On Thursday night, crowds escaped the damp, rainy Ottawa streets and piled into a dimly lit Bronson Centre to witness an evening of ambient, atmospheric music. Headliner Timber Timbre visited Ottawa for the fourth time in 6 years along with support from Ottawa’s own Boyhood Scattered Clouds.
Scattered Clouds took to the stage first, rising out of an ascending red fog. Performing as a 2-piece band with Jamie Kronick on drums and Philippe Charbonneau on guitar, keyboard, and vocals, this band was the most surprising act of the night. In terms of style, Scattered Clouds describe themselves as “dark, experimental, and post apocalyptic.” These characteristics could not be more fitting. Beginning their set with a heavy presence of baritone guitar and an emphasis on drums driving the synths, the band achieved a sound that could easily be equated to a modern day embodiment of a Joy Division b-side album, with an “Ian Curtis- esque” vocal tone. The second half of the set however, transitioned into an emphasis on synth and a precision in instrumentation. Creating an atmospheric 80’s dance vibe, the band achieved a type of lo-kfi sound that left the audience in a state of euphoria. Waking from this set with the harsh Bronson Centre lighting was like waking out of a heavy, romantic dream.
When the lights dimmed again, our good pals Boyhood took to the stage. Clad in flared pants and turtlenecks, Boyhood did not fail to deliver their staple moody, noisy sound. As always Caylie Runciman delivered raw and airy vocals that harmonized beautifully with her band, and provided an emotional and unpolished set completed with songs that morphed and melted into one another. Giving us a taste of what is to be expected from the upcoming album Bad Mantras, which will be the bands first album since 2012, the set featured the bands catchy “Drivin’” and “He Don’t.” Beginning with keyboard, Caylie swapped over to guitar midway through the set where she went to town in an emotional and raw guitar solo. It’s easy to get lost in a Boyhood set, and this was no exception.
Last but not least, Timber Timbre finished the night in almost total darkness, with only subtle lighting sweeping the stage. A glass of liquor sat idled on an amp to the right, Taylor Kirk began playing what seemed like it would be the entirety of his most recent work, Sincerely Future Pollution. However four songs in, the set took a detour towards an intermingling of a huge sample of his work, ranging from his self titled back in 2009 to his most recent. Detouring the set with Hot Dreams, the band’s instrumentation, and deep, sultry vocals, the song was delivered with a raw, sensual and emotional demeanour.
This specific Timber Timbre performance was unlike many others. His previous shows in Ottawa, which included a performance in Ottawa’s first Baptist Church in 2011, a set at Folk Fest in 2012, where he performed alone with a kick drum, and even his set at Jazz Fest in 2015, stuck pretty tightly to the delivery of the songs on the album. However, this set tended to use the style in the albums as backdrops for experimentation and improvisation with melody and pace during the performance, providing unequivocal authenticity. Most notable in this performance was the “Curtains?!” jam session that lengthened the song by about two extra minutes with intense instrumentation. The night ended with a 3-part encore beginning with “Grand Canyon,” that delivered an expressive and theatrical but emotive and raw finale.
This show captured a unique energy that seems to have been strengthened by the uniqueness of all the bands but also the ways in which they played off of one another. They each brought an atmospheric sound and seamless instrumentation, as well as a hard punch in the heartstrings with their raw vocals, lyrical movements, and honest and authentic delivery. The perfect ambiance to fit the creepy environment that is the Bronson Centre on a rainy evening, this show was not one to miss.
Japandroids made their triumphant return to Ottawa this past Sunday after nearly a decade away. They brought with them Cloud Nothings, a gritty garage rock band from Cleveland, Ohio, who made their Ottawa debut at the Bronson Centre.
I fell into Cloud Nothings as they were dropping their third album, Attack on Memory, back in 2012 and never looked back. Their 2014 followup Here and Nowhere Else and their 2015 split with WAVVES called No Life For Me were equally impactful—each had their own character and feel that I thoroughly enjoyed. This is one band I had somehow missed at all the festivals and shows I’d been to over the years, and their perceived avoidance of Ottawa was truly a bummer.
But that all changed Sunday night, as this stacked bill had no problems packing the Bronson Centre’s main floor. Cloud Nothing have seemed to always tow a line of self-defeatism, the “down-and-out” rockers on Attack on Memory finally pulled through and found a semblance of purpose on the gritty followup Here and Nowhere Else. So when Life Without Sound emerged earlier this year, it was exciting, yet I was skeptical and unsure of what to expect. However, when the needled dropped for the first time, it was like a breath of fresh air. The band’s new songs translated incredibly well live, and band members fed off each others stage energy. The album itself comes off as more refined, more direct, and less chaotic than their previous efforts. Songs like “Up to the Surface” and “Enter Entirely” are more restrained than much of their catalogue, and the John Goodmanson’s production gives Life Without Sound a more cohesive and refined feel.
