Washington DC’s Sneaks performed at St. Albans Church on the second last day of Ottawa Explosion, battling heat and spiritual presences as she performed most of the songs on her self-titled debut EP, with a few additional jams thrown in. Sneaks kept her songs quick and to the point, none of which exceeded two minutes (her seven song EP comes in at well under 10 minutes), opening with a brief rendition of “This Is.”
As a solo act playing bass to a drum track, Sneaks nonchalant, matter-of-fact lyrics and lo-fi vibe really carry each song with vaguely-relatable lines, what appear to be inside jokes with herself and seemingly random words. The catchy chorus of “Tomorrow maybe / today for sure” during the fourth song of the set had me quickly singing along. Before moving on to the next song she briefly looked around the front of the church behind her, and pointed out that there was some “supernatural stuff going on,” and then proceeded into her single “X.T.Y.” Sneaks wrapped up with “True Killer.”
Shortly after Sneaks finished up, Gatineau’s FET.NAT began to set up their gear facing each other in the middle of the church floor where all of the pews had been removed. FET.NAT dived into their set with reckless abandon and formed an instant connection with the crowd, which completely encircled them during their performance. The amazing acoustics at St. Albans really made the show an immersive experience and most of those in attendance were quickly grooving hard to the energetic, off-kilter rhythms and intentionally abrasive sounds that permeated the church.
Unfortunately, for those of you reading this FET.NAT is one of those “you really had to be there” type of acts. I know that it sucks to read that, but it sucks more for me trying to write about it. While SNEAKS is as wonderfully DIY-simple and straightforward as it gets, FET.NAT’s music is precisely engineered chaos, practiced and preformed by an insanely tight band. The crazy combination of soprano sax, live drums, and electronic samples somehow fits well with the distorted franglish vocals, piercing guitar riffs and odd songs structures. I personally challenge anyone to attempt to cover one of their songs.
FET.NAT opened with the first track from their latest EP, Stop Saying It’s So Beautiful, with the aptly titled “VEGAS PARIS,” wherein the main refrain is those words repeated as the chorus as a digitally modified vocal sample. “Dre,” also on the same EP followed shortly after. The band rounded out the set with “WTF Jumpin’ Bean” and “Blunt l’Inspecteur.”
Throughout the set they managed to maintain a super fun, engaging and energetic atmosphere. This was definitely one of my favourite shows at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 and if you are ever presented with the opportunity, I highly recommend seeing both of these acts, albeit for completely different reasons.
Here is a taste of FET.NAT playing “WTF Jumpin’ Bean” live at Pop Montreal a few years ago.
Mike Kroll starting off day 3 at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery. Photo: Eric Scharf
Unfortunately Shellshag had van trouble and couldn’t make it. Lucky for us that meant that we got an early Mike Krol show as he stepped up to fill in. Krol, from LA, took to the stage joined by a band of local burglars (Steve Adamyk, Johnny O, Davey and Pat Johnston) all dressed up. Krol was clearly the leader considering he was wearing a cap. The music was rocking, how could it not be with those boys supporting him, but what really makes Krol stand out are the really cool effects on his vocals. What was most impressive is that this was only the second time they play together, having practiced once this week prior to the set. It did’t show at all, they were super tight. Krol walked around into the crowd, behind the stage, off to the side and anywhere in between while never missing and beat and bringing his trusted tambourine around for the rid. He mentioned that explosion launched his career in 2013 as he had released two albums that he gave away but didn’t tour. Then Emmanuel asked him to play explosion so he created a tour to justify the trip and was so happy to be back.
Vacation getting loud and destructive at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery. Photo: Eric Scharf
Up next was Cincinnati’s Vacation. This is the fourth time these gentlemen play the festival. The lead singer and guitarist said “I have played this festival more years than I have been to college if you know what I mean.” Chris Cook pointed out to me that he believes that every time we have seen this band they have been playing different instruments, the current lead vocals and guitar used to sing and play the drums. No matter if they switch around or not, the band can really play and impress me every year. Live they kind of have a punk rock Nirvana vibe to them thanks to grunge elements and the particular rasp of the singer’s voice. They have some super infectious and catchy songs like “Decaying” and “Like Shit,” which had people singing a long at the top of their lungs and pumping their fists. I love when the first two acts get the crowd so into it.
