Wednesday’s weather forecast was a perfect summary of summer in Ottawa thus far. Rapidly oscillating between heat and cool, dry and wet, festival goers were not quite sure what to expect from the skies. That same sense of curiosity was also applicable to what many deemed the best night of the Ottawa Bluesfest schedule. Highlighted by bands that were the soundtrack to many of our upbringings, I still vividly recall the scene in Garden State where Zach Braff leans over to Natalie Portman in Garden State and plays her “New Slang” or the first time I heard the crescendo from Dance Yrself Clean. The nostalgia factor for those two bands alone was off the charts, but how would they sound in 2017 following lengthy hiatus periods?
To start the evening, Slack Bridges burst onto the Bluesville stage with incredible energy. The six-piece soul-funk band was propelled forward by their instrumentation, particularly the expanded brass section (they were joined on stage by special guest, the Texas Horns).
The song “Beholden” had the crowd beneath the tent moving and they played many new songs from their upcoming album, which comes out in October. Following their other recent sets at Jazzfest and the Ottawa Race Weekend, many in town are eagerly awaiting their what comes next.
Phantogram was up next. With their recent shift towards rockier and more hip hop elements, many fans of their older indie electronic sound were likely wondering if their music got them high anymore. Luckily, it mostly did, with new tracks like “Same Old Blues” resonating with the crowd both figuratively and literally (there was a hell of a lot of bass).
Lead singer Sarah Barthel’s energy is infectious and when classics like “Mouthful of Diamonds” and “Don’t Move” come on, it’s impossible to not start moving. And the nostalgia was only just beginning.
It’s easy to forget just how many hit songs The Shins had during the early 2000’s. “Oh, Inverted World” and “Chutes Too Narrow” were monumental albums that defined many individual’s concepts of the sound of “Indie” and thankfully, the band did not shy away from playing what the crowd came to see.
Jumping right in with songs like “Phantom Limb”, “Turn On Me” and “Girl, Inform Me”, the older-crowd-seeking-nostalgia was responsive, while the band initially appeared slightly bored. Thankfully, that didn’t last long as they got into the swing of things. Recently released track “Name For You” and “Sleeping Lessons” (the incredible opener from Wincing the Night Away) were good enough to convert any new fans in the crowd (i.e. those who lived under a rock from the years 2001-2007).
As LCD Soundsystem took the stage, the Ottawa sky couldn’t quite decide whether it would let their set-up full of electronics remain fully functional. Hastily covered with tarps and cloth, the band defiantly pushed forward, starting the night with “Yr City’s a Sucker”, a dance-punk anthem for us self-deprecating citizens in the rain.
The band’s veteran presence was certainly felt, their tight instrumentation (shout outs to the cowbell) and focused energy made each swell of a crescendo hit with maximum impact. Their recently released tracks “Call The Police” and “American Dream” fit into their set perfectly and really highlighted how nice it is to have them making new music. That veteran presence was also felt when James Murphy shouted out foam rollers for those of us with back pain from all the standing.
As the rain eventually decided to fall, the crowd made the most of the circumstances, dancing themselves clean beneath a giant disco ball with all of their friends (old and new).
The I Can’t Believe It’s Not team really out did themselves with their rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s classic Rumours. It was a treat to see them perform the album from start to finish within the beautiful acoustics of St. Albans Church in Ottawa.
The night began with the screening of the iconic 1984 film Stop Making Sense. One of the best live concert movies of all time, featuring Talking Heads. I have seen it well over ten times and still can never get enough of the opening song, with David Byrne all alone on stage with a tape deck and his acoustic guitar performing “Psycho Killer.” Check it out for yourself here.
Congrats to the raffle winner Rowan T. Went home with a free copy of Rumours thanks to Vertigo Records. – Photo by: Ming Wu
Following the screening one lucky fan one a free copy of the 30th anniversary reissue of Rumours, courtesy of our good friends at Vertigo Records (the Record Centre provided a free copy for the second show the following night). It was a honour for Showbox to be involved, drawing and handing out the record and then introducing the band.
