Ev has synesthesia, and they incorporate their sensory experiences into music reviews. Synesthesia is a condition in which the brain links a person’s senses together in a rare manner, prompting unusual sensory responses to stimuli. People with synesthesia, for example, might see a certain color in response to a certain letter of the alphabet. Those who experience synesthesia “hear colors, feel sounds, and taste shapes” in a remarkably consistent fashion.
Ottawa Explosion day three found itself to be quite the killer day Friday night. From the astounding and mind-blowing lineup that The Dom to Peach Kelli Pop playing twice in one evening. Day three was one for the books.
Tightlip kicking things off at The Dom during Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2018.
At the Dominion Tavern, Ottawa’s Tightlip was the first to play. With orange rasps of the vocals, green-blue and magenta grit of the guitar, deep red basslines, and drumming as blue as robins eggs, the band kicked up high expectations for the night – and morning. The vocals ripped through the crowd and added a sunset orange and scarlet tint to the room. The rasp from Ashleys’ throat projected into the audience. The cold drumming added contrast to the warmth emanated by the vocals. Crashing and unapologetic, the drumming was thick but skeletal. While the drumming bubbled and burst through, the bass rumbled wine reds, and maroon relentlessly. The guitar bit back and squalled with the bass while emanating pale blues with the solo work and beautiful magenta hues the lower the notes got. Tightlip is a band that keeps it tight but radiates a wild and untamable energy. Whether you’re bitter or having a good time, this is a band to listen to in those moments.
Next up was the ever lovable Leather Jacuzzi. Not just a hot tub band, no – they are the hot tub band. They shine with well-timed noise that remained melodic, rhythmic, and rapid. Indigo and magenta splashed and mixed together as the vocals powered through. The guitar work unleashed the chaos and let soft pinks bubble and filter through. Keeping its awe, the guitar was muted and quick. Wrapping it all together was that bass. Within the wall of entropy, a deep resonance was added and sprang forth. Like an abstract painting, the maroons that the bassline provided seeped between the rest of the colours and dared to provide the backdrop. The shallow crashing drumming not only managed to drench the scene in an ice blue, but also captured attention due to its shallow cymbals and full and thick toms. Leather Jacuzzi is the band to see if you’re looking to party. When they’re on the bill, the promise of a good time is sealed in fate.
Sof leading DOXX on stage at The Dom during Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2018.
DOXX were up next and brought a true ferocity to the Dom getting people moving, screaming, and fist-pumping along. Reds turned into burnt orange, turned into rich earthy tones from the overdriven guitar, each chord ramming itself into the next with force. Wrapped in relentless emotion was the harsh and frigid drumming. Kieran added neon blue and celeste to the scene with his drumming – icy, bone-like, and booming.
Jeff played a back and forth game on his bass with Brit’s guitar, adding a golden yellow hue to the scene, the bassline split away from the rest and sewed itself back in seamlessly. It set the tempo for the way Sof moved – alongside the rhythm of the guitar. She found a way to drive the anger through and through while simultaneously adding purple, red, and some blue-greens to the mix of colours.
Radiation Risks absolutely rocked the stage at The Dom during Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2018.
Penultimately was the wonderful and insanely talented Radiation Risks. Possessing a stage presence not many are capable of, their exuberance radiated in forms of lime greens, and neon yellow. Meanwhile cyan, deep purple, and a shock of orange ripped through the neons. The guitar riffs took the form of yellow and lime, waving through the atmosphere while the chords spiked orange into it. The vocals added to the greens, ragged and ripped right from in the singer’s throat producing vivid forest greens. The drumming was thrashing and added cyan to the mix and the deeper the sound he produced the deeper the hue. The basslines rattled one’s rib cage and produced violent purples meshed with warm red to orange undertones. It was subtly violent and fucking messy. Radiant of wildly unique energy the band is one that is certainly worth seeing live due to the one of a kind performance they bring every night.
Bleu Nuit gave it their all at The Dom during Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2018.
The last band to take over The Dom was Bleu Nuit, from Montreal. Mellowed out post-punk that borders indie, they set an obscure scene and painted an even stranger picture. Playing with synths, they shot neon blue and neon green into the scene. Even the guitars painted greens and yellows due to their heightened tones and diminished sounds. Psychadelic acid trips are induced by the band. The drums were full and warm – red, magenta, neon and vibrant pinks streaked through the air. The bass and guitar combined to create a kaleidoscope of strange high pitched frequencies which roughly translated to vivid neons. The vocals were the only muted element, having remained relatively calm and tame while the rest let loose. The vocals were what painted the softer shades of orange and ochre that melded into a gradient of neons. Entrancing, and soulful, the vocals grabbed at you with their softness.
