The second annual Ladies First! will take place at LIVE on Elgin Saturday night January 9th.
Ladies First! also marks the 4th anniversary of RockSteady Booking. RockSteady Bookings was founded by Andrea Desjardins in December 15th, 2011, and is a company that is fuelled by a passion for music. RockSteady works with local musicians booking shows and other various events, but the ultimate goal is to expose fans and followers to the local scene of talented, hard-working musicians Ottawa and surrounding areas has to offer.
In honour of the occasion, we had a quick chat with Andrea Desjardins.
Where did the idea for Ladies First! come from?
Ladies First came to be in 2014 when I was thinking of a fun way to celebrate RockSteady Booking’s (RSB) third anniversary. I wanted to have an event that was different than any other event I had up until then. I thought about the reasons I had gotten into booking promoting music in the first place, and the main reason was to be a driving force for the growth of Ottawa music. I then thought about what makes RSB different from other booking groups in the city, and one of the main obvious differences is that I am a female.
I don’t think about that often, if it all, because to me it does not matter what gender or age you are. If you are doing something that is going to benefit Ottawa music then that’s all that matters. But it made me think of how cool it would be to have a show that celebrates females in the Ottawa music scene, and what better way to celebrate the anniversary of a company run by a female. Thus, the idea of “Ladies First” was born.
What makes this year special compared to last year?
The 2014 edition was branded as RSB Turns 3 and I used the hashtag #LadiesFirst when promoting it. Once I saw how well the event did and how positive the reaction was from both performers and patrons alike, I knew it had to be an annual thing. Last year, the focus was more so on RSB’s anniversary and celebrating that, whereas this year, the emphasis is on the women of music. The other aspect of this year’s edition that differentiates it from last year is that this year, the event is partnered up with Harmony House Women’s Shelter. They are a second stage women’s shelter that provides safe, affordable transitional housing for women and children who are survivors of violence. While this event is not a full-blown fundraiser in the sense that all the proceeds will be going to the shelter, a portion of the proceeds as well as any donations made at the event will be going to them. A representative from the organization will also be on site and have a booth set up to give more information to those interested.
Why did you select Harmony House Women’s Shelter?
When I decided I wanted to partner up with a women’s organization of some kind for this event, my first thought was to go to Google and see what kind of resources we have in Ottawa for women in need. I especially wanted an organization who focused on helping women who have dealt with abuse and/or violence in some way because I think it’s an important issue that everyone could use more information about.
There have been so many stories and events surrounding violence against women, such as the subject of missing and murdered Indigenous women. While doing something like this is just a small drop in a vast pond, I feel it’s important to do my part and help bring violence and abuse against women to the forefront. One of the first search results that caught my eye was Harmony House. The fact that they are the only second stage shelter in Ottawa appealed to me because it means they probably have their work cut out for them trying to support and help all the women and children who are transitioning out of an abusive home. I think they deserve a lot of credit and this is just a small way that I can hopefully help bring more attention and awareness to their organization.
What should people expect when attending the event?
In short, girl power. The lineup consists of five extremely talented acts; Coccinella are a 3 piece all female blues pop band, Ghostly Hounds are a folk group out of Montreal fronted by the talented Francesca Daoust, Amanda Lowe is a prominent acoustic solo artist from Ottawa and she will also be the host for the evening, Riishi Von Rex frontwoman Riishi Von Rex will be performing solo, and Toronto based electro/hip hop/pop solo artist Maya Killtron will be hitting the stage. LIVE on Elgin is a great, intimate venue and is the perfect place to host an event like this, so expect great service from their bar staff and lots of room to dance. They also have seating which is great to have available for those who like to enjoy music while sitting comfortable, I know I do.
Donations to Harmony House can be made at the event so make sure you bring some cash and help support a great cause!
Ladies First! goes Saturday January 9 at 8 pm at LIVE on Elgin! and is a 19+ event. Tickets are available online for $5 plus service charges here or $10 at the door. You can find more information on their Facebook event.