On the stage, Cloud Nothings were tight as hell and nailed every moment of their performance. With this kind of music, it’s easy to get lost in the fuzzy riffs and percussive thunderclaps, but the band strung their set together with ease and precision. Dylan Baldi let loose on a number of occasions and didn’t hesitate to crank up the rasp and scream into his mic. One feature of the set that stood out was drummer Jayson Gerycz’s total domination of the kit. On multiple occasions, he took the spotlight and commanded the drum set with reckless abandon. His tirades were a welcome fixture in their performance, particularly at the end, as he seemed to lock eyes with the all audience members at the same time while pounding our senses with his kick. If Ottawa didn’t know Cloud Nothings before, they sure do now.
Japandroids rocked the Bronson Centre on Sunday Night.
Next up was Vancouver’s Japandroids, pleasing the audience with their much anticipated return to the capital. Lean vocalist and guitarist Brian King noted the long absence, and shared a funny story with the crowd about their last Ottawa gig. The duo formed in 2006 and slugged it out in the Vancouver scene for years, often taking a DIY approach to music and putting together their own shows and do short tours in the area. They put out a couple of EPs in 2007 and 2008, but started to turn heads with their debut LP Post-Nothing. With irresistible jams like “Heart Sweats,” “Young Hearts Spark Fire,” and “Wet Hair,” this is about the time that I fell in love with the band.
Their second LP Celebration Rock was released in 2012, and was almost universally acclaimed by major music publications. It is also pretty much my favourite album of all time, but I digress. Japandroids dug deep into their catalogue and played songs spanning their 3 LPs and gave fans old and new everything they wanted. The tone was set right away as they opened with the title track of their latest record Near to the Wild Heart of Life, an all-out rock and roll anthem that immediately unleashed the energy of the crowd. The crowd indulged in the vocal refrains (“oh oh oh’s”) which has become such a staple in Japandroids tracks, and a truly unifying force. Given the current state of things in the world, picture hundreds of young folks yelling the chorus:
“And it got me all fired up / To go far away / And make some ears ring from the sound of my singing, baby”
The group played older tracks such as “Heart Sweats” and “Young Hearts Spark Fire,” as well as many off of Celebration Rock like “The Nights of Wine and Roses,” “Fire’s Highway, and my personal favourite “Younger Us” (which I would like to be played loudly at my funeral, but I digress).
Japandroids delivered a full dose of raw and unhinged emotion in every song they play. David Prowse’s drumming was as great as ever, but his vocals were noticeably improved since the first time I saw the band back in 2013. His back up presence boosted the overall impact of each song, and it was clear that the two of them had each song down to near perfection. King kept the audience engaged at all times, and didn’t let up throughout the set even though the heat and lack of ventilation in the Bronson Centre was getting noticeably worse as they played.
Even new songs with a different instrumental approach such as “Arc of Bar” and “North East South West” were performed immaculately, and if anyone in the crowd was not on the board with the new record, they were hidden by bodies flying and silenced by the screams of many.
King took a quick pause to share an anecdote about their last time in Ottawa:
“It was at Ottawa Bluesfest in 2009, I think. And it was pissing rain. We were having the best time, but the stage crew was rushing to cover all of our gear with tarps to get the hell out of there. They just wanted us to stop so they could go see Kiss play on the other stage.”
All in all, the group did what they do best—giving the audience the best possible performance. Coming off a raucous night in Montreal (which my friends and I also attended), the Ottawa show was just as impactful—if not more so, only because anticipation had been building for almost a decade. They closed out with one of their biggest songs, the triumphant anthem “The House That Heaven Built.” With fists pumping in the air, shirts soaked with sweat, and vocal cords bursting at the seams, we all sang our god damn hearts out and yelled like hell to the heavens.
My only advice is this: if you haven’t listened to or seen Japandroids before, do it. They are what rock and roll infused with punk rock look like in 2017, and their music will pick you back up on your feet when the world knocks you down.
In this age of easy knowledge, there are hardly any corners of the cultural map still under shadow. It takes an increasingly more impressive sense of novelty for an act to rise above the waves of ‘lost’ artists and be noticed. The 1980 EP Transportation by Chandra boasts a backstory that threatens to become more interesting than the act itself. Fortunately the EP and it’s central artist, Chandra Oppenheim, are singular and brilliant enough stand apart from their remarkable origins.
That first ripple away from the centre of punk, so-called post-punk, is an amorphous and difficult thing to define. It is not a genre (genres be damned), but a moment in time – principally the years 1979 and 1980. In England it fused paranoid punk experimentalism with dub, funk, and more, while in New York it cleaved unto another side-lined genre – Loft disco. And in Transportation, the wiry talents of art-punk band the Model Citizens combined forces with a twelve-year-old songwriter to create an anxious and hyperactive masterpiece. But we will not fall prey to genetic fallacy, regardless of who made this record and when: it is outstanding.
