Finish What You Started Fest kicked off with a bang Thursday night thanks to Nuclear Neighbour followed by Dead Weights, NECK, The Valveenus and Fresh Hell.

Before the music could take over and get us singing and dancing, there was a showing of “Nuclear Neighbourhood” at the Mayfair Theatre. The movie was one of those very low budget horror comedy films, where it’s so bad it’s good. I actually loved it, it was a lot of fun and with just enough suspense as they walked through the house of the evil professor looking for their friend. It is also worth noting that the lead singer, Gretchen Steel, of local Ottawa band ZEX plays a leading role, multi-talented lady. For more information on the flick, check out their website.

Fresh Hell kicking off Finish What You Started Fest in Ottawa.
Fresh Hell kicking off Finish What You Started Fest in Ottawa.

With the movie done it was time to rock and there are few better places in Ottawa than House of Targ. And the place was a rocking for this all local punk rock bill. Getting things going was Fresh Hell. The band recently released their debut album, We Never Sleep, and what better way to celebrate, then to play the album from front to back? You don’t need to wait until you are old and decrepit on your reunion tour to play an awesome album start to finish. So once I noticed they were going in order I got so ridiculously excited for the excellent three-song explosion near the end of it. Track 6, 7 & 8, “Home,” “Surrounded” and “Cold” are so good that they demand singing along. This was by far the best set I have seen this local four-piece play to date. Also much respect to them for plugging Ottawa Rock Camp for Girls during their set and having a donation jar set up at their merch table.

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The Valveenus playing House of Targ in Ottawa during the Finish What You Started Fest.

Between bands I got into a really feverish competition against Phil (Robots!Everywhere!!) on the arcade game Area 51. I beat him by several tens of thousands, but this led me to not pay full attention to The Valveenus. Luckily we finished in time to watch their final few songs. The skate punk trio did something really cool and unexpected, they covered Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence.” They also covered The Real McKenzies’ “Best Day Until Tomorrow” in honour of the passing of the McKenzies’ Dave Gregg (check out the video of it here). Their originals were great and fast-paced as always, I really dug “Hold On Me.” It shows that the boys have been doing it for a while, they are very tight and put on a good show. As a matter of fact, they have been playing shows in the venue for years back when it used to be called The Underground and then it changed to The New Bayou and now House of Targ. Ottawa punk rock evolution. And like real pros they incorporated a drink break into their last song, bottoms up boys.

NECK representing Spider-Man at Finish What You Started Fest in Ottawa.
NECK representing Spider-Man at Finish What You Started Fest in Ottawa.

Next up was NECK who had a little bit of a rough time. They started off fine showing up in matching Spider-Man t-shirts, the perfect attire for their Ramones-like punk rock. Unfortunately for them they had to power through technical difficulties with a guitar and the monitors, as well as a few musical mishaps. But with songs about skinny jeans and lyrics such as “I eat mashed potatoes with one hand down my pants,” you can forgive them.

Jon reacting to Steve pushing through even though his strap broke mid-song.
Jon’s reaction is priceless to Steve pushing through even though his strap broke mid-song.

Capping off this great night was Dead Weights, yes Steve McCrimmon played two sets in the same night, what an animal. They opened with the super catchy “Friends First” which got a few people singing, but two songs later when they played their single “Barely Breathe” that really brought the crowd to life. The band dedicated the first song they ever recorded to Jeff, but not before heckling him for working during the show. Dead Weights then teased the crowd with the opening chords to “The Captain,” and then didn’t play it. Instead they opted to play the title track of their album Dead Ends & Closed Doors. A great way to end the first night of the festival.