Last weekend was stacked with good shows. No matter what I chose to do there was an equally solid show happening elsewhere. One of the options was Mushy Gushy, No Aloha, and Casa Lagarto at Black Squirrel—and there are no regrets.
The night started off with friends hugging and smiles abound. It’s always nice to see a lineup where the bands know each other or have worked together in the past. The weather was warm and soggy, but the sky was clear and folks began to trickle in as local garage-psyche marvels Casa Lagarto took the stage.
Casa Lagarto is a mashup of well-seasoned artists in the community, including Jonny Yuma (formerly of The Yips), Arturo Portocarrero (Lost To The River), Grant McNeil (Tropical Country), Jason Barkhouse (Black Lab Studios), and Jonathan Pearce (Winchester Warm/Mushy Gushy) filling in for Travis Kinnear who just recently celebrated the birth of his first daughter. Their set was tight and their arrangements came through crisply into our ears.
Casa Lagarto at Black Squirrel. Photo by Matías Muñoz.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—Casa Lagarto’s music could be the soundtrack to a Hunter S. Thompson novel. I mean that in the best way possible. I feel like their music would fit perfectly into an acid trip on a desert highway in Nevada somewhere. Casa’s sound is clearly influenced by psych and rockabilly, taking elements from various styles and making them their own. Johnny Yuma’s low, brooding vocals enthralled the audience and his exquisite clean guitar tone could give you goosebumps. Jon Pearce filled in perfectly, and somehow knew the songs like the back of his hand. Some key tracks they played were “Lights Out” and “Scarecrow,” and I highly recommend you go dive deep into Casa’s albums on Bandcamp. The group layered their sound well in the live setting, using the intimacy of the bookstore to enhance their individual instruments to create a warm and rich atmosphere for us all to enjoy the show.
Next on deck was No Aloha, a summer-friendly garage rock group from Montreal that has some loving fans here in Ottawa. As an aside, we presented No Aloha at Mugshots back in 2015 along with Bonnie Doon and Nightshades and it still remains one of the funnest shows we’ve ever done to date. They are fresh off the release of their new EP Cigarettes for Optimists and rocked the house at Black Squirrel.
No Aloha at Black Squirrel. Photo by Matías Muñoz.
This group may seem like a bunch of slacker rock dudes, with their long hair and rarely-groomed faces. However, they’re anything but. This band is well-rehearsed and have a chemistry that is instantly noticeable when they hit the stage and start playing together. With flying guitar riffs, impactful percussion, and Ben Griffiths’ smooth vocals, this group injected some energy into the room. They dug into their impressive catalogue from the past few years throughout the set and pleased the audience and got some bodies moving. Black Squirrel is a versatile venue for all kinds of shows, and the place was perfect for the diverse sounds of this lineup. Lets hope these dudes come back to Ottawa soon, because they’re a party.
Last up was Mushy Gushy, an Ottawa “butt-rock” band that takes a fun spin on rock and roll. While it’s hard to imagine these guys ever not having fun, this night was bittersweet. Kyle Woods, the original drummer and founding member of the band has recently moved to Toronto and got a job there (congrats to him!). But the show must go on. Thus, this show was to be his last as he moves on to new journeys. While this kind of mutual parting is difficult for friends and band mates, it was clear that the sweet outweighed the bitter. Kyle was radiating smiles and hugs, and obviously this was to be a memorable night for him and the band as they decidedly wanted to end his tenure with a bang.
Mushy Gushy consists of more music scene veterans here in Ottawa—bassist Jon Pearce (Winchester Warm), drummer Kyle Woods (fmr. Kalle Mattson), guitarist Cory Lefebvre (fmr. Baberaham Lincoln), and vocalist Dave Gervais (fmr. The Gallop). But more than anything, this group of buds just wants to have fun, and that is evident in their compositions. They don’t take themselves too seriously, and that’s refreshing.
Mushy Gushy at Black Squirrel. Photo by Matías Muñoz.
