During Ottawa Explosion’s fourth day, the outdoor stage at Club SAW was rocked by the Mint Records Showcase featuring The Smugglers, NEEDLES//PINS, Tough Age and Expanda Fuzz.
The iconic Canadian garage rock band The Smugglers headlined the wonderful evening. The band from Vancouver, BC existed from 1988 – 2004, and just recently reunited for select shows in 2017. Lead singer Grant Lawrence, who many know as a host on CBC Radio 3, is wildly energetic and engaging as a frontman. He kicked off the show by saying: “Ottawa, it is so good to be back in the city that birthed The White Wires, Stand GT, Resin Scrapers, The Creeps, Million Dollar Marxists, Tokyo Sex Whale and so many more!” That was quite the tribute to the locals here, and many of the aforementioned bands had members in the audience. He continued “Since the last time you saw us in Ottawa we have had nine children and one heart attack.
They call themselves a rock n’ roll band, which they most certainly are, with hints of surf and very danceable garage (maybe those terms weren’t cool back when they were). Their sound is amazing and infectious and had people dancing and singing along non-stop. I try to make a point to not comment on a band’s attire, but I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the full suit and rubber boots look sported by many of the members.
The band played a high energy 12-song set featuring “Vancouver BC,” which Lawrence mentioned “was almost a hit on Much Music,” the International Smuggler Dance Competition judged by the drummer of NEEDLES//PINS and “Booze” which was dedicated to the drummer of The Gruesomes, a band from Montreal that changed Lawrence’s life, who happened to be from Ottawa. They closed with “Rock n’ Roll Was Never This Fun” and thanked us all for attending what could be one of the last Smugglers shows ever. It is bittersweet that my first Smugglers show may be my last, but I’m ecstatic that I got to see them play my favourite festival.
NEEDLES//PINS took to the stage before The Smugglers and were full of apologies from the get go. After playing their opening song “Drop It” they said “Feels so good to be back, I can’t believe we missed an Explosion I’m sorry. We will never miss another.” I sure hope the Explosion team holds them to that as I love knowing I will see this band every year. Before launching into “Best Friend” they urged us all to high-five our best friend which was a really fun moment to watch happen all around them in the packed Club SAW courtyard.
They also played a bunch of music off their new record, Good Night, Tomorrow, which hadn’t been released yet but is now available. The new tracks sounded great and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into the album. Their set featured one of the cutest and most heart-warming moments of the festival. Not everyone knows that even though the band is from BC, one of their members is from the Ottawa Valley. Emmanuel Sayer (OXW organizer) noticed some of the family members, mostly older, sitting by the stage during the set and ran them over some earplugs. What a gentleman. It is always awesome to see NEEDLES//PINS perform, they are incredibly talented but also just such nice and positive people.
Tough Age, formally from Vancouver and now based in Toronto, played Ottawa Explosion again and are becoming a festival mainstay. The new-ish, stripped down three-piece (formally a bigger band) have really embraced some post-punk influences and sound with their new music, such as the song “Not That Bad.” I, and a couple of people I was chatting with, really dig it. One of the things that blows me away about this band is how the guitarist and bass player just switch instruments back and forth throughout the set. I have massive respect and am in awe of bands that can do that, it’s just wild. Member Jarrett Samson said in closing, “I’m excited to see NEEDLES//PINS and if they don’t play “Drop It” I’m going to burn this tent to the ground.” Lucky for him and all of us, NEEDLES//PINS opened with “Drop It” as mentioned and we all avoided a catastrophe.
Opening the Mint Records Showcase was local duo Expanda Fuzz. I was unfortunately running late and missed some of their set, but as always what I did hear was most excellent. Their fuzzy and drone garage style sound has this perfect slow crawling build that leaves me wanting more. In a short time as a band, they have already released a bunch of great music, but I am constantly going back to the first song I heard them play “Flavour: Zombie.” Every time I see them perform that song I get a big smile on my face and have to bob my head. I’m glad that even arriving late, I managed to catch it.
It is that wonderful time of year again when you know all that matters is going to the punk show with your friends. Yes, Ottawa Explosion is back for its 7th year and once again mostly situated at Club SAW.
On day 2 I took in eight bands and could not think of a much better way to spend the last day of my 20s, surrounded by great music and even better people.
