As the Ottawa winter begins to slowly fade away, spring is trying its hardest to break through the permafrost and show signs of warmth, life, and colour. In our city that also means something else – festival season is approaching. The Doldrums Music Festival celebrates the onset of the spring season with great local music, rejuvenating the weary souls of our city after the long cold. This weekend (March 27 & 28) marks the fourth year of Doldrums Festival and just as a tulip’s bulb slow doesit has grown into something special.
The Doldrums Music Festival was founded in 2011 by Lucas MacKenzie, a member of the formerly Ottawa-based band New Teeth. Winter can be pretty drab in Ottawa by February, and MacKenzie felt that there was a distinct lack of music scene festivities during the winter. Why should people resort to clinging onto their couch in front of a space heater in the dead of winter? Why not give them a reason to go out, get together, and brave the weather for the sake of great local music?
Although MacKenzie now lives in Toronto, the festival continues under new management. This year’s organizers Peter Zachar, Andrew Grosvenor (both in Those Gulls/Decathelete), and Gavin Dyke (Black Dogs) are all in bands, which offers them the same perspective that MacKenzie had on running the small festival. Not only that, but Zachar and Grosvenor also run Ringbill Records and have their own studio which they call “The Nest”. Zachar explains:
As musicians, we’ve approached Doldrums with an eye on what we love about it, and how we can expand on those aspects. Part of that has been increasing its visibility through local sponsorships and collaborations, and part of it was making it a more compact and streamlined event.
The Doldrums Music Festival is essentially two nights of music hosted at separate venues, and each offering a different musical “theme.” This makes the festival more accessible to a wider base of music fans, perhaps even drawing some to experience bands live that they might not have seen otherwise.
Friday, March 27, takes place at Pressed on Gladstone and is more of a folk/blues-rock bill. The lineup is impressive, featuring local heavyweights Winchester Warm, Tindervox, Black Dogs, and Riishi Von Rex. We sometimes forget that event organizers are music fans too, and Zachar made it clear that they were more than happy with how this year’s festival came together. “Honestly, the lineup for this year’s festival came from us getting in contact with some of our favourite bands in Ottawa (emphasis on some, we love a lot of music), and them saying yes,” he said.
Saturday, March 28, will take place at Club SAW and feature a very eccentric collection of local bands. The lineup pushes genre boundaries and includes the varied talents of Big Dick, Ornaments, Pith and the Parenchymas, and Dreamphone. From post-punk to experimental psych-rock, this bill is packed with some of our favourite bands in town. If you are someone who is willing to test new waters and go into something with an open mind, Saturday’s event at SAW will provide you with a grouping of the weird and the wild, and is sure to have patrons leaving with their jaws hanging.
When I asked Zachar about the challenge of competing with other festivals in a near-saturated market, he offered a very interesting perspective.
Thinking about it in terms of “competition” is the wrong way to go. We recently had the Megaphono festival, and a large part of that was equipping artists with the right philosophies to succeed, which I think is very important. The new vision for Doldrums is to provide tangible benefits directly to the artists. For example, this year we started a collaboration with the local blog Sometimes Always, wherein we produced short interviews with the bands playing the festival. These of course helped us raise the profile of Doldrums, but more importantly they provide something that the bands can take with them, add to their media kits, and benefit from longer-term. It’s a first step, and moving forward we’re eager to grow this aspect of the festival in collaboration with Sometimes Always and other partners.
If there’s something to be said about the Ottawa music community, it’s that this fraternal mentality of succeeding through collaboration is very pervasive. Zachar recognizes the benefits of locally-run festivals for small time bands, but also the importance of those bands in creating a strong creative community by which more of these grassroots events can happen. Who knows? Maybe even more people will come out and discover more of the incredible music this city’s artists are producing.
Below are some videos made with Ottawa music blog Sometimes Always, Pierce McKennirey conducts some great interviews with bands involved. Be sure to have a look!
