Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Countdown to Osheaga: Austra

The countdown to Osheaga continues! Today I'm listening to electro group, Austra.

I'm lucky enough to have a great friend who feeds me really good music on occassion. My friend said something along the lines of: "This is Austra. You will like it." Indeed, I did. My friend was right. By the time I started really getting into the group, they had just played a show in Ottawa, which I missed sadly.

SIDENOTE: This particular scenario always happens to me. I usually get really excited about an artists or a band  months/years after everyone else has jumped on the bandwagon. I'm OK with that. I need to become a fan on my own time... It's fine. However, in most cases, I start obsessing over certain artists/bands, then say: "Hey, wouldn't it be great to see this/these gal/guy(s) live?!?!" That's usually about the time where my partner or friend would say "Julie, they were in Ottawa # of weeks/months ago..." Then I get really sad... Story of my life.

In many cases, the band or artist whose show I missed tends to return to the general area for another show later on and I manage to catch that show. This is the case for Austra.

The Canadian trio have only released one album so far but it's definitely making waves. "Feel it Break" was nominated for a Polaris Music Prize in 2011.

I really enjoy Austra's music and I'm really excited for their set at Osheaga. 

Here's the video for the song "Lose it", one of my favourites off the album. Enjoy!

Monday, 30 July 2012

Countdown to Osheaga: the Shins

This year, I will be attending Osheaga for the first time ever. Safe to say, I am beyond excited to go to this music festival. Although I decided to only attend one day of the three-day festival this year, I will be seeing a lot of bands that I love.

As I count down the days to Osheaga, I will be posting stuff about the bands that I am really excited about seeing this year. Today, let me talk about the Shins.

Back in 2004, I fell in love with "Garden State" and the music in the film. The Shins had two amazing songs on the soundtrack ("New Slang" and "Caring is Creepy"). I was completely obsessed with the soundtrack for years... the music from the film just really spoke to me. For a while, the Shins fell off my radar but I rediscovered their music last year, after I got my hands on their album "Wincing the Night Away". This past March, "Port of Morrow" was released and I grabbed it right away. Safe to say, the Shins' music still have the same effect on me, years later.

Below is the video for "It's Only Life" - my absolute favourite song from the Shins' latest album "Port of Morrow". I fell in love with this song instantly. It makes me smile every time I hear it. The album is worth checking out and this video is absolutely adorable! Enjoy!

Friday, 27 July 2012

Review: Passion Pit "Gossamer"

Back in 2010, I discovered Passion Pit when they played at Bluesfest. A close friend of mine took me to the show, and I fell head over heels in love with their music. They put on a fantastic show, one that I will never forget. Since then, I have been a very big fan of Passion Pit.

Tuesday, I picked up "Gossamer", Passion Pit's sophomore album. Being a huge fan of their first album "Manners" (2009), I knew that it would be really hard to beat... However, "Gossamer" managed to reach the same level of quality. This album feels more mature than the previous, although the distinct Passion Pit sound is still present (which is a great thing).

Most of the songs on the album are upbeat and fun but all of them are filled with emotion and feel quite raw. The music can make you smile and dance, but still manages to creep under your skin and shake you to your core. Lead singer Michael Angelakos' vocal range is very impressive, and this album really showcases it (a lot more than "Manners" does, in my opinion). In addition, he wrote of all the songs on the album, all of which are phenomenal. There is not one song on the album that I do not like.

Angelakos has recently come forward and admitted to dealing with some mental health issues. This apparently made the process of recording "Gossamer" quite challenging. This makes listening to this album so much more meaningful, knowing the story behind it. Kudos to him for coming forward with his struggles, especially when there is such a stigma attached to mental health and mental illness. Also, kudos to his bandmates for supporting him through this tough time. If you have a few minutes, this article is definitely worth a read.

Overall, "Gossamer" is a great album and definitely worth checking out. To me, listening to Passion Pit always feels like a magical experience. So have a listen and let yourself be taken away.

Favourite track: "It's not my fault, I'm happy"

I cannot wait to see Passion Pit at Osheaga next week. The show is going to be epic!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Bluesfest: Day 10, 11 & 12

After a very busy Bluesfest, I am slowly recovering. During the last three days of Bluesfest, I volunteered a total of 16 hours and was lucky enough to see some amazing shows.

On Day 10, I headed to Lebreton Flats early to catch St-John's own Hey Rosetta! A good sized crowd was already gathered at the Claridge stage at 6pm to catch the show. They put on a great show, despite the intense heat.

