Ottawa based folk singer songwriter Jim Bryson recently released a new video for his song “Changing Scenery” off of his latest album, Somewhere We Will Find Our Place.
It begins with a couple sitting down looking into the camera and the man says: “Your tear ducts are little triangles at the base of your wolf eyes.” the woman replies “Maybe I cry triangular tears… I never watch.”
The video is beautiful, raw and a features a roller coaster of emotions. It is very relatable as the couple goes through fun, love, sadness, mundane, crisis and reunion all within less than three minutes. There is everything from super cute dancing together in the kitchen to screaming alone at the ocean.
One of the lines that really grasped at me was the following line from the chorus “it became you against me, instead me and you against the world.” Anyone who has had a relationship that started very fun and strong, and then eventually left the so-called honeymoon stage and hit some rocky times can certainly feel this video.
It also feels very appropriate that the video was shot in Los Angeles and I think Anthony von Seck does a great job of connecting relationship expectations and the false ideals of Hollywood in an effective yet subtle way. A staunch reminder that things aren’t always easy as they appear on the big screen.
Buckle up for a quick emotional roller coaster set to the beautiful sounds of Jim Bryson’s “Changing Scenery.”
There’s a good reason why Amanda Rheaume has become one of Ottawa’s most revered and respected musicians. If you’ve had the chance to listen to her music, you would know that her talent and songwriting abilities speak for themselves. Rheaume’s awards include winning a cash prize in Live 88.5 Big Money Shot, receiving a Canadian Folk Music Award for Aboriginal Songwriter of the Year and a Juno Award nomination for Aboriginal Album of the Year, both in 2014 for Keep a Fire. She has also been shortlisted for the Council for the Arts in Ottawa’s RBC Emerging Artist Award.
Even more important than these accolades is her involvement and dedication to the community. She was the co-organizer for Babes4Breasts concerts and recording projects, and a major part of Ottawa’s Bluebird North songwriter showcases. She has performed for Canadian troops in Afghanistan three times and raised money for the families of military personnel. On top of that, she sold 6500 copies of a Christmas EP in Ottawa alone to raise money for Boys and Girls Clubs of Ottawa.
I spoke with Amanda recently to discuss her new album Holding Patterns, the follow-up to 2013’s Keep a Fire. Rheaume has always told stories, and being métis herself, she dug deep and touched on stories of her ancestry. On Holding Patterns, she takes a different approach to her storytelling and enlisted the help of some major players in Canadian music to help bring it all together. Not only that, but the first single “Red Dress” is being sold in benefit for the Native Women’s Association of Canada’s Safety and Violence Prevention Program, getting help from 2014 Juno Humanitarian Award winner Chantal Kreviazuk about the role of intergenerational trauma and oppression in the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Amanda Rheaume plays the NAC’s 4th Stage on May 5th, which recently sold out. Check out the video for “Red Dress” and read the interview below.
Interview with Amanda Rheaume
Your music has always had powerful stories and messages woven into them. What is it that you wanted to convey to your audience on the record?
It’s funny because that didn’t show up as obvious as the last record, which was very much a story-based album and I planned it that way. I didn’t really know what I was going to do with this one. I toyed with the idea of making it a story-based album, but I felt like I was pushing the idea too hard. I felt like I needed to write songs that were raw, honest and true, and about what I was feeling at the time.
In retrospect, vulnerability and honesty were big parts of Holding Patterns is a recognition of the things I’ve been doing in my life and the patterns I’ve been repeating. I was recognizing all these things I was participating in and all the energy I was putting out that wasn’t necessarily helping me. This album was about believing you can change whatever is going on in your life and that there are different possibilities.
Was it challenging to pull together all those life experiences together on one album?
Yeah it was. When I wrote songs when I was fifteen years old they were very honest and vulnerable, and not that Keep a Fire wasn’t like that, but it was more story-based. It was less focused on me and my feelings and more on these nice sentiments and memories that a lot of people can relate to because we all come from somewhere. But making an album with heartbreak songs and songs that expose my fears and weaknesses, that was a different direction. That was the challenge, not just writing the songs, but saying to myself “Okay, here we go.”
