Saturday, 29 June 2013

Review: Heathers @ Cafe Dekcuf

On Thursday, I went to Cafe Dekcuf to check out Heathers. I had seen posters of the upcoming show in the downtown area, and I was intrigued. I had never heard of the group before, but for some reason, I felt like it would be my kind of music.

On Wednesday, I was listening to CBC Radio's All in a Day, and they were giving away tickets to the show, and I won! I never win anything, so I was quite excited.

The show began with Peas & Carrots, whose set we missed unfortunately. We did catch the very last song, which featured the lovely Samantha playing the ukelele and singing.  She sounded fantastic and I am hoping that I can catch the group play soon.

Then was the turn of Those Gulls.The electro/rock/pop band reminded me a bit of Metric, which is one of my favourite bands. Although all of the elements of the band were good, but there was something missing. I believe the band just needs to more practice.

Finally, the lovely duo, Heathers take the stage. Twin sisters Ellie and Louise Macnamara are from Dublin, Ireland, and they rock a wicked accent!

Heathers 2
From the first song, I was hooked. They were absolutely fantastic! I really enjoyed their sound. Their blend of folk, rock and pop music is infectious and totally endearing. These girls truly enjoy playing live music together. You can just tell.

The siblings are currently touring to support their second LP, "Kingdom". The highlight of their performance was an amazing cover of Lana Del Rey's "Summertime Sadness", which is my favourite Lana Del Rey track. It was absolutely beautiful.

In most instances where I had zero expectations going into a show, I am blown away. This show was no exception! Also, seeing as the Macnamara sisters are from so far away, I feel extremely lucky to have been able to catch this show.

These girls are the real deal! Go check out Heathers now!

Side note: One thing that I absolutely hate is when people talk during a live show. I feel like it is so disrespectful to both the musicians and other audience members. I realize that people go to shows for different reasons and lots of people go to shows to socialize. I understand that, but I go to shows to see shows... Maybe that's just me.

During the show, there were musicians in the audience who were talking really loudly. This really bothered me, not only because it was distracting but because these people are musicians. If anyone should know the importance of paying attention during someone's show, it should be another musician. I found this so disrespectful on so many levels. I would think that someone would feel grateful to have the opportunity to play for a live audience. I also would think that if anyone knew the pressures of playing in front of an audience and working to keep their attention, that it would be another musician.

Safe to say, I found this extremely disrespectful. What do you guys think?

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Pushing the Boundaries of Jazz and Hip Hop

Originally published on Couch Assassin.

This Friday, the Ottawa Jazz Festival welcomes the Herbaliser, a band formed by Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba in the early 1990s. Based out of London, England, the band has been producing their blend of jazz rap for almost twenty years.

When asked to describe the Herbaliser sound, bassist and producer Jake Wherry painted a clear picture: "If you imagine a Venn diagram, with Funk, Hip-Hop, Jazz and a bit of Soul, our sound would be where the circles all meet," he explained.

According to Wherry, the group usually gets positive reactions from people who hear their music for the first time. "Certainly in the early days of the band, we blew people away. At the time, the live dance music scene was mostly about DJs performing with a couple of dancers and a bongo player [...] When we hit the stage, it was quite powerful. Now it's more common to see a large band playing dance music, but we paved the way!"

Wherry shared that playing at outdoor festivals is a different experience from playing indoor venues. "The first time we played outdoors at Glastonbury, it was incredible to see the crowd growing as we played [...] There must have been 25,000 people by the end and the sun was setting. It's a great memory." Wherry also recalled a great indoor show: "The first time we played at the Montreal Jazz Festival, we were in a basement at les Foufounes Électriques, [...] it was crazy."

Although the group has been playing and producing music for many years, they do not feel any pressure to stay relevant in today's music industry. "I think if you try and keep up with what's "now" then it soon becomes yesterday," said Wherry. "We just make the music we want to make and we hope it gets received well." Since the beginning, the group has had the freedom to do what they want, from their early days with [record label] Ninja Tune to their last album, released on their own record label, Department H. "Of course, now we have our own label, so we can really make what we want to," he added.

