It’s not every night you can get kicked in the face, get a bloody lip, and love every minute of it. That is what happens when you go see the king of party, the sultan of fun, el capitàn de fiesta, the master of positive energy – Andrew W.K.
Yes, it is he who broke out on the scene singing about partying hard who rolled into town on Thursday and packed Maverick’s. The stage was set with a recording that said “tonight is the night we party hard, focus on positive, be friends, get wasted, tonight we party.” Armed with a synthesizer and a buddy singing back up vocals, Andrew W.K. whipped through a rocking, alcohol-fueled set full of party anthems such as “Party Burrito,” “Crumcake,” and “Fun and Wasted.” There was a point where Andrew stopped the set and played a keys solo while his partner went to go get him a shot from the bar. I guess he needed a little more gas.
Yes the news is true, Mikey Chuck Rivers is packing up and leaving Ottawa. What better way to send him off though than a house show on St. Patrick’s Day? The answer….none.
Mikey Chuck Rivers was all smiles and ready to go, kicking off his set with “Mikey Here,” which I love because he works in The Cure’s “Boy’s Don’t Cry” into it. It was a gathering of friends and good times were had. During “Much Music Video Dance,” JS, shirtless wearing an LCBO bag as a hat and holding a moose, could be heard drumming on his belly to the beat. The night had two great duets, first one with his lovely lass, Jill Regier, doing “I Don’t Believe in Anything” and then an impromptu Robots!Everywhere!! cover of “Call Me Some, Looking For Time” which saw Phil (Robots!Everywhere!!) rush to the front of the living room to sing and rock out! (video below) This was an excellent send off which saw us all enjoy in beauty tunes and some brews. Don’t be a stranger Mikey!
2013 was quite an amazing year for shows in Ottawa and for Ottawa Showbox. Check out some of our favourite live experiences from the past 12 months. They are in no particular order, but they were all awesome. With this many amazing shows over the year, 2014 has its work cut out for it, and we will be there to cover it.
Fucked Up @ Ritual Nightclub (Jan. 12)
This was by far the most mental night of the year for me, and it is still burned in my brain from last January. Damian Abraham and co. played some of their greatest songs from Polaris-winning Chemistry of Common Life and widely-loved David Comes to Life, as well as a few oldies too. I also got to meet Damian Abraham and get one of his famously great sweaty man hugs. – Matias
What do you get when you host an album release show on a Monday night in a house? You get Jon Creeden belting out songs in front of 30 people in the living room of Robot! House! You get a kitchen with homemade stew and cake. More importantly, you get a bunch of friends gathering to listen to awesome music and support wicked musicians. You get to be a part of something everyone should discover: house shows.
I walked into Robot! House! just too late to catch the two-song mini-set by Robots!Everywhere!!, but I am sure Phil rocked it like always. Up next was Cory Levesque. Mr. Levesque always plays great tunes, but even better, he makes everyone laugh at least once a show. He claims to be bad at jokes, and that might be true, but I have yet to see him live and not bust a gut. At this particular show it was his amazing death-defying harmonica solo during “The Time Will Come.” There must have been something caught inside as the poor guy almost choked to death, yet everyone there could not stop laughing. All kidding aside, the thing I love about house shows is how the crowd (a bunch of friends) just jumps in and sings along all the time. A prime example of this is the beauty, “Where I’d Rather Be,’’ where everyone pipes in to sing “I’d rather be on the road…”
Up next was the wonderful surprise, Ty Trumbull of Scoop Trumbull and The Wrong Notes. I was excited as soon as I saw him at the mic with a banjo in hand instead of a guitar. Every time I see someone play the banjo I am blown away. No offence to all you guitarists out there, but there is something more magical, even foreign about watching a solo artist perform on a banjo. Trumbull is quite the lyricist. I absolutely loved his closing song about Joe Laflamme. Laflamme may be the most interesting Canadian ever, read more about him here. And check out the wicked song below (live in Toronto version, could not find another online). And try to tell me you don’t just love the line ”headed to North Ontario to find my name, to run with wolves while men dressed as sheep against the rain.’’
