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.
House of TARG is one of those unique places that makes you feel at home when you walk down the dingy basement stairs. The room was probably about a billion times hotter than it should be and only got worse through the night. That being said, it didn’t discourage people from having a party.
“How does one make a punk show out to be a party?” one asks. Well, the answer to that is simple, booze, good tunes, and lively bands that either know what they’re doing or have no idea what they’re doing but do it well. That’s exactly what went down on the 7th April, and of course, continued until the early morning of the 8th.
When my best friend and I walked in, we were greeted by Matias who then introduced us to a long-term Showbox writer, Eric. He also introduced us to Eric’s girlfriend, and both were exceptionally kind to the two of us. After some conversation, we headed to find a table and patiently await the show to start.
Robots! Everywhere! was the first to perform and he put on an acoustic set which reminded me very much of a band by the name of AJJ. He sang about sports, going to the park with his daughter, and terrible dates. Phil does not take himself very seriously, which is something that you don’t see very often in the music scene, and much less in a punk music scene. He embraces forgetting the words to a song with no shame and jokes around with the crowd, even looking at a notebook he placed on the floor to remind himself of what songs to perform. Through the night, with friends there to support him, a smile did not leave his face. He even performed a song that he doesn’t perform live and he let us in on a little secret; it’s because his girlfriend is typically at shows and well, the song is called “Call Me Some, If You Are Looking for a Time”. The song consists of the lyrics “If you are ever bored and you want to get married… call me.” And yet he is not. He brought forth an energetic show, one that would remind you of summer camp where you’d gather around the fire and sing together, just way better and with a little more yelling. Seeing Phil live is well worth your money if you don’t take yourself too seriously, or even if you do, you can’t help finding his music infectious.
I wish I had the time to talk to Phil after his set, however, Telecomo took the stage immediately after and who was I to complain? Telecomo brought a more serious vibe to the bar, opening with brand songs that I couldn’t find anywhere on the internet yet. They completely shifted the mood. Not only did they make it feel like they belonged playing in bars due to their sound, but they made you feel like you were in your friend’s garage, watching their band go at it with heart. I found every song infectious and the composition was incredibly well done. I have also never in my life seen a bassist move around as much as Gary did. His basslines shook the floor with its power. I have always deeply admired strong basslines, and Gary’s blew me away. It’s something that really added to the songs and the experience.
The third last song Telecomo played was “I Met You.” It reminds me so much of a song from my childhood and yet I can’t for the life of me figure out which one. This is probably one of the reasons that I have a strong love for that song. They played their last two songs, “For Sale” and “Lipstick” then began to pack up after their very heartfelt thank you. Their drummer and friend, Pat Johnson, was revealed to be working double time because he was also the drumming for Steve Adamyk Band that night. He seemed very modest and began to shake his head when a round of applause was asked to be given for him.
I managed to talk to Adam and Gary after they performed, who were both incredibly sweet people. They even talked to me about my photography and Gary mentioned how he tried to “muck it up” for me, and hoped I got some good shots. They were very genuine people and even asked for my social media. After that I went to find Phil, which Matias kindly directed me to, and I managed to exchange some info with him. Phil, if you manage to talk to him, is a sweetheart. Not only did he make sure everything was alright, but he kept checking in with my best friend to see if she was enjoying the show and if she was okay. This wasn’t something we asked for, but it was certainly much appreciated. His friend chimed in and even told us that we had very nice smiles and that although we occupied the table that he had been eyeing all night, he couldn’t be mad at us for it.
Telecomo will be releasing their debut LP For Sale in June, it is a must-have and will be available on vinyl as well.
