Back in May, we celebrated our five-year anniversary with a couple of shows at The Record Centre. That was a whole lot of fun, but we’re not quite done yet. Because why stop there?
Over the past five years we’ve had the opportunity to meet countless musicians in Ottawa, go to hundreds of shows, and really dig deep into the music landscape here. These artists continue to impress us, inspire us, and keep us doing what we do. It’s been our mission and raison d’être to support these musicians through coverage of new album releases, interviews, live reviews, and much more.
We’ve put together a compilation called Five Years – Ottawa 2012-2017 which contains music that has impacted us since Showbox started in 2012. This span of five years, in our mind, was a crucial period in the Ottawa music scene. More DIY musicians than ever before came out of the woodwork and made albums, and many were released independently without labels. Some music was underground, some wasn’t.
Different types of music pervaded throughout this period, demonstrating Ottawa’s potential hub in the Canadian landscape. Our hope is that this compilation will act as a snapshot of a strong and robust local music scene in Ottawa between 2012-2017, and allow folks to have a view into the music that came out during this period. It goes between garage, punk, hip hop, folk, and
While we could have double or tripled the size of this compilation with all the incredible artists out there, we kept it modest and capped it at 51. So while this list is encompassing, it’s certainly not meant to be comprehensive by any stretch. Please enjoy a free stream and download of the Five Years – Ottawa 2012-2017 compilation below.
A huge thank you to all the artists who contribute their music to this compilation, and to Pascale Arpin for designing such a good album cover. Enjoy!
The compilation is PWYC, and any proceeds will be donated to Girls+ Rock Ottawa in memory of Jean Sebastien Belleau. A special fund in his name has been established for the maintenance, repair and preservation of their growing instrument library, made in the spirit of honouring JS’ much deserved legacy as a passionate supporter of the Ottawa music scene.
We are just so damn excited for our anniversary festivities this weekend (May 26/27) that we’re giving away a few pairs of tickets. We’ve been fortunate enough to become close with a lot of musicians in Ottawa since Showbox came on the scene in May of 2012, and we couldn’t be more stoked to have such talented friends play shows for us on Friday and Saturday at The Record Centre. We’ll be raffling off some free swag at the events from some cool businesses like Bar Robo, Beau’s All Natural Brewery, The Record Centre, and more. We’ll also be selling some limited edition Showbox merch as well, you won’t want to miss out!
Friday, May 26, will feature stellar performances by Jon Creeden, Expanda Fuzz, and one more act TBA.
The next night on Saturday, May 27, will feature intimate and mesmerizing performances by G.Grand & Hyf, Keturah Johnson, Claude Munson, and a rare comeback performance by our faves – STEAMERS. You can find more information about the artists here.
Tickets are available online now, but you also have a solid chance to win some free ones this week. Simply answer the question below and you’ll be entered to win a pair of tickets to our 5-year anniversary for you and a friend!
The Steamers went back to where it all began in Gatineau to play their final show as a band. Many of you may not know that the band was originally called the Gatineau Steamers.
In the intimate setting of the Propulsion Scène, an accessible, ecological and open space within an old market place, was a perfect venue for this anti-climactic show. Their set fittingly opened with guitarist Quin Gibson’s solo song “Take Nothing for Granted.” I am sure most in the crowd and at Steamers’ Bluesfest show earlier this year, took for granted that this local act would be around for much longer.
Steamers playing their final show at Propulsion Scène on Saturday October 1, 2016. Photo: Eric Scharf
The band quickly showed us all how much they had grown and improved over the years by playing their older songs in new ways or simply just sounding so darn tight as a six-piece. This was very evident in “Year” and “Blue Skies.” But the band also showed their fun and improvisational side as they changed up “Stay Here to Bleed” ending it in a ska version.
Quin showed a ton of resolve powering through even though he cut off the tip of left pointer finger earlier that week. It was all bandaged up, but you could tell that he was in a lot of pain on certain tracks where that finger played an important role in his chord progressions.
The band split the night into two sets, the first featured the above mentioned tracks as well as a shining light on bass player and vocalist Sara Fitzpatrick. Sara took lead vocals on The White Stripes’ “Hotel Yorba,” which she delivered with some twang and then played “Destination” a song I always thought was about some dark times in her life. Sarah finally shed some light that the track was actually about being on the phone with administration at the University of Ottawa and how painful that can be. They closed out that first set with possibly one of the most fun songs ever written, the Robots! Everywhere!! song about dinosaurs drummer Phil Castiglione wrote for his partner’s little nephew.