To finish the night I headed next door to the 27 Club, where Peach Kelli Pop played their second set of the day. The band kicked into upbeat songs and immediately the vocal harmonization burst into light and airy vivid pinks that molded into periwinkle and baby blue. Sprinkles of yellow chimed in with the higher notes that were plucked lower on the fretboard. The drums provided similar shades, having incorporated light greens in the mix. The drumming was warm, light, and even splashing. The basslines blended effortlessly into the rest of guitar work, rumbling beneath your feet and maintained a chestnut rose to crimson shade. Everything came together like a burst of confetti.
While in the midst of their set, they ripped out “Astro Zombies“ by The Misfits and absolutely rocked the crowd. Peach Kelli Pop never fail to amaze and they know how to work the crowd. They’re the fun upbeat summer bash band that is sure to show you a good time.
When the matching jackets come off you know it’s Peach Kelli Pop time. It was a cold May night but the all-girl power pop group teleported us to a sunny SoCal beach.
Allie of Peach Kelli Pop was all smiles all night at House of Targ in Ottawa. Photo: Ming Wu
Fronted by a great local talent Allie Hanlon on guitar and vocals, Peach Kelli Pop, played a most excellent set during the all-ages show at House of Targ. There was a ton of energy and so many smiles, on stage and off the stage throughout the entire set, which is always the case when Allie comes home. Peach Kelli Pop played some great new songs, “Halloween Mask” and “$100 Bill,” and also played a cover of the Sailor Moon theme song, which Allie dedicated to “all the girls.” It also brought me back to grade four – the nostalgia was real. Allie also showed her love for House of Targ, “I feel like this place was invented in someone’s dream, it’s out of this world, it’s the perfect mishmash of things.”
Nightshades rocking out at House of Targ. Photo: Ming Wu
As Nightshades took the stage, their drummer Geoff Clarke looked quite frazzled and winded… and rightfully so. During Toxic Thoughts’ set, the opening band, Geoff chased down a couple of kids who threw a brick through the House of Targ window after being kicked out. Well done Geoff! The band then appropriately opened with “Teenage Fool.” There were some other great things about this show, other than Geoff’s sprint. It was their first show with a new bass player, Dean Morris of The Haig, and the band played several of their songs with a much different feel. Songs such as “London Bass” and “Broken Bag” have changed for the better and I am very excited about it. Nightshades also played several new songs and they are still super bass driven and I cannot wait to hear those new tracks some more.
Felix of Toxic Thoughts in the crowd raging with a fan during their set at House of Targ. Photo: Ming Wu
Opening the night was new local hardcore punk band, Toxic Thoughts. “Hello everyone, we are here to provide some interruption before Peach Kelli Pop,” said lead singer Felix Lahbabi-Granger. The last name Granger may seem familiar, as the band is led by Yogi’s son Felix and man does the kid have stage presence. He often jumped into the crowd to mosh with his friends while singing. The band is still a little raw, but there is much potential in Toxic Thoughts and I look forward to watching them grow.
Over two weekends in March, 2009, 15 bands got two hours each to lay down one track live off the floor. These songs would then go on to be part of one of the best local compilations of all time, Ottawa Gaga Volume 1.
Going Gaga Records was a local record label founded by Ian Manhire (White Wires, Sedatives, and Voicemail) and Ottawa Gaga Weekend was a three-day gathering of mostly local, and some out-of-town, rock, garage and punk bands in Ottawa for an unforgettable few days. This event, which dates back to 2008, was the precursor to what I call Ottawa’s punk and garage Christmas in June, more commonly known as Ottawa Explosion.
Poster for Ottawa Gaga Weekend in from 2009. Cool to note that Yogi’s is the original recording studio/venue by now owner of House of Targ, Yogi Granger.
Of the 15 bands to lay down tracks for the Gaga compilation, only three remain active (The Creeps, The White Wires and Mother’s Children). That isn’t to many of the people who locked themselves away during a frosty weekend in the capital aren’t still major players in the Ottawa music scene.
Earlier this year the compilation, Ottawa Gaga Volume 1, was finally put online for our listening pleasure…and oh have we listened. This compilation is a blast from the past to anyone who went to shows at the time. This is the era of the Rock n’ Roll Pizza Party and when garage rock was king in Ottawa. I have so many fond memories of many of these bands, and the Million Dollar Marxists will always be one that holds a special place in my heart.
We interviewed Jordy Bell, member of The Creeps and Crusades, who helped put the weekends together and mixed the compilation.
What was Ottawa like in 2009?
