OXW Day 3: Warp Lines, WLMRT, & Mardou
Photos by Sara Osmanovic
This being my first time at Ottawa Explosion I didn’t know what to expect except for great tunes and a very kind group of punks. I didn’t exactly expect the chaos that ensued, then again, these were punks and a punk show is always chaotic either due to the time it starts or due to the go-with-the-flow-screw-time attitude.
I made it to Warp Lines early and sat through the booming sound check. If you think sound check is loud enough, it’s nothing compared to how loud the band itself gets. Their voices resonate and bring a livelihood to their otherwise gritty rock sound, and let me tell you – this band does not fear noise in the slightest. There also isn’t as big a need to mic the drum kit itself, because even without it you feel the drumbeat in your heart and the bass rattles you.
The way the three guys work all together is astounding. They’re loud and proud, all while creating a very garage-like setting despite being situated in an artsy bar by the name of Avante Garde. They know how to capture your attention and though some may say it’s a more generic sound, there’s nothing remotely generic in their performances and how they capture the crowds attentions with their singing and screaming.
I’ve seen the band once before and had even reviewed them, but honestly, I was shocked when I got the email asking if I could photograph this time. I hadn’t received an offer like that beforehand and this was new. I knew Johnny was an incredibly nice guy (see House of TARG show review with Steve Adamyk and Bar Robo show review with Warp Lines) but this was beyond a pleasant surprise. Naturally, I complied and actually managed to get some decent shots despite the hardships with lighting. Curse it for being light out at 7:00 PM!
Next up was WLMRT, who I’d sprinted over to Club SAW to see. I thought I had made it just in time, but they were finishing. However, I managed to catch three of their songs. They’re loud, aggressive, sometimes shoeless, and overall astounding. The lead singer and bassist were both up front and centre, and they really set the tone. I’m always rooting for female fronted bands, and always looking out for them because there simply isn’t enough. Let’s be real – female fronted bands are badass and deserve far more attention than they get because they’re incredibly talented and full of fiery passion.
The bass lines really encompassed what punk music was supposed to be, with everyone else seeming to flawlessly (but with that sloppy punk character) build around it. Their music itself doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously, and there are some underlying tones under it that let some seriousness peek out. Despite being there for a small amount of songs, the performance shook me and it carried an infectious need for you to move. Perfect to thrash to, mosh to, and just let out all stress and anger to. If you get the chance to see this band, they are truly worth seeing live.
After WLMRT I quickly ran outside to witness the very bizarre Cincinnati, OH, band Mardou. Their energy was so odd and their performance was so unique that it drew me in and kept me staring no matter how much I might have wanted to go to the band playing inside. The clown doll, the pink LED fairy lights, the exaggerated movements. Everything set the tone. It reminded me of post-punk and new wave music, but I honestly think it would be more of what Kim Gordon classified as No Wave.
Their sound was almost Joy Division-esque, but with such a different twist to it that it’s a band you’d have to go see to understand what they’re about. There is nothing generic about this band. It’s fresh and it’s new. The lead singer’s voice was monotonous but worked well for what they’re trying to do. It, as well as the entirety of the performance, almost puts you in a sort of trance.
Through all of Ottawa Explosion, you’ll see the bands smoking outside, or walking around downtown. You might catch some people just hanging out or jamming out to their friend’s songs. Everyone seems to be supportive of one another, or their friends and fellow musicians, and the beauty of it is that they’re people just like you, and just like me. You could probably strike up a conversation, no hesitation needed. Explosion, and all the bands that play during it, unite the people, the punks, the oddballs, the ones who have a deep affinity for music. Take a break from your high school work (we know exams are happening next week but come on!) and get down to Ottawa Explosion at Club SAW.
New Video: “Offering” from The Visit
The Visit is Heather Sita Black, a vocalist unchained, and Raphael Weinroth-Browne, a powerful cellist. Together they form a self-described defiance of genre, so terms like chamber or polystylistic don’t really fit the bill. The closest long-winded definition might be experimental/avant-garde classical. The Ottawa duo have released two recordings so far and will be making their way to the Czech Republic in November for Nouvelle Prague, a international showcasing event of art from around the world. They’ve decided to share what they’ve been working on up to this point with their first video.
Nation’s capital music blog Something Always interviewed The Visit in March, in which they spoke hopefully of getting to Europe this year and to put out an album by 2015. We are glad to see that it appears that things are going the way they planned.
This expertly shot video in St. Alban’s Church was filmed in February by LOG Creative Bureau. An 11-minute foray into the untapped human voice and the complexity of a cello. The first two minutes are Raphael giving his entire body to his instrument, with his breathing as powerful as a musk ox in rut, and then to the vocalization of Heather’s attempt to explore how far her voice can take her into a song. She has perfect pitch and a seemingly intimate knowledge of her partner’s capabilities, but her body movements betray what’s really going on here — she is not making use of her voice, her voice is making use of her. The music possesses.