Photo: Eric Scharf.
With the first set done, the reality that there were only so many Steamers songs left to ever be heard live started to sink in. The band played an amazing second set full of their originals, a Shaky Graves cover and another Robots! Everywhere!! song. One thing that I think might have been overlooked in the Steamers was their bilingualism. They showed the crowd a sample of it during the first set with “Passer Une Nuite,” but really showcased during the second set as they opened with “Wolfpack Presley” and played “Bateau” about halfway through. Julien’s vocals and song writing brought a whole other dimension to the band.
As the show progressed and as we knew time was running the band announced that they had two songs left and invited everyone on stage. Phil started to play “All My Friends Are Here” a Robots! Everywhere!! song that the band has adopted, only to have the sound man rush and get all of us off the stage. At the time it was kind of a bummer, but as I looked at the stage, I don’t think it was structurally sound enough to support the lot of us. Instead we all took to the front or the side of the stage to sing at the top of our lungs. They then concluded with “Head North.” The band shared a big group hug and a private conversation on stage and that was it. A band I once saw four times in one month, are now no more.
The end of an era. Photo: Eric Scharf.
Now now, hold back your tears. You’ll be happy to know that many of the members are working on other very exciting projects. Garrett is in Slack Bridges – a local soul and R&B group, Sarah is in Sleepy and the Noise – a local alternative rock/power pop trio, Quin will focus more on his solo music and possibly get a few musicians together to back that and I hear rumours of Phil, Greg and Julien forming a punk band that I will surely love.
Raise your glass. Here is to you Steamers. Thank you for entertaining me and many others for countless shows with so many sing alongs, and more importantly for the opportunity to now call all of you my friends.
It was a beautiful Sunday and a perfect way to cap off the first half of Bluesfest with Yukon Blonde, Wild Child, Steamers and Debauche.
Debauche performs at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Sunday, July 10, 2016. ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO Mark Horton
There was no better way to start my day than with Debauche. The four-piece based out of New Orleans play super fun gypsy music in the style of Gogol Bordello. As their leader Yegor Romantsov said in a thick Russian accent, “For those who haven’t seen us before, we play Russian hooligan songs about orphans, prostitutes, lesbians, and of course gypsies.” They had the crowd dancing none stop to the sound of the acoustic guitar, standup bass, accordion and steady drums. I am more than certain that most people dancing had never seen the act before which made it even better. It is quite powerful to watch a band really get a crowd into it when they sing in a language over 90% of the crowd doesn’t understand. Such a fun set, if they ever come to your town, or if you are ever in New Orleans look them up. I guarantee you will not regret it.
Steamers drummer Phil Castiglione performing at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Sunday, July 10, 2016. ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO/Scott Penner
Up next on the Claridge Stage was Ottawa’s one and only power-folk band, Steamers. Playing in front of their biggest crowd ever by, getting the slot right before Thomas Rhett may have contributed, the band was fired up. It also helped that the sun finally completely broke through the clouds as they took the stage. They opened with “Head North” followed by “This Is A Song” and quickly made fans of many of the people who were simply there killing time. One of the very unique features and great qualities of Steamers is that all six members sing and the band performs in both English and French. It is a wonderful addition to a set in the nation’s capital and songs like “Passer une nuite” and “Le bâteau” are great no matter what language they are sung in.
One of the more intense moments of the show was when guitar and singer Quin Gibson took to the mic to introduce the very powerful and emotional song “Mike.”
“Someone close me passed away recently and this one goes it to my mom,” who was in the front row with his wife and daughter. At this point they had one over many new fans who were singing a long, bobbing their heads and some even dancing. And as if they needed to work on me, they made me even more of a fan for life when they dedicated one of their older tracks and one of my favourites “Blue Skies” to me. They crafted their set perfectly blending their slower songs with their faster ones and including a bunch of opportunities for crowd participation. They closed out the set with “Strings & Skins” followed by the very sing a long friendly “Montreal” which had more people singing a long to one of their songs than I have ever heard before. It was beautiful.
