The Bronson Centre was packed Wednesday night as fans eagerly awaited the headliner, Dashboard Confessional, to hit the stage. Arriving early to get a good spot, a crowd was treated to not one, but two awesome openers for the night. Gabrielle Shonk was first on the bill. The Quebec City native provided a chill start to the evening, and will be playing her hometown tomorrow as the tour makes it’s way east.
The Elwins brought with them their usual high energy set as they played fan favourites. A fun personal connection to the Elwins that always brings a smile to my face is that they were the first show I ever photographed, and it took place at House of TARG. Their high energy set got the crowd prepped and ready for the highly anticipated Dashboard Confessional.
When Dashboard Confessional took the stage, they kicked things off with a slower song turned sing-a-long. It was clear by the crowds energy that the whole night would be filled with sing-a-longs even as the songs picked up the pace. The high energy, audience participation and taking requests all made the night more special as the band played through crowd favourites.
When asked, the crowd was made up of a pretty even mix of those seeing the band for the first time and those who are veterans to DBC shows. This mix had no effect on how loudly they were able to sing, each time putting a smile on the band’s faces. Originally from Florida, the band spiked in popularity in the early 2000’s as they released their indie/emo albums including full albums and EPs. In February of this year, the band released a new album Crooked Shadows with Dine Alone Records.
The idea is excellent. Who wouldn’t want to go to a punk show in a decommissioned Cold War bunker? The Diefenbunker is a place that captures the imagination, and it has a certain amount of mystique. The night of punk rock, zines, and crafts at this historic site had been building anticipation for a few months.
Granted, it’s not easy to get there. The museum knows this, and provided a free shuttle to and from downtown Ottawa. No excuses!
Here’s how the night went down:
Back of the bus
30 minutes is a reasonable distance. I’ve travelled longer for a concert.
It’s a similar distance to the Blacksheep Inn in Wakefield, though the countryside offers different things. Outside the window was a rural-industrial landscape—I was particularly taken with the sign advertising “culverts.” It may not be a covered bridge, but it’s arguably more important to be exposed to the outlying areas of a city, especially if you like tap water and well-maintained infrastructure. (I do.)
There was slight miscommunication with the transportation company, which led to the shuttle attendees waiting an extra half hour for the buses to arrive. Still, everyone was very patient. I am not a punctual person myself, which means I’m not allowed to be annoyed when I have to wait.
Finally, a blue wayfinding sign indicated the Diefenbunker was near. The anticipation builds.
It could be the most unique entrance to a venue in this town.
Strolling down the blast tunnel into nuclear safety, I couldn’t help asking the delighted visitor next to me — “Have you been here before?” It was curiosity, not a pick-up line, and she she was literally bouncing.
“This is my favourite place in the world!” she said, “I’ve been here almost ten times.” Her friends confirmed that she does, in fact, talk about the Diefenbunker frequently.
After turning a sharp corner and greeting the staff, we descended 70 feet underground.
The Blast Tunnel. Photo by Shawn Katuwapitiya.
The cafeteria is the largest room in the Bunker, and the linoleum tiles provide a historic ‘50s feel. The hall is quaint and well-maintained.
That evening, visitors could make their own pins, enjoy beverages and $1 pizza, and contribute to a zine being prepared by Possible Worlds, which is a gallery and workshop space in Chinatown. Someone at my table was gluing a picture of a sea mammal to a page. “I came for the zines,” she said to me. “I’ve been reading them for a while but I’ve never made my own.” I later heard from a musician recovering from a knee injury, who also appreciated the alternate activities, because it meant that he didn’t feel any pressure to stand for the entire evening.
I spent some time flipping through the zine library on display, but I admit – I was there for the music.
The Mess Hall. Photo by Shawn Katuwapitiya.
Built to protect the Bank of Canada’s gold reserves in case of emergency, the vault is a safe pretending to be a room. There is a sense of danger and protection while inside. It is metal and concrete, with nothing to absorb sound. The sound technician was uneasy and explained that minimizing the reverb would be a challenge.
For each performance, the atmosphere was unique and exciting. The setting enabled us to suspend our disbelief, and I was pleasantly surprised that each band had representation by grrl rockers. Turns out, punk pairs surprisingly well with both feminism and nuclear destruction.
