Last week, noisy London punk rockers Single Mothers returned to the captial. They’re continuing to ride the wave of their latest record, 2017’s Our Pleasure, and they pulled no punches at House of TARG alongside locals Mushy Gushy and Curl. Our photographer Aidan Thatcher was there to catch the action through his lens.
When the cold Ottawa winds start nipping around this time of year, there’s no better way to escape frozen realities of the north than going to a loud and sweaty show. That was certainly the case on Friday night, but the weather didn’t prevent people from coming out in droves to check out a special show at The Brass Monkey on Ottawa’s west side. Hailing from Brampton, The Flatliners headlined the night and played their groundbreaking 2007 album The Great Awake front-to-back. They were joined by A Wilhelm Scream (AWS) from New Bedford, MA, who also played their album Career Suicide from start to finish, never missing a beat. Both acts were preceded by London, ON’s Single Mothers and Little Junior.
After a lengthy trip from downtown to The Brass Monkey, I made my way into the venue for the first time to the sweet, sweet sound of Single Mothers exploding on stage. Approaching the place, I was surprised to find it located beneath a strip mall. Not exactly what you’d expect, but The Brass Monkey extended the whole way along and was packed to the brim with folks from all over Ottawa. It was pretty impressive to see that many people come together at this out-of-the-way venue for a show like this, but the sound there is known to be one of the best in town and that counts for something.
Single Mothers has been picking up steam since their debut LP Negative Qualities was released into the world in 2014, and gained notoriety for their brash and untethered live performances. This one was certainly no exception, as the band cranked up the energy immediately. The crowd wasn’t quite ready to warm up and get moving yet, but got there by the end of their set. Single Mothers released their second album, Our Pleasure, earlier this year and played a combination of tracks from both of their full length records.
Lead vocalist Drew Thompson channeled the full force of his band with his trenchant vocals in tracks such as “Half-Lit” and “Overdose,” seemingly ripping up his vocal cords with throaty and guttural delivery. But Thompson never relented, as he and the band kept the crowd locked-in with untamed stage antics and infectious punk rock. The group bucked any critics by playing a dynamic set which featured newer tracks such as “Leash” and “Long Distance,” offering us a glimpse into a side of the band that is more than the blunt-force trauma of distortion, but also layered with melodic elements and lyrical prowess.
I wasn’t that familiar with AWS going into this show, as melodic hardcore isn’t really my thing. But I gave their 2007 album Career Suicide a solid listen ahead of the show and was genuinely impressed by the sheer magnitude of the band’s sound. Although it’s not the kind of album I’ll put on every day, I appreciate how well it is composed from start to finish and looked forward to how it would translate live. I should also say that I appreciate that they named their band after a hilarious sounding stock sound effect, a recognizable scream which we’ve all heard in movies before.
AWS exploded into their set with a trio of fast-paced heavy hitters in “I Wipe My Ass With Showbiz,” “5 to 9,” and “The Horse.” Right away the crowd lovingly started belting out each line, word for word, as lead singer Nuno Pereira egged each audience member on with his interactive stage presence. His jugular seemed to protrude more and more with each song, and his liveliness was reciprocated by some of the die-hard fans up front. The onslaught that is Career Suicide continued, and the 15-song tour-de-force was fully realized in this live setting. The band’s tightness is undeniable, as each member seamlessly plays off the others without missing a single beat. Pereira took pause to tell a quick story in the middle of the set:
“It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years! We got a message from the guys in Flatliners on MySpace asking if we could join them for their record release shows. We said ‘fuck yeah’ and had a great time doing it.”
The only thing that detracted from the music for me was extended guitar solos throughout, as I’m not a big “solo” guy. This detraction is merely preference, and certainly had nothing to do with the skill of the band members. AWS’ tendency to blend old-school So-Cal punk rock with metal and even prog-rock is a bit of a stretch at times for my liking, as the sprawl across styles can be distracting. But there is a definite primal feel to their music, an intensity and attitude that are distinctive and comparable to bands like Propaghandi. The near-perfect live execution of the complex song structures on this record are worth seeing, even for a layman like me who might not be as familiar with AWS’ catalogue.