Before I headed to my volunteer shift that evening, I stopped by the River Stage to check out The Dirty Heads. I knew nothing about this group, but am I ever glad I checked them out. Their mix of reggae/ska mixed with rock/hip hop was contagious. Their music was light and very refreshing. By far my favourite discovery of this year's Bluesfest.  

Young the Giant ended the evening on the River stage, where I had the chance to watch the end of their set. A large crowd was gathered and there was lots of energy, both from the crowd and the performers. They ended their set with their very popular first single, "My Body" which had everyone on their feet, dancing.

The next day was more focused on electronic music. This line-up attracted a much younger crowd. After my long volunteer shift, I checked out Diplo, a well-know American DJ and producer. He put on a great set, playing many popular songs. During his set, he was constantly interacting with the crowd, making sure they were having a good time. He even crowd surfed and walked in the crowd in a huge, inflated ball.  Overall, the show had great energy and it was fun. I also had the opportunity to check out Beirut, Mastodon and Soul Jazz Orchestra briefly before heading out to see the main act with some friends.

The evening ended with Skrillex on the main stage. This crowd was absolutely insane and was by far the largest crowd that I have seen at Bluesfest at this year. The show was pretty epic, with lights and lazers galore.The sound was really REALLY loud... maybe a bit too much. Although the show was fun, I decided to call it a night 30 minutes into Skrillex's set. Too many drunk/high/wasted 20 year olds squeezed into one place.A bit too uncomfortable for my liking.

File:Skrillex Ottawa Bluesfest.jpg
Skrillex at Bluesfest 2011. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Finally, I was beyond excited about the very last day of Bluesfest. The line-up was the most appealing to me out of the whole festival. After another six hour volunteer shift, I headed to the River Stage to check out Wintersleep. Their appearance at Bluesfest is replacing their scheduled show at Ottawa Folk Festival next September, so it was crucial that I check it out. The show was great and the small intimate crowd seemed quite pleased, as they should've.

Since discovering his music, I have been obsessed with the Weeknd. I was thrilled when I heard he was playing  at this year's Bluesfest. A good crowd gathered at the Claridge stage, waiting for Abel Tesfaye to begin his set. I was very impressed with the turnout. The Weeknd began his set with "High for This", one of his best songs (in my opinion).  His setlist also included tracks like "Lonely Star", "Rolling Stone", "Life of the Party", my favourite Weekdn track "The Knowing" and finally, his last song was "Wicked Games". Overall, his show was fantastic. The crowd was great. Julie = a very happy girl!

Last but definitely not least, my favourite band in the entire planet took over the main stage: Metric. Although Metric has been playing Bluesfest every year for a long time, this was the first time that Metric was headlining. Although I have seen Metric live probably 7 or 8 times at this point, I was beyond excited for this particular show, seeing as their new album "Synthetica" came out about a month ago. I really enjoy the album, therefore I was really looking forward to hearing it live.

File:Emily Haines at Ottawa Bluesfest 2010.jpg
Emily Haines of Metric at Bluesfest 2010.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Well, the show did not disappoint! Right off the bat, Metric played the first three tracks of "Synthetica" back to back, then "Dreams so Real". In all honesty, if you were at the show and you hadn't listened to their new album yet, you probably didn't know any of the songs that they played in the first 30 minutes of the set.  However, near the end, they began playing more well-known songs, including "Help, I'm Alive", "Gold Guns Girls", "Dead Disco", "Empty" and my favourite "Stadium Love". Their encore featured the hit "Monster Hospital" and a raw, acoustic version of "Gimme Sympathy", which was beautiful and it ended the show on a high note.

Overall, the show was pretty memorable. Ms. Haines was energetic and looking fantastic (as usual). She did seem to get quite sweaty quite fast (I'm not complaining). I wouldn't say that it's the best Metric show I've seen (cuz I've seen a lot of them), but I had an absolute blast! I danced my butt off and got to share the experience with one of my best friends, Amy. Here we are early that week at the Electro stage:

Overall, this year's Bluesfest was fantastic. I feel extremely lucky to have seen the amazing shows that I saw. Although I am still exhausted a week later, I'm a bit sad that it's over. However, I won't be bored for too long cuz up next is Osheaga! Two weeks to go...

Friday, 13 July 2012

Bluesfest: Day 9

Even after taking three days off from Bluesfest, I was still tired. However, I knew I couldn't miss Day 9, especially since Sam Roberts Band was playing.