Bonnie Doon made quite an entrance in hazmat suits, engaging the audience with tight riffs and tales of the outside world. They are fixtures on the Ottawa music scene, but I’d never seen the group before. Their stage presence and accessible melodies will capture the casual listener, and they invited audience members to spray paint them after the show. Would recommend.
They were followed by DOXX, who were more hardcore and also louder. I could feel the sound tech starting to sweat, but luckily I had earplugs. I’m a person who is often drawn in by lyrics, and while I couldn’t identify many words during this set, I still enjoyed it. Punk has a certain rawness that is especially evident during a live show.
Nightshades were up next, and I enjoyed the first song. However, the idea of making my own crafts was at that point more appealing to me than listening to music, and I stepped out of the vault and sought out the button-making station. It was creative magic.
Nightshades make some noise in The Vault. Photo by Shawn Katuwapitiya.
What is it about the intrigue of the Cold War era that feels like a good fit for the Diefenbunker?
I spoke to a self-identified ‘retired punk rocker’, who provided his opinion on the location. “It’s an iconic and triumphant moment for punk rock. We’ve taken over a government sanctuary.”
I further inquired about the philosophy behind the punk movement. According to him, punk is about “not letting anything you are born into – be it race, wealth, gender, not letting that define you. It’s about finding individualism in a world that is trying to tell you who you are.”
We finally got around to checking out the latest release by Ottawa’s own Worn Robot, called Worn Robot 3.
The 19-track album, their third, starts with the first track “More Than You Know” sounding reminiscent of the brooding darkness of Elliot Smith but then quickly shift to more of an industrial and heavy sound in the second song, “Astral Leaf.” Then just as you get used to the change of pace, the next track is right back to those sombre acoustic sounds for a few tracks.
The fifth song, “Glitch in the Shell,” revs up the intensity again with its instrumental industrial edge, taking the listener to a completely different place. The harsh breaks between songs and the changes of pace becomes a noticeable pattern throughout the album. The experimental pieces that appear every couple songs gives the impression of an alter-ego creeping out of everyone once and while, taking some risks and pushing the limits of his thoughts and sound. It really keeps listeners on their toes, and I am very intrigued to see how this plays out live.
A song that really stuck out after a couple of listens, through, was “How Many More Times” with its acoustic-grunge feel to the chord progressions and the sound of fingers sliding between chords. The first slide gave me chills. The song also really flows well into the next instrumental, which is heavier and a little more rocking but still grunge-laden in sound. You really don’t hear enough instrumentals in that style.
Worn Robot 3 was definitely influenced by grunge but there is also those aforementioned industrial elements and even some modern hardcore that breaks through. I encourage you to carve out some time in your busy schedule and actually sit down and take in this album from start to finish. This album is an experience, not just ambiance.
This past Saturday we hosted our second-ever Showbox Concert Series event at St. Alban’s Church, and it was a night to remember. The sold-out show was headlined by Shadowhand, who released their debut LP called Through the Fog. The incredible lineup was rounded out by stunning performances by The Heavy Medicine Band and Merganzer, all of whom have now released records through Record Centre Records. The bands took full advantage of the high ceilings and mesmerized the audience with their performances. Our photographer Aidan Thatcher was on-hand to capture some wonderful moments from the evening. We can’t wait until the next one!
We’ve been chomping at the bits to share Shadowhand‘s debut LP Through the Fog with the world, and that day is finally here. The Ottawa band is releasing the album through Record Centre Records, and it will be available in vinyl format and online. We’re also very excited to present the album release party this Saturday, March 10th, at St. Alban’s Church along with The Heavy Medicine Band and Merganzer.
Through the Fog is a nine-track effort, rolling through the peaceful lulls and buoyant peaks throughout. It is, more than anything, a warm album, and full of rich and robust tones. The allure of Brandon Allan Walsh’s bass lines is undeniable, as they sink deep into the listener and carry the songs from start to finish. Jamieson Mackay and Matthew Corbiere have a chemistry on guitar that elevates their clean, reverb-laden tones. Sean Tansey’s subtle and rolling drums stay in the background for much of the album, but occasionally the barrage of percussion crashes forth like waves breaking against a shore.
Their dreamy and unhurried approach gently takes us for a journey through the unknown. Even in the eight-and-a-half minute long “Light of Afternoon” the band begins at a languid pace and builds up the energy that climaxes around the 5 minute and 30 second mark, and then pulls back with an ambient and daydream-like conclusion. Jamieson’s soft, raspy voice melds seamlessly with the instrumentals, and fans of Destroyer and The War on Drugs will undoubtedly fall into his vocal style with ease.
