On April 12th, House of TARG hosted a huge lineup featuring the likes of France’s Topsy Turvys, as well as The Valveenus, Audio Visceral, & Crown Vic. Our photographer Aidan Thatcher was there to capture the action, have a look at the gallery below.
Catriona Sturton is a household name in Canadian music and beyond—her masterful blues guitar and harmonica stylings combined with her angelic sweetness are the trappings of a true musical powerhouse, a fact undeniably demonstrative in her live performances. Her songwriting, in juxtaposition to her inundated playing, is deliberate and subdued, yet both offer a sort of honest intimacy that rattles and soothes, an experience similar to getting socked in the gut while someone tenderly strokes your hair. It’s often too much for audiences’ hearts to handle and I’ve had the pleasure of bearing witness to that collective heartbreak on two separate occasions, with a third opportunity coming this Friday, April 13th at NAC Fourth Stage on a double bill with Alberta singer/songwriter, Liz Stevens.
This show will be markedly different than any previous iteration of her solo work in two signifanct ways; for the first time she will be backed by a band and, perhaps more startling, Sturton will be playing violin publicly, something she hasn’t done since she was a child. I spoke with her about what inspired these changes as well as what else she has planned for Friday evening.
Interview with Catriona Sturton
Can you tell me a little bit about your history with the violin and how you came to pick it up?
I played the violin for years as a kid. My grandfather was the local fiddler in the Irish village that my mum was from (he was also the seventh son of a seventh son!). I liked the idea of learning fiddle music as a kid but ended up taking classical violin lessons. I wasn’t a great student (ok, I was kind of terrible; I once showed up to a lesson with an empty violin case) but am now thankful that it gave me a good musical base. I used to think that I never fell in love with playing music ’til I discovered the harmonica, but I’m realizing now that I have really deep feelings for the violin.
What sparked the resurrgence?
I went on tour with The Noisy Locomotive and played with Trevor Pool and Ben Nesrallah, who accompanied me on violin on several songs. Since then, I knew there was something magical about the combination of violin and harmonica. I kept thinking I should find a violin player to tour with in the future, then one day I decided that I should try to play it myself.
What was the most challenging part?
My experience was that it wasn’t like riding a bike at all…. it felt like a very new instrument even though I had played it for a long time when I was younger it felt very new to pick it up again. Part of that was I had to hold it in a different way to be able to play harmonica at the same time. The fun part was that I kind of used the harmonica as a teacher to show me what I wanted to do on the violin. I do like a challenge though, so there is something grounding in being humbled.
Did you experience an awakening of sorts?
Last year I went to learn Irish music from my uncle and it made me really wonder why I hadn’t tried to learn some sooner. At that time I was playing songs on the diatonic harmonica and he also gave me an accordion. But starting violin made me feel really strongly and deeply that I should be connecting more with this side of my family’s musical heritage.
Do you feel vulnerable without your guitar?
Very much so!!!!
You’re working with drummer Ben Deinstadt and bassist Kristy Nease now, a departure from your usual solo performances. What brought you all together and how did you manage to find cohesion as artists?
I have been working as a one person band for 5 years. While working on arranging my songs, it became apparent that some of them have pretty idiosyncratic structures, which kind of explains why it was sometimes hard for me to explain what I wanted from other musicians in the past. I met Ben Deinstadt through GINNY’s Lesley Marshall and had heard he was interested in touring. When we started to get together to play music it was just for fun and we became good friends in the process. I was really impressed with how much attention he would put into learning little details and arrangements for the songs and I also loved how some of the parts he came up with weren’t what you’d expect at first but fit the songs in a way that it now feels weird for me to not hear them. And he helped me fix a bunch of my gear! He’s great! I think he’s a bit of a secret weapon, he said some people he knows don’t even know he plays the drums, but I can’t imagine that will be for long.
I have played with Kristy since I first started to seriously consider playing guitar and harmonica at the same time. She’s a real inspiration to me as a musician. One of the very first tours I did was with her, years ago, in Nova Scotia. She’s solid as a person and a bass player, and I feel very lucky that she can join us for this show. I think she’s in 5 bands at the moment, I’m not sure if this makes 6! I was standing next to her at a show and saw how intently she was watching the bands play and I didn’t even know if she played music, I just had a feeling based on how tuned in she was that she’d be great to play with. Years later she’s a great friend and I feel so comfortable playing with her.
