOD came on stage to excited cheering and clapping by fans. Along with its usual three members, the band was accompanied by saxophonist Leland Whitty, who is often featured on their recordings. Right off the bat, all four of them broke into a hectic jam that quickly reminded the crowd of their impressive musical skill and instrumentation as they demonstrated their dynamic range. The then drummer said a brief few words to the crowd, mentioning that the bassist – Chester Hansen – is an Ottawan himself, before breaking into an awesome rendition of their song “Velvet”.
The song concluded with an intense keyboard solo, which was very well received by the crowd. Next, it was Leland’s turn to shine as the trio started into “Confessions”, a song that was prominently featured on BADBADNOTGOOD’s third full length, aptly titled III. At this point, the audience was really able to appreciate the level of talent and musicianship on stage as they seamlessly transitioned from one part into the next. The following few songs were combined into medleys chock-full of improvisation and dynamic changes. It was clear that the band was enjoying themselves as this part of the set turned into much more of a jam session that a run through of their hits.
To bring the set back to down to earth the band transitioned into the much more relaxed “Differently Still”, another track from their third album. This track centered on the keyboardist who seemed to be in his own world as he head-banged with his eyes closed while playing. The chords swelled as the rest of the band joined in for the middle of the song, only to let the dreamy keys close of the track. Finally, the drummer lead the band into a fast-paced version of the “CS60”.
This crowd-pleaser was an instant and familiar hit with the crowd and soon everyone was dancing and clapping along. With prompts from the drummer the attendees screamed to fuel the band with energy to finish the song. In classic BADBADNOTGOOD fashion, they ended in an insanely fast crescendo, highlighted by well-timed frantic lighting and use of smoke machines. As the audience filed out you could hear the shared excitement from the show as fans made a beeline for the merch table.
British indie rocker band Bombay Bicycle Club are half-way through an 11-week tour of the world, from Oceania to America, passing through Iceland on the way to Europe, South Africa, and finally home to the UK. The zigzag through Canada & the States saw the indie freak poppers stop at one of the lesser-known venues in Ottawa, the Algonquin Commons Theatre. Their set on Friday, Oct. 17 had a sold out floor of fans from near & far in the 613.
They opened with several hits and kept the energy high throughout their set. The lights & visuals show was truly worthy of an international tour, very epic. They had the quintessential deep space shot of stars upon stars backlighting a falling human figure. What arena rockers don’t have that? At times, I felt like that white shape of a person, floating free in sound. I’m a fan of BBC enough to know that “How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep” is a great track to wake up your friends after a night of partying, but the show reminded me that their music is of an eclectic variety that drastically changes from album to album.
Bombay Bicycle Club performing at Algonquin Commons Theatre on Friday, October 17th, in Ottawa.
Their newest LP is number four in five years, named So Long, See You Tomorrow. It is as synthetically (see esthetically) pleasing as their critically-acclaimed A Different Kind of Fix (2011) but with a more distinct sound. In fact, the album is a paradox because it sounds like none of their other albums but each song is difficult to differentiate from the other at first. It is, however, an album with many twists & turns, full of surprises.
They played hits like “Shuffle” & “Leave It” with acoustic tunes from their earlier album Flaws. “Lights Out, Words Gone” used the album art from So Long to animate the seven circular screens behind the band into spinning circles of walking people. The likenesses of each bandmember in “Carry Me” and the dancing skeletons were enough to distract even the most seasoned fan. “Feel” struck me as a melting pot of Cuban, devotional Indian & anthemic pop rock. It was an earful, made mind-numbing with the imagery of a dancing viper on the seven cricles.
Liz Lawrence, who did more than just backup vocals, sang all of Lucy Rose’s parts from the studio albums with style. It was the most charismatic of the band’s performances, because she moved from behind the synth booth to the forefront regularly. Guitarists Jack Steadman & Jamie MacColl were close to each other but could have been unaware of the others’ presence the whole time. Still, even from the seats it was an entertaining concert.
Bombay Bicycle Club playing the Algonquin Commons Theatre on Friday, October 17, in Ottawa.
The Algonquin Commons Theatre is aiming to be an entertainment hub lined up with impressive musical guests over the next few weeks. The end of the month will see Big Wreck, Royal Tusk & The Caverners grace the stage in the Robert C. Gillett building. It’s equipped for big names & big sounds.
I’ve been doomed to leave schools just before new additions: after leaving elementary school Laurier-Carrière they replaced a dozen portables with a new wing, after graduating high school Franco-Ouest a massive atrium with classrooms & new teachers’ lounge was added, my quick stint at Ottawa U’s School of Business was the last time they had the Vanier building that felt more like a dungeon than a faculty building, and then of course Robert C. Gillett, the former president of Algonquin College, erected the Student Commons, not to mention the Centre for Construction Excellence, the years following my time in their Journalism-Print program. Woe is I, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the new digs at my old school.
The new building is too full of goodies to review here, so I’ll stick to the theatre, which is a state-of-the-art sound haven, with moulded ceilings & a centralized sound booth to perfect the acoustics. There are two balcony levels & a ground floor that was packed to the nines with very pleased Gonq students on Friday night. I noticed several bright-eyed ruffians rush out as soon as the show was over, having had a great start to their weekend already. Although it’s been there since 2012, the Algonquin Commons is off to a great start as a bright & loud new venue for the east end.