Shadowhand recorded Through The Fog at a home near Ladysmith, Quebec in two sessions in fall 2016 and winter 2017. It was largely recorded live off-the-floor, and engineered by artist and producer Arturo Portocarrero, with some sporadic overdub sessions in Ottawa. Mixing was done by band member Brandon Allan Walsh and mastered by Philip Shaw Bova, with beautiful album art done by Haley Wolk.
Listen to the album below, and be sure to come out to see them at the album release party at St. Alban’s Church this Saturday, March 1oth. Doors at 7:30 pm. Physical tickets available at Compact Music, The Record Centre, and Irene’s Pub, and online tickets can be purchased here.
Have you ever looked at the back of a room during a show, and noticed a person straining their neck to listen to the band while also fiddling with some knobs and faders? That’s the sound engineer. Often forgotten (in my experience, until there’s monitor feedback or someone needs an instrument cable), they are an important part of local venues.
My journey as a live sound engineer began in 2010, when I started shadowing the legendary Slo’ Tom at the now defunct Zaphods. Prior to this, I’d worked recording ads and interviews in the production department at CHUO 89.1FM as well as recorded my own bands at home, but live sound was a different beast. Feedback, working with different musicians and music genres every night, as well as the notion that the show must always go on were very much part of this game! Shadowing Slo Tom was a great experience, and I learned to always treat musicians with respect and to not give in to the grumpy sound tech stereotypes.
By that summer, I was given my very first solo shifts at Café Dekcuf. Without going into too many details, let me tell you that I learned a lot that weekend, from everything from microphone stand placement to monitor feedback to how to never speak to a lead singer again. While my first night working alone went off without incidents, I almost ran out of the room on night two due to the crazy amount of monitor feedback. Fortunately, I stopped myself—I had the foresight to realize it would be hard to convince a club owner to hire me again if I took off mid-show!
I have now been working full time as a live sound engineer for eight years, both in clubs in Ottawa & Toronto, and as a touring Front of House and Monitor Engineer. Here are some tips and tricks to get you started on your live sound journey.
Find someone to shadow
In my opinion, the best way to learn how to do live sound is to shadow a live sound engineer. Don’t be afraid to ask local sound techs to come and shadow them as they work. Offer to help them put away equipment, to patch the stage and throughout the show. Ask questions. If you frequently shadow, a sound tech might let you mix an opening band, a great way to put your skills to use. Alternatively, there exist audio programs at colleges throughout Canada, but these can be expensive.
Always be ready to learn
Those first few weeks of working were a whirlwind of new information for me, from ways to ring out the feedback from monitors to how to properly patch a stage. Ask questions and learn from your mistakes. Find other local sound engineers to network and share knowledge with, or join online communities such as soundgirls.org, womeninlivemusic.eu or the Women’s Audio Missionto access great articles, training videos and forums. Note that these resources are available to people of all genders, not only women.
No show is too small
When you’re starting out, take all the gigs you can and learn from them. Do you have a friend who is organizing a show in a coffee shop? Offer to set up the PA for them and run sound. Even if it’s just amplifying three vocal mics, you will learn from this experience. No one starts off mixing in arenas, and it’s in those small venues where you will learn how to problem solve on the fly—an essential skill in live sound.
Know who your allies are
I am forever grateful to the community of sound techs I met through my work in Ottawa—my fellow Mavericks coworkers were the ones who helped me refine my monitor ringing skills on those first few shifts. Likewise, they were always available to answer questions when I had them. Most live sound work is freelance, and it’s important to connect with your peers. You never know when you will work with someone again, or when a friend might be sick and need a substitute for their gig.
Maxime working her magic on the board. (photo provided)
Treat people with respect
From the musicians on stage to the touring sound techs who come through your place of work, treat people how you would want to be treated. Don’t talk down to musicians about their amp tone or singing technique, but feel free to offer guidance in a gentle way if you think the performer could be open to your opinion. Likewise, if you are a touring sound engineer, the local sound engineer is there to assist you and make your day easier, so no need to be rude with them. I remember some of the first bigger shows I worked, and the way some of the touring engineers talked down to me. When I am on tour and am working with a new engineer, I try and show them tips and tricks if they’re doing things in a way that doesn’t work for my show, instead of simply yelling at them.
