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.
Intro by Matías Muñoz | Interview by Eric Scharf | Photo by Colin Medley
Shedding the past and moving forward from the confines associated with youth, heartbreak, and growing up in a small town is no easy feat. The Lonely Parade have boldly taken a stab at reconciling some difficult experiences and major life changes they’ve experienced as individuals, and as a band. They’ve also relocated from Peterborough to Montreal, which is a big step for the group.
The band has always had a knack for delivering the goods through their music. If you’ve ever stood at the front of a Lonely Parade show, you’d get an idea of how tight this band is. They rip. They always have. Their chemistry is obvious, and their songwriting abilities are jaw-dropping. Eric and I have seen them many times over the years, and every time we leave the show thinking “the world needs more of this shit.”
Their latest LP The Pits is out today (Sept 14) on Buzz Records, and it’s a culmination of years of hard work making music, and a way to deal with some difficult experiences and a toxic social scenario. The album is everything fans of The Lonely Parade would want, and more. It’s honed, and their brand of frenetic post-punk explodes from the seams. It’s full of crunch, angular riffs, writhing bass lines, percussive onslaughts, and profound lyrical depth rooted in real life experiences. Fans of groups like The Pixies, Hooded Fang, Ty Segall, and Jay Reatard are sure to fall in love with The Pits.
They’ll be playing their Ottawa LP release at Black Squirrel this Saturday, September 15th with BBQT and Sad Baxter. More info here.
Eric had a chat with drummer Ani Climenhage about the new record and where they are at now.
Interview with Ani Climenhage
I have been into your band since my friend first sent me a clip of “My Mom Got Hit on at a Punk Show” years ago. Could you tell me about how that song and the band came to be?
That song is the product of starting a band and writing songs when we were just barely out of middle school. Back then we wrote songs together and they were usually more on the joke-y side or were so angsty we have to laugh at them now. The three of us have known each other since early elementary school. Starting a band just felt like a natural thing to do.
What was it like playing in a band at such a young age?
We were fortunate enough to have had an incredible all ages venue in our hometown called The Spill. It offered many artists who were just starting out a supportive space to perform to an audience. When we started playing shows in other cities, we quickly learned that not all bars and venues were as accommodating or welcoming to musicians under the legal drinking age. We had to deal with a couple years of being harassed by show promoters and getting kicked out of venues before we all turned nineteen. And now Charlotte and I get to do it all again as minors in the USA! Yee haw! All ages/inclusive music and arts spaces are so important.
How was your recent tour in the USA with T-Rextasy? Any fun stories to share?
They put on a good and weirdo show all the nights we saw them! And some friends of T-Rextasy took us to a Harvard business-boy party in Boston on our last night of tour.
You have already shared the stage with many awesome bands over the past 6 years. Which have been the most influential and or important to the band’s growth?
So many bands! In Peterborough we took influence from the bands we often collaborated with like Stacey Green Jumps, Prime Junk, Nick Ferrio, and Hello Babies. Plus artists we have met through touring like Wares (from Edmonton), Power Buddies (Edmonton), Best Fiends (Halifax). and Crossed Wires (Halifax). We have been lucky enough to share bills with bands we admire after years of enjoying their music (TV Freaks, Weaves, Fake Palms, Fet.Nat, Casper Skulls, etc.) That was a big plug but it’s hard to narrow it down!
Switching gears a little bit, you are touring a new album called The Pits. What is new with this release? And can you please tell me a bit about the themes and how it all came together?
It feels like we are finally coming into “our sound” with this new record. The songs formed a bit more naturally and we tried to write them with more of an intent to be played live. The year leading up to the recording ofThe Pits was a rocky one. Bad relationships, messy endings, and a depressing winter helped us decide that maybe we’d outgrown our hometown in some ways. We’ve gone back to our angsty teen roots but the lyrics are very personal to Charlotte and Augusta and feel a bit more nuanced.
What is your favorite thing about playing in Ottawa?
