Drove into Ottawa on a whim last night, it’d been almost two weeks since my girlfriend & I had seen The Haig perform. We figured it was time.
Zaphod’s was hosting a Halifax, N.S. band called Alert the Medic on an album release tour. Their third studio album called The Phantom Moves is out five years after their acclaimed second album We, the weapon. These pop rock east coasters have already seen air time on Much Music and on radio shows across Canada, including Sirius XM. To be sure, they were four very energetic Haligonians, each with his own signature vibrating gyration and a mic. Even drummer Dale Wilson was belting out choruses but what was most impressive was frontman’s Ryan MacDonald’s vocal chords. His range covered many scales as he played guitar or keyed, and he moved his head around his microphone with the insistence of an eraser hellbent on removing all pencil marks. All their energy and aesthetically pleasing lyrics were enough to keep us up later than we planned, but once they started talking about social media we started to fade and went home.
I found myself wondering why Alert’s frontman would put himself in danger like that? Playing in any urban neighbourhood with a red hankerchief hanging out your back pocket is risky business, as some rival gang members might take offence to your strut. After seeing the running streams of perspiration off MacDonald I realized its purpose was two-fold, but I still feel the danger outweighed the use.
A few songs by The Haig had us giggling and singing in our drinks, although none as much as their hit “Chinese Maria.” By that song our beers & Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters were done, and we were shouting along with lead guitarist Dean Morris. They played new songs like “Under a 40-Watt Bulb” & “Turnbull Suit” which are heavier than rock, bordering on metal. Some of their tunes tie back to their love of video games and sound like the level you’d reach past Star Road or the Special Star Road in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. We all love “Happy” but I think the new video game orchestration of excellence might be “McFly.” The Ottawa foursome is going to start recording their next album on July 18th at their homebase, which I hope is fuller than an EP (for our sakes) and leaner than a concept album (for theirs).
Empty Shelves are a recent addition to Ottawa’s indie rock. Their songs “I Wouldn’t Impose” & “Where Are You” reminded me of STARS. Their indie-alternative sound is largely instrumental and their songs sound full. At times their lead guitarist & keys player Jeff Kimber had a voice so high & sweet that I thought it was vocalist Susan File’s. Half-way into the set he announced, “The next song is called ‘Where are you’ or ‘Where you are,’ depending on whether you’re an anglo or a franco.” And someone in the crowd shouted: “Where you are, esti!“