Ottawa’s Got Soul: Slack Bridges premiere new music at Dekcuf
Yes, believe it or not – Ottawa’s got soul. On a chilly Friday in January, many of us braved the cold and trekked down to Rideau Street in order to congregate at the small, but tried-and-true Café Dekcuf. One thing about this place is that it isn’t a venue that most music patrons in the scene tend to visit often. Maybe it gets a bad rap for whatever reason, being somewhat awkwardly located directly above Mavericks. It’s also pretty chilly and drafty in the winter. However, since I started Showbox nearly four years ago, I can’t think of one bad show I’ve seen there. This night was no exception.
The lot of us were in for a night of funk, soul, and RnB jams. It was also a night of old and new, as soul music veterans Old Stereo and DJ Magnificent (Double Barrel) were also on the bill. Needless to say, the excitement was building. The drinks were flowing, and Magnificent was setting the tone by spinning his most excellent collection of funky 45s.
Slack Bridges is a brand new super group of sorts. Frontman Matt Gilmour (vocals), as with the other three guys in the band, have been involved in Ottawa’s music community for a long time. He has been involved in Ottawa’s punk and hardcore scene for over a decade in various capacities, playing in bands such as HAMILTON, I Refuse, We The Accused, and more recently, Heavy Bedroom.
Garett Barr (bass guitar) is a talented multi-instrumentalist, and previously lent his skills to bands Mackenzie Rhythm Section and Tea for the Voyage. Currently, Barr also plays guitar and ukelele in the rising folk group STEAMERS, and teaches music relentlessly through Big ARTS. Paul Ross (drums) has played in many bands, but more recently played in the long standing indie-rock act, The Gallop.
Marcus Ward (keys) is a seasoned piano player, who has played in The Ethics and currently plays in a ‘yacht-rock’ cover group called PleasureCraft alongside Dave Lauzon of Lauzon Music and Matt Corbiere of Winchester Warm. Chris Elms (guitar) is a master of his craft, and has played in numerous blues and soul acts over the years. In his younger days, he even lent his beat-making and production skills to a few tracks featuring the Tupac-era California rap group The Outlawz.
Needless to say, this band contains some experience.
As the band took their positions on stage, there was excitement and nervousness in there air – no one really knew what to expect. These are great musicians, but who knew where this new direction would take them and what it would sound like? The first measure of the opening track “Beholden” put our anxieties at ease and soothed our minds, bodies, and souls. James’ intricate guitar flares and Barr’s groovy, funk-laden bass lines immediately got the bodies moving on the floor in front of them.
Cue Gilmour’s vocals. Who knew that a guy who cut his teeth in the early 2000’s underground punk and hardcore scenes could belt out soulful, RnB-inspired vocal melodies? Those close to him know that he’s been experimenting with this kind of vocal style for a while now, particularly in his other project Gold Bonds. Slack Bridges is a clear progression for him musically, as he seemed to easily shake off his nerves and explode with vocal energy. His vocals are unique, and he displayed an incredible amount of control as the songs were played live for the first time. Not to mention the sound in Dekcuf was on-point.
Other notable tracks that stood out were “Lion City”, “Smile But It’s Been a While”, and the irresistibly catchy “On My Wings.” One special treat during the set was their cover of “Between the Sheets” by The Isley Brothers, a song which is sampled often but rarely done so well on stage. The night was a success, and Slack Bridges have given us a taste of things to come.
I spoke to Gilmour about his past, and what drove him to form Slack Bridges.
Ottawa’s music community has been my primary binding force through which I’ve met innumerable creative people and learned some great lessons about community building. I’ve been making weird music for a while. With that in mind, I have always thought of music composition in a rather cerebral sense. Studying my fellow artists is how I’ve been inspired to challenge myself, while imitating pop culture is how I learned to have fun.
Soul and R&B music has been no exception. As an adult I had sung R&B ballads at karaoke to get a laugh from my friends, but as a child I grew up singing along to the first two Stevie Wonder and Boyz II Men records I had bought long before I knew the punk tradition existed. After some of my bands dissipated, it made experimenting with soul and R&B music more seriously in Slack Bridges and Gold Bonds a natural frontier for further exploration. I’m enjoying the ride.
Ottawa Bluesfest 2014: Local Preview
Ottawa’s RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest begins on July 3rd and will feature 30 great local groups. Here is a list in alphabetical order to help you support local at this year’s Bluesfest!
Métis singer-songwriter Amanda Rheaume is a powerful vocalist with just a touch of grit and an instantly-accessible roots-pop-Americana sound. She has been impressing concert goers for around a decade in Ottawa and throughout North-America with her music and her infectious personality. Her latest release Keep Fire has earned her a Juno Nomination in the category Aboriginal Album of the Year. You can be swoon by Amanda July 11th at 6 PM on the River Stage.
Amos the Transparent
A six-piece band that plays wonderful folk-inspired, indie-pop which Jian Ghomeshi, host of CBC’s radio show Q, referred to as them as “Canadian Wilco.” Amos the Transparent can really dazzle a crowd with their excellent musicianship. They will be playing July 3rd at 5 PM on the Black Sheep Stage.