What were the advantages of working with other accomplished musicians like Chantal Kreviazuk or Jim Bryson when recording the new album?
First off – It was incredible to work with Chantal on “Red Dress.” Chantal is such an inspiring artist, vocalist, humanitarian and colleague and collaborating with her on such an important song was a highlight for me and was really affirming. It was one of those moments where you say “I’m on the right path,” and it gives you fuel to keep doing what you’re doing. Raising more awareness to MMIWG and money for the Native Women’s Association is really important and I hope this song will contribute to the movement that’s already happening.
I loved working with Jim as a producer. He also co-wrote a few songs on the album. He really helped me as trust myself as an artist. He made me realize that I needed to not try so hard and just focus on being me. Sometimes I worried about it not working out, and it always came back to trusting the music and the songs and just follow that. He’s unapologetic in his artistry, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. He just does what he does, and is so good. I really became inspired by that.
The video for “Red Dress” contains some powerful imagery and you’ve mentioned it’s concept being derived from the ReDress Project. Can you elaborate a bit on the project and how this idea came together?
Jamie Black is a female artist out of Winnipeg, and she started the ReDress project a while back. She did this thing where she asked for donations of red dresses and hung them in public spaces as installations to raise awareness about missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada. The imagery of an empty red dress hanging is a reminder of how major the problem is, not only because of the missing and murdered women themselves, but also why this is happening. Why is it that indigenous women are more likely to be murdered or go missing? That’s messed up.
I attended a rally for the Cindy Gladue case which is a famous case in Canada, and it’s horrific. I was moved by that case specifically and I wanted to write a song about the women who weren’t only going missing or being murdered, but also discriminated against after the fact. I was inspired by Jamie’s project and the imagery because women normally put on dresses to go out and have a good time. To me it represented hope for the future, and that project was a huge inspiration for the Red Dress video.
Given the new political climate federally, are you hopeful that this will mean a change in how the government handles the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women?
I’m hopeful for sure, but I think it’s a big task that is really complicated. It’s not just one thing, and it can’t just be fixed right away. There are a lot of factors, and it is going to take a lot of time working through a lot of fine details. Not necessarily just on a legislative level either, we’re talking about a human level too – working on the ground with people and communities. But I do feel hopeful, and acknowledgement is the first step in healing. I couldn’t feel better about the the direction we’re going in with respect to awareness.
What role do you think music plays with respect to enhancing cultural understanding and confronting issues like racism or missing and murdered indigenous women?
I think that music is a voice that is important for moving people. Look at people like Bob Dylan, Buffy St. Marie, and people like them – their careers weren’t all about singing nice melodies. It’s so powerful, especially with the availability of internet access and information today. To have the general population become aware of the real issues and be moved by the music and the message is one of the most important things.
I think humans are humans, and it’s hard not to feel something when hearing these horror stories. I mean if you grow up in a nice home in Barrhaven like I did, these issues that some people in Canada have to deal with didn’t come into my reality for a while. Things like no running water, electricity, or housing, those are not problems that many of us have to deal with growing up. So when you grown up not knowing about these issues, you might think that it’s not a real problem in our country and that it is only something that third world countries endure. As artists we have a responsibility to enhance awareness on these issues.
There was a really great quote from Louis Riel – “My people will sleep for 100 years, but when they wake it will be the artists who give them their spirit back.” That is a testament to how important it is that artists keep on getting their message out, the message of the people.
I sat down with Frank for an interview before his show at the Bronson Centre supported by Mo Kenney and Northcote. This was a big deal for me as I have been a big Frank Turner fan for years and have listened to his music to pick me up at some of my lowest points, but also to dance to when I am at my happiest.