Ottawa band Those Gulls are set to release their new album Forevermore on Ringbell Records December 18th. The band has been around for quite a while, as founding members Andrew Grosvenor and Peter Zachar began writing as a duo in 2007. Now that the band has grown in both size and sound, the five-piece is ready to launch the new record and demonstrate the evolution of their sound.
The album is captivating, and has highs and lows as one listens. There is no one “sound” on Forevermore – it is very much a blend of various influences and styles. For example, the album begins and ends with epic songs “In Between” and “After The Storm,” respectively. The reverb-laden instrumentals are grandiose, and allow the album to come full-circle upon listening. However, a strong point about this album is that the band wasn’t afraid to break free of the genre prison that many bands trap themselves in. Those Gulls clearly drew upon a variety of musical influences, and experimented with various sounds and arrangements. It also serves them well to have alternating male/female vocals shared between Grosvenor and Kate Schroder, as it allows for a back-and-forth dynamic to occur that keeps the listener engaged throughout. While the variations mentioned serve to strengthen the album overall, there are moments where it feels disjointed and slightly forced. Sometimes it can feel like a band tries too hard to cover all the soundscapes they want, which is why a lot of times certain songs get cut out of the final product.
While I wouldn’t go so far as to say Those Gulls overextended themselves with the sound, certain tracks such as “Tiger” and “Cliffside” seemed out of place. However, after a few listens and appreciating the intricate and delicate nature of the song “Tiger” in particular, I almost ended up thinking of them as an intermission on the album. While minimalism doesn’t always contrast well with boisterousness on the rest of a record, in this case I thought it ended up working well.
The album isn’t all dance, nor is it all rock or pop. Fans of The Naked and Famous or Joy Formidable will feel at home with Forevermore. What it lacks in consistency, it makes up for in audacity and intriguing composition. Anyone who is heading to their album release party at House of TARG on Thursday, December 18 will be in for a pretty wild night. It’s the kind of album that would definitely translate into a high-energy, sweaty live set. Have a listen to the album stream below, and purchase the digital or physical copy through Bandcamp.
I love the Heartbreakers EP by former Ottawa band, Brights. Though short in length, it packs in a ton of great melodies that brought me back to many of the bands that first got me into music.
In particular, the tracks “Home” and “Five Year Plan” really stuck out to me. Every time I heard Home,” I could picture a crowd of friends, family and fans gathering around the band to sing along in those memorable “Whoa-oh-oh’s!” that dominate the chorus and outro. It was feel-good music with lyrics that resonated with me. To be honest, the lyrics hold true today, for anybody searching for a bit more meaning in their mid-20s and beyond.
“Five Year Plan” also hit home with a super-catchy, singalong chorus. It touched on the issues faced by those commencing adulthood, and to me, sounded like it focused on the responsibilities and challenges associated with “growing up.” After a beautiful guitar solo, gang vocals round out the song at the 3:25 mark.
The three other tracks (“Operate Me,” We Are Getting Restless,” and “Heartbreakers“) were also strong pop-punk songs that hit an emotional note with honest lyrics and catchy guitar hooks.
From what I understand, members of this band are still playing and writing in bands such as The Gallop, Stay Classy, Sound of Lions and more. If I’m lucky, maybe we’ll see a 10-year Brights reunion show in 2018 (fingers crossed!). Whenever I want to have a nostalgia trip, I throw on Heartbreakers. Solid, all-around!
For the second night in a row I was spoiled with an all-local bill, this time thanks to Doldrums at Cafe Dekcuf. The Keturah Johnson, Those Gulls, The Ticket, Cold Capital and Big Moan delivered a great night.
Eric Scharf & Matías Muñoz hanging with ORL organizer Samantha Everts and Luca Fiore (Photo: Ming Wu)
The fifth edition of the Ottawa Rock Lottery, which was held at Maverick’s, blew me away. You are probably wondering what is a rock lottery? Well you take 25 members from local bands, pull their names out of a hat to form 5 bands. Then give them 24 hours to come up with 20-30 minutes of original music. And for an added twist, you assign each band a special instrument that they must integrate into their set. If all of that does not sound fun enough, consider that all proceeds of the event go the the Ottawa Foodbank and there were free draws between sets with a lot of merch from sponsors and bands.
