Closed Doors: The Unsolved Mystery of Mugshots
Earlier this summer, the Ottawa music community was hit with some very disappointing news. Word spread quickly that one of the city’s best underground gathering spots, Mugshots, was closing down. Having been patrons of Mugshots for years, and presenting shows there since November of 2014, we at Showbox were devastated. Not only because we would no longer be able to see and present cool shows there anymore – it had become a place that we all came to love, and where new and old friends gathered. It was kind of like watching your childhood home burn to the ground.
Since the closure, many questions have arisen about what happened and how the staff were affected. It doesn’t take a lawyer to figure out that something fishy happened, and that the employees of Mugshots were dealt an unfair hand. Not only did the Hostelling International-Ottawa management rip the tablecloth out from under the community by closing the doors on the bar – it also illegally ended the jobs of all the employees that worked there, the ones that poured their heart and souls into making that place as special as it was. Here is an excerpt from a Facebook post I wrote when I heard the bad news:
The sudden closure of Mugshots has come as a devastating surprise to some of us, particularly those who put their heart and souls into making it one of the greatest hidden gems in Ottawa. The only way to express the feeling we have right now is by comparing to a knife through the heart. It feels as though something has been taken from us, something that was built by the community and something that was a hub for the community. Showbox, Fryquency, Wednesday Open Mics (the best in town), and all the rest of us who put on regular shows at Mugshots are gutted by this decision.
It’s hard to describe the feeling of being home, and I know that calling a bar “home” might seem a little over dramatic (or perhaps just plain sad). But we can all relate with the emotion of feeling safe and part of a space – whether it’s your childhood home, your old classroom, your parent’s basement, your old park hangout…. Mugshots was our hangout. It was our place. The walls were stone cold, but they felt warm to me. Not many people can say that about a jail. – Matias
It is very important to us that the former Mugshots staff are heard, and that their battle to receive just compensation and recognition for their unfair dismissal is understood clearly. Moreover, there is a fundraising event happening this weekend at Happy Goat Coffee Co. as well as an indigogo campaign set up to raise money for legal fees.
I spoke with former Mugshots employee Tyler Goodman about the whole experience and what is happening now.
1. Can you explain the situation that you and your colleagues experienced upon the closure of Mugshots?
July 11th my colleagues and I received an email from the General Manager of the hostel that the bar would be closing to the public effective immediately. All weekend shifts and events scheduled well into September were all cancelled. The email did not explain why this was happening or when we could expect to resume our jobs. The GM had also placed padlocks on the doors of the outdoor bar and the beer fridge. A few days later, after news of the bar’s closure had spread through Facebook, the GM called an emergency meeting. HI Ottawa was getting lots of backlash from the public and he wanted to explain why Mugshots was closed, or at least that was his intention. What really happened at this meeting is that one of our co-workers was fired in front of us in a humiliating fashion. Some of us left the meeting to go and console this person. In the management’s eyes, this amounted to us handing in our notice. No severance, no compensation for shifts lost. The end.
Mugshots was a cornerstone of the music community, and an incredibly unique venue. This is known. But more selfishly, it was my home. I worked and cried and bled and made tacos (never at the same time) for three years. It was my drinking hole, it was my job, it was my entire social circle. While I can only speak for myself, I suspect anyone else who worked there will tell you the same.
2. What steps have been taken so far by the former employees?
We were fortunate enough to come into contact with Workers Action Group, an organization that deals with non-unionized workers. They put us in touch with lawyers and put up the money so the lawyers could assess our case. The law firm also specializes in labour cases and is very confidant that we have a case. They are currently in contact with HI.
3. What outcome are the former employees hoping for?
Outside of our severance and a change to our ROE forms (currently it says we quit, meaning we could not apply for EI), we are hoping that our legal case will inspire a change in the culture at HI. As it stands right now, workers there are not informed of their rights, there is minimal health and safety training, and there is no sense of who does what in the organization. In my three years there I was never able to find out who the HR person was. This is a global not-for-profit! More broadly, we are hoping that this case will inspire others who feel they are being exploited in their workplaces. There are good people, like those in the Workers Action Group, who will help you out. You may feel as if there is no recourse, but there often is.