I’ll also have Birdie Whyte and Sal Valley as special guests. They are two gems of songwriting in Ottawa and we’ve just started to play together, the three of us.
That sounds so incredibly special! I mean, though you live in Ottawa, we are rarely gifted with a chance to see you perform and it sounds like this Friday is going to be particularly incredible!
I try not to play in Ottawa too often, so that I have time to prepare and pull out all the stops when I do! This time I’ll have a Wheel of Fortune, made by Montreal artist Emily Comeau and props made of my art by Ottawa’s Kate Greenland (who performs as Mabel Beggs, solo and in Aiken and Beggs).
Not to mention the addition of Liz Stevens on the bill!
I can’t wait to hear Liz live. Her voice blows me away but I’ve only gotten to experience it on video and recorded. She has such a great ability to capture nuance and feeling. There is a video of her singing Wicked Game by Chris Isaak that is devestatingly moving.
You are also a visual artist, creating the most sunshiney of illustrations. Your smiling heart is almost a signature of sorts. You create artwork for others upon request seemingly just to brighten others days. What drives you to spread such positivity? Is it something you consciously curate or is it something you feel comes to you naturally?
It’s funny, when I first made a website my friend, Jason Cobill, who designed it, suggested I have my drawings on it. At the time I wasn’t sure how they fit with the music I was making. I write a lot of quiet and very moody songs. But the drawings I make definitely have a light and funny quality to them. I started making drawings online for people when I got a scholarship to an online group where my role was to be a cheerleader in exchange for doing the course for free. I really enjoyed tuning in to where someone was at and trying to see if I could draw something that would encourage them in that moment. I discovered an app I could colour in the drawings with and it all clicked for me. I started drawing more this year because after I got a concussion sound really bothered me and after months of laying pretty low I think I needed a creative outlet.
My favourite drawings to do by far have been for people by request, or when they ask for one for someone they care about so I’ve kept making more and more. It makes me happy to be able to do them and I feel lucky when I get to tune into people caring about each other. For example, parents might ask for one for their kids, or people will ask for their friends or partner. In the moment when I’m drawing I get to feel that love and it is really beautiful. I haven’t really considered myself to be an artist but I have started to get a number of commissions, which I really appreciate because it has really encouraged me. And I’m starting to make merch with my art. The first ones will be at this show, I have some pins.
You mentioned you had suffered a concussion that impacted your ability to play music. What was it like coming out of that? What have you learned from the adaption process?
I got rear ended this summer and hit my head on the steering wheel. It threw me for a big loop because one of the most difficult parts of it was that I became hypersensitive to sound, to the point that it made me nauseous. I had trouble if more than one conversation was happening at a time. And bright lights were too much. Basically everything that you have at a show I couldn’t handle. It was kind of heartbreaking because I had worked really hard for 5 years and was feeling like I was starting to build some momentum with my music career and then had to face not knowing what the process of recovery would look like. I had to lie in the dark with sunglasses on and my windows covered up.
The part that turned out to be the hardest for me was that my ability to read and respond to people was really affected. So, little things like talking to someone after a show was a huge challenge, let alone trying to talk to lots of people, which is actually a really big part of playing shows. The other thing that crept in later was that being rear ended made me feel cautious about driving, which is a huge part of touring. After moving through all kinds of challenges in the past few years and working really hard to keep unafraid and a positive attitude, I got kind of swamped.
One thing I realized throughout it all was that it is very scary to be vulnerable, and I think being kind of reduced in this way made me take more risks in writing songs that were more open about challenging times. And it made me want to move away from having a wall of sound that I had aspired to with a big amplifier, harmonica tone, and one-man-band posturing I used as a bit of a defense mechanism while touring solo. I mean, I still like to play loud at times! But it made me appreciate more how brave it can be to really open yourself up. In some ways I think I have started to connect with people on a deeper level after going through a few things and kind of having no choice but to reflect them in where I was at.