When asked if he ever considered pursuing something other than music, Wherry jokingly said "The last time I looked at my bank balance."

2013 is bound to be a busy year for the Herbaliser. Not only is the group touring, they will also be collaborating with some up and coming Canadian MCs. "We are writing music for an album we're doing with Ghettosocks and Timbuktu AKA Teenburger. [The album] will be all rap, which is something we haven't done before." These MCs will also be performing with the group in Toronto, Ottawa and Montréal. Ghettosocks will be joining the Herbaliser at their upcoming show in Saskatoon as well. Wherry added, "Once that's done, Ollie and I will look at starting album #8."

So what will the Herbaliser be doing in another ten years? At this point, Wherry remains optimistic. "We didn't really imagine that we'd get this far, so hopefully we're good for at least another 10 years." The last ten years have certainly not been easy for Wherry, whose wife died in a freak accident and he then had to raise his two sons on his own. After remarrying and having another child, he discovered he was suffering from Hodgkins Disease. He then underwent chemotherapy and radiation and said that he is ok now.

Despite the obstacles, Wherry counts his blessings. "I'm glad that [our latest album] There Were Seven was so well received […] After Same As It Never Was, people said it was over for us, but we got amazing reviews. There's plenty of life left in us yet!"

Catch the Herbaliser at Ottawa Jazz Festival this Friday, June 28 @ 10:15pm.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Review: Holy Smokes Party! @ St. Alban's Church

Friday night, I went to church. That's right. Julie went to church.

As part of the Ottawa Explosion Weekend, Arboretum Festival, Wavelength Toronto and Herd Mag presented the Holy Smokes Party! The event took place at St. Alban's Church on King Edward Avenue.

The lineup of bands included Most People (Toronto), Del Bel (Guelph/Toronto), the Yips (Ottawa) and Fresh Snow (Toronto).

By the time we got there, Del Bel was playing. I really enjoyed their performance and the venue really complimented their sound and style.

After seeing the Yips perform at Ravenswing last month, I was looking forward to seeing them again. They are super energetic and gave a great performance. Their set even included sacrificing stuffed animals, which I found hilarious seeing as 1) we were in a church, and 2) there were probably lots of vegetarians/vegans at the party.

Unfortunately, I left before Fresh Snow played so I didn't have the chance to check them out.

There was no stage; the bands were playing in front of the altar. I loved that the shows were intimate and that the audience was close to the bands.

The backdrop was an art installation by Alexandra MacKenzie. There was also a huge screen hanging from the ceiling that featured trippy visuals and live shots of the bands and of the crowd.

The evening also ended with an after party with DJ Matty McGovern and DJ Pat Johnson. Although I left before then, I can imagine it was a fun time.

I absolutely loved the venue, and I am hoping more events will be held at St. Alban's Church. The acoustics were great, and the ambiance was cool. I really enjoyed the party! Kudos to everyone involved in organizing this event.


Check out my piece on Ottawa Explosion for Couch Assassin here.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The Explosion of Ottawa's Hardcore Music Scene

Originally published on Couch Assassin.

Festival season has officially begun so get ready for lots of live music! Fans of hardcore music will be pleased with the return of Ottawa Explosion. This week, the festival will bring garage/punk/alternative music to the forefront. Originally published on Couch Assassin.

Emmanuel Sayer is the mastermind behind Ottawa Explosion. Couch Assassin's very own Julie Cormier-Doiron had the opportunity to speak with him about the city's hardcore scene and how it has evolved over the last few years.

Couch Assassin: What was the idea behind creating Ottawa Explosion?

Emmanuel Sayer: Ottawa Explosion started as a blog at the end of 2007, documenting the "explosion" of punk/garage/hardcore bands that were starting to pop up. Things were starting to get pretty exciting and we started throwing a weekly party called Rock & Roll Pizza Party.