The stage was now set for the soldout crowd to take a trip back to 1977 and rock out with Caylie Runciman (Boyhood), Rolf Klausener (The Acorn), Martin Charbonneau (Fevers), Mike Dubue (Hilotrons), Pascal Delaquis (Hilotrons) and Jon Hynes doing their best impersonation of Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood. The crowd was full of people from all walks of life – from the fresh-faced 19-year-olds who grew up listening to Rumours thanks to their rocking parents, to an older crowd (some of them rocking vintage Fleetwood Mac tour t-shirts), and everyone in between.
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Fleetwood Mac live at St. Albans Church
The wonderful thing about Rumours is that it every song allowed for a different member to shine. For example John Hynes kicked things off leading “Second Hand News,” while Caylie really showed her vocal chops go far beyond what we have heard from her in Boyhood when she delivered on “Dreams.” Rolf then took lead on “Never Going Back” and teleported us all to a different time. Mike passionately blew everyone away when he sang “Songbird,” showing why many people think he has one of the most special voices in town. And then there was when they performed “Chain”….WOW! All together they really impressed. Not to be outdone, Martin and Pascale, on the bass and drums respectively showed that they drive that song when they really kick in.
When the last chords of “Gold Dust Woman” rang through the church everyone began to wonder what the band would do for an encore. It was clear the crowd wanted more as they erupted clapping and cheering loudly. The band asked the crowd to pick a song and they would play it again as they were not well-versed in other Fleetwood tracks at the time. “The Chain” won in overwhelming fashion and they played it even better the second time. What an amazing night. I hope this is just another link on the chain of the never ending I Can’t Believe It’s Not series.
MusikOttawa is a competition hosted by the Carleton University Music Department that showcases students of the singer-songwriter studies. The seven finalists each took turns performing three-song sets, or approximately 15 minutes, to a sold out crowd of proud parents, excited friends, and supportive musicians. I was honoured that Ottawa Showbox was to be a member of the panelist to select this year’s winner.
The finalists, Alex Harea, Dylan Phillips, Sarah Bradley, Kelsey Hayes, MacKenzie Di Millo, Jillian Kerr and Ty Hall, covered quite the gamut musically. There were solo acts (Phillips and Kerr) as well as full bands ranging from three-pieces to five musicians crowding the stage. They were equally diverse in style and genre, from classical guitar picking to country story telling to songs infused with jazz, ska, pop and reggae elements and more. There was something for everyone in attendance.
It was quite the challenge to pick a winner, and luckily for me, I wasn’t the only one who struggled. Many of the judges had a trouble picking a clear-cut winner. When all was said and done there were two winners for the first time. Jillian Kerr and Kelsey Hayes shared the honours and each received $400 and a full day working with Dean Watson at Gallery Recording Studio (that Dean is such a generous man). Kerr won us all over with her small town valley charm, wonderful voice and story telling lyrical content. Kerr’s song “Downtown” was one of my favourite songs of the day. Hayes wowed the crowd with her incredibly powerful voice, catchy music and very relatable yet clever lyrics. “Thursday Night” has all the elements to be heard all over the radio airwaves.
Events like OttawaMusik are amazing. You get to discover the amazing current and up and coming talent that fills this city. The other five finalist, Alex Harea (The Harea Band), Dylan Philips, Sarah Bradley (Fevers), MacKenzie Di Millo (Monday I Retire) and Ty Hall, should all hold their heads high. Each one of them received a first place vote from at least one panelist and they all played very well. I would like to give a huge shout out to Harrison Singer who played bass for three of the seven acts – that is very impressive.
Below are some of my favourite songs from the evening, that I could find. Have a listen and discover some of the great talent in Ottawa.
By Andrew Lacelle // Featured photo by Paul Dzioba (Fritz E Fotografie)
“Dance gave me tempo, art gave me creativity, and musicals gave me rhythm.”