I had never been a fan of Sam Roberts. Not until my friend asked me to go to his show in February as part of her birthday celebrations. I'm usually not one to say no to concerts and it was her birthday after all, so I accepted. Turns out, his show was fantastic and he's a terrific performer. Since then, I've been hooked!

While working at the Junos this year, Sam Roberts is the first musician that I met face to face, and I must say... this man is drop dead gorgeous, with unbelievable blue eyes that will make you fall head over heels in love with him... but I digress. He was really really nice and spoke with everyone in the room. Super nice and approachable guy... When I found out he was playing Bluesfest, I was really excited.

His set last night was great. He was filled with energy, as he always is. Even from a hundred feet away, I could still see his piercing blue eyes. Mmmmm... Anyways, there was a huge crowd and people seemed very enchanted by him (or maybe it's just me). Everyone also sang along, which was really fun too!

Afterwards, I stopped by the River Stage quickly to check out the Sheepdogs. Was I ever impressed! There was a huge crowd gathered and the Sheepdogs definitely delivered. They sounded impeccable! At least a million times better than Sleigh Bells...

I didn't stay for the whole set but I really enjoyed what I heard from the Sheepdogs. They are certainly a group to look out for!

Day 10 will be a short Bluesfest day for me, as I will only have time to watch one or two acts before my volunteer shift.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Bluesfest: Day 5

On Day 5 of Bluesfest, I decided to take it easy and only attend shows in the evening. My first and only stop: the Electro stage. So far I have really enjoyed the acts that have performed on that stage. Sunday was no different.

After hearing such great things about the group, I was really excited to check out A Tribe Called Red (ATCR). They certainly lived up to the hype; the group's performance was fantastic! These three local MC's put on a great show for the crowd. They seemed like they genuinely having fun. They succeeded in mixing cool beats and some interesting authentic aboriginal sounds.

The crowd was enthusiastic and danced throughout the set. They ended their set with a rendition of Nelly Furtado's Big Hoops (Bigger the Better), a song that they collaborated on with Furtado. Overall, this show was a great introduction to the group and I am definitely a fan now.

Here's a small clip of their performance:

ATCR was opening for Chromeo, who were performing a DJ set that night. Despite not doing a traditional Chromeo performance, the boys attracted quite a large crowd. I was particularly surprised with the turnout, especially since Norah Jones was playing on the Main Stage at the same time.

File:Chromeo (Promo Photo 2010).jpg
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

The boys, P-Thugg and Dave 1, were quite energetic and knew how to engage the crowd. However, having seen a Chromeo show last September, their set was not up to par with their live performance. I definitely preferred the Chromeo show to their DJ set. Also, I was expecting them to play Duck Sauce's Barbara Streisand, which they didn't. Despite this, both shows succeeded in making me dance my butt off.

As for Bluesfest Day 6-7-8, I decided to take a (much-needed) break. I'm headed back to Bluesfest tonight for Day 9, with Sam Roberts Band and the Sheepdogs. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Bluesfest: Day 4

On Day 4 of Bluesfest, I had my first volunteer shift, then quickly went to check out the electro stage, which is quickly becoming my favourite stage at the festival.

Although there was a UFC event that I wanted to watch, I could not leave Bluesfest without checking out Alice Cooper on the main stage. I've seen Alice Cooper before, on my birthday last year and his show is fantastic. It was just as good and just as fun the second time around. His theatrics are always entertaining and his song selection is great! I am so happy that I stuck around to catch his show.

Also, check out my (French) review of Bluesfest: Day 4 here, on Sors-tu.  If you've never read their blog, please do so now. It's awesome!

I have decided to take off Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday and not go to Bluesfest. There are no huge artists that I really want to see... and quite frankly, I am exhausted and want to spend some time at home.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Bluesfest: Day 3

I am a huge fan of the Montreal-based music blog, Sors-tu. When I noticed that they were reporting on the Ottawa Bluesfest, I contacted them and asked if they were looking for contributors. After speaking with the editor of the blog, he asked if I would report on three days of the festival.

This was a really exciting development for me. I have been looking to contribute to other blogs and I've wanted to focus my writing on music reviews so this is a great fit. Also, I really want to improve my French writing.

Here's my review of Day 3 of Bluesfest. Thanks to Sors-tu for the opportunity.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Bluesfest: Day 2

Day 2 of Bluesfest was a really exciting day for me. One of my very favourite bands was playing: Dragonette.

