Friday, 12 September 2014

Our Guide to Fall in Ottawa

Originally published on Couch Assassin

Well, it’s that dreaded time of year: the end of Summer! Sorry to burst your bubble but this was bound to happen, folks. Instead of whining about the end of the season, go out and celebrate the cooler temperature with all Ottawa has to offer! Here at Couch Assassin, we welcome Fall with open arms because we know it’s gonna be awesome!

(More) Festivals!

Although summer in Ottawa is jam-packed with festivals, it doesn’t mean the fun stops there. There are lots of events taking place in the Fall. Don’t miss the Ottawa Folk Festival at Hog’s Back Park. Then there’s the Ottawa Turkish Festival, the Ottawa International Animation Festival, taking place at various locations in our city. This year, you can attend the very first Ottawa Burlesque Festivalfrom Sept 19-21.

Love food and drinks? Then you’re in luck! On Sparks Street, enjoy some delicious ribs during RIBtoberfest from Sept 25-28. At the beginning of October, there’s Beau’s Oktoberfest. Head out to Vankleek Hill to check out awesome bands, like Joel Plaskett Emergency, Tokyo Police Club, Radio Radio, Groenland, just to name a few.

Still hungry/thirsty? That’s good because the Casino du Lac-Leamy will be hosting Rendez-vous des Saveurs de l'Outaouais on Oct 15-19. Then there’s the Ottawa Wine and Food Festival at the Ottawa Convention Centre on Nov 6-9. Tons of opportunities to keep your bellies happy!

Clubs, Clubs, Clubs

You want to go out, meet new people and get real sweaty? Ottawa’s got lots of danceclubs that will surely meet your criteria. Head into the Byward Market, and check out establishments like Mansion, Tequila Jacks, Flybar or the always classy Liquor Store. For more queer friendly establishments, check out Swizzles and the Lookout.

Dancing's not your thing? Alright. If you love live music, there are tons of great spots in this city to catch awesome shows. Here's our list!

You like games? Well, Ottawa's got game(s)! House of Targ is a great venue jam-packed with pinball machines, perogies and awesome live music. For board game afficionados, there's Monopolatte and the Loft.

We Love Parties!

For those who love parties, check out Harvest Noir. This modern day harvest ball celebrates local farms and food. The event starts with a pop-up picnic at a secret location, where people will all be decked out in black attire. The fiesta continues well into the night with the after-party Dance Noir, where people can dance the night away (on two different dancefloors!!) Same deal: the location is secret until the very last minute. The event will feature a DJ and an orchestra. And there's a fashion show, where audience members can participate and win prizes! Definitely worth checking out.

Get Your Learn On!

Ottawa is home to lots of museums and art galleries so why not take advantage?! Most of our national museums are here, including the Canadian Museum of Nature, National Gallery of Canada and Canadian War Museum, just to name a few (told you there was lots!)

Ottawa is also home to smaller but really awesome museums and galleries. Check out the Ottawa Art Gallery, Fall Down Gallery, La Petite Mort, the Bytown Museum, the Diefenbunker. They always have great exhibitions on display and they sometimes host really cool events. Check them out!

Run Run Run!

In case you didn’t already know, Ottawa is a city of runners! At any given time, you will see tons of people running, especially along the Rideau Canal and our wonderful NCC trails. Not only is running a good way to stay in shape, it’s a great way to explore our city and meet new people.

Coming up this month, the Terry Fox Run on Sept 14 and the Army Run on Sept 21. Keep checking with the Running Room for any other upcoming runs in the area. Running's not your thing? Then go out and show your support to the people pounding the pavement.

Go Outside!

Ottawa in the Fall is absolutely beautiful! Anyone who tells you otherwise is just plain wrong. So go outside and take it all in. Take a walk along the Rideau Canal, or through the Byward Market, or better yet, venture out to Gatineau Park.

If you have access to a vehicle, why not drive up to the lovely town of Wakefield to take in the lovely sights and catch a show at the legendary Black Sheep Inn. Or head over to Mugshots to catch an open mic night or check out Double Barrel with DJ Magnificient.

So get off the couch, grab your jean jacket and your shoes and head out there, Ottawa. Go exploring and have a great time! As always, don’t forget to keep checking Couch Assassin to check out what’s happening in our lovely city.

Photo credit: Mike Gifford

Monday, 1 September 2014

Getting Intimate With Local Songwriters

Originally published on Couch Assassin.