As things began to settle down, Steve Adamyk Band began to set up. I was pretty excited to hear them live for the second time because their recorded stuff doesn’t do this band justice. When do CD’s, LP’s, or cassette tapes ever do a band justice though? They opened with “Through My Fingers” and really threw themselves into the music. Pat was going at the drums with every ounce of energy that he had within him. Later that night I learned that he had broken something close to sixteen drumsticks, and two kick pedals because that’s how rock and roll works. I even managed to snag a photo where his drumstick is breaking. Their sound is pop punk with a dash of fuzz added to it. Their energy got people on their feet and dancing, and got me bobbing my head to the fast pace of their songs. Unfortunately, on this night they were a trio as opposed to their usual foursome but their delivery was still spot-on despite this fact. They talked to the crowd and all in all were incredibly friendly people. If you want to listen to a song of theirs that will for sure get you on your feet I highly recommend “False Teeth.” It’s a little gloomy sounding at first, but it picks up fast and gets you moving with a strong baseline that draws the song together.
Talking to Steve was a pleasure. Not only was he thankful for the photos I was taking, he spoke to me about how he loves talking to people who were born and raised in Ottawa and even talked some about how Ottawa is a home to many bands they’re friends with, officially and unofficially. We spoke briefly, but in that time we spoke of the local music scene. These guys have a passion for music that’s so clearly written on their faces, in performance, and in conversation. After thanking Steve for the time he gave me, I headed over to Matias as I got very excited about a photo of Steve Adamyk Band that I took. It is by far my favourite photograph of the night and I knew I could not wait to send him the photo. I needed to show him there and then.
There was a wait period between Steve Adamyk and B.A. Johnston. The whole vibe suddenly shifted, whether it was because it was the opening act or because a significant amount of people immediately flooded towards the front, I don’t know. All I really knew about B.A. was that he makes a joke out of everything and anything, and that in his shows he includes a performance art component to it which most people don’t actually consider an art. Watching this man perform was incredibly absurd. Not that it was bad by any means, it was just incredibly strange. I’d never seen anything like it in my life. Not only did he wear three sweatshirts, but at the very beginning of the show, he ripped a pair of Velcro pants off. His humour consisted of not understanding how an iPhone 5c (his Walkman) worked, and writing songs with very oddly specific names. He had even written a song about GST cheques. Besides that, his humour gave off the vibe of Hamilton, Ontario (so he claims), which is where he’s from. He went around the crowd belting out lyrics in his hoarse voice and crushing beer cans on his head whenever he was handed one.
His sound can only be described as something you’d hear from video games from the 80’s, with a mix of pre-programmed beats, synthesizer, and a few acoustic songs. His guitar is a clear indication of the type of act he puts on. A modge-podge of various bits and pieces stuck on, and stickers littering the old thing. There were even carvings in the face of his guitar, and even a metal pick guard somehow stuck on to it. If you paid close enough attention, you could see his feet floating above the ground from time to time as he played. He later claimed to be “a forty five year old man whose only pleasure is forcing people to drink Sourpuss”.
His act went on well past 1 a.m. and although I didn’t stay for the last few songs, I guarantee that there was a lot more drinking, dancing, and singing going on as the show came to an end. I got a cab home and Matias made sure my friend and I stayed safe, walking out in front of TARG with us.
The night was overall filled with great people, fantastic music, and most of the vibes were incredibly positive. Everyone was incredibly friendly and grateful, no matter how drunk or tipsy they were. The live music allowed the room to surge with energy, and as soon as the bands played everyone crowded around TARG’s stage.
If you’re looking for lazy punk, garage punk, punk with some fuzz to it, or folk punk with a side of comedy, this was the lineup for you. And if you want and incredibly wild night with no regrets (except for that headache you’ll be sporting), come on down to see these incredibly talented artists next time they play.
The Steve Adamyk Band recently release a dark video for their ripping track “Swallow You Whole.”
The video kicks off with a girl waking up and making herself a hotdog for breakfast, topped with sauerkraut – like a champ! The video then follows the story of this girl who seems pretty low on life and goes around holding up corner stores and liquor stores, only to then end up in a cemetery gazing up at the sky singing “swallow you whole.”
I really like the work they put into the ending with the changing colours and the utter despair on the face. And this pull it all off in just over two minutes. Oh the beauty of punk rock and Steve Adamyk Band. Overall it is a pretty cool shot video for a great track.
While not video related, I do have to say that I love Mike Krol‘s voice! I have been saying how perfectly it fits on this track since the first time I heard it.
