Last week, noisy London punk rockers Single Mothers returned to the captial. They’re continuing to ride the wave of their latest record, 2017’s Our Pleasure, and they pulled no punches at House of TARG alongside locals Mushy Gushy and Curl. Our photographer Aidan Thatcher was there to catch the action through his lens.
It is almost impossible to listen to popular radio these days without hearing a song new or old by USS. They brought that same type of energy and then some to the show Monday night. While The Elwins and Shotty Horroh might not be as well known, they are certainly worth checking out after their great performances.
Our photographer Aidan Thatcher was there to capture all the action. Have a look to the gallery below.
On a humid and muggy day like this one, arriving early to a show at Black Squirrel Books and Espresso Bar in the heart of Old Ottawa South was nothing short of a blessing to me. Two reassuring words: air conditioning.
The venue was filled with an overwhelming sense of warmth and togetherness—welcoming faces, friendly reunions and collective enthusiasm for the closely approaching show. Three terrific bands, all of them seemingly close friends of one another, about to rock the fuck out of this cozy cafe.
Nashville, Tennessee’s Sad Baxter blasted out their first number under the dim lighting of Edison bulbs. Nirvana was the first thought that popped into my head—the 90’s grunge influence was clear as day. Their light-hearted banter contrasted with the gritty and sludgy tone of their music. The guitar was distorted and heavy, the bass controlling, and the drums (played by Alex Mojaverian) calculated and simultaneously chaotic. Deezy Violet’s vocals meshed with the instrumentals, her voice raspy and filled with longing and understanding. Her goosebump-inducing growls through “Sick-Outt” carried so much sincerity, and during “Baby” were supported by harmonizing from the bassist. Sad Baxter kicked off the show strong and confident, and were a good start to a night of great music and genial people.
It was hard for me to not smile like an complete and utter idiot when Montreal’s BBQT got onto the floor for their set. The power pop posse, ecstatic to be playing back in Ottawa since performing at Ottawa Explosion Weekend (R.I.P.) back in June, also came on with smiles on their faces. BBQT’s charismatic personality seems to possess the power to lift your mood no matter what and make any group of people feel like a family.
The band started off with “PEPSI”, a short n’ sweet upbeat song like many of their tracks. The sound from bassist Mikey Melikey was a thunderous quake that acted as a foundation for the fun, tweety instrumentals accompanying it. It blanketed the strong, catchy melodies and riffs. The sweet twangy-ness and slightly distorted guitar surfed around the bass, baiting it back and forth and up and down.
Bopping to the beat and sporting a string of fairy lights around her guitar was Amery Sandford, who absolutely killed the solos habitually played by guitarist Jack Bielli. Sandford giggled off the occasional slip-ups (which somehow added to their style) and jammed on. Solos mimicked her honest and carefree vocals, which she performed with the occasional wink to friends and family in the audience. Allison Graves passionately drummed a delicate surf beat as the whole venue belted out the lyrics to “HIGH WASTED”. Fun and punky and almost “post-ironic”, BBQT’s vibe made me forget just how damn quickly summer was coming to an end.
Last but undisputedly not least was Lonely Parade, who tonight celebrated the release of their newest LP “The Pits” with Buzz Records. Also based in Montreal, Quebec, Lonely Parade is a post-punk trio composed of long-time friends Augusta Veno, Charlotte Dempsey and Anwyn Climenhage. Going into this set, I wasn’t sure what to expect. To say the least, I was blown away. Their sound was weighty and almost unsettling, but in the best way imaginable. Droning, layered vocals gave me hints of That Dog—though tame, one could catch undertones of angst, determination and yearning. They begged to not be underestimated. Lyrics touched on the struggles and thrills of everyday life, and invoked a strange feeling of nostalgia.
Occasionally we’d get a fun sort of prologue to a song, a story or experience that inspired the music. For example, “I’m So Tired” was introduced with an anecdote about falling asleep in the car. You could envision yourself there: the stern and fluid bass steering you down a dark road, the guitar intertwining itself with it, often drifting away but always in sight. The guitar riffs kept you on edge, abruptly turning corners but always ending up back where they started. Moods would change as well as tone.
They’d go from a sort of calculated math rock to utter noise and spacey hysteria resonating Pavement instrumentals. It was fucking hypnotic. The drums kept everything moving. They were crisp and frigid and intimidating, sending shocks of icy blue through your veins. The temper the band created was so intriguing that the crowd refused to let go of it. After some eager persuasion to perform an encore, Lonely Parade closed effectively with “Grilled Cheese”, and it was time to return to the oh-so-fun humidity of the outdoors.