The Ottawa scene in 2009 was going through a pretty explosive period. It was around this time that Emmanuel Sayer, Luke Martin, and Brad McQuoat were running the Rock N’ Roll Pizza Party night, a weekly night that was hosted at various venues around town (the Bytown Tavern was its longest running spot, which is now a Comedy Club on Elgin St.). The night usually featured a few local bands and a touring band, so it brought a lot of different musicians and people into the same room. This subsequently led to the formation of quite a few bands, and even more new friendships.
Allie Hanlon (aka Peach Kelli Pop) recording tambourine for The Felines track. Photo: Jordy Bell
Who came up with this great idea?
It was definitely Ian Manhire who conceived the idea, and was responsible for curating the compilation. Ian was already active in the Ottawa scene, putting out records on the now defunct Going Gaga Records. The idea was to record a small snapshot of some of the bands in the scene, at the time. It was probably a discussion at a Rock n’ Roll Pizza Party that led myself (Jordy), and Ian Showalter (Suppositories, Dagger Eyes, and current House of Targ sound engineer) to volunteer our time and skills to record it.
We decided to not go the traditional compilation route, and thought it would be fun to try and record all of the bands ourselves in a couple of weekends. It sounded like a daunting task, but each band was scheduled in a 2 hour time slot, and we tracked each band one by one.
Where was the recording done?
The recording was all done at the old Capital Rehearsal space, run by Luke Martin. The old location was at 240 Bank St (Luke has since moved the business to the City Centre building), and was in the basement of a government building. He set aside one of his jam rooms for us, and we had our little ‘control room’, located in the lobby outside of that room.
Ian Showalter (Suppositories and sound at House of Targ) getting levels before recording. Photo: Jordy Bell
Who was the team that took on this task?
Ian Showalter and myself were responsible for the entire recording and mixing portion of the record. Ian handled all the on-site engineering, running the recording software, and I was responsible for getting the bands set up in the room, and making sure mics stayed in place in between takes.
I handled the mixing portion of the record, with Ian Manhire, and Ian Showalter sitting in on the mixes. Mixing was completed at my current workplace, Atomic Audio, located in the west end of Ottawa. Once the mixes were complete, they were sent to Bova Sound, a family run studio in the city, for mastering.
Can you shine a little light on the set up?
The idea was to record the compilation with all the same gear. There was two reasons for this. First, we wanted the record to have a cohesive feel to it, often compilations are pretty jarring with a wide range of recording sources. The second reason was just for simplicity. Trying to record that many bands, on all different gear would have taken much longer. So, we settled on using one drum kit, with each drummer bringing in their ‘breakables’ (industry speak for the kick pedal, cymbals, and snare drum). I believe the bass amp we used was a Fender Musicmaster Bass Amp, and the guitar amps were Marshall heads and cabs for the most part. A few people brought in their own heads, or small solid state amplifiers as well.
Using all the same gear actually simplified the mixing process as well, as in most cases I was able to apply the same kinds of processing (EQ’s, compression, etc) on each track, then just make minor adjustments to the individual performances of each band.
The Beach Blankets (featuring members of Mother’s Children, Zebrassieres, and Babble Goons) Photo: Jordy Bell
Can you share any stories about those two weekends, some memorable moments or silly little anecdotes?
It was just a lot of fun, and incredibly busy. Once we got everything set up, it was just a case of getting each band through their recording session. There was still a lot of time to hang out, and generally even once a band finished recording their song, they’d stick around and hang out, and have a beer.
One story that sticks out in my own mind, was the recording of the Beach Blankets song “Greatest Hit.” The Beach Blankets had a short and raucous existence in town. In that song you can hear the sounds of bottle clinks, claps, and general chaos. This was because after they were done recording the music and lead vocals for the song, they had between 20 and 30 of their friends fill the room and recorded a take of everyone partying and making noise. Ian decided it would open the record, and I think it perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the record.
The Sedatives. Left to right: Emmanuel Sayer, Steve Adamyk, Ian Manhire and Dave Williams. Photo: Jordy Bell
What band from the Ottawa Gaga would you like to see get back together?
If I had to choose just one from that list that I’d like to see get back together, it would be Sedatives. I say this knowing that, in very recent days, the Sedatives have actually started to get back into the rehearsal room. I came to know the members of the band (Emmanuel Sayer, Dave Williams, Ian Manhire, and Steve Adamyk) from Rock and Roll Pizza Party first, and since those early days, they’ve become some of my closest friends (I currently play in Crusades with Dave and Emmanuel, and in Cheap Whine with Steve). I’m happy that they’ve decided to pick it back up, and am curious to see what comes of the reformation.
What is your favourite song on the compilation?