Check out the video below and then go see Steve Adamyk Band headline a MEGAPHONO show Thursday February 2nd at the Dominion Tavern, which feels very appropriate. Information here for the show.
Another year come and gone, and many of us are chomping at the bits while we anxiously wait for 2016 to finally come to a close. Yes, it’s been a rough year in the world of music. But it’s not all bad news, guys. 2016 heralded some brilliant albums, some of which were made right here in Ottawa. Below are our choices for top local albums of 2016.
Two Jar Grind – S.T.
From the very first second of the first track “Here’s To All I Never Had” you can’t help but draw parallels to early acoustic Against Me! thanks to shouting vocals bursting with simple honesty. I say this gushingly of a band I have fallen in love with where all three sing and features a guitarist, accordion player and percussionist rocking a washboard. Yes, a freaking washboard!As I listened to the songs on the six song debut, I really felt like I was sitting down with the band as they worked their way through figuring out their place in the world, their priorities and their ambitions. You instantly feel a friendship forming with them.
At first, I perceived it as merely a piece of cake, but as I cut into it I saw something else – something much more substantial. The Ottawa-based group’s EP Winter Sucks begins with a thin slice of melodically frosted pop punk guitar, which is joined at full force by the hurried, driving pound of the rhythm section. Immediately the head nods, the sun shines and we are in a place that we have been to before. But then, of course, comes the opening line, as vocalist Brittany Neron asks, “why don’t you smile?”. The album’s first cut, ‘”Cat Call”, should become a permanent installation on the streets of Ottawa, so next time when some seedy bastard passes unsolicited comment on a woman’s appearance, she can point towards one of the mounted speakers before telling him to fuck off. It is a frustrated and poignant reply to this kind of street harassment, told with wit and a sneer; a refreshing burst of personal commentary that carries with it great social significance. This is exactly the kind of voice we need to hear in punk today.
The album, for which the duo play all the instruments and do all the vocals, was inspired by an abandoned island in the Rideau Lakes… With the combination of mystery and ghost stories at its foundation, Goodnight Boy’s 15-song self-titled album is one to be listened to from start to finish. It is a work of grunge and lo-fi rock rooted in folk principals of story telling and spirited emotion. Having seen them play many of the songs live before to hearing the recording, I have had the amazing luxury to witness a band truly growing up.
Ottawa’s most prolific pop-punker Steve Adamyk has done it again with an excellent 13-song album with all the energy, “wo-ohs”, and power-pop perfection we have come to expect from Adamyk and his band. This certainly isn’t a Paul Simon album… Just like their live performances, this album doesn’t really ever slow or give you a moment to relax, with most songs coming in at under two minutes. And just because it is pop-punk, power-pop, or garage… or whatever you’d call it – don’t think all these songs are love songs or about partying. Songs like the angry “Die Dead Forever” and the dark “False Teeth” show Adamyk’s depth beyond the prototypical sound of the genre. Fret not though, there are still super catchy tracks like “Carry On” and great rocking tracks like “Swallow You Whole” that will win you over right away and make you want to sing a long.
Ottawa born and raised, Métis singer-songwriter Amanda Rheaume released a wonderful album this year full of loss and grieving which she perfectly balanced with hope. The first single off Rheaume’s fourth album, Holding Patterns, is “Red Dress,” where Rheaume honours the over 1,180 murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls in Canada. The song was co-written by Jim Bryson and features Canadian great Chantal Kreviazuk on vocals. The album as a whole is a wonderful step forward for the very talented singer-songwriter and dare I say it a move to being a little more radio-friendly in all the right ways.
A Tribe Called Red – We Are The Halluci Nation
Indigenous DJ trio A Tribe Called Red returned with an immense 15-track masterpiece on We Are the Halluci Nation, taking traditional rhythms and beats of pow wow and transforming them into the powerful backbone of electronic- and dubstep-inspired anthems. This album is global; the Halluci Nation extends beyond political borders. It delves head-on into the ongoing impact of colonialism with poignant interludes by author Joseph Boyden. With appearances by acclaimed throat singer Tanya Tagaq, as well as Yassin Bey (a.k.a. Mos Def), Lido Pimienta, and more, ATCR has created the most crucial album of the year, one that all Canadians need to hear.
