Thanks to House of Paint, Mill Street brewery, and Ottawa Pride, this last weekend of August was a memorable one. When biking around the National Capital Region, I noticed people outside enjoying themselves at these and other festivals. It gave a sense of vitality to the areas, showing hints of the city Ottawa is becoming.
Because a girl can’t be everywhere, this review will focus on House of PainT and Mill Street/Dine Alone Records’ new festival, Hopped and Confused.
House of PainT – Urban Art Fest
Fourteen years and going strong, they’ve done it again! I may sound confident in this assertion, but this was actually my first time checking out the festival. The lineup was strong, with everything offered from slam
poetry, to B-Boy and B-Girl dance competitions, and excellent music, both live and DJs. Friday evening was a blast with Timekode and guest DJ Bear Witness (from A Tribe Called Red) taking their dance beats onto the Ottawa river. I don’t think I’ve attended a floating dance party since my frosh week in University, but I actually had a really fun time. The people on board were friendly and laid-back, and the music kept us dancing until late in the evening. It was definitely one to remember, but I must admit that it was House of PainT’s Saturday events that really captured my attention.
Photograph by Greggory Clark.
I’ll confess – I’m kind of a nerd when it comes to infrastructure and urbanism. I’m fascinated by the way people interact with spaces, especially when it relates to transportation and culture. When you are under the Dunbar bridge, it’s clear that this space has cultural value that emerged without being intended by the engineers that designed the structure. More than concrete and steel, it has become a gathering point for the community–and House of PainT is a celebration of this.
But if you weren’t drawn-in by talented breakdancers and live-painting by graffiti artists, or by the arches in the bridge structure, then stay for the music. Saturday evening brought attendees a stellar performance by the Souljazz Orchestra, who lived up to their usual brilliance and kept us dancing for hours. Souljazz are a mainstay on the music scene in both Ottawa and Gatineau, and if you haven’t seen these talented musicians before, you need to go about changing that as soon as possible. (Luckily, they’re playing Ottawa again soon with an album release party on September 23 at Babylon!).
On both Friday and Saturday night, I attended this small festival of music and beer. Now in its second year, the riverside alcove outside the brew-pub was turned into a temporary home for a festival. Managing to feel both intimate and packed at the same time, it was a nice place to take in some music. The lineup was pretty stacked, with nearly all the musicians signed with Dine Alone Records. While Dine Alone does focus on Canadian music, they also recognize that this isn’t an identifier. They were even selling t-shirts proclaiming that “Canadian is not a genre”. Their artists have some diversity of styles but are primarily focused in alternative music. The record label is forming strong connections in the Ottawa area, with some of their artists playing here regularly – or in the case of the New Swears, being from here.
Especially for a festival only in its second year, Friday was extremely smooth and well-executed. The turn-out was higher than I expected, with a good number of people who came to see Said the Whale, Yukon Blonde, and the Trews. The set-up was picturesque, and the festival felt both well-attended and intimate. I’ve been a fan of Yukon Blonde for a few years, so I enjoyed both their classic tracks and the new singles they introduced. Friday seemed to be a successful evening for this festival.
New Swears were a rowdy bunch, as usual, at Hopped and Confused at Mill Street Brew Pub.
I returned around 6:30pm the next day to see our home-grown talent. True to form, New Swears gave an energetic performance. Perhaps it was the early hour, or the accompaniment of sunlight, or their regular touring schedule – but their performance felt more polished than it had when I last saw them. I’m not entirely sure how they managed to feel “polished” despite pelting the crowd with ramen noodles, Joe Louis, and confetti–an impressive feat indeed! I’ll continue following the New Swears to see what’s next, but based on their 2017 record, And the Magic of Horses, I’m confident that they’ll continue to do Ottawa proud.
New Swears were followed by Dilly Dally, who were excellent. This was my first time seeing them, following a near miss last summer when they nearly played Arboretum festival. As someone who was introduced to punk rock by the Distillers, I appreciated the vocals which alternated between raw and melodic with a healthy dose of reverb. The band represented gender parity (and were totally badass). I think the musicians enjoyed themselves as well, because they played their set fiercely with hardly a pause between songs.