Sad to see OXW go!! R.I.P. But we’ve always played fun shows in Ottawa. We have always appreciated how age inclusive the Ottawa music scene is. Also there’s lots of good food in Ottawa so we eat well before any show.
What should people expect when you roll into town on September 15? Anything else you would like Ottawa Showbox readers to know?
The three of us haven’t seen each other in a little while because we’ve been so all over the place this summer so this weekend is not only an album release but also a reunion. We’re starting fresh this fall to tour The Pits and we’re nervous and excited to go all in. We are really proud of the new record and excited to share it.
Last weekend was stacked with good shows. No matter what I chose to do there was an equally solid show happening elsewhere. One of the options was Mushy Gushy, No Aloha, and Casa Lagarto at Black Squirrel—and there are no regrets.
The night started off with friends hugging and smiles abound. It’s always nice to see a lineup where the bands know each other or have worked together in the past. The weather was warm and soggy, but the sky was clear and folks began to trickle in as local garage-psyche marvels Casa Lagarto took the stage.
Casa Lagarto is a mashup of well-seasoned artists in the community, including Jonny Yuma (formerly of The Yips), Arturo Portocarrero (Lost To The River), Grant McNeil (Tropical Country), Jason Barkhouse (Black Lab Studios), and Jonathan Pearce (Winchester Warm/Mushy Gushy) filling in for Travis Kinnear who just recently celebrated the birth of his first daughter. Their set was tight and their arrangements came through crisply into our ears.
Casa Lagarto at Black Squirrel. Photo by Matías Muñoz.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—Casa Lagarto’s music could be the soundtrack to a Hunter S. Thompson novel. I mean that in the best way possible. I feel like their music would fit perfectly into an acid trip on a desert highway in Nevada somewhere. Casa’s sound is clearly influenced by psych and rockabilly, taking elements from various styles and making them their own. Johnny Yuma’s low, brooding vocals enthralled the audience and his exquisite clean guitar tone could give you goosebumps. Jon Pearce filled in perfectly, and somehow knew the songs like the back of his hand. Some key tracks they played were “Lights Out” and “Scarecrow,” and I highly recommend you go dive deep into Casa’s albums on Bandcamp. The group layered their sound well in the live setting, using the intimacy of the bookstore to enhance their individual instruments to create a warm and rich atmosphere for us all to enjoy the show.
Next on deck was No Aloha, a summer-friendly garage rock group from Montreal that has some loving fans here in Ottawa. As an aside, we presented No Aloha at Mugshots back in 2015 along with Bonnie Doon and Nightshades and it still remains one of the funnest shows we’ve ever done to date. They are fresh off the release of their new EP Cigarettes for Optimists and rocked the house at Black Squirrel.
No Aloha at Black Squirrel. Photo by Matías Muñoz.
This group may seem like a bunch of slacker rock dudes, with their long hair and rarely-groomed faces. However, they’re anything but. This band is well-rehearsed and have a chemistry that is instantly noticeable when they hit the stage and start playing together. With flying guitar riffs, impactful percussion, and Ben Griffiths’ smooth vocals, this group injected some energy into the room. They dug into their impressive catalogue from the past few years throughout the set and pleased the audience and got some bodies moving. Black Squirrel is a versatile venue for all kinds of shows, and the place was perfect for the diverse sounds of this lineup. Lets hope these dudes come back to Ottawa soon, because they’re a party.
Last up was Mushy Gushy, an Ottawa “butt-rock” band that takes a fun spin on rock and roll. While it’s hard to imagine these guys ever not having fun, this night was bittersweet. Kyle Woods, the original drummer and founding member of the band has recently moved to Toronto and got a job there (congrats to him!). But the show must go on. Thus, this show was to be his last as he moves on to new journeys. While this kind of mutual parting is difficult for friends and band mates, it was clear that the sweet outweighed the bitter. Kyle was radiating smiles and hugs, and obviously this was to be a memorable night for him and the band as they decidedly wanted to end his tenure with a bang.
