Tweens, New Swears, Milk Lines, The Sadies, and Nightshades rocked Albert Island Friday, the third night of Arboretum Festival 2015.
It is important to mention that Albert Island is unceded, unsurrendered Algonquin Territory – something the festival is very cognizant of and makes a point of raising. They also organized panel discussions on the subject on the Saturday and have partnered with Asinabka: Aboriginal Film and Media Arts Festival. It should be noted that the festival was only the second time in over 200 years that a public gathering had happened on Albert Island.
The site which was once spiritual meeting place for the region’s Algonquin community and other First Nations, and later the heart of Ottawa’s early lumber industry, is very interesting. I have lived in Ottawa my entire life and never ventured there before. The stage is set up at the far end and has two large warehouses on each side, and the southern warehouse was also open to festival goers to venture in. What a rad set up.
Now to the music. Unfortunately I missed Scattered Clouds, so my evening kicked off with local garage rockers Nightshades inside the warehouse. This was the first time I have seen the three-piece since the departure of the original bassist, Sarah Grant (we miss you Sarah, hope the travels are treating you well). Now with newbie Tyler Roy laying down the bass lines, the band hasn’t missed a step. They are still an energetic and rocking good time, and I enjoyed hearing my favourites like “Broken Bag,” “Beauty of Dreaming” and “Teenage Fool.”
Taking to the main stage and changing the pace was The Sadies. This was a very emotional performance for me as it was the first time seeing them since the passing of one of their biggest fans and one of my biggest inspirations, Mark Anderson. Mark was an incredible journalist, really nice guy and amazing professor at Algonquin College when I was studying journalism. Mark, who passed away last year after a battle with cancer, would have loved the set and would have been so excited to see his beloved Sadies. That made it was wonderful and sad all at once. The Sadies, led by brothers Dallas Good and Travis Good were clearly loving their time at Arboretum also.
“So good to play such a cool festival and shit like that…my brother is going to sing a song now,” said Dallas. I guess that is a funny way of showing it, but then he elaborated. “I wrote an hour-long set list and figured we could do it if I shut the hell up and played, so please don’t think I’m not cordial.” And when you can shred like them, you don’t really need to talk. On top of that they have flares where you would think they are part of an upcoming Tarentino film. A great Canadian gem these gentlemen are.
Milk Lines took to the stage in the warehouse shrouded in smoke and it looked ultra cool. I had never seen or heard this four-piece from Toronto and it was a treat to catch them live in the warehouse setting. Lead singer and guitarist Emily Bitze broke a string on the first song, but quickly took care of that and the band played on. The band jumps from rocking sounding tracks to songs with a lot of twang and sometimes even mixes the two. I really enjoyed their set. Milk Lines’s experimental folk rock was a great new musical discovery.
Up next was New Swears. Ottawa’s party punks extraordinaire delivered in a grandiose fashion, as always. It was business as usual – the guy in a giraffe costume shooting confetti into the crowd, their fun upbeat songs like “See you in Hull,” “Paradise” and “Two Darts” stirring up a mosh pit, band mates playing on each others’ shoulders, making a human pyramid, playing bass while standing on the crowd, climbing up the fire escape of the warehouse to keep playing and being joined by Bruce Springsteen on stage. Yes that is right The Boss, or at least someone dressed up like Bruce, led them through a great rendition of “Dancing in the Dark.” They capped off their set with “Midnight Lover,” and everyone finally caught their breath. These guys sure know how to get a crowd riled up.
Ending my night was the band I was most excited about on the entire Arboretum line-up, Cincinnati’s Tweens. From the opening track, lead-singer and guitarist, Bridget Battle, commanded the attention of the packed warehouse. This former choir girl has quite a powerful voice which melds excellently with their garage and power pop sound. She really rocks out with hair flying everywhere while she belts into the mic. The band’s energy was contagious as was evident by the many people of all ages dancing around up front. Tweens’ mostly played songs off their self-titled album, including crowd favourites “Be Mean” and “Forever,” but also found time to play us a new song which hopefully means new music on the way. Tweens’ set was exactly what I wanted and more, making it the perfect way to end my evening on quite the high.