Chris Pagehas been an active musician and participant in the Ottawa music scene for two decades, and been in bands such as The Stand GT and Camp Radio, and currently Expanda Fuzz. Chris has also successfully released music as a solo artist and toured Canada many times.
My earliest recollection of I Love The Modern Way is somewhere out on Ontario Highway 17, touring in an old, blue Volvo wagon.
I had just gotten to know Andrew Vincent by way of his record A Short Trip With The Pirates and the two of us made a pact to do shows together in Southern Ontario. “AV” had the car, and the two of us had our guitars, sleeping bags, and a bunch of material to play for anyone who would listen. I was aimlessly stumbling into a solo career and I had just released Decide To Stay And Swim (which incidentally had a song title that paid homage to my new pal: AV In The Sunshine, Man). The gifted Ottawa troubadour was finalizing his new album as the two of us were climbing into that cozy, well-worn Volvo to hit the open road.
I loved ‘A Short Trip’; it was a lo-fi banger of a record, filled with Modern Lovers style rave ups and sing-alongs like ‘Gary Hache’ and the anthemic ‘Ladies, Ladies, Ladies (Houseboat)’. I had been in bars watching crowds sing the line ‘Have you ever seen such a good looking band?’ at the top of their supportive lungs, and I was enthralled. I wasn’t sure a better chorus had been written in the nation’s capital, or in all of Canada, for that matter. I was about to find out.
On that tour, AV had played tracks from I Love The Modern Way, and sheepishly explained to me the album title had come from a pseudo-landmark in Ottawa (I won’t give that away here so as to keep some of the Ottawa folklore intact!) But lyrically, the songs were a Gatling gun of poetic turns of phase that found ways to include Ottawa-area themes like Bronson and Somerset streets, 1310 (AM) on the radio, Highway 5 and moving down from North Bay. I was psyched to hear these new tracks, but it was seeing them performed live that really cemented them as potential Ottawa classics for me.
With his indie stock rising, AV had swung a swank CBC Toronto session on that trip, to tape live versions of the new material for some hip broadcast. Though our shows had been solo sets to that point, Scott Terry and Bryan Curry joined AV for that live CBC gig. I was the envious roadie, carrying Pirates’ gear through prestigious parking lots and vast CBC Toronto atrium. In hindsight, it was a striking metaphor for how many like to compare the two cities: 4 hungover, ramshackle, Ottawa musicians, lugging cheap gear through the monolithic and sparkling Toronto CBC building, whose authoritative walls towered over us, with an air of indifference.
My memories of that energetic session are pretty clear. Andrew Vincent and the Pirates absolutely careened through these songs with an almost-in-tune, reckless abandon that somehow felt so tight and just so perfectly right. ‘Martha’, ‘Bahamas’, ‘Cover It Up’, ‘Jonathan’ were songs that all had these shout-it-out-loud-until-your-voice-goes-hoarse driving choruses, fresh from a new LP that had yet to be sprung on the world.
My question as to whether the ‘Ladies’ chorus could ever be matched was certainly answered, as I Love The Modern Way stands as an all-time great Ottawa musical achievement.
Rewind is a new series where musicians, fans, and community members reflect on Ottawa albums from the past and write about their memories and experiences from that time. Every album has a story!
In 2007, a passion for music and dedication to female empowerment spurred the creation of Ottawa Rock Camp for Girls—a weekend of music instruction for teens and young adults. Ten years later, Girls+ Rock Ottawa is a multi-faceted organization with programs for girls, women, and non-binary youth to learn and experience music in a welcoming space. This November, Girls+ held their eleventh rock camp, showcasing tremendous growth and confidence in Ottawa’s women+ music community at the newly-renovated National Arts Centre.
Despite its recent success, Girls+ Rock is still a small, non-profit organization ran completely by local volunteers. Bianca Oran, a member of the organization’s Board, is a non-profit professional with a passion for music and development. She left a career in the music industry to work on sponsorships for the Ottawa Mission, and joined Girls+ a year ago to assist with on partnerships and communication. “It married my love of music with my day job and what I was already doing,” she says. “Music has been a huge part of my life for most of my life. I thought this would be a really good organization to get involved with in any way.”
