Ottawa punk rock veterans The Creeps are back, releasing their first album since 2014’s masterpiece Eulogies on May 4th. Formed in 1999, The Creeps are by far one of the capital’s most accomplished and appreciated punk bands. I should also add that personally, Eulogies is my favourite record released by an Ottawa band. So what could we expect from a new album? How would new material measure up to the immensity that was Eulogies.
Well, fear not. The Creeps have spent years playing shows, touring, and continue to have fun doing it. Sure, they may no longer be teenagers, plus there are a few kids and grey beard hairs in the mix now, but that hasn’t changed the fact that this band knows how to write damn good albums—front to back.
Beneath the Pines is an 11-track offering, and it’s packed with goodies. The group has taken a new direction on this record, one they have never taken before. Traditionally The Creeps have written crunchy, uptempo, and in your face pop-punk that many of us have come to know and love. Skottie’s soaring melodies always rode the over-driven tones of his guitar, carried by Ian’s flurry of bass notes and Jordy’s percussive onslaught. Moreover, their music usually uses disturbing imagery to touch on themes such as death and suicide, and other things that are generally…creepy. These are staple characteristics of The Creeps, and the band actually released Old Crimes: Singles Collection 2009-2013in April of 2018 in advance of the release of the new album, and one listen through this collection will give listeners a great sense of how the band approached music in the past.
The Creeps’ new album Beneath the Pines will be available on vinyl May 4th. Photo taken from Facebook.
But Beneath the Pines is a departure from what The Creeps have done before. To call this album “slower” than its predecessors would be selling it short, and imply that it doesn’t have the same grit—that just isn’t true. While the band moves away from the darker themes that they faithfully pursued in the past, Skottie’s irresistible vocals and lyrical phrasing and the group’s catchy buildups to epic choruses are what weathered fans will recognize instantly, and fall in love with. The compositions are recognizably The Creeps, but the band experiments with different tempos, guitar tones, and a more open sound.
Songs such as “Bottom of Things”, “Scared”, and “In My Mind” are all more restrained instrumentally than most of us are used to. However, that doesn’t take away from the tracks, as Skottie’s vocals come through much clearer, with slight reverb, giving a lot of depth to the melodies he and the band weave. It is pop punk taken to another level, illustrating the maturation of a band that started as kids, now translating their ideas through the lens of adulthood. Old fans who have grown with The Creeps will almost certainly love the direction Beneath the Pines takes, and new listeners will surely fall into this album and appreciate its subtle intricacies.
Last Friday, April 6th, we had the pleasure of presenting Jon Creeden & The Flying Hellfish LP release party at House of TARG along with The Creeps, Finderskeepers, and Joe Vickers. For us, it was a no brainer to put this one on. Great friends, great bands, and one night to remember.
Jon Creeden is one of the hardest working musicians in this town, and he’s paid his dues for years. It was a dream come true to have The Creeps on board, as they have been making noise in Ottawa since 1999 and have shown no signs of slowing down. Finderskeepers reunited after a three-year hiatus (and two babies later) to play an electrifying set. Joe Vickers, a true purveyor of genuine Canadiana folk, happened to be rolling through town, too, and he opened the night with a gripping set. DJs Captain Concussion and Ted Dancin’ (Eric and I, respectively) also spun vinyl all night to keep the part going. Check out the incredible photos by our photographer Aidan Thatcherbelow!
The video begins with clips of Jon and various members of the Flying Hellfish out on tour making you think this will most likely be a tour montage video. Instead we are treated to the band rocking out on stage wearing their now signature Hawaiian shirts, a tribute to JS Belleau—a member of the Ottawa music scene who left us too soon.
Most of the video was shot during the band’s set at Pouzza Fest 2017 in Montreal by the very talented Jonah Aspler. It is a lot of fun to watch the band playing on stage to so many familiar faces in the crowd even if it isn’t in Ottawa. And it is awesome to watch Richard Barrie (Positive Charge) give Jon a big kiss and later when Jon cheers the crowd with his tall boy of PBR.
Watch the video below and come live a live Jon Creeden & the Flying Hellfish performance for yourself at their Stall album release show this Friday April 6 at House of Targ supported by The Creeps, Finderskeepers and Joe Vickers, more details here.
Jon Creeden and the Flying Hellfish are back at it, this time with a power-packed full length LP for us to chew on. Jon Creeden has put down his acoustic guitar for now, and teamed up with his three buds to put together a new 10-track album called Stall. We’re also excited to premiere the first track,”Anxious,”off the album below, as well as present the album release party at House of TARG on April 6th along with The Creeps (!), Finderskeeps (!!), and Joe Vickers (!!!).
