This year’s CityFolk Festival got off to a good start at Lansdowne Park with some stellar performances by Ruth B, Post Malone, Allan Rayman, and more. Our photographer Els Durnford got in nice and close to get some shots throughout the night. Check out the gallery below.
RBC Ottawa Bluesfest kicked off the 2017 edition in style Thursday night at Lebreton Flats with Death From Above, Pokey Lafarge, Telecomo and Pony Girl.
Death From Above (they are no longer using “1979,” but still having it written on their drum kit) made a triumphant return to Ottawa after having to cancel their 2016 appearance. The noisy rocking duo from Toronto consists of Sebastien Grainger on vocals and drums and Jesse Keeler on bass and keys, and they closed out the night at the Black Sheep Stage and stirred the crowd into a frenzy. The band incited the first mosh pit of the festival and possibly the first crowd surfers. After two songs, Keeler got on the mic and said “Thank you we are Toby Keith,” which garnered a good chuckle from the crowd and a Toby Keith chant. Keith was playing on the main stage at the same time.
In the early going the set seemed focused on songs from their latest album The Physical World, but fans of their earlier work didn’t have to wait too long. Grainger whispered “You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine” before launching into the song of the same title. The nearly two-hour long set was their second show in nine months. On the eve of the full moon, they took off from there and went on to play everything a fan could ask for including “Black History Month,” “Little Girl,” “Cold War,” “Romantic Rights”—ok those are all off of 2004’s You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine, but they are classics. They also played a few more songs off of The Physical World such as “White is Red” and their new single “Freeze Me,” which they struggled with a little being that is was the second time they ever played it live. But that meant Ottawa got the second and the third-ever performances due to a quick re-start. The new stuff is quite a bit dancier but they still find time to have Keeler rock out and bring that gritty bass into it.
It wouldn’t be Death From Above set without a story by Grainger. During the set he told his this lovely piece about how for Canada’s 125th, he was 13 and in Ottawa at base the peace tower when a motorcade rolled up and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney came out. Grainger shook his hands and then shook his son’s hand “who grew up to have great hair plugs…I mean they probably aren’t hair plugs” he said laughing. He continued “and then another nicer motorcade pulled up a Trudeau came out and I shook his hand and then shook JT’s hand. Back then I thought to myself that he would one day be a great…snow board instructor or substitute teacher.” Many laughs were had and they got back to rocking. What a great set and an awesome way to cap off night one.
Unfortunately there was overlap on Pokey Lafarge and Death From Above so I only caught a few songs but they were excellent. Pokey and his band are simply exceptional. I mean, the act features a harmonica, brass, a stand up bass and the occasional washboard or banjo on top of the usual guitar and drums. With songs like “Close the Door,” “Something in the Water” and “Riot in the Streets” (which he all played while I was there) you get transported to a quaint bar in the southern states. His music would be perfectly accompanied with a nice tall glass of bourbon. Even without the bourbon, they had people singing, clapping and dancing under the new Bluesville tent—a great new feature—which has replaced the River Stage.
I took in a double dose of locals to start off my festival catching Telecomo on the Black Sheep Stage and Pony Girl in the Barney Danson Theatre. Telecomo are a garage rock three-piece made up of very familiar faces in the Ottawa music scene. Adam Saikaley (vocals, guitar), Gary Franks (bass), and Pat Johnson (drums) have played in bands such as The Acorn, Silkken Laumman, Bondar and countless others. As I walked over to the stage, we were greeted by the Gary Franks’ undeniable bass line from the opening track “Long Gone” off their debut full length release For Sale. Anyone in attendance who didn’t know about the album before the show, certainly knows about it know as Saikeley took a few moments to mention it and hold up a record to show people what it looked like. It was pretty effective as he sold a copy right on stage to a very enthusiastic concert-goer in the front row.
For most bands the showman is the lead singer or lead guitarist, but in this band it’s the bass player. Franks is never still and can often be seen striking quite the poses. My favorite is the very close stare down of Saikeley while he sings. Franks could have the voice of an angel but I kind of hope he never gets stuck behind a mic as his wondering is such a great addition to the performance. I’m pretty sure the band played all their entire catalogue and even included 2 new songs during their 50 minute set. I love garage rock.
Getting everything started was Pony Girl‘s performance in the standing room only Barney Danson Theater. It was great to see them pack the room. They certainly put on a show to merit the audience. A Pony Girl set features something most live acts don’t, a clarinet. Every time I see them, I am reminded of how underutilized and undervalued this instrument it. The band made full use of the space on stage and also bringing the show to the crowd singing and playing the clarinet in the first couple of rows. What is sometimes forgotten or lost in the wonders of the duel vocals is just how talented of musicians they are. Beyond the clarinet and the excellent guitar and bass work, the drummer always blows me away with all the subtle fill,s and the little extra he does that just add so much. Just as I was thinking of this, they put it all on display during an incredible instrumental lead by clarinet and drums dancing around each other which was beautifully amplified by the guitar and bass. It has been awesome to follow this band for years now and still be so impressed.