The headliners of the night, The Flatliners, took the stage last and performed their much-loved 2007 sophomore album, The Great Awake. The band were Canada’s ska and punk rock darlings of the 2000’s, getting noticed by Fat Mike of NOFX’s label Fat Wreck Chords and getting the opportunity to play with well-known bands associated with the label at a young age. My first experience seeing them was in Detroit in 2008, opening for NOFX and No Use For a Name just after the release of The Great Awake, and I have fond (sweaty and bloody) memories of that show. Needless to say, a lot of us at the show were really amped to see the album played live front-to-back.
Right out the gate, the punching percussion of “July! August! Reno!” thundered from the stage and the raucous crowd burst into moshing as expected. “What do you do when doing what you love gets you nowhere? It gets you nothing. These loaded guns are nothing until they’re fired,” is a sentiment most of us endure at some point in our lives, and a powerful beginning to their set. Immediately after, the band transitioned right into my personal favourite, “Eulogy.” The song is a young person’s account of the death of someone close, a friend or family member, perhaps for the first time. This one hits hard for those of use who listened to it in the wake of tragedy.
The set went forward full-speed, and those who love the ska beginnings of The Flatliners got down to “The Respirator” and “Mastering the World’s Smallest Violin” but the band’s turn towards punk rock on this record was as well received in 2017 as it was in 2007. Chris Cresswell’s in-your-face vocals were absolutely mind-boggling throughout, which is a mystery to me since he’s abused his vocal cords for so many years. This album in particular is not a walk in the park, by any stretch.
The band ripped through their set, sweating up a storm and playing highlights such as “Mother Theresa Chokeslams the World,” This is Giving Up,” and “Hal Johnson Smokes Cigarettes.” Scott Brigham backup vocals and guitar riffs enveloped the crowd and kept the energy high until the very end.
The love for the record was felt through everyone that night, and I’m sure many of us had lost our voices by the end of the night. Overall it was a big treat to see all these bands play together, and have a hell of a party out in the suburbs of Ottawa.
Remaining shows on tour for The Flatliners
12/09 Montreal, QC – Club Soda ^
12/14 Long Beach, CA – Alex’s Bar ^
12/15 Phoenix, AZ – Marquee Theatre %
12/16 Las Vegas, NV – Brooklyn Bowl %
01/12 Chicago, IL – Cobra Lounge
01/13 Pontiac, MI – The Crofoot Ballroom #
^ with A Wilhelm Scream
% with Descendents
# with Twin Peaks, PUP
Pouzza Fest, the Montreal venue based punk rock festival named after putting a poutine on a pizza, turned five years old this past weekend. Ottawa Showbox went down to shoot a documentary/movie on the Ottawa bands playing. I felt it was also important to provide a written snapshot of this crazy and amazing festival. So here are some of the highlights in no particular order.
Dig It Up tearing it up at Katacombes during Pouzza Fest in Montreal, QC.
One of the best parts of Pouzza actually happened the day before the festival even began. The Thursday before the festival, Beau’s hosted a free Pre-Pouzza Party featuring Single Mothers, Dig It Up, Audio Visceral, Dee Cracks and Lost Love. Consider the cool setting of Katacombes, $1 hotdogs/veggydogs and the fact that Dig It Up and Single Mothers play one of my favourite styles of punk out there. The bar was set high.
Jeff Rosenstock taking the time to discuss the very important topic of sexual harassment at shows, many show-goers are conditioned to think it’s normal. Some also believe that when a woman speaks up about it, it means they aren’t tough enough for the pit. As he said, “sexual assault is sexual assault and any time you see it you should stop it. Everyone will have your back.” It is important for musicians to not only spend their time rocking, but to tackle serious issues and to use their position to positively influence others. Much respect, Mr. Rosenstock.
Watching one of your friend’s from Ottawa, Rich Chris, play a 2 a.m. set in a french fry restaurant and having a crowd of strangers sing along as he covers the Menzingers.
Jesse Lebourdais playing the hangover brunch at Foufounes Electriques during Pouzza Fest in Montreal, QC.
Getting to hang out with musicians from across the country and connecting with them to set up cool side activities. Namely being lucky enough to have Jesse Lebourdais play a private three-song set for me in an alley and then have Jon Creeden swing by for a song also. Pretty rad way to spend a morning.