Mushy Gushy consists of more music scene veterans here in Ottawa—bassist Jon Pearce (Winchester Warm), drummer Kyle Woods (fmr. Kalle Mattson), guitarist Cory Lefebvre (fmr. Baberaham Lincoln), and vocalist Dave Gervais (fmr. The Gallop). But more than anything, this group of buds just wants to have fun, and that is evident in their compositions. They don’t take themselves too seriously, and that’s refreshing.
Mushy Gushy at Black Squirrel. Photo by Matías Muñoz.
The ‘Gush have released two excellent EPs so far since coming together in 2016—Tight Snake and More Butter. I just can’t wait to hear what their third release will be called with titles like that. We presented their tape release party at Bar Robo a few years back, and let me tell you—it was a time. Kyle carried the whole set through, and he played the drums more fervent than ever. His rhythm was flawless and his beard was flying to-and-fro to the uptempo rock and roll his group performs. Cory’s fluttering guitar riffs flew over Jon’s steady bass lines as the tracks kept the crowd energized and engaged. They had the crowd singing the irresistible catchy “Oh Oh Ohs” in “Heartbreak Motel” and had booties shaking during “Summer Lusting.” Closer to the end of their set they played their most well-known jam, “Schemestress,” at which point the night hit its climax. The song is a feel-good summer tune, and the hook will grab you and hold on tight. David Gervais’ songwriting is on point, and his vocals add the finishing touch to their part pop, part-garage rock sound with just enough catchiness and grit to go around. All in all, it was a night of good vibes and good memories were made.
It was a packed bill Friday night at the House of Targ with Doc Hopper, Steve Adamyk Band, Audio Visceral, Laureate, and Matt Charette all gracing the stage.
Doc Hopper—the headliner for the evening—is a 90’s punk band from the North East US named after Doc Hopper, who was the owner of Doc Hopper’s French Fried Frog Legs chain of fast food restaurants in The Muppet Movie. As a bonus, Mikey Erg, of the Jersey pop punk legends The Ergs!, is currently playing with the band as they tour, which was quite anawesome surprise.
They played a solid fast hitting set of pop punk which took me back to my younger years of the late 90s when I was just discovering this style of music. Now, I never really listened to Doc Hopper other than a few songs on some mix CDs (remember those?!) but they had a sound that I was always very fond of. The song that really caught my ear and stuck with me was “She’s a Coke Head,” which is not the most uplifting of songs I know, but it was damn catchy. I also loved that the lead singer and guitarist gave a shout out to Punchbuggy, an infamous local punk band from the 90s, and asked if Scallen was at the show and then said “he is probably actually sleeping at this time, actually all our friends are old and tired.” There was a pretty excited group of folks who were moshing and dancing for much of the night. I don’t think they really knew any of the bands, but were just there for a good time. It was a lot of fun to see and definitely upped the energy in the room.
Steve Adamyk Band joined on stage by friends and former members during their set at the House of Targ in Ottawa.
The Steve Adamyk Band were on fire as always, bringing their local punk rock to the stage. The three-piece band opened with a new song which sounded great and they played another new song later in their set, which hopefully means we are getting new Adamyk on wax soon. Steve Adamyk is one of the most prolific punk rockers in the capital so you never really know what you’ll get as a set list, but on this night we got the aforementioned new songs, a bunch of tracks off his 2016 release Graceland, including favourites “Carry on” and “Swallow you whole,” as well as some deeper dives into the back catalogue. It was awesome to watch him play “I Fought for the U.S.A.” and have Dave Williams of Crusades and Black Tower, and former Adamyk band member Davey Quesnelle jump on stage to sing along. Adding to the moment was the fact that Davey was working at the time and was still sporting his perogie making apron. Good times were had by all for sure.
Audio Visceral dressed to chomp and rocking out at the House of Targ in Ottawa.
