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.
Since 2012 the Doldrums Festival has been an annual respite from the cold and slushy tail end of winter in Ottawa.
This year, the two-night festival is taking place at Club SAW in the heart of the nation’s capital on March 24 and 25. Doldrums Festival is a great example of independent Ottawa organizers and musicians working hard to showcase the best and brightest this city has to offer. This year’s edition features all local acts and is made possible thanks to the support of community-oriented businesses such as CHUO 89.1 FM, Dave’s Drum Shop, Spaceman Music Ottawa, Happy Goat Coffee Co., and Ringbill Records.
If you’re into dreamy, psychedelic and experimental vibes, night one is a sure bet with a solid dose of synth and effects-driven acts – Destroy Clocks, Church of Trees, Kate Schroder and sbsst. Leave your preconceived notions at the door and be prepared to be taken on an otherworldly musical adventure.
Night two shifts gears from the whimsical to the rocking, as Saturday focuses more on electric guitars and grandiose percussion as the driving force. Expect an all out party filled with energy, as performances by Prayer Wheels, Nightshades, Shadowhand and The Vile Bodies are sure to get the crowd going.
So this weekend, escape the winter blues and march your way through Ottawa’s slushy sidewalks to Club SAW for two great nights of local music with a little bit of something for everyone. Check out a recent interview with Church of Trees by Sometimes Always below.
Day two of Ottawa Explosion got off to a rocky start thanks to the fact that it was raining sideways, but Mother Nature pulled through eventually and ultimately delivered another beautiful night for punk rock.
Boyhood not letting the rain dampen their spirits at Ottawa Explosion Weekend in Ottawa, ON.
Getting things started outside despite to downpour was Ottawa’s very own Boyhood. Led by Caylie Runciman, Boyhood are experimental and dark, and perfect fit for the gloomy evening. Boyhood played a great set with some pretty sweet beats and cosmic sounds, and this was most apparent during the performance of their new song “Sooner Than You”. If that song is sign of the band’s direction and evolution, then I am thrilled. The ’80s synth undertones, as well as the grimy and funky bass lines by Luke Martin made people forget about the rain and get lost in music. It was also great to hear them play songs off the 2014 release When I’m Hungry, like my favourite “Fresh Meat”.
The rain continued to fall as I made my way to Mugshots to see the kids in Weed Mom. The band unfortunately had to deal with some sound problems outside of their control, but they persevered. The band is young, fun and finding its place. The subject of their songs made me laugh as they went from one song about making out with your friends to another song about the pains of having sex with someone with a big dick. As the sound started to improve, Weed Mom played their debut single “Plum Tree”, which I really like. To top everything off, guitarist and singer Sasha pulled off drummer Tyrin’s shirt and ate sushi off his chest. Oh Weed Mom, I am excited to see you bloom.
It was an emotional show for Ottawa’s Nightshades. On one hand it was positive, as it was the band’s tape release party for Wendy, their second EP in less than a year. But it was also sad because it marked the last show that bass player Sarah Grant will play with them as she is about to leave to travel the world. The band is in good hands, as Sarah said, “CBC learned about me leaving and have offered Shad to replace me… it will now be Nightshads.” In all seriousness, they have another bassist lined up and Nightshades will go on. They played a set filled with music off of both albums. They also had to struggle through some sound issues, we could barely hear the guitar and sometimes could not hear the backup vocals. Highlights were “Broken Bag”, “Teenage Fool”, and their new single “Wendy”. Sarah – we at Showbox wish you the very best going forward!
With the tears wiped from our eyes it was time to summon daemons, dance with goblins, and draw pentagrams with Black Tower. Ottawa’s three-piece got the rain to stop thanks to their pact with the devil. They opened with their latest single the solo-laden and driving “Death March” to set the tone. No moment of the set better summarizes Black Tower than when bassist Scotty said, “This song is called ‘The Dark Lord’, it is about the Dark Lord.” Lead singer and guitarist, Erin Ewing, has an intense and haunting voice, perfect for their metal-inspired punk rock. She has moments of guttural vocal fills, with the occasional incendiary high-pitch screaming part that ignited the entire courtyard.