Convincing a group of friends to do Sunday afternoon pizza bongs. Let your imagination roam for a bit… A pizza bong is when you fold a slice of pizza into a funnel like shape and then chug a beer using the pizza. Once completed, you are welcome to chow down on the za.
Continuing with the food theme, on Sunday morning Les Foufounes Électriques hosted a hangover brunch where every item is $1 each and you can get $3.50 Caesars. Imagine ordering eggs, curry tofu scramble, sausages, hash browns, and toast and only paying $5. Yeah – punk brunchers know what they are doing.
Racing around the beautiful and vibrant city of Montreal from venue to venue, there are seven to nine hosting shows simultaneously at any given time. The venues are all pretty close to each other and provide completely different settings and vibe. It is a great change from the outdoor festival formula.
A bunch of Ottawa friends at the top of the half-pipe in TRH Bar during Pouzza Fest in Montreal, QC.
To continue on that feeling, there were so many incredible moments shared with all the local bands and friends who made the trip to Ottawa to hang out, party, and watch all the Ottawa bands. There is something powerful about all of us singing together at the top of our lungs in another city that was just so beautiful.
Having the opportunity to see great bands that have never played Ottawa or that I have simply never heard off. In no particular order bands you need to check out that I just discovered or fell more in love with after finally seeing them live: Cayetana, Jeff Rosenstock, Barons, Rebuilder and The Jukebox Romantics.
Finally, being a part of a musical community made up of people from all over the world that congregated for an amazing experience.
The infamous Franky Gogo trying the infamous pizza bong. (Photo: Matías Muñoz)
The day had finally arrived…I was about to realize a lifelong musical dream of seeing The Replacements as well as seeing Iggy Pop and the Stooges in the flesh. Before this could become a reality, I had six other bands to watch first, but after waiting 25 years, a few hours of great live music seemed like the perfect way to tease my ear drums.
First up was Single Mothers from London, Ontario. I missed most of their set as I was record shopping and lost track of time. Nonetheless, I heard about half as I walked up and while I waited in line to get in. They are a rocking good way to start the day. They are raw and in-your-face rockers.
The Flatliners were next up. They were on point, “We usually tell really funny jokes, but we don’t have much time today so just music today, if that’s ok?” The boys played some rocking older tracks, “Eulogy” being an all-time favourite of mine, as well as a few tracks from their upcoming album Dead Language, including their new single “Drown in Blood.” For all of you fellow Ottawa fans, The Flatliners are rolling through town on Friday September 6 with The Motorleague, Dead Weights and Sidelines at Mavericks. For information and tickets, click here.
Two bands seemed a little out of place on the bill Sunday, one of those was Best Coast. Their soft cute California style rock, which I like very much on record, just felt odd and lost on the crowd. The lead singer did raise a very interesting point though. She brought up that she was the only girl member of any of the bands over both days… what is going on hardcore and rock n roll, where are all the girls? I must admit though their very catchy tune ”Goodbye” had me swaying side to side.
A lot of people were confused with Dinosaur Jr. being slotted third, and before bands like The Weakerthans and Rocket from the Crypt, but I was fine with it. I was never a huge Dinosaur Jr fan. They started by saying a growling “hello” and followed with “please enjoy our set.” Unfortunately the sound was absolutely brutal during their set. If the vocals were ok the guitar was way too loud, when the guitar was ok the vocals were off, and the sound on the bass was hit or miss from song to song. The highlight of the set for me was their cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven,” which for me came from way out of left field.
Rocket From The Crypt playing music and telling jokes at Riot Fest 2013.
Dressed in matching mariachi outfits, Rocket from the Crypt brought their love for Rock n Roll and shrimp cocktails to the stage. “Who here loves Rock n Roll?” asked the lead singer, “who here likes shrimp cocktails?” Seeing as the crowd erupted to both he said “Great we are all the same then.” This set the tone for a set that was far more than 90s inspired rock with a wicked horn section, but a hilarious set with humour between every song. One of those moments for example is when the lead singer discussed how long it has been since they played Canada. “Long time since I’ve been back in Canadia. We have this sort of kinship, we have not updated our sound and you have not updated your dance moves. I am not complaining though, we like man on man contact.” Their set was chalked full of their great tunes like “Come See Come Saw,” “Made for You,” “Boychucker” and my favourite “On a Rope.”
