The idea is excellent. Who wouldn’t want to go to a punk show in a decommissioned Cold War bunker? The Diefenbunker is a place that captures the imagination, and it has a certain amount of mystique. The night of punk rock, zines, and crafts at this historic site had been building anticipation for a few months.
Granted, it’s not easy to get there. The museum knows this, and provided a free shuttle to and from downtown Ottawa. No excuses!
Here’s how the night went down:
Back of the bus
30 minutes is a reasonable distance. I’ve travelled longer for a concert.
It’s a similar distance to the Blacksheep Inn in Wakefield, though the countryside offers different things. Outside the window was a rural-industrial landscape—I was particularly taken with the sign advertising “culverts.” It may not be a covered bridge, but it’s arguably more important to be exposed to the outlying areas of a city, especially if you like tap water and well-maintained infrastructure. (I do.)
There was slight miscommunication with the transportation company, which led to the shuttle attendees waiting an extra half hour for the buses to arrive. Still, everyone was very patient. I am not a punctual person myself, which means I’m not allowed to be annoyed when I have to wait.
Finally, a blue wayfinding sign indicated the Diefenbunker was near. The anticipation builds.
It could be the most unique entrance to a venue in this town.
Strolling down the blast tunnel into nuclear safety, I couldn’t help asking the delighted visitor next to me — “Have you been here before?” It was curiosity, not a pick-up line, and she she was literally bouncing.
“This is my favourite place in the world!” she said, “I’ve been here almost ten times.” Her friends confirmed that she does, in fact, talk about the Diefenbunker frequently.
After turning a sharp corner and greeting the staff, we descended 70 feet underground.
The Blast Tunnel. Photo by Shawn Katuwapitiya.
The cafeteria is the largest room in the Bunker, and the linoleum tiles provide a historic ‘50s feel. The hall is quaint and well-maintained.
That evening, visitors could make their own pins, enjoy beverages and $1 pizza, and contribute to a zine being prepared by Possible Worlds, which is a gallery and workshop space in Chinatown. Someone at my table was gluing a picture of a sea mammal to a page. “I came for the zines,” she said to me. “I’ve been reading them for a while but I’ve never made my own.” I later heard from a musician recovering from a knee injury, who also appreciated the alternate activities, because it meant that he didn’t feel any pressure to stand for the entire evening.
I spent some time flipping through the zine library on display, but I admit – I was there for the music.
The Mess Hall. Photo by Shawn Katuwapitiya.
Built to protect the Bank of Canada’s gold reserves in case of emergency, the vault is a safe pretending to be a room. There is a sense of danger and protection while inside. It is metal and concrete, with nothing to absorb sound. The sound technician was uneasy and explained that minimizing the reverb would be a challenge.
For each performance, the atmosphere was unique and exciting. The setting enabled us to suspend our disbelief, and I was pleasantly surprised that each band had representation by grrl rockers. Turns out, punk pairs surprisingly well with both feminism and nuclear destruction.
Bonnie Doon made quite an entrance in hazmat suits, engaging the audience with tight riffs and tales of the outside world. They are fixtures on the Ottawa music scene, but I’d never seen the group before. Their stage presence and accessible melodies will capture the casual listener, and they invited audience members to spray paint them after the show. Would recommend.
They were followed by DOXX, who were more hardcore and also louder. I could feel the sound tech starting to sweat, but luckily I had earplugs. I’m a person who is often drawn in by lyrics, and while I couldn’t identify many words during this set, I still enjoyed it. Punk has a certain rawness that is especially evident during a live show.
Nightshades were up next, and I enjoyed the first song. However, the idea of making my own crafts was at that point more appealing to me than listening to music, and I stepped out of the vault and sought out the button-making station. It was creative magic.
Nightshades make some noise in The Vault. Photo by Shawn Katuwapitiya.
What is it about the intrigue of the Cold War era that feels like a good fit for the Diefenbunker?
I spoke to a self-identified ‘retired punk rocker’, who provided his opinion on the location. “It’s an iconic and triumphant moment for punk rock. We’ve taken over a government sanctuary.”
