As Bluesfest raged on at Lebreton Flats, the other end of downtown was warming up for something completely different. Burlington pop-punk power trio The Penske File have been touring to promote their new album Burn Into The Earth, released on the renowned Montreal-based Stomp Records earlier this year. Along with Toronto hardcore punks Brutal Youth (who ALSO have a new album!), Penske just finished a string of other Ontario dates opening for New Jersey skate-punk staples Bigwig, after a lengthy run through the states as well. A hard-working band indeed.
I’m going to try and avoid any puns involving the opening band “kicking” things off so I’ll say Ottawa’s Muelkik “opened the evening” with their gruff, and almost country-sounding style of sing-along punk songs. They started with a couple of tracks off their latest self-titled release, namely “The Dent” and my personal favourite “You Think You Know You Don’t.” Drummer Alex Gravelle and guitarist Kyle Jordan also play in The Tenenbaums, so be sure to check them out as well. The band and I joked about me trashing them in this review but honestly, they’re a bunch of nice dudes and their new album is a great listen.
Next up was Sonny Boy – a local cover band consisting of members of The Valveenus and solo-artist Rich Chris. They played skate punk covers of a great mix of golden oldies ranging from Willy Nelson and Blue Rodeo to Randy Newman’s Toy Story classic “You Got a Friend In Me”. They’re essentially Ottawa’s response to Me First & the Gimme Gimme’s, which was evidenced by the Me First t-shirt that the singer was wearing.
Last of the local openers for the evening, Sidelines took the stage to deliver their brand of metal-tinged skate-punk. I recommend this band to any fans of Strung Out or A Wilhelm Scream or even The Sainte Catherines, so if you like duelling guitar solos, fast-as-f*** drums, catchy choruses, and heavy breakdowns then Sidelines are right up your alley.
And then it was time for Brutal Youth. I first saw them play at this year’s Pouzza Fest in Montreal, and that crowd at Katacombes just went completely bananas so I was psyched to see them again (DUH!). Keeping in mind that a Saturday night crowd in Montreal and a weeknight crowd in Ottawa are two very different beasts, the band brought the heat just the same. Ripping through tunes from their first album Stay Honest, as well as the brand new offering Spill Your Guts, their lead singer is one of the single most energetic performers I’ve ever seen, and it’s truly magnetic and inspiring to watch. Their minute-long sing-alongs flew right by, to an admittedly lukewarm response from the audience. By the last song, the singer was down on the floor trolling through the crowd for a reaction, before getting back on stage for his finishing move of a perfectly-timed full flip, flat onto his back. Intense. This band absolutely rules live, and you should take any chance you get to see them.
After that madness subsided, The Penske File finally took the stage. These guys are pretty young for what they’ve accomplished already. Showing an early thirst for the road, they’ve toured cross-Canada a few times, and into the states a bunch as well. After two EP’s, and an independently released full-length album, the release of their second full-length on Canadian household Stomp Records marks another step up for the band. It’s always great to see any artist just giving everything they have to their performance, and this is what The Penske File has done every time I’ve seen them. From smooth dynamic shifts, to airtight 3-part harmonies, their song-writing is as detailed as their performance is visceral. They tore through selections from their first album A Restless Symphony, like The Valley and I’ve Been Thinking (where drummer Alex Standen takes lead vocal duties. He’s a real slice to watch by the way, the coordination game is strong with this one.). They plugged the new record Burn Into The Earth with a handful of new jams like Damned, Home and Dead Letters. Come the end of their set, murmurs of “encore” and “one more song” built up until the band decided to give us a cover tune as a parting gift. Admitting they’d never played it live before, the crowd cheered them on as they broke into The Rolling Stones’ Dead Flowers. I’d say, on top of their unrequited love for The Hold Steady, The Penske File just keep racking up some major Dad Points.