Know when to say no
You never have to do anything that makes you uncomfortable, whether that is working somewhere where there are safety concerns such as electrical hazards or inappropriate venue staff or musicians. As a woman, I have been in situations where musicians or touring engineers have inappropriately touched my body while on a show. There is never a situation where this is OK. If this happens to you and you feel comfortable doing so, report the individual.
Live sound is a creative job. Work with the bands you’re mixing in achieving their desired sound, and don’t be afraid to try something that seems totally unconventional.
Shameless self-promotion: if live sound is something that interests you, I teach an intro to sound class for women+ (inclusive of trans and non-binary persons) in Ottawa. To find out when the next class will be scheduled, visit the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition page here.
If there’s one thing Ottawa has no shortage of, it’s festivals. Tons of festivals. Festivals, everywhere. Here in the capital, we love to celebrate pretty much everything. Festivals are a major part of Ottawa’s tourism and provide lots of opportunities for local musicians. But how does one navigate the mysterious, and often daunting, festival application process?
It isn’t as hard as you think. Well, not if you are prepared. Festival applications are generally straightforward, but there is a degree a vagueness with respect to what exactly the organizers want from artists. In this article, I attempt to clear up the process and highlight certain aspects that may make or break your application.
Do your research
Festivals come in all shapes and sizes, and draw in certain audiences. Doing some research into who’s organizing the festival and what kind of music they’re programming can go a long way to increasing your chances of success. Do a bit of digging and learn what the event is all about, what kind of music they’ve booked in the past, and how your music would fit in. Do not assume the gender or identity of the organizers, and learn their names if you can.
Think of it like applying for a job with an organization. Would you go in to an interview blind, without learning anything about the company? Chances are, no. The same goes for festivals, and if you’re a solo singer-songwriter, you’re probably not going to fit into the lineup at a punk festival like Ottawa Explosion. If you’re a metal band, CityFolk probably won’t be calling you back. And that’s okay, but save yourself some time and target festivals that can accommodate your sound.
Bio: Less is more
Band bios are tricky. What do you include?How much is too much? For music festivals, less is certainly more. In almost all cases, festivals will ask you to include a band bio in order to get a better idea of what you’re all about. This is where preparation is key. Think about it—do you think organizers want to hear about how you, Steve, Carrie, and Dan met? No, they do not. What they want is a short and succinct explanation of who you are, where you’re from, and some of your top achievements. It shouldn’t read like a detailed history, but more like the synopsis on a book flap. Organizers are short on time and want to know all the good stuff in as little time as possible. So, if you have a long bio on your website, take some time to cut and condense it into under 150 words.
I.D.A.L.G. at Megaphono 2017 (Photo by Els Durnford)
Live videos: The Key
A good quality live video can go a long way. Why? Because it gives organizers an accurate picture of what you’re like on stage, in the flesh. There is nothing worse than vetting bands and having to scour YouTube for poor quality fan-shot videos. They are like nails on a chalkboard.
A well-shot, well-produced live performance or session video can be the deciding factor in accepting one act over another. It’s a worthy investment to hire a videographer or participate in live sessions that are being professionally recorded, as these videos can be put in your back pocket and used as your golden ticket.
Don’t act like you’re famous
Please do not act like you are famous. Please. There are few things less attractive to organizers than a band that over-hypes itself. Organizers are not dummies—in fact, they are usually music industry veterans that have been around bands their whole careers. So, you’re not fooling anyone. Saying that you are “the next Arcade Fire” or “the best thing to happen to Canada since The Hip” will do nothing to help your application. It comes off as pretentious and unbecoming. In many cases—especially in Ottawa—festival organizers want to find new bands and give them an opportunity to play in front of larger audiences. Talking about your achievements in an honest and sincere way can go a long way.
Try, try again
Lastly, don’t be discouraged if your band doesn’t get chosen for a given festival. There are thousands of applicants that attempt to play festivals in Ottawa. The best thing you can do is learn how to improve your chances next time. Festivals aren’t going anywhere, trust me. Before next festival season, do that video shoot. Hire a good photographer for band shots. Try to get some positive reviews in local music publications and blogs. Go to shows, meet people, find bands that have had success and try to get on a bill with them. The music industry can be a tough one, but if your band can weather the bad times, then you’ll eventually get an opportunity to showcase your music on a bigger stage. Hard work always pays off . . . just make sure you’re working hard on the right things.
