Screaming Females, Organ Eyes & The Yips take over Gabba Hey

By Matthew Stella

I had no idea who The Yips were when I walked into Gabba Hey. I’m new to Ottawa, I don’t know the scene. I hadn’t even heard of the venue. But I got there as soon as The Yips took the stage. It looked like one guy was going to play an ipad, so I was pretty much against them right from the start. It didn’t take very long for me to change my mind. The Yips killed it. The ipad lasted only one song—and to be honest I didn’t even notice it once they started—it was put away and replaced by a guitar, the singer put her guitar down and they continued on in what I assumed was their normal arrangement. It may have been the music, or maybe the weed, but I just stood their transfixed at the side of the stage during most of their set. Singer Kerri Carisse has a killer voice and an amazing stage presence. The whole band has a raw energy that is highlighted by their powerful singer. Even though they were the opening band they had no problem commanding the room. They refer to themselves as Ouija rock, which doesn’t make sense until you hear the slight, but not overbearing psychobilly influence. The crowd was totally into it, everyone was rocking out and the singer sounded genuinely surprised by the reaction. I may have stood still thanks to weed induced paralysis but on the inside I was having a revelation.

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After a breather outside (Gabba Hey is way too hot a crowded to stay inside between bands) Organ Eyes came up next. Where The Yips were fast, catchy and full of energy Organ Eyes were a little grittier with a big psychedelic influence. I managed to move to the centre of the stage for their set. The bass player (and co-lead singer) announced that he had cotton mouth after the first song, but any possible dulled senses that he was feeling did not seem to affect their performance. The bassist and guitarist alternated vocal duties. Each singer had a different vibe to their songs, the guitarists being a little more upbeat, and poppier while the bassist spat out repetitive Nirvana-esque verses that set up big noisy choruses. The guitarist’s songs got everyone bouncing around and dancing and it inevitably led to moshing during the louder songs. I stood stoically in the middle of everything as people bounced into and off of me, unconcerned with my immediate surroundings and more excited about the fact that both of these Ottawa bands that I’d never heard of before had totally destroyed.

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Screaming Females, at their best, do all the things that we love and remember about 90s grunge (big riff driven songs, fuzz, noise, three piece bands, Steve Albini, etc.) without necessarily being a throwback. Though they at times sound Seattleish this New Brunswick, NJ, trio is not at homage to the past as much as it is taking things a lot of bands don’t do anymore and going somewhere new with it. They are at times poppier and often faster than their grunge predecessors and guitarist/singer Marissa Paternoster’s ability to seamlessly transition from singing over killer riffs to completely shredding her solos offers a dynamic that wasn’t found in early 90s Seattle or in the New Brunswick punk scene.

The band took to the stage casually with unimposing Paternoster on the left side near the unfinished drywall, illuminated by a small upwards facing desk lamp. Bass player King Mike, who lives up to the name by towering over his singer, took the right side. After an innocuous start Paternoster took control of the stage with towering riffs and solos that often took her into the crowd. On the heavier songs she would turn back toward the drums, but a leg up on the platform behind her and rock out, head down. The set drew heavily from the recent Steve Albini produced album Ugly. Paternoster’s stage banter was aloof and sounded like she may have had cotton mouth as well when she tried to explain that the band was from New Brunswick, New Jersey and not New Brunswick, Canada before attempting to poll the crowd to find out what the Canadian version was like. After ripping through a very quick set, which saw the crowd head banging and fist pumping more then moving around, the band ended the night on an extended furious solo that brought Paternoster into the crowd, on her knees hunched over the guitar as she moved effortlessly around the fret board. The crowd ate it up and the band shut everything down with no encore, which seemed appropriate, as they appeared to have left everything they had on the stage after that final solo.