Wild Child is seen here performing at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Sunday, July 10, 2016. ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO/Scott Penner
It was now time to head to the Monster Stage, formerly the River Stage, to go from one six-piece to another six-piece and watch Wild Child from Austin, Texas. Anyone who has been to Bluesfest before knows that there is no better stage to be in the evening to listening to music and watch the marvels of nature unfold in the form of a breath taking sun set over the Ottawa River. Wild Child were a wonderful soundtrack to the beautiful view. The band is led by Kelsey Wilson and Alexander Beggins who share the singing responsibilities. Their excellent chemistry and voice complement each other so well. No better than the cutest song ever about your partner finding another lover, “Someone Else.” The band closed with the great track “Fools.” One thing I couldn’t help but notice how similar the keys on the song reminded me of “Twin Size Mattress” by The Front Bottoms, a song I like very much as well. Have a listen to them both and see: Fools and Twin Size Mattress. Two different songs with one similarity and I enjoy them both.
Brandon Scott of Yukon Blonde is seen here performing at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Sunday, July 10, 2016. ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO/Scott Penner
Yukon Blonde recognized the beauty of playing by the water. Just as they took the stage, Jeff Innes singer and guitarist of the band said “Look at the view behind you, I love what I do.” Yukon Blonde’s synth rock teleported us to an 80s detective or cops show where the main character is cruising through the night with the top down and his hair flowing in the late night breeze. I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed Rebecca Gray on synth, she has surely been influenced by the likes of Joy Division and New Order. The band was having a riot, moving around all over the stage and engaging the crowd in songs and getting clapping going. The band mentioned that their “first time in Ottawa was at Cafe Dekcuf then our 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th shows about 10 years ago.”
The crowd was putty in their hands as they played radio hits like “Confusion” and “Radio” to butter them up. They then played “Favourite People” which Innes said “is about people like you,” to a loud reaction by the crowd. Innes clearly loving crowd and the setting then said “we’d be lucky to get something like this every 4 years.” They closed with the track that made it all possible, their big radio hit “Stairway.” As the song came to an end Innes and other guitarist Brandon Scott left the stage to sing a capella with the crowd while standing on the barrier. Brandon then crowd surfed as the rest of the band rocked out the end of the song.
Alas, the year has come to an end. It’s hard to believe another 365 days have passed and that we’re now closer to 2020 than 2010. 2015 was as impressive – if not more so – than other years passed. We saw Ottawa music veterans release brand new, fresh sounding tunes that demonstrate their lasting power and presence in the community. We also saw exciting new bands come out of nowhere and surprise us with great albums, showing that the city is cultivating talented artists who are overflowing with creativity.
Once again we kept our ear to the ground about all the music being released in Ottawa, and we have come up with what we think is a pretty good representation of the best music being made in our little corner of Canada (in no particular order). We’ve also included essential tracks for your listening pleasure. Without further ado, we encourage you to sit back, relax, and dive into the best of the best in Ottawa.
Kalle Mattson – Avalanche
Avalanche is the fifth release and follow-up to Mattson‘s 2014 Polaris-nominated album Someday, The Moon Will Be Gold, and serves as a step in brand new direction for the Ottawa-via-Sault Ste. Marie artist. Mattson approached the six-track EP with a pop sensibility, infusing the album with more upbeat and aesthetic that stray from traditional folk that we heard on Someday. However, Avalanche still delivers us Kalle Mattson at the core – raw, intimate, and heart bursting at the seams. Mattson is already a seasoned artist, but is clearly still evolving and developing his talents as a musician. With each album, he draws listeners in closer and shows us just what he’s made of.
Essential Track: ‘A Long Time Ago’
By Matías Muñoz
The Acorn – Vieux Loup
It’s been five years since Rolf Klausener released his acclaimed album No Ghost, and almost a decade since his seminal Glory Hope Mountain. Although he’s been busy curating Arboretum Festival in Ottawa and releasing music with his other project Silkken Laumann since then, Vieux Loup has been in the works for several years – even if only in Klausener’s mind. His ability to convey imagery and emotion in his music has not diminished. Delicate guitar melodies are intertwined with groove-laden synth beats, signifying Klausener’s movement forward as a musician while staying true to his past.
Although Ottawa’s music scene is small, there are plenty of musicians from the nation’s capital that are creating some really incredible music. Take Veldbrand by Bosveld. The album is the brainchild of Théan Slabbert of Ottawa-via-South Africa, one of many talents to emerge out of a brilliant and dynamic class of musicians in the city. He has teamed up with some of the best in Ottawa to make this highly-anticipated debut full-length LP. Slabbert’s vocals are reminiscent of a deeper, more brooding style similar to Jonsi, which melds flawlessly with the intricate and flowing guitar melodies. Veldbrand is woven with dramatic and moving soundscapes, and could very well represent the future sound of folk music.
