Another year in the books for music in the nation’s capital and another year of countless great releases. This list is in no way a complete and exhaustive wrap up of all this city had to offer, but simply a listing of the 17 albums and EPs that stood out and really captured our attention over the calendar year of 2017. Check them out below, have a listen, get out and support local music. We can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store!
Top 17 Local Albums of 2017
Mushy Gushy – More Butter
Released: July 7, 2017
What is butt rock, you may ask. Well, Mushy Gushy’s sound can best be described as a good blend of experimental garage pop with the occasional hint of surf rock. It makes for good time rock that makes you smile, bob your head, and maybe even sway your hips. It’s perfect for those hot summer days on the way to the beach, but also excellent for those warm summer evenings on a patio or at a cottage. […] It is not always about complicated progressions and incredible prose—sometimes the best medicine is music you can just put on and sing along with while you relate to what the writer was feeling at the time. — Excerpt written byEric Scharf
Telecomo – For Sale
Released: June 6, 2017 (Record Centre Records)
I think the world could always use some more fun and punchy garage rock, and that is exactly what this band is offering us. The simple chord structures, unflashy vocals, and lo-fi aesthetic give Telecomo a genuine throwback feel. The Detroit garage rock gods of the 80’s would surely open their scuffed, wrought iron gates for Telecomo. — Excerpt written by Matías Muñoz
Slack Bridges – Joy of Joys
Released: November 11, 2017
[…] everything Slack Bridges has put out since their inception has met a seemingly self-imposed benchmark of production and musicianship. Their debut full-length “Joy of Joys” is no exception. The album was self-produced by the band at Swell Studios and received some esteemed TLC from Phil Bova at Bova Lab Studio, and Jason Jaknunas at Metropolitan Studio. It features a veritable roller coaster of soul (I’m not gonna say soul-er coaster), both lyrically exploring themes of struggle and searching for hope, but also exploring different aesthetics and dynamics musically. — Excerpt written by Anthony Cardozo
Heavy Medicine Band – ERSATZ ERA
Released on: April 22, 2017 (Record Centre Records)
Of all the bands making music in Ottawa—or even Canada, for that matter—the Heavy Medicine Band is pursuing a style and sound that is wholly their own. It’s phsyc-rock dipped in folk noir, driven by the profound lyricism and vocal prowess of Keturah Johnson. On their debut full-length ERSATZ ERA, the band weaves together texturized soundscapes that could be the soundtrack of a dream…or a really good trip. They build on and expand upon the foundation laid out on 2015’s Conduit EP, paving a path for listeners to get lost deep in their world. The intricate and reverb-laden instrumentation are a foundation of the album, often droning into the fringe of our imagination on tracks like “teeth” and “breath.” Johnson’s remarkable voice cannot be understated, however, and this band’s undeniable chemistry makes them one of the most exciting in town. — Matías Muñoz
Tapas – s/t
Released on: November 17, 2017
Tapas is the name of a new hip hop trio in Ottawa, but they’re anything but rookies. The group consists of two of Ottawa’s finest MC’s—G.Grand, and Hyf—along with locally-renowned producer Jeepz behind the beats. Together they are a force to be reckoned with. Their self-titled debut may very well be one of the best hip hop records to come out of the capital in the last five years. — Excerpt written by Matías Muñoz
Moonfruits – Ste-Quequepart
Released on: May 12, 2017
The husband and wife duo Moonfruits released their second full length album this year. Ste-Quequepart is a 10 song French-language folk concept album that plays like a short film soundtrack and really emphasizes the couple’s voices and lyrical content. Their beautiful and powerful voices which complement each other so well are on display from the get go in the title track. While the music and instrumentation of the album is rather simple, at times just a banjo or a guitar, you never feel like anything is missing. Much of the album is a little laid back, however my favourite song “Le Maire” picks up the pace and teleports you to a kitchen party or a campfire jam with charming clapping and great sing a long moments. Have a listen to the album Ste-Quequepart on a cold winter night, close your eyes and let Moonfruits take you away to a different place.
Galapagos – Potential Space EP
Released on: June 13, 2017
The final version of Potential Space was recorded on an afternoon in May, 2017, with Cameron Steacy (Organ Eyes) both playing drums and recording the EP.” You can hear some of their folk beginnings in the second song “What I Deserve,” but you can also hear Steacy’s influence throughout the EP, especially on “Again” combined with the band’s vision to really make it a fuller sound. Steacy has recorded, mixed, and mastered other Ottawa artists such as The Yips, Bonnie Doon and Fire Antlers.