Headlining the night was Ottawa’s very own Crusades, which happens to feature Emmanuel Sayer, one of Ottawa Explosion’s organizers. Emanuel opened by saying “RIP JS, it is weird not being pelted by beach balls right now,” referring to last years show where JS had ordered black beach balls and decorated them with friends, just for the Crusades set. It certainly is weird not having our lovable JS around for those types of funny moments. If you see people sporting Hawaiian shirts, they are most likely doing so as a tribute to our good friend who left us too soon. Crusades put on a ripping set as always, I just can’t get enough of their style of heavy punk rock featuring three very distinct vocals. The band was celebrating seven years just like the festival, and as they prepared to play their final song, they were stricken with technical difficulties. Emmanuel simply said “We have been a band for seven years…” hilarious way to cap off the night.
Setting the stage for Crusades in the dimly lit Club SAW was Edmonton’s post-punk act Rhythm of Cruelty. This band is like no other I have ever heard. Their blend of ambient with post-punk and synth is pretty wild, but then when they add in a trumpet and loop it, it blew my mind. It might have a been a little too drone-like for the masses, but I was very impressed and would love to see them again.
Also playing inside was Sudbury Ontario’s greatest export, Strange Attractor. I believe the band has played every Explosion and always fast and hard, like everything they do. They barely have any songs over two minutes long and cram as many as they can into every set with ferociousness. One of the great things about a festival like Explosion is the bands generally stick around and watch other bands. And nothing is better than seeing a band you just watched (Lonely Parade) front and centre jumping, singing and all around losing it to another band.
Getting things started for the late-night indoor portion of the show was Black Tower. They brought us inside and delivered the metal as they summoned ghouls and ghastly creatures from Explosions past. Erin Ewing’s vocals sends shivers down your spine for all the right reasons when she unleashes the darkness within with a banshee-like flexing of her vocal cords. They are the perfect band for fans of punk, metal, and Tolkien-style fiction.
Partner from Sackville, New Brunswick (SAPPY FEST!) headlined the outdoor portion of the night. A lot of bands enjoy playing music live, but very few bands demonstrate that happiness and fun as clearly and openly as Partner. They are out there having at riot at every show and just loving life. It was raining pretty hard during their set but that did not deter them or the crowd, we simply huddle in tight under the tent, the band even giving up much of their space to make more people comfortable. They played a bunch of great new songs off their latest release Sounds of the Future, which is named so as the songs will eventually appear on the next full-length album. The highlight of the show for me was when they stopped during “Gross Secret” to ask the crowd if they had any secrets to share. The crowd was hesitant at first, but then Anthony Cardozo emerged from the side of the stage to happily admit he still picks his nose. The crowd cheered loudly and then more people started telling their secrets. Way to go Tony.
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Lonely Parade from Peterborough, Ontario also rocked the outdoor stage at Club SAW. They get better every single time I see them. It has been really awesome watching this band grow having seen them several times over the past few years. They played a lot of new songs, which they jokingly called “new song 1” then “new song 5.” These new tracks really show off the bands progression and evolution. Don’t get me wrong – I love their earlier songs, but the new ones are very tight, rocking and just have that little something extra.
Montreal’s Towanda also played. This sludgy three-piece from Montreal really rip it up. While many may focus on the guitarist, I was really impressed with their super solid drummer that really drives the music. That said, the lead singer and guitarist lives to shred and does it quite well. She also sports a scowl all set long making it just that much more intense. This band would pair perfectly with Ottawa’s Bonnie Doon.
The first band to play was one of Ottawa’s newest acts Ultralove. I was super impressed by the trio’s performance. I am always amazed when I see a drummer who has a very prominent vocal role. Some people struggle to walk and talk, so hammering the skins while singing just has that automatic wow factor. The band plays a melodic noisy punk rock with strong hardcore influences. One of their songs had one of my all time favourite song structures. A song with one verse that is repeated several times with the music and the vocals intensifying every time until it crescendos into an explosion of emotion. Local readers really need to checkout Ultralove next time they play live.
The Famines are a Montreal-based noise garage music duo made up of Raymond Biesinger (who also happens to be an incredible illustrator) and Drew Demers. But they are not just a band, the duo is also a “DIY-minded experimental record label thing” called Pentagon Black.
In early 2016 Pentagon Black released it’s first compilation containing 23 unreleased songs from bands from across the country as a 20×30″ double-sided newsprint art poster with download code. They had 17 compilation release shows including 30 bands at various locations across the country for it. In April 2017, they did it again with compilation number 2, once again on 20×30″ double-sided newsprint art poster with a download code.