Busted limbs, broken noses, and a little bit of blood on the face is nothing out of the ordinary for Ottawa’s party punk rockers New Swears. They’ve just released a video for the track “Dance With The Devil” off of their new record And The Magic of Horses, and they crank up the gore factor to 11. That’s why we love them, along with the fact that their music will incite a party anytime, anywhere it is played. And The Magic of Horses is the band’s third full-length album, and their first with Dine Alone Records to be released June 23rd. The 10-track album is sure to be chock-full of summer party anthems with dirty melodies that beg to be blared in backyards across the country, which should go perfectly with the smell of barbecue smoke and pissed off neighbours.
The video’s timely release today also coincides with the Ottawa Senators’ first game of the NHL Conference Semi-Finals, a game which will surely have the streets packed with booze-filled hockey lovers. While we all hope the Sens avoid the kind of injuries that the band sustains in the video, we certainly wish them the best. Get amped up for the game and watch “Dance With The Devil” below, just make sure the kids are out of the room.
Don’t miss the New Swears Weekend happening at House of TARG June 23/24, they’re going full force with two record release shows back-to-back. Tickets available here.
Big festivals can be pretty overwhelming, and seeing as how Ottawa Bluesfest is one of the largest in North America, it is no exception. One of the best parts about music festivals, in our opinion, is that you get a chance to learn about some really great artists that you may not have heard about before. Yes, the huge headliners are an obvious draw. But don’t underestimate the potential for smaller, lesser-known acts to blow you out of your seat. For the last few years we’ve provided some of our picks for you to check out, and we’ve done it again this year. So strap yourselves in and get ready for some of this year’s non-local talent at Bluesfest.
If you haven’t gotten your passes yet, find more information here.
Thu, July 14, 6:00PM Monster Energy Stage
PUP is without a doubt one of the most energetic and frenetic live shows you can see. This four piece punk ensemble just released one of the best albums of the year, The Dream Is Over, which is fuelled by non-stop touring, partying, and hanging with your friends. If you love beer, catchy riffs, and unapologetic lyrics, PUP are not to be missed. Be warned – there will probably be a rather raucous mosh pit and crowd surfing during their set. (Photo by Ming Wu / Photogmusic)
Wed, July 13, 7:00PM City Stage
Canadian pop-R&B singer Alessia Cara is a young artist that is heating up on the charts nationally. Her recent fame is purely a result of her talent, as she would consistently upload acoustic songs from a number of genres on YouTube over the last several years. Eventually she started turning some heads and has exploded into the industry with her songs “Here” and “Wild Things.” Cara’s potential is undeniable and unlimited, and she is certainly an artist to keep an eye on.
Wed, July 13, 6:00PM Black Sheep Stage
Pierre Kwenders is a Congolese-Canadian musician that is on the forefront of fusing musical genres in Canada. Kwenders sings in English, French, Lingala and Tshiluba, and is often cited as a modern spokesperson for Africa, blending traditional African music and beats with hip hop, electronic and pop to create a truly unique sound that is catchy as hell. He has been nominated for World Album of the Year at the Junos, and also has a Polaris Prize nomination under his belt. Kwenders’ music is infectious. You’ve been warned.
Coeur de Pirate
Fri, July 8, 7:00 PM City Stage
Béatrice Martin is an amazing talent with an incredible voice. Whether you understand French or not, Coeur de Pirate’s music knows no boundaries and its sheer beauty and honesty will make you melt. It is also important to note that her latest album features English songs if you needed a little more convincing. (ES)
Half Moon Run
Wed, July 13, 9:30PM Black Sheep Stage
Now based in Montréal, this band hails both from BC and Ontario and can really get a crowd moving. If you love dancing to the sounds of indie rock or swaying side to side to finger picking over the sound of driving drums these gentlemen are perfect for you. What is really fascinating about their live performance is the number of instruments each member plays during a set, especially when several members take to percussions all at once. (ES)
Sat, July 16, 9:00PM Monster Energy Stage
When Montreal’s Wolf Parade went on an indefinite hiatus in 2010, it was like a knife through the heart for many of us die-hard fans out there. Would they ever get back together? Would they leave us hanging forever? Well, the answer is “no.” Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug have both been hard at work with multiple other projects in the last several years, keeping their instruments warm for the Wolf Parade reunion announced in early 2016. This seminal Canadian indie band is not to be missed, and absolutely rip on stage. Oh yeah – they’re recording new music, too.
The Tallest Man on Earth
Fri, July 8, 9:00PM Monster Energy Stage
When it comes to soulful, poetic folk music, there are few that do it better than Kristian Matsson a.k.a. The Tallest Man On Earth. Many have compared his unique style to that of Bob Dylan, and it might seem strange that a Swedish singer-songwriter has internalized and been influenced by the Americana folk tradition so deeply. But don’t be fooled into thinking he’s trying to mimic something that he’s not – Matsson’s music is in a league of its own. If you love intricate guitar, beautiful storytelling, and music that hits you at the core, The Tallest Man On Earth is your jam.