Steve Beauchesne, owner of Beau’s and guitarist of Audio Visceral, took to the stage sporting a sweet Pacman suit. Audio Visceral is made up of Steve and two other Beau’s employees. Yeah they make some of the country’s best beer and still find time to be in a pretty cool punk band. Some people have too much talent…but I digress. Once they finally got started (damn it Garry!) they powered through their first six songs without really taking a break, except maybe to have a sip of Lug Tread. They played a hilarious song called “I Suck” which doesn’t appear to exist online anywhere but the lyrics had me in stitches. Hopefully the fact that they are playing this new song and a few others means a second album is in the works. I know us fans will certainly drink it up…
Laureate playing at the House of Targ in Ottawa.
Pop-punk foursome, Laureate, from Montreal, were the first full band to play on this night. The band beautifully builds off of vocal harmonies between guitarist Giancarlo and bassist Erin, who essentially share the role of lead singer. This is complemented by some intricate guitar work by the other guitarist, who at times brought me back to the finger picking ways of screamo and heavier bands, particularly when they tap out the strings on the neck. It was fun to watch and he was really rocking out. The band’s set featured a minor setback when the bass started phasing in and out. Members of Steve Adamyk Band were quick to try to help, fiddling with the amp and providing a new patch chord. In the meantime Erin powered through, and what could have been a disaster really allowed us to focus on their impressive and really tight harmonies in the absence of the bass. This band needs to play Ottawa more often given that Montreal is not that far, and their sound really fits in with a lot of what is happening in this city. Check them out, especially their new record Landmarks and get ready to sing a long at their next show.
Matt Charette kicking things off Laureate playing at the House of Targ in Ottawa.
Opening things up was something completely different than the rest of the show. Matt Charette, a singer songwriter from Boston, played more folk and country than punk rock with his acoustic guitar and harmonica. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining as he has an awesome voice, is a great story teller, and certainly has some punk rock running through his veins given his lyrics and the Black Flag cover he chose to play. This was his second ever show in Canada, the first one being the night before in Toronto, and someone decided to play a trick on him and rewrite his setlist. The “custom” list included all covers by bands such as Nirvana, Metallica, The Cure, and Dead Kennedys. While he did play some covers, his original tracks were great. I especially liked “City Streets.” All in all, this night was chalk full of great bands and great times.
The Famines are a Montreal-based noise garage music duo made up of Raymond Biesinger (who also happens to be an incredible illustrator) and Drew Demers. But they are not just a band, the duo is also a “DIY-minded experimental record label thing” called Pentagon Black.
In early 2016 Pentagon Black released it’s first compilation containing 23 unreleased songs from bands from across the country as a 20×30″ double-sided newsprint art poster with download code. They had 17 compilation release shows including 30 bands at various locations across the country for it. In April 2017, they did it again with compilation number 2, once again on 20×30″ double-sided newsprint art poster with a download code.
Pentagon Black are back with another compilation, and while they stayed true to their other compilations, they changed it up a little. Pentagon Black Compilation No. 3 is a “phone comp.” It is named as such as 16 diverse bands between Edmonton and Saint John recorded original unreleased tracks live via phone (no multi tracking allowed). This time they went with a smaller format of a 6X6″ postcard with download code.
Eric took some time to discuss with drummer Drew Demers about being a band and being a record label, as well as the story behind the compilation and the inclusion of bands from Ottawa.
What inspired/motivated the two of you to not only be a band but be a label?
Drew Demers: After releasing music on vinyl for the better part of a decade, we realized that it was becoming increasingly difficult to manage/produce. Turn-around times don’t work in anyone’s favor. We were sitting on a recorded full length and didn’t want to have to wait an additional 4 or 5 months just to get a test pressing back. On top of that, the cost was just too great for us to be enthused about it anymore, so we decided that we would just produce things as cheaply and quickly as we could on our own.
Subsequently what pushed you to put out these trans-Canadian compilations?
Drew Demers: We had already released a single and a record on the newsprint poster format, the latter as Pentagon Black and the former in partnership with Psychic Handshake in Montreal. We were discussing what to do next, and the idea started as a split record with The Famines on one side, and then another band on the other. The problem was, we were at odds over whether it was going to be Century Palm or Kappa Chow. We played a show with a ton of pals at this crazy fest called Strangewaves outside of Hamilton.
