Last week, noisy London punk rockers Single Mothers returned to the captial. They’re continuing to ride the wave of their latest record, 2017’s Our Pleasure, and they pulled no punches at House of TARG alongside locals Mushy Gushy and Curl. Our photographer Aidan Thatcher was there to catch the action through his lens.
John K. Samson—known best as the lead-singer and guitarist of The Weakerthans, and also considered by many as an unofficial Canadian poet laureate—played a very small and intimate show in Ottawa at Maker Space North.
The BYOC (bring your own cushion) show was held in one of the buildings’ hallways and sold out with less than 50 lucky attendees mostly seated on the floor. Samson didn’t even need to use his microphone as the small crowd sat in silent awe as he made us all melt in one of the most special shows I have ever attended.
One thing that makes Samson so special is how real, honest, and down to earth he is. He thanked us all for being there, thanked his partner for watching their dog and yellow bird Pickle as he toured across the country. He thanked Side Door for helping organize and manage his cross Canada house show tour, while ensuring most of the revenue found its way to him, the musician. “I’ll be making about $1100 tonight,” he said. “So thank you all so much for helping with my mortgage payment this month.” He thanked Shawn Scallen from Spectrasonic who has been involved in essentially every show he has ever played in town and then thanked the real heroes. “I’d also like to thank the two anti-depressants I’m currently taking who are the real reason I’m able to be here with you today.”
Equipped with his guitar and some notes on a stand, Samson played about 40 minutes of songs he had planned out, which started with “One Great City” and included many new tracks off of his latest album Winter Wheat. The set also featured the Virtute the Cat trilogy of songs back-to-back-to-back making the whole room quite emotional. Afterwards he took a short break to chat with us and take requests to build his next set.
Samson returned from the break telling us “Thank you for writing my set list… just so you know, some of them I won’t play very well but I’ll endeavour to do my best.” And his best is what he gave us, playing 11 more songs, some of which were smoother than others, but I’m 100% confident not a single person there was bothered by this. On top of taking requests from us in person, he had also invited people to send him postcards with request, which delivered one of the cutest moments of the night on a night filled with them. The parents’ of someone in attendance sent in a postcard, requesting “The Reasons” for their son who missed Samson in Winnipeg as he is now in Ottawa studying.
The crowd did pipe up breaking its silence during “Sun in an Empty Room” singing the chorus and backing vocals, which made Samson’s face light up in glee. He closed his set with my little brother’s request “My Favourite Chords” which beautifully capped off the wonderful night. Do yourself a favour and follow Samson’s web site closely as he doesn’t really have social media presence and I would hate for you to miss out on such an experience again. I feel so very lucky to have witnessed this performance.
Ev has synesthesia, and they incorporate their sensory experiences into music reviews. Synesthesia is a condition in which the brain links a person’s senses together in a rare manner, prompting unusual sensory responses to stimuli. People with synesthesia, for example, might see a certain color in response to a certain letter of the alphabet. Those who experience synesthesia “hear colors, feel sounds, and taste shapes” in a remarkably consistent fashion.
Taking the Legion by storm, The Nailbiters played their first show and moulded their own unique energy that would leave impressions on everyone attending. From their soundcheck to their proper set, the band ripped right into the atmosphere. Sounding like they were thrown into a dingy garage, The Nailbiters absolutely had this to their advantage.
The vocals shrieked, raw and raspy. They were rough and unlike anything previously heard—anger and soul drenched them. Almost lost within the raging of the other instruments, they came through nonetheless and with a wild energy. Painting the soundscape bitter greens and maroon reds, the colours add to the intensity of their riveting sound.
The chugging of the guitar and bass in combinations played with orange and vivid reds. The two melded together and while you could feel the difference in your chest, it’s so tightknit that you need to listen to distinguish the two because they follow and hold each other together. The pick scrapes, however, are ever prominent and executed flawlessly. The solos played left room for the bass to hold the songs together while allowing the guitar to shred.
The drums came in cold and brutal, painting the scene all shades of blue. The cymbals crashed wildly and it ensued thrashing from the crowd. Unellegant suited the vibe given off.
Next up were Death Exclamations, a band filled with well-loved Ottawa punks, all who have been in at least four different bands at a time. Little smiles and energy through the roof, the guys crashed through the silence and tore the Legion apart with their ferocity.
The bass rumbled loud and proud right up in the foreground and managed to meld between the guitar. Once the guitar came in, the place was ripped apart the last bit of calm that would have been left. Steady and reminiscent of Discharge, there was that muffled aspect to the guitar while it maintained anger. The solo’s seemed to egg on a challenge of sorts that tied everything together.