Lightening things up was new wave punk band Century Palm from Toronto. It was hot, sweaty, and packed inside Mugshots for their set. Their music is really fun and was a great change of pace from Black Tower and the rest of the heavy bands I was about to see. During their set lead-singer Andrew Payne asked the crowd, “we cool?” The crowd cheered and he smiled. All I could think was, “we are not cool, my sweat is sweating it is so humid in here.” The band treated us to a new song off their upcoming album which was pretty cool. But what really made their set was when they pulled a saxophone out of nowhere and I fell in love.
Coliseum slaying it at Ottawa Explosion Weekend in Ottawa, ON.
Back outside it was time to take it up a notch with Coliseum. I was sure it was going to be a good show as local artist and all-around great guy Jordan went straight to the front of the stage. When Jordan is up front and dancing, you know you are seeing a great band that it takes it to the next level. It was equally sweet to see the lead-singer and guitarist give him props after the first song and say, “I remember you.” The band played a killer set full of awesome songs like “Used Blood” and “Black Magic Punk”, as well as songs off their latest album Anxiety Kiss. But their music was not the most important part on this night. The was the comment made by singer/guitarist Ryan Patterson: “It is so great to see so many women involved in front and behind the scenes at this festival, unlike some jock shit like at Rock Fest.” He continued, “Gender inequality is not just a punk issue, but a human issue and it is a beautiful things you have here.” Well said, sir.
Now inside SAW it was time for Meat Wave from Chicago. They played fast short songs and once again Jordan danced so you knew it would be good. This noisy three-piece was strongly endorsed by Big Dick, as both members Johnny O and Dave Sec sang, cheered, and clapped loudly. Meat Wave’s lead-singer and guitarist, Chris Sutter, shared a little information with us: “This is our first time in Canada, home of Rush, Nomeansno, and hockey… sorry about that last one.” Burn. Really glad I saw these guys and discovered another cool band.
Closing out the night was one of my must-see acts, Obliterations, a hardcore band from LA. The band play fast, intense, and in your face. Which is doubly entertaining as the lead-singer’s face reminds me of Weird Al. They opened with “Scapegoat” and blasted straight ahead playing other greats like “Sick Feeling” and “Narcissist”. Unfortunately they experienced some pretty serious technical difficulties with the guitar amp and head crapping out. Eventually someone came to the rescue with a new amp and head and we were back in business. They picked up were they left of, just slamming through the set, capping it off with lead singer Sam James Velde walking through the crowd and standing on the bar. Don’t miss these guys.
Sailor Jupiter had the honour of being this year’s first band. The three-piece garage group from Ottawa are one of my favourite newer local bands and are always a treat to see perform on stage. They played great tracks off their self-tilted debut like “Jesus Freak” and the droney “Dead to Me”. They closed with an unrecorded song that was loud, filled with yelling and most excellent. They just keep getting better every time I see them.
Changing things up was Tough Age, with more of a pop punk and dance rock sound. The band from Vancouver not only played great tunes, but gave out good advice. After struggling with hair in his face, the lead singer and guitarist said, “Don’t get cool hair cuts, get safe hair cuts… Great advice my dad once gave me.” The band announced the exciting news that a new album is on the way and played us a track off it called “New Orleans Square.” Tough Age closed out with their sweet song “Heart of Julie Jones.”
Not only was I bouncing from stage to stage between SAW and Mugshots, but it also felt like the genre of music changed up every time which kept things interesting. After listening to west coast pop punk, it was now time for east coast rockers Monomyth from Halifax. These guys took me on a journey through soundscapes with their stoner rock. It felt really appropriate as they named themselves after the narrative pattern for the 12 stages of the hero’s journey. These maritimers’ music is perfect for meditating or for peaceful sailing on the open waters. Really dug it.