Excerpt taken from Matias’ piece in Mixtape Magazine’s Best of 2016 issue, found here.
Telecomo – Promo Only EP
While this band is new, its members boast impressive resumes. Telecomo is a three-piece garage rock group consisting of lead vocalist and guitarist Adam Saikaley (Ceremony/Hilotrons), bassist Gary Franks (Roberta Bondar/Ceremony), and drummer Pat Johnson (The Acorn/Silkken Laumann). Their debut Promo Only EP is one that Ottawa was primed and ready for, and people ate it up – hook, line, and sinker. This punchy four-track EP is everything you’d want from a garage album – it is unpretentious, simple, and extremely fun and satisfying to listen to. Its lo-fi aesthetic induces nostalgic episodes in those who remember the sounds of rock and roll gone by. I stand beside what I said in my initial review – “The Detroit garage rock gods of the 80’s would surely open their scuffed, wrought iron gates for Telecomo”.
Saint Clare are a hidden gem here in Ottawa. No one sounds quite like them, and they’re only getting better. Matthew Saint Clare’s distinctive voice leads the charge as each song on the album builds on the last, and we’re left with a mountain. The band has come into their own on this record, and they exude confidence in their songwriting and execution. Whether it’s the explosive horns section, enchanting lyricism, or unmistakable chemistry and sound, one thing is for sure – Saint Clare isn’t going anywhere. Keep your ears open for these guys in 2017.
Full article found here.
Sleepy and the Noise – Altitudes EP
On their debut release, Sleepy & the Noise’s sound is full and raw, but not overdone or aggressive. Those partial to Pavement or Dinosaur Jr. will be able to sink into Sleepy and the Noise’s sound right away, as they take us on a fun ride that is not only short and punchy, but also contains several moments of cunning lyricism and undaunted instrumentals. […] My favourite track, if I had to choose, would be the song “Mountains & Valleys,” one that elucidates Pasiak’s word-smithing abilities and strong use of metaphors and imagery in his songwriting. Moreover, some irresistible guitar tones and backup vocals by Fitzpatrick makes it one that you won’t be able to resist having on repeat.
Slack Bridges is all about combining different visions, influences, and styles and turning them into a unique cohesive sound. EP1 is the product of countless meetings and band practices hashing out exactly what that sound would be. Barr describes the approach as “destroy to create” – someone brings a small song idea to the table, and the band jams and builds on that idea as a group. It normally gets taken in five or six directions before they settle on a final idea.
EP1 is a groove-laden, intricately layered onslaught of soulful jams that are clearly the product of time, effort, and a lot of chemistry. Each track off the 4-song EP offers a display of each member’s strengths, at times allowing Barr’s bass lines and Selody’s ardent sax to take the lead it tracks like “Lion City” or Ward’s irresistible keys to reel us in on “All For You.” Gilmour’s deep and dynamic vocals tie it all together, offering daring melodies and smooth, seamless transitions between notes in the same vein as Leon Bridges.
Most of the video is shot at the Legacy Skate Park in Ottawa’s west end and features wonderful Girls Skate 613 crew shredding and having a blast. The video also shows some love to other four-wheelers, the Ottawa Quad Rollerskating Club, a local inclusive recreational rollerskating group, who show us their moves.
Not to be missed in all this is the cameo by Alanna Why of BB Cream as she rides her banana board, gets her Slurpee on and shows off Colleen Green’s comics as Green is heard providing backing vocals on the track. The video was filmed by local mastermind Lesley Marshall and featured illustrations by Tyler Goodman. This video screams fun summer times and can serve us all as a reminder when the frigid winter or Slurpee brain freezes arrive.
Check out the video and tour dates below, but be forewarned that the video will give you the urge to jump on your board and go shred.
September 22 – Montreal (Pop Mtl)
September 23 – Vankleek Hill, ON (Beaus Oktoberfest!)
October 30 – Gainsville, FL (THE Fest!)
