The band has been making waves in the nation’s capital since forming in 1998 and their latest releases sees them return to their pop-punk and Ramone-style jams. As a born and raised Ottawan, I have had the luxury of seeing and hearing the Riptides for years. It is great to have the first full length Riptides album in nearly a decade as they had focused on releasing a bunch of splits over the past few years with bands such as The Dwarves, The Apers, and The Connections.
The 18-track album only features two songs over 3 minutes in length, as it focuses on quick catchy tracks leaving you wanting more. One of my highlights of the album are the great local references such as “hanging out at Brewer Park” and “going to Barbarellas’s after dark.” I always find it very special when I can connect to the location or a person a band is singing about, especially after years spent signing songs about other towns other than your own. That local touch always strikes a chord is the very best way.
One of the perfect examples that the band hasn’t lost touch with it’s pop-punk roots after all these years are the back-to-back tracks of “Homing Missile” and “Happy Ever After.” The first is full of analogies and about being locked in on love as the title suggests, and the second is all about lost love and how there will be no happy ever after in his life due to breaking up. You can’t get much more pop punk than trying to secure love and being destroyed after losing it. What is great is even after doing it for nearly 20 years, The Riptides do not come off gimmicky or fake, just true veterans of the scene.
My favourite track might have to be “Someone Just Like You” which has almost every element I love to see in a song. It features claps, duet vocals, a relatable story of attraction out at a show, catchy chorus and then on top of that they make a guitar sound like they are joined by some brass on the track. Just love it.
Lyric videos have been immensely popular since the launch of YouTube. Often they are made by fans and simply feature the lyrics scrolling across the screen almost like karaoke, some going a little further to contain images along with the words. Dead Weights just took it to a new level with their video for “Stuck in My Head.” The video does feature the lyrics that are written on a black board in what looks like a classroom.
What makes it truly special is that the band invited several talented local artists and friends with very different style to draw two or three at a time on the blackboard really elevating the lyrics. The artists are: Jordan Seal, Kendall Valerio, Vance McBride, Cory Levesque, Yafa Jarrar, Pascale Arpin, Kieran McKinnon, and Liam Sheehan. Band members also jump in from time to time. To ensure they can fit all of this within the time constraints of their song, they speed up the video which makes the drawing unfold like magic before our eyes… drawing with chalk in hyper-speed!
The video peaks while the band sings the refrain “Try and keep an open heart” over and over at the end and you have eight people drawing at the same time creating one big beautiful mural with a great message.
Ottawa pop-punk group Dead Weights have just released their second full-length album, Mountain Arresting. It’s been a few years since we’ve heard new material from these guys, and we’ve been waiting impatiently ever since hearing a few of the tracks live earlier this year.
Mountain Arresting is a big step forward for Dead Weights, and clearly the product of a lot of work. The band strikes a balance of heavier guitar and bass parts with melodic flourishes, all woven together with rough and grumbling vocals of Jonathan Becker and Steve McCrimmon. Their signature sound comes through loud and clear on this record, as they tightened up their instrumentation even more and obviously had some chemistry in the studio. It doesn’t hurt that Dead Weights have been playing together for years, with lots of shows under their belts in recent memory.
Fans of bands like Latterman, Off With Their Heads, and Direct Hit! will feel right at home with this record, although it’s appeal is vast. Those who enjoy no-bullshit punk rock with some grit will fall into Mountain Arresting with ease. Their goal isn’t to play faster, louder, and harder than everyone else—their style and approach is intentional, and it grasps the listener tightly without losing meaning or using studio tricks as a facade of perfection. What you see is what you get with Dead Weights, and anyone who has seen them live can attest to this.
It was nice of them to put lyrics up on their site, because sometimes it’s hard to hear the words since it sounds like Becker just smoked three packs of cigarettes before the recording session. But hey, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The higher register howling of McCrimmon on tracks like “House is Not a Home” offers an appealing contrast to Becker’s whiskey-soaked rumbles. And the cherry on top? Hooks of gold, yearning for crowd vocals. You might catch yourself blasting these tracks and screaming some of the irresistible group vocal parts, only to realize that you are the only one in the room.