HILOTRONS released their sixth album To Trip With Terpsichore (pron: tûrp-sĭk′ə-rē or terp-sick-ree) in February 2015 in digital format, and on vinyl two months later. Since Mike Dubue is now working with the new band, he wanted to keep things as fresh as possible.
“We recorded it live off the floor in about a day and mixed it in about a week. It’s pretty short and that’s how we wanted it. It’s sort of like Black Market Clash where the A-side is like an EP and the B-side has three remixes. It’s raw, dirty, off the floor, and nothing polished. (Mike Dubue)”.
Foreign Life opens like a newspaper, words and images materialize before the eyes and vanish instantly, leaving you with a trace of their meaning. Distant voices fade in, thoughts like wisps of smoke curl off of a buoyant electronic pulse, compelling you to let the paper fall and dream deep in your armchair. But Pony Girl (So Sorry Recs) know about your attention span, and they will make sure you listen. The motorik beat that occurs around the halfway mark of album opener “Foreign Life I”feels like a logical extension of the dreamy waves that precede it. Right away one is introduced to the painterly aesthetic of Pony Girl and the palette they will use on this album.
Foreign Life, the sophomore album from the Ottawa band, is a collage of emotion and style, well lit and finely mounted. Each song a small canvas with a dramatic point of focus, be it rolling acoustic guitar, electronic beat or voice. Sugary pop tunes leap out of synthscapes and run naked through your ears. Pony Girl appear to have passed through the recent New Folk movement carrying a pastel distillation of its crucial elements. The elegant arrangement of acoustic and electronic, the sighing winds and the seething synths, it harks familiar yet is presented in a uniquely stream-lined form.
[Hedera] itself is minimalistic, meditative, yet so full of brilliant moments that they are difficult to keep track of. There is a comfort/discomfort contrast that arises and disappears at various points throughout the album. The dissonant and distorted secondary vocals in “Garden I (You Own To Fight)”, for example, contrasts with beautiful and tranquil vocal and instrumental melodies.
[…] After spending the last two years focused on the music of others, the self-taught musician experienced a surge of writing and creativity his first time outside of the country. His initial 72 hours in San Juan he said nothing and wrote most of what would become Hedera. […] Vallentin utilizes a variety of instruments, from a heavenly-sounding hollow body guitar to electronic elements. Ultimately, the record is a smattering of beautifully crafted notes, melodies, and sounds.
It’s been a long time coming for fans of Scattered Clouds, an experimental noise & psychedelic pop trio led by Philippe Charbonneau, with Jamie Kronick and Pierre-Luc Clément. The band’s beginnings are closely intertwined with the E-Tron’s genesis, as are all the musicians who collaborated on this album. The music is simultaneously quiet and chaotic, patient and peculiar. It’s aptly described as post-apocalyptic but we could drop that prefix and it would still make sense.
The First Empire is a six-song concept album that seems to have more singles than not, starting off strong with the doom-laden “Fallen” and their most recent release “Enchanteresse”, which came out with a twisted music video pieced together by Mike Dubue.
My favourite track however, which I relish even more because of its brief length, is the wordless “Floating Underwater” which immerses us with a marimba. It transitions catastrophically yet pleasantly into “Deepest Night”, an anthem of darkness that uses Charbonneau’s baritone voice to its greatest ability. It ends with the sunken lyrics “at the strangest hour…” and crashes into the most unhinged and experimental of the songs, the title track. The album almost passes in the blink of an eye but it is complex, what obviously took years to perfect.
One name in Ottawa’s hip hop community that stands out as one of the most hard-working is Yusso. Some of you may have heard of him just through collabs he’s done around town with some of the city’s best MC’s and producers, including the electrifying project CrooKid Bass with KING (now known by the name DRAE). Yusso’s new 6-track mixtape, dubbed Don’t Know Yusso, is a quick onslaught of tracks that clocks in at just over 15 minutes. Don’t Know Yusso is everything one could want out of a mixtape. It has a dash of funky tracks with irresistible rhythm like “Late Nights” and “To Whom It May Concern” that throw us back to Golden Era hip hop, impressive flow the whole way through, and lyrics that aren’t only intelligent, but also tell a story.
On top of being a very strong singer and songwriter, Sturton has become well-known for her proficiency playing the harmonica. She derives her style straight from the Mississippi of old, cutting her chops at local blues establishments and learning from harmonica masters such as Larry “The Bird” Mootham and Carlos del Junco.
Bumble Bee explores the full spectrum of emotion, as Sturton delivers songs that hit hard and leave the listener feeling like they just experienced a performance in a run-down whiskey bar in the heart of the Delta. She opens the album with the truly badass songs “Mongoose Moan” and “Heavy Weather,” setting the tone for the entire record.
