Propagandhi, RVIVR and War on Women Made Us All Better People @ Ritual in Ottawa

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Tuesday night at Ritual, Propagandhi, RVIVR and War on Women gave a sold-out crowd many life lessons and a lot of punk rock.

As Propagandhi took the stage, bass player Todd Kowalski said “the ritual is about to begin.” The night was more about becoming better people and standing up against the powers that be. The boys from Winnipeg are best know for their anti-capitalist, equal rights, anti-religious, and vegan approach to punk and it was on full display. The band puts their money where their mouth is giving stage time and a spot at their merch table for activist groups such as the Sea Shepherds and Justice for Deepan.

Musically, Propagandhi play fast, hard and with a lot of passion. They performed great in your face songs with powerful lyrics such as “Note to Self” and “Cognitive Suicide” off of their latest album. They also pulled out lesser performed songs like “Fuck the Border” and “Back to the Motor League” off their album 2001 album Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes. But I would have to say the highlight of their set was their two-song dedication to the people of Gaza. First, was “Unscripted Moment,” which is a powerful song lead singer and guitarist Chris Hannah wrote about listening to archived Yiddish recordings on a rock station in New York and heard a father and son reunite after being separated since World War II. They followed that up with the reggae tune “Haillie Sellasse, Up Your Ass” off their 1993 album, How to Clean Everything, with lyrics about conflicts in Gaza dating back over 20 years.

What is so great about Propagandhi is that it’s clear that it’s not just the lead singer pushing the message. Drummer, Jord Samolesky, spoke up about how he has been around for over 40 years now and has see the government go from “Liberal to Con to Lib to Con, and we are just moving more and more right, it is getting worst… it is time to start something radical, it is time for change. You are in Ottawa start some fucking shit!” Combine that with the ever intense songs where the bass player takes lead vocals and this band packs as much of a musical punch as they do politically. And for that I will always have time for Propagandhi.

RVIVR killing it at Ritual in Ottawa, Canada.
RVIVR killing it at Ritual in Ottawa, Canada.

Before Propagandhi was RVIVR from Olympia, Washington who completely blew me away. The four-piece punk band could have been half as good and still been amazing with their great music and even better lyrics full of important messages. RVIVR may not have fit perfectly musically with Propagandhi as they are not as heavy and more towards the pop-punk side, but they sing about gender equality, big government lies, struggling with depression and many more topics that had them right at home.

Two parts of their excellent set really stood out. First was when they introduced their song “Wrong Way/One Way.” Singer and guitarist Erica Freas said, “This song is about being free, about being you, whatever sexuality or gender you are. No matter what your parents say, religion says, other genders, other punks, the media says — anyone. Just be free.” The other great part was when a group of five drunks who had clearly never heard or seen RVIVR before kept moshing while their fans tried to sing along. Erica once again took charge and said, “There is a great life skill that involves knowing how the people around you are feeling and what they like. And it’s clear right not that being pushed around non-stop is not what they want. Learn the life skill and don’t be an asshole.” Other singer and guitarist, Mattie Canino, followed that up with, “If the five if you want to mosh I suggest the back of the room.” This put the morons in place and allowed everyone to enjoy the great music being performed. As for timing the band followed up that little encounter with “Cut The Chord,” a song about not letting people who talk shit keep you down.. .which felt quite appropriate. RVIVR is one of my new favourite discoveries and I strongly suggest you check out this awesome band’s music and message.

Opening the show was War on Women. The five-piece band made up of three women and two men sounded really good. Unfortunately I only got to catch their last song due to personal commitments. The song “High School Reunion” was punk rock in roots but with some interesting thrash and hardcore elements which gave it this really raw power and energy. The lead singer had great stage presence and I will make sure not to miss on this band which made Alternative Press’ top 100 bands to watch in 2014 (of course I find that out after missing them).

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