A truly stellar night it was. I urge you to catch at least one of these bands live when they return to Ottawa. Each band, though showcasing different styles, tied together seamlessly and turned the night into a fluent story. Each band was a new chapter and resonated a different mood, but all with the same underlying likeness. An experience like this is totally worth subjecting yourself to the ringing in your ears you’ll hear the next morning. No doubt.
It was only appropriate that they’re touring their new album called Be More Kind, as the British singer-songwriter spent much of the night emphasizing the importance of looking out for one and other and the greatness of community. He kicked off the set with the title track of the new album, followed by another new song “1933.” If fans were nervous that the show would only be new material, they quickly had that fear quashed as the band launched into “Get Better” and “Recovery.” While they did play several more songs off of Be More Kind, they also explored the rest of his catalogue playing “The Way I Tend to Be,” “Vital Signs,” “Wessex Boy,” and the awesome “The Ballad of Me and My Friends.”
Turner knows how to put on a show and truly deliver for the crowd. I mean, he should by now given that this was his 2242nd show. He did his usual speech about how punk shows have no rules except two, don’t be an asshole and if you know the words you have to sing a long.
He also specifically took the time to dedicate “The Next Storm” to the victims of the recent tornadoes, which has the perfect inspirational lines for the situation: “Rejoice, rebuild, the storm has passed… I don’t want spend the whole of my life indoors, laying low, waiting on the next storm.”
He isn’t just about words kind words though, he is also about putting on a damn good show with his actions. Not only was he sweating through his shirt almost instantly due to all his running and jumping around, most of which with a guitar strapped to his chest, he also took the time to go down to the crowd for some sing a longs and encouraged fans to start a circle pit at one point. All of this culminated in the encore when the band played “Four Simple Words” and Turner left his guitar behind to go stand on the crowd and then crowd surf his way to the “best dancer in Ottawa.” Once there he slow danced with, then moshed with fans while singing only to once again be crowd surfed back to the stage when the music picked back up.
Whether you love Be More Kind and Frank Turner’s current musical direction or not, it is impossible not to be blown away and have a blast at the live performance.
Sam Coffey and his band of merry men known as the Iron Lungs have come a long way from when I saw them a few years back at House of TARG, where Sam puked off the front of the stage after rolling around in the crowd too much. They are a pretty professional looking band now, still all rocking their matching jean jackets, although this time around the front man opted out of the uniform and sported something that can only be described as a cross between a luchador outfit and Liberace. They also deliver so many cliche rock n’ roll moves, but they come off more as satirical and lighthearted, which makes them a lot of fun.
Since signing on with Dine Alone Records their tunes can be heard all over the radio, much to my delight and obviously much of the crowd. It is not every show where you see so many people signing along and bopping up and down to the opener. To top everything off, they treated us to their now signature dueling guitar solos on a double neck guitar. Even after seeing it done several times, and not really being a fan of guitar solos, I still find it super cool.
Check out the great photos below of all three bands, thanks to the great work of our photographer Aidan Thatcher.
Ev has synesthesia, and they incorporate their sensory experiences into music reviews. Synesthesia is a condition in which the brain links a person’s senses together in a rare manner, prompting unusual sensory responses to stimuli. People with synesthesia, for example, might see a certain color in response to a certain letter of the alphabet. Those who experience synesthesia “hear colors, feel sounds, and taste shapes” in a remarkably consistent fashion.
Taking the Legion by storm, The Nailbiters played their first show and moulded their own unique energy that would leave impressions on everyone attending. From their soundcheck to their proper set, the band ripped right into the atmosphere. Sounding like they were thrown into a dingy garage, The Nailbiters absolutely had this to their advantage.
The vocals shrieked, raw and raspy. They were rough and unlike anything previously heard—anger and soul drenched them. Almost lost within the raging of the other instruments, they came through nonetheless and with a wild energy. Painting the soundscape bitter greens and maroon reds, the colours add to the intensity of their riveting sound.
The chugging of the guitar and bass in combinations played with orange and vivid reds. The two melded together and while you could feel the difference in your chest, it’s so tightknit that you need to listen to distinguish the two because they follow and hold each other together. The pick scrapes, however, are ever prominent and executed flawlessly. The solos played left room for the bass to hold the songs together while allowing the guitar to shred.