4. Why is the Mugnots event so special?
A big part of the event is the actual raising of funds – the firm representing us is called Avante Law, and they are really great. But like any firm, they have fees. To be honest, we were thinking of throwing something like this before the thought of hiring a lawyer ever entered our minds. We never got to say goodbye to our bar! And when I say “our” I mean that with a capital “O”. Mugshots was the place it was because of the people who worked there, because of the people who threw events there, because of the people who drank/danced/puked/peed/loved there. Happy Goat had been kind enough to offer up their amazing space so we can make our peace with it’s closure and maybe dance/drink/love.
We’re bringing back some classics from Mugshots for the fundraising event – Total T’s Taco Tuesday (yours truly), Ceremony, Freak Show, and a few DJs too. We hope to see a lot of people come out and support!
5. What can people do to help?
If you’d like to help us, there are a few things you can do. We have an indiegogo campaign to support the Mugnots legal campaign. You can also join us on September 12th at the Mugnots Fundraising event, see friends, share memories, and enjoy some beer lovingly donated to us by Kitchissippi and Bicycle Brewery. And you can put the pressure on Hostelling International! Hit up the HI Ottawa and HI Canada Facebook pages and let them know it’s not okay to exploit workers. Let them know you are upset that a real special thing was put down for no good reason. Let them know it’s time for new and responsible management.
The Mugnots Fundraising event takes place Saturday, September 12 at Happy Goat Coffee Co. (35 Laurel St., Ottawa). Doors are at 8PM. If you are not able to attend the event, please consider donating to the campaign through their indigogo page.
Photo courtesy of Herd Magazine
Street Meat (Photo Courtesy of Eric Scharf)
Photo courtesy of Ming Wu
Total T’s Taco Tuesday!
Ashleys @ Mugshots (Photo: Ottawa Showbox)
Mugshots Staff photos (Courtesy of Tyler Goodman)
Tyler & Serene working at Mugshots (photo: Tyler Goodman)
Photo courtesy of Exclaim!
RBC Bluesfest Day 7: Heartstreets, Chvrches & Run the Jewels
RBC Bluesfest Press Images, Photo: Mark Horton
First things first: Heartstreets — two talented Montreal women rapping, crooning, and just generally grooving supported by a DJ and a full live band – were first on the docket for me on day 7. A newly (as in: while I watched their set) discovered gem. I was really glad I hit the Flats early to catch them live. “Do any of you know us?” asked the one wearing pink heart-shaped sunglasses. “It’s ok, you will, you will. Heartstreets.” She was right. They clearly had fun and so did I.
De La Soul was disappointingly unable to perform because of a flight delay, prompting one perturbed audience member to yell “suck a dick!” several times in the general direction of the Bluesfest employee who was tasked with giving us the bad news. Bummer, for us and for them. To fill that time slot on the stage was an impromptu second set of the festival from local hip hop act G. Grand, no stranger to Ottawa Showbox bills having performed at Hip Hop Nite at Mugshots (RIP) earlier this year. His performance was energetic and tight as usual, and kudos to him for stepping up to a crowd that had been expecting such a classic of the genre.
Took a breather before Chvrches to hang out on a giant bean bag in the #rbczone with Walter Trout on the Monster stage in one ear and DJ @ the Fort in the other. Felt like my bank was hugging me. Surprisingly relaxing. Chvrches then delivered as expected: an aesthetically pleasing stage, and impeccable sound balancing deliberate pulsing synths and Lauren Mayberry’s lovely crystalline voice. Not exactly my thing, but no doubt a gift for all the Chvrches fans in the vicinity.
Lauren Mayberry of the band CHVRCHES performing at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. ~ RBC BluesfestPress Images, Photo: Mark Horton
From there I made my way back over to the Monster stage to stake out a good spot for Run the Jewels
, and caught almost all of Ottawa hip hop act Flight Distance
. I’m really glad I did. These guys rule. Their beats are super grooves and their rapid-fire flow is incredible — I’d be tempted to say “effortless” if I couldn’t see them going red in the face from rapping. They work hard and it pays off. You know those rare moments when you’re totally content where you are? Not thinking about the past, not planning for the future or waiting for something else to happen, just feeling the vibe and enjoying yourself? That happened for like a whole half hour with Flight Distance. Perfect opener for what was to come.