Shortly after that, Ian from the White Wires started the Gaga Weekend in 2008, an event that ran for three years. When that festival came to its end, we started doing Ottawa Explosion Weekend to keep that spirit alive. It was and continues to be about celebrating the awesome local bands we have and bringing bands from out of town that are on a similar wavelength. In the last few years, we've seen our particular scene grow a lot more because more amazing bands are playing and more people are going out to shows, to party and meet new people.

CA: What can people expect from this year's Ottawa Explosion? How has the festival evolved in the last few years?

ES: The festival has evolved due to the increasing number of bands and shows taking place. Every year, we try to see what we can pull off and then we add a little more [to that]. There are A LOT of bands playing this year; as a result, there are more shows happening. There are multiple shows at multiple venues and they are generally all a five minute walk from one another.

We also have more collaborations this year. As we have in the past, we are co-presenting some shows with Bruised Tongue Records, with whom we work closely. We also are spreading out to Gatineau this year with a show during the day on Friday at Le Petit Chicago and a show on Monday night at Le Temporaire. We are collaborating with the people at E-Tron Records on that event.

We've collaborated with Spectrasonic on a show at Raw Sugar Café. We are also excited to be part of an awesome show being put on with the help of Arboretum Festival and Wavelength. It's a wild show and party in a church... It should be a blast!

CA: Tell me about the process of selecting the bands to participate in the festival. What criteria do you look for? Do you mostly book local bands?

ES: There isn't much of a process per se. We book a bunch of local bands that we like and that we think are doing some pretty exciting things. That's how Ottawa Explosion started so it only makes sense that it would continue in that direction.

This year, we have a lot of out of town bands playing, which is exciting. We like to invite bands that we really enjoy regardless of whether they have a draw or not. A lot of the bands we invite aren't the biggest bands but they are bands that we think are great and are doing things in the same spirit as the local bands that are playing. Every year, we bring in some bands from out of town that are relatively unknown and most times, people are blown away by them. For people who are unfamiliar with some of these bands, I suggest that they do a little research and give them a listen. We prepared a playlist on SoundCloud so that people can hear some of these bands.

This year, we also tried to get a few bands whose style is outside of the general Ottawa Explosion scene. There is a really great bunch of bands playing on Saturday night at Babylon Nightclub, like King's Quest, Mackenzie Rhythm Section & Phantom Shores, who are all doing great things in the city. We would like to spread out the reach of the festival and not have it as genre-specific.

CA: What about the venues? How do you select them? Do you try to add more venues every year?

ES: We booked Club Saw for the first time last year and it was awesome. We really enjoyed having the shows happening in the courtyard and that is happening again this year with shows scheduled from Wednesday to Sunday. We also booked Mugshots again this year, which is great because it's right next door. Mavericks/Café Dekcuf is right down the street and we love having the shows alternate between upstairs and downstairs. The proximity of all of these venues is great. Like I mentioned, we are doing shows in Hull this year and we also have a couple of shows in Centretown at Raw Sugar Café and Babylon Nightclub. We definitely try to add more venues every year as the festival gets bigger.

I'm more interested in having lots of shows happening at the same time instead of having one big show in a field somewhere with 80,000 people. That's not the way I like to experience music.

CA: Where do you see the festival in the next five years?

ES: In five years, I'd like to have more shows at more venues and slowly take over as many spaces in the city as possible. I'd like to be able to bring in as many bands as possible from out of town meanwhile still having a strong presence of local bands. I'm very curious to see what happens in five years if we don't completely burn ourselves out.


Ottawa Explosion
June 19th - 23rd
Various venues in Ottawa & Hull

Photo: David Forcier

Friday, 14 June 2013

Review: Arts & Crafts Field Trip

Last week-end, I headed to Toronto to attend the Arts & Crafts Field Trip. Just like I was expecting, the day was epic!

I'm happy to report that I was one of the first thousand people on site, and therefore got my hands on the Arts & Crafts 2003-2013 compilation CD.

