House of TARG, a timeless venue that brings all sorts of people together through pinball, perogies, and concerts, held one deafeningly loud and soulful show on the night of November 9th. The lineup held a promise that the show would be one that the audience wouldn’t forget, unless they were drunk off their asses—and it delivered.
Opening with a roar was Black Oak Decline and they didn’t fail to capture the attention of the crowd and drive a new energy that I hadn’t seen in the atmosphere before. With precise and quick scales and solo work for the guitar. It’s quick and hard to follow but if you just let yourself listen, you get swept up in the emotions the music drives. It’s numbingly loud and sure to leave your ears ringing for the next two and a half days, which is something I can vouch for.
The bass is sludgy and grimy. There is nothing, absolutely nothing clean about the sound of this band. The bass is played almost like a guitar in the sense that there’s a lot of scales and jumping around within the basslines. But it’s deep, you can feel it rumble in your chest, and shake the floor. It over-driven and powerful and holds structure all while being the least structured seeming part.
The drums embody heaviness to them and they’re cold and distant. They resonate with you the longer you listen to them. While they do follow the rhythm, they also tend to veer off and create a unique space for themselves, straying from the conventional path. The make the songs sound full and create an atmosphere to get lost in. There are moments where it seems that the drums lead because of their sheer force.
The vocals are ragged, almost torn, they’re strained to the max but in such a way that it’s not unpleasant to listen to. They leave you in awe. I don’t typically enjoy intense screaming of lyrics throughout songs entireties but this band has showcased how to properly execute it without being overbearing and without overwhelming the audience. Whether it’s the stylings of the screaming itself or how it blends into the rest of the music, I can’t say. All I can say is that raw emotion is thrust into every single note played and sung. It’s something the band clearly enjoys doing and their presence is well known once they step on stage. It’s not overwhelming or in your face, but the band isn’t afraid to get up in it.
The second act was Pyrrhon who blew the crowd out of the water. The sheer energy presented found a way to take over the room completely. They find a way to take death metal and turn it into an artwork that entrances you and leaves you wanting more after they’ve finished up their set. The movement across the stage, seeming minimal on House of TARG’s stage, was very forward and the body language emits intense emotion.
The drumming is aggressive, almost confrontational. It leaves you in absolute awe and lets you feel the intense emotion that may course through the band. It’s almost in disorder and sounds rather distressed but it’s certainly not at a tempo that just everyone can keep up with. Perfect for head banging, the beat slows down and speeds up, keeping it interesting and allowing those listening to really get a feeling for the bands style. The beats come off in quick succession one after another most time and it’s common to hear rolls on the snare drum.
Dylan’s guitar playing is dissonant and angry. The distorted and overdriven sound was a staple for this band. With controlled feedback to add to the messy sound, it really grabbed your attention and ripped you right out of any preconceived notions on what the band would sound like live. With heavy power chords and added tremolo it brought the guitar parts to life and almost embodied them as something otherworldly. It breaks order and creates a balanced chaos with the drums and vocals.
Doug the vocalist pours every ounce of his being into what he’s screaming and it shows. With the way he moves around to how he controls his screaming, it fall absolutely nothing short of impressive. High and low notes interlace and destroy every preconceived notion of what harmonies should be. His vocals are not meant for the background, they deserve the fullest and uttermost attention due to the sheer heavy and weighted vibe it gives off.
The bass is a distorted, disorganised mess that somehow ends up being unified with everything else. It’s assertive and demanding but doesn’t let down in the least. This component, tied in with the drums are what rattle the core and entrance you, leaving you wanting to hear more. The scales played are not simple but they’re played with such an air that it’s made to look almost effortless.
Next up was a band by the name of Yautja who originate from Nashville, Tennessee. Their sound dissonant in terms of instruments however when it comes to vocals, prepare to be swayed by the cloudy heaviness that they possess.