I’m never sure what sparks my interest in bands. Ottawa is full of them, and honestly, I’m never sure if there is ever enough. Back in June, I was introduced to a singer/songwriter Sarah Cogan. Through a mutual friend’s recommendation, I invited Sarah out to open up the show.
After her set, and my enthusiastic applause, I spoke with Sarah and asked what she had planned for her music. She explained she was working on forming a full band outfit. This made me even more excited! Just a few months after Thrifty Kids were released upon Ottawa. Their first single “Cherry Wine” was a huge hit amongst their fans and people around town.
Interview with Sarah Cogan of Thrifty Kids
In a short web interview, I asked Sarah about some of the inner workings of Thrifty Kids.
So who are in Thrifty Kids?
S.C – Thrifty Kids. consists of Dylan Frankland (Lead Guitar), Cam Alford (Bass), Jordan Gauthier (Drums), and myself (Vocals/ Guitar).
Do all the other band members contribute or are you the primary songwriter?
S.C – Our songs thus far have been predominantly written by myself. But as we progress as a band, our songs will be written together. Who knows what’s in store? Can’t wait to find out.
What sparked your passion for music?
S.C – My passion for music comes from being exposed to so much art as a child. My parents had me cascaded in all the arts growing up. I found myself indulging into musicals, films, dance, guitar, and more. They allotted me the opportunity to do it all. And I’ll be forever indebted to them of doing so, because it brought me to where/who I am today. Dance gave me tempo, art gave me creativity, and musicals gave me rhythm. All combined, is the concoction of Sarah.
Did you find it hard as a solo artist to move your music into a full band?
S.C – The transition of solo to full band was anything but difficult. It was exciting. Coming together with other musicians and creating is one of the most fulfilling experiences out there. My fellow band-mates contributions to my songs have made them complete.
When you write your music do you have certain “format” or does it just flow from the heart?
S.C – To oversimplify my songwriting format, it would be best described as melody-driven. The core of my songwriting is the melodies, soon after lyrics begin to “flow” from there.
How would you describe Thrifty Kids music?
S.C – I would describe Thrifty Kids as melody-influenced, indie-surf rock. (Yeah, we’re a bit all over the place.) We like to think it keeps things interesting.
Acoustic versus Electric? I’ve seen you play both. Which do you prefer?
S.C – It ideally depends on the setting/ atmosphere. When it comes to writing, most likely takes place on the acoustic. When it comes to full band, the electric always wins. Not only does it look cool, it just brings the ultimate full band sound.
Thrifty Kids – awesome name, what are its origins?
S.C – As much as I’d like to spill a whole back-story about how our name came to be, it was a tagline on a photograph that was taken of us, in the midst of thrift shopping. Rummaging through old photos, we stumbled upon it. It just seemed fitting to us – simple yet recognizable.
Thrifty Kids sound has rested in my ears in my heart. I could only describe them as a refreshing sound in this over-talented city. They are truly the latest evolution in what Ottawa has to offer. Thrifty Kids latest release “Granola” came out alongside a video. This Thursday you can check out Thrifty Kids live at Cafe Dekcuf. They will be playing alongside Montreal indie/pop/folk rockers Motel Raphaël and Sarah Bradley of Ottawa’s FEVERS.
The evening was hosted by Brian Cauley and DJ’d by Atherton, and was hosted at Ottawa’s long lost gem – Barrymore’s (I will leave getting into that for another time). The Ottawa International Film Festival Music Video Challenge was a celebration of the top 10 music video submissions as selected by “a panel of esteemed judges.” The finalists included some great Ottawa submissions, including two in the top five, and six overall.
Below you will find the videos from 10th place to 1st including my attempt at a one-line summary of the video.
10) C-Note – “Feel Me on This” (Ottawa) Typical rap video, minus the objectification of women which was nice. Walking, rhyming and smoking a joint.
9) Fiona Noakes Band – “My Apologies” (Ottawa) Gloomy shot video where lead singer goes around whispering in the ears of patrons giving them hope or helping them change their ways.
8) Gold & Marrow – “Striking Gold” (Ottawa) Lead singer’s ghostly overexposed skin, singing and dancing with an ever-changing background which occasionally overlaps onto her.