The lineup included a ton of bands that ended up on the first compilation, and it was beautiful because there was hardly anybody at the show outside of band members. We all just got up and played for each other and there was this sense of communal spirit behind everything. It took us maybe one day to realize that we needed to make something bigger and connect more scenes together, and the first compilation was born out of that notion. BTW, the lineup for that show: Strange Attractor, The Famines, TV Freaks, Mick Futures, Century Palm, Kappa Chow, Lizzie Boredom, and Flesh Rag.
How did you select the bands and decide how you wanted the first two to sound?
Drew Demers: The first compilation was an amalgamation of friends we’d made on tour. There really weren’t that many artists we didn’t personally know on the thing. The second time around, we wanted to focus on hitting specific zones we hadn’t traveled to in a while, and so we enlisted some close friends to give us suggestions on who we should talk to that might be interested in a project such as ours. There are a small handful of people involved in the second compilation we’ve actually never met.
In terms of the sound that we were going for, we weren’t really trying to establish anything specific. We are a punk band, and so we typically play with like-sounding artists. There is an obvious tonal undercurrent that runs through all three of the compilations, but there are significant departures happening on each of them as well.
What makes this third compilation special?
Drew Demers: This third compilation is all about spirit. The songs are rough, in many cases unfinished, and in all cases under-produced. It’s exciting to think that sonically it’s an even playing-ground for each of the tracks. For the most part, it sounds like all the bands recorded in basically the same room with the same gear. It’s also special because it’s the first time we’ve outsourced the art side of things. Historically Raymond has taken care of the art side of Pentagon Black/The Famines, but this time we placed the project in the esteemed hands of Lisa Czech. We explained the project to her and she absolutely nailed the chaos with her cover art.
This has been our most inexpensive and rapid turnover for a compilation. The postcards cost basically nothing to print, and all of the bands recorded their tracks in a three week time frame. Also of note – this one was released not too long after our second compilation, and it came out as a surprise. We were originally planning on dropping it the day of our showcase at Ottawa Explosion, but instead we just decided to jump the gun because we felt like it this week, and a project like this allows us the freedom to do that.
I am excited to see Ottawa bands on all three comps, what drew you to the Ottawa bands you selected ?
Drew Demers: We have a ton of respect and admiration for The Yips, and knew that we couldn’t release our first comp without them involved. Bonnie Doon are officially Pentagon Black royalty. They were on the first two comps, and played both the compilation releases with us in Montreal. Deathsticks are actually fairly new acquaintances of ours, but we feel connected by the sisterhood of two piece bands. They were suggested to us via our pal Karol aka garbageface in Peterborough. We can’t wait to play with them and hang out with them in Ottawa next weekend!
If you track Raymond or myself down in person, we can become pen pals and send you a postcard.
If you’re a little more adventurous, you can head to a show in your town featuring any of the 48 bands we’ve worked with and ask them very kindly to dig one out for you.
What do The Famines and Pentagon Black have planned next?
Drew Demers: Famines have a couple things up our sleeves, including but not limited to writing material for a full length album to come out under Pentagon Black sometime in the next decade. Ottawa Explosion is actually the only show we have booked right now, and it’s exciting facing a blank canvas. As for Pentagon Black, we intend to keep things fast and easy. After releasing the PRIORS record, we realized that we’re open to the idea of putting out music for other bands and want to move forward with that in the future, however that will work.
May is always a nice time of year. The tulips start popping out, the trees start getting greener, and it becomes normal to slab some poutine onto your pizza slice. That’s right, May is POUZZA FEST month. In 2015 we took over Montreal and followed some Ottawa bands in a very, very DIY film called Ottawa Invades POUZZA FEST: A Documentary. If you were to watch that, you’d get just a glimpse of how POUZZA usually goes down.
This year, we couldn’t all make it to Montreal, but our photographer-extraordinaire Els Durnford did. Here’s a look at some of the incredible photos she took while diving into all the madness. Enjoy!