The guitar providing intensive and strong power chords that are part of a masterpiece of its own. No sound goes without purpose. Pushing boundaries with the much lighter contrast that the guitar provides to the vocals while maintaining a heavy presence impressed me to no end and will continue to beckon attention. It keeps you on your toes and doesn’t let the stressed feeling go all while holding its own unconventional structure. The guitar vibes with a whole different frequency and it sticks out.
The vocals take a drastically different turn. Deep, in your face, and raspy. The lead singers aren’t afraid to strain any vocal cords, or to scream their hearts out to the crowd that’s more than willing to listen to the beautifully constructed chaos. The songs are held together, it seems, by a thread. In this case it would be the vocals, placed in just the right places. Any sense of convention is otherwise completely obliterated.
Tremolo effects rang through the bassline without hinting at any ounce of mercy. It hits you in the face forcefully without even laying a finger on you. A strong prominent bassline is a good bassline to me, and even better the sloppier and more pronounced it is. It’s nothing short of impressive and captivating. It’s hard to follow so you just let yourself embrace it and listen. It rattled the floor, and there wasn’t part of me that could deny it. I wholeheartedly believed that being so close to the bassist along with amps and speakers would give me arrhythmia. The bass folds into each song, crashing into the guitars like a wave during a brutal storm.
The literal crashing is brought by the drums and creates the effect of everything nearly falling apart. It’s everything that you want to hear from the drums when immersing yourself in metal. Heavy hits falling onto the snares and toms, relentless crashing of the cymbals, and pure energy radiating off the drummer, it’s hard to ignore. While the drums intertwining with the guitar and bass parts makes the whole thing sound as if it’s imploding on itself, it holds it’s backbone and creates something the bassline can lean on without overpowering it.
Inspiration ripped from Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden, Montreal’s own The Great Sabatini took the stage and created a loud and fitting end to the high energy night. They incorporate different genres and roll it into what can only be described as a sludgy doom metal. With aspects of what’s considered a musical canon and heavier gauge strings for the guitars and bass, energetic, aggressive but warm drumming, and the riotous screaming, the members create a sound that while containing sporadic elements, is so solidly unified that it’s impossible not to listen to.
The guitar parts which are played by Rob and Sean challenge and push boundaries, and with their new material, which is yet to be released, you hear the distinct tones overlapping in a confusion of sound that one tries to make sense of. It pushes your ear and begs you to deconstruct it because it’s so masterfully done. The soloing that Rob brings forth is some of the work I admire most. It’s skillful, distraught and slurred together, full of life and soulful aggression. Keeping up with him is a task but he puts every ounce of his being into it. He pours his heart into it and you can tell that with every note he plays is his pride and joy.
People always say that there’s a sparkle in someone’s eye when they’re doing something they love, and that passion was definitely behind Rob’s eyes.
Sean pours his soul into his screams and he gives it his all. It doesn’t go unnoticed, and besides his riffs and enraged power chords, this is what gets the crowd going. He jumps right to it—cut the bullshit, this is what it’s about. The progression of the higher notes keeps the crowd on their toes and the contrast provided by Rob brings them back down. Personally, and this comes as a great shock believe me, I would pick seeing The Great Sabatini over Metallica in a heartbeat. It’s progressive, gritty, and grimy.
The drumming Steve provides is one that that leaves you with very high expectations for other drummers. He’s outstanding with incredible control over the sound he wishes to produce. Sometimes warm, other times cold, loud or toned down, he has total control. His drumming has character, almost alive in its own way and everything you thought you knew be damned. It was deafening and powerful, enforcing the message behind every song. It will not only blow your mind but also your eardrums. It’s just the right amount of hysterical and yet its incomparable to any other drummer I’ve seen or heard.
