Friday, July 14, 2006

Bluesfest: Day 7

Calum Marsh

Jon was working during the 7th day of Bluesfest (Thursday) and I couldn't be bothered to swing by - sorry for the gap in our coverage.

YouTube footage:



Download:
Etta James - I Just Wanna Make Love To You
Elliott Brood - Second Son #2

Buy:
Bluesfest Tickets
40 comments

Bluesfest: Day 6

Calum Marsh

Bluesfest's sixth day was a weird one. I wasn't expecting to go at all because, once again, I was schedueled to work straight through the night. Strangely - though, I suppose, fortunately - circumstances instigated an argument with my boss which resulted in, well, me walking out.

It's not every day I get to sponteniously quit my job. This was cause for celebration. I strolled over to Bluesfest (a mere block away from where I work - er, worked) and found Jon selling Mobile t-shirts at the Main Stage merch tent. Apparently I missed their absolutely incredible set (is it indeed difficult to pick up written sarcasm?), but I was lucky enough to make it in time for some unknown named Nelly Furtado. Hot.

Nelly Furtado

I once again took advantage of my little press pass, wandering beyond the lowly peons to that cozy nook between the crowd and the stage. My smug sense of superiority was quickly shot down, though: turns out Nelly specifically requested that no press be allowed in their usual special spot - the spot I was making myself comfortable in that very moment - and so I was cast back into the real world, forced to quite literally stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the "normals". Sigh.

I was kind of impressed with that set. I'm not really a fan of Nelly's music, mind you, but she's a solid performer. I couldn't really tell if the crowd was overly into it, but it's tough to tell with these things: for the majority of the people there, this was probably the only concert they would see all year - which is fine and all, but it makes me a little uncomfortable. I'm used to indie rock shows, where every kid present has a very specific sense of how he or she is supposed to act while there - it's kind of refreshing, then, to be at a concert free of empty bullshit facades. We music snobs could learn a thing or two about show etiquette from the soccer moms balancing atop their too-old lawn chairs.

Jon finished work when Nelly finished her set. We grabbed a bite and then promptly headed for what has quickly become our favourite area, the Black Sheep Stage. It was there that we were fortunate enough to see:

The Grande Mothers

Now this was unexpected. It hadn't occurred to me, when I first read the fesitval guide, that this wasn't just some band playing Frank Zappa songs: this was fucking Frank Zappa's band. Thank God I quit my job.

Though it wasn't the best show I've seen this week, it was easily the most pleasently surprising. There can be no replacement for a Frank Zappa show, but this came pretty damn close. The boys (who have all played with Zappa at various stages in his career) emboddied the very essence of the word "charasimatic" - and the crowd was eating it up. Five or six people would yell out various song titles between songs, hoping to hear their favourites - the band's response? "Requests cost ten Finnish marks - not dollars, not euros, not yen - just Finnish marks". Fair enough.

Download:
Frank Zappa - Orange Colored Sky
Nelly Furtado - Promiscous

Buy:
Bluesfest Tickets
41 comments

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Mocking Music and Revolution Rock Present: Sunset Rubdown

Calum Marsh

Tickets are still up for grabs for this exciting concert event! All you've got to do is send me an email (calummarsh@gmail.com) with "Sunset Rubdown Tickets" in the subject line - or, hell, leave a comment here with your name and email address - and you could be seeing this great live show for free!
38 comments

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Bluesfest: Day 5

Jonathan Migneault

Bluesfest's fifth day has come and gone. Once again, I brought my camera and snapped a few pictures -- a few of which turned out alright.

By now, it has almost become routine for me to head straight to the Blacksheep stage. That was exactly what I did last night and, as usual, I (mostly) did not regret the choice.

First up was:

Mark Kozelek

Kozelek may be familiar to many of you as the frontman of Sun Kil Moon and Red House Painters. Last night it was just him and one other guitarist on the stage. His most famous solo effort was arguably his album of AC/DC covers, What's Next to the Moon, in which he radically altered the originals. His original work has rested on highly personal themes of loss, despair, memory and geography.

Regrettably, none of those themes really shone through when he played last night. He was just going through the motions. There was no sense of urgency or even agency in his set. In what I hope was an off night his disinterest was reflected onto the audience. Most people chatted away and did not pay close attention to his music.

The experience was summed up when Kozelek left the stage early. A full hour, in fact, before the next band was supposed to take the stage. A veteran musician, Kozelek knew he was not playing to his usual standards (I hope) and ended it. This turned out to be a positive because the headliners were able to play a longer set.

That next band was:

Son Volt
Son Volt was that other band that resulted from Uncle Tupelo's split in the mid-90s. When the seminal alt-country band broke up its two founders, Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy, started their own seperate groups that have continued to redifine alternative country. Those two bands were, of course, Son Volt and Wilco.

After the former's Bluesfest performance, I was amazed that they had never achieved Wilco's level of popularity. The crowd's reaction to Son Volt was in stark contrast to the passivity that Kozelek had received. Everyone was involved in their amazing performance.

Son Volt combined the best elements of country, hard rock and folk music with scientific precision. Great ballads and guitar onslaughts abounded their set; and neither seemed out of place or awkward.

In the encore, Farrar played a solo singer/songwriter song that put Kozelek and Ani DiFranco to shame. Everyone was captivated by his words. His bandmates joined him for the next two songs and they finished with a bang.

My friend Candice later commented that: "They owned that stage." I couldn't have agreed more.