We then shifted our intention inside to The Drearies and their ongoing Skechers Shapeups commercial. “Once again this set is brought to you by Skechers Shapeups,” they said to kick off the set. They shared many fun facts about Skechers, like how a lot of homeless people in Vancouver wear them thanks to rich women buying them, realizing they don’t work and donating them and how you can buy 18 hole laced up boot versions… very strange. The four-piece from Vancouver were a lot of fun and I don’t think we could have wiped the smile off their faces if you tried. The track that really stuck out to me was “Scooter Gang.” Yet the most memorable part of the set was when the lead singer announced that “We made tapes but forgot them,” and then they got pelted by empty cans and plastic cups by their friends.
The Worriers really impressed me at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery. Photo: Eric Scharf
As day changed into night Brooklyn’s The Worriers took to the stage. This was there first time in Ottawa, and you could tell people were excited as the outside courtyard was absolutely packed. Mikey Erg plays drums and its shows that he has been doing it a while, as he was sipping on beer and playing at the same time with ease. Lead vocals and guitarist Lauren Denitzio was so grateful and thanked us all “for being so rad, we really needed this considering what’s going on,” most likely referencing the atrocities of Orlando and the ongoing hate in the USA. Their set was really solid, filled with songs off of their latest release Imaginary Life, which was produced by Laura Jane Grace (Against Me). Their song “They/Them/Theirs” is about how there is no need for gender binary as it hurts so many people was my favourite and really stud out above the rest. I am a little ashamed to mention that I had somehow never heard of this band before, but they made a fan of me real quickly.
Strange Attractor rocking at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery. Photo: Eric Scharf
I was very excited to shift back inside to see Strange Attractor play and I was not alone as we were all crammed into SAW like sardines. I mean how can you not love a band that has a song called “Fuck Shit Up.” The boys from Sudbury may have played the most songs in one set considering that I doubt they have a single song over 2 minutes long. They plow through songs and keep you on your toes, while wasting very little time between songs. Great set by some great guys from a not so great place…so I am told.
Screaming Females melting our faces at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery. Photo: Eric Scharf
Once we unpacked from sticky and sweaty SAW Gallery we were treated to the Screaming Females, or Screamales to some. The three piece, from New Brunswick, NJ, led by Marissa Paternoster always impresses. Paternoster can really play the guitar, and I mean she is shockingly good. I’m generally not a huge fan of solos by they meld them in seamlessly and it just works. I was so stoked that they opened with “Bell” off their 2009 album Power Move, as that was the album that made me fall in love with them. They also played great tracks off their latest album Rose Mountain, including “Ripe.”
Dad Jokes from New Zealand playing at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at the Dominion Tavern. Photo: Eric Scharf
My night then took me to the Dominion Tavern for three more acts. First up was Dad Jokes, all the way from New Zealand. Anyone who knows me knows that there is no more attractive band name for me, as I am constantly saying dad jokes. The two piece, guitar and drums, were awesome, and didn’t really tell any lame jokes either. They did however remind us all to get cards for our dad’s for Father’s Day on Sunday. This was the last stop of their Canadian tour, and they must really like it up as they dedicated a new song they had never played for anyone yet to local band Average Times. It is a solid track to boot.
Mike Krol back at it, this time rocking the Dominion Tavern during Ottawa Explosion Weekend. Photo: Eric Scharf
Mike Krol took and his band of burglars dazzled us again, this time though he had a much rowdier crowd to play too. Never under estimate the power of a man in a cape rocking out on a tambourine. The band, now playing together for a third time, were just as good if not better than their earlier performance. Krol was still up to the same antics, jumping into the crowd and moving around all over the stage. He is quite the entertainer. I said it before, but the effects on his vocals thanks to a couple of pedals is really quite cool. I am still singing “This is the News” almost 12 hours later.