The Million Dollar Marxists song is my favourite. Listening back to it now, it makes me nostalgic about the early 2000’s in Ottawa. Before Rock and Roll Pizza Party, there was Bumper’s Pool Hall, which was located at 580 Bank St. (currently the home of the Works burger joint). This was my introduction to the punk scene in Ottawa. As someone who moved here in 1998, and formed a band (The Creeps) shortly after that, it was where I met a number of people in the scene (including Luke Martin of the Marxists, who was doing sound there at the time). When we recorded this compilation, the Marxists were essentially done, but Ian Manhire convinced them to record a song for the compilation.
Anything else you would like to share?
I’d be very interested in seeing what a compilation like this would look like today. It’s been six years since we recorded ‘Ottawa Gaga’, and the city, and music scene has changed so much in that time. If anything, the scene continues to expand and thrive at an exponential rate. While many of the musicians on this compilation continue to make music, there is also a wave of younger musicians and bands that continue to innovate and push the boundaries of music in Ottawa.
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.
A patron crowd surfing during New Swears. Even as an opener, New Swears always stir the crowd into a frenzy!
Pressed was packed to the brim Tuesday night, Oct. 15th, for Peach Kelli Pop and New Swears.
With very eerie art on the wall, just in time for Halloween and toilet paper everywhere (explained below) Peach Kelli Pop had us dancing and “ooh-lala-ing” along. Their super fun all girl poppy, punky garage rock style makes it quite hard to stand still. The headlining four piece were all sporting Scouts Canada jackets, badges and all. Peach Kelli Pop play very catchy tunes, none more catchy than ”Girls of Summer” and their closer ”Do the Eggroll.” They also debuted a new song, never played before, which I found quite good. But, the highlight of the set by far, was when they shocked me completely and played the theme song to Sailor Moon. (The link is the band playing it on Oct. 5th.)
As the show started I removed my ball cap while the national anthem began out of nowhere. Then emerging from the washroom was the boys from New Swears carrying a big Canadian flag and singing the anthem. Once on stage they used the flag to catapult candy to the crowd and kick off the show. It took three songs, but the crowd could not resist the wonderful energy of ”See You in Hull,” and the moshing began. Not long after there was crowd surfing, beer spilling and toilet paper roll streaming everywhere. The quick set had many of my favourites, ”Two Darts,” ”Cerzeca” and ”Paradise.” Short and sweet, heck the crowd’s energy was so awesome, half the band left the stage to join them. No matter the length of the set, a New Swears show always leaves a lasting impression.
But what is the Fun-Boy Clubhouse? Well, you know you’re there when you see Fun-Boy Clubhouse painted on a couch on the front lawn and the toy horse hanging in front of the balcony. With every room painted a different colour, ranging from pink to green, and a sick mural by local artist Ben Jensen honouring the New Swears in the kitchen, there is no better venue for a rock show. Walking down into the basement you find a low ceilings, one mural depicting The Beatles and super heroes, another with the Fun-Boy Clubhouse logo, a TV behind the bar playing original Scooby-Doo cartoons and a spider man head that lights up with the kick drum…yup doesn’t get much better than this folks.
Beers cans and broken glass littered all over floor, Christmas lights draped all over the ceiling and through a thick wall of cigarette smoke, Peach Kelli Pop hit the stage in the basement of the Fun-Boy Clubhouse on March 29th. The band from Ottawa played a great fun set of dancey upstroke surfer style rock. Heck don’t just take my word for it, the crowd liked them so much they hollered and chanted for “one more song,” when the band finished. They got what they wanted and more as the party kept going with a 2 song encore. Peach Kelli Pop are in the midst of a huge tour, check them out in a city near you, here are the dates.
The Girlfriends played second, and no offense to Peach Kelli Pop who played an awesome set, The Girlfriends stole the show for me. Dressed in lingerie, the boys took over the basement for this extremely special occasion, their reunion show and tape release. The Girlfriends incited the crowd into a near riot. Non stop crowd-surfing beneath the 8 foot ceiling and a pit that never slowed was complemented by some great grooving in your face rock. Topping it off with confetti and silly string, as well as taking requests, The Girlfriend tore it up.
Advertised as 25 minutes of dial tone, Voicemail delivered much more than that as the opener. Using old records to prop up the mic stand this Ottawa four piece brought a great garage punk sound to the crowd. An excellent way to kick off an amazingly rambunctious night.
House shows have always had a very special place in my heart, ever since seeing the likes of The Sickfits and Robot Kill City play Powel house years ago as a young teen. Those who hosted shows at Powell would be very proud of the sheer chaos and epicness of the Fun-Boy Clubhouse.