Download:
Son Volt - Too Early
Wilco - Hummingbird
Mark Kozelek - Bad Boy Boogie
Sun Kil Moon - Carry Me Ohio

Buy:
Son Volt - Trace
Mark Kozelek - What's Next to the Moon
54 comments

Mocking Giveaway: Win Free Sunset Rubdown Tickets!

Calum Marsh

Exciting news abound! The fine folks down at Punk Ottawa and Revolution Rock are combining forces with Mocking Music to bring you, our faithful readers, what you're shutting up and dreaming about: a Sunset Rubdown.

Yes, if you're an Ottawa resident (or, failing that, if you can make it up here for a day or two), send me an email at calummarsh@gmail.com with your full name and address for your chance to win two free tickets to see Sunset Rubdown live in concert!

The deets, yo:

Who: Sunset Rubdown (Absolutely Kosher Records; members of Wolf Parade)
What: FREE CONCERT TICKETS
When: Wednesday, July 26th, 2006
Where: Zaphod Beeblebrox - Ottawa, ON
Why: Because we're cool like that
How: Email me (calummarsh@gmail.com) with your name and address. Make sure "Free Sunset Rubdown Tickets" is the subject line.

Download:
Sunset Rubdown - The Men Are Called Horsemen There
Sunset Rubdown - They Took A Vote And Said No
Sunset Rubdown - I'll Believe In Anything If You'll Believe In Anything

Buy:
Sunset Rubdown - Shut Up I Am Dreaming
23 comments

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Bluesfest: Day 4

Calum Marsh

See what happens when Jon can't make it to a show? I apologize for the absolutely awful photographs. For the record: my camera was like thirty dollars. Ah, what the hell - it's my fault.

I know I recommended a night off in the Bluesfest guide, but I felt bad not taking advantage of my pass. I hadn't really tested out the power of my fancy 'Media Pass' yet, so I thought it might fun to see what it would get me. I strolled over to the grounds at around ten to nine, with little concern about having just missed The Stills. I made my way to the 'Black Sheep Stage' - they seem to be consistently hosting the most interesting shows at the festival - and watched a few minutes of Los De Abajo's set.

The crowd was small and nobody seemed into it, so I decided to check out the obnoxiously large Main Stage: Sam Roberts was cruising through a tepid 'Brother Down' when I found my way there. The Press Pass got me to the "Backstage" area, where I was allowed to sit in the small space between the fenced-off audience and the stupidly large stage. Here I snapped a couple of God-awful photos:



It occurred to me at this point that I was the only person in the vicinity without a 2000 dollar camera: it was painfully obvious that these were professionals covering the event for major news outlets - I think I may have been slightly out of place. I took the heavy rain that spontaneously broke out as my cue to leave. What a strange night...

Some unrelated items:

- You should all head to i (heart) music for your chance to win the debut album from Shapes And Sizes, the first Canadian group on Asthmatic Kitty's thoroughly awesome roster.

- Mocking Music worked with Punk Ottawa and Revolution Rock in order to bring Sunset Rubdown to Ottawa. They'll be playing at Zaphod's on July 26th - this is not to be missed under any circumstances. Tickets are on sale now at End Hits. In the near future RevRock will be bringing Ottawa Beirut, Bell Orchestre, Akron/Family, Junior Boys, and Islands. More info on those to come.

- I still expect to see you all at my show on the 19th. Tickets are still available at End Hits.

Download:
Sunset Rubdown - Stadiums And Shrines II
Beirut - Postcards From Italy

Buy:
Bluesfest Tickets

23 comments

Monday, July 10, 2006

To The Hipsters Of The Ottawa Region, I Have An Idea Concerning Your Predicament

Calum Marsh

This is something I've wanted to tackle for a long time, but I knew it would be a time-consuming behemoth of an article that I've sort of avoided just sitting down and getting it done - fortunately my boss left her laptop here and I've got nothing else to do for five hours. And hey, I'm kinda getting paid to write about music.

So here's the deal: this is the comprehensive guide to all things music related in the city of Ottawa, Ontario. If you live in Ottawa or ever plan on visiting and you want to know anything at all about this city's indie music scene - yes, believe it or not, we have one - this is the guide to read. Now, I don't know everything: I've probably missed a million and one cool bars/venues/bands/people/stores in this city that you love, but hopefully this covers the lion's share (isn't "lion's share" a stupid expression, by the way?). If there's anything I've excluded, tell me - and everyone else - all about it in the comments box. I'll try add to this periodically to keep in relevant and reliable.

Part I: Record Stores

Independent record stores - that is, locally owned and operated stores which sell cds (and preferably but not necessarily vinyl) - used to play a vital role in sustaining a city's local music scene. A long, long time ago, music lovers hungry for the latest buzz band couldn't rely on reading daily music blogs or - gasp! - the internet to tell them who they should be listening to. Though magazines like NME were in circulation to do just that, it was often the exclusive role of the record store to find the best music and get it to the kids.

The record store also acted as a kind of homebase for the scenesters. There were no "Top 8" lists or "Add To Friends" buttons - meeting other music-savvy pals meant, you know, walking up to them and saying hi. It's a scary thought, I know, but that's all that could be done. Local music scenes thrived because an equilibrium had been established: the indie kids needed music and the indie stores needed money. If you didn't buy an album, you didn't hear it (unless you practiced home taping, of course, but the extent to which that was damaging the industry was peanuts compared to what we're used to now), so the hipsters had no qualms about giving up their hard earned cash for music they loved.

