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.
There is so much going on during the Saturday of Ottawa Explosion Weekend it feels like you are sprinting during an over 12 hour musical marathon. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Cheap Wine kicking things off at SAW Gallery during Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
I started off my day with a dose of Cheap Wine. It is so great to see Eric Neurotic back on the horse after Feral Trash ended. Add in that he is joined by Steve Adamyk and Jordy Bell (The Creeps/Crusades) and you know you’re in for a rocking good time. Now if they would only get some stuff recorded so I can listen to it all the time and not just wait for their next live show that would be great.
Heather of Crossed Wires at SAW Gallery during Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
Crossed Wires were next and they continued the influx of really good bands from Halifax playing Explosion. Actually come to think of it, it feels like a band from Halifax has played every day and that their numbers are comparable to Ottawa bands at this festival. I really enjoyed their sound just as I have at previous Explosions and loved that the guitarist was rocking out with a Wayne’s World ball cap on. Lead singer and bassist, Heather, was so grateful to be back, “thanks to organizers and volunteers this is my favourite weekend of the year.” The band closed with a cover of the theme song to the TV show Daria which appears on a split with locals Creep Waves.
Sonic Avenues getting burning like fire at SAW Gallery during Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
Next up was one of the most fun sets of the day, delivered by Montreal’s darlings Sonic Avenues. These lads really know how to write songs and play them with great passion, even in more than 30 degree weather. Their set had locals, Steve Adamyk, Emmanuel and Davey loosing their mind at the side of the stage. They were singing a long none stop, Davey jumped on the mic a few times, Emmanuel was towelling/fanning the guitarist and all three were just having a blast. It was great to see. Sonic Avenues played a little bit of everything from their collections, from a great new track “Where No One Falls,” to my favourite “Automatic” to digging back to their early days with Hiding From You.” They closed out the set dedicating the song “Heartland” to Steve Adamyk for being “the MVP of the festival having already played 5 shows.” They will be back July 22 at House of Targ with Needles // Pins, Steve Adamyk Band and Creep Waves, more info here.
Alex Hamlyn of Century Palms using a Beau’s glass as a slide at SAW Gallery during Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
As supper approached, Emmanuel said “get your Palm Bays it’s Century Palm Bay time,” and with my love for puns and play on words I could not resist. So with a nice cold Palm Bay in hand I settled in to watch Century Palm. The band played a bunch of new material, none of which I had heard before, in anticipation of a new record out later this year. It also marked their last show with guitarist Alex Hamlyn, who is moving on and on good terms they assured us. For their last song, they turned the mic to Hamlyn and he led them through a rocking rendition of the 1980’s classic “I Want to Destroy You” by Soft Boys. A great way for him to cap off his time with the band and to end the afternoon session.
Black Tower bringing out day time ghosts and ghouls at SAW Gallery during Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
My evening kicked off with the dark and devilish local trio known as Black Tower. The band opened with the first 2 songs of their record The Secret Fire. The first one being “Death March” which really puts the bands punk and metal influences on display. The band delivers such great heavy riffs with haunting vocals that echo from the depths of a cemetery or from a ghastly queen. Black Tower makes me want my long hair back so I can just let it flail along. The band also threw in a couple of new tracks that sounded great.
Future Girls inside SAW Gallery during Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
Saturday’s great surprise for me was Future Girls from Halifax. The has two members of Crossed Wires who played earlier in the day on guitar and drums. I don’t know why I was surprised with how much I liked them considering every band from Halifax this year was killer, including Crossed Wires. Nonetheless I had never seen them before I truly enjoyed their set. They just recently released a new two song demo, The Problem of Motivation Demo, which happens to have my favourite song “Middle America” on it. I don’t know whats in the water out in Halifax, but it is growing incredible power pop and pop punk bands seemingly non-stop.