The drums came in cold and brutal, painting the scene all shades of blue. The cymbals crashed wildly and it ensued thrashing from the crowd. Unellegant suited the vibe given off.
Next up were Death Exclamations, a band filled with well-loved Ottawa punks, all who have been in at least four different bands at a time. Little smiles and energy through the roof, the guys crashed through the silence and tore the Legion apart with their ferocity.
The bass rumbled loud and proud right up in the foreground and managed to meld between the guitar. Once the guitar came in, the place was ripped apart the last bit of calm that would have been left. Steady and reminiscent of Discharge, there was that muffled aspect to the guitar while it maintained anger. The solo’s seemed to egg on a challenge of sorts that tied everything together.
The drumming was quick and cold, a bitter bite behind it. The snare sounded flat and full instead of resonant and hollow. Meanwhile, Sammy’s vocals ripped through the irritated instrumental and while they were hard to decipher, they were delivered with extreme passion. Scrapped from the back of his throat and spit out into the microphone, not a single beat is missed.
Up next were Ottawa’s, Omerta, who yet again redefined ear-splitting chaos. The vocals packed an extremely powerful punch, each word hitting you like a brick to the head. Sierra stomped around from one end of the “stage” to the next, passion and rage mixing into the performance. The vocals turned everything blue and drenched the very middle of the scene.
The guitar played with a controlled feedback while it spat out heavy melancholy as buildup to what was to be unleashed. The power of the weighted chords and the dark aquamarine they created clashed with the drums and the yellow produced by them. The drumming and guitar played an interesting game—thrashing against solo’s, silence against a roar of power chords.
The bass shook your core and you could hear the deep rumble in the background, slight tonal differences or riffs than the guitar would play over, it remained pronounced. It added a strong backbone to the songs. The drumming, which came with enthusiasm and unrivaled vexation tainted each open area a stark magenta. It was hard to rip your ears away from it.
After Omerta, Tightlip took to the stage and completely obliterated any notion of limits to their capabilities. Belting out the vocals with a grit an weight to her voice was Ashly all while playing the bass. Her quick basslines shred and remained booming throughout the set. Reds tainted over my vision as the bassline peeked through more and more, raspy and deep vocals adding an orange dimension to the pieces.
James’ drumming sent a frigid chill down spines and contrasted any warmth that emanated from the bass. Skeletal and heavy, there was absolutely no apologies for how assertive each beat fell. It intermingled with the colours the guitar emit while playing solo’s and added incredible power.
The guitar lashed out untamable energy, crushing blue’s for solos transitioned to deep magentas the deeper the chords went. It had a bite to it that radiated a bitter vibe.
Moreover, Tightlip made sure to call out those who moshed too aggressively —you know who you are. They tried to bring more safety into the scene while playing their set and remained unapologetic about it.
Pen-ultimately were Zymotic from Montreal, Quebec. They tore into the set like no tomorrow, thrashing about, rasping out line after line. They brought out the second most intense pit of the night.
The guitar burst through the basslines with scarcely any mercy and blew roaring greens into the soundscape. With the more metallic sound to the strings and flat sound to the guitar it really took over the space. The bass stood out for the fat and round sound it carried. Weighted and packing a punch it was hard to miss the strong basslines. Muddy army greens drenched the place with bubbles of it.
The drumming stood out on its own—hollow and fucking loud. Standing out was not the snare but rather the heavy usage of the toms. Reminiscent of drumming you might hear in metal, it did not fail to entice. It came out as murky yellow and sunburst oranges while the cymbals seemed to add a few spots of a dirty pastel blue.
Lastly, all the way from Mexico were APÄRÄ. The band, whilst expelling an intense amount of raw-as-fuck aggression, absolutely encapsulated the energy that a show needed. Having kicked off the end of the night with rapid drumming and quick fills, pick slides drenched in feedback, basslines that boomed, they worked the crowd.
The vocals tore through the instrumentals with the punch they packed—weighted as all hell and coming out as elongated screams, they followed and fell from rhythms systematically. Drumming crashed right into the vocals and set the rhythms that broke and were restitched. It was hollow and commanding.
The guitars droned on, overdriven with feedback dripping into nearly every note. Deep power chords completely took over and superimposed one another, chugging on in a fit of dominance. Inserting itself into the chaos was the bass, which added a dimension to the guitar playing that wasn’t otherwise found. It acted as a wild backbone.