The drumming was quick and cold, a bitter bite behind it. The snare sounded flat and full instead of resonant and hollow. Meanwhile, Sammy’s vocals ripped through the irritated instrumental and while they were hard to decipher, they were delivered with extreme passion. Scrapped from the back of his throat and spit out into the microphone, not a single beat is missed.
Up next were Ottawa’s, Omerta, who yet again redefined ear-splitting chaos. The vocals packed an extremely powerful punch, each word hitting you like a brick to the head. Sierra stomped around from one end of the “stage” to the next, passion and rage mixing into the performance. The vocals turned everything blue and drenched the very middle of the scene.
The guitar played with a controlled feedback while it spat out heavy melancholy as buildup to what was to be unleashed. The power of the weighted chords and the dark aquamarine they created clashed with the drums and the yellow produced by them. The drumming and guitar played an interesting game—thrashing against solo’s, silence against a roar of power chords.
The bass shook your core and you could hear the deep rumble in the background, slight tonal differences or riffs than the guitar would play over, it remained pronounced. It added a strong backbone to the songs. The drumming, which came with enthusiasm and unrivaled vexation tainted each open area a stark magenta. It was hard to rip your ears away from it.
After Omerta, Tightlip took to the stage and completely obliterated any notion of limits to their capabilities. Belting out the vocals with a grit an weight to her voice was Ashly all while playing the bass. Her quick basslines shred and remained booming throughout the set. Reds tainted over my vision as the bassline peeked through more and more, raspy and deep vocals adding an orange dimension to the pieces.
James’ drumming sent a frigid chill down spines and contrasted any warmth that emanated from the bass. Skeletal and heavy, there was absolutely no apologies for how assertive each beat fell. It intermingled with the colours the guitar emit while playing solo’s and added incredible power.
The guitar lashed out untamable energy, crushing blue’s for solos transitioned to deep magentas the deeper the chords went. It had a bite to it that radiated a bitter vibe.
Moreover, Tightlip made sure to call out those who moshed too aggressively —you know who you are. They tried to bring more safety into the scene while playing their set and remained unapologetic about it.
Pen-ultimately were Zymotic from Montreal, Quebec. They tore into the set like no tomorrow, thrashing about, rasping out line after line. They brought out the second most intense pit of the night.
The guitar burst through the basslines with scarcely any mercy and blew roaring greens into the soundscape. With the more metallic sound to the strings and flat sound to the guitar it really took over the space. The bass stood out for the fat and round sound it carried. Weighted and packing a punch it was hard to miss the strong basslines. Muddy army greens drenched the place with bubbles of it.
The drumming stood out on its own—hollow and fucking loud. Standing out was not the snare but rather the heavy usage of the toms. Reminiscent of drumming you might hear in metal, it did not fail to entice. It came out as murky yellow and sunburst oranges while the cymbals seemed to add a few spots of a dirty pastel blue.
Lastly, all the way from Mexico were APÄRÄ. The band, whilst expelling an intense amount of raw-as-fuck aggression, absolutely encapsulated the energy that a show needed. Having kicked off the end of the night with rapid drumming and quick fills, pick slides drenched in feedback, basslines that boomed, they worked the crowd.
The vocals tore through the instrumentals with the punch they packed—weighted as all hell and coming out as elongated screams, they followed and fell from rhythms systematically. Drumming crashed right into the vocals and set the rhythms that broke and were restitched. It was hollow and commanding.
The guitars droned on, overdriven with feedback dripping into nearly every note. Deep power chords completely took over and superimposed one another, chugging on in a fit of dominance. Inserting itself into the chaos was the bass, which added a dimension to the guitar playing that wasn’t otherwise found. It acted as a wild backbone.
It’s safe to say that these bands are all nes you should get your asses out to see. They’re incredibly wild and wreak havoc on just about everything. Just keep in mind to hold yourself to pit etiquette and keep each other safe. Respect the space and respect others.
I called Julie Tuesday evening around 7:00 PM, Ottawa time. She had just gotten home from a busy day and has another one tomorrow. She has a 6:00 AM shift at the pool where she works as a lifeguard before an evening photo shoot and a plane to Ontario to catch the following morning. She’s yet to pack. We talked for almost an hour straight.
One would think waking up at 4:45 AM would be a loathsome task for a life-long touring musician, but Julie Doiron finds comfort in her routine. Not to mention the steady pay cheque that finds its way into her bank account every two weeks—a first in her adult life. Swimming, on the other hand, has been a constant since childhood, and it’s particularly important to her now.
“I need to keep my body strong in order to feel good, psychologically,” she explains, elaborating on how her schedule also includes teaching a weekly yoga class. When conversation turns to the four show tour she has booked this weekend, she laughs and likens it to a vacation in comparison to her current schedule and the intensity of the touring she did this summer.