Angelique Francis is a singer, songwriter, composer and multi-instrumentalist (piano, drums, key board, harmonica, upright bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar and the electric Bass). In July of 2011, after a country wide search, Angelique was selected by Ottawa Blues Festival as one of three next emerging female Canadian Artists ( The She’s The One Competition), she was only 13 years old at the time. Angelique plays July 4th at 6 PM in the Barney Danson Theatre.
Atherton is one of Ottawa’s finest hip-hop talents and most entertaining MC’s. In 2012 he released his third album No Threat, which features a tonne of great tracks chalked full of references to Orleans where he grew up and other neighbourhoods around town. Atherton is also the host of one of the city’s best monthly events, Hip-Hop Karaoke. Atherton performs on the hip-hop heavy day July 12th at 2 PM on the Claridge Homes Stage.
For fans of high energy garage rock and punk rock. Average Times are coming off an awesome set at Ottawa Explosion Weekend, which you can read about here. Their self-titled debut, full of energetic quick hitters, made our list of the best local releases of 2013. Head bob and rock out with Average Times July 9th at 6:15 PM on the River Stage.
Bella Cat is a rarity at the Bluesfest, as she actually plays the blues. Playing blues, soul, and jazz with very catchy melodies which will bring you back to the 50s and 60s. Not only do they play beautiful music, but Bella Cat’s booming and powerful voice will amaze. You can catch Bella Cat on Thursday, July 10 at 6 PM at the Barney Danson Theatre.
BlakDenim will fill the stage with nine members on stage and fill your ears with very dancy funk music with hip-hop vocals overlaid. They infuse hip-hop, funk, rock, soul and jazz with lyrical content that ranges from the serious to the absurd, their tone from sweet to heavy, all connected by head-nodding and hip shaking melodies. So go shake your groove thang and get down with your bad self with BlakDenim Saturday July 5 at 2 PM on the Black Sheep Stage.
Boyhood is one of Ottawa’s most intriguing bands with there very outside the box psych-pop sound. If you are into strange and quite creative music, then don’t miss out on this project. Boyhood is really just Caylie Runciman, who does all of the composition, writing and recording herself. But has a few musicians join her when she plays live. Come get lost in Caylie’s musical vision July 6th at 2 PM on the Black Sheep Stage.
Taking their cue from classic blues and rock traditions, Cold Capital‘s guitar driven music mixes blues, roots, soul and country into a boiler pot of rock n’ roll. With influences spanning from Wilco to the Rolling Stones to Gary Clark Jr., the band is a perfect fit for the Bluesfest. Catch them July 4th at 6 PM on the Blacksheep Stage.
They are a four piece indie rock band draws influences from artists such as The Black Keys, Tokyo Police Club and Jack White. Farewell Davidson‘s music has great hooks and many sing-a-long opportunities which is always fun. Come sing with Farewell Davidson July 13th at 1 PM on the River Stage.
Formed from the ashes of Crash 13 in the latter stages of 1999, Fiftymen play country rock through and through, with dusty twang surging through its veins. Beyond the twang are strong lyrics about hard luck, heart ache, jealousy, revenge and redemption. Get your stomping shoes on and go check them out July 6th at 6 PM on the River Stage.
A modern combination of blues and roots, Firebelly add some sweet sweet harmonica play and strong vocals. In true blues fashion the four-piece does not shy away from other genres such as elements of funk, swing, jazz and country. They play July 10th at 6 PM on the Black Sheep Stage.
From fis- pumping, stomp your feet working-man anthems to soulful ballads of love, heartache and loss, James Leclaire’s songs are all about storytelling. He is backed by a band called the Cable 22’s and just released his third studio album Of What is Left and has been compared to Steve Earl. James and the Cable 22 will be playing July 3rd at 6 PM at Barney Danson Theatre.
John Allaire and the Campistas
John Allaire is an experienced, award-winning singer/songwriter , including American Songwriter Assoc. “Best Lyrics” Award in 2009 for “Magnets” (Nashville, TN). He has been making music for over 30 years and has a gift for weaving captivating musical stories. Drawing on his experiences and surroundings John’s musical repertoire includes songs with sincere, intelligent lyrics that are introspective and deeply personal, as well as tunes that are light-hearted and humourous. Check out this local talent on one of the main stage, July 12th at 3 PM on the Bell Stage.
Jonathan Becker and The North Fields
Jonathan Becker and The North Fields play rock and roll with roots in folk, country, and post punk. Jonathan’s voice was an instantly recognizable rasp that delivers very heartfelt lyrics. The five piece released a wonderful five-song EP early this year and are just coming back from a tour which took them through Ontario, Quebec and some stops on Canada’s East coast. Check them out with a cold brew on July 12th at 3 PM on the River Stage.