For those of us familiar with Jon’s music, some of these songs will be very familiar. Whether he played them in a damp basement, in a church at OXW, or one of the many venues in town, Creeden has compiled 10 of his best songs written lately for Stall. Not only that, but the sheer intensity and vigour of these songs translate perfectly from the acoustic versions, and if there’s one guy in town that knows how to write a hell of a catchy punk rock song, it’s Jon Creeden. His band mates add to the fullness of the sound, and while Creeden’s relentless guitar is the backbone, the rest of the guys are the icing on top of the cake.
Newer tracks like “Way Home” have layers of intricate instrumentation in them, and flourishes of guitar that ring out along with thunderous percussion. Songs that we’ve heard live a few times before, such as “Nailbiter,”One Coast to Another,” and “Stall” are refined and tuned to the ear’s content, and sound better than ever.
If there is one fault to find in Creeden (and there aren’t many), it’s that he hasn’t released a damn LP since Beards in 2013… the humanity! Although, in fairness, he’s released some incredible splits with The Flying Hellfish over the past few years which helped to tide us over until something longer came out. Thankfully, that wait is over.
The songs are crafted through the filter of emotion that Creeden so naturally taps into. He reaches deeper than ever to write lyrics that hit the listener right in the gut, and phrased to accentuate the powerful guitar riffs and booming bass lines which carry his words. The album finishes with a bang, as the band brings in some crowd vocals during “Coffee Shops” along with an irresistibly catchy hook in “Sensible Underpants.”
Stall will be put out in digital and physical formats (including vinyl) on April 6th, but the pre-order for it starts on February 13th. Just in time for Valentine’s Day… just saying.
Beau’s Oktoberfest kicks off this weekend, Sept. 22-23, in Vankleek Hill, just under one hour outside of Ottawa. It is an epic two day celebration of craft beer, local food and of course music.
We have been going for years now and having the best time year after year. Last year members of Showbox entered the team challenge and came out victorious. We will be defending our title this year if you happen to be around early Saturday morning.
More importantly, we figured that this year you should get to know the bands that will tickle your ear drums while we suggest beer pairings, suds, that will also tickle your taste buds. Here are some of our recommended pairings:
Flight Distance with Three Knocks
Friday – 7:00 PM on the Black Forest Stage
Flight Distance seem like the odd band out as the only hip-hop act playing the festival. This makes them a rare breed in the midst of all the rock and roll, which makes pairing the trio with Three Knocks, a special, rare version of a German-style altbier perfect. I know they won’t be intimidated at all and will carry the flag for Ottawa hip-hop with pride when they hit the stage. So while they spits slick bars you should hit the bar yourself and get wild and freaky with Three Knocks.
NOBRO with Spiced Principle
Friday – 8:20 PM on the Black Forest Stage
My favourite song by these rockers is “Call The Doctor.” Spiced Principle is a complex and lively beer which features a mortar and pestle on the label, tools traditionally used in pharmacies to crush various ingredients to fill your prescription after your visit to the doctor. So take a trip to the Black Forest Stage to come rock out to NOBRO and sip on some Spiced Principle to cure what ales you.
John K Samsom and the Winter Wheat with Maple Rush Porter
Friday – 8:45PM on the Main Stage
Sure pairing the Winter Wheat with a wheat beer would make a lot of sense here, but John K Samson, formerly of The Weakerthans and Propaghandi, is Canadiana and Canadian-indie music at its core. And what is more Canadian than maple coffee beer? Nothing. So Friday night when the sun goes down and you’re ready to be swooned by the lovely musical stylings of John K, order yourself a Maple Rush Porter and toast this living legend of Canadian music.
Dead Tired with Vambrace
Friday – 9:15 PM on the Black Forest Stage
A Vambrace is a piece of armour, most specifically a piece that protects the arm. Now I don’t know how much a pilsner will protect you, but you certainly might need some armour to survive the onslaught from this hardcore band lead by former Alexisonfire frontman George Petit. I do however know that this crisp, refreshing and easy drinking beer won the 2016 Beau’s Oktoberfest homebrew contest and will make for a great late night drink while you headbang to Dead Tired.