7) The Peptides – “Love Me Forever” (Ottawa) Unfortunately the video isn’t released yet, but it is a very long erotic scene on a smoking oven with many wardrobe changes.
6) Wasted Potential – “Two Pumps and a Quiver” (London, ON) Touring Punk rock pizza party visiting a brewery, skateshop, record shop, front porch to shotgun beers and Call The Office.
5) Pony Girl – “Golden Children” (Ottawa) Very interestingly shot video featuring a mouth singing into a peculiar orifice surrounded by dancing lights.
4) FEVERS – “Dance Cry Dance” (Ottawa) Strobe light jam session with occasional dance breakouts.
3) Owen Davies – “Medicine Man” (Toronto, ON) Sadly only the audio is online, but you can kind of get the picture from the lyrics. The video is Owen preparing to go out to slow dance with himself in drag, while much wine is consumed.
2) Jeremy Fisher – “The Bride is Dead” (Hamilton, ON) Another one that only has audio online. Picture Jeremy Fisher in a suit playing piano with a pink backdrop as puppets act out the lyrics and provide back up vocals.
1) Mabaleka Brothers – “Crashed Upon the Waves” (Halifax, NS) Walks away crying as a woman chases him down the driveway, then sings while driving in his VW with his brother through a snow-filled suburb, then randomly parks and runs away as his brother chases, finally collapsing in the middle of the street for dramatic effect.
Constantines capped off an amazing week of shows Saturday night on the final day of Arboretum 2014.
The band from Guelph recently reunited after a four-year hiatus and they were as tight as ever. There was so much energy in crowd for the set, and exploding out the gates, they could not have played a better set. Playing “Nighttime/Anytime (It’s Alright)” and “Young Offenders” so early in the set and back-to-back was incredible. The crowd was singing at the top of their lungs all the way through, and even brought sparklers which lead singer and guitarist, Bry Webb, took notice of. “Sweet sparklers guys, that’s next level.”
Arboretum organizer Rolf Klausener introduced them as mentors and major influences and that night they could do no wrong. They played rocking versions of “Soon Enough,” “Shower of Stones” and “Young Lions,” just to name a few. The magic moment of the set came when they paused just before the last drop in “Shine a Light” and all put their arms in the air. The crowd matched them while hooting and hollering, until Constantines kicked it back into gear. The band really looked like they were having a good time, and Webb confirmed it, “It’s fun to play these songs again, I love the Constantines.” Ottawa does as well Bry, come back anytime!
Ottawa veterans Fiftymen playing Arboretum 2014. Photo: Jeff Watkins
Saturday was full of great bands showcasing very diverse genres and sounds. Setting the stage for Constantines was an Ottawa institution, the Fiftymen. The guys have been making catchy toe-tapping blues and country music for over a decade. It was great of Arboretum to show off a different side of the local scene to the many people from out of town, as well as a refresher to us locals. The Fiftymen recognized the importance of opening for the Constantines as the lead singer mentioned several times how honoured and excited he was.
Chad VanGaalen wowing the crowd in Ottawa at Arboretum 2014. Photo: Jeff Watkins
With shrieking sax loops and noisy guitar, Chad VanGaalen began. The only thing that might be more strange than Chad, which was difficult to beat on this night, was his headless Steinberger electric guitar. I had never seen anything like it and it fit in just right with the psychedelic folk sounds the band was creating. The large crowd in attendance were loving it as the three-piece played a lot of songs off this year’s Polaris Music Prize long list pick Shrink Dust. But this set was not just about the music, it was about VanGaalen’s banter between songs. Such advise as “Canada is a pretty good place to take vacation… don’t shit in the river though, that’s bad for Canada.” Or when he talked about the amazing work the En Masse art collective was doing as they created a mural, “Have you seen the stuff going on over there, it’s pretty trippy. Save some room for me guys.” There was also a really cool moment when he invited multi-instrumentalist Julie Fader on stage to sing a few songs with him.