Playing the final set outside of SAW for the evening were the up-tempo and lively Guantanamo Baywatch from Portland, Oregon. They teleported us to a ’60s or ’70s beach party worthy of bright Hawaiian shirts and people doing the Twist. Their music was so much fun and finally got the crowd moving. You need not look any further than the first track, “Barbacoa” off their latest album Chest Crawl, to understand why people where loving it. The instrumental surf medley makes you want to jump up and dance. They are one of, if not the, tightest surf rock group I have ever seen. A real treat.
Kappa Chow playing Club SAW at Ottawa Explosion Weekend in Ottawa.
It was now time to move inside SAW for the final four acts. Kicking things off were Kappa Chow. If anyone there didn’t know the band’s name, they learned it quickly as the lead singer often yells out “KAPPA…” and waits for the crowd to say “CHOW!” You know the band from Sackville, New Brunswick, is something a little different right away as the drummer stood up and set up in the crowd-facing the stage. With the singer channelling his inner young Iggy Pop and not being able to either keep his shirt on or stay out of the crowd — he is a natural entertainer. Later on during the set he got up on the monitor and standing nice and tall mooned us all. Never forget that Kappa… CHOW is “Punk as Fuck.”
Up next was Nap Eyes from Halifax, NS. If Kappa was Iggy, Nap Eyes was Lou Reed in all the right ways. They play a very interesting psych folk music and performed a number of great tracks including the eerie “Dark Creedence”, which sounds like it could have been an outtake from Velvet Underground & Nico. Like the song “Heroine”, “Dark Creedence” begins with a happy-sounding chord progression and crescendos near the end with a screechy, uncontrolled sound from the guitar that makes the listener feel slightly uncomfortable.
The band with the greatest name of the night, SOCAN Billionaires, shared their musical riches with us as we closed in on midnight. Led by Mike Dubue, they were essentially Hilotrons without Adam Saikaley. They played a number of upbeat, catchy tunes and ripped through their set. A highlight was when the band slowed things down a bit and got their dub on, playing Hilotrons’ “A New Town” from their new album To Trip with Terpsichore. The thing I love about Dubue is how he does not shy away from his Talking Heads influence. Their performance felt like Ottawa’s answer to Stop Making Sense but with the punk edge of being in a small dimly lit venue. They powered through technical difficulties with Dubue’s keyboard, but with his energy and the band’s amazing musicianship it could almost go unnoticed.
Now well past midnight it was time for the Ouija rocking The Yips to peer into what was left of our souls. The Yips were the perfect choice to end the night, maintaining the energy of the room and keeping the late mid-week party going. The local act puts on such a great show and they have amazing on stage chemistry. As per usual, the band did not disappoint the still pretty large crowd of late-night partiers. A few highlights of the set were just how spot on they nailed their track “Repeater” and that they played a new song I had never heard before. Teasing us that late at night felt somewhat unfair… but I liked it. Let’s all hope that means another Yips EP is on the way sooner rather than later.
Day one is officially in the books and it was most excellent. Five more days of fun, sun and punk rock left to go!
So I walked into the Mugshots courtyard just after the Denver, Colorado, three-piece had started their set, and I immediately notice the drummer playing with a maraca in one hand. Ok, that’s cool, score one for Homebody. Next song, the two guitarists trade instruments, also cool. Then I notice the instrument that one guy is playing: it looks like a guitar but a bit bigger, and it sounds like a bass. It has 6 strings, but he’s plucking them individually, not playing chords. This whacky thing is called a Bass VI, and is just a small-scale 6-string bass guitar. I’d never seen it played in a band, and I’m not sure I fully understand it. So Homebody is rackin’ up some points!