Flight Distance performing at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images, Photo: Danyca MacDonald
Finally, the Bluesfest act I was most excited for — Killer Mike and El-P a.k.a. Run the Jewels. (RTJ! RTJ!) This performance was everything I’d hoped for. Starting out with “Run the Jewels”, “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”, and “Blockbuster Night Part 1” (one of my faves) they had the crowd (me included) freaking out. Halfway through the set, Killer Mike paused and told us all if we had glasses on or phones out, to put them away because our shit was about get fucked up. I complied. We all closed our eyes (and counted to fuck). A hip hop mosh pit happened. Mike gave a shout out to “white Jesus crowdsurfing over here.” ACAB anthem “Early” was dedicated to Mike Brown and Eric Garner, black lives lost to police brutality. Run the Jewels are deeply political, and often angry (for good reason), but also operate with a lot of joy and humour and genuine love for their fans: what they do is wild and incredibly special and I’m so glad I got to see it in person.
Killer Mike of Run The Jewels performing at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. RBC BluesfestPress Images, Photo: Mark Horton
Ottawa Explosion: Day 4 — June 20
All watermarked photos by Stephen McGill Photography
If there was one day that Ottawa Explosion Weekend really kicked into high gear this year, it was Saturday, June 20. The weather cooperated for most of the weekend, minus a pretty heavy rainfall on Friday. But Saturday dawned on us with clear blue skies, a nice breeze, and huge Explosion lineup happening all day and night. What more could you ask for?
I arrived a little late in order to sleep in and catch up on real life obligations, like dishes and tidying up the ol’ apartment. Once the battery recharge was complete, I caught most of Earth Girls’ set at Club SAW. Earth Girls are a garage/power pop band from Chicago, one of many excellent bands that made the trip to Ottawa from the Windy City. I’ve always heard of how good the punk community and music scene are in Chicago, and the bands that played OXW really illustrated this fact. One of the most exciting parts of a festival like this is that as a concert-goer, you aren’t expected to know all bands or all the songs. Earth Girls were new to me, but I was locked in right away once I heard them start playing. They had straight-forward, fast and fuzzy instrumentation reminiscent of ’70s garage and punk bands mixed with the ’90s alt-rock influenced clean melodies of singer Liz Panella. I could hear those melodies from the parking lot and they drew me right in.
Once Earth Girls finished up, it was time for Nato Coles & the Blue Diamond Band in the SAW courtyard. Right away he expressed appreciation for being at the festival, one stop on their North American tour all the way from their hometown of Minneapolis – the hometown of greats such as Prince and The Replacements. It’s so nice to see a band be so positive and amped to be on tour, the whole crowd could feel Coles’ energy and enthusiasm. That energy translated into some excellent punk rock blaring out of the PA, with the crowd moving more and more as the set went on. Although the band has been around since 2010, they played with the same pep in their step as if it were the band’s first time on the road. As the sun beat down on the courtyard mid-set, Nato Coles said, “This is way too hot for Canada — so I’m going to cool you down,” and launched into another tune.
His music reminded me of Bruce Springsteen’s approach to songwriting — deep storytelling, anthemic arrangements, and songs that hit you right in the heart. It’s the kind of music that drew me into The Gaslight Anthem back in the day, and it happened all over again with Nato Coles. One of my favourite tracks was “Rudes & Cheats”, one that many people in the crowd sang along with. The band ended the set with the first song called “See Some Lights” on their latest album Promises To Deliver.
Another great thing about festivals like Explosion is that you meet some pretty interesting folks. I went out to the sidewalk where a few of my friends were smoking and saw that they were talking to a guy I had never seen around Ottawa before. Well, there’s a perfectly good explanation for that. He was from Manchester, England, and had flown all the way to Ottawa just to come to Ottawa Explosion. He explained that he was at the original Gaga Weekend back in ’08 and that it was one of the best things he had been to in a long time. Pretty neat to hear someone outside the scene be so stoked to come all the way to Ottawa for this!
