Tapas is the name of a new hip hop trio in Ottawa, but they’re anything but rookies. The group consists of two of Ottawa’s finest MC’s—G.Grand, and Hyf—along with locally-renowned producer Jeepz behind the beats. Together they are a force to be reckoned with.
What’s so special about a hip hop crew like this getting together?
I would argue that good chemistry is more crucial in hip hop than more than any other type of music. Not only do the styles and flow need to weave together well, but each MC also needs to offer something different to the music. Think of Wu Tang Clan, El-P and Killer Mike, Talib Kweli and Mos Def, Andre 3000 and Big Boi, Q-Tip and Phife—all the great groups have a push-pull dynamic, working off each other’s style while contributing to the larger work. While each MC is undoubtedly extraordinary in their own right, in the case of hip hop, the sum is greater than the parts.
This is the case with Tapas. Individually, G.Grand and Hyf are well-respected in the music community and considered examples of intelligent, talented MC’s in Ottawa. Hyf is the stage name of Sergio Guerra, an accomplished Salvadorian-born MC, poet, and producer who is also part of the slam poetry/hip hop ensemble called Missing Linx, along with well-known artists Just Jamaal, Cannon2x, PrufRock Shadowrunner. He is also the co-founder of the local avant-garde label, Nationaless Mind Records, which has an impressive roster of artists and continues to push traditional boundaries in the music industry with a progressive agenda and mission. Hyf is also a two-time Canadian Festival of Spoken Word finalist, and has garnered local praise over the years for his broad lyrical vocabulary and sharp phrasing and flow.
G.Grand grew up in London, ON, listening to soul, R&B, and rap as well as a diverse group of musicians with whom his father worked as a manager in the 1990’s. He moved to Ottawa for university and started cutting his teeth as an MC recording tracks throughout his undergrad at UofO. While exploring his new path as a musician, in 2010 Grand was introduced to producer and future collaborator, Jean-Paul Tyo—better known in the Ottawa/Gatineau music community as Jeepz.
Jeepz is, by far, one of the most proficient and versatile producers in the Ottawa area. His style is informed by the smooth, groovy beats from the golden era of hip hop in the 1980’s. Drawing on the methods of game-changing producers from this time–notably the late J Dilla–Jeepz has constructed a sonic bridge for us to experience hip hop in the same way that listeners of A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and The Pharcyde might have in the past.
His tracks give off an air of perfectionism, in the sense that each layer and each tone is intricately fine-tuned to create a truly “vintage boom-bap” sound. As a multi-instrumentalist, Jeepz started working on beats with his first drum set in grade seven, learning the ins and outs of rhythm while continuously trying his hand at new technologies by which he could make music. Over the years, he continually pushed himself to be better, and now he is two-time Ottawa Beat League champion.
Call it fate, or luck, but this chance meeting of ingenuitive minds was the start of a partnership that truly unlocked the skills and potential of Grand, Hyf, and Jeepz.
“The things that never change are an appreciation for quality and craftsmanship in the music and the understanding that hip-hop culture is always evolving,” explains Grand. “Making sure that we stay open-minded to new elements of the culture while still being able to call out aspects that we think are less positive has become more important as we’ve grown up with hip-hop.”
The trio that is Tapas is therefore a well-oiled hip hop machine, with plenty of years of experience behind them. Their self-titled album transcends any specific style and flow of hip hop, dipping into the vintage-era sounds and samples on tracks like “Loop it Up,” but also tracks like “Gotta Love It” that touch on modern-era methods that favour sub-divided hi-hats, heavy kicks, and layered synthesizers.
“The sound is just a natural extension of making the music we want to hear right now,” says Grand. “We didn’t force anything, but we wanted to make sure that we were pushing our sound forward and challenging ourselves to try new things.”
“I hope people recognize the work that we put into this in terms of pushing ourselves lyrically and especially on production side to make a quality project. We also hope that people see that we’re proudly representing the Ottawa hip-hop community because our scene doesn’t get enough credit for producing some very dope artists.”
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.
A lot of hip-hop heavyweights dropped music over the last little while (e.g. Kanye, Rhianna, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Drake) so you might have missed new tracks from some highly respected veterans and buzz-worthy up-and-comers. Don’t worry busy hip-hop head, I got you.
