The headliners that will grace the stage at Mooney’s Bay include Sam Roberts Band (21st), Broken Social Scene (22nd), Wintersleep and Hollerado (23rd), and Matt Mays (24th). If all those Juno award winners and Polaris Prize nominees aren’t enough to get you excited for these free concerts, note that they will also be joined by Crown Lands, Amos The Transparent, M. T. Walker, Dizzy, Ellevator, Gianna Lauren, Fast Romantics, Rebelle, Old Man Grant, Birds of Bellwoods, Midnight Vesta, Rory Taillon and Craig Cardiff.
So mark your calendar, stock up on sunscreen and get ready to head down to Mooney’s Bay in late June to cheer on some racers and take in some most excellent performances.
The idea is excellent. Who wouldn’t want to go to a punk show in a decommissioned Cold War bunker? The Diefenbunker is a place that captures the imagination, and it has a certain amount of mystique. The night of punk rock, zines, and crafts at this historic site had been building anticipation for a few months.
Granted, it’s not easy to get there. The museum knows this, and provided a free shuttle to and from downtown Ottawa. No excuses!
Here’s how the night went down:
Back of the bus
30 minutes is a reasonable distance. I’ve travelled longer for a concert.
It’s a similar distance to the Blacksheep Inn in Wakefield, though the countryside offers different things. Outside the window was a rural-industrial landscape—I was particularly taken with the sign advertising “culverts.” It may not be a covered bridge, but it’s arguably more important to be exposed to the outlying areas of a city, especially if you like tap water and well-maintained infrastructure. (I do.)
There was slight miscommunication with the transportation company, which led to the shuttle attendees waiting an extra half hour for the buses to arrive. Still, everyone was very patient. I am not a punctual person myself, which means I’m not allowed to be annoyed when I have to wait.
Finally, a blue wayfinding sign indicated the Diefenbunker was near. The anticipation builds.
It could be the most unique entrance to a venue in this town.
Strolling down the blast tunnel into nuclear safety, I couldn’t help asking the delighted visitor next to me — “Have you been here before?” It was curiosity, not a pick-up line, and she she was literally bouncing.
“This is my favourite place in the world!” she said, “I’ve been here almost ten times.” Her friends confirmed that she does, in fact, talk about the Diefenbunker frequently.
After turning a sharp corner and greeting the staff, we descended 70 feet underground.
The Blast Tunnel. Photo by Shawn Katuwapitiya.
The cafeteria is the largest room in the Bunker, and the linoleum tiles provide a historic ‘50s feel. The hall is quaint and well-maintained.
That evening, visitors could make their own pins, enjoy beverages and $1 pizza, and contribute to a zine being prepared by Possible Worlds, which is a gallery and workshop space in Chinatown. Someone at my table was gluing a picture of a sea mammal to a page. “I came for the zines,” she said to me. “I’ve been reading them for a while but I’ve never made my own.” I later heard from a musician recovering from a knee injury, who also appreciated the alternate activities, because it meant that he didn’t feel any pressure to stand for the entire evening.
I spent some time flipping through the zine library on display, but I admit – I was there for the music.
The Mess Hall. Photo by Shawn Katuwapitiya.
Built to protect the Bank of Canada’s gold reserves in case of emergency, the vault is a safe pretending to be a room. There is a sense of danger and protection while inside. It is metal and concrete, with nothing to absorb sound. The sound technician was uneasy and explained that minimizing the reverb would be a challenge.
For each performance, the atmosphere was unique and exciting. The setting enabled us to suspend our disbelief, and I was pleasantly surprised that each band had representation by grrl rockers. Turns out, punk pairs surprisingly well with both feminism and nuclear destruction.
Bonnie Doon made quite an entrance in hazmat suits, engaging the audience with tight riffs and tales of the outside world. They are fixtures on the Ottawa music scene, but I’d never seen the group before. Their stage presence and accessible melodies will capture the casual listener, and they invited audience members to spray paint them after the show. Would recommend.
