The second instalment of Ottawa Implosion Weekend hit Ottawa hard on Friday, Feb. 13, putting Valentine’s Day to shame by stacking two huge shows at different venues on one of the coldest weekends of the year.
Ottawa Implosion is the sister fest of Ottawa Explosion, featuring “the best contemporary underground post-punk, psych, and dark disco from North America and Europe.” It’s a pretty rad addition to the music scene, as last year the organizers brought in bands such as Iceage, Merchandise, Lower, and Father Murphy from all corners of the earth. This time around, Implosion celebrates Ottawa label Bruised Tongue‘s anniversary by presenting acts like Boyhood, Big Dick, Ultrathin, as well as the final Pregnancy Scares show ever on Sunday.
I tried to make it out to the Boyhood show at Gabba Hey earlier in the night, but it sold out really quickly because it was an all-ages event. Given the time constraints and the real danger of hypothermia, I decided to head directly to House of Targ where Big Dick was setting the stage to release their second full-length LP Disappointment. Being on Dirt Cult Recs, they had a hefty supply of vinyl available and even pressed some really good-looking limited blue LPs. I pretty much snatched one of those up as soon as I walked in.
Opening the night was garage/noise rock duo The Famines out of Montreal. Their website says that they were once described as “berzerker barrage,” and although that might seem pretty cryptic, I think it accurately portrays their style and sound. They opened with their relatively restrained track “TWA Flight 553” which in a way built up the anticipation for the rest of the set.
Most of their songs ran about two minutes long, so they fit in quite a few. I am always astonished by two-piece acts that exude so much energy and emotion from the stage. The chaotic nature of their music came through loud and clear, with lo-fi guitar riffs by Raymond E. Biesinger and intricate, booming, and at times obscure percussion by Drew Demers. The crowd seemed entranced and focused, but at times confused and unsure about how to actually respond to the music.
This didn’t stop The Famines from tearing through their set with ferocity, playing a lot of newer songs that have been written since the release of their 2008-2011 Collected Singles. This included a songs such as “Stay Home Club”, which they had never played before the TARG show and will appear on the A-side of the Psychic Handshake single coming out this April, and “Too Cool”, which will be released on vinyl LP through Mammoth Cave later this fall. They ended their impressive set with the track “Who Wants Disarmament?”, which apparently they have only played three times and will also appear on Psychic Handshake. Word is that they have been confirmed to play Ottawa Explosion this year, so be sure to check these guys out when they’re back in town (and when it’s not deathly cold out and we can party outside).
Next up was the Ottawa-based bass n’ drum punk band Big Dick. The much-anticipated release of their sophomore LP was delayed because of some vinyl pressing issues with shortages, but they had the records ready to go on this night. I have to say, hearing Disappointment on vinyl for the first time today made me appreciate what these two guys are doing even more. It’s in your face, and hardly lets you come up for a breath of fresh air throughout. I should also mention that the LP was recorded at the Meat Locker by the one and only Paul ‘Yogi’ Granger, co-owner of House of TARG and all-around legend.
Johnny O and Dave Secretary immediately dove into their set with the new tracks “Sick” and “Up a Step,” Dave blasting away at the drums and Johnny ripping on his bass. It wasn’t long before they played the leading single “Let Down” from the new album, drawing the attention of the crowd and showing us all how solid a two-piece band with chemistry can be. The sound wasn’t the best unfortunately, as Dave’s kick drum was being drowned out by Johnny’s bass – particularly in songs with really heavy and over-driven bass parts. It’s a tough room to play for this reason sometimes, and for a band like Big Dick one really needs to hear all the parts in order to feel the full force of their music. I’m not a sound engineer so that’s about all I can say on that, and it was no fault of the band. Hell, I might have just been standing in the wrong spot.
Big Dick impressed nonetheless, and kept the onslaught coming throughout the set. They played a few older songs too, including “Medic” and “Colours” off their 2013 self-titled release. The crowd loved hearing these well-known tracks, and were jumping around in front of the stage and getting into it. The only disappointment for me was that they didn’t play my favourite song off the new album, “God’s Teeth.” But they had plenty of others that really stood out, including one of my other favourites from Disappointment called “Mariner.” There’s no doubt that this record will be a strong contender for our top albums of 2015.
Their set was executed with precision and contained enough force to blow almost anyone’s eardrums. That’s what makes Big Dick such a good band – their songs don’t just rely on the loudness to drown out any mistakes. They nail every beat, every riff, and their skills are on full display at every show they play. You can’t fake it with just two people on stage, and Johnny and Dave made sure we all knew why they are Ottawa music veterans by the end of the set.