Giant Hand playing the Hammock Sessions presented by Ottawa Showbox at Arboretum 2014. Photo: Jeff Watkins
Thourghout the day Ottawa Showbox had the pleasure of presenting secret shows between three of the main stage sets. Dubbed the Hammock Sessions, Sarah Bradley of Fevers, Andy Swan, Giant Hand and Bucko all dazzled the crowd, as they relaxed off to the side by a large hammock. Bradley played some beautiful soulful solo songs on keys. Andy Swan popped in to play a New Orleans R&B classic “Iko Iko.” Giant Hand, an Ottawa ex-pat returned home and delivered a melting set of wonderfully powerful folk music. Lastly, before Fiftymen took the stage, Bucko, a performer with muscular-dystrophy took us to another plane with his electro music. Bucko would not settle to just play for those who came to see him, so he took his show on the road and did a loop of the festival grounds without missing a beat.
Steve Adamyk Band rocking Arboretum 2014. Photo: Jeff Watkins
Taking the crowd in a completely different direction again was Ottawa’s garage/power-pop masters Steve Adamyk Band. Playing as a three-piece this time, Davey Quesnelle took over the bass, the boys made ample use of the space on stage. Not only did they play a high energy up-tempo set full of songs ranging from new tracks such as “Careless” and classics like “Katacomb” and “Not For Long,” but Steve and Davey also entertained with their antics. They would walk over to each other and gives one a peck on the cheek or instead spit at the other and throw an empty beer cup their way. Between all that they told stories of past tours and set the stage for a most excellent evening.
Lowell getting people moving at Arboretum 2014. Photo: Jeff Watkins
Under the sweltering afternoon sun Lowell hit us with some super catchy energized synth pop. It was infused with punk attitude reminiscent of Sleigh Bells. She performed with so much enthusiasm running and dancing all over the stage, getting into the crowd to dance and just having a riot. Songs like “I Like You Money,” “Cloud 69” and “Bells” were infectious and I could not help but stare and bob along, even without knowing any of the songs. She wanted to make sure you remembered who she was and caught herself sounding quite mean, while kidding around. “L-O-W-E-L-L, Lowell. If you forget the name you’re illiterate… Wow, I’m sorry that was so mean I didn’t mean it,” she said with a shy smile. Looking forward to the release of their new material in September, this band was a lot of fun.
Zavh Bines, bass player for Weaves, getting his groove on at Arboretum 2014. Photo: Jeff Watkins
Another amazing discovery at Arboretum 2014 was Weaves. The Toronto band self-described as spazzcore was really cool. The music sometimes sounded like it could fit in the hardcore/punk scene while at other times it was extremely dance-like and fun. The guitarist also created some of the most original sounds out of his guitar that I have ever heard, including yelling into his guitar and playing heavily distorted slide guitar. My mind was blown on a few occasions during their set.
Pony Girl getting this started on the last day of Arboretum 2014. Photo: Jeff Watkins
Ottawa’s art rockers Pony Girl got the whole day started. The locals put their incredible talent as musicians on display under the afternoon sun. If you have ever had a chance to hear Pony Girl you know that they are extremely tight and musically gifted, pushing creativity and never shying away from more technical musicianship. It is also quite rare that you have a chance to see a clarinet solo and Pony Girl certainly don’t mind treating you to one or two. Their set featured songs off the wonderful Show Me Your Fears, as well as a few new songs. The new song, which was introduced as “this one is about porn mainly,” may just be their best work yet. A new album is definitely in the works folks!
The intimate ambiance of Pressed on Friday, July 25th couldn’t be more welcoming to the evening’s concert, celebrating the release of Newfoundland-native Jon Hynes’ debut album, Watchful Creatures. A lone flickering strobe light, candles in the windows, and the warm glow of many familiar faces in reunion made for a sentimental night for Hynes and his Ottawa fans.