It seemed as though their intention was to do an encore, but the festival at this point started experiencing technical difficulties. The unthinkable happened – and the power went out in the stage area! At first it seemed innocent enough, but the silence stretched on. Upon inquiring, I learned that the generator had been used to power the fridges overnight (fair enough, beer should be kept cold). However, it seemed as though the generator had not been re-fuelled. The crowd was surprisingly calm about it, with Hollerado’s dedicated fan base waiting more than 90 minutes until the power eventually returned. In the meantime, the band members hung out onstage and spoke with their fans. At the end of the day, both Hollerado and Tokyo Police Club played their sets, to the great enjoyment of those who stuck around.
BONUS TRACK: Beer review of Mill Street’s special release, “Hopped and Confused”
The signature beverage for the event, Hopped and Confused was a smooth, sessionable ale. With a medium IBU and a rich mouth feel, the taste was more delicate than hop-forward. The first taste is malt, which turns into a tang of sorts. The bitterness kicks in after a couple seconds and lingers unexpectedly. Quite a nice beer, nicely enjoyed on draft. It pairs well with late summer nights and great music.
Earlier this summer, Ottawa’s party-punks released their third album, And the Magic of Horses, keeping alive their streak of putting out an album every two years since their debut in 2013.
We are a little late to the party on this one, but it has been a hectic summer here. The boys in New Swears signed on with Dine Alone Records in late 2016, setting the stage for more new music and a lot of touring.
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 is even better is how they have done it without losing their edge and fun which they have become synonymous with. I’m sure having Paul “Yogi” Granger record the album certainly didn’t hurt at all either.
I am a big fan of the closing track “Walkin’ to Rockin'” which is a great little slow burning track about their love for playing music together and rocking out. They sing “I don’t want to see another daylight unless I’m playing rock n roll, telling jokes and twisting it up, hanging with the boys on the open road.” They want to keep playing music and walk right into rock n’ roll’s warm embrace, and so do we.
Have a listen to And the Magic of Horses for yourself below and witness the evolution of New Swears.
Wednesday night was a rowdy night where three excellent Dine Alone Records bands, The Flatliners, The Dirty Nil and Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs, rolled through Ottawa and rocked Babylon Nightclub.
Anyone who reads my articles enough knows the importance of The Flatliners to myself and to Ottawa Showbox. They are one of the reasons Matias brought me on board at Showbox and we have shared many great times listening and seeing them play live. This night was no exception, with the punk rock trio from Toronto reaching deep into their repertoire, but also rocking tracks from their new album Inviting Light. The diversity in their set is key when you realize that the band has been together for 15 years and could easily decide to ignore their earlier work from when they were teenagers. As a long time fan, I know I appreciated it immensely when they played songs like “July!August!Reno!” off their 2007 release The Great Awake.
While some fans screamed out for older tracks, or yelled requests for some ska, most of the crowd was just dialed into the true passion and energy that is a Flatliners set. Another thing that goes hand-in-hand with The Flatliners is Beau’s Brewing, which was flowing all night and whose reps and brewers were very present. If you’ve never sang along at the top of your lungs with a sweaty Tim Duncan, you haven’t lived. Be sure to read Matias’ in-depth interview with Chris Cresswell here.
Setting the stage for The Flatliners were The Dirty Nil, a headliner-caliber band in its own right and who most recently won a Juno for Breakthrough Group of the Year. It’s not everyday you see a show where all three acts have headlined your town and tours across the country. When the band took to the stage, lead singer and guitarist Luke Bentham walked in with a big sign that read “HOTTAWA.” I think they were happy to be here. The Dirty Nil played their high energy grunge-inspired punk rock with conviction and style. With perfectly placed bubble gum bubbles for dramatic effect, Luke always looks likes he is having a blast. Bass player Ross Miller however often looks really intense during songs like he belongs in a metalcore band. That’s not a criticism at all, it’s just quite the contrast from the smiling, bubble-gum blowing going on on the other side of the stage. They played a new song “Avidazen” which was quite the rocking slow burner of a track. Dundas, Ontario must be so proud of these boys as they just keep getting bigger and better.
Opening the night was Sam Coffey & the Iron Lungs from Toronto. Now here is a band out there having fun and taking names. The group all rock sleeveless jean jackets with their logo on the back and never stop smiling. They play up beat and lively rock n roll that will take you back a few generations and might even make you want to do the twist at times. They have a new album coming out soon and the new tracks sound great and are just as much fun. New songs like “Talk 2 Her” are definitely a step in the right direction.