While difficult to comprehend how someone’s artistic well could possibly be mined deeper, the fact that someone so accomplished as Catriona continues to take artistic risks that bring us closer to her is a rare gift afforded to an audience: a gift you can receive this Friday evening if you believe in love and magic. Tickets are available a the NAC box office, or can be found online here.
On March 24th, packed with punks, was Ottawa’s very own House of TARG. Legends made a comeback alongside some of the finest hardcore punk bands in the community. The sets warmed everyone up on the brisk spring night and made a good end to the day.
Merciless, absolutely brutal, and loud enough to tear the floor up with nothing but the roaring of the guitars are Ottawa locals, Wire Cuffs. So weighted that it pulled us in, the sound beat through our chest. Particularly prominent basslines, punch-packing power chords, and vocals that rip through the stuffy basement air.
The raged vocals tied into the aggression of each song, creating an unclean and raw energy. A release of energy so unconstrained that when unleashed, it got everybody moving erratically, the lyrics seem to not only draw screams from the band but that crowd as well. Quite literally ripped from the throat, as opposed to the diaphragm, the vocals were unfiltered and pulled from within. They’re what you’d imagine the shredding of vocals chords sounds like, but in a way that encompasses frustrations and angst.
The guitar and bass were steady but rather abrasive. Both complimented one another, equally heard. They were the source of the steady flow of rage. They held a sharp and cold edge to them that resonated with bitterness the closer you listen. They chugged on, almost playing a game of cat and mouse with each other, dissonant and seemingly off key from time to time. Overwhelming, the two instruments fill you with emotion and allowed you to release them due to the tempos they set. Earsplitting and turbulent, the guitars shocked us with the sheer power of their anger and strength of emotion they convey. The riffs were structured and quickly executed, like second nature to the guitarists. They stood out on their own and pull your ear in.
The drumming was cold and thrashing, with heavy use of the ride and crash cymbals. Booming and rattling away, with a partially open high hat it acted as the metronome but far more emotionally driven. The drummer went all out and didn’t hold back. Crashing mercilessly into each part of the drum kit, there wasn’t a sense of playing carefully despite the precise timing. The drummer got into this as the crowd got lost in his performance, fueled by raw power, irritation coming across in each beat. This comes across prominently in Alien Vampire Invasion.
With a new ferocity and new tunes, DOXX took to the stage next. Opening with a new song, as opposed to Human Waste CEO, the band sunk their rage into the crowd and got their fists pumping and bodies moving in time with the rhythms set. They were boisterous, enraged, and provocative, the band only gets better with each release—and heavier.
The guitar riffs Brit played appeared to be layered, the effect of being split into two parts prominent through their newer songs. The guitar appeared to have it’s own voice more so than before and tore through the crowd with its roar. Merging high and low notes to create a new dynamic, the guitar chuggedwith weighted chords to radiate an abysmal provocation of anger within the crowd. Sharp and expeditious, Brit didn’t hold back, putting tremendous energy into each song that rips from her guitar.
Jeff’s bass playing shook the floor with its sheer power. Prominent but leveled out with the guitar, it seemed to not back the guitar but in fact, drew more attention to itself and Brit’s playing due to the contrast in tone and octaves. The bass roared, and due to the slight distortion and delay, there was a fuzz to it. It backed the beat but has a mind of its own, split away and adding a depth to the songs.
Kieran’s drumming was hard and fast. Thrashing and crashing he got the crowd into it—high energy and booming, the snare became a prominent aspect of each song, later joined by the cold and vehement cymbals. Besides the bass, the drumming shook the core with its sheer power. It set the merciless tempo and conveys the emotions through each abrasive beat.
Sofia’s vocals not only get better with each performance, but manage to convey more emotion each time. The delivery is relentless and in your face, only mellowing out to be able to emphasize the growls that rip themselves from her throat. Sofia’s vigor is wild and the screams that she built up are warm yet venomous. They ranged from higher screams to ones drawn from deep within, the control behind each of them was unfathomable.
After Doxx, Asile took the stage. Ottawa locals took a twist on the night, spitting out lyrics in French instead of more commonly used English. Asile dominated and put forth a ferocious energy that encouraged some headbanging and fistpumping. It was pure hardcore punk that incorporates guitar solos and riffs that remain brief and punchy.