Photo: Jamie Kronick

If you check out live shows in Ottawa regularly, chances are you've encountered Jamie Kronick. You've either seen him play with many local bands or you've seen him at a show, supporting his friends and fellow musicians. And of course, you just can't forget that hair! But maybe you didn't know that Kronick is a photographer. His exhibition The Songwriter is currently on display at the Ottawa Art Gallery Annex (located in Ottawa City Hall) until October 12.

Kronick plays drums with various local bands, including GoodLuck Assembly, Scattered Clouds, Her Harbour, Keek, Laurent Bourque and André Bluteau, just to name a few. Born and raised in Ottawa, he picked up a camera for the first time about 6 years ago. He has been working professionally as a full-time commercial photographer for 3 years. Kronick explained that the interest came from his upbringing in the band/music world, where he worked closely with photographers. "I was always the one working on the artwork for the album for all my bands. One day, I jumped in and said I feel like doing this." Kronick recently did work for his friends in Amos the Transparent for their most recent album. He also does a lot of promotional photos for various local bands.

The Songwriter is comprised of 28 portraits, 20 of which are currently on display at the OAG Annex. The series features both emerging and established, including a few Juno award winners and nominees Ian Tamblin, Amanda Rheaume, Kathleen Edwards, Jim Bryson. From the 28 subjects in the series, Gabrielle Giguère (Her Harbour) is the only musician that Kronick has played with.

The series has been in the works for a few years. Kronick was a student at School of Photographic Art of Ottawa (SPAO), graduating in 2011. This project started as his graduating series, where students show a body of work when they graduate from the school. Two of the images are from 2010 and the bulk of the projects are images taken in 2011. After graduating, Kronick let the project sit until just recently. The Ottawa Art Gallery approached him to show the work earlier this year. "I was reluctant because I had already been sitting on the images for about 3 years and I wasn't super excited about showing older work, I had so much newer work that I'm more excited about. So I counter-offered them with, if I could do new work for the same series and do an amalgamation of the old and the new, that's something I would be interested in."

In choosing subjects for his project, Kronick tried to show a cross-section of the music scene, musicians from different genres, different ages, trying to represent both genders equally. The one criteria that he strictly followed was the idea of a traditional songwriter. "I really wanted the traditional songwriter so somebody who sits down alone and writes something [...] I wanted the intimate solitude of songwriting."

When asked about the idea that inspired the exhibition, Kronick shared that he's been asked that question so many times recently, and it's only in answering the question that he ended up discovering the series' true inspiration. "I play in so many bands and I work with so many songwriters, in the projects I'm in, I'm typically very involved in the songwriting process [...] But what I realized is that I'm never really there for the inception of the song, I'm never there when the song is formally created, when the person creates something out of nothing. Photography was my way to see what that looks like. I never knew what that looked like, I was never involved in that process so this is my sneaky way to see what it looked like, and to see what it looked like from my peers and from people I looked up to musically."

We can all agree that songwriting is a personal process, albeit different for each individual. But why is that? "These people are committing to words, to lyrics, which I can't imagine ever doing. I'm not much of a wordsmith [...] You can dress it up however you want, and that's where I come in as a musician in the process. You can put any kind of beat or sound to any kind of song but at the end of the day, when you strip away everything, you're left with melody and lyrics."

There were lots of surprises for Kronick when creating the series, especially when he discovering how open and willing people were when asked to participate in the project. "At least two thirds of the subjects in this series, I didn't know personally before this. I knew who they were by reputation or by their music, and I would reach out via email, Facebook or Twitter and say "Hey, this is what I'm doing, here are a few example of photos, would you be willing?" I only had one no." For the most part, these images were taken in the subjects' residence (living room, bedroom, home studio, etc). Kronick was surprised on how wiling people were to give themselves to him and allow him into such a personal space. "They're letting me into their lives, so that was certainly a surprise."

As a musician and someone really involved in Ottawa's music scene, Kronick has nothing but positive things to say about our city. "I think [the scene] is awesome. It's thriving! I feel like as I'm getting to the age where I'm meeting more people all the time and the lines are blurring between genres and people are co-existing from one genre to the next [...] I speak to people a bit older than me who've been in the scene longer than me, and they see now as a time where things are really happening where as I feel I've sort of just grown into it because I'm now at the age where things are happening. It seems to be better than ever, that seems to be the general opinion. That's something that this series touches on as well, the diversity of the music scene, be it in age, in genre [...] There's a whole bunch of insanely talented people in the city."

So what's next for Kronick? Well, you'll have to stay tuned! According to him, he has a lot of stuff on the go and lots of seeds that have yet to develop. Safe to say, Kronick will keep thriving and shedding light on the best our city has to offer. "I think I've done a good job representing Ottawa and the diversity we have," shared Kronick. I think we can all agree with that!