Thu, July 7, 11:30 PM Casino du Lac-Leamy Free Programming
Okay, let’s mix it up here a bit (pun intended). Halifax’s Paul Murphy, known by the stage name Skratch Bastid, is one of Canada’s illest and most respected DJs and producers. He has gained international attention for his lightning fast hands, high-level collaborations, and sharp ear, playing an average of 200 shows per year and touring everywhere from Southeast Asia to Brazil. After all of this, you’d think that his energy level would dip a bit, but you can expect an all-out party at every single show of his.
Sat, July 16, 8:00 PM Black Sheep Stage
You’ve never heard anything like this before. Toronto’s Holy Fuck technically makes electronic music, if we have to reduce them to a genre. But they do it without all the looping and pre-programmed jargon that goes along with that kind of music. They’re a band, and they play music that refuses to be constrained by any specific “sound.” Refusing to use laptops or backing tracks, Holy Fuck creates an undeniably memorable live experience by using all kinds of instruments (and some other objects) to recreate electronic-sounding textures, rhythms, arrangements, and noises. They have been nominated for a Juno and shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize.
Champion and His G Strings
Thu, July 14, 11:30 PM Casino du Lac-Leamy Free Programming
DJ Champion has been involved in the Montreal music scene for the better part of two decades, and is showing no signs of slowing down. Maxime Morin’s appreciation for all kinds of music is reflected in his own work, as he embraces everything from pop and rock to soul and electronica. This is eclecticism at its finest, and it is sure to get you up and moving in no time.
The Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival is easily the capital’s most underrated summer music festival. For over 20 years, the four-day event has been taking place at Mooney’s Bay Beach, bringing over 70, 000 attendees together to celebrate culture and community.
The Ottawa Dragon Boat Foundation was founded in 2004 to help efforts with fundraising for local charities, and has since has raised over $3 million. Even more, the weekend provides the opportunity to browse local vendors, try craft beers and explore one of Ottawa’s best beaches.
Thursday, June 23
July Talk playing Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival on Thursday, June 23.
Like most outdoor festivals, the first night brought in a diverse crowd, ranging from teenagers to families. Most patrons were young adults in July Talk t-shirts, a clear indication of the headliner’s popularity and growing fan base.
The first show of the night was Modern Space, a young five-piece group from Toronto. They played a varied set of original songs and covers, paying tribute to Arcade Fire, Lana Del Rey and The Arctic Monkeys. They were an energetic introduction to the weekend.
Following Modern Space were The Muscadettes, a Montreal-based band who played with July Talk throughout the Maritimes. I’m not sure if it was the fact that the lead singer and bassist are twins, but the band had a seamless unity to its music, playing modern yet classic-sounding rock songs. They gave off a nonchalant, effortlessly cool vibe and were a refreshing reminder that this was actually a beach concert.
Thursday’s headliner was July Talk, whose performance easily lived up to the band’s rising popularity. Lead singers Leah and Peter’s onstage chemistry was electric and charismatic, and their energy animated the audience – there were a few crowd surfers, and even surprising attempts at a mosh pit.
Lead singer Leah Fay’s magnetic stage personality was quite possibility the highlight of the night. She is a natural performer, one that ties her hair up halfway through the show (with a scrunchie borrowed from the audience), offers Jameson to the security guards, and seems absolutely at ease onstage. She was inviting and engaging with the audience, making the packed hill feel like an intimate concert.
The band’s impressive musical performance and captivating personality created an unforgettably high-energy night that successfully started the weekend off on a high note.
Friday, June 24
Mother Mother performs at Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival on Friday, June 24.
Friday night opened with The Beaches, a rock group from Toronto. They sang punky, but light-hearted songs that felt like the epitome of a girl group – charming, energetic, and almost intimidatingly talented.
The second act was Ria Mae, a Halifax-born solo artist. She sang heartfelt songs ranging from bluesy to indie pop to acoustic. Her soulful, round, Adele-like voice was the highlight, and proved to have impressive stylistic range. Special mention goes to her drummer, Chuck, whose strong performance was a defining accent in Ria Mae’s style. Unfortunately, the speakers seemed to be a bit too loud, which carried through to the final performance of the night. Be sure to check out Ria Mae in the NAC Studio’s intimate setting on Saturday, October 15.
The evening’s headliner was Mother Mother, and their explosively high-energy show was fitting for a Friday night. The five-piece group was much better live; their music felt complete with dancing, strobe lights and an energetic crowd. Lead singer Ryan Guldemond led the band through their set in such a captivating way, it felt like watching a classic rock star. Their show gave off incredible, hypnotic vibes that felt like a hybrid of 80s pop and futuristic synth.