The vocals hardly needed to be strained, the screams were unified in nature and remind me of D. O. A, they drive the spirit of the songs forward. Even if incomprehensible to those who don’t speak French, the delivery was so raw and driven with passion that it still catches peoples attention and gets them riled up and ready to mosh. It’s not so much about the lyrics themselves, but rather the delivery.
The guitar was wildly overdriven and generated such strength in intensity that it became nearly impossible not to listen for all the little technicalities—at least for me. From the few pick scrapes, to tremolo picking, and of course the precise hammer-ons and pull-offs, the guitarist knew no bounds. The riffs in C’est Qu’on Nous Dis, in particular, stood out as cold and paint the warm backbeat blue. Like a magnet, the solo work pulls you in due to the contrast it sets to the pieces.
The bass is by far one of the most prominent features. It’s deep and literally shook the floor, rattling in your rib cage as a result. It held a steady flow of feedback while pounding into our ears. It’s the backbone, the steady support that bursts through obnoxiously. It’s the crackling fire—angry, warm, and comforting. It glowed and radiated a distinguished and eloquent fury.
The drumming was fervent and rolled in with such severity that it nearly blew our eardrums out the second it began. It was the cause of the overwhelming hot-cold thrashing beats. Mauling with a sheer force of power was a great contrast between the warm sound of the toms and the chaotic and frosty cymbals. Each beat came in quick succession of the previous one, they ended up rolling into one another. It radiated a sheer unstoppable force that is difficult to match. The drummer showed no mercy to the drum kit, seemingly releasing every emotion into it. With the cold that comes with the cymbals, there was the bit of harsh yellow that peaks through as the crashing resonates.
The headliner of the night was Ottawa’s very own The Fucking Machines. A decade-long wait for a new release has come to an end. With rumbling screams, heavy-handed power chords, and shallow but resonant drumming, they wrapped up the night. They brought forth the spirit of D. O. A. and Reagan Youth all at once. The quick pace and progressions really drew from old school punk from the 80’s and 90’s.
The vocals were unconventional and not quite what one would expect, but they complimented and created an opposition to the deeper and heavier guitar and bass playing. The mesh between the two vocalists added dimension to what was being screamed and accentuated the lyrics for a more forceful delivery. While the screaming wasn’t the deep and booming screams you associate with hardcore of today, it added a refreshing flavour to the mix, holding more traditional and spoken screams as opposed to ones linked melodically.
The guitar was ferocious and incorporated the rushed progressions that resemble ones of punk bands from the 80’s. It was played with heart and passion, no holding back. The pick slides are essential to this band and they add to the songs and performance so that it doesn’t remain as constant. The guitar wailed and groaned, overdriven and furious.
The bass rumbled below the guitar and became increasingly prominent underneath solo work. It held a fat sound that was distorted by the rest of the soundscape, however, it still pushed through boldly. Muddy but tight, it supported the guitars and burst through the sheer strength and volume the drums hold. Be mindful—it’s heavy and absolutely booming, and may be concealed, but could burst your eardrums over all else.
The drums had a washy and full feeling to them. They were booming and warm, enveloping each song in the beat. The fills came in spurts, incorporated without using the typical structure, they added emphasis before screams or before the guitar flows back into it’s odd. The drumming sounded shallow, but the booms of the drumstick hitting the drum itself was so forceful that it resonates through House of TARG.
All in all, the bands are ones to look out for. Their delivery is immovable and so forceful that you feel the emotions conveyed from them to you. With new releases from them, and comebacks, it would be a shame to not keep your eye out for their shows. I guarantee that whether you’re sober or had one too many drinks, you’ll enjoy them if hardcore punk is up your alley.
Last Friday, April 6th, we had the pleasure of presenting Jon Creeden & The Flying Hellfish LP release party at House of TARG along with The Creeps, Finderskeepers, and Joe Vickers. For us, it was a no brainer to put this one on. Great friends, great bands, and one night to remember.