Big Eyes rocking us at SAW Gallery during Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
I then returned outside for Kait Eldridge’s band Big Eyes from Brooklyn, NYC. The band led off with the song track off their new LP coming out in August, and well after hearing it, August cannot come soon enough. Such a rad track and a great way to kick off a set. The rest of Big Eyes’ set was great and just to remind me that August is way too far, they played “Local Celebrity” the lead single off upcoming near the end.
No Fuss showing us less can be more at Ritual Nightclub during Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
After Big Eyes, I headed to Ritual Nightclub for the first time of the festival. Kicking things off there was local duo No Fuss, a bass and drums duo featuring Chris Cook (Finderskeepers). Unfortunately there wasn’t many people at Ritual until much later, but it didn’t look to bother the duo. The duo is super tight and I love that they both contribute vocals. They only have four recorded songs under their belt, but you can already see the growth from their first three song demo to their newest track “Old Truths.”
Fresh Hell getting close at Ritual Nightclub during Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
The local acts continued as Fresh Hell took to the stage next. The four piece is composed of members from a bunch of local bands, and together they are something really special. I think they are one of the catchiest and most infectious punk bands to ever come out of this city. Fresh Hell gave us a taste of a bunch of new music which really rocks and cemented their set with tracks like “Home,” “Old Sheets,” and “Surrounded,” from their debut We Never Sleep. During the set singer and guitarist Cory Levesque saying “be kind and love each other,” which giving the current state of the world, can not be overstated.
Wasted Potential getting heavy at Ritual Nightclub during Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
Next up was a total change of pace with London, Ontario’s pizza party hardcore punkers, Wasted Potential. The crowd really hadn’t grown much by now, which really didn’t make any sense to me, but I guess that is the nature of having so many bands going at multiple venues. On the plus side I got to set up pretty close to really get the full face melting effect of the solos and not miss a singer dance move. There are very few if any singers more animated than the lead singer of Wasted Potential. Even if attendance was lacking, they didn’t slow down and played stuff from all over their repertoire, including “Here’s Your Exit Letter” off of their first demo. They also played “Never Asked” which they introduced as “this is as close to a pop song we can write… and it fucking sucks.” It wasn’t that bad…
The Dirty Nil absolutely crushing it at Ritual Nightclub during Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
I capped off my night with probably the best band ever from Dundas, Ontario, The Dirty Nil. The three piece perfectly blends grunge and punk and it is never more obvious than during songs such as the one they opened with “No Weaknesses.” That also happens to be the first track on their debut album, Higher Power, that they dropped earlier this year that had many people, including myself, saying it could be one of the best releases of the year. You don’t hear that often in February. In a fun twist the band dug deep to their earlier days and played their anthem, “Cinnamon,” with the killer line” You can be pissed off if you want to,” repeated several times. I was so pumped up after this set I needed a nice long walk home to have any chance of falling a sleep.
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.
Again, 2014 was quite the year for music in Ottawa. We realize that it’s next to impossible to say which album was better than the others, but we do have a list of the albums that seem to come up on our playlists more often. These are not the “winners” of the year but they are dear to our ears and we’d like to tip our hats to those that made them happen. Check out these sweet full-lengths and EPs, support these locals if you can, and enjoy the weather by putting these tunes in your pocket. Vive le six un trois!
One of the best thing about the holidays is bringing friends and family together. The Centretown Recording Alliance did just that Thursday night, gathering bands and fans from punk rock to garage rock to metal. The annual holiday bash featured seven bands in just under three and a half hours, and it was great. Not only did they bring a lot of people together, but in doing so they raised money for the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre, a wonderful holiday gesture.
Getting the ball rolling on this night was a new band called The Stuff, a four-piece fun garage rock band. Before even playing a song, one of the guitarist/singers “This is our first show and maybe our last show, or maybe not.” I certainly hope it is not their last show as I really dug their set and their sound. On a very snowy night they played a sweet song about being in love with the summer. They capped of their set with “Christmalloween” which is a modified version of the great song “What ‘cha Gonna Wear, Wolf?” which they wrote for the recording alliance’s halloween challenge. Looking forward to more stuff from The Stuff.