“Since I’ve been there, it’s evolved a bit,” she says. This spring, the organization changed its name from Ottawa Rock Camp for Girls to Girls+ Rock Ottawa. “That’s because we’re more than just a once a year camp,” she explains. “We do workshops throughout the year, we have a drop-in jam space where alumni can come and practice. We provide that access space for them.” In addition to their new programming, the organization expanded to an older audience, hosting its first Rock Camp for Women+ this summer. The inaugural project was a huge success, proving a desire for welcoming music programs and communities in the city.
In the past year, Girls+ has also received an influx of funding, allowing the organization to pursue its new projects. They recently received just under $24, 000 granted from TD. “For a little organization like ours, to have that support is huge,” says Oran. The funding allowed them to purchase brand new instruments for their camps and jam sessions, providing for new and returning artists. “We purchased a lot of the instruments from local music shops,” says Oran, “so we put the money back into the community.”
The recent funding has been continued with the help of The J.S. Belleau Fund, which was established this summer. The fund was created after the passing of Jean-Sebastien Belleau, a young Ottawa local and active participant and friend of the city’s music community. “We were honoured and moved when J.S.’ family listed Girls+ Rock Ottawa as the recipient of all proceeds in his name,” says Tiffanie Tri, Chairperson and co-organizer of the camp. “We created the fund because we wanted to have a way to distinguish the funds that were donated in his memory. As in, have a way to track it and monitor its impact.”
Additional funds were also raised this summer at the I Love You J.S. Fest (ILYJS), a community festival and fundraiser hosted by Ottawa Showbox. Since his passing in March 2017, over $2,700 has been raised in J.S.’ name, and donations continue to roll in.
Girls+ has used the donations towards the the maintenance and upkeep of their new and growing inventory of musical instruments, “in order to sustain these investments, and to ensure that we can keep providing high quality instruments to anyone who wants to partake in our programming,” says Tri.
The new instruments were used this past month at the Girls+ Rock Camp, but the organization has more and much larger plans to use their new investments. Their main goal is to create a local music library for young musicians to borrow and rent instruments, following their mandate of providing access and resources to music in Ottawa.
In addition to their increasing funding and expanding projects, the organization has established partnerships with a variety of local businesses. Girls+ recently launched their own collection of merch, selling out of their first run at Victoire Boutique in Westboro West and online. The organization chose Victoire for its independent, local impact and dedication to ethical fashion. The new line (which includes t-shirts, sweatshirts and totes with handmade designs by local artists) marks a new beginning for Girls+, with a tangible showcase of identity, community and impact.
Girls+ is a unique non-profit made of young musicians, professionals, artists, and local supporters. The organization’s last year is proof of this, with its exponential growth and evolving identity. “We’re a community based organization that uses music to empower girls,” says Oran. “We have this flagship event, the camp, but we also want to create new partnerships in the community. We want to make sure were being as inclusive and diverse as possible.”
In the future, she hopes for a continuation of funding and community support. “How great would it be if we could take on more than 30 campers per year? Or if we could pay our volunteer teachers? We just don’t have the capacity or funding yet.”
Specifically, Oran is passionate about creating space and resources for women and girls interested in music. “It’d be great to have more support from the community, more spaces for alumni to host all-ages shows,” she says. Sustainability is important to Girls+, which inspired their jam sessions and women’s rock camp, so alumni can return to further improve their skills. Many have done so, with a handful of former students returning annually as teachers.
Ottawa is not an easy place to thrive as a young artist, especially as a young woman. Girls+ Rock’s mandate—to empower young girls and women through music—is evidently thriving and working to break down barriers for gender minorities. At November’s camp showcase, campers exuded a shared confidence and skill, nurtured through the program’s dedication to community. The programs offer an affordable, safe and inviting space for youth to pursue their passion.
From a $24,000 grant to community fundraising to multiple new programs, it’s been a massive year for Girls+ Rock Ottawa. Now, with secured funding and growing local partnerships, there’s no limit to the impact these young girls, women and local leaders can have in Ottawa’s music community.
