All photos by S. Osmanovic/Ottawa Showbox
Not only was the 12th of May an insane night due to how amazing the show at the Bronson Centre Theatre was, but it was insane for many reasons. As a short preview, I’ll give a list – dead batteries, between-act adventures, and battery compartment latches malfunctioning. Does that sound eventful yet? Most likely.
The first act to come on was Everett Bird. The dynamic that the band possessed was very unique in comparison to other bands that I’ve seen, and although I had completely blown my hearing, I could tell there was something this band possessed that few do. The band takes scales and plays with them with precision. Everett brought his scales from the highest notes he could use down to middle tones, all while being in harmony with what the others were playing. It was such a strange dynamic but it melded together very smoothly. He even produced noises from the guitar that don’t sound like they would come out of such an instrument.
They took these delicate and high notes and combined them into a gritty song filled with power chords, but they also take an approach to their music that sounds a bit like psychedelic and progressive rock. It’s very easy to get lost in and just let the music sway you. The lyrics take you into a different world completely. They produce vivid imagery through each song and through their lyrics, telling a story through each song. This was not limited to just vocals but it was through every note played. Though they didn’t move around very much, they seemed to take a different approach to getting the crowd lost in their music.
Unfortunately, this was the band I did not manage to get any photographs of. This is the first reason my night got thrown into absolute chaos. The batteries for my camera where dead, or so it appeared. It wouldn’t turn on, and I was unable to do anything with it. So as soon as Everett Bird got off stage, I had asked my friend to google the nearest corner store, which was on Albert Street, and while we booked it for the Quickie, one of my very close and dear friends held our spot in case we didn’t make it back in time. The walk was a six minute walk and I had determination that nobody could get in the way of. As soon as we got to the Quickie, we paced around, trying to scope out any batteries, and we noticed them behind the counter. The man charged me a good $10.16 for four AA batteries, and as soon as everything was paid for, we bolted out of the store. We had a brisk walk back, and it was as if everything was in our favour. All the lights turned to the little walking pedestrian as we approached them and we got back just as PS. I Love You had started.
PS I Love You is a group from Kingston that initially started out as a one-man-band, however Paul Saulnier realized that he needed more than just himself to partake in the band, and so Benjamin Nelson joined. The two really lose themselves in the music they create, and the sense of the sound wrapping around you slowly takes over. They really set the mood and atmosphere around them and they know how to control every aspect of it. Not only this, but the two are incredibly talented. Paul had at one point taken his guitar behind his head and shred the most amazing solo which only indicates how much raw talent these individuals possess.
Because it’s just the two of them, they have a very harmonious way of working together. It seems like the harmony goes deeper than just the music, which only helps them in their live performances. Their light and airy sound is drenched in reverb, and soaked in the sound produced by the organ pedal used for the guitar. The sound produced was very heavy yet interesting. I’d never heard anything like it before. It was entirely new to me and if I’m honest, it’s the first I’ve heard of such a pedal existing. The vocals were unconventional in the sense that they’re not perfect or smooth. They’re their own and fit into the very strange assortment of harmonies and melodies that were put together.
Unfortunately, halfway through their set, my camera stopped working once again. For the life of me I could not figure out what was going on until I took a closer look at the battery compartment. For my camera, it was located at the bottom, which meant a lot of force had to go into closing it. I had flipped it over and opened the compartment and as I had done so, I realized the small sliver of black plastic that held it shut had broken off and the little compartment could no longer be closed properly. At this point, I had had enough. I had come to the show to have a good time, and to get some amazing photographs and I was determined not to leave without them.
“But your camera is half broken,” you may say. Technically yes, but literally nothing was going to stop me from shooting this show. Anyone who knows me, knows that I’ve been looking forward to this for far too long. In the moment, I looked over at what tools I had (which wasn’t much) and decided on my solution. I quickly wrapped the camera strap around the camera itself, making sure to pull it tight across the bottom. I looped it twice and then looped what remained around my right hand then placed my pinkie right where the battery compartment was and ensured it stayed shut. This wasn’t only difficult to do, but it was painful as well. This is how I managed to shoot the rest of the show.
Ottawa natives Hollerado came on after a quick little sound check from their crew and jumped right into what they do best. The stage went dark right before they emerged and the UV lights lit up the stage and displayed all the graphics that were painted on either large sheets, guitar cases, boxes, or the likes. Dean’s bass resonated clearly throughout the theatre and it could have been because I was very close by, but Hollerado has always been a band that has shown appreciation for a good bass line time and time again. Even the drumming that Jake presents to us is unlike anyone else’s drumming. In its own ways it’s simple enough to learn if you worked on it, however he plays with such energy and passion that I don’t think many could match even if they put their hearts into it. Although I have said that the drumming is simple enough to learn if you really sat down and tried, it’s also not as simple as it looks or sounds. It’s very precise when it comes down when each beat is hit, and it relies on rudiments. The way he even controls how loud or soft the sound gets takes practice and it’s something that most people don’t take into account.