Oppenheim has now decided to revisit her pre-teen career with the help of a six-piece backing band including among its ranks the Toronto experimental electronic duo, Bile Sister. And so, inside the bare stone walls of Gabby Hey, perched over the stretching City Centre, we interred ourselves alongside shades of the past to see what might be resurrected.
Inside I stood in an empty space while the steady pulse of DJ Jason Skilz reverberated off of the dark concrete. Slowly more of the curious crept in to stand in the shadows while the first act, Doves, took the stage. The low-set peripheral lighting threw expressionistic shadows high on the wall behind the three performers. This was the trio’s first live appearance and they pulled us down into a lowland of glacial and brooding shoegaze. Over a palpitation of bass and kick drum, they sent up cloudy sprays of guitar chords and silver pads of synth; washing the walls and our ears with abrasive strokes, while the dual vocals ranged in dynamic from fey croon to stentorian bark. It was a confident inauguration for the group, and left more than a few ears twitching.
Swiftly began the set up for Bile Sister which was as alchemically obscure as to warrant a circle of salt and sacred names around the stage. Wires and pedals, synths and synth drums, bass and vocals; missing only the bubbling phials of bright liquid and scrying mirror. The duo had descended on us from Toronto in a sickly spray of experimental pop, using live percussion loops, electronic invocations and mad, commanding vocals. Vocalist Julie Reich’s voice expands elastically, ecstatically from squeal to croak to doleful and dramatic croon, flying through the room and drawing everyone toward. The band waved their wands around and we were under their glamour in a world of sounds both brackish and sweet, with looped beats moving the body while the electronics addle the brain. The stage was cleared and the splatter was cleaned and soon the duo returned to aid in bringing Chandra back to life.
When Chandra took the stage, there was a palpable uncertainty and anticipation among the crowd. Who in their right mind would sing songs written by their twelve-year-old self, over thirty years later? The answer: only one who wrote such great songs. As was to be expected, the back catalogue was exhibited and the re-enactment was executed with bubbling, bouncing, freak funk precision by the seven assembled musicians. There were holes in the mix initially: the guitar was plucked but unheard and the backup singers sang mutely into their mics, but this was gradually rectified and the band found their cohesion. If anything the set served as a reminder for an album that deserves so much more recognition than it was afforded upon its original release. Bodies moved to the slithering bass line that bears aloft the discordant organ stabs and maniac disco clap of Opposite; and who alive could fail to be stimulated by the queasy groove of ‘Kate,’ with it’s unforgettable opening line. It would suffice as any for a signature song and boasts a lyric that, at first seems like simple juvenile prattle but which reveals a surprising depth and myriad inference.
The representation of these artifacts will hopefully remind listeners that one of the most important elements of the post-punk period was it’s attempt to move away from the increasingly ugly boys cult that was (and still is) much of the punk rock scene and to include a wider variety of voices. Yes we remember Joy Division and Gang of Four, but let’s not forget the racial politics of Two-Tone, or the feminist art-punk of Delta 5, Au Pairs and the Raincoats. Though the era has been tirelessly plundered, with the remount of Chandra we are reminded that there is still some mystery left to the world and who knows what else, what other voice seemingly less than suited to mainstream digestion, lies buried under the sands of the years?
Hometown heroes Moroccan Sun gave Zaphod’s a stadium-worthy show as the first opening act for The Zolas this past Friday night. Known for their infectious energy, the 5-piece alternative rock band definitely did not disappoint, and as someone who’s never actually seen them play live, I was wildly impressed and unable to keep my feet on the ground. Still hot off their debut Moroccan Sun EP release, the band kept us on our toes with their driving beats. If you were there and loved what you heard, or have yet to check out this awesome local band, their EP is available on Bandcamp – seriously, download it now.
Toronto-based indie pop quintet Grounders (minus guitarist Evan Lewis) were the second in a phenomenal lineup of Canadian bands, and took over the stage like psychedelic hipsters from space. Kurt Marble (drums) and Mike Searle (bass) were all grins and wobbly dance moves, while singer and guitarist Andrew Davis gazed soulfully into the crowd as he crooned, “Where do you go? Waiting around, where do you go from here?” during the chorus of “Secret Friend,” off their self-titled GROUNDERS LP.
Davis’ eye contact became borderline uncomfortable as he showed off his rock-hard abs to catcalling fans. If the almost-strip show wasn’t enough to win the crowd over, Davis walked off the stage to grab a guy’s cellphone mid-set and congratulated him on the lucky woman who I assume was on the other end of the line. One thing’s for sure: these guys are a riot and everyone should experience their out-of-this-world synth-pop sound at least once before their legs give out and they’re no longer able to dance.