Like the previous night, Mother Mother’s vibes were mirrored by the expansive audience. Between songs, Ryan thanked the crowd, explaining that the band had taken a break from performing to write new music. He reflected on world events and preached of peace and unity. Mother Mother’s fun and uplifting demeanour was echoed by the audience and was a warm reminder that music can truly bring people together.
Saturday June 25
Alvvays played Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival on Saturday, June 25.
Saturday night brought in a quieter vibe. The audience was a vibrant mix of teenagers, older adults and families, and the evening’s bands emitted a beachy, laid back atmosphere.
The first event was Pony Girl, a young Ottawa band growing in popularity. They were much jazzier than I expected, complete with all-black ensembles and a clarinet solo. Their set felt youthful, however, and was a perfect example of classic meets modern. The band’s individual talents came together beautifully in their effervescent set, all playing impressive solos and showcasing young local talent.
Following them was Nap Eyes, a four-piece band from Halifax. They continued the evening’s relaxed vibes with a slowed-down set, boasting unique songs falling somewhere between the styles of The Shins and Neutral Milk Hotel.
Saturday’s headliner was Alvvays, a beachy, indie pop band from the East Coast. Their set was understated yet exciting; effortless but impressive.
Like always, the crowd reflected the act’s demeanour and the audience felt welcoming and content. A few sparklers and even a crowd-surfing beach ball proved that Alvvays’ uplifting indie sound was wearing off onto the audience. The band played fan favourites such as “Marry Me, Archie” and “Party Police” from their first and only album, as well as playing a few new originals, hinting at an upcoming release. The new songs were a bit darker and heavier while maintain Alvvays’ easygoing vibe, and were well received by the audience. Their encore song was “He’s on the Beach” by Kirtsy MacColl, which proved the band’s musical talents even outside their unique, original singles. It was an impressive set in every way possible.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to the final night of concerts, but I have no doubt that Ottawa’s A Tribe Called Red was the perfect way to conclude one of the summer’s first festivals. Overall, the weekend was an impressive start to festival season and an uplifting, welcoming celebration of both local talent and international culture.
It’s that time of year again as the masses gather to celebrate urban hip hop arts and culture in Ottawa. House of Paint started in 2003 after the establishment of Ottawa’s first Free Zone for graffiti art under the Dunbar Bridge near Brewer Park. In its 12th yeah, HoP digs deep to bring together prolific artists in the form of MCs, graffiti artists, visual artists, dancers, DJs, poets, and much more. It’s difficult to think of anywhere that one can feel a sense of community better than under that bridge during House of PainT.
This year you can expect the usual happenings – bboys and bgirls doing their thing, MCs spitting rhymes, DJs filling the air with beats, panels, workshops for people of all ages to learn more about hip hop culture, graffiti and mural art. You know, the usual.
However, there will be an addition to the festival this year. First, The Ottawa Beat League is bringing Beat Battle 3: House of PainT Edition is taking over Babylon on Day 2. This electronic beat-making competition takes place over three rounds and tests the skills of producers and beatmakers. It also includes performances courtesy by Raz Fresco (NYC), City Fidelia (TOR) and Circabeatz (OTT). Later that night the annual OG 500 Poetry Slam competition will take place and take us deep into the night, headlined by Montreal Métis poet Moe Clark. These exciting new additions demonstrate how HoP continually adapts and finds new ways to celebrate hip hop. Learn more about the festival and its history here.
Performances by Pruf Rock (Canadian spoken word champion), King Krook, DJ Illo, a special dance performance and live painting by Kalkidan Assefa.
9:00pm – 1:00am Kinki Lounge & Kitchen (41 York St.)
Music by: DJ Illo with special guest The Stuntman
Day 2 – Thursday, Sept. 10th
OG 500 POETRY SLAM
7:00pm – 10:00pm @ Babylon Nightclub (317 Bank Street)
Introduced in 2012, the OG500 is the now most anticipated poetry slam event of the year and is famed for its unique live voting format which creatively engages the crowd. Words, wits and theatre are put to the test in an intense three-round competition between poets from all over Canada, followed by a renowned feature artist. Look no further than the OG500 Poetry Slam to kick off the weekend with word, sound and rhythm.
10:00pm – 1:00am @ Babylon Nightclub (317 Bank Street)
Featuring rap performances by Raz Fresco and City Fidelia. A special beat showcase by CIRCA Beatz. OBL has teamed up with House of Paint to bring you a new instalment of the OBL Hip Hop Beat battles. It is a quarterly hip hop beat battle competition. Showcasing some of the City’s finest beat makers in a 3 round challenge, we aim to provide a platform for producers to be able to flex their skills and gain recognition.
Performances by Raz Fresco (NYC) & City Fidelia (TOR) & DJ Circa (OTT)
Friday nights are a long-time favourite at HoP. Featuring preliminary rounds of the recently introduced 1v1 popping battle, opening of the Arts Market, and a number of performances by high profile MCs and DJs, join us under the bridge to Rock The House!