The ‘Gush have released two excellent EPs so far since coming together in 2016—Tight Snake and More Butter. I just can’t wait to hear what their third release will be called with titles like that. We presented their tape release party at Bar Robo a few years back, and let me tell you—it was a time. Kyle carried the whole set through, and he played the drums more fervent than ever. His rhythm was flawless and his beard was flying to-and-fro to the uptempo rock and roll his group performs. Cory’s fluttering guitar riffs flew over Jon’s steady bass lines as the tracks kept the crowd energized and engaged. They had the crowd singing the irresistible catchy “Oh Oh Ohs” in “Heartbreak Motel” and had booties shaking during “Summer Lusting.” Closer to the end of their set they played their most well-known jam, “Schemestress,” at which point the night hit its climax. The song is a feel-good summer tune, and the hook will grab you and hold on tight. David Gervais’ songwriting is on point, and his vocals add the finishing touch to their part pop, part-garage rock sound with just enough catchiness and grit to go around. All in all, it was a night of good vibes and good memories were made.
Ottawa’s Casa Lagarto has released their brand new EP called Shed It, a six-song trip that features thick grooves and atmospheric textures throughout.
The band is comprised of well-established Ottawa musicians Jason Barkhouse (guitar/vocals), Arturo Portocarrero (drums/vocals), Travis Kinnear (bass/vocals), Jonny Yuma (guitar/vocals), and Grant McNeill (guitar), some of whom are members of The Yips (RIP), Lost to the River, and Fire Antlers.
Casa Lagarto is the reincarnation of sorts—it was an old stomping rockabilly project that Jonny, Grant, Travis, and their pal Phil Horne had called Chero Chavo, which was active from 2013-2015. With an expanded and altered lineup, the band’s sound evolved in 2015 to become Casa Lagarto (the name being a nod to Jim Morrison and author Carlos Castaneda). With Casa’s new members Arturo and Jason coming from different styles and musical backgrounds, the group quickly rounded out its sound as a whole. To date, they’ve had plenty of action live, having shared the stage with such acts as Del Bel, Saxsyndrum, Bob Log III, Twin Peaks, Bloodshot Bill, to name a few.
Shed It truly sounds like it was written in a shack in the desert. There’s a looseness to the whole thing that makes the album easy to sink into, slowly taking the listener deeper and deeper like quicksand. The album is rich with reverb and jangly guitar tones, deep and groovy bass lines, and Arturo’s lax and unobtrusive drum rhythms resonating throughout. Jonny’s hollow strumming and deep, simmering vocals bring another dimension to Shed It, though, completing the spooky yet captivating aesthetic of the band.
According to the band, the album’s name refers to shedding the skin you’re in, or shedding the skin you’ve been. It’s a cunning reflection on the good, bad an ugly from the past, the masks we often wear throughout our lives—and a desire to burn old bridges in hopes of charting new paths towards healthier self-understanding.
Casa Lagarto might fall somewhere between Dirty Beaches and Timber Timbre with respect to their musical approach. They create atmospheric and cinematic soundscapes, building and maintaining a subtle tension throughout Shed It. The song “Desoronto,” for example, feels like the prelude to a pistol duel in a classic Western. The washed out and weary track “El Dorado” burns slowly, with instrumentation and lyrics that create dark imagery and places the listener directly into “the valley of the shadow.”
The group has already released videos for their songs “Lights Out” and “Scarecrow” (produced by Black Lab Studio), and are pleased to share a brand new one for “Deseronto” (above), which was shot and produced by Santiago Trugeda. Even more, they’re already heading back into the studio in March 2018 to start recording tunes for their next album, and concert-goers can forward to them hitting the road in the near future.
‘Shed It’ is an exclusively digital release which you can listen for free at their Bandcamp page or stream on Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, Dezer, and all streaming sites. You can also enjoy the stream below.
We’re thrilled to premiere a new video by Ottawa experimental psych-rock group Casa Lagarto for their track “Lights Out.”