Joey might as well have bumped the bass up to an 11 because it’s dominating and rips your attention towards it whether it’s isolated or incorporated into the self-imploding sludge. The fact that it’s frenzied in most songs is what sets the tone and it truly adds depth to the performance. Beautifully channeled and timed, the bassline could do no wrong. It pushed and it pulled creating an individual soundscape that would be thoughtfully incorporated into the overall experience the band created as a whole.
If you asked me to come see a legendary band with you on a night where the four bands I spoke of were performing, I’d have to object. Shocked? So am I but they fall absolutely nothing short of talented and driven with a sound that will leave your ears ringing for days to come. They’re all deeply underappreciated bands that created vivid soundscapes that you’ll find yourself immersed in once you give them a listen.
When you see the familiar name on a concert poster stapled or taped to a street sign, take note when and where these bands are performing because I guarantee that you’re not going to regret it in the least bit. Your ears might object to it the next morning (and in the long run), but in the moment you’ll be wanting to hear more. There will always be Bandcamp, but trust me, no justice will be done to these wonderful bands. Their shows are a must.
Ottawa’s Saint Clare recently released their first music video and it is a ghastly venture to the beat of the lead single “Closer to the Devil” off of their upcoming EPIII.
The video begins beneath the full moon with the brass ensemble setting the stage for the dancing good time that is a Saint Clare song. As the vocals and other instruments join in, the song takes a sombre turn as the darkness works its way in… getting closer to Beelzebub.
The video flows between the band rocking out in an empty room beneath the hew of purple lights to scenes of lead singer and guitarist Matt Saint Clare being chased by a solemn veiled figure in the woods, somewhat similar to the Blair Witch Project. After a face melting solo brings Saint Clare to his knees wrapping up the song, the video pans back to the wood where he finds himself trapped face to face with the figure, only to find out he has been running from himself.
You can watch the video below and catch Saint Clare this Saturday at the House of TARG on the second day of the super groovy and awesome Surf and Turf Festival.
Mirror Mountain Film Festival is the newest addition to Ottawa’s expanding indie festival landscape, and contains an exciting schedule of events for the people of Ottawa to enjoy. The festivities will take place December 1-3 at Arts Court Theatre, bringing together the creative minds of filmmakers from across the world. In addition to film screenings, parties, panel discussions, and Q&A sessions, Mirror Mountain is teaming up with Showbox as a co-presenter for this year’s live music programming. The live portion will combine two key aspects – a live music performance and a film/media art performance that will run concurrently.
We’ll 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.
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.
In the world of live music, there are a number of ways in which artists, promoters, and venues can agree to put on a show. For a lot of independent musicians, these deals can seem mysterious and perplexing. These deals can range from very reasonable to overtly exploitative, and the exploitative ones are bad. I mean, really bad.
There are various ways in which a performance deal can be shady and keep money out the of artist’s pocket, but there are a few that I’ll talk about here which are particularly unethical. In the lexicon of the music industry, artists and concert-goers should be wary of the terms “competition” and “showcase.” These are terms that are often used to cover up a pay-to-play scheme—or should I say, scam.
Here’s how they generally work: An organizer creates a showcase festival and says its mission is to promote and support bands. I use the term “bands” because they are usually the targets, although this can also apply to solo artists. Often targeted towards naïve and younger groups, bands can submit their application to play one of several short time slots throughout the event.
In essence, it is a popularity contest where the band that sells the most tickets usually brings out the biggest, most voracious crowd and scores major points with judges.
Sometimes the application even costs money, without any guarantee of a performance or mention whatsoever. Successful applicants are forced to sell as many tickets as possible and are given a short time slot to perform—again, without any guarantee of money. The applicants who sell the most tickets are typically offered some sort of prize. There is usually some promise of leveraging oneself in the industry, or “fast lane to fame” by skipping over the hurdles that prevent artists from hitting it big.
In Ottawa, there are two examples that I would like to examine. First, Landmark Showcase Festival (LME) is a scheme which most local musicians are familiar with, mostly because the organizers encourage bands to apply by email-spamming them on a regular basis. LME takes a handful of submissions and doles out tickets for bands to sell, usually to their dedicated fanbase, family, and friends.