Starting Thursday, September 13th in Toronto at the Garrison, Julie reunites with The Wooden Stars for three shows, the second of which will be here in Ottawa Friday night at St. Alban’s. The third on Saturday in Picton for Sandbanks Music Festival along with co-headliners Wintersleep. She will be playing an additional show in Montreal on Sunday at Quai des Brumes, before it’s back home to Sackville, NB for Monday.
“We tend to get together every two years, now” she says of the Wooden Stars reunion, referencing the string of dates they performed together in 2014 after a twelve year hiatus, and another slew of performances in 2016. She goes on to explain that they initially arranged these 2018 shows after accepting the Sandbanks Music Festival appearance and decided to add a few more dates. This series of shows has a greater significance than previous—it marks the last time they will be playing their former album in its entirety, because hal-eh-lou-yer, we’re getting another Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars album.
The Wooden Stars began backing Julie on tour starting in 1997 for her Loneliest in the Morning release. Their jazz-inflected musicality fit in well with her sparse, achey song-writing, and in 1999 they released Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars. It won a Juno the following year for best Alternative Album and saw re-release in 2013.
While the songwriting efforts on that album were Julie’s alone, she believes the writing process will be more collaborative this time around. Co-writing is something not entirely unfamiliar to Julie, who cut her teeth in collaborative writing with the 2017 release of Julie & the Wrong Guys on Dine Alone Records.
“I was really blocked before that album” she says, explaining that between 2012 and the fall of 2017, she’d only written two songs independently—both of which were written on the way to the session where they’d be recorded. She credits her Wrong Guys collaboration in teaching her ‘to let go and not be in charge”.
Moving forward with new music, she talks of being a lot less preoccupied with the expectations of “making it,” writing a hit, or charting.
“It’s liberating, to no longer be burdened with those expectations.” In their absence, she can create the music she wants to create. This she credits to her age and experience—she is a 46 year old mother of three with 28 years in the music industry.
I ask her how her relationship with her songs has aged, curious how she feels having to revisit songs from her Broken Girl days, songs that as a listener are still so visceral and raw. “I haven’t forgotten what those feelings are like.” She pauses. “But I have changed a lot, and in a way I am grateful to be able to revisit those feelings from this distance.”
The Showbox Concert Series featuring Julie Doiron & The Wooden Stars and Gianna Lauren happens Friday, September 14 at St. Alban’s Church (454 King Edward Ave.), starting at 7:30 pm. More information can be found on the Facebook event. Advanced tickets are $10 and can be purchased online here, or $12 at the door.
Last week, the Sam Roberts Band returned to the capital and played a big set at an outdoor stage on the Algonquin College campus. The Canadian rock icons were joined by up-and-comers Birds of Bellwoods, from Toronto, and The Riot Police, from here in Ottawa.
Our photographer Aidan Thatcher was on-site to catch some great shots from the night. Have a look at the gallery below.
The House of Targ stage was rocked by three great local bands last week. Headlining the night was Ornaments, an Ottawa three-piece who hadn’t graced a stage in a while so it was very nice to see them playing live again. Saint Clare did what they always do and played their most excellent brass-driven rock that makes you want to dance and sing. Opening the night was the up and coming band Lost Acres who released a solid EP in December last year.
Check out the pictures below by our photographer Aidan Thatcher and keep your eye out for the next time these bands play live.
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.
On Thursday night, crowds escaped the damp, rainy Ottawa streets and piled into a dimly lit Bronson Centre to witness an evening of ambient, atmospheric music. Headliner Timber Timbre visited Ottawa for the fourth time in 6 years along with support from Ottawa’s own Boyhood Scattered Clouds.
Scattered Clouds took to the stage first, rising out of an ascending red fog. Performing as a 2-piece band with Jamie Kronick on drums and Philippe Charbonneau on guitar, keyboard, and vocals, this band was the most surprising act of the night. In terms of style, Scattered Clouds describe themselves as “dark, experimental, and post apocalyptic.” These characteristics could not be more fitting. Beginning their set with a heavy presence of baritone guitar and an emphasis on drums driving the synths, the band achieved a sound that could easily be equated to a modern day embodiment of a Joy Division b-side album, with an “Ian Curtis- esque” vocal tone. The second half of the set however, transitioned into an emphasis on synth and a precision in instrumentation. Creating an atmospheric 80’s dance vibe, the band achieved a type of lo-kfi sound that left the audience in a state of euphoria. Waking from this set with the harsh Bronson Centre lighting was like waking out of a heavy, romantic dream.