October 31 – Athens, GA
November 1 – Richmond, VA or TBA
November 2 – Philadelphia, PA
November 3 – New Brunswick or TBA
November 4 – Brooklyn, NY
November 5 – NY, NY
On the heels of opening for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers at Bluesfest, Steve Adamyk Band dropped their brand new album Graceland July 29th.
Ottawa’s most prolific pop-punker Steve Adamyk has done it again with an excellent 13-song album with all the energy, “wo-ohs”, and power-pop perfection we have come to expect from Adamyk and his band. This certainly isn’t a Paul Simon album. The band, which has always been fronted by Adamyk, has seen some moving parts over the years. It currently features Pat Johnston (of many bands in Ottawa, notably The Acorn), and Max Desharnais and Seb Godin (Sonic Avenues). The album also features guest vocals by the eclectic Mike Kroll and LA’s pop-punk sweetheart Colleen Green which really adds to the raucous energy.
As great as it was to see some of these songs live before RHCP it is wonderful to get our hands on another album by Adamyk, this being his fifth. Just like their live performances, this album doesn’t really ever slow or give you a moment to relax, with most songs coming in at under two minutes. And just because it is pop-punk, power-pop, or garage… or whatever you’d call it – don’t think all these songs are love songs or about partying. Songs like the angry “Die Dead Forever” and the dark “False Teeth” show Adamyk’s depth beyond the prototypical sound of the genre. Fret not though, there are still super catchy tracks like “Carry On” and great rocking tracks like “Swallow You Whole” that will win you over right away and make you want to sing a long.
Put on some shades, a white jumper and chow down on a grilled banana and peanut butter sandwich while you have a listen to Graceland. If you like what you hear, the album is available in Canada on iTunes and Spotify via Royal Mountain Records, and there is vinyl in the works.
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.
Steve Adamyk Band released a new video for the song “Crash Course in Therapy” off their latest album Dial Tone as they took off to tour Europe.
Ottawa’s punk rockers are playing 19 shows across the pond and the new video gives a glimpse into elements in the life of a touring band. The video is all red on black and features cars driving in the city and the countrysides, spinning records, cassettes playing, a clock quickly turning, a goat, distortion, and cuts to Adamyk’s mouth singing or hand strumming. Drummer Dave Forcier directed the quick hitter video that clocks in at 1:41.
Watch the video below, and all you European readers or vacationers should really try to check them out at one of their stops. Treat them well Europe, we want these boys back in good shape for Ottawa’s wonderful punk rock season, a.k.a. the summer.
The snow storm that hit Ottawa Wednesday night seemed appropriate as we drove out to the Diefenbunker, an underground artifact of the Cold War, on the outskirts of town for another night of MEGAPHONO. It also seemed appropriate that some of Ottawa’s best underground bands were literally gathering under the soil to show their stuff in this unbelievable space.
One is greeted with a comically large nuclear bomb upon entry into the bunker. Once past that, one must wander down a long and intimidating corridor, which leads to the stairs. We were then invited to head several floors underground. We had two options – head right for the cafeteria or left to the vault. My night would begin in the caf.
Theaternia & Cabaal with visuals by Hard Science performing in the Diefenbunker during MEGAPHONO in Carp, ON. Photo: Eric Scharf
The dimly-lit room was the nourishing hub for a bunker that was ready and stocked at all times of its operation with enough fresh food and rations to feed 535 people for 30 days. On this night, it was the stage for some psychedelic music. Theaternia & Cabaal got the ball rolling with some synth-fuelled dance pop. They were accompanied by Hard Science who supplied a very psychedelic light show projector upon them. An excellent way to get the night going.