The show was packed and people sang along at the top of their lungs throughout. Frank and his band of merry men, the Sleeping Souls, certainly know how to entertain. The show was one of the best I have seen him play, he plays Ottawa a lot, and it may also finish as one of the best shows of 2016. It may be risky to say that in March, but they played for more than two hours and never had a moment of respite.
Check out my interview with Frank below.
What was it like touring Canada as a solo act playing in smaller bars and club, considering you have sold out much large venues as a band? And how important is it to you to still be able to do that?
We were actually having a discussion about this as a band last night. The reason we’ve been doing the solo dates on this run has been financial more than anything else. I wanted to play more than just the big cities and it’s difficult to afford to afford to pay a full band when for example in Moncton we only had 180 people at the show. Can’t pay four musicians and a crew of people with that kind of money.
So it’s kind of been a sort of advantage I have that I can do these solo shows and then pull the band in. It’s funny though, it affects my playing quite a lot. When you’re playing with other people you lock in, but when you’re playing solo not only am I in sole control of the music that is being played, but also it’s not quite the same thing you’re essentially countering all of the musicality out of one instrument. And essentially my timing goes awry when I play a lot of solo shows. At the beginning of this tour Nigel, the drummer, was just kind of going dude what the fuck? You’re speeding up and slowing down all over the show. And I was like I know, it’s because I’ve been playing a bunch of solo shows and it makes sense to do that at a solo show. So there are some differences.
But it’s also kind of fun going back to the solo thing here and there, because it’s nostalgic for me in a way. But it’s kind of nostalgic for me in a slightly sort of triumphant way, because when I was only doing solo shows at the beginning before the Sleeping Souls got together as a thing, there weren’t many people there. So it’s nice to do a solo show with a shit ton of people there and you’re kind of like ‘Yes, I’m achieved.’”
How was it to make the transition from recording and touring Tape Deck Heart, a self-proclaimed break up album, to recording and touring Positive Songs for Negative People, an album with a different feel and message?
The further away I get from Positive Songs [for Negative People] in time, the more its clear to me that it’s a companion piece to Tape Deck Heart in a way. I mean Tape Deck Heart was such a huge event in my life. It was the most time I ever spent in studio, it was talking about this calamitous event in my life but also the tour we did for Tape Deck was insane. We are in the middle of a hard tour right now but we have learned to kind of have a week off here and there. We toured hard before, but there was something about the Tape Deck Heart tour that was really off the deep end hard. And almost the process of the catharsis became complete on that tour and all of the material for Positive Songs was written and rehearsed on that tour. I also had the idea, having effectively made a studio album with Tape Deck I wanted to make more of a live record with this one, so that’s what I mean that they are linked and sort of the inverse of each other.
We built a monitoring rig with my crew which basically means we don’t have to spend any time sound checking and doing the boring bit of kick drum up kick bass down or whatever it might be. We get up on stage put our ears in and have the exact same sound we had yesterday every day. And that meant that we had an hour and a half every day to play new material in sound check and that’s what we did for two years. So everything on Positive Songs has been played to pieces, you know what I mean we had played them to fuck before we got anywhere near a studio, which was the idea. And then we made the record in nine days which is so radically different from what we did on Tape Deck Heart. So yeah they are companion pieces.
How is it to play songs from both Tape Deck Heart and Positive Songs for Negative People in the same set?
The way I kind of think about structuring set lists is more about energy levels than about specific lyrical content. Although I have to say, last night we dug out the song “Tell Tale Signs” which we haven’t actually played as a full band for a very long time and we worked the arrangement out again. We played it as like the third last song of the set and it sounded great, but I realized that only thinking about the sound of it while playing it because it wasn’t the most kind of rousingly triumphant end to the evening. You play this really introspective song about self-harm and go ‘Thanks very much for coming out good night.’ So yeah, that was an interesting set list moment.
What are some of the older song you wish people stopped requesting or that they request so much that you are tired of it?
