The inaugural Steamfest was a sweaty hit full of friends crammed in and outside of Robot!House!! on Saturday June 28.
With the seven-piece power folk/bluegrass band, The Steamers, all set up and ready to record a live album, the anticipation in the air was almost as heavy as the humidity. It was quite a special night. Not only were The Steamers recording a live album, but they teamed up with local acts Jon Creeden, Cory Levesque and Robots!Everywhere!! for two of their songs each. Seeing all these solo acts with a full band backing them was amazing. Highlights included “Best Friends” by R!E!!, “Broken Chords” by Cory Levesque, and “Tired” by Jon Creeden.
Even with sweat dripping off all the band members and everyone in the crowd, there was no slowing The Steamers or staggering the energy in the room. The Steamers have a great collection of original tracks that had us all dancing and singing along. My favourite track is “This is a Song,” but I also love that everyone in the band sings at times – sometimes in French but mostly in English. Another thing that is really cool about a band like The Steamers is all the instruments on stage. The standards are there — guitars, bass and drums — but what really moves me is the banjo, mandolin and ukulele… now that is refreshing. It was great to finally see the band in front of a crowd, I once sat in on a practice, and I can’t wait to get my hands on that live album.
Before we moved inside to the steam room (I mean Robot!House!!) we all had a few brews, some great BBQ eats, snacks and acoustic entertainment. Jon Creeden, my favourite acoustic act going, delivered as he always does. He played all the songs you could want to hear, including “Coast to Another,” “Swept Away” and the always requested “The Captain.” But what I really loved are his two new songs about Ottawa, which were debuted at Ottawa Explosion. One of the songs is about Robot!House!! (video above) so it was very fitting to hear in the backyard. The other is about 558 Scum House, which is where Jon and I met. Hearing the song about the now-defunct house venue live surrounded by friends at another house venue was a pretty great experience.
Also playing outside was the quasi-distraught Cory Levesque. He powered through his set even after having accidentally hit a baby goose while driving at work. “There was no way to avoid it,” he said and for this staunch vegetarian it was a traumatic event. The crowd consoled him (…ish) and he serenaded us with some sweet original tracks. He played some of my favourites “What I live for” and “Never Call Again.” Two personal highlights of his set was when he played a song I have never heard him play before and when he had Brian from The Glancers join him impromptu on the harmonica for “Where I’d Rather Be.” Brian nailed it, even though I doubt he had ever even heard the song.
Getting things started was The Glancers, formed in South Korea by way of Ottawa and Detroit. This was there second stop on their world tour which started in South Korea in 2013… Two friends, Matt and Brian, met in South Korea while teaching English there. They unfortunately lived in different cities, but made a pact that every time they hung out they had to write and record a song on the spot of something that had recently happened to them. This led the band to mostly write songs about inside jokes but the boys are great at between song bantering to get us all caught up. Two of their songs really stood out to me, their song “Jack Layton and Chinggis Kahn Ride Into the Sunset (Goin’ East),” about Jack Layton’s passing and the first song they ever wrote together, “You’re So Pretty I’m So Shitty,” which has hilarious lyrics and had me laughing through the entire song. They just released a five-song EP, I Guess That Will Always Be the Case, with both the aforementioned tracks on it and it is only $3, check it out here.