Potential Space is a great starting point for a band that has already seen several members changes and has grown from two-piece to four. I really enjoy how much diversity of sound they fit into a four song release and see much potential in all the different avenues for the sound to continue to grow. — Excerpt written by Eric Scharf
Bonnie Doon – Dooner Nooner
Released on: May 21, 2017 (Record Centre Records)
Masks. Clouds of smoke. Decked-out pickup trucks. Skulls. These are all reasons to love Ottawa surf-punk queens Bonnie Doon. But there’s so much more to them than that. Their brand of fuzzed-out, bass-heavy sludge-rock is meant to captivate audiences and shock the senses. Their energy, weirdness, and overall “we do whatever the fuck we want” attitudes are what really define this group as something special.
Bonnie Doon’s latest album Dooner Nooner (released on Record Centre Records) is an acid trip through and through, and will take you from heavier face-punching tracks like the opener “Haunted Life,” to wild lo-fi experiments like the closer “B-Hole.” — Excerpt written by Matías Muñoz
Dead Weights – Mountain Arresting
Released on: August 1, 2017
Mountain Arresting is a big step forward for Dead Weights, and clearly the product of a lot of work. The band strikes a balance of heavier guitar and bass parts with melodic flourishes, all woven together with rough and grumbling vocals of Jonathan Becker and Steve McCrimmon. Their signature sound comes through loud and clear on this record, as they tightened up their instrumentation even more and obviously had some chemistry in the studio. It doesn’t hurt that Dead Weights have been playing together for years, with lots of shows under their belts in recent memory. — Excerpt written by Matías Muñoz
Nightshades – s/t
Released on: November 15, 2017
Nightshades’ self-title release this year was their first full-length album. There has been some change in membership (Dean Morris joined them on bass) since their last release and also some slight change in sound. The band’s sound is a lot more mature and refined in all the best ways. They have kept true to their garage origins, but come at it a little cleaner and polished than past works. The track “Very Blue” sticks out in particular on the album as it appears to me to be the song that best encapsulates their transition from old to new Nightshades. “Very Blue” has many of the raw elements and darkness of older Nightshades while still very much being new and a step forward. Lead singer Mallory Giles’ vocals sound better than ever on this release and really shine on tracks “Wasting Time” and “Broken Bag.”
— Eric Scharf
New Swears – … and the Magic of Horses
Released on: June 23, 2017 (Dine Alone Records)
And the Magic of Horses is another fun-filled record featuring tons of sing along and clapping moments, with sprinkles of mosh-inducing build ups, group harmonies, and fun riffs to carry you through the summer. The opening track “Dance With the Devil” sets the stage for the whole album, as it has a little bit of everything mentioned above. It doesn’t take much to see how they could spice it up even more and have some fun with it live.
This album goes well beyond their usual focus on all-day partying and raucous—but don’t worry, there’s still plenty of that, it’s just not the focal point of every track. The band explores more existential subjects like life, death, friendship, screwing up, and legacy. It is great progress to witness, and what it is even better is how they have done it without losing their edge and fun which they have become synonymous with. — Excerpt written by Eric Scharf
Area Resident – Delano
Released on: October 13, 2017 (Record Centre Records)
Some may recognize Doug Hempstead’s voice as the dependable CBC radio traffic reporter here in Ottawa. But when he’s not on the airwaves talking about crashes and delays, he’s making music under the moniker Area Resident. The album is all Ottawa Valley, and a perfect mixture of the folk songwriting and crunchy alternative instrumentation that great artists from this area have pursued in the past. Hempstead himself is a talented multi-instrumentalist, and on stage he is the drummer lead vocalist. He is also supported by guitarists John Higney (The Flaps, Two Minute Miracles) and Paul Jensen, and bassist Kristy Nease (who also happens to be his CBC cohort). Delano draws on Hempstead’s experiences growing up in the valley outside of Pembroke and the things he’s encountered as a journalist. He expertly weaves together these anecdotes into poetic lyrics, imposing them into songs that aren’t tethered by a singular genre or stylistic direction. This album is full of life and demands to be listened to over and over again. — Matías Muñoz
Dark Plains – 00001
Released on: October 29, 2017