A stand-out aspect of the Mountain Arresting are the well-crafted lyrics, words about the everyday lives we live, social injustices, and growing up and getting by in a world that’s not always fair. Earnest words in these difficult times we live in is a breath of fresh air, offering perspective about the harsh conditions around us. But there’s a sense of hope in the songs, a sense that we’re all in this together and that all is not lost. Things are fucked up, but we can help each other and pick each other up. A little empathy and compassion go a long way, and while many of the songs discuss life’s difficulties and injustices, there is an overarching sense of humanity on this album.
It is obvious that a lot of effort was not only put into writing each song, but also composing a full album with no filler to speak of. The album itself is short and punchy, and although I was left wanting more, I still felt completely satisfied when I finished listening. Dead Weights have a lot to offer, and Mountain Arresting is a tremendous achievement.
Find ‘Mountain Arresting’ on Spotify, Apple Music, and bandcamp (stream below). Be sure to catch Dead Weights live on October 17th at House of Targ along with Montreal legends The NILS and Steve Adamyk Band. Follow event link here for more details.
On the heels of opening for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers at Bluesfest, Steve Adamyk Band dropped their brand new album Graceland July 29th.
Ottawa’s most prolific pop-punker Steve Adamyk has done it again with an excellent 13-song album with all the energy, “wo-ohs”, and power-pop perfection we have come to expect from Adamyk and his band. This certainly isn’t a Paul Simon album. The band, which has always been fronted by Adamyk, has seen some moving parts over the years. It currently features Pat Johnston (of many bands in Ottawa, notably The Acorn), and Max Desharnais and Seb Godin (Sonic Avenues). The album also features guest vocals by the eclectic Mike Kroll and LA’s pop-punk sweetheart Colleen Green which really adds to the raucous energy.
As great as it was to see some of these songs live before RHCP it is wonderful to get our hands on another album by Adamyk, this being his fifth. Just like their live performances, this album doesn’t really ever slow or give you a moment to relax, with most songs coming in at under two minutes. And just because it is pop-punk, power-pop, or garage… or whatever you’d call it – don’t think all these songs are love songs or about partying. Songs like the angry “Die Dead Forever” and the dark “False Teeth” show Adamyk’s depth beyond the prototypical sound of the genre. Fret not though, there are still super catchy tracks like “Carry On” and great rocking tracks like “Swallow You Whole” that will win you over right away and make you want to sing a long.
Put on some shades, a white jumper and chow down on a grilled banana and peanut butter sandwich while you have a listen to Graceland. If you like what you hear, the album is available in Canada on iTunes and Spotify via Royal Mountain Records, and there is vinyl in the works.
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.
Sedatives took to the stage Saturday night for one of the most anticipated reunions in the Ottawa music scene in years. House of Targ was absolutely packed for the return of a band, some may even say a super group, that features members of Crusades, Steve Adamyk Band and The White Wires.
Scotty Lobotomy joining Sedative on stage at House of Targ in Ottawa.
Sedatives last released an EP in 2010 and haven’t released a full length album since 2009. With all that time away, anyone might expect some rust, but they were tight and on-point for all 14 tracks they performed. It was really like a dream come true for Matias and myself, as we had unfortunately missed out on the days of Sedatives shows and thought we may never be so lucky to hear Ian Manhire’s synth paired with the slamming punk rock sounds of these great local gems. We weren’t the only people who were super excited, as Scotty from The Creeps and Eric Neurotic from Cheap Wine each joined the band on stage taking over vocals during the set. And just in case this wasn’t enough, the band played a brand new song called “New Calling.” Yes you read that correctly, Sedatives are working on new material and will be recording it!
Eric Neurotic joining Sedative on stage at House of Targ in Ottawa.
Unfortunately, the show wasn’t all good. There were two or three individuals who considered their drunken flailing more important than everyone’s else’s feelings and space. Luckily, bassist Emmanuel Sayer reminded them – “Remember fun is fun when it is fun for everyone around you, not just three of you. Please be mindful of people around you.” The public shaming helped the two or three individuals get the message and the show continued in much better spirit. If you missed out on the show, I don’t know how you could have but maybe you did, Jordy of The Creeps recorded the entire thing and put it up on bandcamp. You can listen here and buy it to help the band fund their upcoming album.
