One thing we really love here at Ottawa Showbox are bills stacked with local bands. Yes, this night only had two bands playing, but two powerhouses of the Ottawa scene. Pony Girl and FEVERS are sure things, and the promise of a full night of top notch entertainment was planned out from the beginning.
The Montreal-based Pale Lips kicked off Saturday’s Peach Kelli Pop-headlined show at Gabba Hey! I had no set expectations for this band since they are very new and I’d never heard their songs before, but I found it easy to get swept up in their energy. It helped that I was with friends who had never seen a punk band before and seemed to be having a good time, which really added to the experience.
Avant-Garde is not far, but it’s through the crunch & cold from Eric’s so we had to get toasty first. Actually we got toasted. We missed Hello, Hello which is The Haig’s Chris Davidson’s other band. I can’t rightly blame winter, nor James Ready 5.5 for this discrepancy. We apologize for missing you guys, but we heard only good things about the set. Was there an EP released recently?
While we don’t run a whole lot of album reviews on Showbox, once in a while we like to mix things up. Cold Capital is a band that has been around for almost three years, having released the short, rough-around-the-edges Raw EP in the winter of 2012 and, more recently, a five-track album called The Cold Capital EP in August 2013. They were a featured band for Canadian Music Fest 2013 and have fine-tuned their sound as a no-fluff, no-BS blues rock ensemble.
There is no better way to show my cousin from Ste-Agathe-des-Monts a good time than during Bluesfest. Zac & I arrived within minutes of doors opening on the night they decided to squeeze four major headliners into the last slot. If we are anything it’s easily distracted, and so we tasted them all.
But it started at the River Stage, with a rap attack. El-P, a.k.a. El Producto, wasn’t without his Brooklyn charm as he thanked all his followers who’d been with him from the beginning of his Company Flow days. We’re talking ’93 here. Killer Mike straight outta ATL performed before him and invited El-P to come along for the ride, which they did did again during El-P’s set. Eric had the pleasure of watching the first part. They both injected their tracks with crazed energy but “Sea Legs,” from their collab album Run The Jewels, was my favourite. Killer Mike brought in the chorus: “Tryin’ not to walk crooked while this anchor’s dropped / but I been out on them choppy waves and it’s hard to say where this land begins and that water stops / I got sea legs”.
We avoided some shows. I will only describe the Marianas Trench as the deepest known part of the planet’s oceans and it’s in the Pacific — where it should remain.
Without a doubt, A Tribe Called Red killed it. Eric, Matías & I drew straws on the headliners and I lucked out to find myself in the warm embrace of three hometown boys, who were ecstatic to be back from a U.S.tour. “Ottawa,” crowed DJ Shub, “it is so good to be home!” We felt the love from the three dark silhouettes of DJs Shub, NDN & Bear Witness superimposed on the screen of looped aboriginal animation and lore. Contrasting the underlit trio were three of their children dancing up a storm to the left of their turntables. Bright tracks from their title album shone through a medley of samples, quite noticeable “Electric Pow Wow Drum” and “Look At This.”
In the midst of dancing I heard Lt. Aldo Raine tell me, “Each and every man under my command owes me one hundred Nazi scalps. And I want my scalps.” The disembodied voice of Louis CK repeating European settlers’ dumbest question: “You guys are Indians, right?” and DJ NDN mouthing “No…” while DJ Shub dropped a resounding beat. Actually DJ NDN was our lip-synching maestro, Shub was our MC, and Bear Witness did just that, with headphones askew, watching his brothers with a quiet that must be characteristic. It was, in a word, solid.
Certainly a good way to introduce a 14-year-old to a city that I’m proud to show off and a good reminder that ATCR play every second Saturday at Babylon. Long live the Electric Pow Wow!
Ottawa Bluesfest has made its name as one of the best music festivals in Canada, if not North America. Over two weeks, the festival attracts over 300,000 people to Lebretton Flats where top musicians form all over the world play. Festival organizers have done a reasonably good job at getting a good mix of musicians and genres, particularly this year where headliners range from Rush to B.B. King. As the festival continues to grow in size and popularity, the number of big-name acts seems to increase as well.
However, Bluesfest organizers have also succeeded in another way. A number of local artists are included on the bill every year, giving those attending the opportunity to get to know some of Ottawa has to offer. Not only is this really important for the musicians to have a chance at getting some more exposure, but it also gives them a chance to get out of the small clubs and play a set on a larger scale. While participants and winners of The Big Money Shot normally get a spot, there are so many other great acts from Ottawa that get a shot at playing.
In the months leading up to Bluesfest, we here at Ottawa Showbox will be previewing some of these local acts and giving you some samples of their stuff to listen to. We’re hoping to do this weekly, so we hope you find your new favourite Ottawa band or musician to see at the festival!
One of Ottawa’s top musical exports at the moment, these “Pow-wow step” innovators hardly need an introduction. When Ian Campeau (a.k.a DJ NDN) and Bear Witness started throwing epic dance parties (Electric Pow Wow) in 2008, little did they know that their music would be nominated for the Polaris Music Prize Long List in 2012. Now with DJ Shub on board, ATCR shows no sign of slowing down.
This 4-piece noise rock outfit is one of my absolute favourites in Ottawa. They are one of those bands that have the ability to transform a normal space into a sweaty, eardrum-ruining mess. Their recent release of the Hiss EP, a 6-track cassette of monumental proportions, as well as playing festivals like Arboretum and Bluesfest, marks the next phase for this band who have made big waves in Ottawa’s underground scene.
Started in 2009, this 7-person band has gained a lot of momentum with their two albums Expansion Forces (2010) and Fire Poems (2012). They charted at #2 on CBC Radio 3’s R3-30 weekly playlist and got spots at POP Montreal, NXNE, JUNOfest, Ottawa Bluesfest, and have toured extensively in light of their recent success.
One of the most talented, soulful acts Ottawa has to offer, Jack Pine & The Fire brings foot-stomping roots music that bleeds originality. The band has gained some notoriety in recent months as having recorded the Movember anthem “Mustache is King”. You may find yourself drinking sips of whiskey through a mustache listening to these guys.