Mikey Erg closing out day 3 at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at the Dominion Tavern. Photo: Eric Scharf
Last but not least it was Mike Erg from the infamous The Ergs!. This was the first time he toured with a full band since The Ergs broke up, and it happened to be two members of The Worriers on bass and drums. Erg is a prolific talent that has been at it for years under several different monikers and with a variety of band. Erg dedicated a song to Mike Krol and said “I’m so excited we are playing the same show because his album is my favorite of the year.” He later played a killer track called “Apart Time” with the lyrics “Crank up the volume, you don’t love me anymore,” from his upcoming album Tentative Decisions set to be released later this month.He closed out with two more songs off Tentative Decisions, including “1001 Smashed Motel Room” which had a Bob Mould/Perfect sound to it to me and lastly “NyQuil and Sudafed.” And on that note it was time to bike my butt home to bed to be ready for round 4.
Ottawa Explosion Weekend day 2 was the ultimate birthday party for me, amazing bands, super nice people and delicious drinks all night long.
Sedatives starting day 2 at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
The first act of the night was the Sedatives. The local band from yester years absolutely killed it and was anything but sedated. And how could you with the stellar lineup of Ian Manhire (White Wires, Voicemail) on keys and vocals, Steve Adamyk (Steve Adamyk Band) on bass and vocals, Emmanuel Sayer (Crusades, Ottawa Explosion Organizer) on guitar and vocals and Dave Williams (Crusades) on drums. The great early crowd was made up mostly of Ottawa’s old guard and they were all amped. Highlight of the set was when they played “Powerlines” followed “Teenage Runaway,” back to back. This performance was even better than their comeback show at House of Targ in May. They are like a fine wine just getting better with age.
Laika’s Orbit really impressed me at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
Next up was New England’s very awesome Laika’s Orbit. This was the first time I have ever seen a power pop band equipped with a Flying V guitar. It definitely wasn’t ironic either because there were a couple of great shredding moments. Lead vocalist and guitarist, Sean Doopy, commented on the heat at one point and most of us just laughed. We have been waiting for this weather for quite some time now and it was only 27 with very little humidity. I really liked their track “No Matter What It Takes,” which also happens to be the title of their latest record. Every day at Explosion there is that one band you never heard of that really impresses you and on this day it was Laika’s Orbit. I strongly recommend checking them out.
Steve Adamyk Band rocking out at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
I thought I knew exactly what to expect from Steve Adamyk Band, but they proved me wrong. I mean I knew I was in for some great punk rock and good times, which they delivered on. What I didn’t know was a bunch of the new songs they played and that Adamyk was going to mention that there should be a new album in a month. The other thing I know is that Pat Johnson is a great drummer, but having now seen him play in every type of band I wonder…is there any style this man cannot drum? The band nailed all the new stuff but hilariously struggled with “Careless” and “Katacombs” after playing “I Fought for the USA” which drew some heckling from a familiar voice (video here). They recovered nicely and crushed the rest of their set.
Radioactivity getting the crowd going at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
The last band outside for the evening was Radioactivity. You know a band kicks ass when the front row and the pit is full of people from all the other bands. Conceptualized in Japan and built in Texas out of the ashes of Marked Men, Radioactivity play great power pop, garage rock or whatever you want to call this super fun music. They were the first band to get the crowd moving a little more than just head bobbing and it was great. And it is easy to understand why when listening to tracks like “Don’t Try,” “Stripped Away,” and “Pretty Girl.”
The Creeps brought party inside at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
It was now the time of the night where we moved inside into the small dark confines of the back room of SAW Gallery to watch The Creeps. The local three piece were at home in the darkness as they kicked things off with “Ghosts.” Radioactivity’s momentum clearly carried inside as the crowd sang along loudly with fists pumping every chance they could. This hit a pinnacle when the band played their big radio hit “Cancer” followed by “All The Way Home.” Those boys can sure build a set list. In a stranger moment, they dedicated the song “Off My Guard” with a chorus of “How I just feel like dying, I feel like dying, oh oh” to newlyweds who came up from Portland. I am going to assume it is their favourite track or that there is a story there. And in what seems to be the bands routine now, they closed with “Car Crash.”
Nato Coles grabbing a shot mid set without missing a beat at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
Next up was one of the most anticipated for me, Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band from Minneapolis in Wisconsin. Coles was in a playful mood, starting the set by talking about Stomping Tom and how “I’ll play the stomper all night long.” He then followed that up with “We’re going to have fucking fun tonight.” Fun was had indeed, including a moment where Coles left his band members on stage to go have a shot at the bar in the middle of a song. If you have never seen these guys play I urge you to change that as soon as you can. It is such a great rocking time and I am so excited to hear them play some new music, because that leads me to believe there is another record coming and maybe more touring. I loved hearing the anthemic “See Some Lights” live again. And for a twist, the drummer, Mike Cranberry and Coles switched places for the last song. Coles rocked out on the skins and Cranberry showed us his chops on vocals. They are men of many wonders.
