Ottawa Explosion Day 2: Bad Sports, Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band, The Creeps, Radioactivity and more
Ottawa Explosion Weekend day 2 was the ultimate birthday party for me, amazing bands, super nice people and delicious drinks all night long.
Sedatives starting day 2 at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
The first act of the night was the Sedatives. The local band from yester years absolutely killed it and was anything but sedated. And how could you with the stellar lineup of Ian Manhire (White Wires, Voicemail) on keys and vocals, Steve Adamyk (Steve Adamyk Band) on bass and vocals, Emmanuel Sayer (Crusades, Ottawa Explosion Organizer) on guitar and vocals and Dave Williams (Crusades) on drums. The great early crowd was made up mostly of Ottawa’s old guard and they were all amped. Highlight of the set was when they played “Powerlines” followed “Teenage Runaway,” back to back. This performance was even better than their comeback show at House of Targ in May. They are like a fine wine just getting better with age.
Laika’s Orbit really impressed me at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
Next up was New England’s very awesome Laika’s Orbit. This was the first time I have ever seen a power pop band equipped with a Flying V guitar. It definitely wasn’t ironic either because there were a couple of great shredding moments. Lead vocalist and guitarist, Sean Doopy, commented on the heat at one point and most of us just laughed. We have been waiting for this weather for quite some time now and it was only 27 with very little humidity. I really liked their track “No Matter What It Takes,” which also happens to be the title of their latest record. Every day at Explosion there is that one band you never heard of that really impresses you and on this day it was Laika’s Orbit. I strongly recommend checking them out.
Steve Adamyk Band rocking out at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
I thought I knew exactly what to expect from Steve Adamyk Band, but they proved me wrong. I mean I knew I was in for some great punk rock and good times, which they delivered on. What I didn’t know was a bunch of the new songs they played and that Adamyk was going to mention that there should be a new album in a month. The other thing I know is that Pat Johnson is a great drummer, but having now seen him play in every type of band I wonder…is there any style this man cannot drum? The band nailed all the new stuff but hilariously struggled with “Careless” and “Katacombs” after playing “I Fought for the USA” which drew some heckling from a familiar voice (video here). They recovered nicely and crushed the rest of their set.
Radioactivity getting the crowd going at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
The last band outside for the evening was Radioactivity. You know a band kicks ass when the front row and the pit is full of people from all the other bands. Conceptualized in Japan and built in Texas out of the ashes of Marked Men, Radioactivity play great power pop, garage rock or whatever you want to call this super fun music. They were the first band to get the crowd moving a little more than just head bobbing and it was great. And it is easy to understand why when listening to tracks like “Don’t Try,” “Stripped Away,” and “Pretty Girl.”
The Creeps brought party inside at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
It was now the time of the night where we moved inside into the small dark confines of the back room of SAW Gallery to watch The Creeps. The local three piece were at home in the darkness as they kicked things off with “Ghosts.” Radioactivity’s momentum clearly carried inside as the crowd sang along loudly with fists pumping every chance they could. This hit a pinnacle when the band played their big radio hit “Cancer” followed by “All The Way Home.” Those boys can sure build a set list. In a stranger moment, they dedicated the song “Off My Guard” with a chorus of “How I just feel like dying, I feel like dying, oh oh” to newlyweds who came up from Portland. I am going to assume it is their favourite track or that there is a story there. And in what seems to be the bands routine now, they closed with “Car Crash.”
Nato Coles grabbing a shot mid set without missing a beat at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
Next up was one of the most anticipated for me, Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band from Minneapolis in Wisconsin. Coles was in a playful mood, starting the set by talking about Stomping Tom and how “I’ll play the stomper all night long.” He then followed that up with “We’re going to have fucking fun tonight.” Fun was had indeed, including a moment where Coles left his band members on stage to go have a shot at the bar in the middle of a song. If you have never seen these guys play I urge you to change that as soon as you can. It is such a great rocking time and I am so excited to hear them play some new music, because that leads me to believe there is another record coming and maybe more touring. I loved hearing the anthemic “See Some Lights” live again. And for a twist, the drummer, Mike Cranberry and Coles switched places for the last song. Coles rocked out on the skins and Cranberry showed us his chops on vocals. They are men of many wonders.
The festivities were capped off with Bad Sports, who feature members of Radioactivity. The more mellow kind of 80 punk rock and garage vibe was a nice way to end a very long night of celebrating. There new single “Living with Secrets” off their upcoming 7 track EP was awesome and has a New York Dolls feel to it.
Well Explosion that was one heck of a birthday party! The next three days will have a very hard time topping that one.
The long-awaited Sedatives reunion at House of Targ
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.
Throwback Thursday: Ottawa Gaga Compilation (2009)
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.
Ottawa Explosion Weekend Day 4 – New Swears, TV Freaks, Steve Adamyk Bank + more
You’d think that after three days of non-stop live music, partying, moshing, and general disregard for our overall health, the crowd at Ottawa Explosion would thin out a bit as the days wore on. It was just the opposite. Saturday saw more people and more music than any other day so far, and the atmosphere was full of excitement and anticipation. We were all ready for one hell of a night, with events scattered around the city.
