Photo by Matías Muñoz / Ottawa Showbox
Last Thursday at LIVE on Elgin! a few new Ottawa bands got together with Peterborough’s Television Rd for what was a fun night of music.
First up was the new local outfit Keystroke//Wave, a band of diverse talents which hit the stage for only the second time ever that evening. First off, I have to mention how great it was to see guitarist Brennan Neve up and moving (albeit slowly) on stage after breaking his foot and having surgery a few months back. At the band’s first gig at Bar Robo in early July, Neve was relegated to a chair as he performed. But since his surgery (which went well), he joined his bandmates standing as they dove into their set.
Keystroke//Wave’s music is heavy on the bass grooves, which immediately submerged the crowd below their swell as they gathered momentum a few songs in. Instrumentally, there was a lot going on and the layers of sound were an impressive concoction of melodic flutters, intricate percussive elements, and powerful vocals by Owen Saar. The crowd boosted their confidence with a warm reception and helped make the live music atmosphere more energetic, for a Thursday night show anyway.
At times they really reminded me of Incubus, bringing back to my high school days. Really interesting timing changes in the instrumental song, break downs were on point. Rory McLeod’s style of drumming is unique and really works well with what this band is going for.
Owen’s vocals seemed abrasive at times, somewhat out of balance with the levels of the other instruments. I don’t know if it was that he was singing too close to the mic or it was just where I was sitting, but the loud vocal parts were sometimes a little too much. He his his notes though, and there is no doubt that this band contains dynamic and multi-talented individuals. Saar made sure not to dominate the limelight too much, and I appreciated that he pulled back and let the instruments take centre stage throughout the set. Shaking off the jitters as a new band is something that every band needs to do at the start, and I’m sure after some more gigs these guys will have it locked down even more. They certainly aren’t sloppy or unrehearsed, however. Although they’ll be taking a hiatus for school this next year, keep an eye out for these guys in the future.
Television Rd from Peterborough were on next, and immediately tried to rally the crowd to get excited about their set. However, that effort only partially worked as many folks were either still out smoking or taking off due to their 10pm weekday curfew. I gotta give it to lead vocalist Sara Ostrowska, as she exuded a strong stage presence and didn’t seem to be phased by the crowd dwindling down a bit.
This young 5-piece band dove into their set containing tracks from their two albums Character Splatters and Banshee Cypher. I wasn’t familiar with their music going in, but was impressed with their overall sound which was varied and certainly contained influences from many genres and styles. Their music has a somewhat dark feel to it, with elements of math rock such as rhythmic complexity, irregular transitions and song structure, and dissonant chords throughout many of their songs.
Ostrowska’s striking vocals were a welcome compliment to the instrumentation, which isn’t always easy to get right. However, I can’t say the same about the melodica, which just seemed out of place and a little irritating during the performance. All in all, the band’s crowd interactions were appreciated and their energy on stage never faltered even though guitarist Duncan Mackinnon’s guitar string broke early on and the crowd had dissipated significantly. They proved to be another solid band from Peterborough, next to the likes of The Lonely Parade, Beef Boys, Faux Cults, and Nick Ferrio, to name a few.
Last up were a new Ottawa band called Sparklesaurus. What a sweet band name. This group got off to a great start right away as lead vocalist and guitarist Felicity DeCarle busted out her hollowbody and enthralled the room with her smooth yet powerful vocals. I hadn’t heard their new album Perennials yet, but I have to say I got into all the songs they played. The band is a tightly rehearsed group of talented musicians that know how to make music people will thoroughly enjoy.
A highlight of the night for me was Sparklesaurus’ cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” off of Rumours. Just hearing the band’s harmonies on this song were enough to give the room goosebumps. With the funky bass line from Colleen Jones, fluttery dreamscapes by Shamisa Schroeder on synth, and the whole group joining on vocal harmonies, the group nailed this song front to back. I think there’s definitely some Fleetwood Mac influence in this band’s style and sound, which they adapted well enough to make their own.
Their music isn’t groundbreaking or particularly innovative, but it melds together genres that are loveable and make people listen. I came home and listened to Perennials in full and thoroughly enjoyed it. Tracks like “Geranium”stood out as a summer jam in the same catchy vein as Best Coast, and “Flower Boy” slowed things down as DeCarle put her whammy bar and twangy tones to good use. As the set came to an end, they played a fun adaptation of “Where Is My Mind” by The Pixies which to me was basically a musical high five, because The Pixies are the best. The only thing that would have made their set better was if drummer Brad Lapensee wore his Tyrannosaurus Rex mask for the entire set. Because that should be a thing.