They were followed by DOXX, who were more hardcore and also louder. I could feel the sound tech starting to sweat, but luckily I had earplugs. I’m a person who is often drawn in by lyrics, and while I couldn’t identify many words during this set, I still enjoyed it. Punk has a certain rawness that is especially evident during a live show.
Nightshades were up next, and I enjoyed the first song. However, the idea of making my own crafts was at that point more appealing to me than listening to music, and I stepped out of the vault and sought out the button-making station. It was creative magic.
Nightshades make some noise in The Vault. Photo by Shawn Katuwapitiya.
What is it about the intrigue of the Cold War era that feels like a good fit for the Diefenbunker?
I spoke to a self-identified ‘retired punk rocker’, who provided his opinion on the location. “It’s an iconic and triumphant moment for punk rock. We’ve taken over a government sanctuary.”
I further inquired about the philosophy behind the punk movement. According to him, punk is about “not letting anything you are born into – be it race, wealth, gender, not letting that define you. It’s about finding individualism in a world that is trying to tell you who you are.”
This past Saturday we hosted our second-ever Showbox Concert Series event at St. Alban’s Church, and it was a night to remember. The sold-out show was headlined by Shadowhand, who released their debut LP called Through the Fog. The incredible lineup was rounded out by stunning performances by The Heavy Medicine Band and Merganzer, all of whom have now released records through Record Centre Records. The bands took full advantage of the high ceilings and mesmerized the audience with their performances. Our photographer Aidan Thatcher was on-hand to capture some wonderful moments from the evening. We can’t wait until the next one!
We’ve been chomping at the bits to share Shadowhand‘s debut LP Through the Fog with the world, and that day is finally here. The Ottawa band is releasing the album through Record Centre Records, and it will be available in vinyl format and online. We’re also very excited to present the album release party this Saturday, March 10th, at St. Alban’s Church along with The Heavy Medicine Band and Merganzer.
Through the Fog is a nine-track effort, rolling through the peaceful lulls and buoyant peaks throughout. It is, more than anything, a warm album, and full of rich and robust tones. The allure of Brandon Allan Walsh’s bass lines is undeniable, as they sink deep into the listener and carry the songs from start to finish. Jamieson Mackay and Matthew Corbiere have a chemistry on guitar that elevates their clean, reverb-laden tones. Sean Tansey’s subtle and rolling drums stay in the background for much of the album, but occasionally the barrage of percussion crashes forth like waves breaking against a shore.
Their dreamy and unhurried approach gently takes us for a journey through the unknown. Even in the eight-and-a-half minute long “Light of Afternoon” the band begins at a languid pace and builds up the energy that climaxes around the 5 minute and 30 second mark, and then pulls back with an ambient and daydream-like conclusion. Jamieson’s soft, raspy voice melds seamlessly with the instrumentals, and fans of Destroyer and The War on Drugs will undoubtedly fall into his vocal style with ease.
Shadowhand recorded Through The Fog at a home near Ladysmith, Quebec in two sessions in fall 2016 and winter 2017. It was largely recorded live off-the-floor, and engineered by artist and producer Arturo Portocarrero, with some sporadic overdub sessions in Ottawa. Mixing was done by band member Brandon Allan Walsh and mastered by Philip Shaw Bova, with beautiful album art done by Haley Wolk.
Listen to the album below, and be sure to come out to see them at the album release party at St. Alban’s Church this Saturday, March 1oth. Doors at 7:30 pm. Physical tickets available at Compact Music, The Record Centre, and Irene’s Pub, and online tickets can be purchased here.
If there’s one style of music that is filling Ottawa’s airwaves more and more over the last few years, it’s soul. Harea Band have been around for quite a while now, and they’re going to be taking over Babylon Nightclub on Friday night to serve up some soulful tracks, including their new single “Must Be a Dream” with support from local heavyweights Slack Bridges and Aspects & Jeff DeValk. DJ Breakthru will keep the party going on the turntables until late.
The new single finds itself at the crossroads of soul, funk, and modern pop music, which is a turn in a different direction for the band. They approach the song with a confidence that is audible from the first measure.