In this instalment of ‘Off The Mic’, I’ll present you with some of my favourite cuts of January and February 2016 that may have flown under your radar plus my local pick of the month.
Artist: Little Simz x BadBadNotGood
Song: Our Conversations
If you don’t know about Little Simz at this point, I’m glad to be putting you on to one of the most promising emerging emcees the UK has to offer. Her North American infiltration is in full swing as evidenced by a successful US tour in the fall, the ringing endorsement she recently garnered from Kendrick Lamar, and this recent collaboration with Canadian trap-jazz trio BadBadNotGood. If you’re a hip-hop fan you owe it to yourself to get acquainted with this gifted young spitter.
Artist: Black Milk
Song: Like I Need It All
Black Milk is one of the hardest-working people in music. In a Detroit hip-hop scene burgeoning with talent, he has carved his own lane as a producer-emcee through a series of critically acclaimed solo releases and stellar collaborations with other Detroit luminaries such as Elzhi, Royce 5’9” and Danny Brown. Like I Need It All sees Black Milk in rare rhyming form, rapping about the determination required it to achieve success and longevity in the game.
Artist: Omarion ft. Ghostface Killah
Song: I Ain’t Even Done
“This shit sounds like Batman just got poisoned by his old lady.” – Ghostface Killah
The fact that Omarion and Ghostface linked up on a track in 2016 is strange to me. The fact that it’s actually very dope is weirder still. I’ll chalk it up to the affects of whatever is going on in L.A. that has the coast buzzing with some of the most exciting acts in hip-hop at the moment. Demonstrating my point, producer Knxwledge’s entrancing production on this cut leads both Ghostface and the former B2K frontman to new heights over woodwinds and whiplash-inducing percussion.
Artist: Anderson .Paak ft. Rapsody
Song: Without You
Anderson .Paak’s recently released project, Malibu is a revelation. Filled with memorable tracks and eclectic sounds, the California native and recent Aftermath signee has elevated his unique raspy half-rapped style to another level since his standout performances on Dr. Dre’s Compton last year. Without You is representative of .Paak’s abilities as a songwriter and features a typically stellar Rapsody delivering a beautifully harsh verse about an ungrateful former lover.
I don’t know much about Sivey aside from the fact that he’s from Manchester, he’s down with Soulection, and he’s got a penchant for clever flips and use of samples. I do know that I love Fast Wave for its chill vibe and the fact that it’s a remix of a previous Sivey production Slow Wave, which also deserves your attention if you’re in the mood for some pure R&B.
Song: Intro (Rolling Thru the City)
F.Printz gets right to it on this intro cut to his second instalment of The Cold Capitvl Project, displaying superior rapping ability over a dark and glitchy beat from Andre OB. This is late night contemplation music well suited to the Ottawa winter.
“You guys thought it was going to be exciting and it’s fucking depressing AGAIN!”
Sawbuck looks into the crowd with slight grin on his face. “That’s just how I roll,” he says, with a shrug as he launches into the final song of the evening, one which is, as promised, depressing in theme.
Sawbuck is one half of Buck n’ Nice, a local hip hop act that is standing out in a scene that is anything but dormant. Last summer, they played Bluesfest, an experience that seems to have galvanized their desire for glory.
Last night at Zaphod’s, Sawbuck and the other half of Buck n’ Nice, DJ So Nice, gave the crowd more than a peek at their new material, a sophomore album to be titled Emag. To mark the occasion, they brought a videographer and some of their hip hop friends along.
The night was a showcase of excellent Ottawa hip hop talent. Leading off the bill was rapper G.Grand, who originates from London, ON, and whose style is remarkably old school. His beats are groove-based, with a distinct jazz influence, with a bit of Kanye-esque soul sampling thrown in.
Last night, his lyrical prowess was apparent. He has lots of swagger on stage, and he knows how to feed the crowd. That made him an excellent opener.
CircaBeatz backed him up on the tables, but it appeared that the soundman had forgotten to turn up that line, because the sound backing G.Grand was a little on the weak side, which detracted from what was otherwise a great performance. While G.Grand has been around since 2012, he has the feel of a rapper who is just hitting his stride. It’s going to be nice to see more from him in the future.