Check out The Songwriter until October 12. The vernissage will be taking place Thursday, September 4th from 5:30pm to 8:00pm.

August 30 - October 12, 2014
9 am - 8pm
OAG Annex (City Hall)
110 Laurier Avenue West

Friday, 11 July 2014

There's Something About Groenland

Originally published on Couch Assassin.

Refreshing. Energetic. Contagious. There are many words that can be used to describe the music of Groenland. Montreal’s indie pop darlings are currently on tour this summer, playing various festivals in Québec. Luckily for us, the band will also be making a stop at this year’s Bluesfest, playing the River Stage on Sunday afternoon. Earlier this week, I spoke to Jean Viver Lévesque, a multi-talented musician (keyboard, electros & percussions) and one of the two founding members of the band to get the inside story on Groenland.

Make no mistake; Groenland is more than just indie pop. Their music also features many orchestral elements with a touch of electro. The band is comprised of six members and they play many different instruments. Their debut album “The Chase”, released last year, was very well received and the band doesn’t plan on stopping there.

So what’s the story behind the group? Eight years ago, Lévesque and Sabrina Halde met while studying musique at Collège Saint-Laurent and they bonded. Their paths crossed again while studying at Université de Montréal. The two of them decided to then join forces and start a band. At first, they wanted to make electronic music, just the two of them. Lévesque explained that they eventually got bored and also that making that type of music was not their strength. By adding more members to the group, it changed the sound that the band originally had in mind but it turned out quite well, according to Lévesque.

So why Groenland? What does Groenland represent to the group? “We liked the idea of a very visual name,” shared Lévesque. This visual element is well represented on the album cover and the disc jacket. “We don’t know this place […] So you can imagine what you want about this place.” But Groenland wasn’t the original idea for the band’s name. The group started out with the name La Pieuvre, which is now the title of a track off “The Chase”. However, Lévesque explained that the name did not last for very long because the band wasn’t very confident about it.

As you can probably imagine, writing songs with a group of six musicians could very well be a challenge. However, Lévesque shared that good communication makes it easy. “After three years, the members are more involved in the process. Sabrina and I will write the songs, and after we come to the band, and we discuss all the different parts. It’s easy.” Although creating the music is a group effort, Halde is the one who does most of the songwriting.

Although the band only formed three years ago, and “The Chase” was released only a year ago, Groenland has received lots of praise and nominations for their album, including Album of the Year - Anglophone and Album Design at L'Autre Gala de l'ADISQ, an award show that celebrates excellence in music industry in Quebec.

For many of you, this will be your first time seeing Groenland perform live. So what can you expect from their live show? I asked Lévesque. “People who know the album will find us a lot more energetic. It’s a fun show […] we like talking to people.” The band recently played their biggest show ever, as part of the FestiVoix de Trois-Rivières. “Playing outdoor shows is new for us but we’re really enjoying it […] It suits us really well. We like the feel of it, it’s outside, there are more people. The crowd is more laid-back.”

So does the band prefer the outdoor festival shows to the intimate performances in small venues? “We just realized that we prefer outdoor shows with big crowds but we didn’t know before because we had never done it.” I think we can all agree that playing a bigger show outdoor is different than playing in a club. “There’s an intimacy that’s really nice with the small crowd of an indoor show but the outdoor shows are more festive,” he added. Lévesque also likes that there is more room on the stage, although the crowd is sometimes farther physically.

Last year, the group was invited to travel to France to attend the Festival Off-Courts in Trouville. They spent two weeks in the country, playing two shows and working on music for a short film. According to Lévesque, that was definitely a highlight for the group. Another memorable moment was the band’s first show after their album was released, which took place at the Divan Orange in Montreal. The show was packed, and there were tons of people waiting outside to get into the venue. The band was quite surprised. “Some of our friends were waiting outside and couldn’t even get in,” added Lévesque.

Groenland was in Ottawa earlier this year, playing to a packed house at Zaphods. During that show, they played an amazing cover of Retrograde by James Blake. They completely transformed the song into one of their own, and the crowd loved it. “We like playing covers but our manager doesn’t like it as much [laughs].” They decided to play some covers when they were asked to do a longer set. The song [Retrograde] had only been released three months prior so they felt a bit weird doing a cover of a song so fresh. However, the band was pleased with the result. “Sabrina sings it quite differently [than the original]. I like the feel of the song the way we play it.”

The future is bright for Groenland! The band is currently working on new material. A new album is in the works but according to Lévesque, they don’t rush through the process because the band members are perfectionists. They would like to travel to Europe but it’s more challenging. “Touring in Quebec is easy for us right now because it’s in our neighbourhood. Maybe [touring internationally] will have to wait until the new album is released. But traveling with the band has been a dream for us since the very beginning.”