I don’t know. I mean I don’t think there are that many that I feel that way about. Really just because first of all everyone singing along to songs is a wonderful thing. And probably the song we have played most other than “Recovery” which we have played a hundred billion times is “Photosynthesis” which I wrote a very long time ago. The way we play it and my feelings about the song and the way I interpret it has changed dramatically but it still kind of makes everyone lose their shit when I play it, so to complain about that seems childish.
One of the interesting things that has happened in the last year or two is I’ve realized that when you’re starting out you view the process of gaining fans as purely cumulative, like you play to ten people and then the next time you come through you play to 20 people which was that first ten people and ten other people, and you kind of assume that once you’ve got someone that you’ve got them. In the last kind of year or two I started realizing that’s actually more of a turnover process. I met someone the other day who told me ‘I’m a massive fan, but haven’t really listened to your first three records though.’ And I was like, what how does that even compute as a sentence. But then I remember about nights where we drop a song like “Reasons Not To Be An Idiot” off my second record which has forever been a sure fire bam this is going to get them going everyone fucking loves this song and then like dropping it at a Canadian or American show and people being like ‘what the fuck is this?’ and I’m like ‘how can you not, everyone knows this song, don’t they, don’t they…and they’re like nope.’ It’s kind of an interesting thing on that level as well, seeing what songs stick around and which ones don’t. And seeing as people are getting into me now, and then they go backwards, if they do, and which songs stand out to them.
Frank Turner dedicating “Wanderlust,” the bonus track from England Keep My Bones, to Ottawa singer-songwriter Jim Bryson live in Ottawa.
What are some of the old songs you wish you played more or would like to dig back up?
The problem I have is I’m an unashamed populist and nothing makes me happier than seeing a room full of people go off. So there are songs we don’t really play anymore, certainly not at full band shows because then five people have to lay around and just watch, that I kind of think that we should play that, but the problem is if it’s a choice between “Reasons Not To Be An Idiot” or “A Love Worth Keeping,” I really love the song “A Love Worth Keeping,” but not many other people do. And if we use up that set list spot with that song, then the overall gig is less good. Sometime I think we should do a B-sides tour or album tracks tour and say we are not going to play the following song on the tour, but then those shows wouldn’t be as good if you know what I mean.
The thing I’ve learned over several years is that the people who shout loudest about certain things, in fact this applies to way more than just song requesting, it’s a life lesson everyone should learn. The people who shout loudest are not often representative. The example I like to use is I have this song “Redemption” that is probably the most requested song that I have, and every time we play it the crowd just goes like ‘sigh, cool this one, what the fuck is this,’ and there are like two people losing their fucking mind down at the front and most people don’t care. And that’s the thing, I have my email on my website and everything, and I’d say 10-15% of the people who come to my shows email me and then not necessarily represents the whole room. But like I said that’s a life lesson that we can apply more broadly to politics as well.
What does it mean to you to announce the number of the show during your performance?
It’s a mixture of OCD and bravado. With my old band A Million Dead we kept a list of all the shows we did and after the band broke up I was really happy we did that because it means that even now, it is still on my website and you can go back and look into all the shows that we did. And that’s really exciting to me to be able to do that. So I started keeping a list and then there was definitely a period of time, and this again goes back to the Tape Deck Heart thing, where there was a sense of confidence and I want to say machismo around my touring schedule. I was very much like ‘I can fucking tour harder than any other fucker in the world.’ And then my back went out and we didn’t stop touring for like eight months and then the schedule from Tape Deck Heart. I remember getting home from about 18 months of touring and no one even said bye to each other at the airport, we all just walked off and were like ‘fuck you’ and not because anyone had fallen out with anyone, we had just had enough. Particularly in the states where we were doing two or three shows a day on that run and I sort of realized I was in a competition that no one else was taking part in, you know. And I thought I’m about to kill myself for the sake of my own ego and that’s idiotic.