The festivities were capped off with Bad Sports, who feature members of Radioactivity. The more mellow kind of 80 punk rock and garage vibe was a nice way to end a very long night of celebrating. There new single “Living with Secrets” off their upcoming 7 track EP was awesome and has a New York Dolls feel to it.
Well Explosion that was one heck of a birthday party! The next three days will have a very hard time topping that one.
Some people think we go to 10 shows a week. Rest assured, that is not true. But we try and pick em well, and 2015 was another great year for live music in the capital. We saw some really incredible shows in unique spaces that may never happen again. We saw some of the best local bands tear it up at festivals as they always do. We saw some bands call it quits and others come crashing out the gates with their first gig – and in one instance, this happened in the same show. Sparks flew – literally.
Although this is by no means an exhaustive list of the great shows that happened, it reminds us that Ottawa continues to grow and cultivate the right conditions for a strong music culture to exist. With energy flowing on and off the stage, here were some of the best shows that happened in Ottawa in 2015.
Weights and Measures at Arboretum
“I can’t overstate how impressive Weights & Measures were live. Even after 11 years apart, their riveting guitar riffs, thunderous percussion, and penetrating bass lines blended together as the crowd watched in awe. Everyone that was there now understands this band was so well respected, as they made their complex and intricate arrangements seem easy.”
“Ottawa’s party punks extraordinaire delivered in a grandiose fashion, as always. It was business as usual – the guy in a giraffe costume shooting confetti into the crowd, their fun upbeat songs like “See you in Hull,” “Paradise” and “Two Darts” stirring up a mosh pit, band mates playing on each others’ shoulders, making a human pyramid, playing bass while standing on the crowd, climbing up the fire escape of the warehouse to keep playing and being joined by Bruce Springsteen on stage.”
“The 11-piece chamber ensemble were stellar in their first performance outside of their hometown of Toronto. They are not your typical cover band. They take a look back at the last one hundred years of popular songs with focusing on songs of importance to the queer community, and revealing the backstories and personal narratives behind much of this music.”
“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.”
Underground Railroad to Candyland at Ottawa Explosion Weekend
“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.”
“The band capped off their set with the always fun and super interactive “Wolfpack Presley”. I mean how often are you encouraged to howl like a wolf at the top of your lungs? The crowd was having so much fun they wouldn’t let Steamers leave without one more song.”
“Was it the lighting through the haze and $3 beers that created ghostly looking shadows dancing on the inside of the tent, or were the ouija rockers channelling spirits before their set? We will never know.”
Lisa Leblanc’s intimate session at The Record Centre
“It’s all fun and games with LeBlanc. As she finished up soundcheck, the atmosphere was relaxed and smiles filled the room. With the spring sun shining bright, the trio of LeBlanc and her two companions filled the store with tunes. The set was a great mix of French songs off her 2012 self-titled debut album and English songs off Highways, Heartaches and Time Well Wasted.”
FRANK TURNER & THE SLEEPING SOULS WITH CORY LEVESQUE @ RITUAL
“There are very few musicians out there that genuinely look like they are having as much fun and exude that much energy from behind a guitar and a microphone. His energy is contagious. You can’t help but sing along and clap at every opportunity, and with Turner, there are plenty of opportunities to be heard and participate. There was something extra special about this show, not only was it the first of his little mini-tour, it was the first proper show with a band of 2015 for Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls — quite the honour for Ottawa.”
PREGNANCY SCARES’ FINAL FRIGHT WITH SUBSISTENCH, SICK NURSE & SAILOR JUPITER
“The zenith was reached during during the final song of that last performance.
Energy from the crowd clashed with the band’s and culminated into a chaos of people getting on stage while Pregnancy Scares blasted away. It was taken to a whole other level when a man on the side of the stage wearing safety goggles and a bandana over his mouth started an electric grinder inside a steel Ottawa Senators trash can. He showered the stage and musicians with sparks and Davey, loving every minute of it, went as as close as he possibly could.”
