Ottawa Showbox’s Favourite Shows of 2013

2013 was quite an amazing year for shows in Ottawa and for Ottawa Showbox.  Check out some of our favourite live experiences from the past 12 months.  They are in no particular order, but they were all awesome. With this many amazing shows over the year, 2014 has its work cut out for it, and we will be there to cover it.

Fucked Up @ Ritual Nightclub (Jan. 12)

fucked up, ottawa, ritual

This was by far the most mental night of the year for me, and it is still burned in my brain from last January. Damian Abraham and co. played some of their greatest songs from Polaris-winning Chemistry of Common Life and widely-loved David Comes to Life, as well as a few oldies too. I also got to meet Damian Abraham and get one of his famously great sweaty man hugs. – Matias

Shad, We Are the City and Zoo Legacy @ Ritual Night Club

Shad, Ottawa, ritual nightclub

The list may not show it, but I am a pretty big hip-hop fan and one of my favourites for the past few years has been Canada’s own, Shad. Before this show I got the chance to sit down and interview Shad for half an hour, you can read that here.  The show itself was absolutely fantastic and from local openers Zoo Legacy to Shad mixing in tracks new and old. – Eric

METZ @ Babylon (Apr. 10)

Metz, ottawa, babylon

The frenetic tendencies of METZ, who are based out of Toronto but have roots in Ottawa, were in full force at Babylon that night. Singer/guitarist Alex Edkins completely let loose on stage, as he flailed wildly and sweat buckets while simultaneously destroying our eardrums. The best was when bassist Chris Slorach told some guy at the front to “get the fuck off my gear, man”… I guess monitors don’t make good seats. Who the hell sits on a monitor, anyway? – Matias

Pony Girl @ Le Petite Mort Gallery (Sept. 28)

Pony Girl, ottawa, petit mort gallery, pop drone

Pony Girl’s Show Me Your Fears album release at La Petite Mort was packed to the rafters, with everyone swaying greedily to new sound. Discovering the DIY artist collective & their collaborating bands was a high point for my exploration into the city’s music scene. New music, new friends, new venue — the only thing missing was New Swears. – Joe

Ottawa Explosion, Day 3 – Fresh Snow + The Yips @ St. Alban’s Church (June 21)

Fresh Snow, The Yips, Ottawa Explosion
Fresh Snow @ St. Alban’s for Ottawa Explosion

The greatness of Fresh Snow and The Yips’s music speaks for itself, which is a lot of the reason why this bill was jam packed with potential for being one of the best shows of the year in Ottawa. Not only did we get the music, but memories and images stuck in our brains. Memories of The Yips with blood everywhere (fake… I think) and stuffed animals, weird lighting, local photographer Ming Wu crowd surfing by way of the boys in New Swears, Fresh Snow wearing red balaclavas that were somewhat frightening… a lot of action for one of the oldest little churches in town. – Matias

558 Scum’s Final House Show Was A Rager

brutal youth

One of two Ottawa punk rock house party venues that closed this year, the other being Fun Boy Club House. The bands playing it were are amped to send it off, After The Fall, Brutal Youth, Pink Flamingos,Walk the Plank and Jon Creeden (who played between bands at various locations in the house.) There was some really fun times moshing to Brutal Youth and singing with Jon Creeden in the kitchen. Also out of the blue, when everyone thought they had heard the final song ever played at Scum House, Royal Red Brigade, from Regina showed up out of the blue and played past curfew.  The cops showed up and didn’t shut down the show, so it was just epic enough. – Eric

The Acorn + Roberta Bondar & Kitchen Party @ Black Sheep Inn (Jan. 25)

Roberta Bondar, the acorn, ottawa, black sheep inn,
Roberta Bondar

We love local lineups, and this one had it all. The ambiance and emotion that radiated from Roberta Bondar and The Acorn’s reunion after a year off made this packed house go off. The blending of scenes, the smoke machines and Christmas lights, people getting together at one of Canada’s best venues….It was a night that still remains memorable, even a year on. – Matias

DIANA, Silkken Laumann and Black Usher @ Mavericks oct 12

DIANA band, ottawa, mavericks,
Diana playing at Maverick’s.

