The Wonder Years, Have Mercy, & more at The Brass Monkey

Words by Michelle Heenan
Photos by Aidan Thatcher

The night started off early with Roxbury, a three piece rock band from Seattle, who took the stage to open the show.  The trio brought enough energy to power everything and everyone in the entire bar. The lead vocalist/guitarist and bassist complimented each other exuding their passion for rock and roll through head bangs and solos. Overall, they were loud, hyped, and set the tone for the rest of the night, letting everyone know that it would be a show to remember.

Prior to the show, I was not overly familiar with Shortly, the music project of Alexandria Maniak, but, backed by a full band, their set left me and the rest of the crowd, awe struck. Lead singer, Maniak, took the stage and her soft-yet-powerful vocals danced through the venue. Unfortunately, the bustling crowd talked over the music, but that was short lived. The soft tone took a sudden shift, as the guitar and drums erupted, and the bass and snare drums shook the room, anyone chatting jumped, and like that, the crowd’s attention was zeroed in on the stage.

The music itself struck the perfect mix. With flawlessly executed harmonics, thoughtful lyrics, and an ever-evolving tempo, Shortly’s set was shoegazey, powerful, and captivating, finding appreciation among the pop punk crowd. Maniak played with passion that connected with the audience, taking time to share the meaning behind songs that were composed, written, and performed with immense amounts of talent, attention to detail, and undying passion. Touring her debut EP titled Richmond, it was Shortly’s first night in Ottawa, but I know I’m not alone in saying I hope it was the first of many.

Oso Oso, who was back in town for the second time this year, touring his second LP, The Yunahon Mixtape, Jade Lilitri hit the stage with an indie rock flare. He played a consistent set starting off with his new album’s first track, the cool. He looked right at home on stage, hitting every note with ease, and taking the time to reminisce about previous tour stops in Ottawa when he used to play house shows earlier in his career.  The crowd, feeding off his vibes, heads bobbing in unison, sang along, and enjoyed a solid performance. He closed his set on a fan favourite, reindeer games, another single from his new album.

Have Mercy ramped up the energy in the room when they began their set. Lead singer, Brian Swindle, immediately won the room over with his playful banter about the recent legalization of cannabis in Canada. He opened with “Smoke and Lace,” the first track on his 2017 album, Make the Best of it, then immediately began passing a wine bottle around on stage, for their post intro ‘wine break.’  Swindle thanked their bassist who stepped in for their Canadian shows, filling the crowd in, that it was only the bassists second time playing with them, something you would never have guessed by their seamless performance. The guitarist was just as entertaining, sharing stories about their time in Canada, especially their time in Quebec City the day before, breaking into song singing, ‘Alouette gentille alouette.’

Beyond their larger than life stage presence, the music was raw, unapologetic, and was accented by Swindle’s trademark raspy voice.  The crowd’s energy hit a high when the band played a popular single from an older album, Let’s Talk About Your Hair. As everyone sang and jumped along, it was the cherry on top of an impressive group of opening performances.

I made my way to a platform at the side of the room to get the best possible view for the final act.  As smoke filled the stage and the lights dimmed, you could feel the anticipation in the room grow as the crowd dressed in punk styled back-print t-shirts and hoodies grew even larger. The Wonder Years took the stage in front of a massive sea of hands and screaming bodies. They started it off with the title track from their new album, Sister Cities, as the crowd immediately sang along, word for word, the punk-pop vets showed everyone in the room how it was done.  Their energy was unsurpassable, and the crowd fed it right back to them.

Front man Dan Campbell reminded the crowd that it had been a while since they had been in Ottawa, to his surprise six years. He promised to go above and beyond to deliver an amazing show—and he kept his promise. The guitar riffs were tight and the drums, ear splitting, which defended their pop punk reign with ease. The band played so hard and so loud, that mid-show, an amp blew—but, the crowd continued to sing, and carried the band through the rest of the song as they quickly addressed the issue, ramping the show back up and turning the volume back to 11.  

The band never let their energy waiver, as Campbell belted out song after song, the crowd did the same. The room got hotter, as people jumped higher, sang louder, and moshed in unison. The set closed with a double encore. “The Devil in my Bloodstream” and “Came Out Swinging” were the chosen last jams that wrapped up what was, without a doubt, a must-see show for any punk fan.  It was one that left you voiceless, sweaty, (maybe shedding a few tears) and remembering why you got into punk music in the first place.

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