This article appears in the February edition of Ottawa Beat newsprint in the OSBX column.
If there’s one style of music that is filling Ottawa’s airwaves more and more over the last few years, it’s soul. Harea Band have been around for quite a while now, and they’re going to be taking over Babylon Nightclub on Friday night to serve up some soulful tracks, including their new single “Must Be a Dream” with support from local heavyweights Slack Bridges and Aspects & Jeff DeValk. DJ Breakthru will keep the party going on the turntables until late.
The new single finds itself at the crossroads of soul, funk, and modern pop music, which is a turn in a different direction for the band. They approach the song with a confidence that is audible from the first measure.
“This track was a bit of a leap for us,” explains Harea. “We flew up Mixerman from Asheville N.C. who’s a multi platinum award winning producer and worked it pretty much from the ground up. We did a lot of writing in the studio so the creative and recording process all kind of happened at the same time. I’m not sure if it’s a new step, but it’s definitely a step forward, and we hope people like the direction we are going.”
Harea Band is using the night at Babylon to do more than just release their new song. Chef Leroy from Detroit Soul Food will be serving up some delicious goodies for patrons, because what goes better with soul music than soul food? His recipes have appeared at a few parties at Babylon in the past, and needless to say—they are always a smash hit.
“We wanted to host an event that offered more than just a show, and we thought Slack Bridges were the perfect guys to team up with,” says Harea. “Garett (Slack Bridges’ bassist) is kind of known for putting on killer events in the region and our sound works well together. When Babylon asked if I’d be interested in hosting and promoting our own after party as well, we decided on making the whole evening as soulful as possible. Chef LeRoy from Detroit Soul Food cooks up some of the best comfort food in town and it just all fell together. Doesn’t get much more soulful than funky live music, fried chicken, and James Brown!”
Slack Bridges, who are renowned among the local music scene for getting the party going with their boisterous stage presence. Both bands will be partaking in Bangers & Mash Soul Festival happening on April 14th at House of Targ and Black Squirrel Books. There will be an after party with DJ Breakthru going late once the live music is finished, appropriately titled “James Brown Night.” The dance party will also double as a fundraiser for Bangers & Mash, which means there will be raffle prizes available from Ottawa Jazz Fest, Beau’s Oktoberfest, Noisy Kitchen Hot Sauce, Yuk Yuk’s, Happy Goat Coffee, Turning Point Records, Compact Music, and Burgers n’ Fries Forever. Attendees can buy raffle tickets for $2 each, or $5 for 3, or $10 for 7.
“We’re gonna dance for sure,” ensures Harea. “All the acts are gonna bring it so we can keep the dance floor hot all night and DJ Breakthru is keeping the party going late with an all-vinyl James Brown night. Fried chicken and waffles plus deep friend cookies will keep everyone fed! It’s really a one stop shop for a good time.”
Tickets are no longer available in advance, but plenty will be available at the door. Check out the video for “Must be a Dream” below.
Hull’s post-apocalyptic romantics, Scattered Clouds, are back with a new video for their track “5xx,” and the track itself is available now on a limited edition of 100 cassettes on Boiled Records and digitally on their Bandcamp page.
The footage for the “5xx” video was taken from projections by Ottawa’s own Hard Science, whose glitchy analogue style is distinctly recognizable. The band describes the video as a “performance within a performance,” in which the video was mixed, mangled and ripped to shreds using old circuit bent video equipment (Tachyons + Vortex Decoder) and captured to on a VCR.
The video itself starts off with a loop of a dark highway distorted through the video equipment, synced perfectly to the pulsing rhythm which sounds as though it could be an audio glitch in and of itself. However, after a few seconds of what could have been a scene from Lost Highway, the instruments come in and the video switches to Jamie Kronick and Philippe Charbonneau’s performance. The mirrored images, colour transformations, and distorted video are perfect examples of how Hard Science takes viewers into his time machine and creates a world around us that is truly encompassing.
Philippe’s dark, swelling bass lines and brooding vocals command the listeners’ attention and his vocals draw us in closer into the void toward the end of the song. It ends in total chaos. Scattered Clouds continue to demonstrate their potency, demanding that listeners stay engaged much like a soundtrack to a David Lynch film.