The Dark Plains is a band whose members have been making music for a long time, featuring ex-members of Okara and Shotmaker, who were relatively well-known acts in the 90s post-hardcore scene. While their experience extends beyond two decades, these guys are making fresh-sounds that contains elements of punk and hardcore, but the songs take their own trajectory all together. 00001 is an album that requires deep listening, and demands one’s total attention. — Matías Muñoz
Lake Urmia – Wine Time
Released on: June 16, 2017
Lake Urmia is a newer melancholic queer-pop band in town that is making serious waves, and their debut album Wine Time brings together warm tones and jangly riffs for us to grab and hold on to. The album was self-recorded by band member and vocalist Elsa Mirazei, and they also mastered it along with Chris Love of Pith and the Parenchymas. This DIY production gives the album a wonderfully imperfect quality, where the listener is given a raw and unrefined collection of beautiful (and sometimes sad) songs to ingest and mull over. The unrefined aspects of this album are what make it so easy to connect with, and Elsa’s soft vocal melodies are so naturally interwoven into the instrumental parts. Fans of Julien Baker and Frankie Cosmos will fall into the arms of Lake Urmia with ease, and we’re really excited to see what this band is going to get up to in 2018. — Matías Muñoz
Cody Coyote – Mamawi
Released on: November 1, 2017
Cody Coyote has exploded onto the hip hop scene over the last few years, and has garnered a lot of well-deserved praise for his recording and vivacious stage performances to date. The rapper is of Ojibwe/Irish decent with ancestry from Matachewan First Nation located in Northern Ontario, and has been writing music since the age of 16. Mamawi is Objiwe for “all together” in English, and the album combines extraordinary lyricism and storytelling with a range of modern hip hop and experimental beats. The album itself is centred around reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous people, togetherness, love and unity, and tackles some difficult issue involving the history of oppression and abuse of indigenous peoples that continues to this day. Not only is this album integral in today’s political conversation surrounding indigenous rights, but Cody Coyote is following the trail blazed by Ottawa’s A Tribe Called Red and his voice is one that we should all be listening to. — Matías Muñoz
Outside I’m a Giant – Point Comfort
Released on: October 7, 2017
The intricacy and scrupulous instrumentation that is woven throughout Point Comfort is made immediately apparent, and the cinematic qualities that each song contains evokes moving imagery draped over emotions. Caron’s deep, rumbling vocals compliment the storytelling and instrumentation beautifully, grasping the listener in a comforting way while guiding us through the tumultuous journey. In some ways it is reminiscent of The National’s Matt Berninger, and Caron similarly utilizes his vocal prowess in ways that indulges the eardrums without overpowering the gentle instrumental moments, or distracting from the tapestry created by the strings. — Excerpt written by Matías Muñoz
PINE – Pillow Talk EP
Released on: June 9, 2017
PINE has released their first album through No Sleep Records, an emotional five-track effort that spans genres and bring the listener into a world free of sonic boundaries. Their songs are raw and untethered pieces that use intricate instrumentation and emotive lyricism to create a powerful experience for listeners. — Excerpt written by Matías Muñoz
We’ve compiled a few albums that were either too short to meet our 4-track minimum, or didn’t quite fit into our top 17. Here are some honourable mentions worth listening to.
Her Harbour – Go Gently Into the Night
Gianna Lauren – Moving Parts (Forward/Record Centre Records)
Lyric videos have been immensely popular since the launch of YouTube. Often they are made by fans and simply feature the lyrics scrolling across the screen almost like karaoke, some going a little further to contain images along with the words. Dead Weights just took it to a new level with their video for “Stuck in My Head.” The video does feature the lyrics that are written on a black board in what looks like a classroom.
What makes it truly special is that the band invited several talented local artists and friends with very different style to draw two or three at a time on the blackboard really elevating the lyrics. The artists are: Jordan Seal, Kendall Valerio, Vance McBride, Cory Levesque, Yafa Jarrar, Pascale Arpin, Kieran McKinnon, and Liam Sheehan. Band members also jump in from time to time. To ensure they can fit all of this within the time constraints of their song, they speed up the video which makes the drawing unfold like magic before our eyes… drawing with chalk in hyper-speed!
The video peaks while the band sings the refrain “Try and keep an open heart” over and over at the end and you have eight people drawing at the same time creating one big beautiful mural with a great message.
Back in May, we celebrated our five-year anniversary with a couple of shows at The Record Centre. That was a whole lot of fun, but we’re not quite done yet. Because why stop there?