Probably one of the happiest and most excited people in Ottawa right now as he was named to the Polaris Prize Short-List for his latest album, the wonderful Someday, The Moon Will Be Gold. The amazing accomplishment is well deserved for the absolutly talented Kalle Mattson and his band. The folk rockers often remind me of Winnipeg based The Weakerthans, as they can play super uplifting tunes that get you up and dancing and then follow it up with a beautiful gut-wrenchingly powerful fingerpicking soft songs. Go see what all the buzz is about July 5th at 2 PM on the Claridge Homes Stage.
Keturah Johnson Band
Keturah Johnson has one of the most powerful and beautiful voices I have ever heard. She has spent most of her music making career as a solo artist, but late last year added a great group of talented musicians around her to take her sound to the next level. Their is so much soul and passion that flows through her lyrics and her incredible voice, that is now complimented by a full band sound. Don’t miss being blown away July 11 at 6 PM in the Barney Danson Theatre.
The Mackenzie Rhythm Section
One of the most fun get out of your seats and shake your hips band playing the entire festival. The Mackenzie Rhythm Section describe themselves as Soulstep, soul sang from the heart and rock solid funk. To be honest I could not say it any better myself. Shine up your dancing shoes, practice your best moves and come get jiggy with it July 5th at 6 PM in the Barney Danson Theatre.
Back with the blues, Old Stereo play very funky soulful blues music. The four-piece has been greatly influenced by Gary Clark Jr. so fans of his should not miss them July 5th at 1:30 PM on the River Stage.
Old Whiskey Road
Six-piece americana and country style band with a wonderful balance of male and female vocals. Old Whiskey Road draw influences from Wilco to Neil Young and to Ryan Adams, a great bunch of excellent singer songwriters. They hit the stage July 6th at 2pm on the Claridge Homes Stage.
Pith and the Parenchymas
Probably one of the youngest acts playing the festival, Pith and the Parenchymas play very interesting experimental folk that is mature beyond their years. It is quite exciting to see the younger generation add twists to a style that has been around for decades. Pith and the Parenchymas just released their debut full length album, Songs of the Neverending Ugly Lizard. Go experience something you have never heard before July 8th at 7:30 in the Barney Danson Theatre.
Scattered Clouds‘s psychedelic rock will channel the ghosts of Lebreton Flats past. Brooding rhythms and precise noise from this experimental 3-piece underline film noir imagery. Get taken away on a psychedelic journey July 3rd at 7:30 pm in the Barney Danson Theatre.
No it is not our beloved national Olympic rowing hero. It is a group of very talented artists from Ottawa who formed an 80’s style dance band. Silkken Laumann‘s lead singer Rolf Klausener’s voice is hypnotic and the music is very much a blast from the past. Their amazing debut album Not Forever Enough is available for free, here. Kick off your Friday night in style and in dance with Silkken Laumann July 4th at 6 PM on the River Stage.
The “Northern-fried” rock and soul band made their debut in 2006 at Bluesfest and have since made big waves around the country. Silver Creek has had such highs as playing the main stage at Bluesfest in 2009 and have back Blue Rodeo on tour. Silver Creek get the honour of once again rocking the main stage (the Bell Stage) July 5th at 3 PM.
Sound of Lions
Sound of Lions were the winners of “Best New Act” and “Album of the Year” in the Ottawa XPress’ readers’ poll back in 2011 and have carried that momentum with them. They have an amazing combination of a beautiful female vocals teamed up with a very strong emcee rapping over trip-hop beats. They will take their unique sound and high level of energy to the stage on July 12th at 1:30 PM on the River Stage.
Still Winter Hills
Five-piece country band that channels the days of old. Sill Winter Hills sounds like a band that could have opened for Neil Young during his heyday. They have perfected the sound of those who came before them, while carving out their own unique sound. Check out these country boys and go back in time with them on July 13th at 2pm on the Claridge Stage.
Speaking of going back in time, let The Split teleport you back to when funky-soul bands laden with brass ensembles were king. Fans of Lee Fields, Charles Bradley and James Brown cannot afford to miss out on this talented act. You can catch this soulful act July 5, at 3:30 on the Black Sheep Stage.
Female fronted alternative rock band who’s influences range from The Pixies, Arcade Fire and Nina Simone. Tindervox is a four-piece but you would never know from the great depth of their sound and their haunting songs. If you are brave enough, check them out July 6th at 3 PM in the Barney Danson Theatre.
They play traditionally-based Ukrainian style music merged with punk rock power chords. Ukrania is perfect for fans of Gogol Bordello and gypsy style rock. They are up-beat, fun, dancy and sing all their songs in Ukrainian. Come learn a new language, gain international travel and have a party with Ukrania July 10th at 6PM on the River Stage.
Last but not least, the 30th local act, Wicked Grin. Since 2003 Wicked Grin have been playing their full-tilt blues with a groove that just won’t quit much to the enjoyment of concert goers. Wicked Grin recently won the Ottawa Blues Society “Road To Memphis” Challenge and represented Ottawa at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN, in January 2014. You can catch their blues with bite July 12th at 6 PM on the Black Sheep Stage.