[…] There are moments where she breaks from the blues, such as “Tea for Two” and “Wheel of Fortune,” which offer a nice change of pace at those particular junctures. One of the other turning points is her harrowing cover of “Black is the Colour,” a traditional Appalachian folk song. Like a lot of the songs on the album, don’t be surprised if you experience goosebumps. What better way to finish off the album than by giving a little shout out to Ian Manhire and The White Wires in “Wheel of Fortune”?
It actually feels like it’s been years since their Steammates EPcame out. However, it was only last September. Steamers‘ debut LP, Years, is a tight album, with a few flourishes that prudes would call “mistakes”. The combined efforts of the six teammates overlap like a sonic sandwich, particularly the mandolin of Francis-Julien Thibaudeau contrasting beautifully well with Greg Fitzpatrick’s banjo. The eight songs are great and call for foot stomping and as many sing along they could fit in. Whether you listen to the CD, hear them on stage or see them busking, be careful. Once you hear it you will play it again and again.
These long-time friends from Eastern Ontario have a few releases under their belt now and are really showing that they have found their sound, particularly on We’ll Always HaveMilhouse. The album is a bit of a departure from 2014’s Fish – they’ve slowed things down a bit without losing any of the actual energy which makes their music so enthralling. Songs like “Friends”, “Yard Sale(s)”, and “Break” begin with a reverb-laden clean guitar intro, which eventually break out into the chaos we know and love. Lead singer Sheehan Jordan’s gravelly vocals fit just right, and are a little more intelligible to the listener than on Fish. This is a all-out fun record with moments of restraint balanced with just a little bit of chaos.
Ottawa’s Elementals released a doozie of a first album with I’m Not Here, I’m Not Real.
The new album has heavy grunge influences throughout the album that can teleport you back to 90s plaid-filled dimly lit clubs. Songs like “Debase” and “Messiah Complex” feature that great softer/louder/softer formula and it works very well. From soft signing to guttural yelling fading back into soft almost talking style lyrics. Something special went on during the 90s and these guys want everyone to relive a slice of it and never forget.
I listened to the entirety of Tölt, the long-awaited debut LP by Ottawa’s Flying Hórses, approximately six times before finally understanding that I would hear a different narrative on each pass. First I walked through Gormenghast, then through Cirith Ungol, but also through large meadows that could have been Hyrule. The music called “post-chamber” by two of the city’s most interesting musicians have created a bestiary of dark and beautiful creatures, deadset on being released August 15.
Cellist and composer Raphael Weinroth-Browne is part of several prolific bands that play a range of neo folk, classical and experimental chamber music. He said that Tölt would surprise most people who were familiar with Jáde Bergeron’s original compositions that she’s often played live over the past few years. I have to concede he wasn’t just hyping me up–this isn’t the same trip to the “Dollhouse” or ride around the “Carousel” that we’ve heard before.
[…] There are sonatas for cello accompanied by Bergeron’s piano, and what sound like piano/celesta duets. Sometimes the pairing of cello to piano is replaced with bells or chimes that Bergeron plays in what she credits as “sacred places” in Montreal and Reykjavík.
How many artists can you name that have dropped 50 records? Probably not too many, especially ones with the same quality and flavour as the highly anticipated Soul Spins, by talented local producer and two-time Ottawa Beat League champ Jeepz. Within the last 3 years, Jeepz has created a rich discography with Soul Spins adding a well-deserved celebratory vibe to this true milestone in his career. Sharing the album’s stage with 25 artists from Canada and beyond, there’s plenty of familiar and fresh voices to hear on the soulful tracks found on Soul Spins, with plenty of love for the frozen tundra’s hip-hop scene.
The 10-track album is a huge step in a very different direction then what we have grown accustomed to with Page’s work with his bands. Volume Vs. Voice is a slowed-down, finger-picking-laden, emotionally-charged acoustic album — not exactly what many would expect from the punk rocker. The album is beautiful, a reflection of the scenery in which it was recorded.
“For a long time now,” said Page, “I’ve toyed with that cliched artist dream of isolating myself in a secluded cabin surrounded by bottles, pens, guitars, paper, Christmas lights doing summer duty. I could feel the river beach sand in my old Vans. I could hear the welcoming cricket chorus. There would be no Internet, TV or phone, though there would be a radio to keep some loose tabs on the outside world. There would be a recording device hooked up to a microphone or two.”
