Sunday June 18, 2017

Dream of Booji

It's 2014 and I've just finished watching the Constantines reaffirm my obsession as the headliners of the Arboretum festival. Once their set wrapped, my head still swimming in Shine a Light, I began trekking across town vaguely in the direction of Gabba Hey, a local Ottawa music shop and scene hub tucked away in an industrial park with zero useful signage. This was clearly not somewhere that I, a tourist who could barely point you towards Parliament, was meant to find. One shameful cab ride later and I'm in line to see WTCHS, the Dirty Nil, and Greys open a record-release show for Ottawa's hedonistic dirtbag punk act New Swears.

The party that officially unveiled Junkfood Forever, Bedtime Whatever is never far from my mind. It not only introduced me to my favourite record of that year, but it also reaffirmed for me how unpredictable and raucous (and messy with silly string) a punk show could be. That festival and the Gabba Hey gig in particular probably also kicked off a bit of an Ottawa fixation that came to a head this week.

It's three years later and today I find myself on a train back to Niagara, having just attended the 2017 Ottawa Explosion Weekend. While New Swears were absent this year, they are on the verge of releasing their follow-up and Dine Alone debut, New Swears and The Magic Of Horses. So here I sit, with hours to kill, eager to dig into this (perhaps) more mature modern day version of the band... and CBC Music is blocked on VIA Rail's WiFi. I, as a tax payer, expect far more synergy between my Crown corporations, particularly when it comes to matters of rock'n'roll. If you're not in a train, have at it until the 23rd of June.

Festival Express this is not

Ottawa Explosion Weekend

So I've attended and survived the 2017 Ottawa Explosion (most of it, we're missing the Sunday afternoon sets so we can rescue my parents from our children). The venture, from Some Party's standpoint, was wildly successful and there'll be plenty to parse here in the coming weeks. In particular, I'll revisit the release show for The Famines' new Pentagon Black paper compilation in a future week (in the meantime though, you should read Dominionated's take on the project).

Above all I feel remarkably lucky to have had the chance to watch the Halifax band Booji Boys perform twice in one weekend (once in the doorway of Vertigo Records, then a day later in the Galerie Saw basement). The band may take both their name and general sense of weirdness from Devo, but there's a hell of a lot of that frantic, treble-heavy Marked Men vibe in their sound. I'm happy to report that everything thrilling about their Drunken Sailor-released self-titled LP is fully reproduced live. Cody Googoo's wild-eyed, lurching on-stage persona gives their performances a bit of theatre, a sense of showmanship that so many punk bands forgo these days.

I'm not the first to say it, but Booji Boys are probably the best punk band in Canada in 2017.

The members of Tough Age continue to tap into something special. Their outdoor afternoon outdoor performance as part of the Mint Records showcase was a great deal of fun, as was the midnight showing by their cousins Century Palm (which shares 2/3rds of the roster).

Having relocated from Vancouver to Toronto and paired down to a trio, this year's model Tough Age is a different animal than you find on the affable garage-pop of 2015's I Get The Feeling Central. That's quite evident on Unclean, the new 7" the band unveiled just in time for the festival. Once you're past the frenetic "Guess Not," the new material is rhythmic, low-fi indie-pop that fans of The Courtneys and the classic Flying Nun roster should enjoy. You can stream the Mint-released single below.

Tough Age should be playing all over the country in the next little while. If you're at Sled Island in Calgary next week, go see them.

I watched Vancouver's Needles//Pins from the hill above the Galerie SAW courtyard and it was amazing to see the crowd shouting along with the every big chorus of the band's gruff-yet-friendly anthems. You can often divide up punk bands up into two camps, one looking to confront and challenge the listener with the other trying to build camaraderie amongst misfits, and Needles//Pins are confidently in the latter. The songs on Feel Good Tomorrow are certainly on track to continue fostering that. The new video for "Miracle" that premiered at CLRVYNT this week is a strong nod to the band as a unifying force (weird fluorescent eyeballs aside... you'll see...).

Finally the Smugglers played what Grant Lawrence referred to as their "last show ever... unless a good offer comes along," marking their final planned performance as part of the Dirty Windshields book launch that reunited the band. Their set was as rife with nostalgia as one could hope for, from the shout-outs to past Ottawa bands, to the gallery of reproduction tour posters on the walls. I don't envy the Smugglers having to perform in suits in that humidity (everyone was swimming by the end of it), but there was never a sense that age or inactivity had dulled their enthusiasm, and the crowd responded in kind. There's a ton of press regarding the new book to tear into, and the recent Globe and Mail review is a good place to start as any.

Of Note

I featured St. John's based BBQT on last week's newsletter at the recommendation of Crossed Wires' Heather Grant. As she hinted, the band's released a new set of songs to coincide with their appearance at OWX. You can pick up "All Dressed" over at BandCamp.

The Dine Alone tour I mentioned a few weeks ago wrapped up in Toronto last night, and it feels like Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs may be riding out of it on a huge wave of goodwill. At least that's my unscientific survey of t-shirt sightings in Ottawa this weekend. The video for their Clash-meets-Stones single "Talk 2 Her" just premiered at Funny or Die.

It's award season. The long list for the Polaris Music Prize was announced this past week. Jurors will now whittle down a list of 10 from these 40 Canadian records, including recent LPs from The Sadies, Fiver, The New Pornographers, Daniel Romano, John K. Samson, and more. If I've got to make a prediction, A Tribe Called Red's We Are the Halluci Nation feels like the record to beat.

Last year's Polaris winner Kaytranada now finds himself contenting for another honour, this time the fan-voted SOCAN Songwriting Prize. The nominees were announced this past week. Among them are two personal favourites of mine, PUP's "DVP" (part of the 1-2 punch that opens The Dream Is Over) and Weaves' grungy anthem "Shithole." You can vote, if you're so inclined, at the link.

The latest from Vish Khanna's always thoughtful Kreative Kontrol podcast features a chat with Daniel Romano on the inspirations and creative processes behind the now-Polaris nominated Modern Pressure. Yes, I'm aware I write about this artist a lot. Never far from the pulse of things, Vish also featured Jasmyn Burke of the aforementioned Weaves on the new episode of his TV show Long Night. She's part of a panel tasked with the question "Is Rock Music Dead?"

Toronto three-piece Bike Thiefs have an infuriating name but a cool sound, with sing-spoken vocals over busy, angular post-punk. They've announced a new EP titled Lean Into It. The video for the first single, "Destination Wedding," was premiered this past week at Impose along with a number of tour dates in both the US and the Maritimes. Check it out.

Earlier today Alexisonfire's announced the postponement of four sold out reunion shows that were set to kick off this week at Toronto's Danforth Music Hall. The reasoning is medical, but not much else is known at this point.

One band that was slated to play those shows is Hamilton's TV Freaks. The tightly wound garage-hardcore act has announced that, outside of the Alexis gig and a to-be-announced all-ages hometown show, they're going to hunker down and write and record a new LP. The follow up to 2015's Deranged-released Bad Luck Charms will be the band's forth and first since frontman Dave O'Connor launched his Sweet Dave & The Shallow Graves side project.

Thanks to the good people of srcvinyl for sponsoring the launch of Some Party. Check out their selection online at srcvinyl.ca, which ships out from Canada. If you're looking for a deal their unfortunately soon-to-close physical store at 5904 Main St in Niagara Falls is discounting their stock until they close up at the end of June.

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