I’d rather not say too much about it, for fear of cheapening it. It’s beautiful and emotional. Have I already said too much? Res ipsa loquitor — the thing speaks for itself.
Ottawa Explosion Weekend Day 4: A Marathon of Awesome Music!
The Saturday of Ottawa Explosion Weekend is an annual marathon of amazing music. The music starts at 12:30 and goes past 2 a.m. I am no runner, but if all marathons were this awesome I would certain take it up.
By the time I made it down, the all-female trio Old and Weird from Halifax were setting up. They had a very interesting sound and what was really cool was how often they switched instruments. Each member played a few songs on the drums throughout the set, which I had never seen before. So they did in fact “Show Me Something” I had never seen before. They also performed a pretty cool song about Kurt Cobain (video above).
Next up was Ottawa’s Grime Kings. Fresh off their Stanley cup victory, ok sorry that is a very lame joke. If you were ever concerned about the future of music in the capital, look no further for hope than this band. They are making strange, progressive and experimental music and I am not sure if they are all even of legal drinking age yet. They are somewhat disorganized at times and have a hard time with tuning (self-proclaimed) but I really like what they are doing musically. Oh and boys, you don’t just tease a crowd and say you are going to play a John Mayer cover and not deliver, you owe us. Hahaha.
One of the many new discoveries of the festival for myself was the most excellent Idle Bloom from Nashville. They have a psych-pop sound with a female lead and two female backing vocals which all work tremendously well together. They opened with the very cute and heartfelt song “Day You Were Born,” and played a great set from there. I am very glad they made the long trip to Ottawa.
It was now time for the Dirt cult records showcase. Kicking it off was Feral Trash from Moncton, New Brunswick. The lead singer/guitarist seemed to be fighting through an illness as he had to look away after almost every verse or chorus to cough, but it didn’t hold them back. They played fast catchy music with no big filler between songs. There is no better example of this than their great track “Dead Weight” (in video above). It is so good and such a sweet sing-a-long song.
As Monty Python would say, now for something completely different. Noisy Ottawa rock duo Big Dick followed up. Like or hate their name, the band plays a perfect mix of heavy music with catchy moments excellent for crowd participation. I am a sucker for their track “Medic.” Drummer, Dave Secretary, introduced a song by saying “This one is new so it’s going to be awful.” The song actually kicked ass and I am now anticipating another amazing release by the duo. Favourite moment of the set was when they hit the first chord of the very rocking “Colours” and Davey’s face lit up and he quickly joined them on vocals.
One of the things about Ottawa Explosion is you discover so many amazing bands which is awesome, but you also run the risk of falling in love with a band that may never return to Ottawa. Sometimes though you discover a band and they blow you away so much you make the effort to never miss them when they swing by. For me that is Needles//Pins, who absolutely killed it last year. They played a great mix of new and old, songs like “Best Friend,” “Pulse,” “I Don’t Mind” and “I Heart Your Drugs” which all blew me away. But it was also great to hear their new songs, which fit in great with their set. Trust me, see them, buy their stuff, just don’t miss out on Needles//Pins you will not be disappointed; they are one of Canada’s finest. Thank you Vancouver for giving us such a great talent.
Up next was the explosion of the festival. With the band running late and the crowd looking restless Emmanuel took the mic to announce the unfortunate news, “I am sorry to tell everyone New Swears won’t be playing as they were rushed to the hospital. They tried to repel down the building to the show and fell.” As the crowd laughed, he assured us “They are all dead it’s not funny.” But then thanks to a Ottawa Explosion Weekend miracle the boys covered in bandages, dirt and wearing hospital garbs crawled onto the stage. The always crazy, destructive, costumed, high energy local garage punk band really got the party going. As they began their set, organizers started throwing inflatable beach toys (including a shark, mats, beach balls, flamingos, etc) into the crowd. The place was whipped into a frenzy of dancing, singing, crowd surfing and moshing. New Swears gave us a taste of their new album set to be released later this summer, playing a couple of tracks off it. They also found time to play all the favourites including, “Two Darts,” “See You In Hull,” and “Paradise.” With time running out on their set and probably needing to be hooked back up to the IV, they closed with a rambunctious cover of Bob Segar’s classic “Old Time Rock N’ Roll.”
After New Swears it was time for the Dirtnap Records Showcase. My buddy Matias covered the hoyl cow knock my socks off showcase, which included Voicemail, Sonic Avenues, Steve Adamyk Band and The Marked Men, read it here. I then made my way to Avant-Garde for some more great bands. First up was locals Dead Weights. Their set was such a party. A smaller venue and so many of my friends packed in singing every word. We also got to see the first, and probably last, crowd surfer in the bar’s history during the line “I’ll pick you up” from their song “Fall Down,” thanks JS. The boys played a great set with many of my favourites from their new album Dead Ends and Closed Doors, such as “Barely Breath” and “Friends First.” It was also sweet to see the guys from Montreal’s Panic Attack join them for the last song.
