Ev has synesthesia, and they incorporate their sensory experiences into music reviews. Synesthesia is a condition in which the brain links a person’s senses together in a rare manner, prompting unusual sensory responses to stimuli. People with synesthesia, for example, might see a certain color in response to a certain letter of the alphabet. Those who experience synesthesia “hear colors, feel sounds, and taste shapes” in a remarkably consistent fashion.
Ottawa Explosion day four was one of the craziest days of the weekend and yet it was packed with astounding bands and insane talent.
Mallwalker bringing it at Babylon during Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2018.
At Babylon, Mallwalker was first to take the stage. They came in with ferocious energy and could have torn the floorboards out with it had they wanted to. The vocals bellowed out and created the enraged tone for the set while having added bursts of angry and vivid yellows. They often smoothed out and became ragged, speckled with lilac and orange. The guitar grumbled on and added maroon to the mix. Muddled and dirty, it ripped through the crowd. The bass grumbled in the background with a deep red. Prominent but not dominant, it created a structure to the songs and held it up, having created a contrast to the wild drumming. The drumming was cold and unruly. It maintained a shallow sound while it completed each song, making them feel full.
These Baltimore punks who know how to kick it despite losing their voices under a bridge at 3 am the night before—they’re worth seeing. They pack a punch in their music and do not let down by any means.
Deathsticks getting loud while surrounded by books at Black Squirrel Books during Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2018.
Next, I ran down a little more than two kilometres to Black Squirrel to catch Deathsticks. The duo never disappoints and always finds new ways to impress. Loud and proud, the way the band played was second nature to them. The guitar playing was so controlled and yet so absolutely wild. Crazy distorted and pedals used for many artistic purposes. The warm and shallow drumming added a variety of shades of yellow, dipping into orange. It was quick and each beat rolled into the next heavily. The guitar, on the other hand, roared and squealed, dripping electric and murky greens into the scene. The duo screamed over the unruly instrumentals and packed a punch with the vocals. The managed to paint in vivid bursts of pink and deep yet harsh blues. Deathsticks are a power duo that is a must see by my books. Their use of nothing but two instruments and their vocals to create the effect of a full-blown band falls nothing short of impressive.
The last band I saw that night was Steve Adamyk Band who played at The Dominion Tavern almost five kilometres s away. Steve’s vocals cut through the feedback and rumbling of the guitars. His vocals paint this vivid and atomic yellow, fluctuations adding either orange or green. His guitar playing turns the soundscape green and aquamarine with the chords and the solos turned it around to yellow due to the pitch. True garage grit without remorse. The basslines are concealed yet you felt them rattle in your chest, painting the room the colour of your heartbeat. Not dominant but present, the bassline shook the ground and got the crowd moving. The drumming added to the powerful shake of the rest of the instruments. It was cold but full and produced a variety of purples and blues that would swim around. The succession of each beat came quickly after the last and the fills were practically flawless in their timing.
Steve Adamyk Band is the ultimate garage punk that you can dance to easily. They’re the pick-me-up you didn’t know you needed at four in the morning and they’re the band whose lyrics you will find yourself screaming back at them when you see them live, whether it is your first time or your tenth time
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.
Ottawa three-piece BB Cream called it quits last week in front of their friends at a jam packed Pressed.
“In the words of Sleater Kinney – ‘why do good things never want to stay” is the first thing lead singer and guitarist Alanna Why said to the crowd. I am pretty sure they played their first show at Pressed and came back their for their send off.
BB Cream’s pop-punk and emo style is a lot of fun and is infectious. Alanna has been a staple of the scene for quite some time now but had always been looking up at the stage not on it. BB Cream was that opportunity for Alanna to create and really immerse into the scene on the other side. “I always wanted to be in a band as a teenager and it took some time but I’m so happy it finally happened,” said Alanna. “Thanks for being here.”
