One thing we really love here at Ottawa Showbox are bills stacked with local bands. Yes, this night only had two bands playing, but two powerhouses of the Ottawa scene. Pony Girl and FEVERS are sure things, and the promise of a full night of top notch entertainment was planned out from the beginning.
First off, let me begin by mentioning how incredible Black Sheep Inn is. I don’t get there as often as I should, mostly due to lack of motor vehicle transport to Wakefield, QC., but when I do it’s always a great night. They book incredible shows, are a friendly bunch, and provide us city slickers with the perfect escape. The legendary Canadian venue attracts the best, and they had tables lit with candles to set the mood for Pony Girl to open the night.
We arrived just before the “party bus” and nestled into our spot right up front. Some shows that expect high attendance sometimes book a bus to pick people up at a central location in Ottawa. Once the packed bus got to Wakefield, people started piling in and the festivities began.
Pony Girl are a really interesting and talented band here in Ottawa. We chose them as one of our favourite local releases of 2013, as their sound and aesthetic speak volumes to their creative ability. They opened with a great new song called “All That There Is,” which I’m sure they plan on working into the new full-length LP they have planned for next year. Their DIY approach to writing, recording, and creating a visual world to go along with their music. Working out of their home as LOG Creative Bureau and Pop Drone, their poster art (this show’s beautiful poster was designed by lead singer Pascal Huot) exemplifies their desire to pursue music as an artistic expression. Between all of them, their talents are diverse and seemingly endless.
One really cool thing Pony Girl does during their shows is include unique lighting as a visual element in their live performance. On Yolande’s mic stand, they attach a florescent tube light fixture. During the second song “Better Days,” they turned it on just as instrumentals cued in part way through the song, and when it lit up, an eerie white light lit up the band as they continued their set and people even gasped in awe. This isn’t something you see every band do. Including this simple gimmick in their live show adds another dimension to their live performance. To me, live music is not just music – it’s an experience. The visuals make a big impression on show-goers and please the senses. Their music is so intricate and well-crafted – one hears elements of jazz, folk, and even moments orchestral grandeur, all filtered through an experimental sieve. Ending with the touching and ethereal song “Sleeptalk,” Pony Girl dove headfirst into the emotional consciousness of the audience that night.
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FEVERS were also on our favourite local releases of 2013, which means we were really excited to see them play as well. A quick little story: back in May of 2012 I started this blog, almost two years ago. The first event I ever went to was the 4in1 Music Session hosted by Ming Wu (Photogmusic) at Dundonald Park, which you can read about here. A stripped-down FEVERS played that beautiful Sunday afternoon in the park, with Sarah Bradley and Colin MacDougall doing acoustic versions of their songs, as well as treating our ears to their own version of Radiohead’s “Idioteque.” I can honestly say that they were one of the first Ottawa bands I got really excited about once I started this blog, thus contributing to my desire to keep it going strong for so long.
Back to business. With the recent release of their new full-length No Room For Light still fresh in our minds, FEVERS sure had a lot in store for us on Friday night. Like Pony Girl, they also included a light show aspect into their performance so as to enhance the overall experience. Using two projectors behind them, as well as a smoke machine, the light that was projected gave the appearance of laser beams shining through into the crowd. It was really amazing to see and certainly suited their synthpop style.
Their set was comprised of mostly new tracks off No Room For Light, which if you haven’t heard it yet, is a really incredible and well-made album all around. The production, cover art, lyrics, composition, and instrumentation all come together nicely to make it one of our favourites last year. Not to mention that it garnered some attention from CBC and college radio charts, too. They began with an intro that built the anticipation, and dove right into their set with the album’s last song, “They Want Blood.” This upbeat, poppy song really set the tone for the rest of the night as people began moving their bodies. Sarah’s voice was spectacularly powerful and penetrating, and Colin’s vocals complimented hers really well (as per usual). Songs like “Dance Cry Dance” and “Passion Is Dead (Long Live Fashion)” made the crowd say “screw it,” as a swarm of people jumped onto the dance floor and did their thing. Other fun dancing tunes were “ENFP” and “Goodnight,” amongst others.
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One incredible track off the album they didn’t play was “They Don’t Lie” but it’s a bit slower so I understand that they probably wanted to keep things moving at that point. Sarah’s voice smites me down in that song. They played a new track “Why Can’t I Say No?” but ended it part way through after a few technical difficulties. Every band has to play a new song for the first time at some point! They ended with one of my favourite tracks off the new album “Angélie,” which builds and reaches a really great climactic ending. It was a perfect end to the set.
Overall, it was a really fun time – one of the best I’ve had at Black Sheep Inn. I am always proud when bills with all-local bands pack the house, and Pony Girl/FEVERS did just that. Everyone went home happy with smiles on their faces.