Breakdown Wednesday’s Christmas Spectacular: We Were The Fires Of Rome, The Adding Machine, Rydell & Willows
Breakdown Wednesday’s Christmas Edition at Zaphod’s was the most eclectic show I have attended all year. The night saw electro, pop-punk, hip-hop and progressive metal bands grace the stage.
Kicking off this night was Willows, a very interesting band to say the least. Playing only their second show, this electro duo was really impressive. What really stuck out was the vocal range of the singer. No song really sounded the same on his end as he displayed great variety over some pretty captivating beats. Definitely looking forward to seeing and hearing more from these guys, in the mean time I strongly recommend you check out their song “True.”
Rydell live at Zaphod’s in Ottawa, Ontario.
“Come have fun with us, most of these songs aren’t even Rydell songs,” is how Rydell lead-singer opened up their set. He wasn’t kidding as the band opened with “Sex” by The 1975, “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers, and “You’re So Last Summer” by Taking Back Sunday. “It’s like karaoke without the screen and I know the words,” said the singer. Rydell was playing a bunch of covers because they have been writing so much new material and figured it would be fun to play others’ music. It started off okay but then took a little turn down a rocky road as they jumped into Yellowcard’s “Ocean Avenue.” They struggled with the lyrics pretty bad after getting through the first verse and chorus. They did recover, however, by performing possibly the first ever hardcore breakdown during a Yellowcard song… After that they decided to play songs they knew better, like their own, playing a new song off their upcoming album and then “Lost Boys.” They left us with a great image, “We are the drunk uncle that shows up at Christmas and kisses you on the cheek. Merry Christmas!” The bass player also happens to be one of the most animated musicians in town.
Up next was local rap trio The Adding Machine. They were super in-your-face heavy aggressive rap, which is not 100 per cent my preference in the hip-hop world, but it was still an enjoyable set. I must compliment them on how fast they spit it sometimes though, it blew my mind. They also had pretty good energy and really moved around on stage using all the space. What was really interesting was that the vocalist from Willows is part of the group and had I not seen it with my own eyes I wouldn’t have believed it. With Willows he appeared a little shy, awkward and sang some love songs, but with The Adding Machine he sported a completely different personality.
We Were the Fires of Rome slaying it at Zaphod’s in Ottawa, Ontario.
Headlining the show was a band called We Were The Fires of Rome. The local prog-metal group impressed me right away, starting their opening track with violin and some keys – not what you see everyday. We Were The Fires of Rome are a pretty perfect match for fans of Protest the Hero, but what is great is they navigate the genre perfectly avoiding most clichés. They don’t fear or shy away from off beats and integrate pretty technical guitar playing seamlessly. It was super entertaining to watch the singer/screamer bounce back and forth from his mic at the front of the stage to playing the keys and singing at the same time. And when he was tired of the stage, he got down with the fans, leaving the stage to sing during “Dreams.” I am always impressed when a singer can also be the screamer and do it as well as they do and nailing the transition so smoothly. The track “Kissing Knives” is a really solid track, probably my favourite of their set. The band was tight and also put on a very entertaining show – two things that do not always go hand in hand, but are much appreciated as a fan in the crowd.
Medical Practitioners Warned of New Album: Alert The Medic, The Haig & Empty Shelves @ Zaphods
Drove into Ottawa on a whim last night, it’d been almost two weeks since my girlfriend & I had seen The Haig perform. We figured it was time.
Zaphod’s was hosting a Halifax, N.S. band called Alert the Medic on an album release tour. Their third studio album called The Phantom Moves is out five years after their acclaimed second album We, the weapon. These pop rock east coasters have already seen air time on Much Music and on radio shows across Canada, including Sirius XM. To be sure, they were four very energetic Haligonians, each with his own signature vibrating gyration and a mic. Even drummer Dale Wilson was belting out choruses but what was most impressive was frontman’s Ryan MacDonald’s vocal chords. His range covered many scales as he played guitar or keyed, and he moved his head around his microphone with the insistence of an eraser hellbent on removing all pencil marks. All their energy and aesthetically pleasing lyrics were enough to keep us up later than we planned, but once they started talking about social media we started to fade and went home.
I found myself wondering why Alert’s frontman would put himself in danger like that? Playing in any urban neighbourhood with a red hankerchief hanging out your back pocket is risky business, as some rival gang members might take offence to your strut. After seeing the running streams of perspiration off MacDonald I realized its purpose was two-fold, but I still feel the danger outweighed the use.
A few songs by The Haig had us giggling and singing in our drinks, although none as much as their hit “Chinese Maria.” By that song our beers & Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters were done, and we were shouting along with lead guitarist Dean Morris. They played new songs like “Under a 40-Watt Bulb” & “Turnbull Suit” which are heavier than rock, bordering on metal. Some of their tunes tie back to their love of video games and sound like the level you’d reach past Star Road or the Special Star Road in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. We all love “Happy” but I think the new video game orchestration of excellence might be “McFly.” The Ottawa foursome is going to start recording their next album on July 18th at their homebase, which I hope is fuller than an EP (for our sakes) and leaner than a concept album (for theirs).
Dean Morris & Chris Davidson of The Haig shredding through a song or two at Zaphod’s on Wednesday, June 4.
