On a humid and muggy day like this one, arriving early to a show at Black Squirrel Books and Espresso Bar in the heart of Old Ottawa South was nothing short of a blessing to me. Two reassuring words: air conditioning.
The venue was filled with an overwhelming sense of warmth and togetherness—welcoming faces, friendly reunions and collective enthusiasm for the closely approaching show. Three terrific bands, all of them seemingly close friends of one another, about to rock the fuck out of this cozy cafe.
Nashville, Tennessee’s Sad Baxter blasted out their first number under the dim lighting of Edison bulbs. Nirvana was the first thought that popped into my head—the 90’s grunge influence was clear as day. Their light-hearted banter contrasted with the gritty and sludgy tone of their music. The guitar was distorted and heavy, the bass controlling, and the drums (played by Alex Mojaverian) calculated and simultaneously chaotic. Deezy Violet’s vocals meshed with the instrumentals, her voice raspy and filled with longing and understanding. Her goosebump-inducing growls through “Sick-Outt” carried so much sincerity, and during “Baby” were supported by harmonizing from the bassist. Sad Baxter kicked off the show strong and confident, and were a good start to a night of great music and genial people.
It was hard for me to not smile like an complete and utter idiot when Montreal’s BBQT got onto the floor for their set. The power pop posse, ecstatic to be playing back in Ottawa since performing at Ottawa Explosion Weekend (R.I.P.) back in June, also came on with smiles on their faces. BBQT’s charismatic personality seems to possess the power to lift your mood no matter what and make any group of people feel like a family.
The band started off with “PEPSI”, a short n’ sweet upbeat song like many of their tracks. The sound from bassist Mikey Melikey was a thunderous quake that acted as a foundation for the fun, tweety instrumentals accompanying it. It blanketed the strong, catchy melodies and riffs. The sweet twangy-ness and slightly distorted guitar surfed around the bass, baiting it back and forth and up and down.
Bopping to the beat and sporting a string of fairy lights around her guitar was Amery Sandford, who absolutely killed the solos habitually played by guitarist Jack Bielli. Sandford giggled off the occasional slip-ups (which somehow added to their style) and jammed on. Solos mimicked her honest and carefree vocals, which she performed with the occasional wink to friends and family in the audience. Allison Graves passionately drummed a delicate surf beat as the whole venue belted out the lyrics to “HIGH WASTED”. Fun and punky and almost “post-ironic”, BBQT’s vibe made me forget just how damn quickly summer was coming to an end.
Last but undisputedly not least was Lonely Parade, who tonight celebrated the release of their newest LP “The Pits” with Buzz Records. Also based in Montreal, Quebec, Lonely Parade is a post-punk trio composed of long-time friends Augusta Veno, Charlotte Dempsey and Anwyn Climenhage. Going into this set, I wasn’t sure what to expect. To say the least, I was blown away. Their sound was weighty and almost unsettling, but in the best way imaginable. Droning, layered vocals gave me hints of That Dog—though tame, one could catch undertones of angst, determination and yearning. They begged to not be underestimated. Lyrics touched on the struggles and thrills of everyday life, and invoked a strange feeling of nostalgia.
Occasionally we’d get a fun sort of prologue to a song, a story or experience that inspired the music. For example, “I’m So Tired” was introduced with an anecdote about falling asleep in the car. You could envision yourself there: the stern and fluid bass steering you down a dark road, the guitar intertwining itself with it, often drifting away but always in sight. The guitar riffs kept you on edge, abruptly turning corners but always ending up back where they started. Moods would change as well as tone.
They’d go from a sort of calculated math rock to utter noise and spacey hysteria resonating Pavement instrumentals. It was fucking hypnotic. The drums kept everything moving. They were crisp and frigid and intimidating, sending shocks of icy blue through your veins. The temper the band created was so intriguing that the crowd refused to let go of it. After some eager persuasion to perform an encore, Lonely Parade closed effectively with “Grilled Cheese”, and it was time to return to the oh-so-fun humidity of the outdoors.