Up next in the SAW courtyard was what I consider the highlight of Ottawa Explosion for me. The Underground Railroad to Candyland is a band that hails from L.A., and founded by Todd Congelliere who also happens to be a member of Toys That Kill (another great band that played OXW that I, unfortunately, missed). Congelliere has been around since the late ’80s, playing in various projects including F.Y.P. (a previous incarnation of Toys That Kill), and is the founder of Recess Records with whom URTC resides. It all started with me seeing a guy walking down the street in a tiger costume. I figured that it must have been a fan of New Swears who played later on, since those guys always have something up their sleeve. But no, that was not the case. URTC got up on stage, one member wearing the aforementioned tiger costume, another in a shark onesie, and another wearing a superwoman-style Canadian flag as a cape. Did I mention that Congelliere was wearing a sweet Chippendales shirt? The blistering heat outside was cooking us, I don’t quite know how they managed to pull off such a great set with all that attire.
URTC is unlike band I’ve ever heard. Part punk, part jangle pop, part melodic rock — but all party. Their latest release is The People Are Home, from what I could tell, the latest release from the band and tour LP. They played some songs such as “Yer Not the Only One” from that album, but mostly played tracks from their 2014 LP Bird Roughs. Songs like “Square Ball”, “No Way! Miss U.S.A.!”, and ending perfectly with “Body of the Bird”. The band even had three drummers going at times, making their songs really powerful and unforgettable. So many in the crowd were singing along, and even OXW organizer Emmanuel Sayer jumped in and took a break from his duties to raise a fist and let loose with the band. What a perfect segue into the ultimate party punks, New Swears.
New Swears need little introduction here in Ottawa. They are an all-out good time in any situation, but especially when they’re given instruments to play and a rambunctious crowd to play for. Scru Bar, Sammy Scorpian, Beej Eh, and Nick NoFun don’t hold back when performing, and always have something up their sleeve to make each of their sets unique and memorable. Last time at the Warehouse Party presented by Arboretum Festival, they doused the crowd in silly string (a common occurrence) and made a body bridge for Beej Eh to play on. Sometimes there are no pants. Sometimes there is whipped cream or shaving cream. Sometimes they are dressed up in white plastic bags with blow up toys thrown out into the crowd (OXW 2013 – see here). Needless to say, there is very little that this band won’t do – and that’s why we love them.
This time around, it included one of their close friends dressed up as a cop on his upper body and as a baby on his lower body. Or, should I say, a guy dressed up as a cop wearing diapers. Because why not? Most of us wouldn’t do that if you paid us, however he did it just in the spirit of New Swears fun. That’s dedication. New Swears played the usual hits which of course made the crowd go feral. Bodies went flying, crowd surfers dove into the sea of sweaty bodies, and one brave individual even crowd skated (see featured photo up top). Yes, she stayed up on a skateboard while being held up by multiple people in the crowd and stayed there for a couple minutes. Everyone couldn’t help but smile and look at each other in awe. Even more incredible was the fact that Sammy Scorpian jumped out into the crowd while sitting on a chair with a broken foot. In all fairness, that brace looks pretty impenetrable, so he didn’t seem to worried about his own well-being. Just another New Swears show. The band played some classics such as “Rather Be Dead” and “See You In Hull” off their 2013 LP Funny Isn’t Real, as well as some newer tunes such as “No Fun” and “Stay Gold” off of last year’s Junkfood Forever, Bedtime Whatever. They also had a “Summer of ’69” and Billy Talent interlude, which was random and fun.
Next up was a secret band, and rumours were cycling that the ultimate Ottawa punk supergroup Sedatives (R.I.P.) were going to play a set. This is a band that existed from 2008-2012, with members Ian Manhire (White Wires/Voicemail), Emmanuel Sayer (Crusades), Steve Adamyk (SAB), and Dave Monomania (Crusades/Black Tower). Alas, our hopes were dashed as another band Statues hit the stage, but everyone was really excited about them. Unfortunately I missed out because my brother called from Vancouver. I heard from many people that they had a really solid set. Sorry Statues!