It was now time for Jon Creeden to take the floor. He is touring the recently reworked album Beards which was finally released on vinyl (splatter, orange or black…all of which are very sexy). He opened by paying tribute to our host, Phil, playing a Robots!Everywhere!! song “Zombie Smoothie.’’ The big guy was flying through songs off of Beards when he took a break to wipe the sweat from his brow. “I don’t get how I sweat so much and don’t get skinny.” If you have never seen Jon play, you are doing yourself a disservice. He pours all he has into every performance, look how red his face is in the picture above. Jon is punk rock on an acoustic guitar with steady dose of lyrics people can relate to. From heart ache to friendship, Beards is full of great tracks. The crowd of locals helped out their friend and sang along to pretty much every song. He loved it. “Thank you so much! This means a lot and will take a few days to sink in, you think you are just sitting in a living room watching, but this feels pretty good.”
Check out the wicked new version of all your old Creeden favourites , or newly discovered favourites, on the re-release of Beards, streaming below. I love the new backing vocals on “One Coast to Another” and well you just can’t go wrong with adding “The Captain” to the album. Buy it digitally for 8$ or catch him on tour and toss him 15$ for the sexy wax copy.
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Saturday was a gorgeous afternoon and perfect for a BBQ with some acoustic punk rock at Robot House.
The show was the matinee portion of a full day of awesome. This part saw six different musicians play solo acoustic sets in backyard on Flora Street. The BBQ was fired up, with burgs and portobello mushrooms (which were AMAZING) on the grill, people had a few drinks and shared a great sunny day of music.
Getting the show on the road was Richard Barrier of New Elders. With his guitar case down in front looking like a busker he played a good mix of originals and covers. I really enjoyed his Flatliners cover and how excited he is to finally get to see them in September. The lead singer of New Elders was sitting front and centre, but did not want to join Chris. He wanted him to have the stage to himself.
Second up was Cory Levesque. Cory opened with a love song. He then followed up with, “Every good love song needs to be followed by a break up song, that’s science or something from a book I read that one time.” Cory got people singing along, I really liked his song ”Where I’d Rather Be.” Another of the many Ottawa gems on display over the weekend.
”Hi I’m from Londoom, Onterrible,” is how The Drunken Wobblies opened his set. He played some very politically and ethically-charged folk punk rock. I found it to be very motivating music. There are not many songs more more punk rock than his song ”Patriarchy.” The song is about how there is way too much sexism in the punk scene, and has the great chorus ”If it’s about a dance floor free from insecurity it’s time to grow up stop the patriarchy.”
Jay from Dirty Kills, filled in for The Ghostwrite who could not make it out. He did a great job on such short notice. He started by saying ”This festival is awesome. I never heard of it, but I’m not in the loop of cool stuff.” Jay mellowed us out, but in the best way possible. I really liked his sound, and am a little bummed out I missed his band play later that night. He apologized for playing so many slow and depressing songs, but added ”Depressing songs are pretty sweet sometimes.” He played the song ”You’re Stronger” from when he was in band called Slouch. A little known and useless fact: the first band I was ever in was called Slouch.
Nick Raz had everyone laughing, many of us so hard we had tears in our eyes. I have never laughed so hard at a concert in my life – hell, I have laughed much less at comedy shows in comedy clubs. With songs about how hard life must have been before Google Maps, songs chalked full of Star Wars and Star Trek references, and a hilarious song about pants, you can only imagine the humour. (Listen below.) The highlight for me was his song about one of my all-time favourite video games, NBA Jam. How can you not love a track with the lyric ”I love it when you call me big blocker” and one where he says ”boomshakalaka-boom-boom.” Nick, never change!
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Jon Creeden was tasked with closing out the afternoon. He was told earlier in the week by Phil of Robots!Everywhere!, to never play another cover set. And seeing as Jon is coming back to Ottawa in two weeks for the release of Beards on vinyl, he challenged himself to play older songs. One of those older songs he rocked, was ”Capital City,” which he dedicated to Ska Jeff. He then said screw it and defied Phil, playing some covers. He covered The Ghostwrite’s ”Simply Minor,” because he could not make it and played a Dead Weights cover to prepare everyone for what was to come later that night. If you missed out on this set, and/or really want a copy of Beards on vinyl, Jon will be playing Robot House on September 9th.
This was such a fun event and such a wicked way to spend a Saturday afternoon. I definitely need to spend more time with these people and at these kinds of events. I felt at home.
“Everyone was so posi[tive] tonight,” was how the guy beside me on the stairs outside Luneta summarized the show. “It was weird,” was his analysis.
