Ottawa Explosion Day 4: The Dirty Nil, Wasted Potential, Big Eyes, Future Girls, Fresh Hell and more
June 21, 2016
by Eric Scharf
There is so much going on during the Saturday of Ottawa Explosion Weekend it feels like you are sprinting during an over 12 hour musical marathon. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I started off my day with a dose of Cheap Wine. It is so great to see Eric Neurotic back on the horse after Feral Trash ended. Add in that he is joined by Steve Adamyk and Jordy Bell (The Creeps/Crusades) and you know you’re in for a rocking good time. Now if they would only get some stuff recorded so I can listen to it all the time and not just wait for their next live show that would be great.
Crossed Wires were next and they continued the influx of really good bands from Halifax playing Explosion. Actually come to think of it, it feels like a band from Halifax has played every day and that their numbers are comparable to Ottawa bands at this festival. I really enjoyed their sound just as I have at previous Explosions and loved that the guitarist was rocking out with a Wayne’s World ball cap on. Lead singer and bassist, Heather, was so grateful to be back, “thanks to organizers and volunteers this is my favourite weekend of the year.” The band closed with a cover of the theme song to the TV show Daria which appears on a split with locals Creep Waves.
Next up was one of the most fun sets of the day, delivered by Montreal’s darlings Sonic Avenues. These lads really know how to write songs and play them with great passion, even in more than 30 degree weather. Their set had locals, Steve Adamyk, Emmanuel and Davey loosing their mind at the side of the stage. They were singing a long none stop, Davey jumped on the mic a few times, Emmanuel was towelling/fanning the guitarist and all three were just having a blast. It was great to see. Sonic Avenues played a little bit of everything from their collections, from a great new track “Where No One Falls,” to my favourite “Automatic” to digging back to their early days with Hiding From You.” They closed out the set dedicating the song “Heartland” to Steve Adamyk for being “the MVP of the festival having already played 5 shows.” They will be back July 22 at House of Targ with Needles // Pins, Steve Adamyk Band and Creep Waves, more info here.
As supper approached, Emmanuel said “get your Palm Bays it’s Century Palm Bay time,” and with my love for puns and play on words I could not resist. So with a nice cold Palm Bay in hand I settled in to watch Century Palm. The band played a bunch of new material, none of which I had heard before, in anticipation of a new record out later this year. It also marked their last show with guitarist Alex Hamlyn, who is moving on and on good terms they assured us. For their last song, they turned the mic to Hamlyn and he led them through a rocking rendition of the 1980’s classic “I Want to Destroy You” by Soft Boys. A great way for him to cap off his time with the band and to end the afternoon session.
My evening kicked off with the dark and devilish local trio known as Black Tower. The band opened with the first 2 songs of their record The Secret Fire. The first one being “Death March” which really puts the bands punk and metal influences on display. The band delivers such great heavy riffs with haunting vocals that echo from the depths of a cemetery or from a ghastly queen. Black Tower makes me want my long hair back so I can just let it flail along. The band also threw in a couple of new tracks that sounded great.
Saturday’s great surprise for me was Future Girls from Halifax. The has two members of Crossed Wires who played earlier in the day on guitar and drums. I don’t know why I was surprised with how much I liked them considering every band from Halifax this year was killer, including Crossed Wires. Nonetheless I had never seen them before I truly enjoyed their set. They just recently released a new two song demo, The Problem of Motivation Demo, which happens to have my favourite song “Middle America” on it. I don’t know whats in the water out in Halifax, but it is growing incredible power pop and pop punk bands seemingly non-stop.
I then returned outside for Kait Eldridge’s band Big Eyes from Brooklyn, NYC. The band led off with the song track off their new LP coming out in August, and well after hearing it, August cannot come soon enough. Such a rad track and a great way to kick off a set. The rest of Big Eyes’ set was great and just to remind me that August is way too far, they played “Local Celebrity” the lead single off upcoming near the end.
After Big Eyes, I headed to Ritual Nightclub for the first time of the festival. Kicking things off there was local duo No Fuss, a bass and drums duo featuring Chris Cook (Finderskeepers). Unfortunately there wasn’t many people at Ritual until much later, but it didn’t look to bother the duo. The duo is super tight and I love that they both contribute vocals. They only have four recorded songs under their belt, but you can already see the growth from their first three song demo to their newest track “Old Truths.”
The local acts continued as Fresh Hell took to the stage next. The four piece is composed of members from a bunch of local bands, and together they are something really special. I think they are one of the catchiest and most infectious punk bands to ever come out of this city. Fresh Hell gave us a taste of a bunch of new music which really rocks and cemented their set with tracks like “Home,” “Old Sheets,” and “Surrounded,” from their debut We Never Sleep. During the set singer and guitarist Cory Levesque saying “be kind and love each other,” which giving the current state of the world, can not be overstated.
Next up was a total change of pace with London, Ontario’s pizza party hardcore punkers, Wasted Potential. The crowd really hadn’t grown much by now, which really didn’t make any sense to me, but I guess that is the nature of having so many bands going at multiple venues. On the plus side I got to set up pretty close to really get the full face melting effect of the solos and not miss a singer dance move. There are very few if any singers more animated than the lead singer of Wasted Potential. Even if attendance was lacking, they didn’t slow down and played stuff from all over their repertoire, including “Here’s Your Exit Letter” off of their first demo. They also played “Never Asked” which they introduced as “this is as close to a pop song we can write… and it fucking sucks.” It wasn’t that bad…
I capped off my night with probably the best band ever from Dundas, Ontario, The Dirty Nil. The three piece perfectly blends grunge and punk and it is never more obvious than during songs such as the one they opened with “No Weaknesses.” That also happens to be the first track on their debut album, Higher Power, that they dropped earlier this year that had many people, including myself, saying it could be one of the best releases of the year. You don’t hear that often in February. In a fun twist the band dug deep to their earlier days and played their anthem, “Cinnamon,” with the killer line” You can be pissed off if you want to,” repeated several times. I was so pumped up after this set I needed a nice long walk home to have any chance of falling a sleep.