The first performance of the day was by Gold & Youth, who kicked off the day with a great set. Then we checked out the Darcys. I was pleasantly surprised by this group. By far my favourite discovery of the day! I was sold with the sound of the band, and I absolutely loved the lead singer's voice.

Image: @cp_style

Then we walked over to the other stage to check out Zeus, who I had seen before when they opened for Sam Roberts Band. These guys always put on a good show, and this was no different. Then it was time for Cold Specks, whose lead singer has an amazing vocal range. Very impressive!

Next up is Hayden, playing to a very enthusiastic crowd (especially my friend who insisted we be in the front row). I had heard of Hayden before but never actually heard his music. I was very pleased and he's on my radar now. I would love to see him live again.

We stayed at the front for the next act, which I was very really excited about: Bloc Party. Having seen them at Osheaga last year, I knew we were in for an entertaining show. Also, I recently got their latest album "Four" and I really like it. They put on a good show, playing lots of their great songs, including "Banquet" and "Helicopter". They even played a new song entitled "Montreal". To be honest, their set at Osheaga was a lot more energetic than what they delivered at Field Trip. Still, I enjoyed Bloc Party's performance.

We're watching Bloc Party. Image:

We briefly stopped at the other stage, where Trust was dancing up a storm on stage. I had meant to check him out at Ritual Nightclub a few months ago, but I missed the show unfortunately. My favourite part of the show was the dancer with sparkly shorts, a rabbit mask and the elephant trunk. A very classy touch!

Up next, the lovely Dan Mangan. I am a big fan of Mangan and his music is fantastic. Having seen him at last year's Folkfest, I knew that he would put on a good show. Actually, I preferred his set at Field Trip more than his set at the Folkfest; it felt a lot more intimate. Unfortunately, because we wanted to get a "decent" spot for Feist, we weren't able to stay for Dan Mangan's whole set.

The show that I was most looking forward to was Feist. I have only seen her perform once before at the 2012 Juno Awards (and that performance was phenomenal). However, that was just one song, so I couldn't wait to see her play entire set. Her performance exceeded my expectations.

Feist's setlist included many songs from her album "Metals" (2011) including "Commotion", "Graveyard", "How Come You Never Go There", "Bad in Each Other" and "The Circle Married the Line". In addition, she played other great songs, like "When I Was a Young Girl", "I Feel it All", "Mushaboom", "My Moon My Man", "Limit to Your Love" and "Sea Lion Woman". What I enjoyed most about the performance is that all her song were interpreted differently than on the albums. It was like listening to entirely new material... I absolutely loved it! By far, my favourite performance of the day!

Finally, the band the whole city was waiting for: Broken Social Scene. It was announced a week prior to the concert that the group would perform their album "You Forgot It In People" in its entirety. It's a fantastic album and you could tell that people were excited! People enjoyed songs like "7/4 Shoreline", "Stars and Sons", "Almost Crimes", Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl" and my personal favourite "Lover's Spit".

Although the band had not played together for a while, it felt like watching a family reunion. It was sincerely heartwarming and there was love exuding from the audience. It was a beautiful moment, and I felt lucky to be part of it.

Having a blast! Me and my friend (with G hiding in the back)

 Overall, I had an amazing time at the Arts & Crafts Field Trip and it was definitely worth the trip to Toronto.

Until next time, Toronto!

Friday, 7 June 2013

Helping Fulfill Hailey’s Dreams

Originally published on Couch Assassin.

Hailey Fitzgerald is a funny, strong-willed girl. She is 8 years old and lives in Fredericton, NB with her parents and her little brother Chase. Hailey likes to play soccer and read, but she is unable to do either of those things on her own anymore.

Hailey suffers from Metachromatic Leukodystrophy, a rare degenerative, terminal disease that has no cure. Hailey’s gross and fine motor skills, along with her cognitive skills, are lessening every day. Hailey has endured many physical changes. She can no longer walk at all. She is in a wheelchair or she sits in a chair all day. Her speech has been significantly impaired; she speaks very slowly, and slurs her words a lot. Although she still does some activities, like gymnastics and swimming, her parents are much more hands on as she requires constant assistance.