“Diana is up next, and they are about to rock our collective vagina!” is how Rolf Klausener. introduced the crowd to DIANA. What an amazingly dancy night which had the audience flashing back to 80’s New Wave and Dance music.  It was also one of the first appearance of Black Usher after their forming at Ottawa Rock Lottery. – Eric

New Swears @ Arboretum Festival (Aug.17)

New swears, ottawa, punk, arboretum

Arboretum as a whole was simply incredible. In just two years, the programming and lineup have been beyond what I’m sure many people expected. New Swears, one of Ottawa’s funnest bands, capped off the festival by playing outside on the courtyard at Art’s Court. It was all-out warfare. There was moshing,  bodies flying around, tomato fights, whipped cream EVERYWHERE, on-stage piggybacks, you name it. Arboretum’s 15 year-old junior correspondent Sacha got more than he bargained for by getting a huge face of whipped cream (which Arboretum’s artistic director Rolf Klausener termed getting ‘jizzed’). – Matias

Folk Fest: Patti Smith (Sept. 4)

Patti Smith, Ottawa, Folkfest
Patti Smith at the 2013 Ottawa Folk Festival. Photo by Steve Gerecke

On this night I got to check off one of the last female performers from my bucket list. Patti Smith was on the ball and an absolute riot.  The set list was great, the energy was superb and the banter between tracks was fantastic.  A true legend, and I feel blessed to have finally seen her. – Eric

Björk at Ottawa Bluesfest (July 13)

Bjork, ottawa
Bjork at Ottawa Bluesfest

I went with my cousin Zac, during his first ever music festival. He was immediately warped and kept convulsing all show by fast-forwarded undersea life & futuristic soundscapes. A truly astounding show from my point of view, a slice of insanity for his 14-year-old mind. – Joe

Finish What You Started Festival: Day 2 Matinee at Robot House (August 17)

Cory levesque, ottawa, fwys

This show may have started my addiction to house concerts.  I had seen a few in the past, but this was just awesome.  A backyard show, with great grub on the grill, delicious brews and a bunch of acoustic performances. Just one piece of the best unknown festival in Ottawa, Finish What You Started Festival. I have since been back to Robot House more times than I can count for shows. – Eric

David Byrne & St. Vincent @ Ottawa Jazzfest (June 23)

david byrne, st. vincent, ottawa jazzfest, 2013
Photo: Ottawa Jazz Festival

This was one for the books. David Byrne (David freakin’ Byrne!!! formerly of Talking Heads) and St. Vincent are each tremendous musicians in their own right. But when you stick them together, you get a concoction of creative and sonic wizardry that is very rare. Their album Love This Giant is perfect from start to finish, and their live performance was completely out of the ordinary. Their entire band moved in slow and carefully choreographed patterns on stage, adding to the overall impact of the night. A giant thunderstorm caused the show to be postponed, but we stuck it out and David treated us to some Talking Heads classics including Burning Down the House and Wild Wild Life. Bucket list material for sure. – Matias

Ottawa Explosion (5 days worth of madness!)

ottawa explosion weekend, punk

This kind of sounds like I am cheating I know, but the entire 5 days were absolutely epic.  Five days, several venues including a church and outdoor shows, over 100 bands and a bunch of friends. It is very difficult to pick just one moment from this festival, so I strongly recommend a read through my punk rock marathon this summer. – Eric

Bluesfest 2013 including: The Specials, The Waterboys, Frank Turner, Flogging Molly, Killer Mike, Mother Mother…

The Specials, Ska, Ottawa Bluesfest 2013
he Specials performing at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Monday, July 8th, 2013 ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO/Mark Horton

This might be another one where I am cheating, but I was lucky enough to time my vacation at work and Bluesfest up so I attended every single day. I reviewed a ton of bands most notable two who I grew up listening to and dreamed of seeing for years, ska legends The Specials and the kings of celtic folk music, The Waterboys. Other highlights were Frank Turner from England in the rain, Flogging Molly with my friends from out of town, Killer Mike blowing me away with his smooth handling of rap and choosing Mother Mother over Rush and not regretting it for a single moment. – Eric

The Front Bottoms and The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die at Babylon (Oct. 16)

New Swears, Front Bottoms, ottawa
The Front Bottoms at Babylon Nightclub in Ottawa.