For about half of what a pint costs in the city of Ottawa (seriously Ottawa, what’s the deal?) five bands, including headlines Prevenge, played on the second night of Finish What You Started Fest. Beginning with an afternoon backyard BBQ/Acoustic show under the sun at Robot House the fest changed venues to Luneta where Prevenge, Dead Weights, Dirty Kills, Robots!Everywhere!! and Benevenstanciano got the party going for local punks, random passersby and anyone who wanted to stare into Luneta’s huge front window from the adjacent McDonald’s parking lot.
The first thing you noticed before entering Café Luneta was a chalkboard sign beside the front steps that read, “no hanging out beyond this point.” Since there was no band playing when I arrived the area was crowded with people, on both sides of the supposed demarcation line. There were even a few people reading the sign and debating exactly what constituted hanging out. The crowd would gather out here after every band to cool off, smoke, chat without music in the background, or in my case takes swigs of whiskey from a flask (see comment about beer prices above). Inside, the restaurant was fairly crowded (the tables cleared out of the way of course) for the entirety of the show. The first act, Ottawa’s own, and surely a top 5 entry in the future Buzzfeed list of The Best 17 Bands Named After Obscure Simpsons References, Benevenstanciano. The crowd seemed a bit timid, or more likely tired from the earlier acoustic show, but the pop-punkers got heads nodding and people moving after a few songs. Also one of their guitarists plays one of those guitars where you put the strings in the opposite way and doesn’t have a head. I thought that was neat.
Next up was Ottawa legend? Institution? Robots!Everywhere!! If you haven’t seen Robots!Everywhere!! yet then you need to get new friends, because decent friends would know about, and tell you about this one man musical high-five. (Full disclosure: I used to be in a band with Phil, the genius behind this project.) Phil took to the stage wearing a black bandana around his head, which made him look like a 1980s Bruce Springsteen if Bruce Springsteen had actually been unemployed throughout the 80s, lived in his parents’ basement and did nothing but eat Doritos and play Calico Vision.
Boldly, Robots!’s set include six songs which were written in the past week for, and about, some of the acts playing at FWYSF. Naturally he had some difficulty recalling the correct words, chords and keys for these songs, fortunately sloppiness is part of Robots!Everywhere!!’s charm. The next three songs he took by request. After dismissing calls for Third Eye Blind and Fastball cover he got the crowd signing along with some of his hits and ended with a medley of sorts which included the theme song he wrote for Ottawa Explosion. Playing the theme for a different festival at a festival show may have been the most punk rock move of anyone on the bill.
Next up was a slightly crusty pop-punk (or what they would call slop-punk) band from Hamilton, by way of Halifax, called Dirty Kills. They played super-melodic, catchy songs with killer bass lines that the crowd was digging, but they also spent a lot of time apologizing for harmonizing off key, which even if it was true, didn’t seem to be a problem with the crowd. The singer also mentioned being a little tired from getting drunk at the afternoon BBQ show, that, I think the crowd could relate to more. They were a really loveable band, their banter was abnormally polite (maybe it’s an east coast thing) and the three members even shared a single glass of water in between their songs as if they didn’t realize they could ask for three separate ones, I found this particularly charming. Anyone who picked up the tape that they were selling to help fund their tour of America, will surely be singing along the next time they roll through town.
Dead Weights announced that their set was brought to us by a lucrative sponsorship deal with Prevenge Inc. They later confessed to being one of twenty bands worldwide that simply play songs written by Prevenge and licensed by these subsidiaries. All jokes aside, there is clearly a similarity between both bands but Dead Weights aren’t simply Ottawa’s Prevenge. Powered by their backing vocals (the lead singer of Benevenstanciano doubles as Dead Weight’s guitarist) and more than a few members of the crowd, Dead Weights growled out fist-pumping singalong choruses that, from what could decipher, were about cops, having no money, and the military. They maybe have been the only band on the bill to have overtly political songs, but it’s hard to tell, you can never really understand the lyrics at shows unless you know them in advance.
Though Dead Weights got people into it a little more I could still hear people commenting on how tired they were from the afternoon (you gotta take a nap before the show people!) but all of that changed when the CEO of Prevenge Inc. took to the stage to commence the annual “shareholders meeting.” Prevenge have played past FWYSF shows and are billed as Montreal-faves for good reason. They are one of those bands where if you don’t know the words to the songs, you’ll pretend that you do and then go home and listen to all of the songs you can find so that you won’t have to fake it next time (wait, that’s just me? Very well…).