Thunder Uncle bringing the metal to House of Targ in Ottawa.
Next it was time for devil horns and headbanging as Thunder Uncle brought the metal. Thunder Uncle is just one of the hundred bands that Jon Kiely plays in, but instead of playing drums in this band as he often does, he takes on lead vocals and plays a flying-v guitar. The band brought a dose of metal to the festivities and did a damn good job. I liked their track “Paper Tiger” at the end of their set.
Bringing the punk back was one of my favourite local bands going right now, Fresh Hell. They played an awesome set full of solid tracks of their debut album We Never Sleep such as “Old Sheets,” “Things Go Away” and “Home.” Christmas came a little early this year as the band played some of their new material for us and now I am all excited for new Fresh Hell. They closed with their kick-ass track “Surrounded” as many of us yelled along at the front of the stage. As the band packed up and left the stage, there was an unexpected performance. Surprises, which consists of Corey’s girlfriend Meghan on guitar and good friend Laura from Jonathan Becker and the North Fields, on accordion. They performed “Louisiana Man” by Lucinda Williams adding a little country flare to the air (video here). Sure hope there are more surprises in our future.
Things then got a hardcore as Slim and Popular took the stage. Formed by veterans of the scene the band is super tight and play really really fast. The track that really stuck as they slammed through the most high tempo set of the set, was “We Don’t Want This World.” This was my first time seeing Slim and Popular and it will certainly not be my last.
It wasn’t all fun and joy on this night though. It was the night we said goodbye to the Mnemonics. The powerpop quartet capped off their time as a band with a stellar performance full of songs off their 2014 release Too Late To Get Loud. I am sorry to see them go, but I can take solace that some of the members play in other kick-ass bands and will probably go on and form new awesome bands as well. Cheers gentlemen.
Lindbergh Babies rocking out at House of Targ in Ottawa, On.
The Lindbergh Babies took the stage after the Mnemonics to pick us all back up. They are a female fronted group that played a fast-paced punk which is just on the edge of some metal stuff. They are another band I had somehow never seen perform and it was a great time. The band also featured Jon Kiely again, back behind the drums rocking out. My favourite tune from their performance was the rocking “You Don’t Know.”
Steady Shakes killing it at House of Targ in Ottawa, ON.
The final band on the bill was the Steady Shakes. The garage-rock band are great and the lead singer, Cameron Lydall’s voice really stands out and sticks with me. It has that real punk rock rasp that I love from the old school punk bands I grew up discovering. Steady Shakes are another great local act who released some sweet music this year. I should also mention that Ian, the bassist of one of longest-running punk bands The Creeps, also plays bass for Steady Shakes. Their five-song demo will take you back in time to 80s punk rock, in sound and lyrical content. They are a must see and must listen for sure.
Just when we thought it was time to go home and call it a night, around 12:50 to be precise, Chris Cook took to the stage to say thank you. But he was not alone on stage, he was joined by Jon Kiely, Mel Sturk and Dave Banoub. Yup you read correctly, The Allrights did a little one song reunion song. They played crowd favourite “Little Black Book,” and sent us all on our way on a high note. What a night!
A drunk and entertaining Jon Creeden, a moving and very real Jesse LeBourdais, and a “loud” Fresh Hell played the first ever show at Minou’s House Monday night.
Cory Levesque getting ICED.
Setting the stage was Jean-Sebastien getting revenge on Cory and one-litre icing him. For those that don’t know, icing is when you present someone with a Smirnoff Ice and say “iced” to them. They must then chug the bottle. This excited Jon Creeden who said, “You’re bringing icing back? Sweet! I’ve been waiting two years for this.” Cory chugged down that one litre and as much as it hurt me to watch, it was clearly a much worse experience for him.