Next up was wotts, a group that is just beginning to get more recognition for their unique style. The group has a rhythm section consisting of a blues guitar, provided by Ryan Farrell, and a beatboxer, MC Dimz. The ensemble creates a sound that can only be found in one place.
wotts is a band that doesn’t take the most serious of approaches to lyric writing. Their subject matter, compared to that of G.Grand and Buck n’ Nice, is of a much more jocular nature. But what they lack in intensity, they make up for in pure fun. They have a great time on stage, and the crowd feeds on that. The beatboxing from Dimz is really enjoyable to see live. The two MCs, Jayem and E, have a flow that is reminiscent of the Beastie Boys in their prime. To top it off, they were joined on stage by the Dynamite Motel and a keyboardist known only as Melinda, helping them recreate the sound of their most recent record, b.
Next to hit the stage were the headliners, Buck n’ Nice. They were backed by CircaBeatz on a live kit, which brought a level of intensity to the set that I have rarely seen in a hip hop show. They immediately brought the tone to a much darker place, as Sawbuck recited a poem he wrote when he was depressed over the summer.
It’s clear that much of Emag comes from that same vibe. The crowd last night was treated to nearly 45 minutes of material from the new album, which must be close to all of it, and it is what one might call “gritty.” With themes of genocide and despair, the record is sounding far more introspective and challenging than the group’s debut, Us Versus Them.
They put on a great show. Sawbuck was on top of his game. He owned the stage like a tiger would his cage. And So Nice’s beats were, as usual, loud and complex simultaneously. These guys are a couple of veterans and it shows.
They’re very clearly in a place where they feel comfortable with the music they’re making. Sawbuck recounted an anecdote of someone telling them that they were offended by one of the band’s songs.
“And you know what? We made it the single,” he said.
All in all, the evening was great. It ended at 11pm, which is early for hip hop, but just right for a work night. Maybe that sounds boring, but I’m too practical to care.
‘Off The Mic’ is a regular column by Ottawa-based rapper G.Grand who has released three independent solo projects since 2012. He provides recommendations for those who don’t have time to trawl music blogs or the dregs of Soundcloud. He also listens to a lot of hip-hop and R&B of all varieties, from local trap stars to international purveyors of boom bap.
What up everybody? The good people at Ottawa Showbox have given me a platform to highlight some of the hip-hop and R&B music I think you should be up on and I’m thrilled to oblige. Hip-hop is diverse and constantly changing so you can expect an eclectic mix of styles and perspectives in my recommendations. I should also note that I won’t be reviewing music or plugging my own projects in this space (you should follow me on twitter @ggrandmc for that). That being said, I’ll be featuring projects from local and Canadian artists that I genuinely enjoy as often as possible and will be sure to mention any conflicts of interest as they arise.
For this first instalment I figured I’d set the tone by keeping things very real and acknowledging that I tried to stay as far away from my computer as possible over the Holidays. These are some of my favourite tracks from the end of 2015.
Artist: Freddie Gibbs
Song: Fuckin’ up the Count
This is exceptional gangster rap at its most sober and depressing. With dark atmospheric production from Boi-1da and Frank Dukes, Gibbs details the thought process of a hustler caught in the trap and continues to show why he’s revered as one of the sharpest storytellers in the game.
Artist: Murs & 9th Wonder
Murs is very good at rapping. This song is filled with quotable lines for lovers of witty rhyming over rugged 9th Wonder beats. Honestly I’m a huge fan of just about everything Murs and 9th have done together since 2004 and the latest release from the veteran emcee/producer duo is well worth several listens.
Artist: AK the Savior
Song: Never Change
AK of Brooklyn’s The Underachievers shines on this solo loosie displaying the same rapid-fire delivery and smoked out vibe that has made the Underachievers favourites amongst fans of the former beast coast collective.
Song: rango 004
Memorecks is a talented producer from Toronto who seems adept at finding the perfect balance between hip-hop and electronic influences in his work. The sometimes Zeds Dead collaborator has recently released the second episode of his Bowlection Radio series that sees him drawing inspiration from frequent Soulection contributor Sango to deliver a potent uptempo mix of trap, hip-hop and Brazilian sounds.