I have seen Dragonette live twice already and I am a huge fan! Seeing as they've become more popular since collaborating with Martin Solveig on the successful single "Hello", I knew that there would be lots of people going to see the show.

They started their set with "Hello", pumping up the crowd from the very beginning. They also played two other international hits: Big in Japan (Martin Solveig) and Fire in Your New Shoes (Kaskade). In addition, most of the songs from their set were new songs, set to be released on their new album in September. Although I didn't know any of them, they were really good. It was a good preview to the new album and I'm looking forward to the release date. They also played a couple of songs from "Fixin' to Thrill" and one song from "Galore". I wish that they played more of their older songs. It was obvious that they catered their set-list to include more of their recent, mainstream material. I would have definitely preferred the original Dragonette material. Highlight of the show: "Pick up the Phone".

The main act on the main stage that evening was LMFAO. First, I need to mention the awful, neon-coloured outfits that patrons were wearing. It was hideous, embarrassing and frankly, it hurt my eyes. I saw people wear things in public that one should never wear, ever! Second, although I have most likely danced to an LMFAO song at a bar at some point in my adult life, I am not a fan nor do I respect these guys as musicians. Their music is catchy and appropriate for nightclubs. However, I don't find it remotely creative nor do I appreciate a neon speedo. Luckily for me, Plants & Animals was playing at the River Stage at the same time.

Plants & Animals put on a great set, playing both new and old songs. The show seemed very intimate with a small crowd gathered at the River Stage. There was a great energy in the air. The crowd seemed very pleased with the show and the song selection too. The River stage is by far my favourite stage at Bluesfest because it overlooks the water and it is so stunning at nightime (Iron & Wine, 2010). Highlight of the show: "Bye Bye Bye".

After the Plants & Animals show was over, I headed towards the main stage to meet my friends (who were watching LMFAO). Walking by the Merchandise tent, I saw that Martina and the boys from Dragonette were still there, finishing up their autograph signing session. I decided to stop and say hi. Martina and I chatted for a couple of minutes. She's lovely and so nice! I love her!

Overall, I had a fantastic evening and saw two amazing bands perform. I had some great company. I danced a little (although I am still sore from the crazy dancing from Day 1). Also, meeting the lead singer of Dragonette was a perfect way to end the evening!

Enjoy this video from one of my favourite Dragonette songs!

Stay tuned for Day 3, which includes City and Colour, David Gray, Sleigh Bells and the Arkells.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Bluesfest: Day 1

Yesterday was Day 1 of the RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest.

Day 1 started off on a strong note, although I only managed to get on the festival grounds by 9pm. I had a meeting with my Fringe colleagues that prevented me from going earlier. However, in all honesty, I was only interested in seeing the main act on the main stage: Tiesto.

After discovering Tiesto's music a couple of years ago, I became a fan instantly. His collaboration with Emily Haines, frontwoman of Metric, on the song "Knock Me Out" sealed the deal for me and I was hooked.

First, I was surprised at how many people showed up to see Tiesto's show. This is the first electro artist playing at this year's festival, whose line-up includes many electro artists and even designated an electro stage. I initially thought that maybe Ottawa wouldn't be very receptive to the new direction of the festival.

The popular dutch DJ had a very elaborate set-up, including huge screens in front and behind his wide turn tables, displaying some cool images and colours during his songs. Tiesto's set included many remixes of popular songs, including Calvin Harris "Feel So Close", Coldplay "Paradise", OneRepublic "Apologize" and Rihanna "We Found Love". At various points in the show, water was sprayed through the crowd and the stage erupted with smoke and even fireworks.

Having lived in Ottawa for ten years, I know the concert crowd pretty well: it's mostly boring. But I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised of how fun and engaged the crowd was. Good for you, Ottawa! Also, I'm sure it helped that most people in the crowd were in their twenties. Even the random older person in the crowd was dancing and having a great time. This makes me really happy.

There was a very contagious vibe amongst the crowd and people were having a great time, feeding off of one another's energy. Also, I must admit that I have never danced so much in my entire life. Crazy, ridiculous, fun dancing... If I wasn't having so much fun, maybe I would felt embarrassed. But I didn't.

The show was everything I was expecting and more! The downside: Day 1 and I'm already exhausted. Oh, the fun begins...

Stay tuned! Day 2 = Dragonette + Plants & Animals