It’s safe to say that these bands are all nes you should get your asses out to see. They’re incredibly wild and wreak havoc on just about everything. Just keep in mind to hold yourself to pit etiquette and keep each other safe. Respect the space and respect others.
I called Julie Tuesday evening around 7:00 PM, Ottawa time. She had just gotten home from a busy day and has another one tomorrow. She has a 6:00 AM shift at the pool where she works as a lifeguard before an evening photo shoot and a plane to Ontario to catch the following morning. She’s yet to pack. We talked for almost an hour straight.
One would think waking up at 4:45 AM would be a loathsome task for a life-long touring musician, but Julie Doiron finds comfort in her routine. Not to mention the steady pay cheque that finds its way into her bank account every two weeks—a first in her adult life. Swimming, on the other hand, has been a constant since childhood, and it’s particularly important to her now.
“I need to keep my body strong in order to feel good, psychologically,” she explains, elaborating on how her schedule also includes teaching a weekly yoga class. When conversation turns to the four show tour she has booked this weekend, she laughs and likens it to a vacation in comparison to her current schedule and the intensity of the touring she did this summer.
Starting Thursday, September 13th in Toronto at the Garrison, Julie reunites with The Wooden Stars for three shows, the second of which will be here in Ottawa Friday night at St. Alban’s. The third on Saturday in Picton for Sandbanks Music Festival along with co-headliners Wintersleep. She will be playing an additional show in Montreal on Sunday at Quai des Brumes, before it’s back home to Sackville, NB for Monday.
“We tend to get together every two years, now” she says of the Wooden Stars reunion, referencing the string of dates they performed together in 2014 after a twelve year hiatus, and another slew of performances in 2016. She goes on to explain that they initially arranged these 2018 shows after accepting the Sandbanks Music Festival appearance and decided to add a few more dates. This series of shows has a greater significance than previous—it marks the last time they will be playing their former album in its entirety, because hal-eh-lou-yer, we’re getting another Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars album.
The Wooden Stars began backing Julie on tour starting in 1997 for her Loneliest in the Morning release. Their jazz-inflected musicality fit in well with her sparse, achey song-writing, and in 1999 they released Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars. It won a Juno the following year for best Alternative Album and saw re-release in 2013.
While the songwriting efforts on that album were Julie’s alone, she believes the writing process will be more collaborative this time around. Co-writing is something not entirely unfamiliar to Julie, who cut her teeth in collaborative writing with the 2017 release of Julie & the Wrong Guys on Dine Alone Records.
“I was really blocked before that album” she says, explaining that between 2012 and the fall of 2017, she’d only written two songs independently—both of which were written on the way to the session where they’d be recorded. She credits her Wrong Guys collaboration in teaching her ‘to let go and not be in charge”.
Moving forward with new music, she talks of being a lot less preoccupied with the expectations of “making it,” writing a hit, or charting.
“It’s liberating, to no longer be burdened with those expectations.” In their absence, she can create the music she wants to create. This she credits to her age and experience—she is a 46 year old mother of three with 28 years in the music industry.
I ask her how her relationship with her songs has aged, curious how she feels having to revisit songs from her Broken Girl days, songs that as a listener are still so visceral and raw. “I haven’t forgotten what those feelings are like.” She pauses. “But I have changed a lot, and in a way I am grateful to be able to revisit those feelings from this distance.”
The Showbox Concert Series featuring Julie Doiron & The Wooden Stars and Gianna Lauren happens Friday, September 14 at St. Alban’s Church (454 King Edward Ave.), starting at 7:30 pm. More information can be found on the Facebook event. Advanced tickets are $10 and can be purchased online here, or $12 at the door.
Last week, the Sam Roberts Band returned to the capital and played a big set at an outdoor stage on the Algonquin College campus. The Canadian rock icons were joined by up-and-comers Birds of Bellwoods, from Toronto, and The Riot Police, from here in Ottawa.
Our photographer Aidan Thatcher was on-site to catch some great shots from the night. Have a look at the gallery below.
The House of Targ stage was rocked by three great local bands last week. Headlining the night was Ornaments, an Ottawa three-piece who hadn’t graced a stage in a while so it was very nice to see them playing live again. Saint Clare did what they always do and played their most excellent brass-driven rock that makes you want to dance and sing. Opening the night was the up and coming band Lost Acres who released a solid EP in December last year.
Check out the pictures below by our photographer Aidan Thatcher and keep your eye out for the next time these bands play live.