However, the 15 acts playing the event may have nothing in common with one another musically, and industry judges choose the top performers who get selected to win “grants” in the final round. The criteria includes tightness and professionalism, stage presence and performance, originality/creativity, songwriting/structure, and crowd engagement and reaction. There is no criteria for diversity or inclusivity, so the lineup could conceivably consist of 15 bands made up of straight white guys with goatees and bad nose piercings. This is problematic on many levels.
In essence, it is a popularity contest where the band that sells the most tickets usually brings out the biggest, most voracious crowd and scores major points with judges. While runners-up aren’t given any sort of financial award for their efforts, they are allowed to talk to the industry professionals afterward and attempt to give themselves a “leg up” or “in.”
In the case of E.L.E. Festival, which was hosted by the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa in September, the organizers circulated an email to applicants which explicitly stated that the act with the top ticket sales would win the grand prize of $500. Second and third place were to also get a smaller prize, but the next 10 runners-up were only allotted a 15-minute time slot to perform. That’s it. No money, no prizes, nothing.
The festival is “designed to be a stepping stone event between bar gigs and some of the city’s larger festivals like Bluesfest, CityFolk, and Escapade.” In fairness, when it started a few years ago, the lineups were curated more fairly and it was run independently with some money going to charity. However, in its current form, it is difficult to see how larger festivals or promoters could take E.L.E. applicants seriously when its entire local lineup is based on ticket sales and not vetted by quality of music. Ultimately, E.L.E. scrapped the pay-to-play idea last minute after a harsh backlash from the music community in Ottawa.
Any deal that doesn’t guarantee performing bands some set monetary fee or percentage split of the door is unethical, exploitative, and toxic to a music community.
In both of these cases, all applicants are put to work in order to sell as many tickets as possible, yet only the top few receive a cash prize. Moreover, both events promised the runners up a chance to leverage themselves in the industry, gaining “exposure” with industry professionals larger festivals. The last time I checked, there is no official currency called “exposure,” because that isn’t a real thing.
Having bands sell tickets under the guise of “self promotion” without any guarantee of payment or returns is fundamentally unethical. This is exploiting their labour solely in the interest of driving revenue for the organizers, sometimes without a guarantee that the applicant will even be allowed to perform, let alone get paid for their work.
“Pay-to-play” doesn’t necessarily mean bands must literally pay money to have a shot at playing on stage (although forcing bands to fork out cash to apply is the absolute worst—e.g. Sonicbids). It can also mean they pay with their time and effort by being forced to sell as many tickets as possible for an obscure chance to finish at the top for some prize. Bands put a lot of effort into their music. It takes time and money to write songs, buy instruments, rent studio time, record albums, and make merchandise. Any deal that doesn’t guarantee performing bands some set monetary fee or percentage split of the door is unethical, exploitative, and toxic to a music community.
It is my belief that the best way to “make it” in the industry (for lack of a better term) is to come up through the local scene, focus on being part of the community, work hard, and pay your dues. That includes supporting other bands, meeting the people in the community who actually give a shit about music, and most importantly, about musicians. These good folks often include small venue owners and bookers, independent show promoters, community radio station personalities, record store employees, music journalists, and, of course, musicians themselves. These people are usually in the game for the same reason—because they care, and music is their life’s passion.
This article appears in the October edition of Ottawa Beat newsprint in the OSBX column.
With co-founder Kwende Kefentse leaving Ottawa, the 12-year-old dance party expands and contracts
Emerging in 2005 from the basement of Eri café, the first thing I heard about this party is that it was one of Ottawa’s “hottest” dance parties—by which I mean the temperature in that room was very warm. The ventilation wasn’t great, dancing made you sweat more than you typically would in a public space—physically, it might not have been comfortable. Despite this, my friends would recount their evenings with glowing smiles. Clearly, the DJ collective founded by DJ Zattar were onto something.