Artist: Kevo Hendricks ft. Ab-Soul and Kenhood
Soulful, lyrical hip-hop from the US west coast. Ab-Soul, Kevo and Kenhood trade bars about aspirations, temptations and life’s challenges over jazzy piano keys and a haunting vocal sample. Kevo in particular comes through with a strong concluding verse that showcases his above average rhyming ability.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Bonus Selection:
Artist: Otaku Gang
Project: Life After Death Star
If you love Biggie and Star Wars you owe it to yourself to listen to this remix project by the Otaku Gang (Richie Branson and Solar Slim)………you nerd.
How many artists can you name that have dropped 50 records? Probably not too many, especially ones with the same quality and flavour as the highly anticipated Soul Spins, by talented local producer and two-time Ottawa Beat League champJeepz. Within the last 3 years, Jeepz has created a rich discography with Soul Spins adding a well-deserved celebratory vibe to this true milestone in his career. Sharing the album’s stage with 25 artists from Canada and beyond, there’s plenty of familiar and fresh voices to hear on the soulful tracks found on Soul Spins, with plenty of love for the frozen tundra’s hip-hop scene. It’s a difficult task trying to express the ideas of an album with such magnitude and diversity. So I’ve created a list, breaking down the first 3 of 17 tracks and stating my initial thoughts when going into the record for the first time.
Proem [Ft. Just Jamaal the Poet]
A classic scratch followed by a sampled interview question layered over a vintage jazz piano introduces Jamaal’s strong lyrical flow. The heavy bassline and kick keep the vibe going while the Poet speaks of motivation and how the mind sets it’s own obstacles to overcome. Proem has the perfect tone to start up the album, demonstrating Jeepz signature ‘vintage-meets-modern’ sound.
Blu Moon [Ft. Blu]
An eerie siren contrasts with a sexy 70s funk sample found in the background like a Tarantino film. As the siren fades, a crisp boom-bap drum jumps through the smooth guitar riff and saxophone ballad, which really brings Blu Moon to a sort of KRS-One level. Blu’s vocals have a smooth yet aggressive style, that blend well with the instrumentals, but still have enough bite to stand alone.
My personal favorite on the record, Check the Resumé comes swinging with a solid upright bass in a House of Pain styling. As a 3-Osc buzzes discreetly through the atmosphere of the track, Grand, Hyf, and Raul drop some solid bars overtop of the hard-hitting and classic Soul Searchers’ break Ashley’s Roachclip. At the 0:46 mark, an unexpected yet definitely welcomed string sample oozes into Hyf’s verse, that adds new dimensions to the track which ends with a bass-heavy breakdown that satisfyingly finishes off the track.
The other 14 tracks share the same amount of quality, lush beats and thought provoking vocals as the first 3 I’ve listed, which include guest appearances from Ghettosocks, Nilla, Mayoori, Shaun Carlo, Sawbuck, DJ So Nice, City Fidelia, Just Poets, Eddie Brock, Kay Flow, Jvon Bishop Lawrence, Kanoe, Lisa Fowler, Beaugé, Cannon2x, Prufrock Shadowrunner, Apollo the Child, Lisa Fowler, Jenna Whiteley, and King Kimbit.
For $0.29 a track ($5.00 for the whole album), you need to pick up this record, especially if you’re a fan of classic soul and funk, mixed with millennial realness. You can find Soul Spins and the rest of Jeepz discography here.
It’s hard to believe that another year has passed and the RBC Bluesfest 2015 is upon us. Bluesfest has been getting better and better at including great local acts in their programming on the big stage, which for many artists is a dream come true. This year is no exception, as the festival has gone one step further to bring in more artists that are sure to rock the grounds at Lebreton Flats. Let’s dive right in with some previews of Ottawa-area musicians playing this year’s festival.
“DJ ACRO has opened for and shared the stage with a number of major artists including the likes of The Beatnuts, Mac Miller, Onyx, K.R.I.T, M.O.P, Smoke DZA, XZIBIT and a slew of other up coming and iconic Hip Hop artists.”
Bella Cat’s unique musical style has roots in soul and blues music, fusing genres and creating a sound that is distinctly her own. Her music will appeal to a broad audience, spanning all ages and tastes.
A must-see for fans of: Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings
If there’s one band in Ottawa that transcends genres, combines a myriad of musical styles, and has engaging and intelligent lyrical content, it’s BlakDenim. This eight-piece ensemble exudes energy on stage and are fan-favourites at Bluesfest, having played the festival in the past. Infusion of hip-hop, funk, rock, soul, and jazz.
