Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Bluesfest: Week Two

Originally published on Couch Assassin

They say all good things must come to an end. Well they must be talking about the 2015 RBC Ottawa Bluesfest. After 11 days of jam-packed music, a lot of us need a vacation. Or a giant nap. Or maybe that's just me.

Regardless, I took a few days to digest all the music I experienced at this year's Bluesfest. Here are some of my highlights of week two:

FET.NAT. Definitely in my top 5 favourite local acts. These guys don't play shows often enough (in my opinion) so it's always fun to catch them live. They put on a great show at the Canadian stage. Frontman Mononc Jayno was up to his usual shenanigans, as we've come to expect!

Pony Girl. So great to see these guys perform again, especially in an intimate venue like the Barney Danson Theatre, where the sound is fantastic. It was lovely seeing them perform new material from their upcoming new album "Foreign Life".

Current Swell. Perfect summer festival music. One of my favourite discoveries of Bluesfest! Will definitely be seeing these guys again.

Weird Al Yankovich. My expectations were high for this show, and Weird Al did NOT disappoint! A very fun, interactive performance, which included numerous costume changes and video montages.

Purity Ring. Having seen them perform a weeks prior, I didn't expect the show to be as good as the first one I saw. Despite the set starting late (due to the weather), the duo put on a great performance, complete with an incredible stage setup. And the pouring raining definitely added to the magic of the show.

The Tragically Hip. You can never go wrong with the Hip. Seriously. I believe I heard one patron say that one time, Gord Downie played a show sober and it was boring. Well, that definitely wasn't the case Friday night. People were soaked head to toe, but it was worth it, especially since they were celebrating the anniversary of the album "Fully Completely".

MonkeyJunk. These local guys ended the festival with a good dose of blues! Great performance with a big crowd. This band is worth checking out!

Some acts that surprised me and blew me away included METZ, Flight Distance and Run the Jewels.

There were a few disappointing performances as well, including Grime Kings, the Glorious Sons, Gaslight Anthem, Interpol and Lowell. Although I did enjoy Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, it wasn't their best performance that I've seen to date.

In case you missed them, here are my highlights from week one. I was also asked to be a guest on Lunch Out Loud Ottawa and share my thoughts on this year's festival. Check it out: Part 1 + Part 2.

What were some of your highlights from week two? Who would you love to see at the 2016 RBC Ottawa Bluesfest?

Photo: The Tragically Hip. Credit: Mark Horton

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Bluesfest: Week One

Originally published on Couch Assassin.

Well, folks. The first week of RBC Ottawa Bluesfest is officially done! It was definitely eventful and I, like many of you, was able to catch some great live music and enjoy some nice (hot) sunny weather.

Here are some of my highlights:

BlakDenim. Blakdenim - one word, no c. Ottawa's very own hip hop/soul/funk/everything band put on a great performance on the River Canadian stage Thursday night. Although it wasn't packed, the crowd seemed to really enjoy discovering this local gem.

Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires. Wow. Bradley, also known as the Screaming Eagle of Soul, gives it his all on stage. And you can sense the love he feels for the crowd. The talented singer started out as a James Brown impersonator but he definitely has enough soul to stand on his own and leave his own mark.

The Souljazz Orchestra. A local favourite. It's so great to see them back on stage. This local act has been working on a new album "The Resistance", which will be out in September. There was a great crowd of people gathered at the Monster stage to see the show, some of which showed off their dance moves.

Nas. Although I don't know much about hip hop, and I'm not a fan of Nas, his performance was impressive. The turnout for his set was impressive as well. The rapper delivered a solid performance and he was quite enthusiastic and gracious to be playing to such a huge crowd.

Arkells. These guys won me over the second I first saw them play Bluesfest a few years ago. They give it their all on stage and they are just so fun to see live because they are having tons of fun on stage. This performance did not disappoint!

A few performances that fell flat for me included Kanye West. I'm honestly not sure what I expected but I definitely expected more. More spectacle. More visuals. More ranting... Although his performance was solid and generally good, I was left wanting more.

In week one, there were also many (pleasant) surprises and new discoveries:

Shakey Graves. This folky/blues rocker demands your attention as soon as he walks on the stage. Starting off with just him on stage, he was soon joined by supporting musicians. He drew a big crowd, and keep us entertained the whole time!

Jungle by Night. While waiting to catch another show, I stumbled upon these young men from Amsterdam who play a cool mix of funk, afro-beat and jazz. Their sound was refreshing and you couldn't help but have fun during their set.

Hat Fitz & Cara. Featuring Hat Fitz, a talented Australian blues guitarist and Cara Robinson, a talented soulful vocalist who plays the drums, the washboard and the flute, this duo is insanely talented and hilarious. Their songs are infectious and you cannot help but be sucked in right away. They definitely won over the huge crowd and put the blues back in Bluesfest.

