My body aches. My shoulder feels like it was bent all the way back in the wrong direction. There are bruises on my arm and legs. These are the signs of one hell of a night shared between music fans, friends, and those looking to conjure out their inner demons through some good ol’ fashioned ouija rock. Ottawa’s The Yips amassed all these souls together at Gabba Hey Saturday night for the release of their new LP Air Loom, put out on physical cassette tape and digital formats through Bruised Tongue.
I’ll avoid going too far into album review mode, but you should go listen to Air Loom right here and decide how you feel about it.
The Yips are my favourite Ottawa band for good reason. I’m a sucker for grimy, scuzzy garage rock and they take that sound and filter it through an even darker lens. Kerri’s vocals are piercing and unrelenting – there’s no escaping her, especially when she’s belting her lungs out to everyone bold enough to endure the maelstrom of human flesh whirling around the front of the stage. The band brings that aesthetic and distinct sound (which has an eeriness woven into it) that caught the attention of many, including me, on The Yips EP (2013). The first thing I thought when I heard their music was Yeah Yeah Yeahs on some sort of trip, and that in-your-face music really stuck with me.
Air Loom is the next logical step for the band, as they have now carved out their niche and developed their sound to a greater degree. Contrasting, captivating guitar riffs by sir Jon Schofield and Zach Lebert, as well as Jon Bennet’s ferocious treatment of the drum set and the pervasive bass patterns by Kurt Rafuse give their music a “thickness” that can be felt from miles in all directions. And then there’s Kerri, whose energy and appeal both vocally and on stage can give anyone goosebumps. My take is that the band took the things that worked best for them on the Yips EP and beefed it up more. I’m sure having friend and fellow musician Cameron Steacy of Organ Eyes record, mix, and master Air Loom helped them hone their skills and produce the full, overdriven garagey sound they seem to have nailed down.
The album release party took this idea to another level. A stacked four-band bill and a 10 p.m. start time let us know well in advance that this was going to be a late night. I spoke to guitarist Jon Schofield briefly before their set and he said that he’d never played a show where more than 200 people said they were showing up in the Facebook event. It’s always a toss up, because those numbers are always shaky at best. But The Yips have garnered the affection of people from all corners of the Ottawa music scene. There were leather jackets, wide-brimmed hats, mohawks, heads with the sides shaved off, hipsters, nerds… just about everyone you can think of all packed nicely in one place.
The Yips played a great combination of new and old (and by old, I mean less than a year old) material. They played new songs such as Repeater, Point Dume, and Wytch Elm, as well as a number of fan favourites like Blood Meridian and PGLM. Surely this was a call to action for the Rave Ghosts to come waddling in. The Rave Ghosts (pictured below) are mysterious cloaked individuals who often wear sunglasses over their sheet draped over their head. Most of the sheets ended up in the rafters above, but many were used to cover the crowd at certain points which was pretty different. There was a lot of pushing, shoving, moshing, pogoing, falling, crowd surfing, and general disregard for our own bodies. That’s just the kind of music it was – they truly inspired us to sacrifice our bodies and leave our collective problems at the front door while letting the music take us away. There were a few instances where I got a bit worried for some smaller individuals in the pit, but everyone made it out alive and well (save for the aforementioned bruises and aches). The Yips have not only established themselves as a formidable leader of the garage-rock movement here in Ottawa alongside bands like New Swears, Average Times, and Tropical Dripps, but also demonstrating that Ottawa has a burgeoning underground scene that is getting noticed across the country. CBC Radio 3 has put The Yips on rotation with Grant Lawrence proclaiming that “The Yips are yet ANOTHER band that is proving Ottawa is Canada’s capital of garage punk rock ‘n’ roll and furious new wave.” Good things are happening in this town, and it’s only getting better.
I won’t say too much about the opening acts, because I’ve ranted for too long already. What I can say is that whoever managed to put the bill together for Saturday night really killed it – big high fives. Legato Vipers opened the night and played a short but sweet set of 60’s-era surf rock tunes. I love me a good surf rock band, and the Vipers were on point the entire set. Their songs we primarily instrumental, allowing for the Tarantino-filmesque guitars to carry the songs through. Nap Eyes are yet another amazing band out of Halifax, and they did not disappoint the growing crowd. They played more straightforward, melodic songs that sounded something like a cross between Wilco and Pavement (which can never be a bad thing). The last band to come on before The Yips was Monomyth, who tours with Nap Eyes and share some band members with them. Monomyth, also from Halifax, was more upbeat and had more of a garage/shoegaze/psych-rock sound which pleased everyone a lot. Their set helped to hype up the crowd and get us all warmed up for The Yips to end the night off.