These guys are mixing psychedelic vibes with a kind of Mac DeMarco-esque jangly pop, and some occasional weird time signatures. The rotating projections on the tall courtyard walls looked like something you’d see through a microscope, and coupled with the music, made the setting feel like a science experiment, as if we were under the microscope and Homebody was the spaced-out soundtrack to our examination. Weird. And awesome.
The weekend is young, so let’s go! OXW Day 2!!!
Bonnie Doon kicked things off as the darkness of night had fully descended upon the front courtyard of SAW. They took the stage and warned that they had not sound checked. They opened with the heavily distorted and noisy “Pizza Shark” as neon balloons were thrown into the crowd. Once finished they said “that was a good soundcheck,” and continued with their set. The thing you notice right away at a Bonnie Doon show is that no one can deliver pterodactyl-like screams like Lesley Marshall can. The local four-piece played an excellent set overall, but what really stuck out for me was the song “Ghost Story” which I had never heard before. The song features Marshall talking more than singing as she tells story. Calmly telling a story over chaotic music while the smoke machine filled the tents with smoke, it right away made me think of Lou Reed and Velvet Underground. I loved it!
Bonnie Doon kicking things off at the SAW Courtyard (Photo: David Forcier)
The Yips were in the middle of the Doon and Bondar sandwich and they put on one hell of a show as always. Opening with “Sadie” and transitioning into “Orbit” as the smoke machine began to spew. The smoke machine was complimented by cigarette and created quite the dancy haze, it was a total Yips party. Was it the lighting through the haze and $3 beers that created ghostly looking shadows dancing on the inside of the tent, or were the ouija rockers channelling spirits before their set? We will never know. One thing we do know is The Yips were in top form after their mini East-Coast tour. They closed out with unrecorded track “GoGoGoya” and the crowd favourite “Pointe Dume.”
The Yips at the SAW Courtyard (Photo: David Forcier)
Bondar, formerly Roberta Bondar, closed out the night. I have seen Bondar play many times, but this was the first time seeing them with a guitarist, not called Alex Maltby, and the addition of keys. They rocked some of their great older stuff like “STD” early on their set, but the songs almost sounded like new tracks with the new members. Very cool to see songs you like getting a rebirth. Through out the set there was mostly black and white visuals behind the band with the occasional explosion of colours. They were really cool and provided by Brandon Ng. The clips ranged from ferocious wolves to scenes from the terminator. Bass player Gary Franks, being the showman that he is, moved off the stage into the crowd at one point to allow the fans up front to strum his bass, Lesley Marshall and Alana Why couldn’t resist the offering. Bondar clearly had no care for the 11 p.m. curfew, starting their last song, “Palm Bay” at 11:10. As their guitars dangled in front of their amps for added distortion at the end of their set, Bondar started the count down to Ottawa Explosion. See you all there in six weeks!
Bondar finishing off the night at the SAW Courtyard (Photo: David Forcier)
Next Wave was presented as part of the opening of the exhibition Michael DeForge: All Dogs Are Dogs, on view at SAW Gallery from April 30 to June 21. Find the whole photo gallery by David Forcier here.
As the Ottawa winter begins to slowly fade away, spring is trying its hardest to break through the permafrost and show signs of warmth, life, and colour. In our city that also means something else – festival season is approaching. The Doldrums Music Festival celebrates the onset of the spring season with great local music, rejuvenating the weary souls of our city after the long cold. This weekend (March 27 & 28) marks the fourth year of Doldrums Festival and just as a tulip’s bulb slow doesit has grown into something special.
The Doldrums Music Festival was founded in 2011 by Lucas MacKenzie, a member of the formerly Ottawa-based band New Teeth. Winter can be pretty drab in Ottawa by February, and MacKenzie felt that there was a distinct lack of music scene festivities during the winter. Why should people resort to clinging onto their couch in front of a space heater in the dead of winter? Why not give them a reason to go out, get together, and brave the weather for the sake of great local music?