“This track was a bit of a leap for us,” explains Harea. “We flew up Mixerman from Asheville N.C. who’s a multi platinum award winning producer and worked it pretty much from the ground up. We did a lot of writing in the studio so the creative and recording process all kind of happened at the same time. I’m not sure if it’s a new step, but it’s definitely a step forward, and we hope people like the direction we are going.”
Harea Band is using the night at Babylon to do more than just release their new song. Chef Leroy from Detroit Soul Food will be serving up some delicious goodies for patrons, because what goes better with soul music than soul food? His recipes have appeared at a few parties at Babylon in the past, and needless to say—they are always a smash hit.
“We wanted to host an event that offered more than just a show, and we thought Slack Bridges were the perfect guys to team up with,” says Harea. “Garett (Slack Bridges’ bassist) is kind of known for putting on killer events in the region and our sound works well together. When Babylon asked if I’d be interested in hosting and promoting our own after party as well, we decided on making the whole evening as soulful as possible. Chef LeRoy from Detroit Soul Food cooks up some of the best comfort food in town and it just all fell together. Doesn’t get much more soulful than funky live music, fried chicken, and James Brown!”
Slack Bridges, who are renowned among the local music scene for getting the party going with their boisterous stage presence. Both bands will be partaking in Bangers & Mash Soul Festival happening on April 14th at House of Targ and Black Squirrel Books. There will be an after party with DJ Breakthru going late once the live music is finished, appropriately titled “James Brown Night.” The dance party will also double as a fundraiser for Bangers & Mash, which means there will be raffle prizes available from Ottawa Jazz Fest, Beau’s Oktoberfest, Noisy Kitchen Hot Sauce, Yuk Yuk’s, Happy Goat Coffee, Turning Point Records, Compact Music, and Burgers n’ Fries Forever. Attendees can buy raffle tickets for $2 each, or $5 for 3, or $10 for 7.
“We’re gonna dance for sure,” ensures Harea. “All the acts are gonna bring it so we can keep the dance floor hot all night and DJ Breakthru is keeping the party going late with an all-vinyl James Brown night. Fried chicken and waffles plus deep friend cookies will keep everyone fed! It’s really a one stop shop for a good time.”
Tickets are no longer available in advance, but plenty will be available at the door. Check out the video for “Must be a Dream” below.
Ottawa’s very own Aviv took the stage Thursday night at House of TARG. They brought a mellow and funky energy with them and spun intricately coloured patterns with their sound. The riffs they played took the form of laid-back jazzy licks with a rock kick to them. The sound soothed and threw you into a whirl of serenity all while it whisked you into its own world.
Guitar, in combination with they keyboard, accentuated the warmth in the songs while the rest of the instruments cooled it down. The two instruments would intertwine and paint the atmosphere deep orange and reds, the high notes accentuating yellows. The band played rhythmically and each beat fell into step with another. They created a dreamy soundscape through melodic keyboard playing backed with soft drumming.
The vocals were smooth as honey and held a certain lightness to them that’s hard to replicate. Backed by bandmates’ deeper and more ragged sounding voices, it expanded the atmosphere and opened up House of TARG to more than just the basement it was. Captivating, entrancing, and moving, the vocals set the mood and made it hard to turn away.
The drumming came in warm or cool, giving an R&B soul to the alternative rock sound held through the set. Even the crashing of the cymbals came in pools, and the muted snare and toms really added an atmospheric and summery feeling to the soundscape and threw you into a hot summer day to relished in.
The bass was muddled together with the melody and added some stability to the pieces. It thrummed in the background and added stability along with weightedness. Due to its smooth incorporation into each song, you might not have heard the bass but you felt it in your heart and chest
O Neptune started their set next and blew the crowd out of the water. The incredible vocal range paired with the sombre minor scales and careful progressions really set the tone for their set. Soft vocals, ranging from alto to soprano in smooth transitions proved warm in sharp contrast to each piece. They’re the first thing to draw you in, and they do so by the collar of your shirt.