I further inquired about the philosophy behind the punk movement. According to him, punk is about “not letting anything you are born into – be it race, wealth, gender, not letting that define you. It’s about finding individualism in a world that is trying to tell you who you are.”
If there’s one style of music that is filling Ottawa’s airwaves more and more over the last few years, it’s soul. Harea Band have been around for quite a while now, and they’re going to be taking over Babylon Nightclub on Friday night to serve up some soulful tracks, including their new single “Must Be a Dream” with support from local heavyweights Slack Bridges and Aspects & Jeff DeValk. DJ Breakthru will keep the party going on the turntables until late.
The new single finds itself at the crossroads of soul, funk, and modern pop music, which is a turn in a different direction for the band. They approach the song with a confidence that is audible from the first measure.
“This track was a bit of a leap for us,” explains Harea. “We flew up Mixerman from Asheville N.C. who’s a multi platinum award winning producer and worked it pretty much from the ground up. We did a lot of writing in the studio so the creative and recording process all kind of happened at the same time. I’m not sure if it’s a new step, but it’s definitely a step forward, and we hope people like the direction we are going.”
Harea Band is using the night at Babylon to do more than just release their new song. Chef Leroy from Detroit Soul Food will be serving up some delicious goodies for patrons, because what goes better with soul music than soul food? His recipes have appeared at a few parties at Babylon in the past, and needless to say—they are always a smash hit.
“We wanted to host an event that offered more than just a show, and we thought Slack Bridges were the perfect guys to team up with,” says Harea. “Garett (Slack Bridges’ bassist) is kind of known for putting on killer events in the region and our sound works well together. When Babylon asked if I’d be interested in hosting and promoting our own after party as well, we decided on making the whole evening as soulful as possible. Chef LeRoy from Detroit Soul Food cooks up some of the best comfort food in town and it just all fell together. Doesn’t get much more soulful than funky live music, fried chicken, and James Brown!”
Slack Bridges, who are renowned among the local music scene for getting the party going with their boisterous stage presence. Both bands will be partaking in Bangers & Mash Soul Festival happening on April 14th at House of Targ and Black Squirrel Books. There will be an after party with DJ Breakthru going late once the live music is finished, appropriately titled “James Brown Night.” The dance party will also double as a fundraiser for Bangers & Mash, which means there will be raffle prizes available from Ottawa Jazz Fest, Beau’s Oktoberfest, Noisy Kitchen Hot Sauce, Yuk Yuk’s, Happy Goat Coffee, Turning Point Records, Compact Music, and Burgers n’ Fries Forever. Attendees can buy raffle tickets for $2 each, or $5 for 3, or $10 for 7.
“We’re gonna dance for sure,” ensures Harea. “All the acts are gonna bring it so we can keep the dance floor hot all night and DJ Breakthru is keeping the party going late with an all-vinyl James Brown night. Fried chicken and waffles plus deep friend cookies will keep everyone fed! It’s really a one stop shop for a good time.”
Tickets are no longer available in advance, but plenty will be available at the door. Check out the video for “Must be a Dream” below.
First published by Sous-Sol 819 with Eventful Capital on February 20, 2018: « 10 bonnes raisons d’intégrer la francophonie au Bluesfest »
Two weeks ago, Ottawa Bluesfest organizers announced the lineup of artists and bands that will play this year’s festival, which is set to take place on LeBreton Flats from July 5-15. Active since 1994, this non-profit, charitable organization overseen by a board of volunteers has managed to become one of the most important outdoor music festivals in Canada, and it ranks as one of the most well-attended musical events in North America. While we appreciate the success it has and the exposure it gives to the City of Ottawa, we have noticed over the years that the festival provides very little space to French as a whole. With this in mind, we want to offer a number of good reasons why the inclusion of French should be considered with respect to the organization itself, the choice of artists and the festival’s mandate.
1. Offer greater showcase opportunities to French-speaking artists
There are thousands of French-speaking artists at the local, national and international level. Our suggestions? Here are just a few. On the local scene: Le R, Yao, Maggie’s March, Mehdi Cayenne, Céleste Lévis, La Bronze, Eliesapie, D-Track & Sam Faye, and Moonfruits.