Although MacKenzie now lives in Toronto, the festival continues under new management. This year’s organizers Peter Zachar, Andrew Grosvenor (both in Those Gulls/Decathelete), and Gavin Dyke (Black Dogs) are all in bands, which offers them the same perspective that MacKenzie had on running the small festival. Not only that, but Zachar and Grosvenor also run Ringbill Records and have their own studio which they call “The Nest”. Zachar explains:
As musicians, we’ve approached Doldrums with an eye on what we love about it, and how we can expand on those aspects. Part of that has been increasing its visibility through local sponsorships and collaborations, and part of it was making it a more compact and streamlined event.
The Doldrums Music Festival is essentially two nights of music hosted at separate venues, and each offering a different musical “theme.” This makes the festival more accessible to a wider base of music fans, perhaps even drawing some to experience bands live that they might not have seen otherwise.
Friday, March 27, takes place at Pressed on Gladstone and is more of a folk/blues-rock bill. The lineup is impressive, featuring local heavyweights Winchester Warm, Tindervox, Black Dogs, and Riishi Von Rex. We sometimes forget that event organizers are music fans too, and Zachar made it clear that they were more than happy with how this year’s festival came together. “Honestly, the lineup for this year’s festival came from us getting in contact with some of our favourite bands in Ottawa (emphasis on some, we love a lot of music), and them saying yes,” he said.
Saturday, March 28, will take place at Club SAW and feature a very eccentric collection of local bands. The lineup pushes genre boundaries and includes the varied talents of Big Dick, Ornaments, Pith and the Parenchymas, and Dreamphone. From post-punk to experimental psych-rock, this bill is packed with some of our favourite bands in town. If you are someone who is willing to test new waters and go into something with an open mind, Saturday’s event at SAW will provide you with a grouping of the weird and the wild, and is sure to have patrons leaving with their jaws hanging.
When I asked Zachar about the challenge of competing with other festivals in a near-saturated market, he offered a very interesting perspective.
Thinking about it in terms of “competition” is the wrong way to go. We recently had the Megaphono festival, and a large part of that was equipping artists with the right philosophies to succeed, which I think is very important. The new vision for Doldrums is to provide tangible benefits directly to the artists. For example, this year we started a collaboration with the local blog Sometimes Always, wherein we produced short interviews with the bands playing the festival. These of course helped us raise the profile of Doldrums, but more importantly they provide something that the bands can take with them, add to their media kits, and benefit from longer-term. It’s a first step, and moving forward we’re eager to grow this aspect of the festival in collaboration with Sometimes Always and other partners.
If there’s something to be said about the Ottawa music community, it’s that this fraternal mentality of succeeding through collaboration is very pervasive. Zachar recognizes the benefits of locally-run festivals for small time bands, but also the importance of those bands in creating a strong creative community by which more of these grassroots events can happen. Who knows? Maybe even more people will come out and discover more of the incredible music this city’s artists are producing.
Below are some videos made with Ottawa music blog Sometimes Always, Pierce McKennirey conducts some great interviews with bands involved. Be sure to have a look!
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.
Ottawa Explosion Weekend, day two–saw many great bands rock Club SAW once again.
Tropical Dripps got us started with their surf rock and beach party atmosphere. There were beach balls, Jean-Sebastien crowdsurfing on an inflatable beach mattress, a bunch of people dancing while wearing tropical shirts, and great tunes. Oh yeah, there was also the first “nudity” of the festival (not the last of the day) thanks to shirtless bass player Kurt.
Ketamines were up next with their old school punk rock vibe. They reminded me of the kind of stuff you would have heard New York in the 80’s, it was great. Kind of a New York Dolls feel, but with the bonus of someone on keys. The lead singer was a great showman, which is always a plus.
Looking rather exhausted but without any signs of fatigue Pretty Pretty from Ohio came on. They were a super fun pop punk act with dual vocals. The crowd was loving it and dancing up a storm. What was really cool is that the drummer Jerry is not normally in the band but was filling in and did a kick ass job. Songs “Talking to the Walls” and “Family Matters” really stuck out for me.