10:00pm finally came around and Vancouver natives The Zolas made their way out of the deep blue fog and onto the stage to open with “Molotov Girls,” a single off their latest LP, Swooner. After gracing the room with two newer tracks, lead singer Zachary Gray greeted the crowd with an exuberant and overwhelmed “Holy shit Ottawa! HI!” He then proceeded to advise everyone at the front that he would only give a maximum number of high-fives (so hopefully y’all made ‘em count). Though the band played many of their new songs, older fans were stoked to hear “Strange Girl,” and even more so when we were asked to clap along until the clapping got awkward (and it did). “You guys need to get frothy enough for Dwight to stage dive, because he’s always wanted to do that,” Zach shouted, and the crowd obliged during “Swooner,” prompting bassist Dwight Abell to ditch his bass and fling himself into the roaring dance party (sorry we dropped you).
We were treated to a sing-along during “You’re too Cool,” an old classic off The Zolas’ debut album The Great Collapse, as Zach conducted the band and the crowd from a whisper to an explosive “I CAN TELL WE’LL NEVER BE SAVED, TIL THE WALLS FALL DOWN.” The crowd wasted no time demanding an encore, as they literally pushed the band back on stage “like the surf rejecting the surfer,” as Gray so eloquently put it. The tri-song reprise was an Ancient Mars special, with “Observatory,” “Knot in my Heart,” and finally “Escape Artist” to end the night on a highly emotional note. “I wanna come back here, this is special,” said Zach as he played the opening chords to “Escape Artist.” Ottawa loves you guys, please come back soon.
Check out Spectrasonic’s upcoming shows in Ottawa here.
When going to shows back-to-back, it is important to remember to keep yourself in check, otherwise you may end up starting the second night picking up the pieces from the night before. In my case, night two began with a meet up with an Uber driver to gather the things I had left behind in his car the previous night. Once I was in possession of all my belongings, we were able to kick things off and head down to Ritual.
I have always really enjoyed Ritual as a venue, the multi-level set-up makes it easy to catch the show from anywhere and you don’t feel pressured to be elbows on the stage, though who are we kidding? That’s exactly where I ended up.
BANNERS at Ritual Nightclub (Photo by Elizabeth Durnford/Ottawa Showbox)
BANNERS kicked it off. Over from the UK, Mike Nelson (formerly known under the moniker RAINES) brought his familiar sound to the Ottawa crowd on this leg of the tour. I wouldn’t have called myself an avid listener of these groups, but as BANNERS worked through their set it became apparent to me that I knew the majority of their music, and actually could sing along to ones like Shine a Light.
After the set, there was a brief turn before Young Empires where we happened upon BANNERS in the basement. He took the time to pause for fans and of course photo-ops, having a laugh on how I took a photo of a friend with a phone, while carrying a full sized camera. It was nice to see him taking the time to stop and talk while performing in a smaller venue, while opportunities may not come around as often when performing at larger festivals in the coming months.
We headed back upstairs just in time for Young Empires. A group out of Toronto, they are becoming very well known on the world stage. They combine electronics with an element of rock creating what has been described as “a fine tapestry of future disco.” This distinct sound paired with the lights and energy on stage made for a very visually appealing set that was very difficult to take quality pictures, as lights went from non-existent to brighter than the sun.
Though this leg of the tour is done, never fear, there’s still chance to catch both of these bands within the next few month. Young Empires is set to play the Dragon Boat Festival here in Ottawa in July, and you can catch BANNERS at Montreal’s Osheaga Festival!
Young Empires at Ritual Nightclub (Photo by Elizabeth Durnford/Ottawa Showbox)
On Friday evening, three bands performed in front of the pair of welcoming café windows at Pressed for a fittingly full house. This evening of femmes, presented by Debaser, featured Toronto’s Twist, supported by So Young from London, ON, and Ottawa’s own Trails. Altogether an energetic night, audience members hopped, bopped, and swayed throughout the venue’s crowded floor.
Trails’ dreamy set began with fingerpicked guitar, arriving in starts and stops, and blanketed in airy vocal melodies like a winding mountain hike – up and up, and back down the trail again. This was a voice like a gentle summer breeze. Trails’ music is unconventional in structure, yet satisfyingly poetic – reminiscent, to me, of the disfigured crooning of King Krule, or the sweet singing of Daughter’s Elena Tonra.
A loop pedal allowed for a focus on lyrics and additional layering, as the performer soloed and twiddled, playing and noodling over hypnotizing loops. The reverberation and delay effects on the guitar and microphone bounced lavishly around the room, and the audience swayed gently, captivated by the sounds. 30-odd minutes slid by far too quickly, as I realized I had been whisked away by Trails’ spectacular solo set.