They also played my favourite track “Gates of Hell” which just has every a great song needs from gang vocals, infectious sing a long moments, build-ups and claps. If you’ve never seen Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs play, you might not know that one of the guitarists plays a double neck guitar which usually leads to a great two man solo (can it still be called a solo if there are two?) – one on the 6 strings and the other on the 12 -neck. I also think this might be the only time I’ve seen the band play where Sam didn’t puke or roll around in the crowd… it was still great, but just saying.
The holiday season isn’t quite here yet, but Beau’s All Natural Brewing and Dine Alone Records are feeling extra giving this summer. We’re teaming up with them to give you a chance at winning some really cool music and swag in celebration of Dine Alone’s 10-year anniversary! That’s right, these guys have been one of the best sources of great new music since 2005, and they want to party.
We’re pretty excited to get involved in the celebration too, since both Beau’s and Dine Alone Records offer up some of our favourite beer and bands.
The package is valued at over $350 and contains the following items:
8 Dine Alone vinyl LPs to help you get that crate filled with records
Various Beau’s merch (coasters, bottle openers, t-shirt, hat)
“Songs on Tap” download card (featuring songs by Alexisonfire, Arkells, City and Colour, k-os, Monster Truck, Yukon Blonde and more)
Beau’s pint glasses (not pictured)
That’s a pretty huge prize! In order to enter the draw, answer this question:
Q: Which Dine Alone artist recently collaborated with Beau’s for this years collaboration nation?
Easy, right? Email us at music [at] ottawashowbox.com or tweet the correct answer to @ottawashowbox /@beausallnatural /@dinealonemusic and you’ll be automatically entered into the draw for the prize pack.
For a BONUS entry, tweet your favourite Beau’s beer and your favourite Dine Alone band and include the three twitter handles mentioned above along with the #DA10year hashtag. We’ll put you in twice!
The random draw will occur on Saturday, August 22nd at noon. May the force be with you.
When I first moved to Ottawa, long before I started this website, I had just finished a long and (socially) time-consuming graduate program. Essentially I had not taken a break from school in almost 20 years, and summer was really the only time I’d venture out and catch live shows here and there growing up. Plus, I grew up in London, Ontario, which wasn’t the easiest scene to crack and be in the know about. Thus, I made a point to really try and discover some new spots in my new hometown of Ottawa. This story isn’t a show review or anything like that, it’s just a memory placed within the context of a new kid in town looking for identity, community, and some new music.
When I learned about Attack in Black (Dine Alone Recs), I was really stoked to hear that they were from Welland, Ontario. That’s a pretty small place, and you don’t hear of many bands coming from the periphery like that. Before their quiet demise in 2010, AIB got a few really good records under their belt and made a lasting impression on many of us.
They played Mavericks in May of 2009, and that was the first show I ever went to at that venue. That was a big deal to me, because I’d been to Bluesfest, outdoor concerts, and shows like that, but hadn’t broken into the small venues of Ottawa yet. The vibe of Mavericks sort of reminded me of Call The Office back in London, although the layouts were completely different. Semi-grimy, brick walls, and an assortment of concert-goers that despite having different music tastes and backgrounds, came together and fit nicely together.
Opener Shotgun Jimmie drew in the sparse crowd, and although I didn’t know any of his music at the time, I remember really enjoying that man and his guitar on stage.
When AIB came on, it was like a new door opened for me. At times, the band’s set was chaotic and in your face – you could feel the emotion and influence of the gods of punk’s past in their music. However, there was also a counterbalance, where Daniel Romano’s vocals maintained a feeling of ease and restraint. I remember thinking to myself that there was such a great contrast between the gritty, garage-tinted element with the melodic, folk-inspired side of their music. To me, AIB was on the path that Constantines and Weakerthans traveled before them, and it’s a damn shame it had to end. But for me, it was just the start.
Although the band has been on hiatus since 2010 (whatever that means), all of the members have moved on to do great things. Daniel Romano and Ian Kehoe teamed up with Constantines guitarist Steve Lambke to start the label You’ve Changed Records in 2008, and Romano also collaborated with Fredrick Squire and Julie Doiron. Guitarist Spencer Burton released Eulogy of Her and Her and Her under his solo side project moniker Grey Kingdom in 2011, and bassist Ian Kehoe also performs as Marine Dreams.