All of This and Everything Else is the much-anticipated release from Loon Choir, whose fans had been patiently waiting since the 2012 release of “Fire Poems”. The song “Always Golden” starts out with a monologue that may seem all too familiar to many: “To whom it may concern: please consider this my formal letter of resignation, for I have served day in and day out 40+ hours a week. The 9-to-5 just ain’t cuttin’ it any more. My life is more than a career, more than a wage…”. This is just one of the many examples of growth and maturity that is shining through in All of This and Everything Else.
About the Band: Most of the Ottawa Showbox crew have been raving about the Steamers for a while now. I, on the other hand, am new to them. I had the pleasure of meeting them at a backyard show a few weeks ago and really got to enjoy their sing along brand of music at their CD release party hosted at the House of TARG. The venue was already very warm and the band introduced another level of heat by blistering through their great new release Years and other crowd favorites. That inspired my playlist. This time I flipped it around. I’m pairing the band with beer that are steam-inspired.
Maybe the most obvious of the beers to pair with the Steamers. Steamwhistle is an easy drinking beer. They only make one beer and they do it well. Steam whistles were used in the U.S., Canada, and India to warn that a train was in motion.
This is a collaboration with Showboat, a local dragon boat team. Showboats were a form of theatre boats that were pushed by a tugboat. Adding a steam engine on one would have been in the middle of the auditorium. The tugboat however, had a steam engine on it.
This fictional beer was brewed in the shed in the back of Drew’s house. Made with coffee, we all thought it was crazy then. Little did we know it would be the norm in 99 per cent of breweries today! The show was set in Cleveland. I will let you figure out why it made the list.
Located in Casselman, a few minutes away, this local beer is set to be a regular in the rotation. Let the caboose loose! The first railroad in Casselman was opened on February 1st, 1882. It was used to transport wood, bricks, and food to the Ottawa region.
It was a hot, sweaty, and steamy night at House of TARG as Steamers released their new album Years on May 29.
Steamers playing their album release party at House of TARG in Ottawa, ON.
Drummer Phil Castiglione stood alone on stage with a guitar in hand and played the hilarious “Breaking the Law,” a Robots!Everywhere!! song about stringent tobogganing by-laws. As he struck the final chords the band joined him, Phil jumped behind the drums and they broke into the title track. The power folk six-piece ensemble were on point as they played the album from start to finish. Yearshas a lot of the songs we have all grown to love and sing along with, such as “This is a Song,” “Stay Here to Bleed,” and “Head North.” In the middle of the album rests “Strings and Skins,” a song guitarist Garret Barr introduced as “a song about my grandfather who played music right until the day he died.” It was a powerful track which, like many of the others, translated incredibly well live.
As the room got hotter and hotter, the band finished up Years and it was time to dive into the rest of their catalogue and songs they love to play live. They went back to where they started the show and played the Robots!Everywhere!! song “All My Friends Are Here,” a song that the band has made their own. It was abundantly clear that his friends were there in great numbers as there were times you could hear them screaming the lyrics better than you could hear the band. The band capped off their set with the always fun and super interactive “Wolfpack Presley”. I mean how often are you encouraged to howl like a wolf at the top of your lungs? The crowd was having so much fun they wouldn’t let Steamers leave without one more song. So they picked up their instruments and summoned Ottawa Showbox’s own Matías Muñoz on stage to help them cover “Jasper” by Aiden Knight (video above).
Bonnie Doon getting weird at House of TARG in Ottawa, ON.
Before Steamers, Bonnie Doon and Cory Levesque played great sets. Bonnie Doon were the punk band sandwhiched between two folky acts, and they did not seem phased at all. They played a bunch of songs from their 2014 self-titled debut album, including “Hot Dinosaur,” “Messy/Clean,” and the ever so popular “Pizza Shark.” They also played some really rocking unreleased tunes. One can only hope this means that a new album is on the way. I have said it before and will say it again – no one can deliver pterodactyl-like screams quite like Lesley Marshall can. That may sound off-putting, but it is quite the opposite and it adds a very cool dimension to their sound.
Cory Levesque accompanied by Laura Sinclair playing House of TARG in Ottawa, ON.
Kicking off the sweaty evening was folk singer and cat lover Cory Levesque. Cory plays in a few local bands (Fresh Hell, Jonathan Becker and the North Fields) so it is always a treat to see him play solo. He opened with a stripped-down version of “Broken Chords and Melodies,” a song he just recorded with a full band for a split with Jon Creeden. Showing his true stripes, Cory introduced a love song as “I wrote this song about my cat because I didn’t have a girlfriend at the time.” The song in question is “Let’s See The World” from his 2012 album Little Piece of Me. Another treat during Cory’s set was the beautiful addition of Laura Sinclair on piano for a good portion of the songs he played.