A must-see for fans of: A Tribe Called Quest & The Roots
B&C is a three-piece high-energy, crunchy riff-driven roots blues band that are from the nation’s capital, but could just as well be from the heart of the Mississippi Delta. If you’re into raw vocals and let-loose blues instrumentation, these guys are the ones you want to see live.
A must-see for fans of: Jimi Hendrix & John Lee Hooker
Saturday, July 11 @ 3:30 p.m.
Monster Energy Stage
If you follow Showbox, you’ll know that this group is one of our local faves. Since enlisting some of Ottawa’s most talented musicians and reforming as a full band, this experimental “future folk” group has captured the hearts and minds of many in Ottawa. Pure brilliance.
Brandon Allan writes simple, heartfelt songs about everyday feelings and experiences. His brand acoustic folk/country rock is the kind that you can turn on and close your eyes to, as his soft yet searing melodies and lyrics leave nothing uncovered.
A must-see for fans of: The Weakerthans & The Tallest Man on Earth
Saturday, July 18 @ 3:30 p.m.
Barney Danson Theatre
Brea Lawrenson’s music will appeal to lovers of pop country, which is a lot of people here in the Ottawa Valley. Her voice can go from soft and warm to powerful and penetrating on a dime, so keep your ears out for her at the Flats.
This hip hop duo consisting of SawBuck and DJ So Nice has beatmaking and production of crowd-pleasing bangers down to a science. If you’re familiar with the club circuit or hip hop scene around Ottawa, you’ve probably moved your body to one or both of these guys.
A must-see for fans of: Jurassic 5 & Run the Jewels
Sturton has made a name for herself nationally as a musician and worked with artists such as Joel Plaskett, Al Tick, Rolf Klausener, John Carroll, as well as members of Sloan and Blue Rodeo. From Japanese garage rock venues to American juke joints, she’s got a pretty interesting rap sheet.
On top of being a very strong singer and songwriter, Sturton has become well-known for her proficiency playing the harmonica – she derives her style straight from the Mississippi of old, cutting her chops at local blues establishments and learning from harmonica masters such as Larry “The Bird” Mootham and Carlos del Junco.
This veteran has been making music since 1989 and has recently started writing new material after a hiatus. Raw blues rock inspired by the Chicago greats is the only way to describe the kind of music that Nelson makes.
This band is a truly special part of Ottawa/Hull’s music scenes. The band consists of members of Timber Timbre, Last Ex, and Scattered Clouds, creating disoriented and experimental art-punk with fractured arrangements.
A must-see for fans of: music that pushes boundaries, free jazz/post-punk
Calkuta, Bender & Patience have done it again, demonstrating why they’re one of the top hip hop acts in Ottawa. Their latest album, the 18-track High Priests of Low-Life, is another example of how talented this group is. Their music has an underground aesthetic with samples and production that are anything but amateur.
A must-see for fans of: Immortal Technique & Atmosphere
Wednesday, July 15 @ 8:15 p.m.
Monster Energy Stage
Grantly Franklin a.k.a G.Grand is a Showbox favourite. We just can’t get enough of his rhymes, especially when he collabs with his partner-in-crime producer Jeepz or other incredible Ottawa MC’s like Hyf the Gypsy Sun. If you’re into smooth, intelligent, and beat-laden hip hop then G.Grand is someone you don’t want to miss.
Shannon Rose has been making music for a few years now, and her full-band project – now called Gold and Marrow – is making serious waves in Ottawa. Rose has proven herself to be one of the foremost songwriters in the region, alongside others such as Amanda Rheaume or Catriona Sturton.
A must-see for fans of: Feist
Tuesday, July 14 @ 7:15 p.m.
Barney Danson Theatre
Callum Runciman and his band Grime Kings prove that music runs in the family – his sister Caylie’s band Boyhood has also turned heads in Ottawa. Grime Kings’ brand of lo-fi esoteric, fuzzy experimentations pushes the sonic limit and defies genre boundaries.
There is no other way to put it – HILOTRONS are a quintessential Ottawa band. Lead songwriter Mike Dubue’s influences are as diverse as they are obscure. The end result is album after album of relentlessly funky and imaginative songs, proving that Dubue is Ottawa’s musical mastermind.