Jon Creeden is one of the hardest working musicians in this town, and he’s paid his dues for years. It was a dream come true to have The Creeps on board, as they have been making noise in Ottawa since 1999 and have shown no signs of slowing down. Finderskeepers reunited after a three-year hiatus (and two babies later) to play an electrifying set. Joe Vickers, a true purveyor of genuine Canadiana folk, happened to be rolling through town, too, and he opened the night with a gripping set. DJs Captain Concussion and Ted Dancin’ (Eric and I, respectively) also spun vinyl all night to keep the part going. Check out the incredible photos by our photographer Aidan Thatcherbelow!
I love showing up to the Algonquin Commons Theatre just before doors open. The lines of people eagerly awaiting the show make it clear just how full the theatre will be. Wednesday night was no different, as crowds of people lined up for the highly anticipated Lights show. Recent attention has only increased the artists already large following as she was showcased heavily during last month’s Juno Awards in Vancouver, as her album Skin and Earth won Pop Music Album of the Year.
Opening the night, from Toronto, DCF brought his hip hop sound and beats, along with a colorful wardrobe. The crowd ate up his energetic set as he played to them reaching out across the photo pit.
Recently interviewed by Ottawa Showbox, Dear Rouge was up next. Let me just say. JACKET ENVY. Unreal fashion choice in the form of a metallic gold crop bomber jacket added extra funk to an already crazy set. Grabbing the mic stand and leaning into the crowd, jumping, hair flips, the whole shebang. The crowd loved this set, and it really warmed them up for the headliner. If you get the chance to see Dear Rouge yourself, I highly recommend it.
Lights closed out the night with extreme energy. The crowd was on fire (like her hair) and added stage elements like a giant light board behind her added extra theatrics to the set. Choosing her lights thoughtfully for everyone in the room we were assured that the set, though occasionally hard to shoot, looked great for those in the audience. Her songs are catchy, and fun and her stage presence reflects that. Her overall artistic abilities shone through from start to finish, with passes adorn with her featured graphics (Did you know Lights is a graphic novel artist?!).
Overall this show was on fire from start to finish. Awesome openers made way for a wicked set by Lights. The crowd was feeling it the whole way through, which just increased the energy of the room.
We’re giving away two passes to tonight’s performance by Flying Hórses at the National Arts Centre, which is sure to be an intimate spectacle.
Flying Hórses is the project of composer-pianist Jade Bergeron, who combines piano, Wurlitzer, chimes, bells and cello to create instrumental soundscapes that stir the soul. Her debut album, Tölt, was recorded with Sigur Rós’ producer, Biggi Birgisson, at Sundlaugin Studio in Iceland. She also played Iceland Airwaves Music Festival in 2015, as well as the world-renowned Festival International de Jazz de Montreal in 2016. The Banff Centre for Performance Arts welcomed Flying Hórses in the fall of 2016 for a residency, to work and collaborate with Juno award-winner Charles Spearin (Broken Social Scene, Do Make Say Think). And just to put the cherry on top, Flying Hórses was nominated for the 2018 Prism Prize, for Best Canadian Music Video, alongside Leonard Cohen, The Weeknd, Feist, and Grimes. Not bad company to be in.
We’re giving away a few free passes to Flying Hórses’ performance at the NAC’s Fourth Stage at 8:30 PM tonight along with Ottawa’s own mal/aimé, so be sure to enter below! Just fill out the form and we’ll be in touch by 6:00 PM via email if you’ve won.
The video begins with clips of Jon and various members of the Flying Hellfish out on tour making you think this will most likely be a tour montage video. Instead we are treated to the band rocking out on stage wearing their now signature Hawaiian shirts, a tribute to JS Belleau—a member of the Ottawa music scene who left us too soon.
Most of the video was shot during the band’s set at Pouzza Fest 2017 in Montreal by the very talented Jonah Aspler. It is a lot of fun to watch the band playing on stage to so many familiar faces in the crowd even if it isn’t in Ottawa. And it is awesome to watch Richard Barrie (Positive Charge) give Jon a big kiss and later when Jon cheers the crowd with his tall boy of PBR.
Watch the video below and come live a live Jon Creeden & the Flying Hellfish performance for yourself at their Stall album release show this Friday April 6 at House of Targ supported by The Creeps, Finderskeepers and Joe Vickers, more details here.