It's hard to deny there’s something about Groenland. Something magical and youthful. One’s thing for sure: Groenland will definitely get stuck in your head! So make your way to Bluesfest Sunday afternoon and dance to your heart's content by the river.

Sunday, July 13, 2014 @ 3pm
River Stage @ RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest
Cost: Varies

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Don't Spoil the Surprise!

Originally published on Couch Assassin.

Summer has arrived, and Ottawa, I hope you're ready to party! Mugshots is a great spot to check out shows in the summer months, because you get to spend time outdoors and see awesome live acts rock out. This Sunday night is no exception! Surprise Party will be taking over Mugshots and it's going to be a blast.

Surprise Party is a 4 piece band from Winnipeg who describe their sound as rock goth metal pop. That should appeal to lots of people in Ottawa with various musical tastes! The guys of Surprise Party have been playing together for almost two years, and they have just embarked on their second Eastern Canadian tour. I recently spoke to Mischa Decter, lead guitarist and singer of Surprise Party about their tour and what it's like being a band from Winnipeg.

The band name is pretty catchy. Surprise Party. According to Decter, the name represents many things, including "pain, ultimate suffering and the eternal quest for oxygen when you're fucking impaled on a stake in the middle of a field with 40 000 other people". If you've heard of Vladimir the Impaler, this should be self explanatory.

You can check out the band's full-length album online. Featuring songs like "Jealousy", "I Hate Girls" and "Second Hand Girlfriend", it's safe to say that Heart of Love has something for everyone! The inspiration behind the album comes from many elements, including "anger, sexual frustration, persecution, intergalactic sodomy and other things". Stuff we can all relate to!

Surprise Party is definitely a band to catch live. According to Decter, people should expect "a fuzzed out super saturated explosion of highly comradic doom". Based on that alone, you know you can't miss this show! The band's tour includes stops in Sudbury, Kingston, London, Windsor, Guelph, two shows in Montreal and two shows in Toronto.

There are lots of perks to touring. Some of the perks that Decter enjoys are "free beer, free food, playing music, driving to shows, hanging out, meeting people and intergalactic sodomy". Every band has at least one live show that stand out for them. When asked about his most memorable live performance, Decter shared: "We just played in Saskatoon at MosoFest at the same time as Timber Timbre was playing across the street, so the only people that watched us were our friends from Winnipeg, and the venue flooded with people immediately after they finished [...] That was memorable." And was there puking involved? You bet! "I puked later that night because I ate 3 taquitos from 7-11."

We don't often hear of bands coming out of Winnipeg, not to say that there aren't any. "The worst part about being a band from Winnipeg is the lack of good bands to play with and the lack of people who enjoy live music," explained Decter. "Most kids there are club rats."

And the best thing about being a band from Winnipeg? "Sharing the homeland of the great Tal Bachman, Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings. It's a shame that Tom Cochrane wasn't born in Winnipeg, but coming from the same province as him is quite breathtaking."

Surprise Party will be joined by Ottawa's Swollen Eyes and Montreal's Small Teeth at Mugshots Sunday night. The show is presented by DEBASER. You can tune in to DEBASER every Tuesdays from 2-3 pm on CKCU93.1 FM.

Sunday night, don't stay home! Enjoy this gorgeous (yet sometimes disgusting) weather and go check out this show! There's sure to be fun shenanigans, great tunes and some weird shit painted on people's face. And don't worry about puking; you'll be outdoors anyways!

Surprise Party // Swollen Eyes // Small Teeth
Sunday, June 29, 2014
Mugshots (Ottawa Jail Hostel) @ 8PM

Monday, 10 March 2014

We Are Wolves @ Le Petit Chicago

I rarely cross the bridge from Ottawa to Gatineau but Saturday night, I made an exception. To celebrate my best girlfriend Elly's birthday, I headed over to Le Petit Chicago to check out Montreal indie rock group group We Are Wolves.

I had already seen this group open for SUUNS at Zaphod's last October and they left quite an impression on me. Even my dad loved them! (Yes, I brought my dad to Zaphod's). The group is really fun to witness live. These guys are outrageous and insanely energetic!

Such an amazing show! And overall, a really fun night. I highly recommend you check out We Are Wolves, especially if they are playing a live show in your area. You will not be disappointed!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Mehdi Cayenne Club @ Mercury Lounge

Thursday night, my friends and I headed to Mercury Lounge to check out Mehdi Cayenne Club. I had seen the group play at Bluesfest a few years back, and I also had the chance to see frontman Mehdi Hamdad play a solo show at Pressed last Fall.

