Sam Coffey & the Iron Lungs headlined a great show at the Dominion Tavern Wednesday night which featured opening sets by locals Saint Clare and Mushy Gushy.
Sam took to the stage wearing his standard issue jean vest with Sam Coffey & the Iron Lung patch on the back over a a bedazzled jumpsuit, which I later learned was actually part of an Ace Frehley costume. The band is touring celebrating the release of their new self-titled album which they released after signing with Dine Alone Records.
They opened with two tracks off the excellent new record, “Ragnarock” and “Judy.” I love the new stuff, I really do, but was very glad to see they didn’t forget about their first album and the song that made me fall in love with them a few year ago, “Gates of Hell.” The track is a kick-ass rock n’ roll song with a sprinkle of old school, some claps and sing-a-longs, it is the near-perfect song.
Another highlight of their set was their song “Voicemail,” which is about Ottawa’s very own Gary Voicemail aka Ian Manhire of such great bands as The White Wires, The Sedatives, and more. If you have never seen these guys, shame on you. They are a great rock n’ roll band through and through and even better guys.
Same Coffey and the Iron Lungs rocking out at The Dominion Tavern in Ottawa.
Setting the stage and filling the stage was Saint Clare, a 7-piece band from Ottawa. The band has been making waves in Ottawa with their energetic live performance and great releases. They have such a dynamic horn section (sax and trombone) which adds so much to their music, especially on their 2016 single “Cheatin’.” And I don’t know about you guys, but I just love watching a trombone player strum along like a guitar when they aren’t playing.
Taking the importance of the horns even further is their physical arrangement on stage, which had the brass right next to the singer/guitarist, one on each side, putting them at the forefront. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that anywhere else. The band as a whole is great and I love what they are doing, but I must say the brass really makes them stand out in the crowded rock n’ roll world. There were definitely some new songs during their set so hopefully we will get something new soon to sink our ears into.
Saint Clare bringing the brass and the fuzz at The Dominion Tavern in Ottawa.
Opening the night was Mushy Gushy, a four-piece butt-rock band who are also from Ottawa. I’ll never truly know what butt rock is but Mushy Gushy make you want to bob and dance on every track. I mean this as a compliment—they were the perfect opening band and got the energy pumping. They did not waste any time playing three songs straight without breaks to get everyone in the zone. They then took a very quick break to say who they were and plug their new tape called More Butter and then quickly got back to business playing the wicked track “Trap” off of said tape. Not a lot of talk and a lot of good rock is key when opening a show. Also it is hard to go wrong with songs named “Fucking Awesome” and “Bodybreak.” Eat your heart out Joanne McLeod and Hal Johnson.
Mushy Gushy kicking things off at The Dominion Tavern in Ottawa.
Saturday evening at Bluesfest had a little something for everyone thanks to bands such as The Paul James Band, Holy Fuck and Wolf Parade.
Having been at the HOPE Volleyball Tournament all day I missed many great acts throughout the afternoon, but it was all for great causes. This meant my evening started off with the infamous Paul James Band. Paul James is a Juno award wining blues guitarist and rock n roller from Toronto who has been entertaining crowds around the world for more than four decades now. His performance in Ottawa might as well of been straight from the 70’s or 80’s, as he has not slowed down or lost a step over the many years since first beginning.
The Paul James Band showing us some good old time rock and roll with some help from the Texas Horns at RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Saturday July 16, 2016.
Always an entertainer, James went back and forth from covers and originals as he danced, spun around playing the guitar behind his head, duck walked and having an all-around blast. He dedicated his opening song, a cover of “Last Clean Shirt” by Eric Burdon and the Animals to his friend Willy DeVille, best known as the front man of Mink DeVille who James toured with. The amazing Texas Horns joined the band for several songs including an awesome rendition of his original track “Suzette.” Before playing his song “Joint Outback,” he commented on the particular odour in the air and mentioned that he released this song “when Justin’s father was in power.”
One of the most memorable moments of the set was the closing song as he drank half his beer while playing, pulled off the label from one side and used the bottle as his slide. After all these years, the man can still really entertain and get a crowd dancing and laughing.