On the crisp fall night Fresh Hell got things started in the backyard. What could possibly go wrong having a punk rock band amped up and play in a subdivision in Little Italy? We were about to find out. The band opened with their “bangers,” to quote drummer Vance McBride, playing “Surrounded” as they were surrounded by 20 or more of their friends and then “Home” which they were playing outside of guitarist Cory Levesque’s house. Well played gang. Fresh Hell then played “Not Alone” and seamlessly transitioned into “Things Go Away.” So smooth. Then came the shouting from some neighbour, “Sounds like crap,” and then depending on who you ask, either “turn it up,” or “turn it down.” The band played a few more songs and began to tear down as a police officer came up the driveway. He issued a warning informing them that four noise complaints had been placed, but said if the rest of the fundraiser was acoustic it could continue.
The show was in fact a fundraiser for Ottawa Rock Camp for Girls and Cory’s girlfriend Megan Snider made amazing vegan chili, curry and home-made pita bread.
Next up was the very talented Jesse LeBourdais. I have always been fascinated by these solo punk rock acoustic guitarist types. They always deliver such awesome lyrics that ring close to home no matter where they are from. Case in point, LeBourdais is from B.C. and the amazing opening lines to the first song he played “Welcome” were, “There is a pile of records sitting on my floor right now, they’ve been waiting for my dirty hands to get clean enough to hold, somewhere in that pile there is something that will hold me and won’t let go, when the needle finds a vein in the groove it goes right into my soul.” Now those are lyric after my heart. LeBourdais continued with another song off his latest album Long Winter, playing “Breathing In/Out.” He probably felt right at home as a slight drizzle started during some of his songs about B.C. He concluded by inviting Jon Creeden to join him on guitar and Cory Levesque on harmonica to play “About Right” (video above). So glad to have finally met and watched LeBourdais play – go see him when he plays a city near you.
Jon Creeden surrounded by his friends at Minou’s House in Ottawa.
As Jon Creeden began his set, LeBourdais stayed up with him and they opened with the song everyone always wants to hear, “The Captain.” Just as they finished, the rain began to come down much harder, so Creeden moved beneath the lip of the garage to protect his guitar and leave his adoring audience in the rain. Jon had had a few, including the Beau’s Hardcore 8.1 I brought him and was feeling good. “I thought I could get drunk, love my friends, play guitar and entertain,” he said. “Think I’m only doing 1 and 2.” He took requests from the crowd so we got to hear a lot of our non-Captain favourites like “Dominoes,” “Movie Song,” and “Take That Steve Perry.”And in his new Ottawa tradition, Creeden played the three songs he wrote about awesome Ottawa people and places. First the song about Jean-Sebastien, which he requested as he stood by Creeden’s side, then “558 Scum,” about Scum House, and finally the song about Robot House! We all sang along and had a blast, as Ottawa always does when Jon Creeden is in town.
Joel Plaskett Emergency brought the east coast flair to end the night after The Rural Alberta Advantage had us dancing to their west coast laments at Beau’s Oktoberfest in Vankleek Hill, this weekend.
Day one was excellent even though it started off a little rocky. Arriving half an hour early for the shuttle buses up to Vankleek Hill, it still took over an hour before I was on a bus and on our way. This meant I missed out on local rockers Fresh Hell, well almost everyone missed out on them actually, but it is great that the festival invited local acts.
The Fandemics rocking out at Beau’s Oktoberfest in Vankleek Hill.
Once I accepted missing out on Fresh Hell, everything was on the up and up. I got my complimentary pretzel and beer and wandered over to the Bamberg tent which housed the punk rock, mini ramp and Antique Skateshop booth. Right next to the tent was a massive half-pipe where Vans and Antique skaters rode all weekend long. Pop punks from Toronto, The Fandemics, were the first band I saw. With skateboarding on both sides of them and people posing for Movember photos with sparkly moustaches, they rocked the ever-growing crowd with some catchy originals. The really impressed me by reaching deep and covering The Replacements’ “Kids Don’t Follow,” and Soul Asylum’s “Need Somebody to Shove.”