Over the past five years we’ve had the opportunity to meet countless musicians in Ottawa, go to hundreds of shows, and really dig deep into the music landscape here. These artists continue to impress us, inspire us, and keep us doing what we do. It’s been our mission and raison d’être to support these musicians through coverage of new album releases, interviews, live reviews, and much more.
We’ve put together a compilation called Five Years – Ottawa 2012-2017 which contains music that has impacted us since Showbox started in 2012. This span of five years, in our mind, was a crucial period in the Ottawa music scene. More DIY musicians than ever before came out of the woodwork and made albums, and many were released independently without labels. Some music was underground, some wasn’t.
Different types of music pervaded throughout this period, demonstrating Ottawa’s potential hub in the Canadian landscape. Our hope is that this compilation will act as a snapshot of a strong and robust local music scene in Ottawa between 2012-2017, and allow folks to have a view into the music that came out during this period. It goes between garage, punk, hip hop, folk, and
While we could have double or tripled the size of this compilation with all the incredible artists out there, we kept it modest and capped it at 51. So while this list is encompassing, it’s certainly not meant to be comprehensive by any stretch. Please enjoy a free stream and download of the Five Years – Ottawa 2012-2017 compilation below.
A huge thank you to all the artists who contribute their music to this compilation, and to Pascale Arpin for designing such a good album cover. Enjoy!
The compilation is PWYC, and any proceeds will be donated to Girls+ Rock Ottawa in memory of Jean Sebastien Belleau. A special fund in his name has been established for the maintenance, repair and preservation of their growing instrument library, made in the spirit of honouring JS’ much deserved legacy as a passionate supporter of the Ottawa music scene.
Ottawa pop-punk group Dead Weights have just released their second full-length album, Mountain Arresting. It’s been a few years since we’ve heard new material from these guys, and we’ve been waiting impatiently ever since hearing a few of the tracks live earlier this year.
Mountain Arresting is a big step forward for Dead Weights, and clearly the product of a lot of work. The band strikes a balance of heavier guitar and bass parts with melodic flourishes, all woven together with rough and grumbling vocals of Jonathan Becker and Steve McCrimmon. Their signature sound comes through loud and clear on this record, as they tightened up their instrumentation even more and obviously had some chemistry in the studio. It doesn’t hurt that Dead Weights have been playing together for years, with lots of shows under their belts in recent memory.
Fans of bands like Latterman, Off With Their Heads, and Direct Hit! will feel right at home with this record, although it’s appeal is vast. Those who enjoy no-bullshit punk rock with some grit will fall into Mountain Arresting with ease. Their goal isn’t to play faster, louder, and harder than everyone else—their style and approach is intentional, and it grasps the listener tightly without losing meaning or using studio tricks as a facade of perfection. What you see is what you get with Dead Weights, and anyone who has seen them live can attest to this.
It was nice of them to put lyrics up on their site, because sometimes it’s hard to hear the words since it sounds like Becker just smoked three packs of cigarettes before the recording session. But hey, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The higher register howling of McCrimmon on tracks like “House is Not a Home” offers an appealing contrast to Becker’s whiskey-soaked rumbles. And the cherry on top? Hooks of gold, yearning for crowd vocals. You might catch yourself blasting these tracks and screaming some of the irresistible group vocal parts, only to realize that you are the only one in the room.
A stand-out aspect of the Mountain Arresting are the well-crafted lyrics, words about the everyday lives we live, social injustices, and growing up and getting by in a world that’s not always fair. Earnest words in these difficult times we live in is a breath of fresh air, offering perspective about the harsh conditions around us. But there’s a sense of hope in the songs, a sense that we’re all in this together and that all is not lost. Things are fucked up, but we can help each other and pick each other up. A little empathy and compassion go a long way, and while many of the songs discuss life’s difficulties and injustices, there is an overarching sense of humanity on this album.
It is obvious that a lot of effort was not only put into writing each song, but also composing a full album with no filler to speak of. The album itself is short and punchy, and although I was left wanting more, I still felt completely satisfied when I finished listening. Dead Weights have a lot to offer, and Mountain Arresting is a tremendous achievement.
Find ‘Mountain Arresting’ on Spotify, Apple Music, and bandcamp (stream below). Be sure to catch Dead Weights live on October 17th at House of Targ along with Montreal legends The NILS and Steve Adamyk Band. Follow event link here for more details.