If Trails was a gentle breeze, So Young was a ferocious windstorm – one that would blow the hat clear off your head, or the head clear off your body. This band had an edge that silenced any remaining chatter in the room and left no head unbobbed.
Early in the set, the band and audience members became aware of a ‘ghost in the room’, a meddling poltergeist, a tinkering phantasm, a troublesome technology malfunction. Swiftly, the sound issues were overcome, then crumpled and tossed with the trash by So Young’s powerful rhythms, roaring guitar tones, and heart-stopping vocal harmonies. The band members jumped out of and into songs like impalas. With their powerful pop-rock sound, these straight-faced young men and women delivered a rock-hard set to a satisfied congregation of listeners.
Twist @ Pressed (Photo by Mckinley Leonard-Scott/Ottawa Showbox)
Lastly, the band Twist took the stage, immediately inviting the audience’s attention with a groovy bass-guitar/drum warm-up/soundcheck. This band was slick. Their music, built upon busy hybrid drumbeats, featured soaring lead guitar over fuzzy riffs and bar chords. During their song Albuquerque, frontwoman Laura Hermiston’s vocals stretched and reached, up and up, high into the sky towards the birds and the clouds and the ozone shield. Throughout the set, hazy guitar pursued pulsating basslines in blissful polyphony, while band members hopped in place both on and off the stage, or lurched during their more mellow songs. The audience lurched, too, at times, their dances landing somewhere between a wiggle and a laid-back twist. With their brand of attention-absorbing pop, something like Alvvays with extra grunge, Twist brought the evening to an energetic close for a packed Pressed audience.
We had great weather for this last day of CityFolk, with sun shining and a breeze blowing to confirm that fall is indeed on its way.
I got my festival day started at the main stage with the smooth country stylings of Lucinda Williams. She’s been at this a while, and it took her a few songs to find her energy, but with the help of her solid backing band, she showed the crowd that she’s still got her grit. As I headed to the next show, the breeze brought me the sounds of her finale, in a rousing rendition of Neil Young’s Keep On Rocking In The Free World.
Over at Raven Law, I caught a young talent I’d never heard of before, Terra Lightfoot. Her hair-whipping, guitar slamming performance was immediately alluring to the eyes and ears. Again, I’m a sucker for artists who so clearly love performing, and Terra is absolutely one such person. Her blues/country-influenced guitar playing coupled with her booming soulful voice was just undeniable. It’s thick and booming, but smooth as butter. She sang like if Janis Joplin hadn’t smoked a million cigarettes. And the crowd was loving it. Graciously introducing her band, she invited the crowd to join in the backing vocals on their cover of Sam Cooke’s classic Bring It On Home To Me. Swoon.
Regaining the strength in my knees, I headed back to the main stage for another sister-recommendation (for anyone who read my Saturday Marvest piece, I’ve started taking some of her musical suggestions after years of me showing her stuff, figured it’s time to change the dynamic).
As I walked into the field, the crowd erupted for Passenger taking the stage. I thought it was a band but nope, just one dude on acoustic guitar. He commented on the apparently frequent confusion, saying “This is Passenger, but really it’s just me. My name’s Mike.” This soft-spoken Brit was a well-loved addition to this festival lineup, with a huge turnout for him. While waiting in the beer line, I did an eyebrow-raise at his request for the crowd to please be quiet as possible throughout his set. But when her got around to telling a few sensitive stories about how encounters on his solo travels had influenced his songwriting, the crowd indeed fell surprisingly quiet. Not typically my cup of tea, but I do like a good storyteller, and he even threw in a couple of lovely dynamic covers of Simon & Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence and Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark”. Pretty meta, Mike. I like it.
The end of the Passenger set was a pretty incredible sight, as the crowd belted out his big hit “Let Her Go” to end the regular set. Not only was it mesmerizing to hear thousands of people singing one song in unison, but also hear them scream the melody after he left the stage to entice him to come back for an encore. He obliged, and was visibly touched by the crowd’s methods. A perfect way to keep the energy going into Wilco’s set.
British indie rocker band Bombay Bicycle Club are half-way through an 11-week tour of the world, from Oceania to America, passing through Iceland on the way to Europe, South Africa, and finally home to the UK. The zigzag through Canada & the States saw the indie freak poppers stop at one of the lesser-known venues in Ottawa, the Algonquin Commons Theatre. Their set on Friday, Oct. 17 had a sold out floor of fans from near & far in the 613.
They opened with several hits and kept the energy high throughout their set. The lights & visuals show was truly worthy of an international tour, very epic. They had the quintessential deep space shot of stars upon stars backlighting a falling human figure. What arena rockers don’t have that? At times, I felt like that white shape of a person, floating free in sound. I’m a fan of BBC enough to know that “How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep” is a great track to wake up your friends after a night of partying, but the show reminded me that their music is of an eclectic variety that drastically changes from album to album.