Jerry returned to the stage to play with Tweens, who blew me away. They had me hooked from the very first song. I just loved their energy and really enjoyed their new song “Serotonin.” Tweens also had us all laughing as they introduced one of their sad songs by saying “get out your rain coats, here come the tears.”
The most surreal moment of the night was getting to see The Stand GT. Never thought I would ever get to see them play as there last show was 13 years ago in 2001. They were excellent and you could have sworn they never took a break. They looked like they were having so much fun getting back on stage which is great to see from a band whose first release was in the late 80’s.
It was now time to move inside to get ZEX-ed. One of Ottawa’s newest acts ZEX were most excellent. This was my first time seeing the band and I was quite excited. I missed the beginning but walked in to see the lead singer in a white leather bondage gear which did not cover very much (not something you see every day, well maybe some of you do.) I really dig the band’s sound, energy and stage presence. And I could not help but yell the lyrics to their great tune “Savage City” at the top of my lungs.
The last band of the evening for me was Vacation, as I had to head out and go see some friends. This was the third band Jerry drummed for in the night and he once again killed it. As I have mentioned in several other posts, it always blows my mind to watch a drummer also be lead vocals. I don’t know what is in the water in Ohio but the state certainly produces awesome punk rock between Pretty Pretty, Tweens and Vacation.
Well day two is in the books which means the actual weekend portion is about to begin! I am so ridiculously stocked for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Let’s keep the Explosion rolling.
I missed the openers Stay Classy, so for me Terrible Liars got the festivities started. The band is a sweet four-piece from Ottawa who were very tight for a band who has only played a handful of shows. I really enjoyed their set and can’t wait to see them again. It is always fun to watch Davey Quesnel shred and play like he is having a seizure. What is this Davey, band #10 on the go? Really digging their songs, “Before you call” and “No Big Surprise.” (Disclaimer: no idea if those are the actual song titles, but they are the choruses.)
Next up was Laureate from Montreal. They have male and female vocals that complement each other perfectly and goes great with their melodic punk stylings. They introduced a song mid set saying, “this song is four and a half minutes on the album, we are going to play out in two.” Oh how I love punk rock. The song was an excellent display of how tight the band is and how smoothly they can transition from mellow to rocking out.
Camp Radio closed out the outdoor portion of the evening; yeah that’s right Mother Nature, nice try! The veterans of the scene absolutely killed it as per usual. I have seen them play many times and always enjoy it. Chris Page rocks out like it is his last show every time (see the video above). Camp Radio don’t play live as often as I wish they would, so don’t miss out next time.
Now inside, it was time for Ottawa’s NECK. Decked out in tropical shirts, they blasted us with Ramones-esque punk rock. Drummer Kevin broke his hand at Pouzza Fest in Montréal a few weekends ago but powered through like a pro. The crowd was digging them, especially three girls whose enthusiasm and dancing were great. It’s always nice to see people moving around. I am a big fan of their tune “Skinny Jeans.”
The suds, I mean studs, from Audio were up next. The band is comprised of the co-founder of Beau’s beer and two of the brewers. They are as delicious to your ears as the beer they make is to your taste buds. The band wasted no time going from song to song to song. No chatter or filler, just rock.
It was now time for one of my favourite local acts, Finderskeepers. They played a high-energy set full with all the tracks I wanted to hear, from “Public Offender” to “Pack Your Bag” to the closing with the kick ass “It Can All End Tonight.” One of the most wonderful things about Finderskeepers is they are not afraid to play an instrumental track, “Red Riding.” Also worth noting the drummer wore a head lamp during the set which I had never seen before. I must admit it was pretty dark in Club SAW, good call Jon.
Finishing the amazing first day was School Damage. They tore it up real late on a Wednesday, a school night for some at the all-ages show. They played in your face, no breaks, punk rock. A perfect closer for the first night of the five Explosion!