There's so many great acts to catch during week two, including locals Hilotrons, FET.NAT, the Haig, Gold and Marrow, New Swears, and more! Some of the other acts I'm excited to check out include Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, CHVRCHES, Purity Ring, Tragically Hip, just to name a few.

Stay tuned for highlights of week two! See you at Lebreton Flats!

Photo: Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires. By Scott Penner

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Studio La Mouche Takes Flight

Originally published on Couch Assassin.

In case you haven't noticed, Ottawa's artistic scene is jam-packed with talented people. Sometimes promoting our city’s talent is where the challenge lies. Enter Studio La Mouche.

Lucie B, a local artist, started the project. Born and raised in Ottawa, she has been involved in the artistic community through her circle of friends, especially in the music scene. Having studied in chemistry, Lucie has no formal training in visual art. She shared that she was working on her Masters' degree when she acquired a silk-screening machine. She got the idea to start Studio La Mouche after realizing that some of her drawings would look good on t-shirts. "I decided to silk-screen my own stuff. Then I started noticing other artists around me and thought that their designs would work well on t-shirts too [...] Then I asked myself, 'why am I only printing on t-shirts? I could make prints easily.' It grew from me to multiple people to multiple products." Right now, Studio La Mouche is printing many different products, including apparel, prints, book covers, stencils, patches, etc. The studio also produces original artwork.

So what's story behind the name? According to Lucie B, the name came from fly drawings that she used to produce. "The company was originally just going to sell t-shirts with my fly drawings on it, so I picked that name. Then all the other artists came after and I kept the name. It's in French because of my Franco-Ontarien background and me wanting to keep bilingualism as part of the company's identity." The studio's new website will be bilingual as well. "I thought the word studio was a good way to encompass everything [...] It would be nice to eventually to get a dedicated studio space." Studio La Mouche has no physical space to call its own just yet. Lucie's ultimate goal is to open up a communal space. The space would be available to the artists if they need a working space and so they could use the different equipment and machines. Lucie also hopes to have a shop where prints can be sold, and a gallery space for viewings. She also mentioned that the gallery space or shop could be transformed into a live music space. But for right now, artists work on their own and Lucie B works from her apartment where she keeps all the materials and equipment.

Eight local artists are currently part of Studio La Mouche. Lucie acts as a curator and is selective when approaching artists to get involved. She is in talk with a few more artists to get on board, people that she met through her connections in the community. Ideally, as the company grows, she will ask artists to join as she meets them, and if she feels their aesthetics fits with her vision for the company. In terms of the style of art at Studio La Mouche, it is pretty open. According to Lucie, “it’s more on the grunge side, although there is more delicate stuff as well”. If any local artists are interested in getting involved with Studio La Mouche, she encourages them to get in touch with her with examples of their work.

Although the project has been launched for about a month, Lucie B has been working on it for over a year, gathering information, looking at different resources, such as producers and printers as well as making a business plan. The project was launched using a Kickstarter campaign. The Kickstarter page is currently being used as the studio's online shop. As soon as the campaign is done, an online shop will be open. Studio La Mouche will also participate in pop-up shops and festivals, so keep an eye out for that.

So why a Kickstarter campaign? While talking to some friends, Lucie got the idea to use Kickstarter. The project kept growing, and more and more artists were getting involved, and more products were in the works. "I didn't have the money to print that much artwork on that many different products," she said. "The Kickstarter campaign was a risk-free way to get started."

The campaign was launched with a show at the end of May at Pressed featuring local bands the Sick Sick Sicks, the Heavy Medecine Band and Tindervox. According to Lucie, there is a lot of potential for great work to be done. “The studio is trying to promote art in all forms, and we're trying to promote collaborations among artists and with musicians and performers. We are open to commission work. If bands or musicians are looking for album artwork and t-shirt designs, they can check out our roster of artists and if they like a particular style, we can connect them and they can collaborate."

The studio also wants to keep putting on live music shows and have a merchandise table, where visual art will be sold from different La Mouche artists, which could include band merchandise as well. Lucie B is a fan of the local music scene. She's a big fan of the Heavy Medicine Band (vocalist Keturah Johnson is one of the artists at Studio La Mouche). Lucie also recently discovered Randy Shenanigans and Bonnie Doon, two groups she says she would love to work with.

All the products are at a discounted price during the Kickstarter campaign. The campaign's goal is set to $5,000. This is the minimum amount that the studio would need to fulfill the campaign rewards. The more money the studio raises through this campaign, the more funds are available to get inventory ready for the online shop, once it opens. It is also worth noting that if the studio does not meet its goal, it received none of the money pledged.

There are still a few days to show your support and contribute to the Kickstarter campaign. Click here for more information. The campaign ends on July 28, 2015. So go check out Studio La Mouche and keep your eyes open for amazing art.