Special Guest Popmaster Fabel (Rocksteady Crew)
Performances by Black Moon (Buckshot & DJ Evil Dee), Demigodz (Apathy & Celph Titled), Your Old Droog (w DJ Skizz), Buck N Nice, VNCHY, Moun Fou, Jonathan Emile.
Music by DJ Jervy Jerv DJ Ducats dj2creamz (Ottawa)
Today it all goes down- the four elements are live all day with music performances, a variety of children’s activities and workshops, and concession stands selling art, clothes, crafts and food. Under the bridge, 60+ graffiti artists paint live on Ottawa’s first legal graffiti wall; the top four finalists of the 1v1 popping battle and dance crews from all over Canada battle for the Grand Prize. Our Main EvenT is not to be missed!
Youth Programming Luv 2 Groove with Julia Gutsik Drop-in DJ and Collaborative mural Workshops
Performances Live MC Battle Wavemakers Poetry
Performances by Jazz Cartier, BlakDenim, Kalmunity Collective, Flight Distance, Socalled & Narcy Emotionz (w DJ Praiz and Sirreal), Dee Ghabrial.
DJs / Live Beats by Kool Krys, DJ Magnificent, DJ Mace, DJ Eazy El Dee, DJ Mel Boogie, Trevor Walker, Capital DJ Academy, DJ Memetic, DJ Zattar.
Visual Arts – 60+ Graffiti writers paint live through the day – Individual and crew productions Mural wall installations Art gallery / Solid Goods Artisans Market.
BBoy / BGirl Prelims, Semi-Finals and Final Battle Popping Semi-Finals and Final Battle.
Pop Master Fabel (Rocksteady Crew), DJ Dopey (DMC World Champion / Jazz Cartier’s DJ) + Surprise Mystery Guests
Day 5 – Sunday, Sept. 13
KNOWLEDGE CONFERENCE – Pass the Mic: Bridging the Gap Between the Old and New School
Noon – 5:00pm @ Arts Court (2 Daly Avenue)
Since the first Knowledge Conference in 2013, this series of learning events allows HoP to gather cultural innovators and professionals to learn and network in a community of artists. Including panel discussions, master classes, workshops, a keynote speaker, and a wind-down networking evening, this year will feature sessions for professional development of Hip Hop music professionals. The focus will be on professional development for entrepreneurs, mentorship, and how to attract paid opportunities.
Since its inception in 2012, Arboretum Festival has increasingly become a seminal part of Ottawa’s cultural identity. Its organizers – primarily Rolf Klausener and Stefanie Power – are sharpened blades, cutting through all the music and food industry bullshit to bring us something real and something to call our own. I have had the pleasure of being at each and every Arboretum thus far, and watching it grow has been a wonder to witness.
However, this growth and development doesn’t come without hard work and dedication. At many points I’m sure there were times where the organizers wanted to jump ship, because that would be the easy thing to do. But creative people are a little crazy. Sometimes it can feel like you’re standing still on the train tracks, waiting for the train to come and run you over. But the reward for creating and maintaining something such as Arboretum is unparalleled. The importance it has had for the arts in our city cannot be understated.
I was out of town for the first few days of the festival this year, and was only able to make it onto Albert Island late in the afternoon Saturday when the music had started. There were a series of crucially important panels earlier in the day that I had to miss for logistical reasons, which I regret not being able to attend. We will post all the videos of these panels as soon as they are made available, as they help demystify much of the issues surrounding the unceded First Nation’s territory (upon which lied the new location of Arboretum Festival this year on Albert Island) and how it relates to communities in Ottawa/Gatineau. The precursor to these conversations were meetings that were held months back:
We had a chance to meet with a council member at Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, we spoke with activists from the Free The Falls movement, others from the Algonquin community, had ongoing discussions with Windmill, and concerned members of our community. […]
One thing we did see was a common need amongst all parties for awareness and harmony for all people, not only here in the Outaouais, but globally. Instead of cancelling the festival, we decided to move forward and facilitate public discussions, offering people a chance to come to the land, ask their own questions, and learn from those willing to share. The chance to connect is what made all the difference for us, and we hope it will for you as well. – Team ARB
As the final day of Arboretum 2015 got rolling on the music portion, I entered the beautifully decorated grounds only to see many smiling faces in this little paradise. The sounds of Montreal’s Saxsyndrum (Art Not Love Recs) were coming from the main stage, which was perfectly erected between the two warehouse buildings on Albert Island.
This experimental drum duo, to the best of my knowledge, was originally from Ottawa and has since relocated to Montreal. The band started with Nick Schofield on percussion and David Switchenko on tenor sax, but have since expanded to a full band, giving them a fuller and more radiant sound. Saxsyndrum’s music is in a class of its own, as their instrumental layering and obscure song structures captivated the growing audience in front of the stage.