Empty Shelves are a recent addition to Ottawa’s indie rock. Their songs “I Wouldn’t Impose” & “Where Are You” reminded me of STARS. Their indie-alternative sound is largely instrumental and their songs sound full. At times their lead guitarist & keys player Jeff Kimber had a voice so high & sweet that I thought it was vocalist Susan File’s. Half-way into the set he announced, “The next song is called ‘Where are you’ or ‘Where you are,’ depending on whether you’re an anglo or a franco.” And someone in the crowd shouted: “Where you are, esti!“
Dialoog’s New Stomping Grounds, October’s Wednesdays @ Café Nostalgica
Students and patrons of the arts should not miss what’s going down at Café Nostalgica every Wednesday this month. That’s tomorrow! Arguably the best music schools in North America, Juilliard & Berklee, have sent us a gift. With local label Pop Drone as benefactor, Dutch artists Michael Powell & Yuri Bakker are the new unofficial artists-in-residency of Ottawa U. They going to devote their time here to the diffusion & creation of an electronic sound, a mash-up of dozens of genres, and we are lucky enough to get to watch. Are they here to set up a dialoog? Oho, yes indeed.
The two-man team played their first double set last Wednesday, with Yuri on keyboard & Michael on drums. It was a traditional arrangement, the only sound I couldn’t place was coming from a spiral trash that kept hitting the floor. The sound silenced the patrons and shooed away the third-years who were wondering why the country music on the intercom ended. I think the café is still looking for its new identity because what felt like a school cafeteria suddenly became a lounge.
Its doors reopened after almost two years, the Nostalg we once knew is gone. The uneven floors and old radiators where you’d place your mitts in the winter have been replaced by the three-storied headquarters of the GSAÉD. This has always been the base for Ottawa U’s grad association but now the facelift will actually inspire nostalgia in grads. Where once stood a public house with grime & charm now stands a postmodern block building. Perhaps those who will venture back to their old stomping grounds for the fall open house next week will see it and gasp, but if they’re there on a Wednesday they’ll witness the place’s potential.
In the past, artists-in-residency were young internationals offered a chance to explore new artistic communities and hone their craft in any level of privacy. Dialoog have opted for becoming a part of this community and exploring music on stage. As Michael described it for me: “The idea of Dialoog has always been to incorporate all musical styles we enjoy into one show. I quite like the idea of taking the rhythms, sounds and the “force” of electronic music (be it hip hop, dub step, or anything else) and mixing it with the improvised tradition of jazz music.”
I was expecting to hear something similar to “That’s Confusing” (my favourite of their online tracks) but I’ve since learned that live shows with Dialoog are much jazzier in creative improvisation. I’ve been assured no two shows this October will be the same. Alex Millaire of local band Moonfruits will be tweaking the stage throughout the month, as he did between the sets. It will be worth it to see the evolution of the venue, just as it is to see the change from the first set to the second.
It was not in any way definable. A medley of musical styles thrown into a melting pot. My favourite live track was “Anything Else” from the end of Yuri’s Eusebius EP. There was enough drum & bass for soundman Alex to start dancing on the spot. His legs pumped with enthusiasm we all showed in nods. I heard the music described as yummy in English and lekker in Dutch. Both men stood for the second set and hunched over instruments that I won’t even see in dream. Odd and fanciful sounds came out of there, at one point I thought there was a swarm of cicadas in the room. It was a mad scene.
In recent months, Yuri released two EPs named Florestan (“Track 1b” is killer) & Eusebius with Michael’s help mixing and they plan to create an LP in 2014 with Pop Drone. There is still so much of their music to hear live! They’ll be playing all over Ontario throughout the month, as you can see on their schedule. From the 2nd to the 30th of October they will end their shows with an open jam that anyone can join. Many instruments will be made available to anyone who wants to leave some resonance in the new walls of Nostalg. There’s something to be said for independent music and those ready to unleash their creation on a ready city.
Battle for the Wednesday patron: The Laff and Mugshots
I have noticed that Wednesday has quickly become one of the busiest nights in the Ottawa music scene, from weekly staples to touring shows. I thought it would be fun to try to hit up over the next few weeks, every regular event Wednesday has to offer this town.
This week I popped into the Lafayette for a few pints and to see John Carroll. A regular since 2004, he plays two FREE sets weekly, 8pm and 10pm, at the city’s oldest tavern. John is always a treat; he has a great voice and is an amazing slide guitarist. The folk and blues fuse so well as the quarts are handed out all evening by bartender Lenny. People can also enjoy a good game chess or even the Guinness Book of Records of years past.
On this particular Wednesday the crowd was treated to more than just John Carroll’s great tunes and funny banter, but to some wonderful harmonica playing thanks to Catriona Sturton joining him. They played originals as well as some great covers of old Mississippi blues classics. You would be hard-pressed to find a better backdrop to a pint in this city on hump day.
Afterwards, I headed over to Mugshots for some open mic night fun at the jail. The eery and poorly lit jail hostel bar is perfect for locals to try out or hone their craft. The event is hosted weekly by local musician Claude Munson of Claude Munson and the Storm Outside. Claude usually starts the night off by playing a few songs to break the ice and then has the patrons pass the sign-up list from the bar to the stage. On this night Claude and a portion of the band opened the night as a warm-up for their upcoming tour.
One of the wonderful things about this open mic is that you never know what you will hear instrument wise. From solo violin players to banjos, from no instrument spoken word to the ukulele, heck once a guy brought in a laptop to sing over his homemade beats.
Plenty of established Ottawa acts, such as Mehdi Hamdad, Brad Morden, Her Harbour for example, stop in for a few songs. People play a lot more original material than covers, doing a great job I may add, and you never know if someone will be possessed by ghost of the jails gloomy past. Another bonus of Mugshots is that it is located in an international hostel so you can share a drink and a story with travelers from across the world.
So where am I to go next Wednesdays? What are some of your favourite weekly music staples?