Jon Creeden and the Flying Hellfish with Lug Tread
Saturday – 3:45 PM on the Black Forest Stage
The Lug Tread is Beau’s flagship beer, tried tested and true. This makes it the ideal pairing for Jon Creeden and the Flying Hellfish as they are an Ottawa Showbox favourite who are always refreshing, never disappoints and great at anytime of the day, just like Lug Tread. So make sure to be there early enough on Saturday to enjoy this pairing under the hot afternoon sun.
Partner with Farm Table: Hopfenlager
Saturday – 4:30 PM on the Main Stage
The Hopfenlager is taking something common, like a crisp and refreshing lager, and spicing it up with herbal flavours and aromas. Partner have taken rock and given it their own original fun take, while breaking down barriers and also spicing it up with some herbal aromas from time to time (check out their song “Everybody Knows You’re High”). So try a new beer while enjoying a new twist on an old classic.
Julie and the Wrong Guys with Jänis
Saturday – 5:30 PM on the Main Stage
First off a juniper beer named Jänis just has to be paired with Julie given that I’m a sucker for alliterations. Julie is of course Julie Doiron, an award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter from the Maritimes, who along with her band will continue to rock the main stage following Partner. The music will make you bob your head and even hop up and down, possibly like the rabbit on Jänis’s label.
The Planet Smashers with Parliament of Trees
Saturday – 6:45 PM on the Main Stage
Parliament of Trees’ label has a space ship on it and the beer has a hint of campfire in every sip. The Planet Smashers are one of Canada’s greatest and longest standing ska bands around. Their super fun approach to ska will make you want to dance and sing, the perfect activities for around a camp fire with friends.
The Creeps with Sergeant Stripes
Saturday – 7:50 PM on the Black Forest Stage
This export stout is dark as the night and deep in flavour. It promises to keep you warm while the ghastly punk rock stylings of The Creeps give you shivers under the moonlight. This beer and band pairing might just have you howling at the moon as you cap off your Oktoberfest 2017.
For more information on the beers themselves, click here.
We hope everyone attending has a wonderful, safe and responsible time at Beau’s Oktoberfest. And for anyone that doesn’t have a ticket yet, I believe some are still available here.
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.
Let’s rewind to the mid-2000’s, a time when Ottawa was bursting at the seams with garage, rock, and punk bands that would play often and play hard. Rock n’ Roll Pizza Party wasn’t just a party where people would dance, drink, and see new bands—it was a meeting ground and an incubator for the music community.
Luke Martin, OXW co-founder and musician, and Brad M., aka DJ B-Rad, started the weekly pizza party in late 2006 at Babylon Nightclub. Soon after Emmanuel Sayer, OXW co-founder and DJ, also jumped on board in spring 2007.
The party then moved to Bytown Tavern in February of 2008 where it had its longest run until February 2009 and really caught its stride.
“Brad and I started it the last weekend of November 2006,” Martin recalled. “Brad was working at Babylon and they wanted a new Thursday weekly so we jumped on it. I came up with the name and idea of giving away free pizza every week from a band photo shoot that involved slices of pizza. It seemed like a perfect fit.”
Rock n’ Roll Pizza Party stuck to a simple formula: Doors at 9. Bands at 10. PWYC if there were bands, and free if there weren’t any bands. DJs all night, with a lot of guest DJs. Free pizza at midnight or later.
“This happened every single Thursday for years,” Sayer said. “The pizza literally came from 2 for 1. Literally out of our pockets. We didn’t really make any money at this and that tradition continues to this day!”
At one point in 2009, the pizza party was out of a spot and ended up at The Royal Oak for a few weeks.
“The manager went back on our deal to have us there,” Sayer said. “We immediately relocated, but the first week we were gone they hired some dude to play “rock” music CD’s and he was spotted in the empty bar eating pizza.”
Rock n’ Roll Pizza Party was a crucial first chapter in the story of OXW. It was a place where new bands could play, people could meet up and share stories or start bands, and where touring bands could come and play to a room full of energy on a regular basis. Although the party got moved around a lot, and eventually folded in 2010, it was a major chapter of the OXW story.
“I met Ian Manhire (of White Wires and Voicemail) for the first time at Rock n’ Roll Pizza Party,” Sayer said. “Shortly thereafter he released the first few Going Gaga zines then started releasing records and put on the first Gaga Weekend in 2008. RRPP was always the opening night for Gaga Weekend.”
Going Gaga: Gaga Weekend
If Rock n’ Roll Pizza Party was the ongoing heartbeat keeping the community’s blood pumping, Gaga Weekend was the adrenaline jolt making Ottawa’s heart race. The two events coincided like pepperoni and cheese.