The EP is more North Fields and less Dead Weights – but 100% Jon Becker. Four songs straight from the heart by a man with a raspy voice and his acoustic guitar recording in a back room with a Crown Royal bag as a microphone shield. If you are sick of the heat and want the return of sounds of fall and winter than you are in luck with this one. If that fall and winter aren’t what you are looking for, The Way You’ve Aged also transports you to a dimly lit bar where smoking is still allowed and Becker is sitting on a chair on a small riser playing to the regulars.
The title track sets the tone for the EP with lines like these: The difference is where we become untied and the things we use to help us stand upright / We’ll still smoke cigarettes in the park on Dundas West / We’ll lay in the dead grass and I’ll close my eyes, picture you painting looking your best, as November purrs in the soft light / I love the way you’ve aged.”
The next three songs follow the themes of relationships, bad habits and growing older, which makes them very relatable.
Turn the lights down low, crack a beer and a smoke (if you’re into that kind of thing) and sink your teeth into The Way You’ve Aged (streaming at Exclaim) on a late night where you feel like deeply connecting with a total stranger. You can also catch him playing Thursday Sept. 22 with Fire Next Time and Jordan & Watts at Bar Robo, info here.
In May of 2015, Eric and I had a crazy idea. We joked about going to Pouzza Fest – a Gainesville, Florida, The Fest-style music festival – and film all the Ottawa bands. We even went so far as to joke about making an actual documentary. We are by no means documentarians or filmmakers, but we do tell stories on this website, and that is something we are pretty passionate about. In that respect, we declared ourselves pseudo-raconteurs of the people and music in Ottawa, and that it wouldn’t be so far-fetched to actually make this thing happen. Well, folks – we did it.
After 4 days of filming and keeping on pace with the loud and late nights, we caught all the Ottawa acts slated to play Pouzza (except Crusades, who had to pull out for personal reasons). Those bands were Dead Weights, Jon Creeden & The Flying Hellfish, Fresh Hell, Jonathan Becker & The North Fields, Rich Chris, Sidelines, The Tenenbaums, and The Valveenus. We had more than our fair share of fun, and it was definitely an experience I’ll never forget. Plus – it’s Montreal. There’s something about the city that makes everyone who visits fall in love with it.
This documentary is by no means a masterpiece. In fact, technically it is a piece of shit. We recorded almost everything with our phones and learned video editing on the fly. After all, it’s a punk rock festival named after poutine on pizza, so I don’t think we’re competing for an Oscar anytime soon. Even though some of the video is a bit shaky and there is audio that you can’t hear at points, it was filmed and edited with care. After spending a lot of hours cutting and splicing the footage, we ended up with this product.
We want to give a huge thank you to the bands for being involved, and all the folks who helped make this project possible! It was like exploring uncharted waters for us, and all the friends who helped us learn new programs and teach us some tricks of the trade – we salute you.
Bob Barker encouraged us to neuter our pets, Nardwuar has his doot doola doot doo and Ron Burgundy wished for San Diego to stay classy. Prevenge, they signed off paying a house show in the basement with the lights turned down low surrounded by their Ottawa friends.
Ottawa’s Dead Weights playing at Funeral Home.
Locals, Dead Weights kicked off the show. This is the shortest hair iteration of the band I have seen play live, Derek and Steve chopped off the mops. The boys played a bunch of new tracks including a yet to be named track where Jon signs “keep an open heart.” The song is freaking killer and can’t wait for them to lay that one down. Derek pulled a his best BA Johnson impression and took off his Prevenge t-shirt just to reveal another Prevenge t-shirt underneath. Well played sir. Dead Weights capped off the set with crowd favourites “Friends First” and “Barely Breath.”
Panic Attack from Montreal playing Funeral Home.
It was now time to begin the Montreal invasion as Panic Attack took over. The three-piece play 90s flavoured emo-punk to perfection. Many of the songs make you want to pogo, which would have been tough in a basement with a clearing barely over six feet. I love hearing “I Can Work It Out,” “Not Your Fault” and “Pictures.” In closing Frank said “we have two songs that are fairly good and we are going to play them now before Dig It Up destroy the whole house.”
Panic Attack were not kidding. Dig It Up tore it up. Two songs in the lead singer said “I hope you guys don’t like recognizing songs,” as they shredded our faces. We could decipher them, but even if we couldn’t the sheer energy and power that is Dig It Up is infectious. The often overlooked member of this band is drummer Andrea. The drumming in this band so solid and awesome. Just see this band, do it, do it every and any chance you can. During the final song one of the guitarist passed his axe to Prevenge’s guitarist Chris for quite the hardcore finale. Dig It Up dug Prevenge’s grave at Funeral House setting the stage for them to bury themselves.