I hung up just in time to catch Big Dick‘s set out in the SAW courtyard. Big Dick are a two-piece bass and drum band from Ottawa that absolutely shred, bursting eardrums every time they play. Singer and bassist Johnny O was right on point with his vocals, having dusted any imperfections in the performance of their newer songs from their latest LP Disappointment. They were well-rehearsed, and much stronger than the last couple of times I had seen them. Drummer Dave Sec had veins popping out of his forehead and neck, giving everything he had during the set. Their vocal harmonies sounded great and the sound was right on. Some memorable tunes were “Medic” and “Let Down”, and they showed any newcomers to the band’s live performance exactly why they have garnered such positive attention over the years.
Cincinnati fuzzy punk rockers Vacation were next on the bill, and although I had heard of them before, I wasn’t very familiar with their music. They definitely lived up to the hype. The energy that the band exuded was incredible, particularly for a three-piece. My favourite song they played was “Horny Politicians”, a fitting title for a government town. Although I’m not entirely convinced that they make the best of friends. But who knows? Vacation’s short and punchy songs made their set feel like it went by really fast, but they fit quite a few songs in there. Since Explosion, I’ve listened to their album Candy Waves a few times and highly recommend it to anyone into fuzzy garage punk – it’s a must-have.
I ventured over to the Mugshots courtyard for the first time all day after Vacation, as Halifax post-punk/psych rockers Moon were getting set to play. My friend Briggins of Mixtape Magazine, who was visiting Ottawa from Halifax, said that this was a must-see band and one of his favourites out east at the moment. I couldn’t pass that up. Right away, Moon differentiated themselves from all other acts of Explosion. Their ethereal and atmospheric sound was tempered by mathy, somewhat disjointed guitar riffs and bass lines, a combination that worked really well. I came into their show not knowing what to expect or without any idea what they were like. There wasn’t a song they played that I didn’t love. Even with a few members missing and being replaced by friends, the band was incredibly tight and sounded great. The courtyard stone walls and dark surroundings offered a perfect feel for the music that Moon played. There was also a steady dose of melodic vocals and instrumentals, mixing it up and keeping the crowd guessing. To me, a band that can show how talented they are without staying within the confines of one genre or “sound” is the most exciting to watch and listen to. Moon even covered two completely different songs – “Big Me” by Foo Fighters and the classic “In Between Days” by The Cure. The lead singer also said “We’ve never played in Ottawa before, but I love prison so this is really great!” I guess not all cities have music venues in former jails. An all-around great band, and one that I hope comes back to Ottawa really soon.
Back to the SAW Courtyard, Steve Adamyk Band got off to a quick start and railed through some of their best tunes, including “Had a Heartattack”, “Katacombs” off of 2013’s Third, as well as “Careless” and a few others from their latest LP Dialtone. The Steve Adamyk Band had a slightly different lineup on Saturday night, as Max Deharnais of Sonic Avenues joined them on stage, replacing regular bassist Davey Quesnel on stage. The two bands are very close and on the same label (Dirtnap), so it makes sense that they know how to play each other’s songs. The band sounded strong as ever, showing the crowd at OXW why they are still veterans of the scene and still one of the best punk bands in the region. Dave Monomania also joined the band on stage for a song, and everyone seemed to be making the most of it and having fun. Finally Davey Quesnel joined his band on stage for “Satellite”, and with three guitars going Steve Adamyk Band pumped their full-sounding brand of power pop all over the streets of downtown Ottawa. Their music reels in fans young and old, offering something a little different each record that comes out.
The final band of the night for me was Needles//Pins, a Vancouver garage/punk band that was my most anticipated act of the festival. I wrote a little preview of my top pick for Mixtape Magazine, which you can check out here. I have this band’s records basically spinning on the turntable non-stop, but had never seen them live before. The inside of Club SAW was packed to the brim and sweaty as hell, which is what you’d expect on a Saturday night at Explosion. From a technical point of view, the night started off a little rough for the band. The bass tuning was wrong when they went to start the first song, and they figured it out after a could false starts. The crowd cheered them on, and they looked a little frustrated. But they kept spirits light and powered through. One bereaved fan screamed, “I’m missing Teenanger for this!” – a band that was playing down the street at the same time. We all laughed it off as Needles//Pins exploded into their “powertrash” punk rock.