Gaga Weekend was the brainchild of Ian Manhire, a devout participant in the garage/punk scene in Ottawa at the time who published a zine series called Going Gaga, and also ran Going Gaga Records. The first edition was held in 2008, and was molded out of some great festivals like Gonerfest (Memphis, TN) and Budget Rock (San Francisco, CA) which focused on inclusivity and everything being done as cheaply as possible.
“There were lots of great bands, lots of great parties, everything was done on the cheap, it was all about good times,” Manhire said via email. “I really liked the idea of a local celebration too. There was the feeling that we had our own world here in Ottawa, and it was (still is) special.”
“There were 3 Gaga Weekends, and a lot of traditions!” Manhire continued. “The opening night was always at the RRPP, usually with three or four bands playing, lots of late night drinking and then lots of free pizza! The Friday show was always a basement party, just a total shitshow in one of the many basements we used to party in. I loved those basement shows—59 Argyle, Cozzie’s place, A&A Speedshop.
Then on Saturday it would be an [all ages] matinee show with like 12 bands at Yogi’s Meatlocker. Fun in the sun! Really relaxed. Great bands inside, people hanging out in the parking lot outside. Then the Saturday night we’d go down to Babylon for a big blowout, usually three or four bands. I’d always get DJs to flip records at all the shows, that was a great part of it too.And then there would be an after party, which I remember 200+ people in Davey’s backyard!”
This yearly get together was yet another hotbed for people in the community to meet new friends, play with new bands, and have a great excuse to party for three or four days straight.
A treasured keepsake of the Gaga era is the Ottawa Gaga Compilation, Vol. 1, of which there were only 330 pressed on vinyl with a zine included. The compilation was recently posted on Bandcamp, and thankfully is still available for all to hear. The concept was to avoid going the standard compilation route and record all the songs live off the floor at the old Capital Rehearsal Studios on Bank Street, now located at City Centre, in order to maintain a cohesive feel.
“The idea was to record a small snapshot of some of the bands in the scene, at the time,” says Jordy Bell, one of the sound engineers of the compilation and member of Crusades,The Creeps, and Cheap Whine.
Ultimately, Gaga Weekend only lasted three years but its impact cannot be understated. Manhire decided it was too much to carry on Gaga Weekend on his own, and at the time he was collaborating a lot with Martin and Sayer on a lot of projects. They sat down and talked about Ian’s departure from Gaga and what it would mean going forward.
“I asked Emmanuel if he wanted to take over and do his own thing,” Manhire said. “He didn’t need my permission, but things like that are basic respect. Plus, our friends all looked forward to that weekend in mid-June when all of our bands would get together. He was doing a great blog at the time called Ottawa Explosion, and he and Luke were on fire booking bands. So I stepped completely out of the game and they started fresh and just rolled with it. And look at it now! The evolution of OXW was natural… and crazy impressive!”
OXW’s first edition took place in June of 2011, featuring over 40 bands from Ottawa and other cities. Each year the festival has grown in scope thanks to key personnel like Azarin Sohrabkhani, who manages the administration, business, and logistical elements of the event. As the Industry Director at the Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF), Sohrabkhani’s experience with festivals and events have provided much-needed expertise to the organization. From nurturing partnerships to co-ordinating volunteers, her collaboration with Martin and Sayer to achieve common goals has proven successful year-in and year-out.
Even more, OXW has become catalyst for inclusivity and representation of minorities in the music scene.
“I’m very proud that OXW is still around and has stayed true to its independent and DIY approach,” Sohrabkhani said. “I love looking around and not being the only PoC at a show, this feels like a big development. I think that has a lot to do with learning from our community and working on fostering inclusive spaces and programming—which is always a work in progress.”
“I’m also stoked that we have a new generation of emerging and young artists, fans, and volunteers at the event. For organizations like ours, growth is only compelling if it comes from engaging with those who will feed the future of arts and culture in this city. I believe we’re doing that and it’s pretty darn exciting.”
OXW continues to be one of Ottawa’s strongest community-based music festivals. Although the story has evolved a lot since the mid-2000’s, the event’s importance as an incubator for new music remains, and will continue to encourage a new generation of musicians and friendships.
Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2017 occurs Wednesday, June 14 – Sunday, June 18. Weekend bracelets available for $80, day passes also available. More info/purchase passes, click here. For full festival schedule, click here. This article appears in the May Edition of Ottawa Beat newsprint in the OSBX column.
Ottawa Explosion Weekend day 2 was the ultimate birthday party for me, amazing bands, super nice people and delicious drinks all night long.