Pentagon Black are back with another compilation, and while they stayed true to their other compilations, they changed it up a little. Pentagon Black Compilation No. 3 is a “phone comp.” It is named as such as 16 diverse bands between Edmonton and Saint John recorded original unreleased tracks live via phone (no multi tracking allowed). This time they went with a smaller format of a 6X6″ postcard with download code.
Eric took some time to discuss with drummer Drew Demers about being a band and being a record label, as well as the story behind the compilation and the inclusion of bands from Ottawa.
Interview with Drew Demers of The Famines/Pentagon Black
What inspired/motivated the two of you to not only be a band but be a label?
Drew Demers: After releasing music on vinyl for the better part of a decade, we realized that it was becoming increasingly difficult to manage/produce. Turn-around times don’t work in anyone’s favor. We were sitting on a recorded full length and didn’t want to have to wait an additional 4 or 5 months just to get a test pressing back. On top of that, the cost was just too great for us to be enthused about it anymore, so we decided that we would just produce things as cheaply and quickly as we could on our own.
[…] we weren’t really trying to establish anything specific. We are a punk band, and so we typically play with like-sounding artists.
Subsequently what pushed you to put out these trans-Canadian compilations?
Drew Demers: We had already released a single and a record on the newsprint poster format, the latter as Pentagon Black and the former in partnership with Psychic Handshake in Montreal. We were discussing what to do next, and the idea started as a split record with The Famines on one side, and then another band on the other. The problem was, we were at odds over whether it was going to be Century Palm or Kappa Chow. We played a show with a ton of pals at this crazy fest called Strangewaves outside of Hamilton.
The lineup included a ton of bands that ended up on the first compilation, and it was beautiful because there was hardly anybody at the show outside of band members. We all just got up and played for each other and there was this sense of communal spirit behind everything. It took us maybe one day to realize that we needed to make something bigger and connect more scenes together, and the first compilation was born out of that notion. BTW, the lineup for that show: Strange Attractor, The Famines, TV Freaks, Mick Futures, Century Palm, Kappa Chow, Lizzie Boredom, and Flesh Rag.
How did you select the bands and decide how you wanted the first two to sound?
Drew Demers: The first compilation was an amalgamation of friends we’d made on tour. There really weren’t that many artists we didn’t personally know on the thing. The second time around, we wanted to focus on hitting specific zones we hadn’t traveled to in a while, and so we enlisted some close friends to give us suggestions on who we should talk to that might be interested in a project such as ours. There are a small handful of people involved in the second compilation we’ve actually never met.
In terms of the sound that we were going for, we weren’t really trying to establish anything specific. We are a punk band, and so we typically play with like-sounding artists. There is an obvious tonal undercurrent that runs through all three of the compilations, but there are significant departures happening on each of them as well.
What makes this third compilation special?
Drew Demers: This third compilation is all about spirit. The songs are rough, in many cases unfinished, and in all cases under-produced. It’s exciting to think that sonically it’s an even playing-ground for each of the tracks. For the most part, it sounds like all the bands recorded in basically the same room with the same gear. It’s also special because it’s the first time we’ve outsourced the art side of things. Historically Raymond has taken care of the art side of Pentagon Black/The Famines, but this time we placed the project in the esteemed hands of Lisa Czech. We explained the project to her and she absolutely nailed the chaos with her cover art.
This has been our most inexpensive and rapid turnover for a compilation. The postcards cost basically nothing to print, and all of the bands recorded their tracks in a three week time frame. Also of note – this one was released not too long after our second compilation, and it came out as a surprise. We were originally planning on dropping it the day of our showcase at Ottawa Explosion, but instead we just decided to jump the gun because we felt like it this week, and a project like this allows us the freedom to do that.
I am excited to see Ottawa bands on all three comps, what drew you to the Ottawa bands you selected ?
Drew Demers: We have a ton of respect and admiration for The Yips, and knew that we couldn’t release our first comp without them involved. Bonnie Doon are officially Pentagon Black royalty. They were on the first two comps, and played both the compilation releases with us in Montreal. Deathsticks are actually fairly new acquaintances of ours, but we feel connected by the sisterhood of two piece bands. They were suggested to us via our pal Karol aka garbageface in Peterborough. We can’t wait to play with them and hang out with them in Ottawa next weekend!
If you track Raymond or myself down in person, we can become pen pals and send you a postcard.