BB Cream rocking their goodbye show at Pressed in Ottawa
As expected, they wowed us all with their set. When it seemed as though they were done, the riled up crowd would have nothing of it and demanded an encore. The band huddled up, discussed, and delivered. The band switched up instruments, moving the drummer Kurt Grunsky to guitar and vocals, and Alanna to drums. They then played the song “Shit Hole” about how much music sucks. The crowd continued to chant for more after every song. Alanna said they would trade water for another song and once the water arrived the instrument musical chairs continued. Alanna jumped on the bass and Jon Brownlee jumped on the drums to rock out one more track. The crowd was insatiable and kept asking for more even after two encores. Safe to say Ottawa will miss BB Cream and I hope the members who are sticking around town to continue to make music.
The other very interesting part of the show is how two Ottawa “super groups,” Cheap Whine and Telecomo who opened up the night could also have headlined. This made for quite an awesome week night show.
Cheap Whine playing Pressed in Ottawa.
First up was Cheap Whine, which is made up of Eric Neurotic from Feral Trash, Steve Adamyk of Steve Adamyk Band, and Jordy Bell of The Creeps and Crusades. The band obviously really rips considering the combined experience of its members. Early on, they dedicated the track “Little Change” to BB Cream. After the song Eric said “sucks you’re breaking up glad we got to play one show together.” A few songs later he broke his B string on his guitar. Following the song Eric laughingly said “don’t worry it’s not one if the punk strings.” I’ve now seen Cheap Whine play a few times and I think I speak for everyone who has seen them play, we need some recorded music stat.
Adam Saikaley of Telecomo shredding much to the crowd’s delight at Pressed.
Between Cheap Wine and BB Cream, was Telecomo. They features members The Acorn, Silkken Lauman and Bondar. Lead singer and guitarist is Adam Saikaley, a man who seemingly plays in every style of band around. Case in point, he was playing piano in a jazz trio the next night. Adam also took the time to pay tribute to BB Cream, but focused on lead singer Alanna. “My favourite memory of BB Cream was on Alanna’s birthday when we invited her on stage to play a guitar solo and she looked me right in the eyes and said go fuck yourself Adam,” he said. Oh, Ottawa love.
I don’t know how this was the first time I saw Telecomo, but glad I finally did. I loved the EP they released earlier this year and was blown away live, especially watching Adam during is frenetic shredding moments. Is there anything the man can’t do? Also very entertaining was watching bass player Gary Franks strut around and play about half the set from in the crowd watching Adam. He never stopped moving around. They promised us that a full length is coming out in the winter time. They also played the first track off that upcoming album, and let me tell you – we’re in for a treat.
Over two weekends in March, 2009, 15 bands got two hours each to lay down one track live off the floor. These songs would then go on to be part of one of the best local compilations of all time, Ottawa Gaga Volume 1.
Going Gaga Records was a local record label founded by Ian Manhire (White Wires, Sedatives, and Voicemail) and Ottawa Gaga Weekend was a three-day gathering of mostly local, and some out-of-town, rock, garage and punk bands in Ottawa for an unforgettable few days. This event, which dates back to 2008, was the precursor to what I call Ottawa’s punk and garage Christmas in June, more commonly known as Ottawa Explosion.
Poster for Ottawa Gaga Weekend in from 2009. Cool to note that Yogi’s is the original recording studio/venue by now owner of House of Targ, Yogi Granger.
Of the 15 bands to lay down tracks for the Gaga compilation, only three remain active (The Creeps, The White Wires and Mother’s Children). That isn’t to many of the people who locked themselves away during a frosty weekend in the capital aren’t still major players in the Ottawa music scene.
Earlier this year the compilation, Ottawa Gaga Volume 1, was finally put online for our listening pleasure…and oh have we listened. This compilation is a blast from the past to anyone who went to shows at the time. This is the era of the Rock n’ Roll Pizza Party and when garage rock was king in Ottawa. I have so many fond memories of many of these bands, and the Million Dollar Marxists will always be one that holds a special place in my heart.
We interviewed Jordy Bell, member of The Creeps and Crusades, who helped put the weekends together and mixed the compilation.
What was Ottawa like in 2009?