It’s been almost two years since violinist-extraordinaire Mika Posen released her debut solo record under the new moniker Merganzer. Before that, she had studied violin with the National Arts Centre Orchestra’s David Thies-Thompson and gone on to tour with renowned acts such as Timber Timbre, as well as contribute her violin skills to the works of Forest City Lovers, Feist, Basia Bulat and Evening Hymns. Having grown up in Ottawa, Posen left the capital at 18 and lived in cities such as Toronto and Berlin until her return to her hometown after more than a decade.
These experiences, along with a Master’s degree in ethnomusicology from York, have provided Posen with disparate experiences from which to draw influences for her solo project. Merganzer is undoubtedly an extension of Posen, and the music we’ve heard so far—particularly off of the 2015 debut LP Mirror Maze—is eccentric, contemplative, and exploratory. The soundscapes are varied, as the listener is pulled between layers of mesmerizing beats, beautiful vocal melodies, enchanting string arrangements—like soaring gracefully through cavernous depths and over towering mountain peaks.
Merganzer has put out a new video of an unreleased track called “Cloud Cover,” which is exciting for those of us who have been chomping at the bit for more. It comes just in time for her upcoming performance December 1st at Mirror Mountain Film Festival (co-presented by Ottawa Showbox) along with Montreal media artist Sonya Stefan. The event is called Passé Composé, and will be a collaborative live performance based on the theme of transformation.
“The video was directed by Nick Dolinski (who lived in Ottawa up until a year or two ago) and shot by Ottawa media artist Tim Smith,” explains Posen. “We made it this past July on the roof of our Toronto apartment building right before we moved back to Ottawa. For Tim and I, it represents a final farewell to that big crazy city.”
We’re excited to present the first look at Nightshades‘ new video for “Double Vision,” which appears on the recent self-titled album released on November 15th.
The album is somewhat of a departure from their previous EPs, slowing things down and simplifying the song structures while maintaining the sludgy and gritty elements that many of us know and love. While the tempo has slowed a bit, lead vocalist and guitarist Mallory Giles chose to hone her songwriting skills and focus on lyrics and melody over speed and complexity of instrumentation.
“After the ‘Wendy EP’ we wanted to take some time to write a full record. Things came together pretty slow,” she explains. “I had a huge writers block last winter and it was scary. I thought ‘well that’s it. I guess that’s over’.”
“I was grabbing at straws, trying to find inspiration and I ended up borrowing a bass off a friend. I started fiddling around with it and it became this cool new way of looking at music. I wrote a few of the songs off this new album on that bass and transferred it to guitar. Just playing with power chords and slowing things down, developing less complicated structures. Just taking it easy, and focusing on melody and story.”
“I think that’s kind of where we were all at. Just growing up, and chilling things out. And once Dean joined the band, his style of bass playing was pretty relaxed, and we were into it. We still have some heavy songs that Geoff wrote, and I don’t think we’ll ever not be a heavier band, but things are less rushed now. I think I was kind of hiding behind speed before because I wasn’t very good at my instrument. Playing really super fast felt easier and less scary. Now that I’ve developed as a guitarist, and we’ve grown tighter as a band, we can take a step back and just like..go slower. It’s funny, cause we’re still pretty fast, just not as insane as we used to be.
Nightshades channel the fuzzy sounds of 90’s alternative bands such as The Breeders and Sonic Youth, bringing with them punchy and distorted tracks that draw listeners in. Any fans of Kim Deal-era Pixies will surely fall effortlessly into Nightshades as their new self-titled album maintains a fun and upbeat aesthetic throughout, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. However, the songs seem more carefully crafted and it’s obvious that the band took time to put this one together.
Another thing that doesn’t take itself to seriously is the video for “Double Vision.” Directed by filmmaker Rob Bennett, the concept sees Giles going on some terrible first dates which take psychedelic turns.
“On those dates I would see like figments of my imagination like masked unicorns and masked characters and they would try trip me out while I was out with these guys,” Giles says. “IOn the day of the shoot, we were sticking to the plan, but we ended up having fun and trying different shots of us dancing and stuff, and me lip synching… It turned into this whole other thing that we all found really fun, funny, and great. It feels like a real rock n’ roll music video now. Not too serious. Not too much sense made. The original concept was actually pretty dark. I think it’d be cool to write a play or a short out of it one day.”
“Working with Rob was easy. He had killer gear, was a total pro, and had some really great on-the-fly ideas too. Rob is a musical mastermind in his own right and knows a ton about rock n’ roll. So making a rock video with him was effortless.”