And then the internet came along. Don't give me that bullshit about indie artists wanting you to download their music for free - yes, I know how it works: you download the album, realize you like them, go to their shows, but their merch; but that's not the problem. A lot of people download and then buy the cd, but it's just not the same: in the days of old, a lot more kids were buying a lot more records, plain and simple. Worse is the lack of vinyl: a lot of record stores made most of their money selling 12" dance records to local DJs - people thought that the death of vinyl couldn't kill the format entirely because DJs would always spin records: but it wasn't the fall of the format that changed things, it was the proliferation of downloading. It makes sense, mind you: why would a struggling local DJ pay ten to twenty dollars for one song on vinyl when he could buy it online for less than a buck - or, hell, for free? So now we have a worldwide music community based almost entirely around the internet, making it nearly impossible for a local record store to sustain a local music scene or, in the worst cases, to stay in business at all.

It's easy to see this taking effect in Ottawa: in the past year alone, two of the four major local record stores were forced to close (one went out of business, another was torn down to make way for expensive downtown condominiums). Another record store has opened in the wake of these closings, but the number of these stores in town is considerably less than only a few years ago and it seems to be rapidly declining still.

Fortunately we're blessed in this city to have a number (albeit a small number) or excellent independent record stores (rated here on a four-star scale):
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CD Exchange (142 Rideau St. - 613 241-9864)
Though it lacks a number of important things - a vinyl section, most importantly - it does have an impressive collection of used cds. If you're looking for cheap indie albums and you don't mind buying second hand - I've never had a problem with one of their cds - this is probably your best bet. They also score points for having a solid selection of used DVDs: I always seem to across rare and exciting movies here, and the prices are fairly reasonable. I'd also recommend it if you're looking to trade CDs or DVDs for cash since they pay considerably more than most other trade-in places. Anyone still in mourning over the lose of Record Runner will appreciate their new "Record Runner Section", which is basically a cash-grab marketing scheme designed to take advantage of their biggest competition's demise - um, but I guess it might be worth checking out.

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CD Warehouse (locations in Kanata (499 Terry Fox), Nepean (1383 Clyde), and Ottawa Central (1717 St.Laurent) - 599-4700, 225-9027, 523-0110, respectively)
I've only ever visited the Nepean location, but I was impressed. It is quite literally a CD Warehouse, which translates to a gigantic collection of cds and music-related merchandise and memorabilia. They're the only store in town I know of with such a huge classic section (comparable to, say, that of the Sam The Record Man on Younge St in Toronto), and if you can think of a cd, they've probably got it. The store's size kind of ruins the usual "indie store" ambiance, but the staff know what they're talking about (most of them, anyway...). No vinyl, but they've got so much of everything else you hardly even notice.

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Compact Music (190 Bank St, 785 Bank St. - 233-7626, 233-8922)
Easily the least "indie" of the indie records stores, Compact is a strange store to visit. My most memorable visit was hilarious, though: an old woman asked the clerk if they had a 'Keane' record, and, puzzled, he searched in his computer. "Nope", he said, "I've never heard of them...". "Try 'K-E-A-N-E'", I interjected from afar. He types it in, "Oh...I guess we do". Not that I think these guys should be into Keane or anything - in fact that would have shot their credibility too - but if you work at a record store you should probably know what the hell you're talking about. They recently got a vinyl section: it's comprised of three Tom Waits LPs (bonus points for that call) and about a million 'Dr.Hook' records or some such shit. There's really no reason why you should go out of your way to visit Compact, but I suppose if every other record store in town got destroyed by an earthquake Compact would be worth visiting - then again, you could always buy on Amazon...


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End Hits (407 Dalhousie - 241-4487)
Ottawa's newest record store is also its best. Though it may not ever live up the legendary status of now-defunct Record Runner or Organized Sound, End Hits has a hell of a lot going for it and is slowly turning into Ottawa's main source for indie music. Their vinyl section is still in its infancy, but the lack of selection is made up for by the strength of the records that are available: you don't get that classic "panning for gold" feeling sifting through dozens of worn out records with the hopes of finding something rare, but you'll almost certainly find something worth buying. I always have a hard time leaving that store without buying something, which is usually good sign. The CD collection is reasonable considering the store's size and age (it opened a few short months ago), and it's the best place to go if you're looking for local records. They do consignment deals with local bands, so if you're in a group and want your album sold in stores, this is the place to talk to. They've definitely got the widest selection of concert tickets in town - their ties with Punk Ottawa and RevRock guarantee that - so if you're looking to grab tickets to a particular show or just want to see who's coming to town in the near future, End Hits is your best bet.

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___________________________________________________________________

Organized Sound (CLOSED)
It was a sad day when I learned that Organized Sound was closing. It is - er, was - without a doubt the best record store I have ever stepped foot in. Their cd collection and ticket selection were top-notch, but it was Organized Sound's practically perfect vinyl section that made them the only record store in town that I ever wanted to visit. They specialized in electronica, dance, and experimental music - genres you can't find anywhere else in this city - but they had an equally impressive and extensive selection of indie rock LPs. Prices were a bit high - not high enough to keep in business though, I guess - but I have no qualms about giving my money to such a terrific business. And here's an interesting idea: Organized Sound had "no-crap" policy - known as "Ottawa's discerning record store", their guarantee was that you would like absolutely every one of the records they carried. They encouraged customers to pick something they've never heard before, something totally random and adventurous, and just buy it without knowing what it will be like - you had their word that it was always be good, and you know what? It always was. It's a terrible shame that they had to close; where the hell am I supposed to buy DFA 12 inches now?