“Lights Out” was previously released in January 2017 as a demo, however the polished version heard in the video will appear on their upcoming debut album which they have called Shed It, and will be exclusively released digitally on January 19th. Although the 3-track demo EP is all the band has released publicly since their inception in 2015, they’ve played live regularly in town and often taken an experimental approach to their performances. Casa Lagarto describe themselves as “some kind of experimental desert rock n roll. They are influenced by the sun, the sand, and the lizard,” and their music feels like the soundtrack to a Hunter S. Thompson novel.
The band members are familiar musicians in the music scene here in Ottawa, featuring the talented lineup of Travis Kinnear (Fire Antlers), Arturo Portocarrero (Lost To The River), Grant McNeil (Tropical Country), Jason Barkhouse, and Jonny Yuma (The Yips). The video itself tells a story comprised of three separate car advertisements from the mid-1900’s and was produced by band member Jason Barkhouse. Barkhouse runs Black Lab Studio in town and has recently been more active in production/post-production of creative content and music videos for band like Del Bel (see that video here).
Casa Lagarto will be playing with Montreal’s Bloodshot Bill and Chris Landry and the Seasick Mommas at House of Targ this Thursday, December 7th, so be sure to get out there and catch the band live. Doors at 8 p.m. and tickets are $10. Check out the video for “Lights Out” below.
Sam Coffey & the Iron Lungs let it all hang out Friday night at the House of TARG.
The garage and power pop rockers from Toronto Sam Coffey & the Iron Lungs kicked off the set by tempering expectations. “You wanted the best, but we are Sam Coffey & the Iron Lungs,” said Sam. They then launched into the first two songs off their latest album Gates of Hell, playing the title track and “Hold Me Close”. Sam Coffey & the Iron Lungs play an infectious style of music that just makes you want to sing, dance and clap along to every song, probably why my voice was so hoarse Saturday morning. On top of the super catchy music, they all sport standard issue cut-off jean vests covered in sewn on patched, you can’t miss them. The crowd may not have been huge, but they were into it and singing along. The band looked to be having a blast as always, especially Sam whose eyes were a little glazed over from maybe too much pre-show fun. “Feels good to play the best venue in Canada again,” said Sam before playing a new song called “Gary Voicemail”, written about Ottawa punk mainstay Ian Manhire (The White Wires, Voicemail and so many more bands).
Sam Coffey finishing his show in style at House of TARG in Ottawa, ON.
It was now time for the finale. Sam took off his guitar and grabbed the mic for “Don’t Call Me Fat.” He left the stage and walked in the crowd then threw himself on the ground and rolled around. As he returned to the stage he did not look too good, I was sure he was going to vomit… and a few seconds later his supper rested at the front of the stage. Once finished, he looked up, wiped the last little bit off of his beard and said “Are you not entertained!?” We were Sam, great set as always and thanks for demonstrating why you are called the iron lungs and not the iron stomachs.
The Slippies at House of TARG in Ottawa, ON.
Setting up the headliner were two newer local bands Slippies and Casa Lagarto. Slippies are a drum and keys country duo from Ottawa. Both members sing and have very different but complimentary voices, love that they take turns taking lead. Taking nothing away from the keys, but I am always amazed to watch a drummer sing lead like he does in The Slippes. Drumming is impressive enough to have three limbs moving in different beats, then add in singing on top of that. Just wow. The two songs that really stuck out were “In My Dreams” which reminded me a little of “Stand by Me” in the best way, and their cover of Johnny Thunders’ classic and all-time greats “Can’t Put Your Arm Around a Memory.”
Casa Lagarto playing House of TARG in Ottawa, ON.
Opening the show was Casa Lagarto. Formed in January, Casa Lagarto’s music makes me think of older movie soundtracks with western and Latin flares. The self-described “mirage rock” band powered through some technical difficulties to play a great set. One of the things that really caught my attention was how there were almost always three members of the five-piece singing. When one led the others were providing backup, some oohs and ahhs or singing different words at the same time. It is a little hectic at times, but really helps differentiate them. The song “Shed It” was a blast and will surely be a hit and a crowd favourite for quite some time.