The digital and electronic elements of their music is tempered by the incredibly talented instrumentation, creating a sonic blend that is electrifying to listeners. A highlight of the set was seeing A.P. Bergman of Montreal’s soundscape specialists Year of Glad provide powerful and enchanting vocal parts, with such ferocity that his veins barely made it through in tact.
Regrettably, I missed the great new band New Fries open things up at the Alley stage in Hull, only to catch their last frenetic song in exchange for finding sustenance for the rest of the night at Subway. To get an idea of their live show, read the review I wrote about their Sappyfest performance a few weeks ago (new the bottom of the review).
New Fries set the dial to “weird” perfectly for the next band to play the Alley stage – Hull’s Fet.Nat. This band is one of the region’s most imaginative, bizarrely creative acts. Their music is laden with groove and funky undertones, yet strewn with disjointed arrangements, irregular time signatures, socially derisive vocal diversions by singer JFno, and otherworldly instrumental experimentations. Alongside JFno reside some incredibly talented musicians – Linsey Wellman on saxophones, Pierre-Luc Clément on guitar, and Last Ex/Timber Timbre’s Olivier Fairfield on drums and synth. Their latest album, 2014’s Poule Mange Poule, was one of our favourites of the year.
Their set started off with an impromptu choir containing around ten people of all ages. This was a new experience for all of us, and only added to the chaotic nature of their music when performed live. They brought up Phillipe Charbonneau (Hilotrons, Scattered Clouds) to be the choral conductor, and he did an excellent job. JFno got the audience involved and closer to the stage, and even teased the people up on the balcony at Gainsbourg Pub as they watched on. Many people that were just there to have a drink and were unfamiliar with the bands looked pretty confused, wondering what all the commotion was about. But Fet.Nat played their obscure sounds and the vibe loosened up as people got into it.
The children in the choir were a little apprehensive at first, but then embraced the fun on stage as they screamed, and particularly seemed to enjoy making exotic bird sounds at one point in the set. JFno even lifted up his shirt half way through the performance, probably because there was a bachelorette party of some sort happening nearby. I don’t know. All in all, Fet.Nat did what they do best – push boundaries while delivering entertainment that you won’t find anywhere else.
Next up was Weights & Measures. They are a three-piece instrumental math rock band formed in the late 90’s in Ottawa, and rarely play shows anymore. I was unfamiliar with these guys before the Arboretum announcement, probably because I wasn’t in Ottawa back then. Their drummer is Jeremy Gara, and he also the drummer for a little band you may have heard of called Arcade Fire. With his primary commitments in Arcade Fire aside at the moment, he seemed happy to be back home to play with his old band. Gara, along with his bandmates Kevin Jagernauth and Samir Khan, completely took over Hull with their performance. Although it was about a 15 minute walk from the main festival area, the Alley Stage in Hull actually drew a significant crowd of people.
I can’t overstate how impressive Weights & Measures were live. Even after 11 years apart, their riveting guitar riffs, thunderous percussion, and penetrating bass lines blended together as the crowd watched in awe. Everyone that was there now understands this band was so well respected, as they made their complex and intricate arrangements seem easy. Their songs were explosive, robust, and at times hypnotizing. Many times throughout the set it seemed like a song was ending, and everyone cheered, only to find out that the song was not over and vice versa. Hopefully Weights & Measures will continue to play more shows, as their music remains timeless and can blow away just about anyone that appreciates music.
As I headed back to the Main Stage on Albert Island, Austra‘s performance had just begun. She was the final artist on the main stage, signalling the final set of the regular Arboretum program. She has become a synth-pop staple in Canadian indie music, delivering song after song of catchy and energetic compositions. I like to think of Austra and her band as Canada’s CHVCHES – even those who don’t appreciate pop music can get on board with how good their songs are.
As usual, Katie Stelmanis’ enthralling vocals took centre stage. Even with thumping beats and bone-shaking synth, Stelmanis’ classically-trained vocal chords were the most impressive instrument on stage. Her voice carried over over the Ottawa river, bounced off the Gatineau Hills, and ran wild through the Ottawa Valley. They played some new tracks that I failed to hear the names of, which could be an indication of a new LP sometime in the future. With everyone returning from the Alley Stage, the crowd was filling up in the main stage area and many started dancing – a bodily reaction that is almost inevitable when listening to Austra’s music. After playing some crowd pleasers such as “Lose It” and my personal favourite “Beat and the Pulse,” Austra bid the crowd adieu, but not before letting us all know that the Arboretum performance was her favourite Ottawa show yet. I think we’re onto something here.
The night capped off with a bizarrely intense set from Toronto’s Phédre in the warehouse. I really enjoyed their set, but found their music very difficult to describe. However, I highly recommend them to those with open minds, as their music and videos really push boundaries. DJs Matt Tamblyn and Zattar finished off the night by doing what they does best – they just keep the sweaty party going. All in all, this year’s Arboretum offered so many new things for the community, and not only provided great music for us to experience, but also challenge us to think, engage, and acknowledge the mountainous issues our region’s aboriginal communities face.