“For over a decade, we’ve been providing a space to consume culture that’s fresh and new and pluralistic and that’s part of a larger collective,” says Kwende ‘Memetic’ Kefentse. “We feel that it’s essential and it exists in a lot of modern cities—at least, a lot of the places that I want to be.”
On August 25, one guest, Martin, told me about his memories. “I first went to Timekode at the Eri café, in the early 2000s when I was new to this city. Sometimes I went for the pool, but mostly for the hip-hop. They were good parties.”
Timekode celebrated an ending of sorts on August 25, where they took their party to a boat along the Outauoais River. Half of this dynamic duo is about to embark on the next part of his journey, bringing him to London, England to study architecture.
In some ways there is a sense of loss—once again, someone who works to make this city a more vibrant place has moved to a bigger city. Yet, the impact of someone like DJ Memetic is is such that it can continue without him being here. He, along with DJ Zattar and Timekode’s many guest DJs over the years, have helped to create the conditions where culture can develop.
The story I want to write isn’t about someone moving away. This may be a retrospective look at a cultural institution, but it isn’t an ending. Running into Kwende at House of PainT, I ask earnestly, “So is Timekode finished?”
He comfortably replies, “You could say that we’re expanding. We’re planning a guest DJ [in Ottawa] next month, and we’ll have events in London [England].”
One guest to Timekode on August 25 said “a monthly dance party is about the right speed for Ottawa.” It’s true. This city is well-educated, highly engaged, and diverse. We are a small city—there are familiar faces pretty much wherever you go out. Many of our residents tend to look for patterns, and find comfort in the option of a routine,whether or not we choose to follow them. Our sister, Gatineau, is less predictable, at times rougher around the edges. She’s fun; it’s nice to have her around.
It’s interesting how a collective experience in appreciating music will bring people closer to each other, and closer to the city. One of the guests on August 25, Tariq, said “Timekode was always my faith in Ottawa. When Ottawa failed to step up, Timekode was always there.”
He told me more about how he heard about the party, first attending about 12 years ago. “It was upstairs from a bumpin’ party at the time called Disorganized. Upstairs was Zattar. It wasn’t crowded or anything, it was just awesome. After that, Zattar wanted to do his own party, which turned into Timekode.”
They’ve had a number of homes over the years, from Eri Café to Makerspace North to D’Afrique. Still, some things have remained the same. Guests at the August 25 party communicated a sense of appreciation for the open atmosphere that had been created over the years.
Another dedicated fan said “I started going four years ago. They were some of the most accepting, easygoing parties you’ve ever been to. It wasn’t a party dedicated to one group—it wasn’t a hipster party, or a raver party, it was just an everyone party.”
Creating this atmosphere was intentional.
“Part of it is about the space, part about the music, part is about the process of mixing,” said DJ Memetic. “Pluralisms, bringing people together from different places, sounds, and communities. In way that forms something unique, if just for an evening. There is value in that process, no matter where you go.”
DJ Zattar plans on keeping the TK tradition alive. (Photo: Facebook)
A good DJ is able to provide “edutainment,” as the Mercury Lounge’s resident DJ Trevor Walker once told me, citing KRS-One. Walker has been a recurring guest at Timekode, and these groups have a shared ability to both educate and entertain their guests. Certainly, in experiencing music we tap into a sense of community. There’s beauty in having multiple generations in a room together, enjoying the same music.
“I am keeping Timekode going here every third Friday like the last 12 years,” assured DJ Zattar. I’ll be presenting more guests both local and out of town. I’m also doing live TK webcasts every month or so from Record Centre and a new location to be announced shortly”
Ottawa is changing. As a city, we are growing and developing something entirely unique. As individuals interacting in this space, we have a chance to leave each other better than when we met. It would be a great honour to know that you made an impact on a city, but in this case the evidence is clear. Kwende Kefentse left Ottawa better and for that we have one thing to say—thank you.