Hamdad is quite the entertainer. I always enjoy seeing him perform live because he is truly an artist. He is very expressive and you can tell that he genuinely love to perform. Here are a few images:

Overall, a really fun evening! You can check out Mehdi Cayenne Club's latest release "Na Na Boo Boo" here.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Photos: Craig Cardiff, Carolina Hum and co.

Tuesday night, I went to a free show at uOttawa, featuring Craig Cardiff along with Carolina Hum, Shawna Caspi and Giscar. I had heard of Cardiff for many years, and heard really great things about him as a musician. I was excited to finally see him live!

The evening started with a songwriting workshop, followed by a songwriters' circle. The Hugette Labelle Hall (in the Tabaret building) was absolutely stunning and the acoustics were great.

Here are a few pictures:

The show was great. All the performances were great, yet very different.  The thing that stood out the most for me was when Cardiff passed around his "Book of Truth". During his shows, he passes around a notebook and asked audience members to contribute to it by sharing their truths. He'll ask questions that audience members can answer in the book. I really like that idea. And I was really happy to contribute my truth.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Julie Takes Over the Airwaves

Last week, I had the opportunity to do something I had never done before, something that really scared me, but something I had always wanted to do: I was on a radio show.

My friend and fellow Couch Assassin Andrew is the current host of Indie City Madness at CKCU, Carleton's community radio station and he was asked to replace a fellow radio host Tonya Price for her bi-weekly show Friends with Benefits. He asked me to join him, and I jumped at the opportunity.

I was really excited about this opportunity because it's something I always wanted to try. I worked really hard on the programming of the show, and I think it paid off. I played all Canadian content, and played lots of great artists and bands, including:

Sound of Lions
Leif Vollebekk
Amanda Cottreau
Josef Mieto
Ben Caplan
The Yips

I've gotten really good feedback, so I am very pleased. You can check out my attempt at co-hosting a radio show right here.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Photos: Death Angel @ Mavericks

Thursday night, I headed over to Mavericks to check out Death Angel. The band was joined by TYR and Signs of Chaos, a local metal band.

What an amazing show!

My partner wrote a piece on the show for Couch Assassin. Check it out here.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Review: Josef Mieto and Amanda Cottreau

Friday night, I ventured into the mysterious place called Hull to check out the Tiny House Mansion Concert series. I really enjoy live performances in unconventional space, so I was really drawn to the concept of a live show in someone's living room. Josef Mieto, a local folk singer/songwriter, was celebrating the release of his second album with a very intimate performance.

The lovely Amanda Cottreau performed first. I had a chance to speak with Amanda before and after the show. She is an absolute delight! Her voice is absolutely divine... I had heard of her many times before, but never had the chance to see her perform. She definitely won me over!

Then Josef Mieto performed his new album in its entirety. He was joined by some friends during his performance. Mieto has such a nice, calming presence. He has a really great sound, and his voice really warms you up on the inside. Off the new album, my favourite track has to be "Baby Blue". The small crowd gathered in the living room showed Mieto lots of love and they couldn't get enough of Mieto. People kept insisting that he keep playing, so he played a few songs from his first album "Bad Eyes" (with some help of a friend). A great performance from great musician. I'm happy that I got a chance to see him perform.

It was a very fun evening. Check out Josef's new album "Down Low" here. Enjoy!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Photos: Winchester Warm & Farewell Davidson @ Blacksheep Inn

Last night, I finally went to the Blacksheep Inn. Yes, I hate to admit that I've been living in Ottawa for over 11 years and I had never been to the Blacksheep. Located in Wakefield, Quebec, a mere 40 minutes from Ottawa, the Blacksheep is a renowned concert venue in our area. Musicians love playing at this venue, and the patrons love it too!

First up, Sick Sick Sicks. To be honest, I didn't really enjoy the band. They mostly played cover songs, with 2-3 original songs that just didn't win me over. Interesting stage presence but something was missing.

Then Farewell Davidson took the stage. These guys look young... really young. But they are so cool and collected on stage... Like they've been doing this for years! I found them really professional, and they sounded great! I was really impressed... You haven't heard the last of these guys!

Finally, the headliners of the evening: Winchester Warm. I first discovered the group at Ravenswing this past summer and I really enjoyed their set. They are a bunch of really nice and funny guys. You can check out their debut album here. Their second album should be released in the next few months. Next time they play, check 'em out!

Overall, a great introduction to the Blacksheep Inn.

Winchester Warm at the Blacksheep Inn