Joining Dead Weights on stage was the perfect segue, as Panic Attack was up next. This was the case of another great band that I missed at Pouzza and got to see at explosion, it’s nice how that works out. They are freaking great and played a really solid set. Their 90’s era punk rock sound had me feeling nostalgic and it was a lot of fun.
Next was one of the bands that traveled the furthest for the festival, Latex Squad all the way from Hamburg,Germany. The lead singer/bassist was so very happy to be here. “I can’t believe I’m actually in Canada.” Funny enough they then played a song with the chorus “I hate everything about you.” They later joked that they were the “Ramstein of northern Germany.” They played really fun 70’s style garage punk. I really liked their track “Cyborg of Love.” It was also very cool to see the drummer sporting the new White Wires shirt.
I ducked into Ritual next door to catch some of METZ and sadly missed Dagger Eyes, next time. Closing down Avant Guarde was Asile. Their set was heavy, fast, hard, thrashy and in French, not the regular end of night act for the bar. I loved it.
As the set ended I quickly hustled over back to SAW to catch the end of the Crusades set. The band is packed with heavy hitters in the Ottawa punk scene, including festival organizer Emmanuel on guitar and lead singer/guitarist of The Creeps, Skottie on bass. I only got to see a few songs, but funny enough the lead singer of Panic Attack joined them on stage for a song, making his third appearance of the night. Busy guy.
Well there you have it, a lot of words about an absolutely amazing day! Ottawa Explosion Weekend is just the best time of the year.
This is Raw Vol. One: Four songwriters, One stage
It may have been 4/20, but these four local singer songwriters were not blowing smoke at Avant Garde.
Kevin N. Hell, Keturah Johnson, Eve Chamberland and Ted Shehan took the stage amidst wall to wall World War II era Russian posters, Russian beers (Baltika is amazing), Vodka and delicious martinis.
Dubbed a punk rock singer songwriter circle, all four sat on stage taking turns playing a great mix of original pieces and covers. They fed off each others’ energy, laughing and trying not to be too intimidated by the talent of the previous performer. I have never been to an event like this, but it was really wonderful with the ever changing sounds and voices. It was like seeing four concerts at once, so I decided that the best strategy was to give them each a paragraph in the write up.
First off let us start with the brains behind the operation, the organizer, Kevin. N. Hell. A veteran of the Ottawa scene, having played in local punk rock bands such as C.R.B, Tonk & The Honkys and The Unremarkablesh, had a very bluesy folk sound to his original songs and quite the interesting voice. I really liked his original blues piece based loosely on his current task of planning a wedding. He did covers ranging from Mojo Nixon’s “Are You Drinkin’ With Me Jesus?” to punk rockers The Deadboys’ “All this and More.”
To Kevin’s right, was Keturah Johnson. Her soulful passionate rock is beautifully complemented by her powerful voice. She played a great mix of originals, including the touching “Boy with no care” and covers, which was highlighted by the very dark and moving “Waiting Around to Die,” by Townes Van Zandt. If this sounds like someone you want to see, and it is trust me, you can check her out today (Sunday April 21) at the Hintonburg Public House.
Up next in the rotation was Eve Chamberland, of the recently defunct celtic-punk band The Beer Barons. Eve did not to follow suit with everyone else who had guitars, she played her songs on a banjo. The banjo gave her a more of a bluegrass and folk sound. Her original songs were very story-like, one of which was about her kind of creepy love obsession for Stephen Colbert. Eve mentioned “I should not have sat beside Keturah, tough to follow her up every time around.” But, Eve held her own very well and had a lot of fun with her covers. Playing Camper Van Beethoven’s “Take the Skinheads Bowling,” “Fancey Beers” by The Two Man Gentleman Band and The Hives “Wait a Minute Now,” was my favourite by Eve.
Last but definitely not least, was late addition Ted Shehan of the local band the Chicken Bangers. Ted has energy, a lot of it, and his constant foot pounding had Kevin jokingly mention that “we have our new Stompin’ Tom.” Joining Ted at the front of the stage was the rest of the Chicken Bangers who brought a long a guitar and a shaker to support their fearless leader through his songs. His originals had a punky high tempo country twang to them. For his covers Ted played an Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ song and best of all, in honour of 4/20 played Dylan’s classic “The Times they are a Changing,” which got the other three on stage to jump in for the first time. They may have stumbled through that cover, but their energy carried it.
All in all it was a great night and an awesome showcase to help discover local talent. I am very much looking forward to volume two.