The Creeps getting weird at House of Targ in Ottawa.
Before Sedatives was the always energetic and entertaining The Creeps from Ottawa. The dark pop punk band played a great set featuring mostly song off of their 2014 album Eulogies such as “Makes Sense,” “Ghost” and “Off My Guard.” No song got the crowd more into it than their hit “Cancer,” which my dad and long-time Ottawa punk veteran Steven Scharf said “is the perfect song.” The band didn’t forget some of their older songs like “Cold Feet” and the very rarely played “Car Crash” which was quite a perfect song to cap off the set with. I don’t think I will ever get tired of seeing The Creeps.
Durs Coeurs playing House of Targ in Ottawa.
Opening the night was Durs Coeurs. This was my first time seeing this three piece Francophone punk act play. They introduced themselves as “Hi we’re called Durs Coeurs, on s’appelle Durs Coeurs,” which made me chuckle. Their tracks are catchy and I always love hearing French lyrics over driving guitar. The band may not be as heavy as lead-singer Pat’s last band Asile, but they did impress. My favoutire track was “Coeurs Durs” which starts out sounding like you could grab your darling and do a lovely slow dance to it, but then quickly changes pace and really kicks in.
Creep Wave have something to share with you. At first, I perceived it as merely a piece of cake, but as I cut into it I saw something else – something much more substantial. The Ottawa based group’s EP Winter Sucks begins with a thin slice of melodically frosted pop punk guitar, which is joined at full force by the hurried, driving pound of the rhythm section. Immediately the head nods, the sun shines and we are in a place that we have been to before. But then, of course, comes the opening line, as vocalist Brittany Neron asks,“why don’t you smile?”. The album’s first cut, ‘”Cat Call”,should become a permanent installation on the streets of Ottawa, so next time when some seedy bastard passes unsolicited comment on a woman’s appearance, she can point towards one of the mounted speakers before telling him to fuck off. It is a frustrated and poignant reply to this kind of street harassment, told with wit and a sneer; a refreshing burst of personal commentary that carries with it great social significance. This is exactly the kind of voice we need to hear in punk today.
Essentially punk musicians, and to a similar extent all artists, should continually strive to re-invent the genre in which they are working, and if they are acting with an honest intention, they will succeed and carry with them a mark of personal innovation. Some choose to eschew the traditional forms of rock to seek new voice in experimentation, some choose to share original voices that are reflective of a personal struggle within a particular culture that is in need of re-invention. With “Cat Call”, I feel that Creep Wave have touched on to something special.
Elsewhere on the album we are buffeted about by tiny storms of power-pop and surf-inflected garage rock. Angst and melody co-exist with a mercurial sense of playfulness. “Sick Note” is a brilliant spray of attitude across a rollicking tom-roll; surf-trash for urban living, and anyone alive in Ottawa will understand “Outside”, the seasonal affective track that harkens to the title of the EP.
Winter Sucks is a tight, bright ray of sweet sunshine shone down to cut through the murk of a February afternoon. There is much here to recommend, in particular the first track which, when taken together with the energy and integrity of their sound, points to a promising future for Creep Wave.
Catch Creep Wave, Cheap Wine and The Disasterbaters at House of TARG this Friday, February 5th, event here.
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.
It is June 15 which means there are only 2 days left in the punk rock advent calendar leading up to Ottawa Explosion Weekend.
Ninety bands, six days, seven venues, including outdoor shows and secret shows in record shops—all for under $80. Yes, Ottawa Explosion Weekend is like Christmas in June for punk rock in the capital, and Emmanuel Sayer and Luke Martin are Santa Claus with a giant sack of bands to put under our tree.