MEGAPHONO: COLD WAR ADVENTURES IN THE DIEFENBUNKER WITH STEVE ADAMYK BAND, BOYHOOD & MORE
“The snow storm that hit Ottawa Wednesday night seemed appropriate as we drove out to the Diefenbunker, an underground artifact of the Cold War, on the outskirts of town for another night of MEGAPHONO. It also seemed appropriate that some of Ottawa’s best underground bands were literally gathering under the soil to show their stuff in this unbelievable space.”
MEGAPHONO: LAST EX, EVENING HYMNS & SCATTERED CLOUDS @ ST. ALBAN’S
“Last Ex took to the stage and simply put, melted my brain. They play a really cool and out there instrumental music that blew me away. This was the coolest and most captivating instrumental performance I have seen since Explosions in the Sky. ”
“As Hey Rosetta! hit the stage, the lighting came on and dazzled us all. The foil backdrop also enhanced the lighting effects as it offered distorted reflections. The atmosphere couldn’t be better, and there was an air of excitement and good vibes in the room. […] The band maintained a constant push/pull of energy, keeping the crowd attentive yet engaged and moving. Songs like “Gold Teeth” would fill each corner of Southam Hall with a vibrant energy, while others like “What Arrows” would take it away and take a quiet hold of us all.
Although the night was ephemeral, the memories will remain with us. Great bands, a wonderful venue, incredible sound, and a vivacious crowd – what more can you ask for? Without a doubt, this show was one of the best of the year in Ottawa.”
I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S NOT: FLEETWOOD MAC’S RUMOURS at St. Albans Church
“The wonderful thing about Rumours is that it every song allowed for a different member to shine. For example John Hynes kicked things off leading “Second Hand News,” while Caylie really showed her vocal chops go far beyond what we have heard from her in Boyhood when she delivered on “Dreams.” Rolf then took lead on “Never Going Back” and teleported us all to a different time. Mike passionately blew everyone away when he sang “Songbird,” showing why many people think he has one of the most special voices in town.”
The final day of OXW is always kind of bittersweet. On the one hand, there are usually some great bands scheduled to play in the afternoon and, in this case, it was a gorgeous day out with no clouds in the sky. On the other hand, a lot of us were pretty burnt out from all the drinking, excessive punk rock consumption, and sweltering heat that comes along with no clouds in the sky. But let’s be honest, those of us who remained were excited for what Sunday had in store, putting any complaints aside.
The day started off strangely. A few of us were hanging outside at the SAW courtyard when all of a sudden we heard a massive crashing sound. The sound of metal hitting metal at a considerable speed is unmistakable, and it sounded bad. We ran out to check what had happened, and as it turns out a brand new cherry red Ford Mustang had been sideswiped by an SUV. Everyone was OK, but we all felt bad for the Mustang’s driver as he had to wait hours before being towed (his wheel well was damaged and he couldn’t drive).
Things started a bit late since Chloroform canceled their OXW appearance, and Ottawa’s own Baberaham Lincoln kicked off the final day’s festivities. The cleverly-named three-piece group played some dissonant noise rock that threw me back a few decades. Armed with Jenna Spencer’s Fender Strat, Cory Lefebvre’s hollowbody, and Hillary Lawson’s drums, the band eased us into the day with atmospheric, over-driven songs that served as a welcome balance to the high number of punk bands we had all heard for the last four days. The tone on Cory’s guitar was hypnotic, and the simple layering of the band’s instrumentals drew the crowd in and put us all back into the zone. Jenna’s soft, and at times eerie vocals contrasted well with the fuzzy tones coming out of the PA. Baberaham Lincoln didn’t throw any curve balls at us, but their mesmerizing sound and powerful builds kept the crowd wrapped around their fingers throughout the set.
Baberaham Lincoln at Ottawa Explosion 2015. Photo by Stephen McGill.