Ottawa Showbox got a chance to listen to the songs ahead of time and let us tell you, you are all in for a treat. There’s always a hint of something being unleashed within Riishi Von Rex’s lyrics. This is obvious from the beginning, as the opening track “Baba Yaga” refers to a beastly witch who flies through the sky in a mortar wielding a pestle. Musically the album ventures from a folkloric tale backed by rockabily to slow crisp blues on “Animal Too” and capped off with the hauntingly eerie yet beautiful title track. “Shed Your Helmet” begins with a feeling that you’re listening in on someone’s nightmares thanks to off-beat drums, subtle guitar picking, and a sudden influx of horns. And just as you begin to expect that their may not be any escape from this terror, instrumental chaos carries you into a rock n’ roll finish, which sets you free as you awake in cold sweats.
As the Ottawa winter begins to slowly fade away, spring is trying its hardest to break through the permafrost and show signs of warmth, life, and colour. In our city that also means something else – festival season is approaching. The Doldrums Music Festival celebrates the onset of the spring season with great local music, rejuvenating the weary souls of our city after the long cold. This weekend (March 27 & 28) marks the fourth year of Doldrums Festival and just as a tulip’s bulb slow doesit has grown into something special.
The Doldrums Music Festival was founded in 2011 by Lucas MacKenzie, a member of the formerly Ottawa-based band New Teeth. Winter can be pretty drab in Ottawa by February, and MacKenzie felt that there was a distinct lack of music scene festivities during the winter. Why should people resort to clinging onto their couch in front of a space heater in the dead of winter? Why not give them a reason to go out, get together, and brave the weather for the sake of great local music?
Although MacKenzie now lives in Toronto, the festival continues under new management. This year’s organizers Peter Zachar, Andrew Grosvenor (both in Those Gulls/Decathelete), and Gavin Dyke (Black Dogs) are all in bands, which offers them the same perspective that MacKenzie had on running the small festival. Not only that, but Zachar and Grosvenor also run Ringbill Records and have their own studio which they call “The Nest”. Zachar explains:
As musicians, we’ve approached Doldrums with an eye on what we love about it, and how we can expand on those aspects. Part of that has been increasing its visibility through local sponsorships and collaborations, and part of it was making it a more compact and streamlined event.
The Doldrums Music Festival is essentially two nights of music hosted at separate venues, and each offering a different musical “theme.” This makes the festival more accessible to a wider base of music fans, perhaps even drawing some to experience bands live that they might not have seen otherwise.
Friday, March 27, takes place at Pressed on Gladstone and is more of a folk/blues-rock bill. The lineup is impressive, featuring local heavyweights Winchester Warm, Tindervox, Black Dogs, and Riishi Von Rex. We sometimes forget that event organizers are music fans too, and Zachar made it clear that they were more than happy with how this year’s festival came together. “Honestly, the lineup for this year’s festival came from us getting in contact with some of our favourite bands in Ottawa (emphasis on some, we love a lot of music), and them saying yes,” he said.
Saturday, March 28, will take place at Club SAW and feature a very eccentric collection of local bands. The lineup pushes genre boundaries and includes the varied talents of Big Dick, Ornaments, Pith and the Parenchymas, and Dreamphone. From post-punk to experimental psych-rock, this bill is packed with some of our favourite bands in town. If you are someone who is willing to test new waters and go into something with an open mind, Saturday’s event at SAW will provide you with a grouping of the weird and the wild, and is sure to have patrons leaving with their jaws hanging.
When I asked Zachar about the challenge of competing with other festivals in a near-saturated market, he offered a very interesting perspective.
Thinking about it in terms of “competition” is the wrong way to go. We recently had the Megaphono festival, and a large part of that was equipping artists with the right philosophies to succeed, which I think is very important. The new vision for Doldrums is to provide tangible benefits directly to the artists. For example, this year we started a collaboration with the local blog Sometimes Always, wherein we produced short interviews with the bands playing the festival. These of course helped us raise the profile of Doldrums, but more importantly they provide something that the bands can take with them, add to their media kits, and benefit from longer-term. It’s a first step, and moving forward we’re eager to grow this aspect of the festival in collaboration with Sometimes Always and other partners.
If there’s something to be said about the Ottawa music community, it’s that this fraternal mentality of succeeding through collaboration is very pervasive. Zachar recognizes the benefits of locally-run festivals for small time bands, but also the importance of those bands in creating a strong creative community by which more of these grassroots events can happen. Who knows? Maybe even more people will come out and discover more of the incredible music this city’s artists are producing.
Below are some videos made with Ottawa music blog Sometimes Always, Pierce McKennirey conducts some great interviews with bands involved. Be sure to have a look!