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Record Runner (CLOSED)
Sigh. Another legendary record store closed for financial reasons. Some stupid big business decides that they want to erect "luxury condominiums" and we have to pay for it. Possibly the most popular and revered record store in Ottawa's history, Record Runner had a kind of charm that made everyone love it: they may not have always had the cd you wanted and they staff could be a bunch of smarmy brats, but we always forgave them for their shortcomings; they were the record store, and it seemed like they would always be. Highlights unluckily their fantastic DVD collection (especially the foreign and cult sections), their extensive ticket selection, and their commitment to keeping stocking new indie albums on vinyl.

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Turning Point (corner of Cooper and Bank)
Turning Point succeeds for one reason and one reason only: it's the only vinyl-selling store in town that sticks exclusively to old, used records. I've written about why I love this store before: it seems that on any given day, something worth buying turns up. Where other record shops in town are run by and cater to the young, hip indie crowd, turning point is just the opposite: it's a bunch of old guys selling records to other old guys. Fair enough.

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Vertigo Records (193 Rideau St. - 241-1011)
I've always admired Vertigo for being the only record store in the city to strike a balance between the new and the old. Offering a wide array of brand-new indie rock favourites as well as commendable collection of used classics (a lot which are surprisingly rare, too), the folks at Vertigo definitely know how to satisfy the largest number of people. Though they don't exceed in any one area, they're pretty solid as a whole: they've got a healthy new and used cd collection, they've got vinyl, an area reserved for hip hop stuff, a decent ticket selection, t-shirts, box-sets, and, most surprisingly and impressively, a room reserved for turntables and stereo systems (all of which is painfully expensive). If you're not looking for anything specific, Vertigo might be the best place to go for a nice long browse - it doesn't hurt that it's close to the mall and to End Hits, making it easy to swing by when you've got some spare time.

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___________________________________________________________________

Next: Clubs/Venues

Download:
The Acorn - Do You Not Yearn, At All?
LCD Soundsystem - Yr City's A Sucker (Instrumental)
54 comments

Bluesfest: Day 3

Jonathan Migneault

Today I had a shorter day at Bluesfest. I didn't volunteer and saw only two sets later in the evening. I was able to bring my camera, though, and took a lot of great pictures.

Both performances could not have been more different. First up was:

Ani DiFranco

DiFranco played at the gigantic main stage to a crowd of thousands. I managed to squeeze my way near the front to get a good photographic vantage point. Unfortunately, I was rather underwhelmed by the show.

She played a stripped down set with only her guitar and an upright bass. Her minimilist approach depended wholly on her ability to capture the audience through her lyrics. There are two possible outcomes that can rise from DiFranco's highly personal songwriting style. First, the crowd relates deeply to her words and they build a special bond together. Second, her experiences are so different from the concert goers' that a divide is created.

Many people in the crowd, of what seemed to be a large female contingent, fit into the first group. They knew all the words to all the songs and could relate on a deeply personal level. I, however, fit under the second category. DiFranco's music has a deep current of female empowerement, that I, as a man, could not relate to. When the girls in the crowd sang along it was as if they were saying, "I've been there... I know how it feels." I haven't been there. I don't know how it feels. Sure, there are universal themes of love, loss and inequality but they are structured in a way that is highly autobiographical.

This is not to say that men cannot enjoy DiFranco's music. Just that it is much harder for them to build that special bond that can connect them to the songwriter. Without that bond, I felt as though I was at a party in which I did not belong. With something as inclusive as live music, there are few things worse than feeling segregated from the experience.

After DiFranco's set I headed to the Blacksheep stage to see:

Amadou and Mariam
The African duet, backed by an amazing band, embodied everything that a summer festival should be. It was like a giant dance party and everyone was invited.

The couple's story is a remarkable one. From Mali, Amadou and Mariam are a married couple, deeply in love, who express that love through their beautiful music. What's even more incredible is that both are blind. When you see them in person you get the impression that they are soulmates and were always meant to create music together.

It is impossible not to love their live show. They combine African beats with rock, jazz and even electronica. There was not one person in the audience that just stood still. Everyone danced the night away with large grins on their faces. I couldn't help but think that the world would be a much better place if every day was as beautiful and inclusive as that show.

It was yet another one of those pleasant surprises that are often some of Bluesfest's most memorable moments.

Download:
Ani DiFranco - Anyday
Ani DiFranco - Blackbird (Live)
Amadou & Mariam - La Réalité
Amadou & Mariam - Beaux Dimanches

Buy:
Ani DiFranco - Knuckle Down
Amadou & Mariam - Dimanche a Bamako
25 comments

July 19th - Poster II

Calum Marsh

Poster by Samantha Jordan Mae (jordanmae@gmail.com).





20 comments

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Bluesfest: Day 2

Jonathan Migneault

Bluesfest's second day proved to be even more wonderful than the first. It started out slow as I worked my volunteer shift at the main stage merchandise tent. I was scheduled to work from 12:00 to 16:00; the only problem was that the main stage's first performer only started as my shift ended. The other stages, though, had sets scheduled as early as noon.