The guitar playing started out soft but transitioned into something more intense, drawing clear blues influence the deeper into the songs it went. Rough and distorted, it called to the soul and splashed a deep green through the blues. You can see and hear this in the song “Take Me Away”. In the beginning, it was shaped into a more mellow R&B chord progression but took the form of something more intense, mellowing out only when it neared the end.
The drums followed along with the intensity, seemingly setting it and not only building it. They provided the backbeat but were not a discarded element or component despite not being in your face overpowering. Each beat tied together created a consistency to the pieces that would have been lacking had the drums not added their own fills. The drumming added a punctuality to the otherwise forlorn and dissonant sound.
The bass melted into each song, slow and progressive. It opened their sound wider open and created a deeper and multidimensional feeling to their music. This effect was achieved especially due to the disparity between the basslines and the powerful soprano vocals. Subtle and harder to hear, it still makes all the difference. Omitting the bassline would have taken away the magnitude the songs held.
Sparse keyboard playing added air and lightness to each piece. It complimented the vocal range throughout despite keeping a seemingly monotonous feeling to it. It was a key factor in the ensemble and tied everything together through its grace and humbleness. Not a single note made a big deal of itself however, it was prominent and hit hard.
No Hits at House of Targ
No Hits, Ottawa locals, are that summer indie band that brings warmth to even the coldest months. Through the banter, inclusiveness, and their intricate sound, they manage to make taking the stage seem like something they’ve done many times. The five performers display their evident friendship through minor interactions that only solidify their performance.
Though mostly having played covers, the originals they peddled out were captivating and got the crowd singing along. The guitars paired with the airy drumming played on the idea of aimlessly driving as the summer breeze whips your hair around your face. It meddled with greens, blues, and the warmth of dandelion yellows crackling through it all. The noted played were higher and the licks were ones that filled your heart to the brim.
The gentle notes struck on the keyboard backed the idea that it was lighthearted and they lifted the songs off the ground, giving an extra dimension to the songs. It was light and carefree, but conveyed and carried out the message of the wistful lyrics wordlessly despite not syncing up with the lyrics.
The bass accentuated the high notes struck on the guitars and pulled the soundscape together in an orange glow. Though faintly heard, it protruded as soon as the pace slowed, allowing it to have its own moment. Rather than drowning it out completely, the take on it feels like that of “Not My Girl” by Tokyo Police Club—present, essential, glowing—but you need to listen for it. When the sound broke, the bass line served to pull it back together.
The vocals captured the essence of the band in all the right ways. Passionate, sorrowful, and emotive, they moved the crowd, they moved me. The lyrics sung are a contrast to the instrumental and prove to be much more melancholy than the band sounds. Christiana and Keean both alternate between who takes the lead but both voices are unique and fit the respective individual perfectly. The emotions poured from each in their own way and painted the room with deep purples. Their voices were light and easy to listen to, smooth with a bit of a monotonous edge. It encased the sorrowful meaning behind the lyrics well.
When it comes down to it, these bands are ones that you don’t want to miss. Whether you need to laugh or cry, they cover the entire range of emotions you could experience. They’re bands you listen to at one in the morning and weep, or you listen to them and dance around your house. If that’s not your thing either, maybe you tap your toes to the beat. Either way, these individuals are a talent you wouldn’t want to miss seeing live. And if you so happen to have synesthesia, enjoy the colourful experience—it’s an unbelievable one.
First published by Sous-Sol 819 with Eventful Capital on February 20, 2018: « 10 bonnes raisons d’intégrer la francophonie au Bluesfest »
Two weeks ago, Ottawa Bluesfest organizers announced the lineup of artists and bands that will play this year’s festival, which is set to take place on LeBreton Flats from July 5-15. Active since 1994, this non-profit, charitable organization overseen by a board of volunteers has managed to become one of the most important outdoor music festivals in Canada, and it ranks as one of the most well-attended musical events in North America. While we appreciate the success it has and the exposure it gives to the City of Ottawa, we have noticed over the years that the festival provides very little space to French as a whole. With this in mind, we want to offer a number of good reasons why the inclusion of French should be considered with respect to the organization itself, the choice of artists and the festival’s mandate.