Nightshades are set to released their new album on cassette this Saturday at The Rainbow, along with Montreal art punks Smokes, Ottawa heavy-hitters Bonnie Doon, and up-and-comers Slow Dawn. Tickets are $7 and doors at 9 pm, 19+ only. Check out the new video for “Double Vision” below, and stream to the new album online here.
Mirror Mountain Film Festival is taking place December 1-3 at Arts Court and brings the best in independent and alternative cinema to Canada’s capital. Mirror Mountain is an inclusive festival that welcomes all types of films and all types of people to share in the collective cinema experience. In addition to film screenings, the festival features live performances, parties, panel discussions, Q&A sessions and more.
Showbox will be co-presenting two events throughout the festival, which you can read more about below. Tickets $5 / Passes $20 are available for pre-order here. Check out the full festival schedule on the Mirror Mountain website. Find out more below.
We’re giving you the chance to experience something new and exciting at Mirror Mountain, and one lucky winner will get two passes. Simply fill out the contest form below. The draw will happen on Wednesday, November 29th at noon. The winner will be contacted via the email address provided. Good luck!
Ottawa musicians Merganzer and Montreal media artist Sonya Stefan present Passé Composé, a collaborative live performance based on the theme of transformation.
Stefan creates dynamic live images from a combination of damaged film footage and video feedback. Performing with disintegrating equipment of all kinds, from broken video mixers, to scratched and worn celluloid film strips, to glitched television screens, Stefan transforms, manipulates and overlaps projections in real time, creating a truly unforgettable experience. She will be joined for part of the performance by fellow Montreal media artist Emma Roufs.
Merganzeris the project of violinist Mika Posen, combining instrumental soundscapes, ambient textures and melodic interludes. Posen’s expressive compositions take the listener on a dream-like sonic journey. She will be accompanied on stage by percussionist Pascal Delaquis (Little Scream, Claude Munson). They will be using electronic effects to transform the violin and drums into a unique palette of polyphonic sounds inspired by Stefan’s images.
Join for a party in our festival lounge featuring a special set by Ottawa dream-pop quartet Sparklesaurus. Their sound pairs the emotional rawness of garage rock with the lush glitter-infused tonalities of glam, set in a landscape of scaling synths, swirling guitar tones, colourful harmonies, and a stoney rhythm section. Its members are Felicity DeCarle, Colleen Jones, Shamisa Schroeder and Brad Lapensee.
The band may only be a couple years old, but Slack Bridges already feels like a well-seasoned veteran of the music scene here in Ottawa. Even though the band is fresh off the release of its debut full-length Joy of Joys, it has already sent shock waves throughout the capital.
This is what happens when musical masterminds from all corners of Ottawa’s music community come together to present something altogether original, breaking new ground by fusing hip hop, soul, and jazz fusion influences into tracks that burst at the seams with ear-pleasing tones. After only a few shows and the release of their first EP in 2016, Slack Bridges quickly caught the year of large-scale festival organizers as they got included on lineups at RBC Ottawa Bluesfest, TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, House of PainT, Ottawa Race Weekend. They also were the main attraction at last year’s independent festival called Bangers & Mash, a soul-focused weekend-long party co-organized by band member Garett Bass himself.
Slack Bridges performed at this year’s House of PainT Urban Art Fest this past August. Photo by Kelly Morrissey.
Joy of Joys is indeed a full album. It is a front-to-back trip that explores different soundscapes and textures, pleasing listeners with dance-inducing bangers like “In The Drought” as well as teasing us with down-tempo ballads such as “Smile.” Guitarist Chris Elms puts his dexterous guitar work on full display throughout the ten-track journey that is Joy of Joys, from providing grimy and emotive riffs that explode off the record in “Jungle” to sultry tones that seduce the listener deeper into tracks like “Apologies.”
Vocalist Matt Gilmour’s infectious deep vocal prowess is an undeniable x-factor in this band, and without detracting from the group’s talents, his voice and persona are front and centre on the record and the stage. You wouldn’t first think of him as a former member of bands in Ottawa’s punk and hardcore scenes, but his influences are many. His appreciation for R&B and hip hop rhythm come across immediately, and his unique vocal tones and style lend perfectly to the rest of the band’s impressive instrumental chemistry. Not to mention his subtle moves on stage give crowds even more to scream for (see video below—just wait for it).