New Swears being New Swears at Beau’s Oktoberfest in Vankleek Hill.
With the tent filling up as more and more buses arrived it was time for Vankleek Hill to experience the party madness that is Ottawa’s New Swears. Playing their first show after a three-month European tour, the boys took to the stage dressed head to toe in black and sporting long pink wigs. They started by playing a little of “Stir It Up” by Bob Marley and then got down to business playing their love song “Two Darts” and then “Paradise,” the anthem for those who don’t know their limits. The set continued with they played “Rather be Dead” and “Stay Gold” as fans covered other concert-goers in silly string provided by the band. New Swears were having a blast climbing on each other’s shoulders, amps and the mini-ramp, as well as skateboarding, rolling around on the ground and even forming pyramid. It was great to see the band rock out to so many new faces and hopefully forge many new fans.
Just a snapshot of some of the fine skateboarding to be seen at Beau’s Oktoberfest in Vankleek Hill.
With the punk rocking finished it was time for some food before Rural Alberta Advantage. The tastiest food I sampled all weekend was Brockberry Cafe’s incredible spicy chicken balls. They were homemade lightly breaded chicken balls stuff with jalapeño peppers and blue cheese. And the best part was they were $1 each so they made the perfect snack at any time.
The Rural Alberta Advantage rocking the main stage at Beau’s Oktoberfest in Vankleek Hill.
As the temperature dropped, Rural Alberta Advantage took to the stage to several thousands of fans standing to watch them and several more in the tents comfortably sampling all the delicious beers. The three-piece have such a rich full sound, you would think they were five or more on stage. RAA opened with a new song off their brand new album Mended With Gold. “What a prefect night,” said lead singer and guitarist Paul Banwatt. “How many beers have you tried?” Their new songs sound great, but the crowd was super excited to hear their older material. Songs such as “Don’t Haunt This Place,” “Frank, AB,” “The Dethbridge in Lethbridge,” and their closer “Stamp'” really had the people dancing and singing. Their energy on stage showed just how much fun they were having as well and Banwatt confirmed it by saying “This is unbelievable, so cool, thanks Beau’s, never expected to play an Oktoberfest.”
Fans standing on tables to sing along with Joel Plaskett Emergency at Beau’s Oktoberfest in Vankleek Hill.
It was now time for the main event, and a very enthusiastic Alan Neal from CBC had the pleasure of introducing Joel Plaskett. Neal announced that there were nearly 7,000 people in attendance ready to see one of Canada’s finest singer songwriters. He also took a moment to say “to all you campers, you are the most beautiful people.” Plaskett was on fire on this night rocking through his catalogue with his incredible backing band Emergency. Opening with some songs from Three “Through & Through & Through” and “Deny, Deny, Deny” then into “You’re Mine” from Scrappy Happiness. He had us, he had us, he had us, at that point. The theme of the night was bands looking like they were having as much fun as those watching them, and it continued as Plaskett said, “Hope you are enjoying yourselves, because we sure are.” Being that he was playing Oktoberfest, he could not pass up on playing “Park Avenue Sobriety Test,” which felt very appropriate, but then he took it even further and covered “Beer Run.” That all made sense, but what had me trying to think back to how many beers I had because I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, was Joel Plaskett sampling a Lorde song… yup, that happened. And as time ran out on the night, they closed out the set with “Nowhere With You.”
With people scurrying to the busses back to Ottawa, I headed back to the campground. It began to rain, but considering I was now a beautiful person in the eyes of Alan Neal and I found people dancing around a campfire. I embraced the rain and many new friends in the flickering of the late night flames. Day one was a wonderful success.
Finish What You Started Fest kicked off with a bang Thursday night thanks to Nuclear Neighbour followed by Dead Weights, NECK, The Valveenus and Fresh Hell.