If you’re a little more adventurous, you can head to a show in your town featuring any of the 48 bands we’ve worked with and ask them very kindly to dig one out for you.
What do The Famines and Pentagon Black have planned next?
Drew Demers: Famines have a couple things up our sleeves, including but not limited to writing material for a full length album to come out under Pentagon Black sometime in the next decade. Ottawa Explosion is actually the only show we have booked right now, and it’s exciting facing a blank canvas. As for Pentagon Black, we intend to keep things fast and easy. After releasing the PRIORS record, we realized that we’re open to the idea of putting out music for other bands and want to move forward with that in the future, however that will work.
There were countless options for live music Friday night thanks to JUNOfest, and I chose to rock out with New Swears, NO BRO and Blve Hills at the Bourbon Room.
It was a tight fit in the Bourbon Room, but that didn’t slow the moshing, crowd surfing, confetti shooting, beer drinking and general chaos that is New Swears.
My night began with Blve Hills who took the crowd on a psychedelic journey. Most of the set kind of felt like a well organize psych jam session, and I mean that in the best way possible. They were a bunch of musicians having fun and not taking themselves too seriously, but still rocking out. At one point a large stuffed snake was tossed into the crowd and thrown around for a couple of songs. Just confirming my point that they don’t take themselves too seriously. Then, out of nowhere, the set shifted from psych to a stronger, more punk rock style tracks to finish off. This climax of the set really switched the mood and got everyone ready for what was to come next with NOBRO and New Swears.
Setting the stage for New Swears was the most excellent three-piece NOBRO from Montreal. The ladies were excited to be back in Ottawa and were ready to shred. “Nice to be here in the nation’s capital for the Junos where everyone is a winner,” they said with a smirk. Their set was high energy and ripping, especially when they played songs of their aptly called EP Stoke Level: High. My favourite was “Call the Doctor,” where guitarist Marianna Florczyk really shines and shows off her skills. I strongly urge everyone to see NOBRO next chance you can, you will not be disappointed.
I have seen New Swears more times than I have fingers, but they are still one of the most entertaining acts to ever come out of this city. The set was no exception, and was filled with all the tracks I love from over the years. They stirred the crowd into a frenzy and had great stage antics, such as a rock n’ roll pyramid and playing guitar with a bassist’s legs wrapped around your neck, as we have all learned to expect. But now I’ll do a mostly non-punk rock thing and give a big shout-out to security. The two bouncers that were working probably had no idea what they signed up for. The moshing was one thing, but the stage divers (a.k.a human projectiles) during “See You in Hull” was next-level for a venue that is not used to this stuff. The two gentlemen did a bang up job of keeping people safe but also letting us all have a riot. New Swears, never change.
New Swears being New Swears during JUNOfest in Ottawa.
NOBRO ripping it at Bourbon Room in Ottawa during JUNOfest.
Blve Hills getting all psychedelic on us at Bourbon Room in Ottawa during JUNOfest.
Ottawa’s droney post-punk outfit Expanda Fuzz has released a new video for their single “Sonic Halo.” The track appears on bandcamp along with a cover of Earth, Wind, & Fire’s “September” in the wake of founding member Maurice White’s death last year.
The track is a minimalist psychedelic trip, with rolling percussion, a fuzzy lead guitar part, and mesmerizing vocals by Niki. The video’s aesthetic is dark and ominous, taking place in a remote field at dusk and featuring characters with strange masks and costumes. The video is not as dark and creepy as their video for “Flavour: Zombie” released last year, and it also contains beautiful colours of the sunset. However, the smoke-breathing Grim Reaper-type character also leaves the viewer with chills down the spine, and it’s not the kind of figure you’d want to run into on a dark, empty farm.
Although the song is just over two minutes long, it’s great to see a video being made that perfectly suits the sound of Expanda Fuzz. This song could have easily been incorporated into season one of True Detective, or even Apocalypse Now. The video accurately reflects that kind of imaginary trip into the darkness.
Expanda Fuzz is playing JUNOfest March 31st with Dilly Dally, No Fuss, and The Dirty Nil at House of TARG. Ticket and wristband information can be found here.
Ottawa’s Saint Clare just released their much anticipated debut self-titled EP. The album features great psychedelic and garage rock with jiving keys and absolutely exceptional performance by the horns in the band, some of the best I have heard outside of ska in some time.