All in all, Joy of Joys is the record Ottawa needs, wants, and will cherish. The band spent a lot of time and energy into crafting their identity, sound, and style—and it shows. It really feels as though they took a “why stop here?” approach to this record, and the seamless inclusion of brass parts from local visionaries Ed Lister and Julian Selody exemplifies the level of musicianship this band is operating at. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Be sure to pick up Joy of Joys on vinyl at local record shops around town now, which they recently released on November 11th at a sold-out show at The Rainbow. It is also available digitally here.
Watch their Shot in the Dark performance and stream Joy of Joys below.
On Thursday night, crowds escaped the damp, rainy Ottawa streets and piled into a dimly lit Bronson Centre to witness an evening of ambient, atmospheric music. Headliner Timber Timbre visited Ottawa for the fourth time in 6 years along with support from Ottawa’s own Boyhood Scattered Clouds.
Scattered Clouds took to the stage first, rising out of an ascending red fog. Performing as a 2-piece band with Jamie Kronick on drums and Philippe Charbonneau on guitar, keyboard, and vocals, this band was the most surprising act of the night. In terms of style, Scattered Clouds describe themselves as “dark, experimental, and post apocalyptic.” These characteristics could not be more fitting. Beginning their set with a heavy presence of baritone guitar and an emphasis on drums driving the synths, the band achieved a sound that could easily be equated to a modern day embodiment of a Joy Division b-side album, with an “Ian Curtis- esque” vocal tone. The second half of the set however, transitioned into an emphasis on synth and a precision in instrumentation. Creating an atmospheric 80’s dance vibe, the band achieved a type of lo-kfi sound that left the audience in a state of euphoria. Waking from this set with the harsh Bronson Centre lighting was like waking out of a heavy, romantic dream.
When the lights dimmed again, our good pals Boyhood took to the stage. Clad in flared pants and turtlenecks, Boyhood did not fail to deliver their staple moody, noisy sound. As always Caylie Runciman delivered raw and airy vocals that harmonized beautifully with her band, and provided an emotional and unpolished set completed with songs that morphed and melted into one another. Giving us a taste of what is to be expected from the upcoming album Bad Mantras, which will be the bands first album since 2012, the set featured the bands catchy “Drivin’” and “He Don’t.” Beginning with keyboard, Caylie swapped over to guitar midway through the set where she went to town in an emotional and raw guitar solo. It’s easy to get lost in a Boyhood set, and this was no exception.
Last but not least, Timber Timbre finished the night in almost total darkness, with only subtle lighting sweeping the stage. A glass of liquor sat idled on an amp to the right, Taylor Kirk began playing what seemed like it would be the entirety of his most recent work, Sincerely Future Pollution. However four songs in, the set took a detour towards an intermingling of a huge sample of his work, ranging from his self titled back in 2009 to his most recent. Detouring the set with Hot Dreams, the band’s instrumentation, and deep, sultry vocals, the song was delivered with a raw, sensual and emotional demeanour.
This specific Timber Timbre performance was unlike many others. His previous shows in Ottawa, which included a performance in Ottawa’s first Baptist Church in 2011, a set at Folk Fest in 2012, where he performed alone with a kick drum, and even his set at Jazz Fest in 2015, stuck pretty tightly to the delivery of the songs on the album. However, this set tended to use the style in the albums as backdrops for experimentation and improvisation with melody and pace during the performance, providing unequivocal authenticity. Most notable in this performance was the “Curtains?!” jam session that lengthened the song by about two extra minutes with intense instrumentation. The night ended with a 3-part encore beginning with “Grand Canyon,” that delivered an expressive and theatrical but emotive and raw finale.
This show captured a unique energy that seems to have been strengthened by the uniqueness of all the bands but also the ways in which they played off of one another. They each brought an atmospheric sound and seamless instrumentation, as well as a hard punch in the heartstrings with their raw vocals, lyrical movements, and honest and authentic delivery. The perfect ambiance to fit the creepy environment that is the Bronson Centre on a rainy evening, this show was not one to miss.