Eric Scharf & Matías Muñoz hanging with ORL organizer Samantha Everts and Luca Fiore (Photo: Ming Wu)
The fifth edition of the Ottawa Rock Lottery, which was held at Maverick’s, blew me away. You are probably wondering what is a rock lottery? Well you take 25 members from local bands, pull their names out of a hat to form 5 bands. Then give them 24 hours to come up with 20-30 minutes of original music. And for an added twist, you assign each band a special instrument that they must integrate into their set. If all of that does not sound fun enough, consider that all proceeds of the event go the the Ottawa Foodbank and there were free draws between sets with a lot of merch from sponsors and bands.
The event’s special guest host was CBC Radio 1’s Amanda Putz. Amanda hosts the show Bandwith, which focuses on Ontario music. In her opening remarks she declared that not only does Ottawa have one of the best music scenes in the province (eat your heart out Montreal and Toronto), but “one of the greatest scenes in the country.”
First up was But I Don’t Want to be a Pirate. The band was comprised of Arturo Portocarrero (Miss Polygamy), Cody Allen (Cody Allen), James Rooke (Modern Era Pirate), Mike Libbos (The Goodluck Assembly) and Rory Lewis (Kalle Mattson). They were tasked with the coolest random instrument of the night, a keytar. Man can Rory rely shred on his guitar and he even did a solo on the keytar. They set the bar very high. And Ottawa is very lucky, as Jame Rooke won a three song EP recording from Audio Valley Recording Studio and announced he will use it to record with But I Don’t Want to be a Pirate.
The second band of the evening was Sextadeth. The band said the name was in honor of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who they assume will be sexted to death now that he is back on Earth. Fitting that the band that ended up with two drummers, also got assigned the spoons, and had an epic percussion finale. Sextadeth was, David Wisjman (Fire & Neon), Max Savage (StillNative), Peter Zachar (Those Gulls), Reverend Doctor D (The Pelts) and Riishi Von Rex (Riishi Von Rex). They played a really fun set, but unfortunately David announced at the end that “due to creative differences we are breaking up.” the crowd got a good kick out of that.
Black Usher was up third. They were two Keys, two MCs and a Macbook. The keys were Patrick Steele (StillNative) and Sarah Bradley (Fevers), the MCs were Atherton (Atherton) and HYF the GypsySun (Missing LinX) and the man on the Macbook was Jordan David (The Love Machine). Their set was awesome! The dynamics of the five members singing or spitting rhymes throughout their performance was very good. And the energy…oh lord the energy. They finished with the incredible “Weird, Odd, Strange” that could very well have been the song of the night. And it was fun to watch both MCs play on pots and pans with wooden spoons.
Fourth to the stage was Slow Dance Chubbies. As per their name, they slowed it down a little bit. Their set was full of guitar solos, incredible trumpet play and funny lyrics. The crowd got into their set singing along with the band. Slow Dance Chubbies was Connor (sorry no last name provided), Erik Hertzberg (Cold Capital), Gregg Clark (Pony Girl), Jake Ting (Zoo Legacy) and Shawn Desjardins. What happens when one band gets two drummers, another band gets none. But that did not stop Slow Dance Chubbies. Jake Ting, who had never played drums live before, took on the task and did a great job.
Closing the show was Nicolas Cage in Con Air. The band was made up of Craig Barlow (Loon Choir), Dave Nado (The Wicked Mercy), Jon Schofield (The Yips) Just Jamaal (Missing LinX) and Kalle Mattson (Kalle Mattson). All of their songs were named after Nic Cage movies, they opened with Ghost Rider Two, followed with Ghost Rider One, which led to Raising Arizona and concluded with Face Off. Nic Cage was an amazing combination of rap and slam poetry over rock. Their special instrument was the whistle, which they integrated into more than one song, the only band to do so. While the band tuned, Just Jamaal used his instrument, his vox, to keep the crowd entertained with some freestyling.
I think Amanda Putz said it best when speaking of the evening. “The talent tonight blew me away.” I overheard many people in the crowd saying “I figured this would be a train wreck, but this is awesome.” And I must agree, it was a great night. If you did not go this year, or are an artist and did not participate, I strongly encourage you to do so next year.
Every song from the show should be available by May 25, thanks to Audio Valley Recording Studio. Keep checking back at Ottawa Rock Lottery website for it.