The mood changed from frustrated to high energy back to frustrated really quick as one of the amps started to smoke. The band just couldn’t catch a break, but after Steve Adamyk rushed in with another amp, they quickly plugged in and regained the crowd quickly. Bassist/vocalist Tony X said, “You’ve seen us before, you know what to expect,” after all the difficulties, lightening the mood a bit. The band was in full force as they powered through their set, pulling no punches and giving it their all. They played a bunch of songs from their 12:34 and Shamebirds LPs, including “Drop It”, “I Don’t Mind” and ended with “Shamebirds”. Tony X ensured everyone in the room that the organizers of OXW were making one of the best festivals in North America happen every year, and everyone cheered in agreement. To our surprise, they busted out into a cover of The Replacements’ song “Beer For Breakfast” as an encore. This made several die hard Replacements fans go even more crazy, including our very own Eric Scharf.
All in all, Day 4 was the funnest and wildest day of OXW and it left no prisoners. Even though many of us were dead tired, hung over, and probably lacking vitamins, so many people stayed out until the early hours of the morning to take in as much as we could.
Ottawa Explosion: Day 3 — June 19
By Anthony Cardozo
Watermarked photos by Stephen McGill Photography
The sun shone down on Club SAW today, and Mother Nature spared us the rain so we could enjoy all the good times that day three had to offer. The first band of the day I caught was The Jeanies from Brooklyn. I heard them play at Avant Garde Bar the previous night, but I never actually laid eyes on them because the place was packed to the rafters. My OXW weight loss program was in full effect as I sweated off about 6.5 pounds at that show, so it was great to see these guys again with a little more breathing room.
This afternoon, they took the stage to some surprising fanfare for a band who’d never played Ottawa before this weekend. These guys looked and sounded like they’d stepped out of a time machine from 1970. With lead singer/guitarist Joey Farber’s double-denim and mutton-chops, and the rhythm guitarist bearing an uncanny resemblance to David Bowie, while the bassist rocked a corduroy cap and floral print shirt, it was just nostalgia central. And these aren’t stage outfits, this is just how these guys dress. From the blues-inspired guitar work, to razor sharp three-part harmonies, The Jeanies had the crowd bobbing along throughout the set, with the hooting and hollering culminating in their final song, the first track off their album, “I Seen Her Dance”. Keep an eye out for these friendly Brooklyn boys, they’ve got a good thing going. Their self-titled album is on Bandcamp, along with a recent single.
Next up at Mugshots was the band Terrible Liars – an Ottawa four-piece, two of whom I recognized as members of Big Dick and Steve Adamyk Band. As soon as they walked onstage I noticed a tattoo on the singer Brendan Flynn’s forearm, a symbol popularized by ’90s punk band Jawbreaker as a logo of sorts. Now I dig on some Jawbreaker, so I knew this was going to be cool. With a mid-tempo mix of melodic punk songs, it was a perfectly palatable dose of punk for those among us nursing hangovers. I loved the set, and would definitely check them out next time they play. Guitarist Davey Quesnelle plugged his stand-up comedy set, and ended up giving us a bit of a sample as he sang the praises of Beau’s special batch of Ottawa Explosion Session Pale Ale, which is being poured all weekend. The set ended with Davey chucking his guitar into the crowd, narrowly missing National Capital Rock photographer Andrew Carver, so maybe we’ll get to see his angle of things.
I hopped over to Vertigo Records for the debut of an enticing new Ottawa band Cheap Whine. The band features Eric of Feral Trash on guitar and vocals, Steve Adamyk on bass, and Jordy from The Creeps and Crusades on the skins. I watched from the sidewalk as I inhaled overpriced slice of 1-for-1 pizza and, after a quick déjà vu from TV Freaks’ packed Vertigo show last year, there turned out to be a bit of room so I squeezed on in. The band was ripping through fast, fuzzy punk tunes while the crowd cheered and bobbed along and participating in the ol’ OXW weight loss program once again (I keep making this joke, and maybe it was just me, but I sweat like crazy all the time). Cheap Whine has shirts too, and the design a clear nod to power-pop/rock’n’roll icons Cheap Trick. Anyone who follows Steve Adamyk Band has probably seen shots of Steve wearing a sleeveless Cheap Trick shirt, so Eric jeered about cutting the sleeves off your Cheap Whine shirt for your Steve Adamyk Halloween costume. Another funny thing was Jordy’s ride cymbal toppling over about 4 or 5 times, and OXW organizer Emmanuel Sayer jumping in to rectify the situation. It happened enough times that Emmanuel eventually just stayed crouched in that corner, watching, waiting.