The first song sets the tone for the whole album with its rocking flares and blazing beat right out of the gate. That did not slow into the next two songs, including their first single “Cheatin.” My favourite track from has to be the second song “Goodbye to the Ghost” which has everything I look for in a song. It makes me reminisce, makes me feel, it transports me into his shoes, the music makes me want to dance, the chorus makes me want to sign-a-long and the song has an “oh oh ohs” breakdown. I mean, what more can you ask for?
There is a vocal dispare to lead singer Matt Saint Clare’s voice which channels The Cure’s Robert Smith. I say this as a compliment since Matthew Saint Clare’s voice has me hooked and makes me want to adorn a little more black. But don’t be fooled – this is no copy. Saint Clare’s voice is still uniquely his own and one can certainly feel everything he is going through in every song as his voice fluctuates ever so slightly driving home real emotions. All of this is topped with perfectly executed brass which I just can’t praise enough as the perfect complement to the song writing.
For those who didn’t know, Saint Clare is Matthew Saint Clare (Guitar and Vocals), Richard Jeffrey (Guitar and Vocals), Casey Comeau (Piano, Organ, and Vocals), Morgan Grant (Saxophone), Nick Di Saverio (Trombone), Ryan Shannon (Bass), and Daniel DeVries (Drums).
All songs on the new self-titled full length were recorded and mixed at Little Bullhorn Studio in Ottawa, Canada by Jarrett Bartlett, and mastered at The House of Miracles in Cambridge, Canada by Andy Magoffin.
Check out Saint Clare’s most excellent self-titled album below and go see them live this Friday, November 4 at Bar Robo for the release party (info here) or November 5 at Bistro de Paris in Montreal.
Switches and Expanda Fuzz brought the garage to Bar Robo Thursday night.
Expanda Fuzz getting down and fuzzy at Bar Robo.
Local garage rock duo, Expanda Fuzz, opened the night playing songs off their new debut album Bleuetswhich they released on beautiful wax that night. Expanda Fuzz are a very interesting combination of drone and garage sound with pop lyrics that will make you swoon. This duo, equipped with a drum machine was only playing their second show ever, having first played at Ottawa Explosion. Their second track, the lead song off of Bleuets, “Flavour: Zombie” is such a great song and gets me from the first note. One half of the band is Chris Page of such bands as The Stand GT, Camp Radio and his great solo work. Page is one of the nicest people ever, I promise just talk to him and try to tell me different, and has an ageless voice that has simply become part of the capital region’s sound. They mostly played songs off of their new album, most notably “It’s Your Glow, UFO” where the other half of Expanda Fuzz, Niki Nine Doors‘ voice shines. They ended their set playing “Devil Town” by Daniel Johnston. They may be a new band, but on stage they look like they have been doing it for years.
Switches from Edmonton rocking out during their first ever show in Ottawa.
Headlining was Switches from Edmonton. “We are very excited to be here, its our first time in Ottawa and we are going to play some songs for you,” were the first words out of their mouth. This female fronted punk band with a hint of synth where a delight. I had listened to them a few time online, but Tara’s vocals live just have that extra oomph which is then complimented by both other female vocals. Switches also happened to play my favourite “15 Beers” off of their LP “i just wanna” as their second song, a new theme maybe? Take note bands playing Ottawa, hahaha. I was loving the set and didn’t think it could get much better, when all of a sudden Tara took to the mic and said, “We are going to do a Tracy Chapman cover now. Can anyone guess which one?” We all screamed “Fast Cars” and were very pleased to be right. Yes you read that correctly, everyone in attendance last night got to see a 80’s punk synth rendition of “Fast Cars.” It was a total game changer. And just for good measure after a couple more of their own great songs, they also covered Shangri-Las. You know that American pop girl group from the 1960’s, oh what a treat. Switches closed with “Push Pull” and the absolutely rocking “Spinning Out” from their new EP All My Darlings.
Switches reminded me of a female fronted version of The Sedatives with a little more bite and I say that as a massive compliment. Heck, they should play together next time they are in the same city. They have four dates left on their tour, Quebec City, Montreal, Peterborough and Toronto (more info here). I strongly urge you to go check them out then and next time they are near.
On the heels of opening for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers at Bluesfest, Steve Adamyk Band dropped their brand new album Graceland July 29th.