A truly stellar night it was. I urge you to catch at least one of these bands live when they return to Ottawa. Each band, though showcasing different styles, tied together seamlessly and turned the night into a fluent story. Each band was a new chapter and resonated a different mood, but all with the same underlying likeness. An experience like this is totally worth subjecting yourself to the ringing in your ears you’ll hear the next morning. No doubt.
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.
The first band to rip open the night was Spell Runner, from Albany, New York. Their wild playing bordered power punk and garage punk, teetering from one to the other. The drumrolls, guitar riffs, and throaty screams melded together and created a chaotic unity.
The guitar playing was of higher pitch and let loose. Each stroke came quickly after the last while leaving a resonance that echoed in the background. Deconstructed and split into two parts, the guitars seemed to squabble with one-another whilst adding a spacey sci-fi-esque sound to the songs. It painted the atmosphere with several shades of electric green, and yellow. The solos were rapid and executed with ease. They provided teal splashes and they drew you in.
The vocals dominated with the throaty screams that ripped from the lead singer. They created the illusion of the instrumentals mellowing out around them. Amidst the technical issues, the stage presence and sheer power of the screams were enough to get people moving and thrashing. The wild screams blasted bursts of irritated reds through the soundscape and allowed for rusty oranges to come through in bubbles.
The bass rumbled in the background and incorporated deeper greens due to the heavy weighted tone. It wasn’t quite warm but it droned on, having kept a steady tempo while snapping in an aggressive edge. Buried in the midst of mass amount of noise, it found a way to stand out and rattle your ribcage.
The drumming remained warm and hollow. They didn’t boom and cling to the air. Instead, the sound fell short, one beat after another. The fills and rolls tied the songs together in a grimy fashion. Tainted in raw golden orange, sunset yellow, and yellow-green, the drumming provided something to thrash to while maintaining a welcoming presence.
Next up was Ottawa’s own thrash metal band World War 4. Crossing over to punk and doom metal, the band brings forth something unconventional yet they do it in such a way that it blends together near perfectly. The fusion of chaos and disorder find a mutual unity within this bands music.
The guitar progressed with violent chugs of muted chords that would unleash themselves wildly, deep navy blues and lime greens taking over progressively. The riffs had a sharp tone to them and splashes of celeste would spray across the field of vision. Meanwhile, the bass found a deep rumble in the background and served to stabilize the wild guitar riffs. It too was played without mercy and with brutal ferocity. It was the steel blue backbone to the mess.
The vocals cut in with brutality and rage. Throaty and as rough as the guitars chugging, they showed absolutely no mercy whatsoever. The vocals cut in with rusty oranges and brutal murky yellows. The sounds ripped from the very back of the throat were a deep stark burgundy, contrasting with the tones of the guitar.
The drumming was quick and each beat fell viciously after the next, having melded into a disarray. Vehement, the crash of the cymbals was brutally cold and sprayed trails of teal across the field of vision. Meanwhile, the snare and the toms found a thick, full, warm sound that couldn’t be ignored.
The last band of the night was High Command. Dissonant aggression and tight drumming, slow buildups, and wild basslines, the band did not disappoint.
The vocals came from exhaled screams, and quite literally ripped themselves free from the lead singers body. They were meant to comes out. Matched to the overall intensity, the seasick green that erupted from the vocal stylings was incredible. Backed by the enraged reds of the power chords, there was nothing held back. Every ounce of energy and soul was thrust into each song. The guitar playing was quick in tempo, and there was much tremolo, despite this, the hostility did not waver and only became more prominent.
The bass seemed to follow the guitar but would rip out its own deep solos that couldn’t help but catch my attention. Adding to the thrashing, it provides a depth to the pieces. Brutal, brisk, and murky, the swampy colours it radiated fit perfectly together and created a backbone to the guitar.
The drums were boney and full. Cold and thrashing, they held absolutely nothing back and gave everyone something to headbang to. The sheer frosty feeling they possessed took over the atmosphere and really drove the moshpit home. The brutality was remarkable and there was nothing quite like it.
A crossover show of punk and metal is something that is generally turned down or slightly frowned upon but I must say that these bands absolutely throw those notions out the window. They are must sees that will inevitably change your viewpoint on the genre.