Panic Attack drummer Nicolas Turcotte holding the mic in the crowd during Prevenge’s final Ottawa show ever.
It was finally that time. The moment where you are filled with excitement and sadness all at once as a band you love plays for the last time. Prevenge‘s lead singer and guitarist, Alex Cartier, began by saying “It has been 8 years of doing our best… we are Prevenge for the last time.” Fittingly open with “Buried Alive,” off their 2011 7 inch split with Dig It Up. The pact basement crowd emphatically screamed “bury us alive” at the top of our lungs. It was most certainly more of a celebration of life than a funeral. People sang along, rushed the mic, danced, moshed, drank and JS obviously crowd surfed. After playing “DOUBLECHEESEBURGERCOKENOICE,” Alex said “I’ve been coming to house show in Ottawa since the 90s and I’ve never seen any where that supports like Ottawa.” The set was jam-packed with many of my favourites including “Half to Black” and “Who Kills It Fills It.” Ottawa clearly holds a very special place in the heart of the members of Prevenge. “Over 8 years of touring, Ottawa is usually the last day on tour and its the best way to cap off,” said Alex. They closed with “The Way We Live Today” and as they finished Alex said, “We will be back in different form forms, but goodbye forever.” RIP Prevenge thanks for the memories and one hell of a ride.
The sun shone down on Club SAW today, and Mother Nature spared us the rain so we could enjoy all the good times that day three had to offer. The first band of the day I caught was The Jeanies from Brooklyn. I heard them play at Avant Garde Bar the previous night, but I never actually laid eyes on them because the place was packed to the rafters. My OXW weight loss program was in full effect as I sweated off about 6.5 pounds at that show, so it was great to see these guys again with a little more breathing room.
This afternoon, they took the stage to some surprising fanfare for a band who’d never played Ottawa before this weekend. These guys looked and sounded like they’d stepped out of a time machine from 1970. With lead singer/guitarist Joey Farber’s double-denim and mutton-chops, and the rhythm guitarist bearing an uncanny resemblance to David Bowie, while the bassist rocked a corduroy cap and floral print shirt, it was just nostalgia central. And these aren’t stage outfits, this is just how these guys dress. From the blues-inspired guitar work, to razor sharp three-part harmonies, The Jeanies had the crowd bobbing along throughout the set, with the hooting and hollering culminating in their final song, the first track off their album, “I Seen Her Dance”. Keep an eye out for these friendly Brooklyn boys, they’ve got a good thing going. Their self-titled album is on Bandcamp, along with a recent single.
Next up at Mugshots was the band Terrible Liars – an Ottawa four-piece, two of whom I recognized as members of Big Dick and Steve Adamyk Band. As soon as they walked onstage I noticed a tattoo on the singer Brendan Flynn’s forearm, a symbol popularized by ’90s punk band Jawbreaker as a logo of sorts. Now I dig on some Jawbreaker, so I knew this was going to be cool. With a mid-tempo mix of melodic punk songs, it was a perfectly palatable dose of punk for those among us nursing hangovers. I loved the set, and would definitely check them out next time they play. Guitarist Davey Quesnelle plugged his stand-up comedy set, and ended up giving us a bit of a sample as he sang the praises of Beau’s special batch of Ottawa Explosion Session Pale Ale, which is being poured all weekend. The set ended with Davey chucking his guitar into the crowd, narrowly missing National Capital Rock photographer Andrew Carver, so maybe we’ll get to see his angle of things.
I hopped over to Vertigo Records for the debut of an enticing new Ottawa band Cheap Whine. The band features Eric of Feral Trash on guitar and vocals, Steve Adamyk on bass, and Jordy from The Creeps and Crusades on the skins. I watched from the sidewalk as I inhaled overpriced slice of 1-for-1 pizza and, after a quick déjà vu from TV Freaks’ packed Vertigo show last year, there turned out to be a bit of room so I squeezed on in. The band was ripping through fast, fuzzy punk tunes while the crowd cheered and bobbed along and participating in the ol’ OXW weight loss program once again (I keep making this joke, and maybe it was just me, but I sweat like crazy all the time). Cheap Whine has shirts too, and the design a clear nod to power-pop/rock’n’roll icons Cheap Trick. Anyone who follows Steve Adamyk Band has probably seen shots of Steve wearing a sleeveless Cheap Trick shirt, so Eric jeered about cutting the sleeves off your Cheap Whine shirt for your Steve Adamyk Halloween costume. Another funny thing was Jordy’s ride cymbal toppling over about 4 or 5 times, and OXW organizer Emmanuel Sayer jumping in to rectify the situation. It happened enough times that Emmanuel eventually just stayed crouched in that corner, watching, waiting.
