Saturday’s Arboretum Arts Festival: Curiouser & Curiouser


If you missed the Arboretum Arts Festival this year, lemme say you missed some good times. But hey, it’ll be back next year and I highly suggest you attend. If you missed half of this year’s lineup (including Her Harbour, Snowblink, Michael Feuerstack, Fet.Nat, Sea Oleena, Winchester Warm, Big Dick, COUSINS, Sarah Neufeld, Neil Haverty, Brandon Allan & The Bad Decisions, Claude Munson & the Storm Outside, on Saturday alone…) and the Chef Sessions (featuring local restaurants’ chefs and their magic) and the workshops, all this, all because you had to cut an immense lawn that could have waited, you’re an ass and poor at time management. But enough about me, I’ll summarize what I did get to see and enjoy around the Arts Court this year.

arboretum arts festival, ottawa, 2013, music, entertainment
The 2nd annual Arboretum Arts Festival took place in Ottawa August 16 & 17, 2013

After dinner time, in the SAW Courtyard, Alex “The Alligator” Lukashevsky had a guitar and beside him stood Daniela Geshundheit & Felicity Williams of Snowblink. This trio is the perfect example of the sum of the parts being more than the whole. There was one visible instrument in the Alligator’s hands but it sounded like an orchestra coming out of their windpipes. It was full of animals cries and bird calls, as though the cardboard cut-outs on the fence were coming alive. Listen to their latest album Prints of Darkness. They played “Prince of Darkness” with timeliness and the Alligator called it: “Thank you Sun for setting at the perfect time!”

H. de Heutz is a two-man electronic set that started just after DIANA wound down in Waller Park. I didn’t get to hear much of this Toronto-spawned band but Matías was losing his mind over them. Slowly back away from that nuttiness.

Yeah, H. de Heutz. Their great track “Tomorrow It Should Be Fine” is all they have online but I know for a fact that they have another good one called “Receivers” too. It’s cacophony, the good kind, self-described as “stark, urgent music.” That live sound was the kind that makes you tremble, not knowing how to move but knowing that you must. The Courtyard stage was used differently by all who played there but Olivier from Hull and Nathan from Ottawa owned it. Facing each other, Nathan had his back to the crowd and didn’t turn even when he spoke to the crowd. It was a little surreal, reminiscent of Jim Morisson’s first concerts. Yes, because I remember those, when I was just a boy… All to say, the strange sampling and one-armed drumming was only slightly diminished by the low volume on the mics. Or was it meant to be?

Hustling over to Owen Pallett, I thought of how curious the night could get. It’s a cool event, central to our arts scene and the successful snapshot of Ottawa that the organizers were trying to take. With our artistic and gastronomical hats on, we reclaimed some lawn and drowned out the 18-wheelers and buses. But when were they going to hand out the magic acorns to really get this tree garden going?

Owen Pallett
Owen Pallett performing in Waller Park at Arboretum Arts Festival on Saturday, August 17, 2013 ~ Photo by Matías Muñoz

Owen Pallett—the sound check in itself was a set. Is that actually a violin he’s using or is it a ukelele? No, it’s either a washbasin bass or a 56k modem. In all likelihood it’s a Decepticon. Yeah, it would perfectly compliment his lyrics: “Pick up the bayonet and run it through, run it through the stomach of your brother.” He makes his beautiful sound seem very easy, wearing only socks to tap pedals, but at the beginning of a song he looped a metallic din, slapped a lever, and cried: “Oh my God, that is so hard!” Human after all, although he makes supernatural music. He ended his set by starting a new song and stopping abruptly to insist they finish with a hit.

Before Holy Fuck could begin I tried to catch the end of Grime Kings but found New Swears setting up. Both bands were set to start exactly the same time but New Swears started late and finished early. Fucking punks! It was a wicked show, despite its short length. In the midst of the garage punk I could have sworn I saw Matt the cow-belling bartender from Luneta Café & Bistro yank off a band member’s belt and pull down his pants without him flinching. A mad scene made madder by their own live projection art of antique consumer ads, crab & chickens, dubious-looking human appendages and geometric shapes that swirled into themselves. There were also smaller televisions flashing terrifying images between “NEW” and “SWEARS.” I wouldn’t recommend anyone on psychedelics or with epilepsy to witness this mosh-inducing band play live.

New Swears
Ottawa’s New Swears playing in SAW Courtyard at Arboretum Arts Festival on Saturday, August 17, 2013 ~ Photo by Matías Muñoz

What I did see of Holy Fuck was a little monotonous at first, perhaps in contrast to the insanity in the Courtyard, but it made a whole lot more sense when I looked up to see the live projection art by Phil Osborne. Another swirling mass of wolf-bird sketches over a swirling mass of people who threw their loved ones on their shoulders and paraded them around, or just beat the earth with a rising crescendo of energy that was only the first finale of the night. St. Alban’s Church opened its doors and swallowed us up for Doldrums’s crazed dance experience until we could dance no more.

Fun as hell.

If I was a cat, I’d be dead. Murdered in cold blood by Curiousity. But I’m not, so all it can do to me is keep me up at night. I can see some trees from the forest but I want to see more, to taste it all, to have extra ears…