Saturday night, Alex Silas and the Subterraneans celebrated the release of their album Roots in a special edition of Bars & Breakbeats at Ritual Nightclub. Rocksteady Bookings loaded the lineup from top to bottom with nerdcore, alternative rock & hip hop balladry that swept away an involved crowd.
Alex Silas took to the stage for fourth or fifth time that night, finally as the frontman of his band that defies definition. Well, short-winded definition. It’s bilingual, it’s rock, and it’s hip hop beats with a dash of alt country. Silas took to the stage with a drumroll and started off with “Mouton Noir,” the first track of Part 2: Lotus of Roots. The aggressive beats & rhymes contrasted the recorded melody of Katie Bourque on the verse, as he reflected on his vagabondism and his search for a little more excitement in everyday life. Looking for love, making the most with what you got & giving peace a chance all shone as his favourite themes from the first song onwards. A confessed love of psychoactives, definitely another clear theme of the evening, was riffed on often as that possibility for adding spice into life. As the subject matter of the introspective “Alpine,” he shared his worries and the story of his pépére battling and dying of alcoholism.
The crowd was rapt, most of them sporting different versions of “HIP HOP HIPPIE” tees, as Alex Silas made musical love to them just as our MC Sully forewarned. Sully a.k.a. Shaun Sullivan, a spoken word poet, is also featured in Roots on the previously mentioned “Alpine.” His encouragement of the night’s performances were hilarious the night through. He carried us from act to act, warmly presenting artists who know how to speak for themselves but got the love anyway.
As Silas metaphorically bearhugged us with his considerable biceps, the Subterraneans brought the album to life with gusto. Liam Burke on guitar, the recent addition of Matt Robillard on drums and J2xF on beats, keys, MacBook & bass were on point for their proud leader. Really, it was more of a family reunion than a performance. The violin of Brigit O’Regan was one of my highlights, showcased on “Lions and Tigers and Bears.”
Missing LinX warmed up the stage before Alex Silas stepped up, bringing the energy of the evening to a peak. Hyf the Gypsy Sun, Prufrock & Just Jamaal take their poetry to the next level with a tangle of heavy bass and beat that ensnares the listener. Their political & social rhymes charged the night, stabbing out at injustice and preaching perserverance. Their sound is primal. It gave me the feeling that something big was coming after us in the wilderness.
Polishing the stage for the Ottawa rap royalty was my discovery of the evening: Eddie Quotez. Half cheerleader, half enfant terrible, fully a unicorn to be reckoned with. His style was raunchy, glib and speedy. “I only have one rule for my set — everyone has to participate. Say it with me: PAR-TI-CI-PATE!” His first song came out swinging and left us wanting more, immediately. His professed sexual desires & nerdy metaphors pushed the crowd to start moshing and afterwards start chanting Eddie’s name. Alex Silas joined him on the bass for a song, just as Eddie later joined Silas for “Last Song.”
Best song of the night was “Game Over,” introduced as: “This song is about loving somebody so much that you let them use Player One.”
As Alex Silas plays alternative rock with his hip hop, so The Stringers brought out the rockers in all of us. Their indie shreds & alt hooks had the floor dancing and chanting as they made their way through their recent EP See You At 7. They bridged the gap between the other hip hop acts & the headliners, playing sweet new songs and covers, one from the Arkells and another that everyone knew by heart, “All the Small Things” by Blink 182. Hats off to Jordan Lewis for indeed bringing the four-string thunder. Hey, his mic should have been louder though. All four lads were charming, especially in matching HHH tshirts.
Before a small pause in the program, Sully invited the second group of the night to come up. A trio known as The Adding Maching took to the stage. E.on, Defckon & R.A. the ADDwolf didn’t take in a single breath as they boomed through a fast-paced set — it was all exhalation. Backed by J2xF on the beats, they barreled through stage-thundering dance moves and jumped into the crowd to start a little pit. Their rhymes were so plentiful, so tightly packed, it was alliteration.
Sully had set the tone by walking through the crowd at the beginning of the night, performing three poems before he presented the acts. He covered his boozin’, the homeless in the city & “L.I.V.I.N.” Then he let “craziest motherfuckers in the city,” those Bastards, level out a horror-soaked set. Peek-A-Boo, their debut EP, just released last month, and they’re already set on releasing an LP this December. Their roar came from the dark part of my cranium, reminding me to pack a Louisville bat in my trunk from now on.
The Adding Machine & Bastards both ran similarly in agressive lyrics, but each with their own distinct styles. Both have new albums coming out soon and were joined by special guests during the sets. The Adding Machine had Eddie Quotez run the gambit and Bastards were joined by Andre KING Thibault & Aron the Alien for a special track that led to Ottawa expat Aron performing a song he really needed to spit. “Hometown (613)” had the whole of Ritual screaming out our area code. It was enough to warm the heart of Prince Luke, who almost didn’t make it to the show. Alex Silas & Doc Savage joined in for the anthem that made everyone feel part of the family.