A must-see for fans of: Talking Heads
Thursday, July 16 @ 8:15 p.m.
The man behind the epic FRENZY parties at Babylon, Iggy Smalls knows how to get things going. Don’t miss him play Diplo/Skrillex’s afterparty at Ritual tonight (July 8).
Joe Gaspar and his band put the “blues” in Bluesfest. Drawing on blues rock influences from the ’70s such as Cream and Led Zeppelin, the Joe Gaspar Band plays songs containing heavy riffs and intricate guitar solos of that era.
A must-see for fans of: Jimi Hendrix, Cream & Led Zeppelin
Ottawa-based singer-songwriter Kaleigh Watts finds beauty in simplicity by writing emotional and intense songs that create a truly incredible soundscape. Watts, who has been mentored by Juno and Canadian Folk Awards winner Lynn Miles, blends intricate acoustic fingerpicking with stirring vocal melodies.
“2009 Ottawa Red Bull Threestyle Champion, 4 Time Ottawa DMC Dj Battle champion, First title coming at the age of 15 years old. 2006 Canadian Team DMC Dj battle champions ( w/ Stylusts ) and competed at the DMC World Championships in London, England.”
“Kira Isabella has been performing her brand of up-tempo country music across Canada for more than a decade. Kira began dabbling in guitar and writing about love, life and boys. Initially, Kira delved into a variety of music, but when she discovered the likes of powerhouse country vocalists Shania Twain and Faith Hill, she knew she was hooked on country.”
Blending jazz, blues, and folk, Lucas Haneman has created his own sound and won many awards for his compositions. As an acclaimed fingerstylist and songwriter, Haneman and his band will be sure to get crowds moving at Bluesfest this year.
The best way to describe Lynne Hanson’s music is gritty, raw, and honest. It’s no surprise that she’s played shows in places like Memphis, Nashville, and Austin. With vocals that are on-point, songwriting that strikes to the core, and instrumentals that capture the soul of roots music, Hanson fits perfectly in such a stacked local lineup at Bluesfest.
A must-see for fans of: Caroline Herring
Thursday, July 9 @ 6 p.m.
Claridge Homes Stage
DJ Matt Tamblyn
Matt Tamblyn creates parties. If you’re one that scours town for places to get down, you’ve probably seen Tamblyn behind the decks at places like Parliament Pub or Mugshots. His repertoire includes SILK, Open Air Social Club, King of the Beach, and more.
MonkeyJunk are a Juno Award-winning modern blues rock band, proudly representing the nation’s capital across Canada. They have garnered a strong fan base internationally, touring Canada, the US, and Europe relentlessly. In just seven years, this band has become a Canadian staple.
A must-see for fans of: The Black Keys & Muddy Waters
This band takes neo-classical folk to another level, and have made a name for themselves internationally by creating beautifully textured and emotionally charged songs. Musk Ox create a rare brand of atmospheric, evocative, and harmonious music that resonates with our very core. This is a powerful, must-see chamber folk act.
This band plays the delta blues that would more typically be found in the deep heart of the Mississippi. A whaling harmonica, twangy hollow-body electric guitars, and raspy vocals – these guys are another band that keep the blues in Bluesfest going strong.
A must-see for fans of: John Lee Hooker & RL Burnside
Ottawa’s #1 party punk band, when New Swears perform mayhem ensues. Blow-up dolls, crowd surfers, whipped cream – these are all typical sights at a New Swears show. Do yourself a favour and strap on your seat belts, because this is one ride that’ll give you a concussion if you’re not ready.
These Ottawa veterans kick out serious jams, perfecting their crunchy proto-punk and garage rock sound that explodes from the stage. This three-piece band take us back to the CBGB’s era of early punk rock gods, and describe them selves as a cross somewhere between The Who and The Buzzcocks.
A must-see for fans of: Iggy & The Stooges, Fugazi
Another favourite of ours, Pony Girl creates intricate and consuming soundscapes. This is art-rock at its finest and it’s difficult to imagine a higher caliber of musicianship in this band. They will be playing many new songs from their upcoming epic Foreign Life, which has been about 10 years in the making.
A must-see for fans of: Broken Social Scene, The XX
Saturday, July 11 @ 7:30 p.m.