Members of the Ottawa & Gatineau band—particularly drummer Phil Castiglione—teased fans with the idea of a vinyl pressing of the live EP, but those hopes were dashed when guitarist & ukulele player Garett Barr humourously stated on the live recording from Steamfest!!! that they were from Niagara Falls, ON. Entertaining but erroneous, so no wax…
Their debut LP, Years, might still be pressed, however. It’s a tight album, with a few flourishes that prudes would call “mistakes”. The combined efforts of the six teammates overlap like a sonic sandwich, particularly the mandolin of Francis-Julien Thibaudeau contrasting beautifully well with Greg Fitzpatrick’s banjo. The album has been streaming all week for their release show at TARG. Be careful! If you play it once you will play it again. If the eight songs together weren’t good enough, especially after the last song “Destination”, sung primarily by Sarah Fitzpatrick on bass:
You’ve made it clear that I don’t belong
But I’m staying here just to prove you wrong.
You don’t have to agree, I don’t care either way
You don’t have to help me just don’t get in my way, no
You don’t have to help me just don’t get in my way!
The steamy event is $7 and features opening acts the aptly described spooky surfy garage of Bonnie Doon & the violently honest folk of Cory Levesque. It will be a sure-as-shit hootenanny!
It’s been another crazy 52 weeks in the nation’s capital and it’s coming to a close. How did we get here? What happened this summer again? Who is asleep in the bathtub? Who cares? It’s time for another kind of Throwback, to what rocked this year in Ottawa!
What’s important right now is listing our favourite shows of the year in no order. Thank you to all local musicians, creators & performers who made our days & nights entertaining, and thank you to all those travelling artists who graced our city’s stages in 2014.
“Possibly the most anticipated act for me that evening was by a fine Brit by the name of Simon Green, better known to the world as DJ & producer Bonobo. Is there anything better than watching something you know to be good turn out to be great? The man on the bass & buttons was flanked by five other artists who added dimension to his downbeat electronica but who also let him play solo so we could meet the hard-working multi-instrumentalist he truly is…”
“There was a lot of pushing, shoving, moshing, pogoing, falling, crowd surfing, and general disregard for our own bodies. That’s just the kind of music it was – they truly inspired us to sacrifice our bodies and leave our collective problems at the front door while letting the music take us away. There were a few instances where I got a bit worried for some smaller individuals in the pit, but everyone made it out alive and well (save for the aforementioned bruises and aches)…”
“These sounds overlapped and crashed into each other as Jesse spun his extraterrestrial tale on his Terran synth. On five screens you could see the images of earth (also included on the golden discs) shifting and melting as the Reactable throbbed with the voices of the children of Earth with greetings in numerous languages. The middle screen captured Jesse’s pate, directly above the Reactable and its Tangibles…”
“Thank Christ for Deltron Zero and the cantankerous Captain Aptos, AKA Dan the Automator. We found out exactly why he’s called the Automator by watching him orchestrate with little finger wiggles and full arm movements while pounding on a synth with his free hand. There was a live band supporting these two supers making their way through the future, as 3030 slowly became 3040, as well as the third of the trinity: Skiznod the Boy Wonder AKA Kid Koala…”
“Quand elle jouait de la guitare, les marques d’usage sur le corps m’ont dis qu’elle l’a joué en tabarnac sa guit’, et quand elle jouait le banjo, elle l’a joué comme j’ai jamais vu un banjo joué. C’était une performance inoubliable, et possiblement pour Lisa aussi. Le premier concert de sa saison d’été et d’après sa réaction à nos applaudissement après « Kraft Dinner » elle a été touché par notre enthousiasme. C’est pas mal facile de se donner complètement à la chevelure en statique, la voix rauque & l’humour de cette Acadienne. En chantant « Aujourd’hui, ma vie c’est d’la marde » pour finir la nuit, c’était un show du tonnerre…”
“One of the other big highlights was during “Paper Girl” when Leah could be seen chatting with a girl in the crowd as the song began. After a little discussion she pulled her up on stage and had her sing Leah’s first verse for her on stage. They then danced, sang together and Leah even picked her up and cradled her while spinning around. I am sure that lucky fan will never forget that night…”
“While all of the singers were extremely impressive and convincing in their unique adaptations of Nirvana’s songs, the one that really stood out for me was “Territorial Pissings” sung by Craig Proulx of Pregnancy Scares. If you’ve ever seen Pregnancy Scares before, you know that Craig is an absolute maniac on stage, his eyes filling with a possessed look while lunging back and forth to the audience. He is one of those singers that seems to really thrive off the chaos in front of him, and there was chaos as bodies were flying everywhere…”
“The magic moment of the set came when they paused just before the last drop in “Shine a Light” and all put their arms in the air. The crowd matched them while hooting and hollering, until Constantines kicked it back into gear. The band really looked like they were having a good time, and Webb confirmed it, “It’s fun to play these songs again, I love the Constantines.” Ottawa does as well Bry, come back anytime!…”
Photo: Ming Wu
Rich Aucoin @ House of TARG (Oct. 2)
Rich Aucoin’s ‘drop everything and just have fun’ attitude couldn’t have fit more perfectly at House of TARG. With great projections, the sounds of video games all around, and one giant parachute, Aucoin was at home. He played a number of songs off his acclaimed new record Ephemeral, and made sure that every single person was involved in making this a night to remember. About a third of the way through the set, Aucoin got the entire crowd together and got local photographer Ming Wu to take a photo together. Who does that? Rich Aucoin, the eternal party, that’s who.