Luckily, I was offered a chance to work at the Blacksheep stage and was put in charge of Great Lake Swimmers' merchandise. This meant I would work a little overtime as their set started at 16:45. I was only too happy to do so.

Before Great Lake Swimmers I was able to catch an amazing performance by a young man named:

Jake Shimabukuro

Jake's instrument of choice was ukulele. That's right, it was only him and his ukulele on stage and it was fantastic. I was instantly reminded of Owen Pallett and his musicianship with the violin. Unlike Owen, Jake didn't loop his instrument. Instead, he played intricate pieces that shattered any preconceived notions one might concoct when they hear the word "ukulele."

I was glad to see him receive the audience's praise after his set. Many people, who had probably never heard him before, lined up to buy his album. He seemed to appreciate the gesture and mingled with a lot of his fans afterwards.

Next up were:

Great Lake Swimmers

As their name implies, Great Lake Swimmers play the kind of music that is perfectly suited for those long relaxing days at the summer cottage. The band's frontman, Tony Dekker, sings in the manner of a lullaby. Instead of putting you to sleep, though, it makes you daydream about the carefree days of your youth. Those times when nothing could deter your quest for fun and you felt invincible. When I listen to Great Lake Swimmers I feel invincible. I can forget everything and not let the mundanities of daily life stop me from feeling fulfilled.

After their set I had the chance to speak with Dekker at great length. As he signed autographs and spoke to fans I sat next to him and sold a few t-shirts. What struck me was his modesty and his shyness. He could be a poster-boy for anti-rockstars everywhere. He spoke about their latest tour and their upcoming shows. Audiences in P.E.I., Kingston and Calgary can look forward to their show in the near future.

After Great Lake Swimmers came a set from local heroes:

The Acorn

As usual, The Acorn did not disappoint. Joined by some labelmates from Flecton they played a solid set with equal parts new and old material. Frontman, Rolf Klausener, proved to have a great sense of humour and had an excellent relationship with the hometown audience. The definite highlight was their rendition of "Blankets." The title-track from their latest EP proved to be a huge hit with the crowd.

The next band came from Montreal:

Torngat

Torngat was an intriguing and wholly unique band. The three-person lineup included drums, a French horn (courtesy of Bell Orchestre's Pietro Amato) and keyboards/synths. Like Bell Orchestre, Torngat's music is an interesting mix of classical and experimental elements. They have far less popular appeal than their bigger siblings due to the long droning post-rock elements found in some of their songs. They are the type of band that would have more appeal on record than in concert. Their music creates a great ambiance but is not very engaging in a live setting.

Still well worth a listen for those of you who are more adventurous in their musical taste.

Finally, came the undeniable highlight of Bluesfest thus far:

Bell Orchestre

Remarkably, this was Bell Orchestre's first "official" performance in Ottawa. An interesting fact when one considers that almost all the band's members have lived in this city at one time or another. It was a welcome visit that received a tremendous response.


Richard Perry and Sarah Neufeld, especially, brought an infectious sense of energy to the set. To hear "Les Lumieres" -- parts 1 and 2 -- live is an experience unlike any other. I closed my eyes and felt as though I was lifted above the clouds. I looked back at the audience and saw that sense of wonder that is often reserved for the very young. Everyone seemed frozen on the spot as the song's tempo rose to it's climactic crescendo.

It seemed that almost every song recreated that sense of awe. There are so few moments in our day to day lives that can return us to a sense of innocence. This was one such experience.

Bell Orchestre return to Ottawa on September 8th. What makes that show especially interesting is that they will play at the First Baptist Church. I can't imagine a better setting for such a transcendent experience.

That sums up day 2. Keep reading for more recaps on the days to come.

Download:
Torngat - Alberta Song
The Acorn - Darcy
Great Lake Swimmers - I Will Never See the Sun
Bell Orchestre - Throw it on a Fire

Buy:

The Acorn - Blankets EP
Great Lake Swimmers - Great Lake Swimmers
Jake Shimabukuro - Dragon
Bell Orchestre - Recording a Tape the Colour of Light
8 comments

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Bluesfest: Day 1

Jonathan Migneault

Yesterday Ottawa's biggest music festival finally started. Every year the Cisco System's Bluesfest gives Ottawa residents and visitors a ten day musical celebration in the greatest tradition. In recent years it has offered an eclectic lineup that has gone above and beyond just the blues. This year will surely be no different. Performers as diverse as Solomon Burke, Broken Social Scene and Wilco will entertain audiences whilst they make new fans.

Mocking Music will provide extensive coverage of the festivities. Calum and I have both acquired festival passes and will be in attendance almost every day. I've decided to volunteer this year and will spend a lot of my time selling merchandise while I take in the atmosphere. If you are attending the festival you should come say hi. Just look for the tall thin guy with glasses, in his early 20s, selling t-shirts at the main merchandise tent (near the main stage).

Now, with no further ado, my coverage of the festival's first day.

Because I was volunteering I arrived a full two hours before the first performers took the stage (16h). This turned out to be a great thing because I was able to catch Great Big Sea's practice session. Newfoundland's most popular folkloric band played a few old favourites and had a small crowd of volunteers and early birds on their feet. The short "set" brought back memories of my childhood when my mother, a sucker for all things from the Maritimes, would often play their sophomore album, Up.

While Great Big Sea played away I got the chance to meet my fellow volunteers. They were all awesome, though not surprisingly, most were high school students. In Ontario, students are required to do at least 40 hours of community service to get their high school diploma. And I thought forced community service was reserved for inmates and traffic law violators...