On the national scene: Klô Pelgag, Ariane Moffatt, LOUD, KNLO, Safia Nolin, Lisa Leblanc, Koriass, Samian, Les Hay Babies, les Soeurs Boulay, and Radio Radio.
On the international scene: Maître Gims, Mathieu Chedid, Grand Corps Malade, Tiken Jah Fakoly, Petit Biscuit, Julien Doré, Indochine, Brigitte, and MC Solaar.
2. Increase website traffic
It is currently impossible to have access to information in French on the festival’s website. While we realize that there are translation costs associated to providing information in both official languages, funding opportunities for non-profit, artistic organizations do exist to help alleviate these costs. For a festival held in the national capital of an officially bilingual country, wouldn’t it be normal to offer services in both languages?
3. Receive increased support from French media to promote the festival
Major local and national media outlets that operate in French are currently unable to obtain interviews in French from the festival. In today’s information age, wouldn’t it be great to make the most of such an opportunity to represent and reach new audiences while expanding the scope of the message?
4. Attract more festival-goers
On top of the 7 million Quebeckers who could be interested in the event, it is important to note that nearly 200,000 francophones (who primarily speak French at home) live in the Ottawa area. Did you know that French-speaking artists have the potential to attract a significant number of people? For example, videos released by hip hop artist LOUD currently have more than 2 million YouTube views and his tracks on Spotify have garnered over 100,000 plays a month. As for Gatineau-based group Uni-T, a glance at their YouTube channel shows that some of their videos have over 150,000 views. There are definitely new, untapped audiences who would be interested in the event if they had the opportunity to see artists they enjoy.
In addition to increasing revenues through sales, the festival could double its financial capacity with the addition of sponsors from both sides of the Ottawa River. And as festival organizers know, when it comes to booking artists, local and emerging talent are always less expensive. Boost the local French community’s sense of belonging French-speaking artists based in the region often tend to feel left out since there is a lack of opportunities to expose them to new audiences. By giving them the same opportunities as local, English-speaking artists, they could also benefit from the festival’s showcase.
7. Boost ties between our two shores
The event could be a great opportunity for our French and English-speaking communities to connect and discover a greater diversity of artistic talent together.
8. Strengthen French culture in Canada
For many years now, Canada’s francophonie has experienced a demographic rejuvenation thanks to the massive arrival of French-speaking newcomers that aspire to see themselves reflected in Canada’s artistic and cultural landscape.
9. Diversify the management team by integrating French-speaking members
Diversifying the board by including members that possess different abilities, worldviews and networks should ensure a decision-making process that takes into consideration the interests and values of all members of the population.
10. Enhance the festival’s reputation within Canada’s artistic community
The City of Ottawa is working on a strategy to promote the music industry and one of its objectives is to make the national capital a music city. Since the festival is held on the same territory where federal political activities occur, there is an opportunity to officially position the festival as one that has Canadian bilingualism at heart. Considering the aforementioned benefits, the festival’s positive impact would improve not only at the financial level, but also by attracting artists and festival-goers coming from French-speaking communities. As a large-scale event run by a non-profit organization with a social mission, we strongly believe that Ottawa Bluesfest should work to respect and foster the linguistic and ethnocultural diversity of our country.
And here, for inspiration, a French music playlist highly recommended!
Foo Fighters, Dave Matthews Band, Beck, Jethro Tull, Courtney Barnett, and more to headline Ottawa Bluesfest 2018
RBC Ottawa Bluesfest has released its initial 2018 lineup, which will hit the stages July 5 – 15, 2018. Many whispers of Dave Grohl and his band of Foo Fighters being added were making their way around town, and the explosive rock band is one of many exciting inclusions in this year’s edition. The Dave Matthews Band, which was confirmed a few weeks back, will also headline the festival and give festival-goers a reason to get excited.
Other notable acts include Jethro Tull, Beck, Zeds Dead, the War on Drugs, Courtney Barnett, BROCKHAMPTON, Chromeo, Colin James, Shaggy, Oh Wonder, Ghostface Killah, Passenger, Machine Gun Kelly, Shawn Mendes, Naughty by Nature, the Strumbellas, Keys N Krates, Grandtheft, Hanson, Benjamin Booker, Noname, Dear Rouge, Kimbra, and more.