When the lights dimmed again, our good pals Boyhood took to the stage. Clad in flared pants and turtlenecks, Boyhood did not fail to deliver their staple moody, noisy sound. As always Caylie Runciman delivered raw and airy vocals that harmonized beautifully with her band, and provided an emotional and unpolished set completed with songs that morphed and melted into one another. Giving us a taste of what is to be expected from the upcoming album Bad Mantras, which will be the bands first album since 2012, the set featured the bands catchy “Drivin’” and “He Don’t.” Beginning with keyboard, Caylie swapped over to guitar midway through the set where she went to town in an emotional and raw guitar solo. It’s easy to get lost in a Boyhood set, and this was no exception.
Last but not least, Timber Timbre finished the night in almost total darkness, with only subtle lighting sweeping the stage. A glass of liquor sat idled on an amp to the right, Taylor Kirk began playing what seemed like it would be the entirety of his most recent work, Sincerely Future Pollution. However four songs in, the set took a detour towards an intermingling of a huge sample of his work, ranging from his self titled back in 2009 to his most recent. Detouring the set with Hot Dreams, the band’s instrumentation, and deep, sultry vocals, the song was delivered with a raw, sensual and emotional demeanour.
This specific Timber Timbre performance was unlike many others. His previous shows in Ottawa, which included a performance in Ottawa’s first Baptist Church in 2011, a set at Folk Fest in 2012, where he performed alone with a kick drum, and even his set at Jazz Fest in 2015, stuck pretty tightly to the delivery of the songs on the album. However, this set tended to use the style in the albums as backdrops for experimentation and improvisation with melody and pace during the performance, providing unequivocal authenticity. Most notable in this performance was the “Curtains?!” jam session that lengthened the song by about two extra minutes with intense instrumentation. The night ended with a 3-part encore beginning with “Grand Canyon,” that delivered an expressive and theatrical but emotive and raw finale.
This show captured a unique energy that seems to have been strengthened by the uniqueness of all the bands but also the ways in which they played off of one another. They each brought an atmospheric sound and seamless instrumentation, as well as a hard punch in the heartstrings with their raw vocals, lyrical movements, and honest and authentic delivery. The perfect ambiance to fit the creepy environment that is the Bronson Centre on a rainy evening, this show was not one to miss.
Sam Coffey & the Iron Lungs headlined a great show at the Dominion Tavern Wednesday night which featured opening sets by locals Saint Clare and Mushy Gushy.
Sam took to the stage wearing his standard issue jean vest with Sam Coffey & the Iron Lung patch on the back over a a bedazzled jumpsuit, which I later learned was actually part of an Ace Frehley costume. The band is touring celebrating the release of their new self-titled album which they released after signing with Dine Alone Records.
They opened with two tracks off the excellent new record, “Ragnarock” and “Judy.” I love the new stuff, I really do, but was very glad to see they didn’t forget about their first album and the song that made me fall in love with them a few year ago, “Gates of Hell.” The track is a kick-ass rock n’ roll song with a sprinkle of old school, some claps and sing-a-longs, it is the near-perfect song.
Another highlight of their set was their song “Voicemail,” which is about Ottawa’s very own Gary Voicemail aka Ian Manhire of such great bands as The White Wires, The Sedatives, and more. If you have never seen these guys, shame on you. They are a great rock n’ roll band through and through and even better guys.
Same Coffey and the Iron Lungs rocking out at The Dominion Tavern in Ottawa.
Setting the stage and filling the stage was Saint Clare, a 7-piece band from Ottawa. The band has been making waves in Ottawa with their energetic live performance and great releases. They have such a dynamic horn section (sax and trombone) which adds so much to their music, especially on their 2016 single “Cheatin’.” And I don’t know about you guys, but I just love watching a trombone player strum along like a guitar when they aren’t playing.
Taking the importance of the horns even further is their physical arrangement on stage, which had the brass right next to the singer/guitarist, one on each side, putting them at the forefront. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that anywhere else. The band as a whole is great and I love what they are doing, but I must say the brass really makes them stand out in the crowded rock n’ roll world. There were definitely some new songs during their set so hopefully we will get something new soon to sink our ears into.
Saint Clare bringing the brass and the fuzz at The Dominion Tavern in Ottawa.
Opening the night was Mushy Gushy, a four-piece butt-rock band who are also from Ottawa. I’ll never truly know what butt rock is but Mushy Gushy make you want to bob and dance on every track. I mean this as a compliment—they were the perfect opening band and got the energy pumping. They did not waste any time playing three songs straight without breaks to get everyone in the zone. They then took a very quick break to say who they were and plug their new tape called More Butter and then quickly got back to business playing the wicked track “Trap” off of said tape. Not a lot of talk and a lot of good rock is key when opening a show. Also it is hard to go wrong with songs named “Fucking Awesome” and “Bodybreak.” Eat your heart out Joanne McLeod and Hal Johnson.
Mushy Gushy kicking things off at The Dominion Tavern in Ottawa.