Nightshades performing in the Diefenbunker during MEGAPHONO in Carp, ON. Photo: Eric Scharf
With the first act concluding, it was time to venture down the other end of the hall towards the vault. This vault was created to hold the gold reserves of the Bank of Canada. On this night it would host a series of garage and punk rock performances. Kicking it off at the vault was Ottawa’s three-piece garage rock group, Nightshades. The room was cold and dark but it didn’t seem to bother anyone, especially not Nightshades. Hell, the drummer was using a stack of buckets he found lying around as a drum seat. The group played a great set featuring tracks from their debut EP The Beauty of Dreaming, including “Broken Bag,” as well as playing a roaring rendition of “Nightshade Nightmare,” the song they recorded for the Centretown Recording Alliance’s Halloween Challenge. The only down side to the performance had nothing to do with the band, it had to do with the photographer running around taking one million flash photos during the entire set. Be sure to catch Nightshades at Showbox’s next Mugshots show on February 20th along with Bonnie Doon and No Aloha.
Heat performing in the Diefenbunker during MEGAPHONO in Carp, ON. Photo: Eric Scharf
After Nightshades finished, we moved like a herd of cattle back to the cafeteria for Montreal’s Heat. The rock group has an old school 80s underground vibe to them with Lou Reed-esque vocals from the days of Velvet Underground and some hints of Jesus and Mary Chain. Needless to say they fit right with our location built in the 60s and functioning until the early 90s. Lead singer and guitarist, Susil Sharma, couldn’t resist cracking a few jokes based on the setting. He greated us by saying “Welcome to the Thunder Dome.” And later added “Let’s tear down the wall… am I right?” while looking at the Berlin Wall graffiti in the far corner of the room. The band’s sound had me captivated, it was back to basics but it was fresh at the same time. Check these guys out and take a trip back in time without a time machine.
U.S. Girls performing in the Diefenbunker during MEGAPHONO in Carp, ON. Photo: Eric Scharf
Back to the vault for the one-woman band that is Meghan Remy, a.k.a. U.S. Girls. The name suggests a group, but this solo performer from Toronto does it all herself and can really capture a crowd’s attention. The songs are this really funky, sometimes weird, atmospheric pop-driven by a synth and drum machine. There was just something about her all alone in front of a crowd of people gathered in a dark, cold bank vault that just made the moment so special. Then she introduced a song by saying “This is a song about if you had a lot of sisters, not like me, and you got married and your husband had slept with all of them first.” Musically the song was reasonably upbeat and positive sounding until the chorus where it took a sharp turn as she sang, “so I’ll hang myself, hang myself from the family tree.” Powerful stuff.
Boyhood performing in the Diefenbunker during MEGAPHONO in Carp, ON. Photo: Eric Scharf
As U.S. Girls finished she urged us to head to the cafeteria to watch Boyhood, like anyone would skip out on them. Boyhood is the experimental brain child of Caylie Runciman which has grown into a four-piece and a fan favourite in town. With the overhead lights turned off and only targeted lights shining on the band they kept the strange and dance vibe going. Caylie was a little weirded out by the space the crowd was giving her and the lighting: “You guys want to move closer to us? It feels weird and the lights are all harsh.” The crowd obliged immediately. The music of Boyhood lives in the fringe and in the darkness with Caylie’s haunting voice, heavy bass and even heavier synth elements. It’s interesting to hear the lo-fi versions of the songs on Boyhood’s LP When I’m Hungry translate into booming, penetrating songs live. Two moments during the set really stick out, how awesome “Cheddar” sounded and how she changed the lyrics in one of “Post Poc” for the occasion. She sang, “I don’t think I can stand this cold… war,” instead of simply “I don’t think I can stand this cold.”
Steve Adamyk Band performing in the Diefenbunker druing MEGAPHONO in Carp, ON. Photo: Eric Scharf
Wrapping up the Diefenbunker Doom Trip was Steve Adamyk Band in the vault. Missing guitarist Davey Quesnel for this show, the three-piece blasted through a high energy set of power cord charged power-pop. This was the loudest and most rambunctious performance of the night as we crammed into the tight spot for the local boys. They played a great set chock full of high tempo songs with perfect singalongs, like “Never Wake Up,” “Not For Long,” and “Katacombs.” Adamyk may have played the most appropriate song of the night though, when they delivered “I Fought For the USA,” while playing in a Cold War bunker. They concluded with “Automatic” and some sad news. The band will not be performing again until Ottawa Explosion this summer. Too bad for all those who missed out!
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!