In 2013 I developed a borderline unhealthy obsession with The Front Bottoms thanks to my good pal Stephen McGill. Was I ever excited to get a chance to see them play live just a few months after this obsession really peaked.  Their set was wonderful, they played pretty much every song I wanted to hear, took requests and delivered, and to top it all off, they had wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tubemen that would pop up during certain songs. – Eric

Red Bastard at Studio Léonard-Beaulne (June 29)

Red Bastard Ottawa Fringe

I attended the Fringe Festival at Ottawa U’s Studio LĂ©onard-Beaulne to see Red Bastard, possibly the oddest & most intense play I’ve ever seen. It was a one-devil show where something interesting had to happen every 10 seconds. There was some music at the start, I forget. I screamed an innermost desire at the Bastard, another audience member made out with him, and he evicted someone from the show for “lying.” He also did things that I can’t mention, for fear of messing up the show for others and he might kill me. He sees all… It was the scariest & most enjoyable play I’ve seen in a long time. – Joe

Everyone Wins at Ottawa Rock Lottery 5.0 (May 18)

Ottawa Rock Lottery 2013, CBC, Ottawa, Indie
Eric Scharf & Matías Muñoz hanging with ORL organizer Samantha Everts and Luca Fiore (Photo: Ming Wu)

The Ottawa Rock Lottery is one of the coolest show concepts around. Twenty-five musicians from all different genres and bands form five bands determined by randomly pulling names out of a very stylish hat. They then have 24 hrs to create a 20 – 30 minute set of all original music. And then perform it the next night in front of a live audience with proceeds going to a local charity organization, The Ottawa Food Bank. The band names are as creative as the wicked jams they put together, Nicolas Cage in Con Air, I Don’t Want To Be A Pirate, Black Usher, Slow Dance Chubbies and Sextadeth.  Go see 6.0 in 2014! – Eric

Elliott Brood @ Westfest (June 7)

Elliott Brood, Westfest, Matias Munoz, Ottawa Showbox, Herd Magazine,
Matias hanging with the guys from Elliott Brood.

It was raining most of the time at Westfest this past year, but that didn’t stop Canadian foot-stomping folk legends Elliott Brood from playing their hearts out. They played so many good songs that it was hard to keep track. Despite the weather, the crowd was full of smiles and cheers as the band performed as if they were in front of a giant group at the Molson Amphitheatre. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that I got to meet the guys, interview them backstage, and then get this awesome picture with them! – Matias

Arboretum Arts Festival – Day 2 (Aug. 17)

Owen Pallet, Arboretum Festival, Ottawa, 2013

Which was when New Swears played at Arboretum. I spent the day shuffling between the Arts Court Stage and the Main Stage to see Owen Pallett, H. de Heutz, DIANA & Holy Fuck. It was just a great event, not without its fair share of psychedelic drugs & good friends with bad ideas. – Joe

For your birthday we got you: Stuck Out Here, PKEW PKEW PKEW (Gunshots), Bloody Boy Blue, ROBOTS!EVERYWHERE!! @ ROBOT!HOUSE!

Stuck Out Here, Robot!House!!
Stuck Out Here at ROBOT! HOUSE!

Look, another house show.  Here is the first paragraph of the review: “House shows are my favourite form of concert to begin with.  Then add 100 balloons, birthday cupcakes and sangria, living room moshpits, a keytar, bands playing split sets and a drunken naked closer… yup, I LOVE ROBOT!HOUSE!” Quite a night and a lock for the top 10. – Eric

PUP @ Gabba Hey

PUP Ottawa, Gabba Hey, Ottawa Punk, Toronto Punk
Photo: Ming Wu

PUP just got signed in the US to Side One Dummy Records and are unleashing themselves upon the entire world. This Toronto punk band is getting the recognition they deserve as they put on one of the best shows of the year. Lead singer Stefan amped up the crowd so much that he got a moshpit started out of nothing, and demanded that the show not be the only one that he fails to crowd surf. They covered Jay Reatard, Fucked Up, and Beastie Boys too. You can’t ask much more out of a punk band in one night. – Matias