My next highlight of the day was jumping between the Club SAW and Mugshots courtyards, first waiting outside SAW for the next band to arrive. They’d apparently been held up at the border for a while, and their set time had just passed when their van pulled up outside. They loaded directly out of the van onto the stage to set up. It was Benny the Jet Rodriguez. The California four-piece played an upbeat mix of light grunge and sunny, sensitive pop punk. But the peak of set came when they threw in a surprisingly well-suited Sheryl Crow cover. It was “I Wanna Soak Up the Sun”, and I don’t think I’ve ever sung that song as loud as I did. Wicked fun. I snuck over the Mugshots to catch local punk sweethearts Dead Weights, and all I can say is those guys need some haircuts… Jeez louise. I’m kidding though, I love Dead Weights. Great band and great dudes. They played quite a few new songs, which hopefully means a new album at some point this year. Of course, they ended their high-energy set with the fun tune “Barely Breathe”, a song that lots of us sang with the band as they finished off.
Back to Club SAW courtyard for one of my biggest highlights of the weekend, Sheer Mag. This Philadelphia band is pumping out airtight glam rock, with pumpin’ dance beats and irresistible guitar licks. They’ve been compared to Thin Lizzy and The Runaways and the shoe sure as hell fits. I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least gush a little bit about the raw power of frontwoman Christine Halliday. She belted out song after song to a very enthusiastic crowd. Ska Jeff had mentioned they were awesome, and I’m not sure how many others had heard the band before, but Sheer Mag definitely garnered some new fans this weekend.
Another highlight was packing in with what seemed like every person at OXW for when The White Wires took to the stage outside Club SAW. It’s funny thinking of White Wires songs as “classics” but everyone was singing along to nearly every song. I’d say as far as Ottawa Explosion goes, that makes them a classic band. One of the main OXW organizers, Luke Martin, plays bass along with Ian Manhire on vox/guitar and Allie Hanlon on drums. Ian is the guy responsible for Gaga Records, Gaga Weekend, and a bunch of wicked stuff that became the pre-OXW Rock’n’Roll Pizza Party. One could sit down with Luke, Ian and Emmanuel and chart out exactly how this all came to be… But that’s a whole other piece on its own. Allie now lives in L.A. and is pretty busy with Peach Kelli Pop, but we’re very happy that she comes back to Ottawa a couple times per year to play with The White Wires.
Before my big highlight of the night, honourable mentions need to go out to some amazing bands I missed this evening. Hamilton, Ontario’s TV Freaks always put on a crazy show, and I was truly bummed to miss this one at the Dom. Much love, TV Freaks, keep it freaky. Aside from that, Germany’s Hysterese might not come back for a while, but I ran into a lot of people who were stoked for them so I hope they had a good crowd. And then it was Creep time. I, along with the Showbox guys and many others, love The Creeps. Their 2014 LP Eulogies has been on heavy rotation for me, and now that I actually bought the record it will literally be on rotation rather than just my iTunes. The Misfits-esque morbid pop punk is infectious as it is accessible, and the crowd was deep enough in the Beau’s Explosion brew to get a little rowdy. I think the first crowd-surfer went up within the first 2 songs. Not bad. They kicked things off with a handful of tunes off Eulogies, digging back in their catalogue for a few older gems. The crowd-surfing continued throughout the set, and everyone was pretty good about looking out for each other and helping others up with they inevitably fell. I love seeing this.
I love Ottawa. I love Explosion. That’s about it for me going to shows this weekend, much to my chagrin. I’ve been loving the shows the past few nights, but it’s time for this volunteer to pay his dues.
Well, the weekend that many of us look forward to all year in town is nearly upon us. It’s the unofficial start of summer in Ottawa – Ottawa Explosion Weekend! It is one of the best punk festivals in the country, bringing bands from all across North America and Europe to Ottawa’s core for five days of non-stop fun.