For something completely different, I took a seat on the hills facing the Black Sheep Stage to take in the powerful force of organized chaos known as Holy Fuck. It was quite the shift from ol’ time rock and roll to electronic stylings of Holy Fuck. The thing that really impresses me about this group is that they are not just any electronic group, their really cool customized instruments are complemented with non-instruments, including items such as a 35 mm film synchronizer, toy keyboards and toy phaser guns, but they also feature guitar, bass and drums. All of this with only four people on stage.
They create such a powerful soundscape that broadens the mind and really pushes the limits with creativity that is far beyond my realm of understanding. The group had taken a little hiatus before their latest release Congratsand it was great to have them back at it live. They were also quite happy to be back at it, saying “we haven’t played in a long while so you probably haven’t seen us before. We are very happy to be here on a beautiful night.” On top of the mind bending rhythms and beats, two jugglers showed up in the crowd, completely unrelated I believe. They did however have glowing juggling balls and were pretty entertaining as every once in a while their movement would sink with the songs.
Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade is seen here performing at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Saturday July 16, 2016. ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO/Scott Penner
It was now time for my most anticipated set of the festival, the return of Wolf Parade. The band returned with a vengeance after a five year hiatus and the Bluesfest crowd was ecstatic and so was the band. The band couldn’t believe the reception they received constantly sporting huge smiles after a song, thanking the crowd and giving thumbs up. The band opened with “Soldier’s Grin” from their 2008 album At Mount Zoomer, followed by “Dear Sons And Daughters Of Hungry Ghosts” from Apologies to the Queen Mary. This set the trend for the night where the band bounced back and forth between songs where guitarist Dan Boeckner sang lead to songs where keyboardist Spencer Krug sang lead.
The band recently released EP 4 and they played two songs off of it “C’est La Vie” and “Floating World.” They looked in disbelief at how well their new songs were received. After the songs Spencer said “You’re so kind… I can’t believe you’re here and not watching Duran Duran,” as he chuckled. The bands energy on stage was matched by the crowds raw enthusiasm which saw people jumping, dancing, screaming at the top of their lungs and often saying things like “holy shit this is actually happening” or “I can’t believe I am finally seeing them” in between songs.
The set was full of great moments, moments that quickly became the highlights of my festival. Things like a three song set of “You Are A Runner and I Am My Father’s Son,” then “Fancy Claps” topped off by “This Heart’s on Fire.” I could have walked away happy after that moment and called it a night. But wait, after a few songs more Spencer and Dan hugged! This sent shivers down my spine leading me to believe they are all happy to be back to Wolf Parade after all the side projects and this is no victory lap or cash grab, this is a band that happy to rocking together again.
And just when I thought there couldn’t be anything better after all those amazing songs, great energy, happiness and amazement, they band closed with “Kissing the Beehive” which is one of the most epic finishing songs I have ever seen live. The original is about 10 minutes, but live it clocked in closer to 15 minutes and after the singing stops around the 7:30 minute mark the band launched into an epic jam session which really put each musician on display in their own way without resorting to typical solos. I was absolutely blown away, there wasn’t a single song I wanted to hear that they didn’t play and they performance was everything I wanted it to be and then some.
In the opinion of this humble writer Wolf Parade played the best set of the festival and one of the best Bluesfest sets I have seen in a while. If Saturday night was a taste of what is to come, I cannot wait to see them again at Wayhome and again after Osheaga.
Ottawa alternative rock four-piece The Stringers recently dropped their debut EP, See You at 7.
The album begins by building anticipation through the brief intro track and into the catchy finger picking at the start of first track “Dresses & Ties.” And as soon as the old school rock and roll vocals and catchy upstroke guitar kicks in you are hooked. “Dresses & Ties,” is ultra catchy, features great group sing along “bara bar bara”s, claps and makes you just want to jump out of your seat and dance at your local sock hop. No song on the album excites me as much as “Dresses and Ties,” but that is because it is one of the freshest sounding songs I have heard out of Ottawa in some time.
The band mentions that they draw from “The Gaslight Anthem, Arkells and many local bands in the collaborative Ottawa scene,” and it’s clear that these influences paid off well. See You at 7 is very solid and features five rather unique tracks. The EP caps off with the powerful closing track “West End Stars,” which has a very Gaslight Anthem feel to it due the story it tells. Within the tale of family woes, drunk parents and heartache the following lyrics stand out “I’m losing faith in the stereo, I’m losing faith in your god. Yeah I know he left this place a whole long time ago.” Check out the See You at 7 streaming below.