Becky Fitzgerald, Hailey's aunt, explained that there have been a lot of changes since Hailey’s diagnosis in the summer of 2012. "There has also been a big emotional adjustment for everyone," said Fitzgerald. "We haven't given up on a possible cure, but facing the fact that Hailey may die in the next 2-4 years is very hard."

Fitzgerald and her fiancé founded Hailey's Dreams in the fall of 2012. The foundation has been set up to help Hailey achieve and experience everything she can dream of while she still has time. The funds raised so far have helped the family tremendously to assist Hailey. Hailey’s mother was able to take two days off per week for the entire summer in order to spend more time at home with Hailey. The family was also able to fix their deck to make it more accessible for Hailey, and they are planning to purchase a wheelchair-accessible van this summer.

On Saturday, Irene's Pub will be hosting a special benefit show for Hailey's Dreams. The show will feature Brendan Flynn & the Terrible Liars. The drummer of the group, Phil Evans, is Fitzgerald's fiancé and Hailey's soon-to-be uncle. Evans also co-founded Hailey's Dreams with Fitzgerald.

Matt Corbiere is another member of the Terrible Liars. He also plays for Winchester Warm, another band on the bill. When Becky proposed the idea of a benefit show, the group jumped on the opportunity. "Hailey's condition has deteriorated quite rapidly, and we were keen to put together our own event, and help out as best we could," said Corbiere. "Her story is very sad, but hopefully more awareness of such rare genetic issues will help lead to greater research in the area, treatments, and even a cure someday."

So far, Hailey has been able to fulfil a few of her dreams, including taking a vacation to the Florida Keys, attending a Carly Rae Jepsen and Justin Bieber concert in Ottawa, participating in a scavenger hunt, swimming with the dolphins and getting a puppy, among others.

Another one of Hailey's dreams was to get a street named after her. The mayor of Fredericton and a local developer had a street in Fredericton renamed 'Hailey's Way'. There was an official ceremony at City Hall where the sign was presented to Hailey by the mayor. According to Hailey's aunt, it was a really special moment for everyone involved.

Fundraising events have been held for Hailey in Fredericton, Halifax, and Ottawa, with one in Toronto planned for the fall. Most of the events are organized by family members or family friends. The foundation held a big fundraising gala in Fredericton that raised over $16,000. Other fundraising events have been organized, including a university hockey game, bake sales and bottle drives, each raising between $500-$4,000. In addition, the Dairy Queen in Fredericton had a Blizzard of the Month called Hailey's Dream Blizzard, and they raised over $10,000.

Want to help Hailey fulfill her dreams? Stop by Irene's Pub on Saturday and check out some great local music. For more information or to donate, check out the Hailey's Dreams Foundation website.

Hailey's Dreams Benefit Show @ Irene's Pub
Saturday, June 8, 2013 @ 9:00pm

Brendan Flynn & the Terrible Liars,
Winchester Warm
Kelly Sloan

Monday, 3 June 2013

Preview: Arts & Crafts Field Trip

Hello Toronto! It's been a while... 

I haven't been to Toronto in about 3 years and I am really excited about my upcoming week-end in T.O. What brings me to Toronto? Live music, what else?

The lovely people at Arts & Crafts, the very popular record label, are throwing a 10th year anniversary celebration called "Field Trip" and they have an amazing lineup of artists and bands playing. Naturally, I couldn't pass this up!

Broken Social Scene, Feist, Stars, Bloc Party, Dan Mangan, Timber Timbre, among others. Pretty impressive, if you ask me. Safe to say, I cannot wait!

So Friday, my partner and I will be hitting the road and headed to T.O.  See you there!

In the meantime, check out my favourite BSS song "Lover's Spit" from their album "You Forgot it in the People". Can't wait to see this live!