Over the next four hours I sold official Bluesfest attire and band merch, for Great Big Sea and Calexico (I'll get to them later), to hordes of customers who didn't mind paying $35 for some of the ugliest t-shirts I had ever seen. My supervisor, Jenny, asked me to put Calexico's t-shirts in a box that was out of the way. She thought no one would buy any of their stuff. Although she was a very kind and sweet person, I was glad to see her proven wrong.

While I worked, two bands played the main stage. First was Brock Zeman. The Ottawa native won a competition at a local club, Zaphod Beeblebrox, and was honoured with the festival's opening spot. His style of folk-rock fit well with the other main stage performers. Next was one of Canada's more popular country musicians, Corb Lund. I was amazed to find out that his song "(Gonna) Shine Up My Boots" was featured in the awesome B-movie, Slither.

Once my shift had ended I headed to the Blacksheep Stage. Named after the best music venue in the Ottawa area, it has gained a solid reputation with diehard music fans. It is really the festival's best place to find those pleasant surprises. Before Calexico's headlining set I came across one such pleasant surprise:

Seu Jorge

Seu Jorge is best known in North America as the guy in film The Life Aquatic who sang the Bowie songs in Portuguese. His performance in that movie, however, did not prepare me for the brilliance of his live set. He played a fun set of South American folk music that had the entire crowd on its feet. Jorge had a joie de vivre that has become synonymous with his home country, Brazil.

I had a chance to speak with him later that night and he was as engaging in conversation as he was on the stage. It was obvious that he loves his country and does not take his role as an unofficial ambassador lightly. In addition to The Life Aquatic Jorge was also in the modern masterpiece, City of God. The film tells the story of two friends as they follow different paths in Rio de Janeiro's slums. One finds a way out through photography while the other descends into a violent life of crime.

The film holds a special significance for Jorge because he was of the lucky ones. He found a way out of the dead ends from his childhood through his music. Now he travels the world and raises awareness about the constant inequalities and extreme poverty that exist in his country.

If you ever have the chance to see or meet Seu Jorge, take it. He is an amazing musician and a wonderful human being. While most of the other artists were hanging out backstage he was out talking to the crowd and enjoying the atmosphere. In a word: awesome.

Next was one of alternative country's most influential bands:

Calexico

They opened their 19-song set on a high note with "Roka." Calexico are at their best in concert when they incorporate Mexican elements into their music. The sound of the Mariachi-style trumpets gave me goosebumps on more than one occasion. Joey Burns took the opportunity to practice his French, "Bonjour.... Merci beaucoup...." in a city that is known to promote billingualism.

Other highlights included "Cruel", "All Systems Red" and "Si tu Disais." The latter song featured Burns' girlfriend(?) with a sexy, sultry rendition of the French lyrics. For the encore they played "Corona" and "Guero Canelo." Both songs received a strong response from the audience: composed of college students and baby boomers alike. Their entire set, in fact, had people shaking their hips and clapping their hands in delight.

It was a great experience and one that I hope can be repeated if they ever decide to return.

Well, that's it for our first day of coverage. Stay tuned tonight (or tomorrow morning) for day 2.

Download
Seu Jorge - Life On Mars

Buy
Great Big Sea - Up
Calexico - Garden Ruin
Seu Jorge - Cru


6 comments

Bluesfest Guide

Calum Marsh

The Bluesfest scheduele is a little overwhelming. There are five different acts playing each of the six stages on each of the ten nights - you do the math. Schedueling conflicts often force you to make tough choices, and there are a lot of factors involved: it's not just which band you like more, but which band will put on a better show, how many times (if ever) you've seen the bands before, and, hell, which crowd will be less annoying (watch as the teenyboppers flock to Emily Haines - a ghastly sight).

I thought I'd make some recommendations so you don't feel so lost and confused. I'm not expert, mind you, and my choices aren't necessarily any better than yours. But this is supposed to be slightly scientific - I stress "slightly" - so you should feel pretty comforatable heeding my advice.

The (Not Really) Official Indie Guide To BLUESFEST 2006.
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Night One: Friday, July 7th

The Choices: Broken Social Scene, Seu Jorge & Calexico, Great Big Sea

Best Bet: Seu Jorge & Calexico
Why: My rationale for choosing Calexico over BSS almost entirely revolves around performance prolificy. Any Ottawa resident will tell you that Broken Social Scene is always here - for a city that draws very few indie giants, everyone's favourite supergroup just can't get enough of the capital. They're a great band and they never dissapoint - last's year they were to die for - but if you're in Ottawa, chances are you've seen them more than once already. The icing on the cake is Seu Jorge, who you may remember covering Bowie songs in The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. That'd be worth it if just to hear 'Space Oddity'.

Download: Calexico - Cruel
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Night Two: Saturday, July 8th

The Choices: Bell Orchestre w/The Acorn & The Great Lake Swimmers, Feist w/Jason Collett & Brazilian Girls

Best Bet: Bell Orchestre w/ The Acorn & The Great Lake Swimmers
Why: Feist and Jason Collett are reasonably good, but there live performances are, quite honestly, boring. And, like BSS, they visit Ottawa all the bloody time. If you miss this show you're bound to catch them in the fall. That being said, Bell Orchestre could be missed for the same reason (Shawn Scallen is bringing them to Ottawa in a couple of months time - more on that later), and The Acorn are local so they're obviously here a lot too. I know a solid lineup when I see one, and Bell Orchestre with The Acorn and Great Lake Swimmers is just that.