After a very, very last minute decision to go to a show, I was set to take on Pressed Café on the 13th of April. For those who have never been, Pressed Café is a small coffee house and bar on Gladstone Avenue. The venue is one of the smallest I’ve seen to this day and the room itself seems to be designed to fit maybe thirty people seated. This “full house” standard was once broken, but that is a different story for another time.
On the 13th, Pressed was not a full house, however, everyone left with hearts filled with something they’d come to the venue without. For me, it was pride and hope, and lungs filled with the smoke from the fog machine (yes, they did indeed have one).
Nightshades was the first to perform, and Mallory (guitar and vocals) even admitted that at practice the night before, everything sounded amazing. But when she went on that night, she felt like it just wasn’t as good. However, I beg to differ. Their sound, although described as garage punk, thrash, or grunge, is astoundingly similar to The Breeders, and Mallory’s voice is so much like Kim Deal’s that I was completely blown away. Her vocals sweet and melodic but with a little depth that you wouldn’t expect. She didn’t hold back at all, and laughed off not being able to quite remember the set list, joking around that it’s what professional bands do. The overall sound of the band, going past just describing it as The Breeders, is gritty. Accompanied by a strong baseline that caused the building to shake was a heavily distorted guitar and some really unique drumbeats.
If you came to see Nightshades for a heavy and overpowering guitar sound, you’ve come to the wrong place. Dean’s bassline is the focus, it’s aggressive but doesn’t make a big deal out of itself and when Geoff pounds the drums, it’s truly something else. It’s not like most drummers that I’ve seen that go at the drums like Grohl. This is something that came from the late 80’s and transitioned into the 90’s. Not quite the anger from the grunge movement but definitely holds a strong element of it. It’s so well put together and the fact that the band itself seemed so into what they were doing just created a more positive experience overall. A favourite of mine was by them is for sure a song called “London Bass” because the bassline is prominent but has a unique build with the guitar.
The next band to play was one by the name of Look Vibrant. They’re a band that seems to be a bit of noise rock with a psychedelic twist to it. Here’s a better visual for you. Remember back in the 70’s when kids would get high and listen to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon? This is a band that you would probably do the same thing with. They’re an incredibly unique band, and believe me when I say I’ve never heard anything like them. There are falsettos used in every song, but it feels just right in a strange way. With many keyboards, drums (with a broken crash symbol), and some synths, this band of five is impressive. How they fit these instruments that look like they shouldn’t be able to go together, I won’t understand, but they managed to do it all. The overall style of the band really caught my eye because they seem like what would either be considered hipster or very 80’s, but when they began, I was blown away by the harmonies and by how lost they got in the music. Not to mention how much they enjoyed performing for a small room despite the limited amount of space. Overall, the performance was one that drew you in either out of curiosity or because you genuinely enjoyed it. It was soothing and if you ever find yourself in a place where you might have a creative block or just need something to listen to while laying on your floor thinking about the rest of your life, by all means, find their Bandcamp and all of their EP’s. I especially recommend the song “Clouds” if you are going to do the aforementioned.
The last band,Smokes, was a band I found myself enjoying a lot more than I thought possible. With small moments between all the members and the way they threw themselves into it, it really set the tone of the show and created a positive atmosphere. Everyone felt like they were part of something. The genre was a strange one and verged on punk and rock, bordering it all but throwing in elements that you wouldn’t see in either. When I say that, I mean they managed to throw in a violin into the mix of guitars, and drums, changing the sound of it with many pedals, but nonetheless, it was incredibly impressive. When you learn that those few sounds that sound like a synth are in fact a violin, it blows your mind away completely and all notions of what a punk band needs to be are blown out of the water. These guys push the boundaries, and I mean that in a good way. They certainly make explorations with their music. Playing the bass more like a guitar, plucking at the violin strings, combining some guitar into that and an intricate drum beat that doesn’t remain the same throughout the entirety of every song, it was incredibly impressive to watch. They took absolutely every detail into consideration to make sure it sounded ideal. Not only that but the movements throughout the performance really proved for a more enjoyable show and challenged photography if you tried to get a shot of just one of the members. All in all, their distinct sound which faintly echoed that of Depeche Mode’s was truly money well spent. Their lyrics were insightful, especially in the song “Body Heat,” allowed emotional connections to the songs they performed.