Ottawa’s most prolific pop-punker Steve Adamyk has done it again with an excellent 13-song album with all the energy, “wo-ohs”, and power-pop perfection we have come to expect from Adamyk and his band. This certainly isn’t a Paul Simon album. The band, which has always been fronted by Adamyk, has seen some moving parts over the years. It currently features Pat Johnston (of many bands in Ottawa, notably The Acorn), and Max Desharnais and Seb Godin (Sonic Avenues). The album also features guest vocals by the eclectic Mike Kroll and LA’s pop-punk sweetheart Colleen Green which really adds to the raucous energy.
As great as it was to see some of these songs live before RHCP it is wonderful to get our hands on another album by Adamyk, this being his fifth. Just like their live performances, this album doesn’t really ever slow or give you a moment to relax, with most songs coming in at under two minutes. And just because it is pop-punk, power-pop, or garage… or whatever you’d call it – don’t think all these songs are love songs or about partying. Songs like the angry “Die Dead Forever” and the dark “False Teeth” show Adamyk’s depth beyond the prototypical sound of the genre. Fret not though, there are still super catchy tracks like “Carry On” and great rocking tracks like “Swallow You Whole” that will win you over right away and make you want to sing a long.
Put on some shades, a white jumper and chow down on a grilled banana and peanut butter sandwich while you have a listen to Graceland. If you like what you hear, the album is available in Canada on iTunes and Spotify via Royal Mountain Records, and there is vinyl in the works.
It’s that time of year – bands are in full bloom for the summertime. We’re very excited to premiere the debut EP called Tight Snake by a new group in town, Mushy Gushy. This 4-track garage pop EP is a quick burst of fun summer tunes that’ll be sure to inject some life into any backyard BBQ or pool party. Mushy Gushy is a new 4-piece group consisting of a few Ottawa music scene vets – bassist Jon Pearce (Winchester Warm), drummer Kyle Woods (fmr. Kalle Mattson), guitarist Cory Lefebvre (Baberaham Lincoln), and vocalist Dave Gervais (The Gallop).
This new “butt rock” band (don’t worry, I have no idea what that means either) played their first ever show at Black Squirrel Books this past May, opening up for Telecomo at their tape release party. Their set was wild and fun, and you can really tell this band loves playing together.
Speaking of which, Showbox will be presenting Mushy Gushy’s tape release show on July 16th at Bar Robo, along with other great local acts, Stay Classy and Elementals. Taking us late into the night, Kitchen Party DJs will be spinning your favourite jams, too. If you want to see a bunch of really talented buds play really fun music, I suggest you mark that date off on your calendar. Check out the Facebook event here and have a first listen to Tight Snake below.
Mike Kroll starting off day 3 at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery. Photo: Eric Scharf
Unfortunately Shellshag had van trouble and couldn’t make it. Lucky for us that meant that we got an early Mike Krol show as he stepped up to fill in. Krol, from LA, took to the stage joined by a band of local burglars (Steve Adamyk, Johnny O, Davey and Pat Johnston) all dressed up. Krol was clearly the leader considering he was wearing a cap. The music was rocking, how could it not be with those boys supporting him, but what really makes Krol stand out are the really cool effects on his vocals. What was most impressive is that this was only the second time they play together, having practiced once this week prior to the set. It did’t show at all, they were super tight. Krol walked around into the crowd, behind the stage, off to the side and anywhere in between while never missing and beat and bringing his trusted tambourine around for the rid. He mentioned that explosion launched his career in 2013 as he had released two albums that he gave away but didn’t tour. Then Emmanuel asked him to play explosion so he created a tour to justify the trip and was so happy to be back.
Vacation getting loud and destructive at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery. Photo: Eric Scharf
Up next was Cincinnati’s Vacation. This is the fourth time these gentlemen play the festival. The lead singer and guitarist said “I have played this festival more years than I have been to college if you know what I mean.” Chris Cook pointed out to me that he believes that every time we have seen this band they have been playing different instruments, the current lead vocals and guitar used to sing and play the drums. No matter if they switch around or not, the band can really play and impress me every year. Live they kind of have a punk rock Nirvana vibe to them thanks to grunge elements and the particular rasp of the singer’s voice. They have some super infectious and catchy songs like “Decaying” and “Like Shit,” which had people singing a long at the top of their lungs and pumping their fists. I love when the first two acts get the crowd so into it.