The event’s special guest host was CBC Radio 1’s Amanda Putz. Amanda hosts the show Bandwith, which focuses on Ontario music. In her opening remarks she declared that not only does Ottawa have one of the best music scenes in the province (eat your heart out Montreal and Toronto), but “one of the greatest scenes in the country.”
First up was But I Don’t Want to be a Pirate. The band was comprised of Arturo Portocarrero (Miss Polygamy), Cody Allen (Cody Allen), James Rooke (Modern Era Pirate), Mike Libbos (The Goodluck Assembly) and Rory Lewis (Kalle Mattson). They were tasked with the coolest random instrument of the night, a keytar. Man can Rory rely shred on his guitar and he even did a solo on the keytar. They set the bar very high. And Ottawa is very lucky, as Jame Rooke won a three song EP recording from Audio Valley Recording Studio and announced he will use it to record with But I Don’t Want to be a Pirate.
The second band of the evening was Sextadeth. The band said the name was in honor of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who they assume will be sexted to death now that he is back on Earth. Fitting that the band that ended up with two drummers, also got assigned the spoons, and had an epic percussion finale. Sextadeth was, David Wisjman (Fire & Neon), Max Savage (StillNative), Peter Zachar (Those Gulls), Reverend Doctor D (The Pelts) and Riishi Von Rex (Riishi Von Rex). They played a really fun set, but unfortunately David announced at the end that “due to creative differences we are breaking up.” the crowd got a good kick out of that.
Black Usher was up third. They were two Keys, two MCs and a Macbook. The keys were Patrick Steele (StillNative) and Sarah Bradley (Fevers), the MCs were Atherton (Atherton) and HYF the GypsySun (Missing LinX) and the man on the Macbook was Jordan David (The Love Machine). Their set was awesome! The dynamics of the five members singing or spitting rhymes throughout their performance was very good. And the energy…oh lord the energy. They finished with the incredible “Weird, Odd, Strange” that could very well have been the song of the night. And it was fun to watch both MCs play on pots and pans with wooden spoons.
Fourth to the stage was Slow Dance Chubbies. As per their name, they slowed it down a little bit. Their set was full of guitar solos, incredible trumpet play and funny lyrics. The crowd got into their set singing along with the band. Slow Dance Chubbies was Connor (sorry no last name provided), Erik Hertzberg (Cold Capital), Gregg Clark (Pony Girl), Jake Ting (Zoo Legacy) and Shawn Desjardins. What happens when one band gets two drummers, another band gets none. But that did not stop Slow Dance Chubbies. Jake Ting, who had never played drums live before, took on the task and did a great job.
Closing the show was Nicolas Cage in Con Air. The band was made up of Craig Barlow (Loon Choir), Dave Nado (The Wicked Mercy), Jon Schofield (The Yips) Just Jamaal (Missing LinX) and Kalle Mattson (Kalle Mattson). All of their songs were named after Nic Cage movies, they opened with Ghost Rider Two, followed with Ghost Rider One, which led to Raising Arizona and concluded with Face Off. Nic Cage was an amazing combination of rap and slam poetry over rock. Their special instrument was the whistle, which they integrated into more than one song, the only band to do so. While the band tuned, Just Jamaal used his instrument, his vox, to keep the crowd entertained with some freestyling.
I think Amanda Putz said it best when speaking of the evening. “The talent tonight blew me away.” I overheard many people in the crowd saying “I figured this would be a train wreck, but this is awesome.” And I must agree, it was a great night. If you did not go this year, or are an artist and did not participate, I strongly encourage you to do so next year.
Every song from the show should be available by May 25, thanks to Audio Valley Recording Studio. Keep checking back at Ottawa Rock Lottery website for it.