Up next was a little bit of a head scratcher. The Weakerthans, who I love immensely were a very odd fit between Rocket from the Crypt and Iggy. But John K. Samson and his boys owned it. They are not loud, they are not in your face, but they are very good. Samson opened with “One Great City,” a song about how much he hates Winnipeg and followed that by dedicating “Champion of Hearts” to the curlers. I have been a big fan of The Weakerthans for years and they always put on a great show. They made sure to mix in some of their more rocking songs like “Aside” and “Watermark,” and while not being shy of playing some of their slower songs like “Plea From A Cat Named Virtue,” which has the wicked line in it, “Scratch the terror and begin to believe you’re strong.” They might have seemed out of place on the schedule, but they fit right in with their attitude and awesomeness.
Iggy and the Stooges killing it at Riot Fest 2013 in Toronto. The man is 66 for god’s sake!
Had you told me as a teenager that not only would Iggy Pop still be alive at 66, but still touring and I would get a chance to see him…I probably would have laughed in your face and asked you if you had any idea who Iggy Pop was. Fast forward to me at 26 and holy shit I was watching as The Stooges strummed the cords to ”Raw Power” and Iggy strutted onto stage. That man is THE energizer bunny. He danced around like only Iggy can, all freaking set. He even invited fans on stage, one of which happened to be Max from the Ottawa band Critical Convictions. The band played ”Fun House” and the 15 or so people on stage had a blast.
I was blown away through the first half of the set and thinking there was no way they could make it any better. Then they played ”I Wanna Be Your Dog’‘ and Iggy dove into the crowd. Now I’m thinking WOW but you can’t top that can you? How about playing ”The Passenger” much to the crowd’s amazement. Then in true Iggy fashion they played the super obnoxious ”Cock in my pocket” and ”Pretty face is going to hell.” I still can’t believe I saw Iggy and the Stooges, it was like watching rock royalty.
The sweet dance party when Iggy invited the crowd on stage. Can you spot the local rocker?
People who know me know I was spoiled as a child to have parents who raised me on punk, grunge, alternative, ska and reggae. This is why the moment I saw that The Replacements where playing Toronto I bought tickets and got so excited I shouted in my office. The Mats had not played a show in over two decades and I was now seconds away from seeing them. When the two original member Paul Westerbeg and Tommy Stinson, as well as two fill ins Josh Freese (The Vandals, Nine Inch Nails, Devo and a million other bands) and David Minehan (The Neighborhoods) stepped onto the stage I nearly lost my mind! And what were the first words out of Paul’s lips…”Sorry it took us so long, for 25 years we’ve been having a wardrobe debate…unresolved.” (You can find the audio of the entire show below)
The Replacements!!! The picture is not the best, but their performance was!
They opened with “Taking a Ride,” song one from their first album, Sorry Ma’ I Forgot To Take Out The Trash. The crowd cheered and sang the whole way through, heck there was even a mosh pit. Paul and Tommy looked like they were having a lot of fun and were really happy to be playing together again. They often walked over to each other during the set and you could see them talking and laughing. The set list had a little bit of everything, a roller coaster ride through their catalogue and not a greatest hits show. They played stuff from all over the map like “Favourite Thing” to “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out” to “Love You Till Friday” to “Wake Up” to “Borstal Breakout” (Sham 69 cover). They even found time to take a request, which ended up being “Androgynous.” Paul forgot the words but it did not matter because the crowd was singing along so loudly that we had his back. They played a rocking version of “Swinging Party” which they said was a request from Slim Dunlap (guitarist for The Replacements who is recovering from a stroke). They then played a very emotional “Can’t Hardly Wait” and revved it back up by closing with “Bastards of Young.”
While cheering and losing my mind, I looked at my watch and noticed they still had time left. As quickly as I could get angry for them leaving, Paul re-emerged from the side of the stage wearing a Montreal Canadians jersey much to the chagrin of the crowd. Just Paul being Paul, punk rock to the bone. They played “Everything Is Coming Up Roses” off a release to raise money for Slim and his family called Songs for Slim and ended one of the most magical musical experiences of my life with “I.O.U.”
It took over twenty years to get even two of the members back together, but after that amazing set, it was well worth the wait. Paul and Tommy, thank you, you owe us nothing.