Be sure to check out Timekode’s 12-year anniversary party at D’Afrique on November 17. This article appears in the September edition of Ottawa Beat newsprint in the OSBX column. More information here.
We’re gearing up for the first-ever event of our Showbox Concert Series on Saturday, October 28th, and we’re giving away some free stuff! The show will take place at the incredible St. Alban’s Church, which offers stunning acoustics and an intimate atmosphere for concertgoers.
Headlining the evening will be Claude Munson, making a rare and intimate appearance with his full band. Acclaimed Montreal/Ottawa outfit Little Suns are also gracing the stage, and will be taking this opportunity to officially release their latest album ‘Zero’ digitally. An offshoot of Ottawa’s art-rock collective Pony Girl called mal/aimé will be performing their experimental chamber sounds to kick off the evening.
Advanced online tickets are $13, and can be found here. Physical tickets will be available at the venue on the night of the show for $15. We hope that you’ll join us to celebrate this new addition to the Ottawa music landscape!
We’re giving away two pairs of tickets and a CD/t-shirt from Little Suns leading up to the event on October 28th, so be sure to enter! The draw will happen on Wednesday, October 25 at noon.
Simply answer the question below:
Q: Little Suns’ frontman John Aaron Cockburn is the nephew and on-stage touring support for which famous Canadian musician?
Some things never change. Walking down Bronson Avenue among the early fall aromas of Pizza Pizza dough and gasoline, I felt unstuck in time. It felt like a scene from a movie about my life circa 2007: a young man makes his way to a New Pornographers show at the Bronson Centre. Oh, and Born Ruffians are playing.
Okay, so maybe some things change. Ten years makes an impact, and the city, the music scene, and everyone involved have changed quite a bit. In theory, the New Pornographers have roughly same lineup they did when “Use It” was pretty much everywhere, but Dan Bejar and Neko Case were notably absent Thursday night. Dan is busy with Destroyer and Neko is occupied with her solo career. Todd Fancey and Kathryn Calder were their backups, and while they were fantastic replacements, there is something slightly off about the band when two of its most prominent members are absent.
Yet Carl Newman’s presence was enough to make all absences irrelevant. Two decades in a touring band will hone one’s talents, and Newman has become one with the stage. He clearly knows the material, and he still brings a tonne of energy to older songs, of which the lengthy set list contained many.
The band played a tight, breathless set comprising most of their well known songs, with the exception of any sung by Bejar (some things cannot be replaced). Their triumphant closer was The Bleeding Heart Show off 2005’s Twin Cinema, a masterpiece of Canadian indie rock that starts slow and builds to a soaringly high energy finale. Doubtless, they know their audience, and the room went absolutely crazy for it. That is, they went crazy for the parts they could make out over the refractive wall of sound issuing from the stage.
Because, here’s the thing: the Bronson Centre is nice and all, but the acoustics are pretty awful. It’s a square room with nothing on the ceiling and bare, reflective walls. The sound bounces around in there like Flubber, and with a band like The New Pornographers that can really be a problem. There were seven people on stage, with violins, keyboards, guitars and drums all clattering together. Now try adding vocals to that mud, and you’ll see why a melodically-focused band might be better off in a different venue.
However, since Bronson Centre is about the only venue in the city with the right size for the band, we may be stuck with it.
Luckily for Born Ruffians, they had only three members on stage. The band was a good fit as an opener because, besides having risen to fame at roughly the same time, their music is written in service of its vocals. Both Carl Newman and Luke Lalonde put on excellent performances, even if their vocals were largely indiscernible. Born Ruffians even debuted a couple of new songs from their upcoming record, which seemed like a step in a distinctly more dancy-punk direction.
While both of these bands have been around for some time, the fans were going just as crazy for their new stuff as their old stuff. The future is as bright as the past for them.