Next up was Gaycation, a band from Ottawa that I hadn’t seen yet but that I was really excited about. They just released a split demo tape with Weed Mom through Bruised Tongue a week or two ago which I highly recommend, and I was lucky enough to get my hands on that hardware right before they played. Gaycation is a queercore power-pop outfit, and all of us who witnessed their set got see how high energy this group really is. Faelan Sadboy took centre stage on vocals, looking more than comfortable on stage with a big smile on his face and producing powerful and emotive vocals. Above him also hung a Hello Kitty piñata, the destiny of which we could only guess was moments away. In the meantime the band played some fun tunes including “NBD” and “No Bros”, songs which correlated with the huge hand-made sign behind the drummer LP that said “KILL THE BRO IN YR HEAD” — a motto that many of us surely support. One of the band members thanked her mom for coming out to see the band play, after which Alanna jokingly proclaimed, “My mom didn’t come to see me play. She said that she’s already seen me before.” There were a few points throughout the set that Gaycation had some trouble keeping time with one another, and I’m sure with a little more practice they will make their live set really tight. The band closed their set with the fun, dancy song “Gaycation”, and yes, Faelan kicked the shit out of that piñata and candy rained down upon us.
Gaycation at Ottawa Explosion 2015. Photo by Stephen McGill.
Blue Angel is a group that I always look forward to seeing live. This three-piece grungy noise rock band consists of Caylie of Boyhood on drums, Sam Pippa of Organ Eyes/Pipahauntas on bass, and Lidija Rositis of Bondar on guitar — and all of them sing. Their lyrics are intentionally repetitive yet poignant, as clearly demonstrated in songs like “You/Me”. The three of them normally wear outrageous outfits or masks, this time opting for a simple face mask due to the heat during the day. Their heavily distorted guitar and bass take me back to the days of Sonic Youth, music that isn’t meant to be consumed comfortably but meant to evoke raw emotion or visceral sentiments. After a few intense songs, drummer Caylie Runciman stopped and joked that she accidentally swallowed one of her long hairs during the last song. Blue Angel ended with the song “Sweaty Belly” that is featured on their three-track EP released in 2014, and made it a memorable one as usual.
In between sets was Drone Zone, a series including drone artists presented by Debaser. It was definitely an interesting addition to the festival, one that had not been included in previous years. Drone Zone was an informal extension of Weird Canada‘s National Drone Day, celebrating experimental, ambient, and drone music. I caught some of Everett’s set, a group that included Willow, Elsa, Tyrin (of Weed Mom) and Fraser. I had never experienced a drone set before, and I made sure to go in with an open mind ready for anything. What I really enjoy about many artists featured on Weird Canada, and in turn drone music, is the off-the-cuff experimentation that can lead to beautiful abstract pieces of music. I was very impressed with Everett as they played their first performance ever, a relatively quick 15-minute drone set that included ambient noise coming from countless knobs and buttons controlled by Fraser and Tyrin. Willow and Elsa stood closer to the audience, and although it was hard to discern their lyrics at times over the drone, their short performance was authoritative and resounding. I look forward to hearing more from Everett as they produce more pieces in the future.
Everett at Ottawa Explosion 2015. Photo by Stephen McGill.
Bonnie Doon came on shortly after, having just come off an Eastern Canada tour a few weeks ago. A few fans were wearing the DIY tie dye band shirts they had made for the tour, while lead singer and co-bassist Lesley Demon wore a particularly ’80s looking business suit. Bonnie Doon dove into their wacky and wild set of noisy surf rock, enchanting us with two layered basses played by Lesley and Gina Vinelli, crunchy guitar parts by Madison Watson, and kept the beat going with Keltie Duncan on drums. Watching old people walk by and looking completely and utterly confused by what was happening was a highlight for me. At one point I heard two people walk to the front gate and ask what was going on in the courtyard. They asked, “Is this part of Fringe Festival? Because that’s where we’re headed.” To their content, Ottawa Explosion was not part of Fringe Festival around the corner, and the sense of relief was obvious. Bonnie Doon played some great songs such as “B Hole”, “Pizza Shark”, “Moon Tan”, and even treated us to a trip down memory lane by covering “Lump” by The Presidents of the United States of America. I was secretly hoping they’d break out into Weird Al’s version of “Gump”, but that was just me.
Bonnie Doon at Ottawa Explosion 2015. Photo by Stephen McGill.