Bombay Bicycle Club performing at Algonquin Commons Theatre on Friday, October 17th, in Ottawa.
Their newest LP is number four in five years, named So Long, See You Tomorrow. It is as synthetically (see esthetically) pleasing as their critically-acclaimed A Different Kind of Fix (2011) but with a more distinct sound. In fact, the album is a paradox because it sounds like none of their other albums but each song is difficult to differentiate from the other at first. It is, however, an album with many twists & turns, full of surprises.
They played hits like “Shuffle” & “Leave It” with acoustic tunes from their earlier album Flaws. “Lights Out, Words Gone” used the album art from So Long to animate the seven circular screens behind the band into spinning circles of walking people. The likenesses of each bandmember in “Carry Me” and the dancing skeletons were enough to distract even the most seasoned fan. “Feel” struck me as a melting pot of Cuban, devotional Indian & anthemic pop rock. It was an earful, made mind-numbing with the imagery of a dancing viper on the seven cricles.
Liz Lawrence, who did more than just backup vocals, sang all of Lucy Rose’s parts from the studio albums with style. It was the most charismatic of the band’s performances, because she moved from behind the synth booth to the forefront regularly. Guitarists Jack Steadman & Jamie MacColl were close to each other but could have been unaware of the others’ presence the whole time. Still, even from the seats it was an entertaining concert.
Bombay Bicycle Club playing the Algonquin Commons Theatre on Friday, October 17, in Ottawa.
The Algonquin Commons Theatre is aiming to be an entertainment hub lined up with impressive musical guests over the next few weeks. The end of the month will see Big Wreck, Royal Tusk & The Caverners grace the stage in the Robert C. Gillett building. It’s equipped for big names & big sounds.
I’ve been doomed to leave schools just before new additions: after leaving elementary school Laurier-Carrière they replaced a dozen portables with a new wing, after graduating high school Franco-Ouest a massive atrium with classrooms & new teachers’ lounge was added, my quick stint at Ottawa U’s School of Business was the last time they had the Vanier building that felt more like a dungeon than a faculty building, and then of course Robert C. Gillett, the former president of Algonquin College, erected the Student Commons, not to mention the Centre for Construction Excellence, the years following my time in their Journalism-Print program. Woe is I, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the new digs at my old school.
The new building is too full of goodies to review here, so I’ll stick to the theatre, which is a state-of-the-art sound haven, with moulded ceilings & a centralized sound booth to perfect the acoustics. There are two balcony levels & a ground floor that was packed to the nines with very pleased Gonq students on Friday night. I noticed several bright-eyed ruffians rush out as soon as the show was over, having had a great start to their weekend already. Although it’s been there since 2012, the Algonquin Commons is off to a great start as a bright & loud new venue for the east end.
Viathyn, a four-piece progressive power metal band from Calgary, Canada will be releasing their follow-up to 2010’s The Peregine Way on October 7th, 2014, entitled Cynosure.
I came across this band thanks to the incredible Jon Asher from Asher Media Relations a few days ago, and popped Cynosure into the car while cruising around. I had no idea what this band would sound like, where they were from or any idea they even existed up until that point – to which I feel pretty guilty. Thankfully Jon knows how to pick them and our musical tastes are extremely close.
Listening to the first track, “Ageless Stranger”, reminded me of old school Ensiferum. Fast paced, soaring vocals and ripping solos, it pretty much set the album in stone for me in terms of raw “badass-ness”. I could only hope the rest of the album would be as monstrous as this first track.
Second on the album is “The Coachman”, which was released a few weeks ago. Hands down, my favorite song on this album. I always love a band that has a story-line within the song, and even from the start the lyrics are superb. Vocalist Tomislav Crnkovic has one of the smoothest and grooviest melodic lines I have heard from a Canadian band, he’s got the highs that can scare a cat – and he’s got a metal as fuck name.
One key point that I really like about these guys is they didn’t just spew out 10 tracks that are two minutes long. Each song has an average run time of about seven minutes, which by bands nowadays – is ridiculous. Keep in mind, even when bands write longer songs it tends to tread off and never return to the original idea. Viathyn executes each song perfectly, on game and completely in your face. The production quality on this album is excellent, which I believe was done at Perfect Fifth Studios – one of Calgary’s premier metal recording studios.
“Edward Mordrake” – named after the dude from the 1900’s who had “Voldemort Syndrome”, as I like to call it. He essentially had a face on the back of his head, and would whisper evil things to him. Needless to say, that’s perfect metal songwriting territory. “I still hear voices inside” according to front man Tomislav, who does an absolutely killer job on this track. This song features a really intense solo from lead guitarist Jacob Wright, just shredding the sweet holy Hell out of that guitar neck. I really hope that guitar was 18, because damn.