Sedatives starting day 2 at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
The first act of the night was the Sedatives. The local band from yester years absolutely killed it and was anything but sedated. And how could you with the stellar lineup of Ian Manhire (White Wires, Voicemail) on keys and vocals, Steve Adamyk (Steve Adamyk Band) on bass and vocals, Emmanuel Sayer (Crusades, Ottawa Explosion Organizer) on guitar and vocals and Dave Williams (Crusades) on drums. The great early crowd was made up mostly of Ottawa’s old guard and they were all amped. Highlight of the set was when they played “Powerlines” followed “Teenage Runaway,” back to back. This performance was even better than their comeback show at House of Targ in May. They are like a fine wine just getting better with age.
Laika’s Orbit really impressed me at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
Next up was New England’s very awesome Laika’s Orbit. This was the first time I have ever seen a power pop band equipped with a Flying V guitar. It definitely wasn’t ironic either because there were a couple of great shredding moments. Lead vocalist and guitarist, Sean Doopy, commented on the heat at one point and most of us just laughed. We have been waiting for this weather for quite some time now and it was only 27 with very little humidity. I really liked their track “No Matter What It Takes,” which also happens to be the title of their latest record. Every day at Explosion there is that one band you never heard of that really impresses you and on this day it was Laika’s Orbit. I strongly recommend checking them out.
Steve Adamyk Band rocking out at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
I thought I knew exactly what to expect from Steve Adamyk Band, but they proved me wrong. I mean I knew I was in for some great punk rock and good times, which they delivered on. What I didn’t know was a bunch of the new songs they played and that Adamyk was going to mention that there should be a new album in a month. The other thing I know is that Pat Johnson is a great drummer, but having now seen him play in every type of band I wonder…is there any style this man cannot drum? The band nailed all the new stuff but hilariously struggled with “Careless” and “Katacombs” after playing “I Fought for the USA” which drew some heckling from a familiar voice (video here). They recovered nicely and crushed the rest of their set.
Radioactivity getting the crowd going at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
The last band outside for the evening was Radioactivity. You know a band kicks ass when the front row and the pit is full of people from all the other bands. Conceptualized in Japan and built in Texas out of the ashes of Marked Men, Radioactivity play great power pop, garage rock or whatever you want to call this super fun music. They were the first band to get the crowd moving a little more than just head bobbing and it was great. And it is easy to understand why when listening to tracks like “Don’t Try,” “Stripped Away,” and “Pretty Girl.”
The Creeps brought party inside at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
It was now the time of the night where we moved inside into the small dark confines of the back room of SAW Gallery to watch The Creeps. The local three piece were at home in the darkness as they kicked things off with “Ghosts.” Radioactivity’s momentum clearly carried inside as the crowd sang along loudly with fists pumping every chance they could. This hit a pinnacle when the band played their big radio hit “Cancer” followed by “All The Way Home.” Those boys can sure build a set list. In a stranger moment, they dedicated the song “Off My Guard” with a chorus of “How I just feel like dying, I feel like dying, oh oh” to newlyweds who came up from Portland. I am going to assume it is their favourite track or that there is a story there. And in what seems to be the bands routine now, they closed with “Car Crash.”
Nato Coles grabbing a shot mid set without missing a beat at Ottawa Explosion Weekend 2016 at SAW Gallery in Ottawa. Photo: Eric Scharf
Next up was one of the most anticipated for me, Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band from Minneapolis in Wisconsin. Coles was in a playful mood, starting the set by talking about Stomping Tom and how “I’ll play the stomper all night long.” He then followed that up with “We’re going to have fucking fun tonight.” Fun was had indeed, including a moment where Coles left his band members on stage to go have a shot at the bar in the middle of a song. If you have never seen these guys play I urge you to change that as soon as you can. It is such a great rocking time and I am so excited to hear them play some new music, because that leads me to believe there is another record coming and maybe more touring. I loved hearing the anthemic “See Some Lights” live again. And for a twist, the drummer, Mike Cranberry and Coles switched places for the last song. Coles rocked out on the skins and Cranberry showed us his chops on vocals. They are men of many wonders.
The festivities were capped off with Bad Sports, who feature members of Radioactivity. The more mellow kind of 80 punk rock and garage vibe was a nice way to end a very long night of celebrating. There new single “Living with Secrets” off their upcoming 7 track EP was awesome and has a New York Dolls feel to it.
Well Explosion that was one heck of a birthday party! The next three days will have a very hard time topping that one.
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.
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.