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

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