I also have to point out that the interlude-bridge almost put me to sleep with how creamy (is that weird to say?) it is. Smooth sailing after that bitchin’ solo that eventually builds itself back up before another shredinating solo.
“Shadows In Our Wake” is more up my alley in terms of what metal I listen to, because Viathyn is awesome – but I rarely listen to power metal. It sucks on my part because I would find bands like this that completely blow my mind. Dual harmonies, chugging riffs and heavy as hell structuring. Of course, it has the power metal influence for the majority of the song but drifts into my territory for the last minute and a half.
BASS SOLOS! BASS SOLOS EVERYWHERE! “Countess of Discordia” is Alex Kot’s chance to shine with a thumping good time. While bassists usually get thrown under the bus, they make a band sound good or not – and the bass lines completely quake through this bad boy. There are some pretty gnarly squealies in this song, and they may induce an eargasm, so tread lightly.
“Time Will Take Us All” starts off in a different mood, all slow and melodic. For the most part, it’s really driven by the drums which are delivered gloriously from Dave Crnkovic. These are the kinds of tracks that I would play on Morning Metal, because they’re heavy and yet still deliciously relaxing. It gets progressively harder to keep my fanboy squeals to a minimum when Viathyn breaks out the growls on this track. Although it may not suit the song for some power metal fans, it really does the song justice for me.
“Three Sheets To The Wind” opens with tons of little licks. So many licks a cat would be jealous – this is the second time I have referenced a feline and it’s probably because one of them is laying on me while I write this. If you have enjoyed the album so far, you’ll be happy with “Three Sheets To The Wind”. Nothing too special, but not a bad track.
“Albedo”. HOLY SHIT.
The album ends with the title track, “Cynosure”. With my lack of explaining why “Albedo” is a holy shit track, just listen to it. “Cynosure” follows that track like a cigarette after… A previous cigarette. Sitting as the longest track on the album, closing in on 10 minutes (what is this, Dream Theater?), my first immediate reaction was “Goddamnit, I don’t have 10 minutes to sit and listen to a one song and expect to take it all in.” Guess what? It didn’t happen. I listened to a few times before making an educated response (because I have many of those, evidently).
(These dudes look goofy, my kind of metal band.)
You may be off-put by the fact it’s almost 10 minutes, but it really doesn’t feel like it. It’s a very enjoyable song if you’re listening to it and not doing anything else that could take away your attention. The songwriting on this album, especially this track, proves that his band pays attention to what they’re doing and how well they want to the overall vibe to leave on you. Mid-way through the song they whip out another clean bridge to give you a break from all those crazy double kicks. If you were to find an angel just wandering the streets, take his voice and put it into a normal mortal – you would get the vocal abilities of Tomislav Crnkovic.
Cynosure hits the retail and online world October 7th, 2014 and if you know what’s good for your ears – you’ll buy it. Canadian metal, no less – that means you’d be supporting your local metal scene. And that’s always a good thing.
Cynosure will be featured as Morning Metal’s Artist of the Week next week on October 1st, 2014, with Cynosure being played in full.
I also think you should follow Morning Metal on Facebook so you can get updates on new music, radio interviews and tons of other really cool stuff.
With the final weekend of RBC Bluesfest at hand, everyone here in Ottawa looks for the festival to end with a bang. Well, Friday night started it off just right.
Another beautiful evening was upon us, with a cool breeze keeping the sun from slowing the fun down. The music began in the Barney Danson Theatre inside the Canadian War Museum with the Canadian Women’s Singer-Songwriter’s Showcase. A hidden gem of Bluesfest, the theatre provides those looking for an intimate musical experience with incredible acoustics, comfortable seating, and a little AC to recharge the batteries.
Shannon Rose & the Thorns performed at Bluesfest on July 11 at the Canadian Women’s Singer-Songwriter’s Showcase
The showcase operated on a rotating format, with Shannon Rose & the Thorns kicking things off with the first couple songs. The crowd continued to trickle in and fill up the seats as they began to play, and immediately their music set the tone for the entire showcase. Beginning with the upbeat and irresistibly catchy tune “Wild Wind,” the lovely Shannon Rose enveloped the crowd with her vocals while guitarist Steve Matylewicz’s ethereal guitar tones blew us all away. They also performed a beautiful song called “Corners” that Shannon described was about forgiving and forgetting. Playing songs off their 2012 record Seasons, Shannon Rose & the Thorns’s full sound was as the band won over the audience instantly. The combination of evocative lyrics, instrumental parts that were gentle but demanded attention, and a stage presence that bridged the invisible barrier between stage and audience ultimately fostered a delicate atmosphere in the room. With all the dissonance of the music festival encroaching from all sides, Shannon Rose & the Thorns allowed the Barney Danson Theatre to become a place of repose from the outside world.