They started with a slow one, which didn’t really jazz up the crowd. But by the time they played crowd pleaser “Buried Alive“ off of 2011’s 7” split with Dig it Up the crowd had busted through its sun-induced malaise and everyone joined in on the chorus as the band’s two singers traded lines and the crowd shouted the response “bury us alive.” After this song the pit became pretty rowdy, arms were raised, fists were pumped, people were crowd surfed willingly or not and beer sprayed around the room. In light of the lack of a stage at Luneta the crowd managed to do a good job of regulating its own pit to make sure nobody crashed into the band. Nobody seemed to mind the flying beer except for perhaps security.
Even the band couldn’t escape the flying beer. At one point I saw the lead singer of Benevenstanciano fling beer directly into the bass players face as he approached the mic to sing. It was one of the funniest things I’d seen and all in good fun the singer assured me after the show. Also, shout out to the bass player for wearing a J Church shirt! When the band closed their set with “doublecheeseburgercokenoice“ there were groups of fans crowded arm in arm around each mic belting out “we party with the lights down low!” during the chorus.
The band capped off its encore with a cover of Minor Threat’s self-titled song. Here the bass player passed along his bass and joined the crowd to push his way through and stick the mic in the face of anyone who wanted to sing. After the set the good times continued on the beer-soaked floor as half of the crowd engaged in a massive group hug that swayed around as people continued to yell “we party with the lights down low.” Day two of Finish What You Started Fest came to a sweaty beer-soaked close and the positive vibes were painted on the faces of everyone in attendance which, if you are used to going to a show, listening to the music, ignoring everyone you don’t know and then going home, would certainly come off as “weird.”
The Ohio band had never played in Canada before, being turned away at the border last time they tried to enter the country. ”They let us in this time, even with me three arrests,” said guitarist/vocalist Ryan Rockwell. The band played a great set with some very catchy tunes. There are three things I discovered I truly love about Mixtapes. First, the wonderful mix of soft female vocals with the raspy male vocals is awesome. Second, the fact that the bass player is singing along to every single word with so much passion even if he is not miked up. Third, they have a policy where they try to play all of their songs that the crowd requests. On this night they delivered four request, including ”All the Pirates” and ”Hey Baby” (even if Ryan hates that song).
The band’s new album, Ordinary Silence, is out June 25th, and they gave the jam packed Pressed crowd a taste with the song ”Elevator Day”. Near the end of the show they played a cover of Confident Monkeys’ track ”Paparazzi coke.” They then got the five minute warning from the organizers and powered through ”Moonglow” and then ”Cassettes,” just in time.
Masked Intruder, also making their first appearance in Ottawa, dawned their masks and rocked out Wednesday night. Their masks may have people comparing them to The Aquabats!, but these guys are no superheroes. They are criminals on the run, playing up tempo pop-punk love songs whith a criminal theme. Great examples of this is ”Why Don’t You Love Me in Real Life,” where they sing ”Every night in my sweet dreams I get to hold you in my arms. I tried to get some in real life but just set off your burglar alarm.”
Making sure the hooligans did not step out of line was Officer Bradford, a ”cop from America,” who stood on stage with the band. After standing still through the first few songs, lead singer Blue (because he wears a blue ski mask) asked the crowd if they wanted to party with Officer Bradford. After the crowd erupted, the officer got the mosh pit started. To top it all off, Masked Intruder played a cover of Green Day’s She (a classic off of Dookie).
Opening the night was Ottawa’s one man punk rock explosion, Robots!Everywhere!!.Phil is quite the force on stage with his guitar and drum machine. He had to play a compressed set, so he said ”I am playing just the hits tonight.” The man can sure get the crowd going with great sing a longs, like ”Zombie Smoothie,” ”Call Me Some, Looking For Time”and the theme song he wrote for the Ottawa Explosion Weekend. Check this guy out you can download his EP for free here. And as always support local.
Speaking of local, this sweet evening of delicious pop-punk was the second instalment of My Brain Hurts Volume 1, a concert series by local promoters/record label Finish What You Started. There was also a local celebrity sighting, all three members of Finderskeepers could been seen singing and dancing along.