Before the music could take over and get us singing and dancing, there was a showing of “Nuclear Neighbourhood” at the Mayfair Theatre. The movie was one of those very low budget horror comedy films, where it’s so bad it’s good. I actually loved it, it was a lot of fun and with just enough suspense as they walked through the house of the evil professor looking for their friend. It is also worth noting that the lead singer, Gretchen Steel, of local Ottawa band ZEX plays a leading role, multi-talented lady. For more information on the flick, check out their website.
Fresh Hell kicking off Finish What You Started Fest in Ottawa.
With the movie done it was time to rock and there are few better places in Ottawa than House of Targ. And the place was a rocking for this all local punk rock bill. Getting things going was Fresh Hell. The band recently released their debut album, We Never Sleep, and what better way to celebrate, then to play the album from front to back? You don’t need to wait until you are old and decrepit on your reunion tour to play an awesome album start to finish. So once I noticed they were going in order I got so ridiculously excited for the excellent three-song explosion near the end of it. Track 6, 7 & 8, “Home,” “Surrounded” and “Cold” are so good that they demand singing along. This was by far the best set I have seen this local four-piece play to date. Also much respect to them for plugging Ottawa Rock Camp for Girls during their set and having a donation jar set up at their merch table.
The Valveenus playing House of Targ in Ottawa during the Finish What You Started Fest.
Between bands I got into a really feverish competition against Phil (Robots!Everywhere!!) on the arcade game Area 51. I beat him by several tens of thousands, but this led me to not pay full attention to The Valveenus. Luckily we finished in time to watch their final few songs. The skate punk trio did something really cool and unexpected, they covered Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence.” They also covered The Real McKenzies’ “Best Day Until Tomorrow” in honour of the passing of the McKenzies’ Dave Gregg (check out the video of it here). Their originals were great and fast-paced as always, I really dug “Hold On Me.” It shows that the boys have been doing it for a while, they are very tight and put on a good show. As a matter of fact, they have been playing shows in the venue for years back when it used to be called The Underground and then it changed to The New Bayou and now House of Targ. Ottawa punk rock evolution. And like real pros they incorporated a drink break into their last song, bottoms up boys.
NECK representing Spider-Man at Finish What You Started Fest in Ottawa.
Next up was NECK who had a little bit of a rough time. They started off fine showing up in matching Spider-Man t-shirts, the perfect attire for their Ramones-like punk rock. Unfortunately for them they had to power through technical difficulties with a guitar and the monitors, as well as a few musical mishaps. But with songs about skinny jeans and lyrics such as “I eat mashed potatoes with one hand down my pants,” you can forgive them.
Jon’s reaction is priceless to Steve pushing through even though his strap broke mid-song.
Capping off this great night was Dead Weights, yes Steve McCrimmon played two sets in the same night, what an animal. They opened with the super catchy “Friends First” which got a few people singing, but two songs later when they played their single “Barely Breathe” that really brought the crowd to life. The band dedicated the first song they ever recorded to Jeff, but not before heckling him for working during the show. Dead Weights then teased the crowd with the opening chords to “The Captain,” and then didn’t play it. Instead they opted to play the title track of their album Dead Ends & Closed Doors. A great way to end the first night of the festival.
The release of the album is awesome news to anyone who has seen Fresh Hell over the past year salivating to bring home their music. The album is a ten-song effort that stays very true to the bands live sound. You notice right away the immense difference in sound between the two singers/guitarists Steve McCrimmon (from Dead Weights) and Cory Levesque, but it really works. Steve has this ridiculously raspy voice (punk rock Tom Waits is how I have referred to him in the past) and Cory has an excellent pop-punk voice with just enough bleeding heart tucked into the back of it. The rest of the band is rounded by the rhythm section of Devin Cook on bass (Finderskeepers) and Vance McBride (Jon Becker & the Northfields).