This venue-based festival offers you non-stop mix of rock, punk, metal, hardcore and indie at at least three different shows a day in three separate venues and up to seven shows a day on the weekend. Ottawa Explosion Weekend brings together most of the best Ottawa has to offer with some great acts from across North America, and some from as far away as Germany. Another added bonus to this year’s OXW is that Beau’s is the beer partner.
It is very difficult to pick out the must-see acts, but here is a list of bands not to miss that we’ve broken down by date. Yes, I know there will be a lot of conflicts and travel bummers in my picks, but hey – I didn’t make the schedule!
Sailor Jupiter playing at Gabba Hey (Photo by Ming Wu)
Sailor Jupiter (Club SAW, 7 p.m.) – Three-piece all girl garage band, Sailor Jupiter are part of a new generation of the garage and noise rock bands coming out of Ottawa.
Kappa Chow (Club SAW, 10:45 p.m.) – Sackville, New Brunswick’s Kappa Chow are an explosion of bizarre punk rock energy. They have a very unorthodox approach and set up to punk rock and it is great. Don’t believe me? Let them tell you how punk they are below.
Nightshades (Mugshots, 8:30 p.m.) – Great local three-piece rock and garage rock band from Ottawa. Nightshades play up tempo garage songs with duelling female vocals that compliment each other really well. They have a new EP coming out soon, check out their new song “Wendy.”
Cross Dog (House of TARG, 10:45 p.m.) – Cross Dog is a three-piece ball of anger out of Peterborough, ON playing hardcore-inspired punk rock full of societal commentary.
The Jeanies (Avant-Garde, 12:15 a.m.) – Fun bubble gum punk from Brooklyn, NY. The Jeanies will be you want to boogie so don’t forget your dancing shoes.
Obliterations (Club SAW, 12:30 a.m.) – LA Hardcore of the very in your face variety. Anyone looking to thrash the night away with high-voltage energy and slamming riffs should not miss Obliterations.
The White Wires (Club SAW, 10 p.m.) – One of the shows of the year from OXW 2014 and they are back to do it again. These Ottawa gems rarely play live in town and it’s hard to justify missing them.
The Creeps (Club SAW, 12:15 a.m.) Another rarity, they pack the house and they deliver true creepy story-telling with ear-splitting goodness. Another one of Ottawa’s finest on the same day.
Durs Coeurs (The Dom, 10:45 p.m.) Ottawa French punk rock with an old-school flare. Kind of reminds me of The Misfits but with French lyrics not about zombies and ghouls.
Petra Glynt (Avant-Garde, 12:15 a.m.) Super strange, experimental and very cool atmospheric solo performer from Toronto. She might not be what first comes to mind when you think punk, but she will amaze and dazzle for sure.
New Swears at Arboretum Festival 2014 Photo by Ming Wu)
New Swears (Club SAW, 5:00 p.m.) Every year New Swears take their spectacle to new heights, usually involving inflatable pool toys, costumes, candy, silly string and more… can you really afford to miss what they might do this year?
The Ballentynes (House of TARG, 10:30 p.m.) Looking for something a little different? Check out these soulful gospel-like garage rockers from Vancouver. If they can’t get you dancing, not sure who can.
Needles//Pins (Club SAW, 11:30 p.m.) These guys deliver awesome sets every year. An amazing power-pop gem from the West Coast of Canada.
Teenanger (Avant-Garde, 11:45 p.m.) Modern punk-rock with strong old-school influences out of Toronto.
Ottawa five-piece pop punk band Bearings recently released their debut EP Higher Ground.
The five-song EP feels like a throwback to late 90s and early 2000s radio chart toppers. Higher Ground features upbeat punk rock that makes you want to pogo, prove the cool kids wrong and finally date that really cute, shy girl that has always been in the friend zone.
The music is infectious and makes it almost impossible for you not to bob your head along. The band makes great use of a variety of breakdowns, a staple of the genre, which just adds to the catchiness. Bearings are for fans of MxPx and New Found Glory’s style of pop punk, but they also throw in just enough edgy drumming and bass lines to differentiate themselves. Have a listen to Higher Ground below and check Bearings live in mid-February. I hear that one of their members is so hardcore he played despite having a cast on his hand and arm.