There is no shortage of reasons for why we wanted to get on board with OXW and co-present with them. Not only have organizers Emmanuel Sayer and Luke Martin built this thing from the ground up – they do so with the intention of bringing bands to Ottawa and highlighting some of our city’s best artists without putting any of the money in their back pocket. Many of us have watched OXW evolve and draw more people, bigger bands, and expand to more venues surrounding the main grounds at SAW Courtyard.
We’re very happy to announce that Showbox will be co-presenting the lineup at Mugshots courtyard on Friday night, June 19th. The bill features two of our favourite local punk bands, and buds, Finderskeepers and Dead Weights, as well as Chicago’s heavy pop-punk rockers Boilerman.
The format is such that each set is spaced out so that no one will miss out on anything happening around the festival, and can head to Club SAW, Avant Garde, and Dominion Tavern to check out other sets between bands. Here is all the info you need:
Friday, June 19
Doors at 7:00 PM ($8 or free w/ OXW bracelet/AA)
Ottawa Showbox & Ottawa Explosion present…
Pouzza Fest, the Montreal venue based punk rock festival named after putting a poutine on a pizza, turned five years old this past weekend. Ottawa Showbox went down to shoot a documentary/movie on the Ottawa bands playing. I felt it was also important to provide a written snapshot of this crazy and amazing festival. So here are some of the highlights in no particular order.
Dig It Up tearing it up at Katacombes during Pouzza Fest in Montreal, QC.
One of the best parts of Pouzza actually happened the day before the festival even began. The Thursday before the festival, Beau’s hosted a free Pre-Pouzza Party featuring Single Mothers, Dig It Up, Audio Visceral, Dee Cracks and Lost Love. Consider the cool setting of Katacombes, $1 hotdogs/veggydogs and the fact that Dig It Up and Single Mothers play one of my favourite styles of punk out there. The bar was set high.
Jeff Rosenstock taking the time to discuss the very important topic of sexual harassment at shows, many show-goers are conditioned to think it’s normal. Some also believe that when a woman speaks up about it, it means they aren’t tough enough for the pit. As he said, “sexual assault is sexual assault and any time you see it you should stop it. Everyone will have your back.” It is important for musicians to not only spend their time rocking, but to tackle serious issues and to use their position to positively influence others. Much respect, Mr. Rosenstock.
Watching one of your friend’s from Ottawa, Rich Chris, play a 2 a.m. set in a french fry restaurant and having a crowd of strangers sing along as he covers the Menzingers.
Jesse Lebourdais playing the hangover brunch at Foufounes Electriques during Pouzza Fest in Montreal, QC.
Getting to hang out with musicians from across the country and connecting with them to set up cool side activities. Namely being lucky enough to have Jesse Lebourdais play a private three-song set for me in an alley and then have Jon Creeden swing by for a song also. Pretty rad way to spend a morning.
Convincing a group of friends to do Sunday afternoon pizza bongs. Let your imagination roam for a bit… A pizza bong is when you fold a slice of pizza into a funnel like shape and then chug a beer using the pizza. Once completed, you are welcome to chow down on the za.
Continuing with the food theme, on Sunday morning Les Foufounes Électriques hosted a hangover brunch where every item is $1 each and you can get $3.50 Caesars. Imagine ordering eggs, curry tofu scramble, sausages, hash browns, and toast and only paying $5. Yeah – punk brunchers know what they are doing.
Racing around the beautiful and vibrant city of Montreal from venue to venue, there are seven to nine hosting shows simultaneously at any given time. The venues are all pretty close to each other and provide completely different settings and vibe. It is a great change from the outdoor festival formula.
A bunch of Ottawa friends at the top of the half-pipe in TRH Bar during Pouzza Fest in Montreal, QC.
To continue on that feeling, there were so many incredible moments shared with all the local bands and friends who made the trip to Ottawa to hang out, party, and watch all the Ottawa bands. There is something powerful about all of us singing together at the top of our lungs in another city that was just so beautiful.
Having the opportunity to see great bands that have never played Ottawa or that I have simply never heard off. In no particular order bands you need to check out that I just discovered or fell more in love with after finally seeing them live: Cayetana, Jeff Rosenstock, Barons, Rebuilder and The Jukebox Romantics.
Finally, being a part of a musical community made up of people from all over the world that congregated for an amazing experience.
The infamous Franky Gogo trying the infamous pizza bong. (Photo: Matías Muñoz)