Barney Danson Theatre
This power trio is yet another Ottawa Valley blues rock band that is making waves in the region. I first heard of this band when I came across their cover of “Dust My Broom,” the perennial classic tune written by blues legend Robert Johnson (and also happens to be one of my favourite blues songs). Get your blues fill with RCJ.
The layered and intricate instrumentation, high-energy orchestral nuances, and Matthew Saint Clare’s unhinged vocals that can only be compared to those of Frank Black of The Pixies. All of this melds into the distinctive sounds that Saint Clare create together. However motley a crew they may seem, their heterogeneity makes for a potent combination when such strong band chemistry exists.
If you want catchy, sexy, danceable rock music, then Silvergun & Spleen is the band for you. With an electric stage presence and an attitude that will smack you in the face, this band is ready to let loose and take on the big stage for the first time. Get close, but not too close – S&S will set the stage ablaze.
The Haig have a sound that is not easy to describe, and that’s why we love them. It’s a little bit of ’90s alt-rock/grunge mixed in with a twisted horror film. Their full-throttle rock has taken Ottawa by storm and propelled the band to great heights.
A must-see for fans of: Queens of the Stone Age, Radiohead
“Formed in 1989, The Jivewires have jumped many musical and national borders. Taking their music from the jazz and satire of the ’40s and ’50s greats Louis Jordan, Cab Calloway, Wynonie Harris, and Louis Prima, The Jivewires throw a new spin on the Jump Blues tradition.”
A must-see for fans of: ‘Swing’, Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five
The Reverb Syndicate are Ottawa’s premier, and maybe only, instrumental surf and go-go band. The band’s bio perfectly describes them as “reverb-drenched surf/spy-fi sounds to accompany ’60s spy films, westerns, sci-fi films and old school video games that don’t exist.” You have to see to believe.
“A rock band with few genres barred, The Superlative mix their rock with reggae, ska, pop, punk, funk, blues and more. They consistently surprise crowds across Canada with their genre-bending shows. The band embrace the rock elements many of us know and love, while putting a unique new spin to each song they write.”
“The Visit is Heather Sita Black, a vocalist unchained, and Raphael Weinroth-Browne, a powerful cellist. Together they form a self-described defiance of genre, so terms like chamber or polystylistic don’t really fit the bill. The closest long-winded definition might be experimental/avant-garde classical.”
Thrifty Kids are one of the most exciting new bands in Ottawa, and have received high accolades for the few releases and shows they have played so far. Their atmospheric and relaxed sound makes them a perfect summer band, the kind of music you want to listen to when the sand is between your toes. Keep an eye out for this band, as they are getting set to do big things.
If there’s a list of bands that keep deep Ottawa’s folk roots going strong, Winchester Warm would be on top. Following in the footsteps of local greats such as Snailhouse, Jim Bryson, and The Acorn, WW’s beautiful vocal harmonies, irresistible arrangements, and heartfelt lyrics make them another addition to this city’s incredible list of folk greats.
The Yips are another favourite of ours, playing loud and fuzzy “ouija rock” – a term they coined for their distinctly creepy, overdriven garagy sound. The Yips’ shows are wild, with “rave ghosts” always appearing with sheets over their heads and letting loose. Don’t miss out on what one of Ottawa’s best bands has to offer.
A must-see for fans of: FIDLAR, Thee Oh Sees
Friday, July 17 @ 6 p.m.
“Specializing in soul music from the past, present & future from the world over, Zattar has been moving ‘soles’ since the dawn of the 21st century. Syncopated drums with a touch of nostalgia are his sounds of choice. Bringing many years of music knowledge and crate digging to every gig, expect the unexpected.”
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!
Ottawa Showbox is proud to premiere the new video for “Sparkle” from local Ottawa rapper G. Grand. The song and video were both produced by Grand’s long time collaborator Jeepz. “Sparkle” features an a cappella intro, a soul-infused and laid back instrumental, and a flurry of the golden-era influenced lyrics G. Grand is known for. “Sparkle” is featured on the album Grand Designs by G. Grand, entirely produced by Jeepz and available here.
In the midst of aerosol fumes & evidence of the great deluge the night before, House of PainT‘s main event took place on Saturday, Sept. 6 without a hitch.