We Never Sleep kicks off with the ultra-catchy “Old Sheets,” which has an excellent musical intro capped off by a Steve scream followed by Cory’s soft voice (your first taste). The album really packs a punch from song 6 to 8 with “Home,” “Surrounded” and “Cold.” These are the three songs that have really caught my attention live and it’s sweet to have them all in a row on the album. “Home” is a little more on the poppier side, then “Surrounded” brings back the punk rock ethos with lyrics like, “You got home, you got low, you fucked up and I know, you wake up, surrounded, surrounded.” The trifecta is concluded by maybe their strongest track, “Cold.” Chock-full of harmonies, sing-a-long potential, and Steve’s belting voice during the final line “I still light my cigarette but it is too cold to smoke the rest,” that really captures the chilling feelings in the song. They conclude the album with the title track and just like that it is time to hit repeat and listen to the album again.
We Never Sleep is currently available on bandcamp as pay what you can and will soon be pressed on vinyl. Fresh Hell announced that all the money they collect through digital purchases on bandcamp will go to Ottawa Rock Camp for Girls, a three-day rock n roll camp for girls aged 13-17 who want to learn how to play guitar, bass or drums. So why not support an awesome cause and get some sweet music at the same time?
Over five years and a few different members, it is sadly time for Carraway to say goodbye. But what better way than an all local bill at Pressed surrounded by friends on July 3?
I personally discovered this band too late, having only seen them once before. They were a hidden gem in this city making excellent music which varied from skate punk to melodic rock with indie flare and some screams. They have moments where they blast through songs and blistering speed and other where you think of bands like Brand New.
Guitarist Austin broke the silence after the blistering start to say, “Usually we don’t talk, but usually people don’t come.” This set did see a little more talking from the band than last time I saw them, but realistically they were just here to rock and celebrate… leave the mourning for later. One of the most bittersweet elements of the set was the band playing new music from their new album, Dirty God, which they released a few days ago. The songs, “Heavespeak,” “Violence Inside Me,” and “Dirty God” were excellent and just added to the disappointment that this band is no more. The most memorable moment of the last show I saw was when they played the opening of Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name Of” to perfectly transition into their own track, “The World Doesn’t Hate You.” The lads treated us to it again and it was even better this time! But nothing was more notable than the last two songs, “Sink Holes” and “West End Underground,” which not only blew me away, but was an epic way to mark the end of an era.
When the set was done, Phil from Robots!Everywhere!! got up and grabbed the microphone. “If you guys won’t talk I will.” He went on to mention how sad it is to see such a great band call it a day and how they will surely be missed. This started a flow of people giving speeches such as Cory Levesque, Austin’s brother and more. Goodbye Carraway, please let their be new bands that grow from your ashes.
Setting the stage for Carraway was Fresh Hell, a band that just keeps improving every time I see them. What is really cool is that the drummer for Fresh Hell, Vance, was once the drummer for Carraway. Fresh Hell were great and sounding tighter than I have ever seen them. The two things that really stand out for me are the ridiculous difference in the two vocalists, Steve with his punk rock Tom Waits style rasp and Cory with his softer pop punk voice, and Vance’s drumming. He plays a bunch cool off-beat combinations and inserts some really sweet rolls into a style that is often lacking creative drumming. My favourite song has been “Cold,” but it may have been dethroned by “We Never Sleep” and “Home.” Can’t wait for them to release their debut album! Guitarist Cory was clearly moved and honoured to be playing Carraway’s last show as he has been a long time fan. Cory also found the time to thank everyone for coming out and supporting local: “Thanks for not seeing Blake Sheldon.”
Safekeeping opening the evening on July 3, 2014 @ Pressed Café — Photo: Eric Scharf
Opening the evening was Safekeeping. Where Fresh Hell represented the punk side of Carraway, Safekeeping represented the more melodic and emo influences. I felt like the band wasn’t as tight as they could be, but I did enjoy their set. The potential is there and I will be keeping my eyes and ears peeled for these guys to see how they grow. I really liked their song “Restless” off their 2013 release This is For The Best and the song, “Never Be The Same” off of their new EP I Wish You Knew.