1. Offer greater showcase opportunities to French-speaking artists
There are thousands of French-speaking artists at the local, national and international level. Our suggestions? Here are just a few. On the local scene: Le R, Yao, Maggie’s March, Mehdi Cayenne, Céleste Lévis, La Bronze, Eliesapie, D-Track & Sam Faye, and Moonfruits.
On the national scene: Klô Pelgag, Ariane Moffatt, LOUD, KNLO, Safia Nolin, Lisa Leblanc, Koriass, Samian, Les Hay Babies, les Soeurs Boulay, and Radio Radio.
On the international scene: Maître Gims, Mathieu Chedid, Grand Corps Malade, Tiken Jah Fakoly, Petit Biscuit, Julien Doré, Indochine, Brigitte, and MC Solaar.
2. Increase website traffic
It is currently impossible to have access to information in French on the festival’s website. While we realize that there are translation costs associated to providing information in both official languages, funding opportunities for non-profit, artistic organizations do exist to help alleviate these costs. For a festival held in the national capital of an officially bilingual country, wouldn’t it be normal to offer services in both languages?
3. Receive increased support from French media to promote the festival
Major local and national media outlets that operate in French are currently unable to obtain interviews in French from the festival. In today’s information age, wouldn’t it be great to make the most of such an opportunity to represent and reach new audiences while expanding the scope of the message?
4. Attract more festival-goers
On top of the 7 million Quebeckers who could be interested in the event, it is important to note that nearly 200,000 francophones (who primarily speak French at home) live in the Ottawa area. Did you know that French-speaking artists have the potential to attract a significant number of people? For example, videos released by hip hop artist LOUD currently have more than 2 million YouTube views and his tracks on Spotify have garnered over 100,000 plays a month. As for Gatineau-based group Uni-T, a glance at their YouTube channel shows that some of their videos have over 150,000 views. There are definitely new, untapped audiences who would be interested in the event if they had the opportunity to see artists they enjoy.
In addition to increasing revenues through sales, the festival could double its financial capacity with the addition of sponsors from both sides of the Ottawa River. And as festival organizers know, when it comes to booking artists, local and emerging talent are always less expensive. Boost the local French community’s sense of belonging French-speaking artists based in the region often tend to feel left out since there is a lack of opportunities to expose them to new audiences. By giving them the same opportunities as local, English-speaking artists, they could also benefit from the festival’s showcase.
7. Boost ties between our two shores
The event could be a great opportunity for our French and English-speaking communities to connect and discover a greater diversity of artistic talent together.
8. Strengthen French culture in Canada
For many years now, Canada’s francophonie has experienced a demographic rejuvenation thanks to the massive arrival of French-speaking newcomers that aspire to see themselves reflected in Canada’s artistic and cultural landscape.
9. Diversify the management team by integrating French-speaking members
Diversifying the board by including members that possess different abilities, worldviews and networks should ensure a decision-making process that takes into consideration the interests and values of all members of the population.
10. Enhance the festival’s reputation within Canada’s artistic community
The City of Ottawa is working on a strategy to promote the music industry and one of its objectives is to make the national capital a music city. Since the festival is held on the same territory where federal political activities occur, there is an opportunity to officially position the festival as one that has Canadian bilingualism at heart. Considering the aforementioned benefits, the festival’s positive impact would improve not only at the financial level, but also by attracting artists and festival-goers coming from French-speaking communities. As a large-scale event run by a non-profit organization with a social mission, we strongly believe that Ottawa Bluesfest should work to respect and foster the linguistic and ethnocultural diversity of our country.
And here, for inspiration, a French music playlist highly recommended!
Valois have released their new album We’re All In This Together But You, which is their follow up to 2015’s Love Dies But You Won’t. Valois is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist and producer Charles Hoppner, and has been ongoing since 2012.
We’re All In This Together But You builds off of Valois’ recognizable stripped-down synth-pop sound, and is informed by influences like Prince and Of Montreal. Their sound is rounded out with the addition of full live band containing singer Shannon Murray and drummer Don Rankin since 2015. While the key aspects of Valois’ dark, experimental minimalism still provide the skeletal framework for the album, there is a distinct movement towards brighter and more upbeat compositions. The arrangements contain melodic flourishes and layered instrumentation that transport us back to and era when VHS and The Sony Walkman ruled all.