There was ample popping, spraying & crackwising, not to mention a euphoric ambiance. The first thing you noticed walking towards the ‘neath of the Dunbar Bridge was the colour of it all. From 11 a.m. that morning, a squad of graffiti artists worked the three massive walls of the bridge’s supports with a rainbow of colour scheme. Large puddles of rain water separated passersby from the fence of the art attack, and the ground was slick with mud. If you planted your feet firmly apart and craned your neck upwards you’d come to see paint sprayed with precision to resemble jagged metal & curvy letters.
But before getting there you passed the Seeds Tent. At 5 p.m. a DJ set welcomed patrons & rubberneckers to the area under the tent designated free, all-ages fun. It featured local rappers G.Grand, Just Poets, Poetic Elements & Wise Atangana backed by the boom-bap of Decho, Essoudry & Moxon a.k.a. 2React. The Seeds Tent was site all day to Kids Workshops: Luv2Groove‘s dance workshop, Rap Writing with Jugga, Rap Performance with Peter Joynt & Spoken Word workshops with presentations by El Jones & John Akpata.
Fresh Kilz & DJ RELIC performing at House of PainT’s Main Event, Saturday Sept. 6.
Under the bridge, the Bboy Crew Semi-Finals saw Floor Assassinz Malitia beat out Funk League & Sweet Technique remove Deadly Venomz to the tracks & rips of DJ Jervy Jerv. Following up, T.O.’s Fresh Kilz slammed a Music Product Centre (MPC) with all his might for the BBoy & BGirl crowd to liven up before the finals. His MPC was smoking from Led Zeppelin & Tenacious D riffs over dance beats, and a special fusion of Deltron 3030’s “Mastermind” & “Rolling the Deep” which he sweetly called “Adele the Funky Homosapien.” He then invited his fellow Torontonian, DJ RELIC a.k.a. REL McCoy, to spit over his machinery. Their jam continued the trend of the Bboy & Bgirl crews crowding around in circles to practice for the upcoming Battle Finals. Many couples were also dancing the hustla, a street-inspired tango with the basics to improvise on a three-step spin.
Missing LinX bringing us several levels of consciousness at House of PainT, Sept. 6.
Ottawa’s own group of Just Jamaal, Hyf Gypsysun & ProfRock as Missing LinX (missing Cannon2x) took to the stage and rapped their way through their set, calling out for Ottawans to raise their hands and make some noise. When the three decided they weren’t getting enough response out of the crowd, they jumped into the midst of introverted breakdancers and created a heart-pounding pit, jumping up and down to their heavily bassed poetry. After returning to the stage they asked for a moment of silence as tribute to Zaccheus Jackson, an East Van-based poet recently killed by a train in Toronto while on tour. His intelligent & beautiful poetry was evidence of a man who loved life, whose passing is mourned throughout the spoken word community.
The main event included the Bboy & BBoy Crew Battle Finals at 8 p.m. LB made his way through J Robin & Lord to claim the Bboy Finals title, all of which can be seen on House of PainT’s youtube popping playlist on HoP Reels. The Bboy Crew Finals had Sweet Technique face Floor Assassinz Malitia for an epic breakdance beatdown over the live tracks of Ikebe Shakedown. This kind of thing is best described by video, filmed and uploaded by HoP Reels:
Ikebe Shakedown continued to shake it all down for those still amped from the Finals. The septet from Brooklyn, NY brought a sultry lounge feel to the dance floor, with the classic percussionist in a drum kit matched by a conga-bongo player. The brass included a trumpet, a trombone & a tenor goddam saxophone. Solid! The circles of Bboys were reaching out and grabbing anyone who even slightly looked like they wanted to jive in the middle of the circle. For some, the choice was made once they were pulled into the middle and left there surrounded by clapping & whistling dancers. I made the premature move of dusting off my shoulders, as a true Caucasian would, which was greeted by skeptical jeers and laughter, but the intensity was still really fun.
After which, a duo listed as DJ Pho but actually the collaboration of Ian “Pho” Swain & Alanna Stuart as Bonjay took to the stage and blasted the area with dancey tracks of chopped pop & soul songs. Their dancehall jive kept the party going until 11 p.m., when the dancefloor was considerably less crowded but still as energetic. The art on all the walls still fresh, festooned with scaffolding, no less beautiful in the black & neon lights.