My next highlight of the day was jumping between the Club SAW and Mugshots courtyards, first waiting outside SAW for the next band to arrive. They’d apparently been held up at the border for a while, and their set time had just passed when their van pulled up outside. They loaded directly out of the van onto the stage to set up. It was Benny the Jet Rodriguez. The California four-piece played an upbeat mix of light grunge and sunny, sensitive pop punk. But the peak of set came when they threw in a surprisingly well-suited Sheryl Crow cover. It was “I Wanna Soak Up the Sun”, and I don’t think I’ve ever sung that song as loud as I did. Wicked fun. I snuck over the Mugshots to catch local punk sweethearts Dead Weights, and all I can say is those guys need some haircuts… Jeez louise. I’m kidding though, I love Dead Weights. Great band and great dudes. They played quite a few new songs, which hopefully means a new album at some point this year. Of course, they ended their high-energy set with the fun tune “Barely Breathe”, a song that lots of us sang with the band as they finished off.
Back to Club SAW courtyard for one of my biggest highlights of the weekend, Sheer Mag. This Philadelphia band is pumping out airtight glam rock, with pumpin’ dance beats and irresistible guitar licks. They’ve been compared to Thin Lizzy and The Runaways and the shoe sure as hell fits. I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least gush a little bit about the raw power of frontwoman Christine Halliday. She belted out song after song to a very enthusiastic crowd. Ska Jeff had mentioned they were awesome, and I’m not sure how many others had heard the band before, but Sheer Mag definitely garnered some new fans this weekend.
Another highlight was packing in with what seemed like every person at OXW for when The White Wires took to the stage outside Club SAW. It’s funny thinking of White Wires songs as “classics” but everyone was singing along to nearly every song. I’d say as far as Ottawa Explosion goes, that makes them a classic band. One of the main OXW organizers, Luke Martin, plays bass along with Ian Manhire on vox/guitar and Allie Hanlon on drums. Ian is the guy responsible for Gaga Records, Gaga Weekend, and a bunch of wicked stuff that became the pre-OXW Rock’n’Roll Pizza Party. One could sit down with Luke, Ian and Emmanuel and chart out exactly how this all came to be… But that’s a whole other piece on its own. Allie now lives in L.A. and is pretty busy with Peach Kelli Pop, but we’re very happy that she comes back to Ottawa a couple times per year to play with The White Wires.
Before my big highlight of the night, honourable mentions need to go out to some amazing bands I missed this evening. Hamilton, Ontario’s TV Freaks always put on a crazy show, and I was truly bummed to miss this one at the Dom. Much love, TV Freaks, keep it freaky. Aside from that, Germany’s Hysterese might not come back for a while, but I ran into a lot of people who were stoked for them so I hope they had a good crowd. And then it was Creep time. I, along with the Showbox guys and many others, love The Creeps. Their 2014 LP Eulogies has been on heavy rotation for me, and now that I actually bought the record it will literally be on rotation rather than just my iTunes. The Misfits-esque morbid pop punk is infectious as it is accessible, and the crowd was deep enough in the Beau’s Explosion brew to get a little rowdy. I think the first crowd-surfer went up within the first 2 songs. Not bad. They kicked things off with a handful of tunes off Eulogies, digging back in their catalogue for a few older gems. The crowd-surfing continued throughout the set, and everyone was pretty good about looking out for each other and helping others up with they inevitably fell. I love seeing this.
I love Ottawa. I love Explosion. That’s about it for me going to shows this weekend, much to my chagrin. I’ve been loving the shows the past few nights, but it’s time for this volunteer to pay his dues.