The Ottawa scene in 2009 was going through a pretty explosive period. It was around this time that Emmanuel Sayer, Luke Martin, and Brad McQuoat were running the Rock N’ Roll Pizza Party night, a weekly night that was hosted at various venues around town (the Bytown Tavern was its longest running spot, which is now a Comedy Club on Elgin St.). The night usually featured a few local bands and a touring band, so it brought a lot of different musicians and people into the same room. This subsequently led to the formation of quite a few bands, and even more new friendships.
Allie Hanlon (aka Peach Kelli Pop) recording tambourine for The Felines track. Photo: Jordy Bell
Who came up with this great idea?
It was definitely Ian Manhire who conceived the idea, and was responsible for curating the compilation. Ian was already active in the Ottawa scene, putting out records on the now defunct Going Gaga Records. The idea was to record a small snapshot of some of the bands in the scene, at the time. It was probably a discussion at a Rock n’ Roll Pizza Party that led myself (Jordy), and Ian Showalter (Suppositories, Dagger Eyes, and current House of Targ sound engineer) to volunteer our time and skills to record it.
We decided to not go the traditional compilation route, and thought it would be fun to try and record all of the bands ourselves in a couple of weekends. It sounded like a daunting task, but each band was scheduled in a 2 hour time slot, and we tracked each band one by one.
Where was the recording done?
The recording was all done at the old Capital Rehearsal space, run by Luke Martin. The old location was at 240 Bank St (Luke has since moved the business to the City Centre building), and was in the basement of a government building. He set aside one of his jam rooms for us, and we had our little ‘control room’, located in the lobby outside of that room.
Ian Showalter (Suppositories and sound at House of Targ) getting levels before recording. Photo: Jordy Bell
Who was the team that took on this task?
Ian Showalter and myself were responsible for the entire recording and mixing portion of the record. Ian handled all the on-site engineering, running the recording software, and I was responsible for getting the bands set up in the room, and making sure mics stayed in place in between takes.
I handled the mixing portion of the record, with Ian Manhire, and Ian Showalter sitting in on the mixes. Mixing was completed at my current workplace, Atomic Audio, located in the west end of Ottawa. Once the mixes were complete, they were sent to Bova Sound, a family run studio in the city, for mastering.
Can you shine a little light on the set up?
The idea was to record the compilation with all the same gear. There was two reasons for this. First, we wanted the record to have a cohesive feel to it, often compilations are pretty jarring with a wide range of recording sources. The second reason was just for simplicity. Trying to record that many bands, on all different gear would have taken much longer. So, we settled on using one drum kit, with each drummer bringing in their ‘breakables’ (industry speak for the kick pedal, cymbals, and snare drum). I believe the bass amp we used was a Fender Musicmaster Bass Amp, and the guitar amps were Marshall heads and cabs for the most part. A few people brought in their own heads, or small solid state amplifiers as well.
Using all the same gear actually simplified the mixing process as well, as in most cases I was able to apply the same kinds of processing (EQ’s, compression, etc) on each track, then just make minor adjustments to the individual performances of each band.
The Beach Blankets (featuring members of Mother’s Children, Zebrassieres, and Babble Goons) Photo: Jordy Bell
Can you share any stories about those two weekends, some memorable moments or silly little anecdotes?
It was just a lot of fun, and incredibly busy. Once we got everything set up, it was just a case of getting each band through their recording session. There was still a lot of time to hang out, and generally even once a band finished recording their song, they’d stick around and hang out, and have a beer.
One story that sticks out in my own mind, was the recording of the Beach Blankets song “Greatest Hit.” The Beach Blankets had a short and raucous existence in town. In that song you can hear the sounds of bottle clinks, claps, and general chaos. This was because after they were done recording the music and lead vocals for the song, they had between 20 and 30 of their friends fill the room and recorded a take of everyone partying and making noise. Ian decided it would open the record, and I think it perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the record.
The Sedatives. Left to right: Emmanuel Sayer, Steve Adamyk, Ian Manhire and Dave Williams. Photo: Jordy Bell
What band from the Ottawa Gaga would you like to see get back together?