I guess I’m trying to be a little less insane with my tour schedule these days, although not much less insane it has to be said. We’ve gotten into the habit of taking a week off in between one and another and I’ve got a house in London now and I’ve got a girlfriend who I want to remind that I exist every now and again. I want to live a normal life, but I always wanted to be a lifer on the road and I still do, but I also don’t want to be a boring person. And I suddenly realized that if all you ever do is the same thing day in and day out, that’s kind of boring. So for example this touring schedule for this album we agreed that we will do 24 months straight for this record from release ‘till next year, but once we’ve done that I’m going to take six months to a year off and close down my email account, stop calling my manager every day and I’m going to go fucking work in a bar in Costa Rica or something. Just do something else for a bit, if nothing else it will help with my song writing. I always think that ever band you can tell which is the album after they got successful because all of the songs are about being on tour. You’re allowed one album about touring but then you have to write about something else.
Anyways, sorry, huge answer to a short question. The show number thing, other people are really on board with it now. I know there are fans getting show numbers tattooed and this kind of thing. And I am still pretty proud of the accumulated body of effort that it represents, but it’s hopefully a little more tongue-in-cheek now more than it perhaps was at one point.
Whose your favourite Canadian act not called John K. Samson or The Weakerthans?
Joel Plaskett, definitely. There is a lot of Canadian music that I have been fortunate enough to get into, there is sort of an insular scene here. Joel introduced me to Mo Kenney who’s on this tour who is amazing, Northcote has be a revelation to me on this tour as well. We have played together before me and Matt, but I had never seen him with his band before and fucking hell. You know sometimes you see a songwriter with a band and it’s not as good or whatever, but his band takes him I think to a new level. Which is really satisfying thing to see. But yeah, I think Scrappy Happiness by Joel Plaskett and the Emergency is one of the best rock albums ever made and I will stand up in public and defend that statement. I think he is a phenomenal writer. We toured together four years ago and he is a super nice dude. We correspond quite a lot, and I hadn’t realized that I hadn’t seen him since that tour. I only really realized that when we met up earlier in the tour. It was lovely to catch up with him for a night or two.
I think one of the first times you came to Ottawa was Folkfest 2010-2011. My buddy told me there was only about a dozen people who cared and paid attention. What brought you back to Ottawa after that?
From memory there was only a dozen people paying attention at the beginning, but maybe there was two dozen by the end, and that’s my job at the end of the day. The way that I have been successful in the music industry has been very old-fashioned, which is by getting in front of people and shouting at them until they pay attention. We came back through, and this has happened all over the world for me, you come once and there is 50 people, then come through twice and there is 100. It’s a hard slug but its rewarding. I think it means I have a better shot at longevity than maybe some of the bands who just sort of go ‘blugh’ onto the world stage with a huge marketing and media push behind them or hype. And I should add that I am not cussing out those bands at all, it happens. I always think of the Arctic Monkeys, they arrived in this gigantic wave of hype and got super famous really quickly, but that’s not their fault, and it’s not a fault. They just wrote a really good record and good for them. So yeah it gives me a really good shot at longevity and I feel like I can hold my head high. You know I’ve earned what I have however small or great that may be, I did this. I mean I did this with the help of an incredible band and crew and team and all the rest of it, but it wasn’t like somebody at the top of a major record label went ‘this one will be famous now.’ So I am kind of proud of that.
What are some of the fun things you like to do with your “free time” while touring?
I took a new year’s resolution a few years ago to try to get out of the venue a bit more than I habitually did. I mean Ben, who plays guitar in the Souls, is really good at that. He is always zipping off around town and making plans every evening for what he is going to see the next day. I don’t have as much time because I have press to do and all that kind of stuff.
One of the things I did this year was I went to this war memorial in Liepzig [Germany] that was one of the most insane things, like a fucking prop from the Lord of the Rings. A gigantic pile of stone and statues of warriors asleep holding swords and shit. I am just trying to get around and see some stuff. I had a lovely walk around the lake in Kelowna on this tour. Not really much to see in Red Deer, but my girlfriend has family in Red Deer actually so we hung out with them.
Also just reading more. Again another New Year’s resolution to read more. I try to get 50 to 100 pages in day. That makes me feel like I am doing something with my brain.
