“Everyone was so posi[tive] tonight,” was how the guy beside me on the stairs outside Luneta summarized the show. “It was weird,” was his analysis.
For about half of what a pint costs in the city of Ottawa (seriously Ottawa, what’s the deal?) five bands, including headlines Prevenge, played on the second night of Finish What You Started Fest. Beginning with an afternoon backyard BBQ/Acoustic show under the sun at Robot House the fest changed venues to Luneta where Prevenge, Dead Weights, Dirty Kills, Robots!Everywhere!! and Benevenstanciano got the party going for local punks, random passersby and anyone who wanted to stare into Luneta’s huge front window from the adjacent McDonald’s parking lot.
The first thing you noticed before entering Café Luneta was a chalkboard sign beside the front steps that read, “no hanging out beyond this point.” Since there was no band playing when I arrived the area was crowded with people, on both sides of the supposed demarcation line. There were even a few people reading the sign and debating exactly what constituted hanging out. The crowd would gather out here after every band to cool off, smoke, chat without music in the background, or in my case takes swigs of whiskey from a flask (see comment about beer prices above). Inside, the restaurant was fairly crowded (the tables cleared out of the way of course) for the entirety of the show. The first act, Ottawa’s own, and surely a top 5 entry in the future Buzzfeed list of The Best 17 Bands Named After Obscure Simpsons References, Benevenstanciano. The crowd seemed a bit timid, or more likely tired from the earlier acoustic show, but the pop-punkers got heads nodding and people moving after a few songs. Also one of their guitarists plays one of those guitars where you put the strings in the opposite way and doesn’t have a head. I thought that was neat.
Next up was Ottawa legend? Institution? Robots!Everywhere!! If you haven’t seen Robots!Everywhere!! yet then you need to get new friends, because decent friends would know about, and tell you about this one man musical high-five. (Full disclosure: I used to be in a band with Phil, the genius behind this project.) Phil took to the stage wearing a black bandana around his head, which made him look like a 1980s Bruce Springsteen if Bruce Springsteen had actually been unemployed throughout the 80s, lived in his parents’ basement and did nothing but eat Doritos and play Calico Vision.
Boldly, Robots!’s set include six songs which were written in the past week for, and about, some of the acts playing at FWYSF. Naturally he had some difficulty recalling the correct words, chords and keys for these songs, fortunately sloppiness is part of Robots!Everywhere!!’s charm. The next three songs he took by request. After dismissing calls for Third Eye Blind and Fastball cover he got the crowd signing along with some of his hits and ended with a medley of sorts which included the theme song he wrote for Ottawa Explosion. Playing the theme for a different festival at a festival show may have been the most punk rock move of anyone on the bill.
Next up was a slightly crusty pop-punk (or what they would call slop-punk) band from Hamilton, by way of Halifax, called Dirty Kills. They played super-melodic, catchy songs with killer bass lines that the crowd was digging, but they also spent a lot of time apologizing for harmonizing off key, which even if it was true, didn’t seem to be a problem with the crowd. The singer also mentioned being a little tired from getting drunk at the afternoon BBQ show, that, I think the crowd could relate to more. They were a really loveable band, their banter was abnormally polite (maybe it’s an east coast thing) and the three members even shared a single glass of water in between their songs as if they didn’t realize they could ask for three separate ones, I found this particularly charming. Anyone who picked up the tape that they were selling to help fund their tour of America, will surely be singing along the next time they roll through town.
Dead Weights announced that their set was brought to us by a lucrative sponsorship deal with Prevenge Inc. They later confessed to being one of twenty bands worldwide that simply play songs written by Prevenge and licensed by these subsidiaries. All jokes aside, there is clearly a similarity between both bands but Dead Weights aren’t simply Ottawa’s Prevenge. Powered by their backing vocals (the lead singer of Benevenstanciano doubles as Dead Weight’s guitarist) and more than a few members of the crowd, Dead Weights growled out fist-pumping singalong choruses that, from what could decipher, were about cops, having no money, and the military. They maybe have been the only band on the bill to have overtly political songs, but it’s hard to tell, you can never really understand the lyrics at shows unless you know them in advance.
Though Dead Weights got people into it a little more I could still hear people commenting on how tired they were from the afternoon (you gotta take a nap before the show people!) but all of that changed when the CEO of Prevenge Inc. took to the stage to commence the annual “shareholders meeting.” Prevenge have played past FWYSF shows and are billed as Montreal-faves for good reason. They are one of those bands where if you don’t know the words to the songs, you’ll pretend that you do and then go home and listen to all of the songs you can find so that you won’t have to fake it next time (wait, that’s just me? Very well…).
They started with a slow one, which didn’t really jazz up the crowd. But by the time they played crowd pleaser “Buried Alive“ off of 2011’s 7” split with Dig it Up the crowd had busted through its sun-induced malaise and everyone joined in on the chorus as the band’s two singers traded lines and the crowd shouted the response “bury us alive.” After this song the pit became pretty rowdy, arms were raised, fists were pumped, people were crowd surfed willingly or not and beer sprayed around the room. In light of the lack of a stage at Luneta the crowd managed to do a good job of regulating its own pit to make sure nobody crashed into the band. Nobody seemed to mind the flying beer except for perhaps security.
Even the band couldn’t escape the flying beer. At one point I saw the lead singer of Benevenstanciano fling beer directly into the bass players face as he approached the mic to sing. It was one of the funniest things I’d seen and all in good fun the singer assured me after the show. Also, shout out to the bass player for wearing a J Church shirt! When the band closed their set with “doublecheeseburgercokenoice“ there were groups of fans crowded arm in arm around each mic belting out “we party with the lights down low!” during the chorus.
The band capped off its encore with a cover of Minor Threat’s self-titled song. Here the bass player passed along his bass and joined the crowd to push his way through and stick the mic in the face of anyone who wanted to sing. After the set the good times continued on the beer-soaked floor as half of the crowd engaged in a massive group hug that swayed around as people continued to yell “we party with the lights down low.” Day two of Finish What You Started Fest came to a sweaty beer-soaked close and the positive vibes were painted on the faces of everyone in attendance which, if you are used to going to a show, listening to the music, ignoring everyone you don’t know and then going home, would certainly come off as “weird.”