Opening the night was Jonathan Pearce of indie-folk band Winchester Warm, in a solo performance of the band’s newly released album, Belle Attente. Pearce seems to embrace the nostalgia that colours his voice, confessing to carry “the sound of faded cheer”. Balmy confessions would be peppered with the occasional variation in tempo, keeping the audience aware of Pearce’s nuanced intersection of genre and scene.
Pearce’s vocals carried a distinctive tone that was easy to associate with happy gatherings, but shaded with an anticipation for remembering before nostalgia has been given a fair chance to set in. Filled with longing, hope, and cherished memory, Pearce radiated with his heartfelt performance. As he progressed through the Belle Attente set, new arrivals joined the audience and drew closer to the stage, charmed by the genuine friendship of a community that could unite over a fellow artist’s completed work.
In a snappy transition from Pearce’s introspective set, Callum Runciman and Jimi Vanwassenhoven performed a spirited set as one half of Ottawa’s Grime Kings. Runciman and Vanwassenhoven channeled the infectious energy of garage rather than the cosmos promised by an introduction of the band as space pop. The band’s latest abum, Honeymooning, reveals the full extent of Grime Kings as a versatile group with a tendency towards noir neo-psych, comfortably fitting in with the likes of Tame Impala or Temples. And while the instrumental accompaniment of the Kings’ second half was missing, there was no lack of aggressively layered percussion and cleverly disguised, sensual rhythms of funk to indicate that the Grime Kings are without a doubt a local band to pay close attention to.
In the focal conclusion to the night, multi-instrumentalist Jon Hynes (Evening Hymns, The Hidden Cameras) took the stage in the accompaniment of some of Ottawa’s most familiar musicians: Pat Johnson and Rolf Klausener of The Acorn and Silkken Laumann, Sarah Bradley of Fevers, and David Banoub of Yuma County. There was an undeniable note of celebration in the riling anthems passionately delivered by Hynes, as the collective performed the entirety of Watchful Creatures.
A new addition to Ottawa, Hynes endeared himself to the crowd with simple, honest lyrics. “Paid to act like a trickster while being a traitor,” sang Hynes in “Sea Diver”, restless between punk disillusionment and soulful confession. Throwing in a tribute to Ottawa’s most excellent reputation for heckling, Hynes was well matched with the harmonies of Klausener and Bradley. Keyboardist Bradley herself was captivating with her attentive, clearly emotional performance.
A communal attempt at singing along to “Opinion Piece” succumbed to the soothing tone of Hynes’ mounting melodies. The sparse percussion of “One More, Californa” built back the energy of an entranced audience. Called back to the stage for one last song, Hynes performed an ambient and airy solo that united two dancers between the stage and audience.
While he has been attributed with a “shimmering” quality to his sound, approached most closely in the brief prelude of “Forever, Kathleen,” John Hynes remains within the moody grasp of indie rock. Hynes fused elements of both Pearce and Grime Kings for a balanced and promising conclusion to his album release party.The visible passion for performance, the sheer physicality of delivering song after song, and the diversity of each artist’s individual projects united everyone on stage and in the audience in celebration of Hynes’ achievement.
It’s that time of year again. I’ll be packing up shop once again and heading down to NXNE in Toronto this week to cover the festival. There are plenty of Ottawa bands playing this year, including some of our local faves. Don’t forget to tune in later this week to see what’s going on in the big city! Check out the bands below:
Ever feel like dancing then crying then dancing again? Well Ottawa’s FEVERS can most certainly relate, and they made an awesome video for their song “Dance Cry Dance” which will get you on your feet and shaking what yo’ momma gave ya.
The video, which was shot by the band members themselves at Laser Quest in Ottawa, is full of colourful flashing lights, dancing, and cuts to the band performing the song. “Dance Cry Dance” is a single, and my favourite song, off their debut album No Room For Light.
The band also announced that the Dance Cry Dance EP, including remixes of the single and two brand new songs mixed by Damian Taylor (Björk, The Killers, Austra) will be released in May. FEVERS will be playing Zaphod’s May 9th and Westfest June 15th. Here’s Matias’s review of their recent show at Black Sheep Inn.