We then shifted our intention inside to The Drearies and their ongoing Skechers Shapeups commercial. “Once again this set is brought to you by Skechers Shapeups,” they said to kick off the set. They shared many fun facts about Skechers, like how a lot of homeless people in Vancouver wear them thanks to rich women buying them, realizing they don’t work and donating them and how you can buy 18 hole laced up boot versions… very strange. The four-piece from Vancouver were a lot of fun and I don’t think we could have wiped the smile off their faces if you tried. The track that really stuck out to me was “Scooter Gang.” Yet the most memorable part of the set was when the lead singer announced that “We made tapes but forgot them,” and then they got pelted by empty cans and plastic cups by their friends.
The Worriers really impressed me at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery. Photo: Eric Scharf
As day changed into night Brooklyn’s The Worriers took to the stage. This was there first time in Ottawa, and you could tell people were excited as the outside courtyard was absolutely packed. Mikey Erg plays drums and its shows that he has been doing it a while, as he was sipping on beer and playing at the same time with ease. Lead vocals and guitarist Lauren Denitzio was so grateful and thanked us all “for being so rad, we really needed this considering what’s going on,” most likely referencing the atrocities of Orlando and the ongoing hate in the USA. Their set was really solid, filled with songs off of their latest release Imaginary Life, which was produced by Laura Jane Grace (Against Me). Their song “They/Them/Theirs” is about how there is no need for gender binary as it hurts so many people was my favourite and really stud out above the rest. I am a little ashamed to mention that I had somehow never heard of this band before, but they made a fan of me real quickly.
Strange Attractor rocking at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery. Photo: Eric Scharf
I was very excited to shift back inside to see Strange Attractor play and I was not alone as we were all crammed into SAW like sardines. I mean how can you not love a band that has a song called “Fuck Shit Up.” The boys from Sudbury may have played the most songs in one set considering that I doubt they have a single song over 2 minutes long. They plow through songs and keep you on your toes, while wasting very little time between songs. Great set by some great guys from a not so great place…so I am told.
Screaming Females melting our faces at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery. Photo: Eric Scharf
Once we unpacked from sticky and sweaty SAW Gallery we were treated to the Screaming Females, or Screamales to some. The three piece, from New Brunswick, NJ, led by Marissa Paternoster always impresses. Paternoster can really play the guitar, and I mean she is shockingly good. I’m generally not a huge fan of solos by they meld them in seamlessly and it just works. I was so stoked that they opened with “Bell” off their 2009 album Power Move, as that was the album that made me fall in love with them. They also played great tracks off their latest album Rose Mountain, including “Ripe.”
Dad Jokes from New Zealand playing at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at the Dominion Tavern. Photo: Eric Scharf
My night then took me to the Dominion Tavern for three more acts. First up was Dad Jokes, all the way from New Zealand. Anyone who knows me knows that there is no more attractive band name for me, as I am constantly saying dad jokes. The two piece, guitar and drums, were awesome, and didn’t really tell any lame jokes either. They did however remind us all to get cards for our dad’s for Father’s Day on Sunday. This was the last stop of their Canadian tour, and they must really like it up as they dedicated a new song they had never played for anyone yet to local band Average Times. It is a solid track to boot.
Mike Krol back at it, this time rocking the Dominion Tavern during Ottawa Explosion Weekend. Photo: Eric Scharf
Mike Krol took and his band of burglars dazzled us again, this time though he had a much rowdier crowd to play too. Never under estimate the power of a man in a cape rocking out on a tambourine. The band, now playing together for a third time, were just as good if not better than their earlier performance. Krol was still up to the same antics, jumping into the crowd and moving around all over the stage. He is quite the entertainer. I said it before, but the effects on his vocals thanks to a couple of pedals is really quite cool. I am still singing “This is the News” almost 12 hours later.
Mikey Erg closing out day 3 at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at the Dominion Tavern. Photo: Eric Scharf
Last but not least it was Mike Erg from the infamous The Ergs!. This was the first time he toured with a full band since The Ergs broke up, and it happened to be two members of The Worriers on bass and drums. Erg is a prolific talent that has been at it for years under several different monikers and with a variety of band. Erg dedicated a song to Mike Krol and said “I’m so excited we are playing the same show because his album is my favorite of the year.” He later played a killer track called “Apart Time” with the lyrics “Crank up the volume, you don’t love me anymore,” from his upcoming album Tentative Decisions set to be released later this month.He closed out with two more songs off Tentative Decisions, including “1001 Smashed Motel Room” which had a Bob Mould/Perfect sound to it to me and lastly “NyQuil and Sudafed.” And on that note it was time to bike my butt home to bed to be ready for round 4.