I was able to catch some of the next artist in the showcase before venturing back out onto the outdoor festival grounds. Kelly Prescott and her band really impressed and surprised me, as their folk-roots music caught me off guard in a good way. Kelly, who is also in a band called The Claytones, electrified the theatre with her crass words, impassioned demeanour, and robust vocals. Their style of music made me think of a simpler time, like I was at a bluegrass bar sipping on some whiskey watching them on stage. I particularly enjoyed the song Mississippi Moon, which is about the beautiful river their town of Almonte rests on. Kelly mentioned that the construction company Cavanaugh’s wants to build a power facility on the river, which would threaten the river’s cleanliness and compromise the area they live.
Heading back outside, Third Eye Blind had just taken the stage. I was one of those young dudes that liked Third Eye Blind when I was younger. I mean, they’re one of those quintessential 90s bands that have a few songs that linger over the years (mainly “Semi-Charmed Life”). One day in the late 90s I had a traumatic experience where I saw the band play some MTV awards show. It was a train wreck. Everything was off, the vocal harmonies, the instruments sounded terrible, and it seemed forced. I can still remember it to this day. It shook me up at the time, as my young, impressionable self got confused at how a band could sound so good on the radio but bomb it so bad live.
Third Eye Blind perfom live at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Friday, July 11, 2014. Photo: Mark Horton, RBC Bluesfest Press Images
Radio-friendly bands life Third Eye Blind hardly made it out of the 90s alive, and as my musical senses developed over the years I realized that some bands just weren’t built for the stage. Afraid of reliving this experience, I found myself enjoying their live set at Bluesfest more than expected. It wasn’t the best Bluesfest performance in history, but they played songs like “Semi-Charmed Life”, “Never Let You Go”, and my personal favourite of theirs, “Jumper”. Lead singer Stephan Jenkins missed the mark on vocals a few obvious times during the set, but kept things going by having fun and not worrying too much about it. Overall, I think everyone enjoyed their performance. Except for the time-killing drum solo. No one needs a drum solo.
I walked by Yung Lean rapping on the Black Sheep Stage and didn’t get it. Apparently, he’s big in Japan.
Last, but not least, was July Talk. And boy did their set yield some unexpected things. With most of the night’s audience cramming themselves in front of the Bell Stage for Barenaked Ladies’s headlining set, a few thousand of us hunkered down at the River Stage to catch singers Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay get weird on stage.
I had seen July Talk perform once before at Cafe Dekcuf on December 17 last year, where they played an unexpected sold out show upon a cancellation of their P.E.I show due to a snow storm. It was a spectacle. Their first Ottawa show a few years back was a memorable one for July Talk, as it resulted in Peter’s guitar accidentally smoking Leah in the face and causing a pretty wicked gash on her face. They are a match made in hell, seething with sexual tension, aggression, and intensity on stage. I mean this all in the best way possible, because all the hair pulling and face palming gets the crowd going throughout the set. Their set at Bluesfest offered all this and more, as their on stage dynamic and damn good music cast away any hint of doubt in the band right away. On the album, Peter’s dark and raspy voice may not be for everyone, but on stage their in-your-face antics and music are a complete package. Basically, anyone who isn’t convinced that this band is one of the most exciting up and coming acts in Canada after listening to the record should just come out and see them live. Conversion guaranteed.
They played many songs from their debut album, such as “Guns & Ammunition,” “The Garden,” and my personal favourite “I’ve Rationed Well.” One of the best things ever happened during their performance of “Paper Girl.” My brother Nico and I really wanted to get our cousin Nick up crowdsurfing because no one had yet. So we did. Weighing in at 135 lbs, he is a prime candidate for successful crowdsurfs. Once we got him up, he quickly got carried through the crowd, people cheering and screaming as he rode the wave. Once the security guards got a hold of Nick, he got down and Leah Fay pointed at him and said “You! Get up here!”
My cousin Nick getting messed with by July Talk. Mainly Leah Fay.
He quickly jumped on stage with them and proceeded to dance around, flip off the entire crowd (in a funny way), get his Blue Jays hat taken by Leah and worn by her the rest of the set, get kissed by Peter on the lips, and get ordered to strip by Leah as she poured water all over him. The crowd roared with excitement as he played along for 3 or 4 minutes. Leah pulled him around by the hair too… the poor guy didn’t stand a chance. A great video of the whole episode is below.
After all was said and done, July Talk gave one of the stand out performances of the festival (even if my cousin hadn’t been toyed around with on stage. We hung around and talked to Peter after the show, shooting the shit about tour and good times. Nick never did get his hat back, but Peter gave him the rest of his beer – a fair trade, if you ask me.
NOTE – We went to House of Targ for the Mother’s Children album release party and Ed Robertson of Barenaked Ladies showed up. So even though we didn’t see their show, we got to see him shoot some mean pinball!