Some stellar Ottawa acts were also announced, including Catriona Sturton, Alanna Sterling & The Silvers, Amos The Transparent, Cody Coyote, Graven, Her Harbour, Okies, TAPAS, and many more.
A one-day pre-sale will begin early on February 15 at 10 a.m., with an adult festival pass starting at $209 (+ HST). A full-festival pass will start at $139 (+HST). All tickets will go on public sale February 16 at 10 a.m.
Check out other options and more details on the Bluesfest website. Have a look at the line up (so far) below.
TD Winter Jazz Fest: Feb. 8-10, 2018 La Nouvelle Scène, 333 King Edward Ave.
The TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, which had its initial run in June-July, is set to re-capture summer’s heat (and sweep you off your feet) with a roster of eclectic and steadfast names in jazz. The festival has consistently brought household names to the city since its humble inception as a weekend-long event in Major’s Hill Park, back in 1980. Founded by musicians for musicians, this year’s winter installment makes good on its roots with designated time slots for open jam sessions, bringing together jazz troubadours from near and afar in unlikely musical encounters. If that’s not honouring the spirit of jazz, what is?
More information and tickets can be found at the Winter Jazz Fest website here.
Thursday, February 8th, 9PM –Studio A
“Subtlety “and “grace” are traits that continually crop up in describing Barbra Lica’s take on vocal jazz. Though her restraint is key, she possesses universal humour and infectious wit, tackling love and love lost with the singularity required to sell her heartthrob telltales. Her voice is a marvel in itself, an old friend betraying warmth and wonder, emphasizing authenticity over acrobatics. Her third release to date, 2017’s Juno-nominated I’m Still Learning, has all this in spades. Don’t miss her performance this Thursday, which features an all-star quartet to boot.
Quartetski Does Bartók’s Mikrokosmos
Thursday, February 8th, 6PM – Studio A
These improvisational mad scientists launch the work of contemporary composers into the future, deconstructing and re-imagining the sonic possibilities of timeless compositions—employing “violin synthesizer,” melodica, and turntable, to name but a few notable deviations from the traditional jazz palette— through live experimentation with mood, colour, tone, and more. Sound daunting? Fret not (and excuse the pun). Though this sextet casts you into uncharted waters, they’re just as good at reeling you back in.
Steve Boudreau Trio
Saturday, February 10th, 5PM – Studio B
Steve Boudreau is an Ottawa gem, a jazz pianist and educator that’s more than earned his badge of instrumental virtuosity. He has long functioned as a secret weapon on the sidelines, jumpstarting the careers of young performers at Carleton University, as well as contributing compositions and performance to a number of productions across North America and Europe. With this trio—featuring John Geggie on bass and Michel Delage on drums—Boudreau has come into his own with a slew of original music and captivating tributes to Canadian composers. Ace arrangements, all seasoned players… what’s not to like? Be sure to check out this beacon for local talent.
Thursday, February 8th, 10PM – Studio B
Angeli’s Sardinian guitar is a truly unique instrument, boasting three sets of criss-crossing and parallel strings atop one another, motorized fingers and propellers—which often hammer out a bass or counter-melody to Angeli’s own melodic musings, and a modified bridge and headstock that allows the one-man orchestra to bow cello parts atop the instrument’s traditional acoustic guitar base (horizontal strings, contrarily, function more like a dulcimer). Armed with a looper and a soundscapist’s arsenal of pedals, Angeli jams with himself in real time, exploring exponential musical ideas that defy easy categorization.
Friday, February 9th, 9PM – Studio A
Ever experienced synesthesia? Chet Doxas’ “Rich in Symbols” comes close, fusing the saxophonist’s love and knowledge of visual art with modern, electronic-infused jazz exercises. Inspired by the art movement of New York City’s Lower East Side from 1975-85, Doxas wrote the music for this performance by ear while studying his favorite paintings in various museums throughout New York City. These very paintings will be projected in HD behind Chet and his accompanying quartet as they play, fusing the senses for a symbiotic smorgasbord of sax, vintage synths, and infectious grooves (keep your ears perked for that unmistakable 80’s influence). Expect a show as vibrant as NY graffiti.