What do you do with time off back home in London?
My hobby is history walking, I do walks around London. I am obsessed with London history now. I have always been interested in it, but the last couple of years it has ballooned into like a problem. There are all these books about the secrete walkways and old pathways and all this kind of thing around London, and I’ve been trying to learn more about my city.
Beer: Mommy Kissing Santa Claus by Broadhead Brewing Company
Style: Stout – Other
Pairing: A “Holiday” Playlist
About the Beer: Candy cane lovers rejoice! It might not pair well with a steak but it’s not supposed to. I had it with chocolate and it paired well. They currently have it at the brewery and I suggest you add it to your beer advent calendar.
It is however a challenging beer for the novice. My playlist for MKSC reflects that. You won’t find these songs in your everyday holiday playlist just like you won’t find this beer in your typical beer fridge.
Jim Bryson “Mary New Year’s Eve”
Starting off with this sweet song by #Ottband Jim Bryson. A reflection on how much we consume this time of year.
Tom Waits “Christmas Card to a Hooker in Minneapolis”
I like how his Christmas story is so much different than mine…
Julie Doiron “Heavy Snow”
My formative years were spent in the same region as Julie Doiron in New Brunswick. She knows about heavy snow.
Clarence Carter “Back Door Santa”
Yeah santa, please come through my back door. It’s a lot easier!
James Brown “Hey America”
Hey!!!!!! If you want your dose of James Brown HEYS!, look no further.
Dana Dane “Dana Dane Is Coming to Town”
Hip hop has come a long way since Dada Dane came to town.
De La Soul – “Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa” or The Roots “Millie Pulled A Pistol On Santa”
Take your pick! Same song, different vibes…
Beck – “Little Drum Machine Boy”
When Beck wrote good songs… Not saying this one is…
Fucked Up “David Christmas”
He’s and angry elf…
El Vez “Feliz Navidad”
Also known as the Mexican Elvis, El Vez performs a spirited version of Feliz Navidad.
Moar Treeverb “PS Xmas Dood”
My Fav on this list… #OttBand
The Ramones “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)”
How many of us dread the family business of the holidays?
Pointed Sticks “Power Pop Santa”
Power pop kids the same as a hipster?
The Visit “Offering”
I want to leave you with a gift. An “offering” if your will. This #OttBand is one to watch for. The Offering is not like anything I have heard before. Enjoy and happy Holidays!
Contact me on twitter @danielbordage or at email@example.com for suggestions, comments or just to say hi.
Day two of MEGAPHONO took me to Hintonburg to venue hop between the Elmdale Oyster House and The Record Center to see Jim Bryson, Her Harbour, Winchetser Warm and Jack Pine and the Fire.
Jack Pine and the Fire kicking things off at Elmdale Oyster House during MEGAPHONO in Ottawa, ON. Photo: Eric Scharf
The afternoon began at the Elmdale Oyster House for some delicious seafood and Jack Pine and the Fire. I settled in at the bar, ordered some delicious curry mussels, and watched some great twangy country music with deep roots influences. The slide guitar and stand up bass accompanied Gareth Auden-Hole’s vocals and acoustic guitar just right. The songs covered a wide range of country topics and it felt so right considering we were sitting in what used to be a tavern. Songs like “Credit River” about drowning in debt, “Home” about going back home, and my favourite “Lost in New Orleans,” about consuming all of the things you probably shouldn’t, as well as being about love.
Winchester Warm were the soundtrack to my delicious meal at Elmdale Oyster House during MEGAPHONO in Ottawa, ON. Photo: Eric Scharf
As I worked my way through my final mussels (I am salivating just thinking about how tasty they were) another local group, Winchester Warm, took to the stage. The four-piece kept the great vibe going with their indie-folk. Winchester Warm played a bunch of solid tracks of their latest album, Belle Attente, including the title track, “The Great Fall” and “Like an Anchor.” With the big overhead light above him, lead singer and guitarist Jonathan Pearce said, “This light is very inquisitive… I didn’t do it.” What he did do was play a wonderful soft set and delighted a standing room only Elmdale Oyster House.