After all the songs, save one, were performed, it was exactly 10:59 pm. People scattered and started to help dismantle the drum kit, and packed up equipment while others got a beer and handled the merch tables. During that time, I went and thanked the bands and talked to them a bit about their show (making sure they weren’t in conversation or too busy). It turns out Look Vibrant was thrown into an Ottawa show and they didn’t really realize it, but went with it anyway and drove back to Montreal for a show the very next day.
Pressed is an intimate venue where you can go up to people, start a conversation, and just simply connect with the bands, which is exactly what I did. Some engaged in conversation, others exchanged information and it was left at that but overall, everyone was incredibly friendly and pleased to have a conversation with you.
I strongly suggest you keep a lookout for these bands if you want your mind blown, your creativity to flow, and to hear a strange and artistic take on your favourite genres. Your experience will be a pleasant one, you can hold me to that, and if for some reason you don’t find yourself tapping your foot to at least one of the songs, a least you got out of your stuffy home.
A bad concert can be enjoyable. Like with a cheesy B-movie, there is pleasure to be found in watching a band bomb hard, as depressing as that is. In these scenarios, the audience might watch, entranced, as the band fumbles through their Kafkaesque set, seemingly unaware of the nature of the attention they are receiving.
But Islands last Tuesday at Ritual was not a bad show. Not by any means. Instead, it was a boring show, which is far, far worse for everyone involved. There is no fun to be had watching a band plod through a carefully thought out sequence of chords and rhythms, singing melodies and harmonies that they have rehearsed over and over and over. I’d take a truly terrible show over a boring one any day.
It would be one thing if this unusual for Islands, but I can tell you from experience that they have always been like this. The first time I saw them, nearly 10 years ago at Babylon, they were upstaged completely by a young Gregory Pepper, then a member of the Montreal band The Dymaxions. After a rock-god-inspired set from Pepper, Islands took the stage to play their brand of boredom-pop and put everyone to sleep.
And let me be clear: I like Islands. My history with the band, aside from live performances, is very positive. Return to the Sea is one of my all time favourite albums. I’ve been with them since The Unicorns, and the fact that they play uninspired shows affects my love of their work only slightly. But it also makes me really hesitant to recommend that anyone see their shows, because based on shows like this they are nothing at all to write home about.
It’s a shame because they are clearly talented and creative artists. Why they fail to inspire anything but the faintest of toe-tap, even in completely appropriate venues like Ritual, will never cease to befuddle me, and likely many of their fans.
What’s more is that Ritual’s show began with an energized and dynamic set from Lushlife, whose recent album is nothing short of brilliant. Watching Lushlife made me want to buy his merch. Watching Islands made me wonder why I was watching Islands, which is too bad. I want to like them live, I really do. They just don’t give me much of a reason to.
Perhaps part of the problem was that, on a Tuesday night in downtown Ottawa, it’s much easier to sell chicken wings and Keith’s than live music. The venue was only about a third of its capacity, and much emptier for Lushlife, the opener.
Whatever the reason, I think we can all safely say that Islands will never be known for their live performances. However, if you’re interested in seeing some very excellent musicians play largely flawlessly, if dispassionately, they aren’t a bad time. It depends on what you’re looking for, in the end.
In May of 2015, Eric and I had a crazy idea. We joked about going to Pouzza Fest – a Gainesville, Florida, The Fest-style music festival – and film all the Ottawa bands. We even went so far as to joke about making an actual documentary. We are by no means documentarians or filmmakers, but we do tell stories on this website, and that is something we are pretty passionate about. In that respect, we declared ourselves pseudo-raconteurs of the people and music in Ottawa, and that it wouldn’t be so far-fetched to actually make this thing happen. Well, folks – we did it.