Day three of Ottawa Explosion Weekend was absolutely insane! It went from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. I think… I can’t completely remember. It featured so many amazing bands — Jon Creeden, ROBOTS!EVERYWHERE!!, Outtacontroler, Tough Age, Protomartyr, The White Wires, Dig It Up, The Creeps, and Radioactivity all in a row! It was total madness.
“What is so great about Propagandhi is that it’s clear that it’s not just the lead singer pushing the message. Drummer, Jord Samolesky, spoke up about how he has been around for over 40 years now and has see the government go from “Liberal to Con to Lib to Con, and we are just moving more and more right, it is getting worst… it is time to start something radical, it is time for change. You are in Ottawa — start some fucking shit!” Combine that with the ever intense songs where the bass player takes lead vocals and this band packs as much of a musical punch as they do politically…”
“Even with sweat dripping off all the band members and everyone in the crowd, there was no slowing The Steamers or staggering the energy in the room. The Steamers have a great collection of original tracks that had us all dancing and singing along…”
Photo: Stephen McGill
New Swears Album Release @ Gabba Hey! (Aug. 23)
It was one of the sweatiest, messiest, most outrageous hoards of human flesh moving to music I had ever witnessed going to a show. Ever. New Swears were at the top of their punk rock game at Gabba Hey!, not giving a shit about their own well-being and somehow managing to continue playing and singing while crowdsurfing over the mass of disturbed moshing people (I was one of them). It wasn’t even moshing, because that implies that there was some set of rules or… something. This was the definition of chaos.
“The four-piece sounded great and were thrilled to be there, constantly mentioning how awesome the bill was. Sometimes sounding like bands of the Gang of Four variety (and I say that as a compliment) Ought had my head bobbing along all show… Glad I stuck around late to check these guys out, they did not hit the stage until around 1 a.m….”
“They were heavy, technical, and completely unorthodox. The way they used effects to supplement their really well-written songs is captivating, and I couldn’t help but just move erratically to what I was experiencing. I won’t say too much more other than that they kind of scared me in a really weird and good way…”
Photo: Ming Wu
Mac DeMarco @ Blacksheep Inn (Apr. 4)
This was by far the best show I have ever seen at The Blacksheep Inn. DeMarco’s neo-crooner style fit perfectly at The Blacksheep Inn, and the packed house was writhing in anticipation for him to come out and play. Once he got on stage, there was some obligatory crude banter from Mac and a wide, gap-toothed smile. The set included songs from both his first album, 2, and his latest release, Salad Days. It is a sight to see – an entire venue as nice as Blacksheep (which is host to many seated candlelit performances) explode with maniacal fans, losing their minds more and more one song after the next. By the end of it, Mac crowdsurfed his way into our memories, delivering himself into the storied history of Wakefield.
Again, 2014 was quite the year for music in Ottawa. We realize that it’s next to impossible to say which album was better than the others, but we do have a list of the albums that seem to come up on our playlists more often. These are not the “winners” of the year but they are dear to our ears and we’d like to tip our hats to those that made them happen. Check out these sweet full-lengths and EPs, support these locals if you can, and enjoy the weather by putting these tunes in your pocket. Vive le six un trois!