Photo by David Forcier
Some people think we go to 10 shows a week. Rest assured, that is not true. But we try and pick em well, and 2015 was another great year for live music in the capital. We saw some really incredible shows in unique spaces that may never happen again. We saw some of the best local bands tear it up at festivals as they always do. We saw some bands call it quits and others come crashing out the gates with their first gig – and in one instance, this happened in the same show. Sparks flew – literally.
Although this is by no means an exhaustive list of the great shows that happened, it reminds us that Ottawa continues to grow and cultivate the right conditions for a strong music culture to exist. With energy flowing on and off the stage, here were some of the best shows that happened in Ottawa in 2015.
“I can’t overstate how impressive Weights & Measures were live. Even after 11 years apart, their riveting guitar riffs, thunderous percussion, and penetrating bass lines blended together as the crowd watched in awe. Everyone that was there now understands this band was so well respected, as they made their complex and intricate arrangements seem easy.”
Arboretum Festival – Day 4: Austra, Weights & Measures, Fet.Nat, & Saxyndrum
“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.”
Arboretum Festival – Day 3: Tweens, New Swears, Milk Lines, The Sadies and Nightshades
“The 11-piece chamber ensemble were stellar in their first performance outside of their hometown of Toronto. They are not your typical cover band. They take a look back at the last one hundred years of popular songs with focusing on songs of importance to the queer community, and revealing the backstories and personal narratives behind much of this music.”
Arboretum Festival Day 1: The Queer Songbook Orchestra and Melody McKiver at St. Alban’s Church
“This performance was everything I’d hoped for. Starting out with “Run the Jewels”, “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”, and “Blockbuster Night Part 1” (one of my faves) they had the crowd (me included) freaking out. Halfway through the set, Killer Mike paused and told us all if we had glasses on or phones out, to put them away because our shit was about get fucked up.”
RBC Bluesfest Day 7: Heartstreets, Chvrches & Run the Jewels
“It all started with me seeing a guy walking down the street in a tiger costume. I figured that it must have been a fan of New Swears who played later on, since those guys always have something up their sleeve. But no, that was not the case. URTC got up on stage, one member wearing the aforementioned tiger costume, another in a shark onesie, and another wearing a superwoman-style Canadian flag as a cape. Did I mention that Congelliere was wearing a sweet Chippendales shirt? The blistering heat outside was cooking us, I don’t quite know how they managed to pull off such a great set with all that attire.”
“The band capped off their set with the always fun and super interactive “Wolfpack Presley”. I mean how often are you encouraged to howl like a wolf at the top of your lungs? The crowd was having so much fun they wouldn’t let Steamers leave without one more song.”
Steamers Album Release with Bonnie Doon and Cory Levesque @ House of TARG
“Was it the lighting through the haze and $3 beers that created ghostly looking shadows dancing on the inside of the tent, or were the ouija rockers channelling spirits before their set? We will never know.”
“It’s all fun and games with LeBlanc. As she finished up soundcheck, the atmosphere was relaxed and smiles filled the room. With the spring sun shining bright, the trio of LeBlanc and her two companions filled the store with tunes. The set was a great mix of French songs off her 2012 self-titled debut album and English songs off Highways, Heartaches and Time Well Wasted.”
“There are very few musicians out there that genuinely look like they are having as much fun and exude that much energy from behind a guitar and a microphone. His energy is contagious. You can’t help but sing along and clap at every opportunity, and with Turner, there are plenty of opportunities to be heard and participate. There was something extra special about this show, not only was it the first of his little mini-tour, it was the first proper show with a band of 2015 for Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls — quite the honour for Ottawa.”
Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls with Cory Levesque @ Ritual
“The zenith was reached during during the final song of that last performance.
Energy from the crowd clashed with the band’s and culminated into a chaos of people getting on stage while Pregnancy Scares blasted away. It was taken to a whole other level when a man on the side of the stage wearing safety goggles and a bandana over his mouth started an electric grinder inside a steel Ottawa Senators trash can. He showered the stage and musicians with sparks and Davey, loving every minute of it, went as as close as he possibly could.”
Pregnancy Scares’ Final Fright with Subsistench, Sick Nurse & Sailor Jupiter
“The snow storm that hit Ottawa Wednesday night seemed appropriate as we drove out to the Diefenbunker, an underground artifact of the Cold War, on the outskirts of town for another night of MEGAPHONO. It also seemed appropriate that some of Ottawa’s best underground bands were literally gathering under the soil to show their stuff in this unbelievable space.”
MEGAPHONO: Cold War Adventures in the Diefenbunker with Steve Adamyk Band, Boyhood & More
“Last Ex took to the stage and simply put, melted my brain. They play a really cool and out there instrumental music that blew me away. This was the coolest and most captivating instrumental performance I have seen since Explosions in the Sky. ”
MEGAPHONO: Last Ex, Evening Hymns & Scattered Clouds @ St. Alban’s
MEGAPHONO: Last Ex, Evening Hymns & Scattered Clouds @ St. Alban’s
“As Hey Rosetta! hit the stage, the lighting came on and dazzled us all. The foil backdrop also enhanced the lighting effects as it offered distorted reflections. The atmosphere couldn’t be better, and there was an air of excitement and good vibes in the room. […] The band maintained a constant push/pull of energy, keeping the crowd attentive yet engaged and moving. Songs like “Gold Teeth” would fill each corner of Southam Hall with a vibrant energy, while others like “What Arrows” would take it away and take a quiet hold of us all.
Although the night was ephemeral, the memories will remain with us. Great bands, a wonderful venue, incredible sound, and a vivacious crowd – what more can you ask for? Without a doubt, this show was one of the best of the year in Ottawa.”
“The wonderful thing about Rumours is that it every song allowed for a different member to shine. For example John Hynes kicked things off leading “Second Hand News,” while Caylie really showed her vocal chops go far beyond what we have heard from her in Boyhood when she delivered on “Dreams.” Rolf then took lead on “Never Going Back” and teleported us all to a different time. Mike passionately blew everyone away when he sang “Songbird,” showing why many people think he has one of the most special voices in town.”