After 4 days of filming and keeping on pace with the loud and late nights, we caught all the Ottawa acts slated to play Pouzza (except Crusades, who had to pull out for personal reasons). Those bands were Dead Weights, Jon Creeden & The Flying Hellfish, Fresh Hell, Jonathan Becker & The North Fields, Rich Chris, Sidelines, The Tenenbaums, and The Valveenus. We had more than our fair share of fun, and it was definitely an experience I’ll never forget. Plus – it’s Montreal. There’s something about the city that makes everyone who visits fall in love with it.
This documentary is by no means a masterpiece. In fact, technically it is a piece of shit. We recorded almost everything with our phones and learned video editing on the fly. After all, it’s a punk rock festival named after poutine on pizza, so I don’t think we’re competing for an Oscar anytime soon. Even though some of the video is a bit shaky and there is audio that you can’t hear at points, it was filmed and edited with care. After spending a lot of hours cutting and splicing the footage, we ended up with this product.
We want to give a huge thank you to the bands for being involved, and all the folks who helped make this project possible! It was like exploring uncharted waters for us, and all the friends who helped us learn new programs and teach us some tricks of the trade – we salute you.
This weekend I took at trip to Montreal to continue a mother-daughter concert tradition, and this beautiful city sure knows how to party. A year after their latest album release, Death Cab for Cutie co-headlined with Metric on the Lights on the Horizon tour, forming one of my ultimate dream teams.
The Centre Bell was not as packed as I thought it would be, but the crowd made up for any lost volume and after a full day of walking the city, I welcomed the chance to sit down on the beer-soaked stadium floor. Death Cab kicked off their set with “The New Year,” a track off their 2003 Transatlanticism LP, which in the four times I’ve seen them play, I’ve never heard them open with. Older DCFC fans were stoked to be able to sing along to “Crooked Teeth,” “Title and Registration,” and even “President of What?” off their 1998 debut album Something About Airplanes. About halfway through the set, frontman Ben Gibbard got choked up as he explained that Death Cab’s earliest friends and influences Harvey Danger had lost their bassist to a long-term illness this month. He went on to explain that for every stop on this tour, they would play one of Harvey Danger’s songs, and dedicated “Why I’m Lonely” to the late Aaron Huffman. If you love Ben’s melancholic vocals and appreciate a sick bass line, check out this Harvey Danger tune:
Metric has always been one for showmanship, a talent they flashed with pride as they lowered two large lighting pieces, using the negative space to depict the letter M. To the crowd’s delight, singer Emily Haines danced out on stage leading “IOU,” an old hit from their 2004 album Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? The set continued to incorporate an awesome balance of old and new crowd favourites, as well as a handful of songs off Metric’s most recent album Pagans in Vegas. Haines made use of an impressive collection of capes, beginning with a tasseled leather poncho during “Too Bad, So Sad,” a lime green chiffon number during “Artificial Nocturne,” and a bedazzled black cloak during “Black Sheep.”
There wasn’t a dry eye in the room as Haines invited the Montreal Choir up on stage to join the band in singing “Dreams So Real,” which she prefaced as an ode to this crazy, messed up world we’re living in. The magnificent light show went dark, as the stage was lit with two spotlights and a couple glowing trees as Metric, the Montreal Choir, and the audience joined together in song and smartphone flashlights for a serene 2 minutes and 41 seconds. Haines also let guitarist James Shaw take the lead in performing “Other Side,” off Pagans in Vegas, for which the crowd swooned – what a perfect combination of leather jacket, cowboy hat and dreamy vocals.
La pièce de résistance was the disco ball decent into a veil of red smoky light as the band played “Celebrate” leading into an acoustic version of “Gimme Sympathy,” for which the only source of light was the sea of cellphone lights across the stadium walls and floor. The finale continued to build in volume and energy until confetti spontaneously exploded from the ceiling, coating the roaring crowd in a blanket of paper and sparkles.
If you haven’t already caught this power duo on their 10-city Canadian tour, you have 8 dates left as of Tuesday, March 22nd and if you have to travel, it’s definitely worth the gas.