My final Explosion set of the festival was Montreal’s The Famines, only because I probably would have passed out by the time Catholic Girls came on stage. The two-piece garage punk band played an intense set, with singer/guitarist Raymond Biesinger playing heavy and distorted basslines, and Drew Demers on drums shredding on the kit even though he appeared to be on the brink of heat stroke. I’d seen them open up for Big Dick at their album release party back in February, and I really enjoy their aggressive and raw brand of garage rock. Several times Biesinger went out into the crowd and played right beside us, and at one point turned to Demers and asked, “How are you doing buddy?” Demers replied very frankly by saying, “I’m fucking dying.” Everyone laughed, but the band was clearly uncomfortably hot, particularly Demers on drums since he was playing so fast and intensely. He powered through most of the set with no issues that we could hear, and Famines kept the party going almost all the way until the end when they had to stop for their own personal well-being. It was at that point that I fantasized about jumping into a nice fresh pool and decided to call it a day. What a festival.
A huge thanks to Luke, Emmanuel, and all the helpers and volunteers for everything they do. Explosion is getting better every year and it’s always what we look forward to most. Until next year folks!
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.
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.
Sailor Jupiter had the honour of being this year’s first band. The three-piece garage group from Ottawa are one of my favourite newer local bands and are always a treat to see perform on stage. They played great tracks off their self-tilted debut like “Jesus Freak” and the droney “Dead to Me”. They closed with an unrecorded song that was loud, filled with yelling and most excellent. They just keep getting better every time I see them.
Changing things up was Tough Age, with more of a pop punk and dance rock sound. The band from Vancouver not only played great tunes, but gave out good advice. After struggling with hair in his face, the lead singer and guitarist said, “Don’t get cool hair cuts, get safe hair cuts… Great advice my dad once gave me.” The band announced the exciting news that a new album is on the way and played us a track off it called “New Orleans Square.” Tough Age closed out with their sweet song “Heart of Julie Jones.”
Not only was I bouncing from stage to stage between SAW and Mugshots, but it also felt like the genre of music changed up every time which kept things interesting. After listening to west coast pop punk, it was now time for east coast rockers Monomyth from Halifax. These guys took me on a journey through soundscapes with their stoner rock. It felt really appropriate as they named themselves after the narrative pattern for the 12 stages of the hero’s journey. These maritimers’ music is perfect for meditating or for peaceful sailing on the open waters. Really dug it.
Playing the final set outside of SAW for the evening were the up-tempo and lively Guantanamo Baywatch from Portland, Oregon. They teleported us to a ’60s or ’70s beach party worthy of bright Hawaiian shirts and people doing the Twist. Their music was so much fun and finally got the crowd moving. You need not look any further than the first track, “Barbacoa” off their latest album Chest Crawl, to understand why people where loving it. The instrumental surf medley makes you want to jump up and dance. They are one of, if not the, tightest surf rock group I have ever seen. A real treat.
Kappa Chow playing Club SAW at Ottawa Explosion Weekend in Ottawa.
It was now time to move inside SAW for the final four acts. Kicking things off were Kappa Chow. If anyone there didn’t know the band’s name, they learned it quickly as the lead singer often yells out “KAPPA…” and waits for the crowd to say “CHOW!” You know the band from Sackville, New Brunswick, is something a little different right away as the drummer stood up and set up in the crowd-facing the stage. With the singer channelling his inner young Iggy Pop and not being able to either keep his shirt on or stay out of the crowd — he is a natural entertainer. Later on during the set he got up on the monitor and standing nice and tall mooned us all. Never forget that Kappa… CHOW is “Punk as Fuck.”
Up next was Nap Eyes from Halifax, NS. If Kappa was Iggy, Nap Eyes was Lou Reed in all the right ways. They play a very interesting psych folk music and performed a number of great tracks including the eerie “Dark Creedence”, which sounds like it could have been an outtake from Velvet Underground & Nico. Like the song “Heroine”, “Dark Creedence” begins with a happy-sounding chord progression and crescendos near the end with a screechy, uncontrolled sound from the guitar that makes the listener feel slightly uncomfortable.
The band with the greatest name of the night, SOCAN Billionaires, shared their musical riches with us as we closed in on midnight. Led by Mike Dubue, they were essentially Hilotrons without Adam Saikaley. They played a number of upbeat, catchy tunes and ripped through their set. A highlight was when the band slowed things down a bit and got their dub on, playing Hilotrons’ “A New Town” from their new album To Trip with Terpsichore. The thing I love about Dubue is how he does not shy away from his Talking Heads influence. Their performance felt like Ottawa’s answer to Stop Making Sense but with the punk edge of being in a small dimly lit venue. They powered through technical difficulties with Dubue’s keyboard, but with his energy and the band’s amazing musicianship it could almost go unnoticed.