Expect boom-bap and a banger of a solstice this Sunday, the 21st of June. The longest day of the year is a time for celebration, a peak of sorts, and this Weekend Roundup will recommend a few ways to properly overload all concert-goers with no less than four festivals & dozens of shows in Ottawa this weekend.
I know what I’ll be doing on June 21st. I’ll wake up at Eric Scharf’s and we’ll compare notes from my Jazz Fest & his Ottawa Explosion Saturday. My lady & I will walk our dog to Bridgehead. I’ll have a Labatt 50 and miss my dad who loved the stuff. I’ll call my grandfather to wish him a happy Father’s Day. And then my friends & I will spend the day around Confederation Park and the Canal, listening to music and watching the nation’s capital enjoy the sun. We’ll just bide our time until the sun finally sets and our most anticipated event begins…
I’m calling it right now—no pressure Mr. Kirk—that Timber Timbre‘s 10:30 p.m. show, part of the After Dark Series of Jazz Fest, will be the show of 2015. We’ve been listening to the self-titled, Hot Dreams, Cedar Shakes, Medicinals & Creep On Creepin’ Onnon-stop in our household. To be able to chat with frontman Taylor Kirk about his bluesy dirges and old-time folk music last week was a treat, but when see him perform live with his band will be a true blessing.
Please tell me about your summer tour.
Summer represents a winding down off a tour cycle for Hot Dreams, which came in April last year. This definitely feels a bit like a last hurrah. We’ll be mostly in Europe, with a few festivals in Canada. We’ll go to Europe twice actually, from late June to July, then Wayhome, and back again to Europe for three days in August.
Are you looking forward to playing Ottawa Jazz Fest? It’s both Father’s Day and the summer solstice. Which one of those dates has the most significance to you?
I’m looking forward to it very much! We’ve played Bluesfest & Folk Fest before but not the Jazz Fest.
Off the top of my head, the answer would be the solstice. It’s a much more symbolic and charged date. But it’s funny because we’ve had a bunch of different shifts in personnel lately, and a lot has had to do with fatherhood.
What did you do before Timber Timbre?
I don’t know… I was playing in a couple of friends’ bands. I went to art school. I used to make films. I got into making music for films. I played drums for other people. Timber Timbre was a solo project before I shared it with anybody. At that time, the last job I had was as a closed captioner for film and television. It’s a very weird job, very odd, but it allowed me a lot of freedom to do tours in southern Ontario, Buffalo, and Quebec.
How long did it take for music to become sustainable living for you?
I quit that job in 2009 and had an opportunity to go to Japan to do a couple of shows. And then I came home and kind of hooked up with Arts & Crafts. Since then they’ve kept me on a certain momentum.
What is the key component of that momentum?
I wish I could say it’s inspiration or something, but actually I think the notion of making music and making it a sustainable endeavour is touring. That’s really it. It’s everyone’s bread and butter.
I read that you used to have trouble picturing yourself with a band. Now, do you have trouble picturing yourself without one?
Yeah! Very much so. I guess initially I was such a quiet singer and I couldn’t figure out how to work the songs for a group. After being a solo act it became a weird trio. By weird I mean it was unconventional. I was playing drums with my feet, there was Mika Posen on violin and Simon Trottier on the lap steel. I still couldn’t get my voice to sing as loud as I wanted it to and I still didn’t feel like I knew how to arrange my songs for a group.
Going back to solo… I can’t really imagine it. I think mainly because the music I’ve become interested in performing is rock n roll.
How did you meet Mika Posen & Simon Trottier?
Simon & I met on MySpace actually. That really dates us. He had a group called White Noise Ensemble in Montreal and they contacted me. They invited me to come and open for them at Casa Del Popolo. I met Mika Posen playing in other Toronto groups.
Olivier Fairfield, Taylor Kirk, Mathieu Charbonneau & Simon Trottier = Timber Timbre. Photo Credit: Jean-Baptiste Toussaint
Nowadays Simon is still your bandmate, along with Mathieu Charbonneau & Olivier Fairfield. Can you talk about Simon & Olivier’s Last Ex project, which is based off an abandoned ambient soundtrack Timber Timbre began and never finished?
Yes, we had been commissioned to score this horror film directed by a Canadian filmmaker. We got to a certain stage with it but what we were making the director thought was “too cool.” He said, “This is great but it’s just kinda… cool music.” He didn’t feel it served film. I think he wanted something more traditional, a bit more genre…
I think the film bottomed up and the producers went back and had to restart. We were severed from the project. Olivier & Simon took the recordings and reworked them into something vey different which became Last Ex—experimental instrumental rock music. It’s very sci-fi.
What was it like to work with someone as explorative and driven as Simone Schmidt, who helped you write a couple songs on Hot Dreams?