My day started with one of my local faves New Swears. For those who aren’t as familiar with Ottawa bands, New Swears are the funnest, most ridiculous, self-destructive group of guys in the entire region. Maybe even the province. Maybe even the country. Their late afternoon set kicked off in the same fashion as always – countless floatation devices and blow-up pool toys, bodies flying everywhere, and some great tunes coming from the four guys up front wearing ripped up hospital gowns (and ripped up underwear) with bandages all over their body. Some songs that got people going mental were “Rather Be Dead,” “See You In Hull,” and their bad ass new single “No Fun” which will appear on their new record coming out in late summer before their European tour. Ending with their own version of “Old Time Rock and Roll,” which ended with multiple crowdsurfing bodies colliding and half the band on the ground in a pile of dirty, sweaty human flesh. The tone was set and it was pretty much everything you could ask for from the same guys that snowboarded down their stairwell with snow they brought in from their yard.
New Swears at OXW 2014
After, there were a couple of sets happening around the corner at Vertigo Records, so I headed that way and crammed in with all the others. Philly punk rockers The Abandos were first up, and they played quite a few of songs that were short and sweet. They ran into a few problems with feedback, which is completely understandable since the bands were essentially playing in the crowd due to limited space. Their music was fast, frantic, and full of energy. Lead vocalist Street Kyle’s ultra-fast and ultra-aggressive vocals really stood out and I dug the crunchy reverb he had coming from his guitar. The songs got heavier and heavier as the set went on, and they surely garnered some new fans.
The Abandos @ Vertigo Records, OXW 2014
Between sets I went and got a sub and mixed a little bourbon+ Coca Cola concoction, thinking I was really smart. I returned to the venue only to realize it was filled to capacity. I was locked out with a few other poor bastards, watching Ming Wu dance his little heart out to TV Freaks up front inside. But we made the best of it, and there was only a thin pane of glass separating us on the street from the band. Hailing from Hamilton, ON, they were super heavy and fun to watch on stage. Their music reminds me of the good ol’ days of punk rock, and their live show is one that I think Iggy Pop would get a kick out of. Even a homeless gentleman came up and had the time of his life watching the band from outside, and received a fist pump from the drummer on the other side of the glass.
After the Vertigo sets, things kept on going over at Club SAW. One of my most anticipated lineups of the festival was the Dirtnap Records showcase. I pretty much love everything bands on this label put out, so we were all in for a treat. First up was Voicemail, which is fronted by Ian Manhire of The White Wires. With WW only playing a few shows a year, it’s so great to see Ian on stage doing his own thing with Voicemail. Their tunes are straight-up fun garage music, with the same spirit as WW minus the surfiness. They ended on a great note with a cover of ELO’s “Don’t Bring Me Down.”
Next up was Montreal’s Sonic Avenues, a band I discovered recently and absolutely fell in love with. I can’t get enough of their garage punk-pop sound, and their set did not disappoint. The high point of their set was when they played the song “Automatic” from their latest record Mistakes, whipping the crowd into a frenzy that lasted the rest of their set. My favourite track off this new album is “New Vogues,” which sounded even better live. Do not miss these guys when they come to town!
Another one of my local faves is Steve Adamyk Band, and these Explosion veterans took over the SAW courtyard next. During Sonic Avenues’s and SAB’s sets, a legion of sweaty, hungover people were up front belting every word of their songs. The guys from Needles//Pins, amongst many others, were joining the band in singing such catchy punk tunes like “Wait For Your Number,” “Speed It Up,” “Katakombs,” and a few new tracks like “Careless” off their new album Dial Tone to be released July 1. Guitarist Davey Quesnel ripped it up the whole set, and with years of band experience under his belt, his technique was infallible up there. His balance, however, was not – Davey took a pretty big spill over the monitor at one point, but he got up and shook it off like nothing happened. An internet high five to Davey for that one. Even Adamyk’s former Sedatives bandmate and Ottawa Explosion organizer Emmanuel Sayer was singing his heart out and loving the shit out of life as the band played.
Steve Adamyk Band at OXW 2014
A bummer was that I only caught the first few songs of The Marked Men, who came from Texas to play Explosion this year. Probably the most anticipated band of the festival, The Marked Men had the crowd in the palms of their hands from the first stroke of the guitar. These guys have been around since 2002, and although they haven’t released a record since 2009, they showed no signs of slowing down. They ripped through songs, and the energy exuding from the band on stage seemed to demand an equally strong reaction from the crowd. Below is a video of the band performing the song “On The Outside” at Explosion this year shot by Chris Cook of Finderskeepers.
Many of us went to Ritual Nightclub for METZ afterwards, but there were also events happening Avant Garde, House of Targ, Cafe Dekcuf, Mugshots, and Club SAW (inside). By the end of the Dirtnap showcase, there was no denying that this was not only the best night so far, but that this was the strongest year of the festival yet.