Just before making my way to The Record Center for Jim Bryson, I had to have some oysters, because when in Rome… My oysters arrived promptly, some from British Colombia and some from Massachusetts. With them came a plethora of options to top them; fresh horseradish, lemon, three hot sauces, three Tabascos, cocktail sauce, a house sauce with shalots, salt, pepper and garlic I believe, as well as a vinegar shaker with scotch in it. Do they ever do it right at the Elmdale.
Jim Bryson playing to a packed Record Center during MEGAPHONO in Ottawa, ON.
With some oysters in me it was time to run across the street to The Record Center and catch Jim Bryson. It was my first time there since renovations and did they ever do a great job. There is now a wonderful space at the front of the store where they can set up a band on one side and a DJ on the other, a very cool addition to the city. Jim Bryson also likes the place, but had one little criticism: “It’s really nice to play here, I bought my receiver here, I love this place. My only complaint is the microphone smells like a dirty bum. I mean a nice smelling mic is just regular maintenance I don’t expect a record store to do that to their mics,” said Bryson. He concluded with “So it’s not me , it’s the microphone.” Bryson has been playing solo for 15 years now and doesn’t grace a stage in Ottawa often enough in my opinion, so it was such a pleasure to see him live. Topping off the simple joy of seeing him perform, was the fact that he played my favourite track, “Constellation,” off the album The Falcon Lake Incident, an album where he teamed up with The Weakerthans. Bryson concluded his set with “The Depression Dance” a song where he masterfully used pedals to loop his guitar over itself giving the impression that we were watching more than just one man and a guitar in a record shop.
Her Harbour playing the Elmdale Oyster House during MEGAPHONO in Ottawa, ON. Photo: Eric Scharf
Racing back to the Elmdale I was able to catch the last three songs of local gem Her Harbour. If you still haven’t seen or listened to Her Harbour you are truly doing yourself an injustice. Gabrielle Giguere’s powerful haunting voice reminds me of the voice of a siren luring you into her music. The music is dark, eerie and very emotional as Giguere strums her auto-harp and her band members add in just the right complementary subtleties. I walked in just in time to hear a new song, “Details of the Seaside” followed by the always wonderful “Cold Half Moon.” My afternoon of music concluded with a lovely song, “Bridge of Sighs” that had hints of a dark and haunted western to it.
It makes all the sense in the world for an Ottawa concert to begin at the pulpit of a late 19th century Anglican church and culminate with a fight in the depths of the Dominion Tavern.
Ottawa-based independent record label KELP celebrated its 20th anniversary on May 31st with a brimming sold out concert at St. Alban’s Anglican Church in Sandy Hill. Eleven bands and individual artists from across the label’s roster performed, including the Hilotrons, Jim Bryson, Andy Swan, and The Acorn.
As a newcomer to the live music scene in Ottawa, I was mostly excited to see so many local performers in one night. By the time things got nasty at the Dom however, the collaborative spirit of KELP 20 had proved to be much more than just another show to see on a Saturday night.
Miche Jetté of moody Flecton Big Sky kicked off the evening, building the intimacy with an initially meek audience. Dropping an obligatory mention of beards and razors, Jetté’s confessional lyrics set the tone by announcing, “I’m in the house of the Lord but I’m dripping with sin.” Stray murmurs on the sacrilege of rock concerts in churches from the guy with his dirty feet splayed on the pew beside me made for a timely segue into Jetté’s “The Devil Is On My Trail.”
Local singer-songwriter Andy Swan ushered in a growing audience with odes to Jesus and starfucking. Banditas followed, rumbling in with a raunchy set of punk, and an assailing cry of “fuck all you warlords” on their crowd-favourite single “Tubular Balls.” By the time Chris Page performed a punchy set of alt-folk, the halls of St. Alban’s were resonating with a solid roster that spoke to both KELP’s small-town Maritime-influenced character, and the filthy DIY attitude that roots the label firmly in Ottawa.