Now well past midnight it was time for the Ouija rocking The Yips to peer into what was left of our souls. The Yips were the perfect choice to end the night, maintaining the energy of the room and keeping the late mid-week party going. The local act puts on such a great show and they have amazing on stage chemistry. As per usual, the band did not disappoint the still pretty large crowd of late-night partiers. A few highlights of the set were just how spot on they nailed their track “Repeater” and that they played a new song I had never heard before. Teasing us that late at night felt somewhat unfair… but I liked it. Let’s all hope that means another Yips EP is on the way sooner rather than later.
Day one is officially in the books and it was most excellent. Five more days of fun, sun and punk rock left to go!
So I walked into the Mugshots courtyard just after the Denver, Colorado, three-piece had started their set, and I immediately notice the drummer playing with a maraca in one hand. Ok, that’s cool, score one for Homebody. Next song, the two guitarists trade instruments, also cool. Then I notice the instrument that one guy is playing: it looks like a guitar but a bit bigger, and it sounds like a bass. It has 6 strings, but he’s plucking them individually, not playing chords. This whacky thing is called a Bass VI, and is just a small-scale 6-string bass guitar. I’d never seen it played in a band, and I’m not sure I fully understand it. So Homebody is rackin’ up some points!
These guys are mixing psychedelic vibes with a kind of Mac DeMarco-esque jangly pop, and some occasional weird time signatures. The rotating projections on the tall courtyard walls looked like something you’d see through a microscope, and coupled with the music, made the setting feel like a science experiment, as if we were under the microscope and Homebody was the spaced-out soundtrack to our examination. Weird. And awesome.
The weekend is young, so let’s go! OXW Day 2!!!
Ottawa garage/punk trio Nightshades have just released their new EP Wendy, their second release in just over six months. The band has garnered a lot of attention since forming in February of 2014, and were asked to play a set in the Deifenbunker during MEGAPHONO earlier this year, and an opening set for Fucked Up during the Ontario Scene Festival in May.
Nightshades leave nothing to the imagination. There is a visceral quality to their music that penetrates both through living room speakers and on stage, connecting with listeners immediately. However, Nightshades has made a slight departure from previous work. Their new sound is much deeper, darker, and more dissonant than 2014’s The Beauty of Dreaming EP, stripping away some of the pop elements and replacing them with a heavier, grimier aesthetic that hits hard. More noticeable on the new EP are the layering of instruments in particular songs, such as the lead guitar in “Nail File” and “London Bass”, adding something a little different to the record.
“We wanted it to be nothing like the first one that’s for sure,” explained drummer Geoff Clark. “As for our goal for the sound, we just were going for something that we could all get behind. We wanted it to be fast and dirty, and in the end that’s what we got.”
Lead vocalist Mallory Giles’s echoed, disaffected vocals are a welcome contrast to the aggressive overdriven bass lines by Sarah Grant and unforgiving onslaught of percussion by Clarke. Sonically, the EP pays homage to garage acts of old like The Gories, playing some quick, fun, and upbeat tunes but also not afraid to tap into their darker side with songs like “Wendy” and “London Bass,” the latter of which is even garnished with some synth elements, something new for Nightshades.
One of the strongest tracks on the record is “Elevator Eyes,” the longest song on the album clocking in at a whopping two minutes and 43 seconds. It is a quintessential summer party song, going back and forth between quick verses and slower breakdowns. The EP ends with the frantic and discordant “Red Racer”, leaving us on a cliff edge wanting more of their new sound and style.
Fans of no-bullshit garage and punk rock will enjoy Wendy, however it is just barely long enough to satisfy the listener’s craving. Most of the songs are finished in the blink of an eye, making the experience of listening and diving into the EP a brief and somewhat frustrating one only because there’s a sense that this band has so much more to give. I guess that means we’ll just have to keep Wendy on repeat until Nightshades (hopefully) treats us with a full-length LP at some point in the future. Listen to Wendy in full below.