She helped me with “Curtains?!” & “Bring Me Simple Men”. She’s done lots of artwork for me as well. She has a really refined aesthetic, as a writer and a visual artist. She was just very, very generous. It almost seemed effortless for her to finish these songs. I felt that she did them for me, they were really tailored to my voice. I’ve never ever done that before.
I’ve done a song with Leslie Feist before, but it wasn’t collaborative the same way. “Homage” came out on a compilation album called Arts & Crafts X.
I know you really enjoy playing with this group, but who are some of your other favourite musicians besides your bandmates?
That’s a tough one. There are lots of things that come to mind… I just bought a bunch of records of a group called Broadcast. They’re a British group and their recordings were just repressed by Warp Records on vinyl. Trish Keenan passed away when she was very young. This is a group that I really, really admire. I’ve immersed myself in that.
I once became obsessed with Lee Hazelwood, his recordings, and how they were made. I wanted to make my voice sound like that even though I don’t have it at all. Lou Reed is one of my favourites. Nina Simone is one of the most important. And not just for singing but also song-writing, production, and instrumentation. Kind of all of it.
Did your parents help you develop your taste in music?
Yeah, my parents had a pretty great record collection and when I was young I found Led Zeppelin & Pink Floyd in there. I can’t really get away from Pink Floyd. I mean I don’t sit around listening to Pink Floyd but every now and then I listen and realized just how I’ve ripped them off!
I was really into Led Zeppelin and Jimmy Hendrix but for some reason I knew that Pink Floyd was different. It’s subtle. More nuanced.
How did the video for “Beat the Drum Slowly” come to be? Were you a fan of Chad VanGaalen’s music or art before, or did he contact you?
I’ve been a real fan of Chad’s music for a long time. I don’t know when I discovered his videos but he started making his own animations for his music. We just reached out and he was super friendly. I guess we had played a couple shows with him over the years. Very nice man. It’s such a labour intensive thing as well. Everything’s hand-drawn.
I would have him do every single video.
What did you think when you first saw that video?
I was totally astonished. I thought it was extraordinary. I didn’t tell him what the song was about—I just said what I was thinking in a very vague way. I think it was all kind of crystallized in that video.
And so are you working on a new album?
Songs have been sort of starting to come together only just now. Really it’s in the fall that I’ll sort things out. I find it very difficult to be creative that way while touring. It’s a very polarizing thing: you do one or the other. I know a lot of people who aren’t limited by touring and can just write all the time. I really don’t have that.
Will the next album be similar to Hot Dreams’s geographical reflection on parts of California?
It could be, yeah. That was such a potent thing. I don’t think any of the other records really have that specific relationship to the environment in which they were written.
If I went to Iceland or something, to another severe landscape I think it would be likely.
I strongly suggest you go to Iceland, then. But perhaps your recording name is another title that has that kind of relationship to a place. Timber Timbre comes from a cabin in Bobcaygeon, correct?
It’s true. It seemed an apt title for a bunch of songs written in the woods. I was banging on the wood floor and banging on the walls. I didn’t really have any instruments.
Have you been back there?
I haven’t. It belonged to friends of the family but I think they sold it… I’d be very curious to go have a look…
Hey. Guess what? We’re making a friggin MOVIE! Yeah that’s right. We don’t just write about music, we can film stuff too. It may not be up to Steven Spielberg’s standards, but we had a blast filming footage for the documentary during Pouzza Fest 2015 in Montreal last month.
The concept is very simple – we followed around 8 Ottawa bands playing the festival and filmed live performances, interviews, and general hangouts while there. Pouzza Fest is a special kind of festival, where general disregard for one’s health and wellbeing is commonplace and accepted as normal. It is also named after the soon-to-be famous cuisine “pouzza,” which is when one shovels poutine on a pizza and then eats it. So without further ado, please enjoy the trailer we made for it! Expect to see the full documentary later this month, as we’ll be having a screening somewhere around town and post it online as well.
Open Air Social Club, a popular weekly dance party held downtown each summer, has secured a new patio space on Sparks Street for the 2015 season.
Rumours swirled around as word got out that something was amiss at the Parliament Pub, OASC’s home for the past 4 years. The building which holds the Pub will be under construction all summer, a Public Works project which is six months behind schedule.
OASC was quick to seek out other outdoor options as soon as the news broke. “When we learned it wasn’t a go at Parliament Pub, we immediately started looking for something close by with a similar atmosphere,” says Matt Tamblyn, co-founder of OASC.
They didn’t have to look far, 73 North (73 Sparks) is a restaurant within a stone’s throw on Sparks Street between Metcalfe and Elgin with a spacious outdoor patio. With a new venue secured, the OASC folks are now able to focus on the fun stuff: throwing awesome dance parties each week on a beautiful outdoor patio. Their summer launch party is May 28th. Like their Facebook page to keep up to date.