Jonas Bonnetta of Toronto’s Evening Hymns made impressive use of improvised beatboxing by a young man known only as Ian. Looping samples captured right there during his performance, Bonnetta gracefully improvised against technical difficulties and retained the emotional delicacy of his album Spectral Dusk.
Jim Bryson playing at St. Alban’s Church in Ottawa. Photo: Ming Wu
More dancing and imbibing was wrought upon the church by Andrew Vincent, while Jim Bryson successfully hypnotized a particularly gleeful dancer in a red shirt into childlike abandon. Bryson’s country roots were referenced with an homage to Stittsville and a political retaliation against old people (within the same breath), but the energy was quickly recaptured by Ottawa favourites The Acorn, who kicked off their set with a new song.
In the most stunning moment of the KELP 20 concert, The Acorn’s “Darcy” hovered over a hushed audience with angelic harmonics in a poetic reflection of the concert’s venue. Building to climax in the characteristic slow rise similarly heard in related Ottawa outfit Silkken Laumann, The Acorn transitioned into a feisty set by the Recoilers. With the interruption of a midnight curfew, the KELP congregation proceeded to march to the Dominion Tavern.
The Acorn playing at St. Alban’s Church in Ottawa. Photo: Ming Wu
At Ottawa’s mangiest watering hole, the psychosynth garage-funk of the Hilotrons couldn’t be more fitting. “Too many people being nothing,” moaned Mike Dubue over the slur of booze, startled regulars and sullen bartenders.
With enough sobriety to reflect on the transition from St. Alban’s to the Dom, I saw how KELP embodies the kind of DIY ideology that Ottawa has built from bare bones, and that certainly deserves celebration. It was inspiring to see the openhearted intersection of venues, people, and genre influences from garage pandemonium to rhythms of funk, and a heroic dose of synth. KELP’s 20th anniversary demands an immense appreciation for the individuals who have dedicated their lives to building the musical community and identity of our city, despite the ready-made indulgence of nearby Montréal and Toronto.
By the time Rhume took the stage, whiskey had become the main act, the night blurred into anchors under strangers’ eyes, the dance floor was possessed, and whoever that guy with the mic was had doused himself with whatever booze was at hand. Overall a great night for KELP Records, with many more to come!
Ottawa Showbox and Dan Rascal went to visit the very talented Jim Bryson in his home studio to chat with him about Kelp and film him playing. Watch Bryson play “Firewatch” off Where the Bungalows Roam, the first album he released with Kelp.
October is breast cancer awareness month and a group of Canadian “babes” are doing their part to raise money for the cause.
This year’s Babes4Breasts is a National Benefit Concert fundraising for a variety of Breast Cancer charities. The concert is taking place tomorrow, Thursday, October 24th at Southminster United Church. Doors open at 7:30pm and the show gets underway at 8pm. Five excellent performers will be tickling your ear drums as they sit on stage together in a song circle for this great cause. They are Ana Miura (organizer), Amanda Rheaume, Lyndell Montgomery, Matthew Barber and James Keelaghan. Tickets are only $20 in advance, and proceeds go to help find a cure to a disease that touches us all.
Another of the great Babes4Breasts’s initiatives is the compilation album they recently released. The 15-song album features Rose Cousins, Jenn Grant, Oh Susanna with Jim Bryson, Amanda Rheaume, Matthew Barber, and many more. The wonderful mix of beautiful songs is available digitally on iTunes or can be ordered in physical format here. The CD will also be available at the show, for those looking to double up their contribution. Proceeds from the sale of these albums will go to a variety of breast cancer related charities including the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, the Canadian Cancer Society, and more.
Babes4Breasts was built from a desire to do good and unite women across the country. Founder Ana Miura enlisted the help of many talented, female musicians (and male musicians) and has raised over $50,000 to date!