Menno’s vocals are very rock and punk-based, especially with the new album. Of course, there is the backing vocals of Dean, Nixon, and Jake that add that slightly more indie-rock feel, which go back to the roots of the band. I particularly admired Nixon’s playing, especially how quickly he got back on his feet from his injury. The thing about the way he plays, he almost becomes one with his instrument. He knows it as if it’s the back of his hand and that only adds to how talented he is when it gets down to it. He loses himself in the music and he’s so in harmony with the songs, the instrument, and the setting that his performance falls nothing short of amazing. Although Menno isn’t one to rip out these intricate solos he really puts a spotlight on his guitar work, tearing away at power chords like in “Juliette” and “Eloise.” He’ll even create harmonies with Nixon’s playing to give a new depth to the songs that Hollerado plays.
They opened with a song from their new album, Born Yesterday. This really brought a kick to the show, and although most bands do open with tracks from their most recent release, you could tell each member was fully invested in this. In the moment, they were all there mentally, and physically. This album seemed to take a much more serious tone that the previous two, however due to the incredibly upbeat nature of the songs, you could get down to them very easily. Each riff holds a very intricate sound to it, different from the rest. Even when they slowed it down, the songs still had a very powerful sound to them, heavy on the bass and guitars. They even seemed to explore a little bit with their sound, extending to some more bluesy sounds.
During their performances, as unconventional as they are, Menno brought out cookies at one point, treating the crowd to a little snack. Not only does he get personal with the crowd, but with his friends with whom he shares the stage. He shares his microphone with Nixon from time to time, and they each invade each other’s personal space. Nixon would get up on Jake’s kick drum and jump off, Dean would get right beside Menno, and Menno and Nixon would take turns in each other’s space. Their performances are incredibly intimate no matter how big a show they play. They take this lack of personal space and apply it to the crowd as well. At one point Menno had shoved the microphone in my face and got me to sing along (I was later informed that I sang on key which rarely happens).
They did not disappoint when it came to the performance they put on, and even allowed a member of the crowd to play part of a song with them, asking who could play the guitar. They invited a man up and you could clearly tell he was so happy about the moment and you could tell the band really wanted him to feel like he belonged. Even in the moment where a drunk woman ran up on stage and slapped Menno’s ass, they weren’t angry, they just went with it and laughed it off. They even got an older gentleman (perhaps a family member?) to play a few songs with them.
There was one point where they began to play my favourite song off the new record, Eloise (which they weren’t even sure about adding to the record a year ago until my friend’s sister told them that they need to add it), and a man ran up on stage and told them to stop the show. He needed 9-1-1 called due to a woman passing out, and every member of Hollerado dropped their instruments and ran over to help in any way that they could. When they got back, they informed us that everything was okay, and she woke up and told them she passed out and that she was okay. They picked back up only after making sure that everyone was okay.
This album really brought a depth to the band that had come through before but never with such intensity. With songs about politics, love, and family, they really secured their legitimacy with this record, although they could probably write a song about a sock and everyone would love it just the same. They find a way to take small things and make them fun, or serious. They even have a song about a turtle (go listen to “Lonesome George”).
Hollerado, as a band, is very good at taking unconventional approached to rock, punk, and indie music, including staccato guitar intros, and tremolo picking solos. Much like bands they’re friends with, or have been associated with, they bring such a unique energy that only they would be able to bring to a room. It’s indescribable. It’s terrible to be one to say “man, you’ve just had to be there,” but it’s true! This is the only show I’ve been to where they haven’t fired off glitter and confetti and completely wrecked the venue with those small pieces of paper. Had they actually done that, you probably would have been finding it in weird places for days (this happens, trust me).
They guys themselves are incredibly kind people and all it takes is a conversation to get them talking. They actually even remembered my two friends and I from previous shows that we’ve frequented and asked about how we were doing and how our lives were going. Each member pays attention to you when you’re in conversation and really value your word. And lemons.
This band is one you need to see live before you die and even if you have to call in sick to work, or jump several fences to get there, please do because you will not regret it at all. You’ll probably just have too much fun and never want to go back to your regular life ever again. Also, please bring them Sharpies (or don’t it’s up to you) because they seem to be lacking some. And if you borrow their Sharpie, return it to Dean. It’s probably his.
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