By Anthony Cardozo
Watermarked photos by Stephen McGill Photography
The sun shone down on Club SAW today, and Mother Nature spared us the rain so we could enjoy all the good times that day three had to offer. The first band of the day I caught was The Jeanies from Brooklyn. I heard them play at Avant Garde Bar the previous night, but I never actually laid eyes on them because the place was packed to the rafters. My OXW weight loss program was in full effect as I sweated off about 6.5 pounds at that show, so it was great to see these guys again with a little more breathing room.
This afternoon, they took the stage to some surprising fanfare for a band who’d never played Ottawa before this weekend. These guys looked and sounded like they’d stepped out of a time machine from 1970. With lead singer/guitarist Joey Farber’s double-denim and mutton-chops, and the rhythm guitarist bearing an uncanny resemblance to David Bowie, while the bassist rocked a corduroy cap and floral print shirt, it was just nostalgia central. And these aren’t stage outfits, this is just how these guys dress. From the blues-inspired guitar work, to razor sharp three-part harmonies, The Jeanies had the crowd bobbing along throughout the set, with the hooting and hollering culminating in their final song, the first track off their album, “I Seen Her Dance”. Keep an eye out for these friendly Brooklyn boys, they’ve got a good thing going. Their self-titled album is on Bandcamp, along with a recent single.
Next up at Mugshots was the band Terrible Liars – an Ottawa four-piece, two of whom I recognized as members of Big Dick and Steve Adamyk Band. As soon as they walked onstage I noticed a tattoo on the singer Brendan Flynn’s forearm, a symbol popularized by ’90s punk band Jawbreaker as a logo of sorts. Now I dig on some Jawbreaker, so I knew this was going to be cool. With a mid-tempo mix of melodic punk songs, it was a perfectly palatable dose of punk for those among us nursing hangovers. I loved the set, and would definitely check them out next time they play. Guitarist Davey Quesnelle plugged his stand-up comedy set, and ended up giving us a bit of a sample as he sang the praises of Beau’s special batch of Ottawa Explosion Session Pale Ale, which is being poured all weekend. The set ended with Davey chucking his guitar into the crowd, narrowly missing National Capital Rock photographer Andrew Carver, so maybe we’ll get to see his angle of things.
I hopped over to Vertigo Records for the debut of an enticing new Ottawa band Cheap Whine. The band features Eric of Feral Trash on guitar and vocals, Steve Adamyk on bass, and Jordy from The Creeps and Crusades on the skins. I watched from the sidewalk as I inhaled overpriced slice of 1-for-1 pizza and, after a quick déjà vu from TV Freaks’ packed Vertigo show last year, there turned out to be a bit of room so I squeezed on in. The band was ripping through fast, fuzzy punk tunes while the crowd cheered and bobbed along and participating in the ol’ OXW weight loss program once again (I keep making this joke, and maybe it was just me, but I sweat like crazy all the time). Cheap Whine has shirts too, and the design a clear nod to power-pop/rock’n’roll icons Cheap Trick. Anyone who follows Steve Adamyk Band has probably seen shots of Steve wearing a sleeveless Cheap Trick shirt, so Eric jeered about cutting the sleeves off your Cheap Whine shirt for your Steve Adamyk Halloween costume. Another funny thing was Jordy’s ride cymbal toppling over about 4 or 5 times, and OXW organizer Emmanuel Sayer jumping in to rectify the situation. It happened enough times that Emmanuel eventually just stayed crouched in that corner, watching, waiting.
My next highlight of the day was jumping between the Club SAW and Mugshots courtyards, first waiting outside SAW for the next band to arrive. They’d apparently been held up at the border for a while, and their set time had just passed when their van pulled up outside. They loaded directly out of the van onto the stage to set up. It was Benny the Jet Rodriguez. The California four-piece played an upbeat mix of light grunge and sunny, sensitive pop punk. But the peak of set came when they threw in a surprisingly well-suited Sheryl Crow cover. It was “I Wanna Soak Up the Sun”, and I don’t think I’ve ever sung that song as loud as I did. Wicked fun. I snuck over the Mugshots to catch local punk sweethearts Dead Weights, and all I can say is those guys need some haircuts… Jeez louise. I’m kidding though, I love Dead Weights. Great band and great dudes. They played quite a few new songs, which hopefully means a new album at some point this year. Of course, they ended their high-energy set with the fun tune “Barely Breathe”, a song that lots of us sang with the band as they finished off.
Back to Club SAW courtyard for one of my biggest highlights of the weekend, Sheer Mag. This Philadelphia band is pumping out airtight glam rock, with pumpin’ dance beats and irresistible guitar licks. They’ve been compared to Thin Lizzy and The Runaways and the shoe sure as hell fits. I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least gush a little bit about the raw power of frontwoman Christine Halliday. She belted out song after song to a very enthusiastic crowd. Ska Jeff had mentioned they were awesome, and I’m not sure how many others had heard the band before, but Sheer Mag definitely garnered some new fans this weekend.
Another highlight was packing in with what seemed like every person at OXW for when The White Wires took to the stage outside Club SAW. It’s funny thinking of White Wires songs as “classics” but everyone was singing along to nearly every song. I’d say as far as Ottawa Explosion goes, that makes them a classic band. One of the main OXW organizers, Luke Martin, plays bass along with Ian Manhire on vox/guitar and Allie Hanlon on drums. Ian is the guy responsible for Gaga Records, Gaga Weekend, and a bunch of wicked stuff that became the pre-OXW Rock’n’Roll Pizza Party. One could sit down with Luke, Ian and Emmanuel and chart out exactly how this all came to be… But that’s a whole other piece on its own. Allie now lives in L.A. and is pretty busy with Peach Kelli Pop, but we’re very happy that she comes back to Ottawa a couple times per year to play with The White Wires.
Before my big highlight of the night, honourable mentions need to go out to some amazing bands I missed this evening. Hamilton, Ontario’s TV Freaks always put on a crazy show, and I was truly bummed to miss this one at the Dom. Much love, TV Freaks, keep it freaky. Aside from that, Germany’s Hysterese might not come back for a while, but I ran into a lot of people who were stoked for them so I hope they had a good crowd. And then it was Creep time. I, along with the Showbox guys and many others, love The Creeps. Their 2014 LP Eulogies has been on heavy rotation for me, and now that I actually bought the record it will literally be on rotation rather than just my iTunes. The Misfits-esque morbid pop punk is infectious as it is accessible, and the crowd was deep enough in the Beau’s Explosion brew to get a little rowdy. I think the first crowd-surfer went up within the first 2 songs. Not bad. They kicked things off with a handful of tunes off Eulogies, digging back in their catalogue for a few older gems. The crowd-surfing continued throughout the set, and everyone was pretty good about looking out for each other and helping others up with they inevitably fell. I love seeing this.
I love Ottawa. I love Explosion. That’s about it for me going to shows this weekend, much to my chagrin. I’ve been loving the shows the past few nights, but it’s time for this volunteer to pay his dues.