If I had to choose just one from that list that I’d like to see get back together, it would be Sedatives. I say this knowing that, in very recent days, the Sedatives have actually started to get back into the rehearsal room. I came to know the members of the band (Emmanuel Sayer, Dave Williams, Ian Manhire, and Steve Adamyk) from Rock and Roll Pizza Party first, and since those early days, they’ve become some of my closest friends (I currently play in Crusades with Dave and Emmanuel, and in Cheap Whine with Steve). I’m happy that they’ve decided to pick it back up, and am curious to see what comes of the reformation.
What is your favourite song on the compilation?
The Million Dollar Marxists song is my favourite. Listening back to it now, it makes me nostalgic about the early 2000’s in Ottawa. Before Rock and Roll Pizza Party, there was Bumper’s Pool Hall, which was located at 580 Bank St. (currently the home of the Works burger joint). This was my introduction to the punk scene in Ottawa. As someone who moved here in 1998, and formed a band (The Creeps) shortly after that, it was where I met a number of people in the scene (including Luke Martin of the Marxists, who was doing sound there at the time). When we recorded this compilation, the Marxists were essentially done, but Ian Manhire convinced them to record a song for the compilation.
Anything else you would like to share?
I’d be very interested in seeing what a compilation like this would look like today. It’s been six years since we recorded ‘Ottawa Gaga’, and the city, and music scene has changed so much in that time. If anything, the scene continues to expand and thrive at an exponential rate. While many of the musicians on this compilation continue to make music, there is also a wave of younger musicians and bands that continue to innovate and push the boundaries of music in Ottawa.
I am going to take you back almost a decade to the summer of 2005, more specifically to the lawn behind City Hall for Bluesfest. Yes, Ottawa Bluesfest used to be held smack dab in the middle of downtown and had several stages all around City Hall.
I was a teenager and super excited to see my favourite band at the time, Alexisonfire. But I barely remember their set compared to the raucous-filled opening set by local band Million Dollar Marxists (7 songs still streaming, god bless CBC).
This would be the third or fourth time I had seen the Marxists play at this point, but this was without a doubt my favourite. Everything was going on as a normal, just a high energy show by the punk rockers. Lead singer Luke Nuclear was singing and dancing all over the place as per usual, and I was having a blast singing and dancing along in the hot sun. All of a sudden, Luke begins to climb up the right pillar of the stage. He was going little by little while singing the song “Pang of Creation”. I thought this was one of the coolest things I had ever seen a musician do live. It was then taken to the next level when Luke put the mic in his mouth and climbed up high enough to stand on top of the huge double stacked speakers and continued to sing the song. I was mesmerized, blown away, in a trance…this was so cool, so punk rock! Forget the stage you are suppose to play on, make your own stage and rock out your way.
Unfortunately as the song ended, the organizer threatened to pull the plug on the set if Luke did not get down. Knowing that he would not be able to keep rocking with the organizer cutting the sound, Luke returned to the normal height, on the normal stage. The rest of the show was still great, but that decision of “man wouldn’t it be awesome to sing up there?… hell yeah it would, I am going to do that right now,” really moved this teenage music fan. And still to this day this is one of my favourite live music memories.
Million Dollar Marxists have since broken up, but the members still play a huge role in the Ottawa music scene. Luke Nuklear, is part of the Ottawa Explosion team (who put on the best festival in Ottawa), the White Wires and plays in Boyhood‘s live performances. Steve Adamyk and Davey Quesnel, the band’s guitarists play in the Steve Adamyk Band and the bassists Johnny O is the bassists and lead vocals of Big Dick.
Check out the following video of the event below (disclaimer, the video and audio quality is terrible, even for phones back then).
Creative people are really interesting for a number reasons. Yes, most of them are a little crazy, but that’s beside the point. They often spearhead new ideas and challenge us to use our imagination in different ways. Ottawa certainly has no shortage of these people (both crazy and/or imaginative), and they continuously bring about new ways of experiencing art. Whether it is visual, auditory, experiential, or something else completely, the ways in which we consume art on a local level is changing, with events that are seeming to growing in breadth and frequency throughout the year.