Download: The Bell Orchestre - Throw It On A Fire
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Night Three: Sunday, July 9th

The Choices: Ani DiFranco, Amadou & Mariam, Solomon Burke

Best Bet: Ani DiFranco
Why: Though you'd be watching an incredible performance at each stage, the strongest and perhaps least likely to return to this fair city is the lovely Ani DiFranco. She might not be hip with the indie kids, but she's awesome - and isn't that enough? Yes, yes it is.

Download: Ani DiFranco - Fire Door
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Night Four: Monday, July 10th

The Choices: Sam Roberts w/The Stills, Los De Abajo, Rickie Lee Jones

Best Bet: Take a night off
Why: I really have nothing to say about this. You could maybe catch The Stills when they play early in the evening and then, um, head to the bar - I hate Sam Roberts and I've never heard of the others, so my input on the decision should probably be disregarded. I mean, if you like Sam Roberts, check it out - but then if you like Sam Roberts you're probably not reading this...

Download: The Stills - In The Beginning
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Night Five: Tuesday, July 11th

The Choices: Be Good Tanyas, Blue Rodeo, Mark Kozelek

Best Bet: Mark Kozelek
Why: Because it's like you're seeing two bands. Being that Kozelek is the frontman of two awesome bands - Sun Kil Moon and Red House Painters - you're sure to hear something you know and like. And honestly, who doesn't like acoustic Modest Mouse covers?

Download: Sun Kil Moon - Tiny Cities Made Of Ashes
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Night Six: Wednesday, July 12th

The Choices: The Grande Mothers, Nelly Furtado w/Live, Terrance Simien,

Best Bet: Nelly Furtado
Why: Because she's so hot right now. Seriously, who wouldn't want to see the recently turned wild girl burn through those new songs (which are really catchy, by the way)? As for Live, um, well...I liked 'Dolphins Cry' when I was 13. I don't know what else to say.

Download: Nell Furtado - Afraid
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Night Seven: Thursday, July 13th

The Choices: Elliott Brood, Etta James, Konono N1, Mofro

Best Bet: Etta James
Why: Sure, I like Elliott Brood, but turning down an Etta James performance would be a crime. Do yourself a favour and go.

Download: Etta James - Oh Happy Day
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Night Eight: Friday, July 14th

The Choices: Cadence Weapon w/Rihanna, Wintersleep & Holy Fuck & The Fiery Furnaces & Metric, Kathleen Edwards

Best Bet: Wintersleep/Holy Fuck/Metric/Fiery Furnaces
Why: Oh come on. Obviously. It's almost worth it just for a Fiery Furnaces shirt - or a Wintersleep shirt, but those are kind of lame...

Download: The Fiery Furnaces - Single Again
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Night Nine: Saturday, July 15th

The Choices: Fefe Dobson, Wilco, Hawthorne Heights

Best Bet: Wilco
Why: Well, you've really got your work cut out for you here: how the hell are you ever going to choice between Blues greats Hawthorne Heights and Fefe Dobson? I love both so much and I hear they're incredible performers - oh, and there's that "Wilco" guy, I've never really heard of him. Is that Blues too?

Download: Wilco - No Poetry
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Night Ten: Sunday, July 16th

The Choices: New Pornographers w/Controller.Controller & Hilotrons, KC And The Sunshine Band

Best Bet: New Pornos
Why: It just might be the best night of the whole festival. Some indie snobs can't stand the New Pornographers, but deep down in your heart you know they're a lot of fun. Controller.Controller works as an opener and local greats the Hilotrons always put on a good show. Well worth the price of admission.

Download: The New Pornographers - Jackie
___________________________________________________________________

Buy:
Tickets
6 comments

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Baby's First Concert

Calum Marsh

You're cordially invited to Calum Marsh's Very First Concert - an evening of music and drinks hosted by yours truly. If you're in the Ottawa area and don't have anything else to do - you know damn well you don't - I insist that you swing by Cafe Dekcuf (221 Rideau Street, above Mavericks) for a truly magnificent experience.

Explore:
The Neckers
The Liar's Rosebush
Acres
Bangkok

Download:
The Liar's Rosebush - 'Delta Delta Delta'
The Liar's Rosebush - 'Series And Parallel'
The Neckers - 'Don't Wanna Worry'
The Neckers - 'Share Secrets'

Tickets are available at End Hits (corner of Rideau and Dalhousie) or at the door.
6 comments

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Ottawa's Best New Band: Black Actors Get the Part

Jonathan Migneault


Canadians are obsessed with super-groups. We just can't get enough of them. From the New Pornographers, to Broken Social Scene, to The Hylozoists; they seem to be popping up all over the place. I suppose our talented musicians just aren't content to stick with only one project. They seem to have a need to branch out into different genres and work with different people to quench their creative thirst.

Although the three bands I mentioned above are from Vancouver and Toronto, respectively, Ottawa's musicians have also followed this trend. When it comes to the arts in Ottawa, everything's just on a smaller scale than the larger urban centres. I've already mentioned Jetplanes of Abraham in a previous post. They're probably the best example of an Ottawa "super-group" but there are others. A great band called Black Actors have really made a name for themselves in the last few months.