“The synthesizer’s an amazing instrument,” explains Hoppner. “You can design the actual sound, and generally a lot of my favourite music—David Bowie’s Low, Kanye West’s albums from Graduation onwards, Prince, Of Montreal—is pretty synth-heavy but always with a more human edge. I listened to a lot of industrial and post punk when I was younger and also hung out at Soybomb in Toronto a lot where I’d be exposed to different hardcore and post-hardcore bands every night. That might have a less obvious effect musically but the attitude, political engagement and musical power have stuck with me.”
“I think that more recently, hearing Thanya Iyer and Fet.Nat and Bowie’s Blackstar really take jazz into new spaces really pushed my songwriting into a space that had a more rounded, jazzy feel in parts. At the same time I’ve always loved really aggressive, abstract guitar playing – Adrian Belew, Neil Young, etc. – and I think the humanity of a really emotional solo on an instrument that you can bend and slur the tone at will really creates an awesome contrast with synth-heavy music – and that’s the appeal of a lot of post-punk to me like Wire and PIL – there’s synths but it’s not synth-pop.”
Hoppner’s unrefined and raw vocals are half the charm of this band, as he seeks to build narratives and weave stories with his lyricism rather than trying to perfect his pitch. There are echoes of Morrissey in his songwriting, and the lyrical literalism he employs is simultaneously melancholy, subversive, poetic, and refreshing. This is exemplified many times throughout, but you don’t need to look further than the first line of the opening track “Easy To Love” to get a sense of what I’m talking about: “I’m easy to love, but hard to keep loving / You’re in my heart, but my head is too troubling”
“Lately, I really enjoy approaching music from a standpoint of writing upbeat, catchy pop tunes that have a much darker more subversive edge once you start peeling back the layers,” Hoppner explain. “That’s why I love glam—it’s like literally applying makeup to songs to hide and smooth over aspects of the truth in a way that makes the whole truth come into sharper, more dramatic relief. I was really determined to write about the world around me more—like how Heartsparkle is about the barriers a lot of women I know face in the art world—but these circumstances kept forcing the songs to become more insular and I think that is better.
“Glitter started as a pretty generic pro-genderqueer song inspired by the weekend I saw and met PWR BTTM (and basically had a minor breakdown from feeling inferior) but when Ben was outed as an abuser it became much more of a personal and oppositional thing—about identity, self acceptance, with just a passing nod to how much I regretted spending any emotional energy on that band. A lot of the songs evolved in that way and became more personal while still referencing what’s going on in the world—I don’t think it’s possible to separate the personal and political in 2018. It was a very cathartic record to make and I let myself take creative risks I wouldn’t have let myself do five years ago.”
The incorporation of female vocal parts and harmonies on the album add another dimension to it. Shannon Murray’s part in “Heartsparkle” is short but potent: “Here I go every move is on display / Just undress me weigh my sins / Here I go I’m the object for your gaze / Judge my everything but I don’t fear you.” Felicity DeCarle of Sparklesaurus also makes an appearance on the album, helping Hoppner to work on melodies and lyrics on “The River.”
“Sparklesaurus is my favourite Ottawa band and Felicity is a songwriter who I really, really admire,” says Hoppner. “She’s the rare type of composer who never leaves any loose ends in her music—every Sparklesaurus song is fully formed and perfectly structured for emotional impact. And she is a really fantastic lyricist.”
Music lovers who listen closely to lyrics and dissect them will appreciate this album just as much as someone who wants to let loose and have a dance party. There is a lot to this album, even in only eight tracks. We’re All In This Together But You is worthy of some deep exploration, and is an album that should be set on “repeat.”
Valois is set to release We’re All In This Together But You at LIVE! on Elgin February 25th, and the event will also incorporate comedy and burlesque in addition to the music. Advanced tickets are available for $8 here, and there will be some for sale at the door. Be sure to stream the album below.