Black Actors has members from two great local bands: Van Johnson and Robot Kill City. They play a fun brand of post-punk that will get even the most stagnant indie kids strutting their stuff on the dance floor. They have the potential to achieve the kind of success that has eluded the Capital Region's artists (unless you count Alanis Morissette).

If you happen to live in, or near, Ottawa you can catch Black Actors at End Hits on July 7th. Sure, that other super-group and a little-known band called Calexico will be playing elsewhere in the city at around the same time but they won't make you want to put on your dancing shoes. Don't waste your time with those other guys and support your local starving musicians. You'll be glad you did.

There are currently no Black Actors songs available for download but you can listen to two unmastered tracks on their MySpace.

Download
The Hylozoists - Strait is the Gate
The New Pornographers - The Slow Decent Into Alcoholism (Live)
Broken Social Scene - All the Gods
Calexico - Nom de Plume

Related
Jetplanes of Abraham Soar Above the Rest
18 comments

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Canada Day Coverage - Pt. 4

Calum Marsh

Okay, so: I forgot the camera. I'll fill you in anyway.

We saw Stars at Parliment Hill. Tess is conspiciously agile and was able to dart through the crowd - hundreds of thousands of people - to get close enough for us to see the stage. Jon noted that it was probably the biggest crowd they've ever played to, but they admirably remained confident in the face of such a daunting audience. I respect that. The performance was, as usual, terrific, even despite the overwhelming atmosphere. I'd like to stress that this was a weird concert: here were Stars, my little band from Montreal, playing to the largest audience I've ever been a part of at the most unexpected venue I could imagine - and yet, in its own curious way, it worked. It all seemed...right. I know that only a tiny fraction of the crowd had ever heard of this band, and I'm fully aware that too that the majority of these happy people were just waiting patiently for the fireworks to begin - yet I was content with how it all came together, and I'm pleased now that I took the time before the bar to stop and watch.

Let me explain my unpopular fireworks policy: I don't care for them. They bore the hell out of me, to be quite honest. Why, why, does anyone get excited about this? Are we really, as a culture, so easy to entertain that flashing lights in the sky cause everyone - yes, everyone - to "ooh" and "ahhh"? I'm not angry, mind you; I wish I liked fireworks. I honestly feel as though I'm missing something, like I just don't get it - how can something so simple make so many people so happy but do nothing for me? What the hell am I missing?

That being said, the fireworks were grand. Tess and Jon were impressed, and that's good enough for me, I guess. We tried walking to Zaphods but the crowds were just too much to handle. It's strange, being so close to home but feeling so overwhelmed by strangers - I feel like this is my home, like I should have control here more than anywhere else - but no, it doesn't work like that. I'm lost, too.

Getting home from Zaphod's means passing through the Rideau Centre to get to the Mackenzie King bride - simple enough. But what's this? Police barricades? Certainly seems that way. The detour would take all night, so I propose a more interesting solution: let's head to the top of the Rideau parking garage and jump to the roof of the Rideau Centre. On our way up the empty garage stairs (apparently nobody else thought of this brilliant plan), we encountered danger: an alcoholic homeless kid threw something (we assume it was a rock) through the window of the roof-exit door - a door we were seconds from reaching. The glass from the window smashed a few feet in front of us, but we were okay. Determined to get home, we went forth in the face of danger - that is to say, Tess bravely went ahead because Jon and I were scared out of our minds.

A little fence-hopping put us squarely on the roof of the Rideau. We walked around to the stairwell, which would lead us right on to the Mackenzie King bridge - but, not surprisingly, we are stopped by the police, who tell us we're going to have to walk all the way back around. On the way back we spot another exit - this one takes us to more police, but I find a shortcut that takes us to a secret area. Fences are hopped and walls are scaled, and eventually we find ourselves sneaking past security guards in a blocked-off area. Tess, headstrong and brash as she is, climbs around the side of steel gate - on the side of a building, which requires some gutsy gymnastic skills - and onto an empty stairwell exit.

All that work, and we're still in the middle of a busy crowd. An eternity later we reach the apartment - tired and desperate need of alcohol, we pour some drinks. And here were are. it's 12:05; it's no longer Canada Day. Was it good for you?

Download:
Stars - Elevator Love Letter
8 comments

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Canada Day Coverage - Pt. 3

Calum Marsh

FRANCE WON!? What the hell? I'm still mad about England...

It's bloody hot today. We haven't really been keeping to our schedule, but things are running smoothly - we just got back from the End Hits vegan barbeque, which was surprisingly good. I bought Wire's Pink Flag on vinyl (which we're enjoying as I write this), and we talked for a little while to Shawn Scallen, a major concert promoter in the area (much more on him next week). The veggie burgers were...okay, actually, and I don't think that's just the alcohol talking.

Tess got her face painted and we ran into Jon's entire family. We got candy from Sugar Mountain and shoved our way through the stupidly large crowds. I am slightly drunk and have been for 4 hours - I have high hopes for the hours to come. Here are some lovely pictures from the day:

Sparks Street, in front of parliment. The crowd has gathered to get a look at local celebrities Calum Marsh and Jon Migneault. And I think there may have been one of those stupid EuroTrip robot guys...

Rideau Street - the roads were closed to traffic so it was pretty insane.

Tess is paying this guy for painting her face. She has no idea I'm taking her picture. I suspect he might, though.

Two women jumping on a trampoline - no idea why the crowd would be watching that...

No pictures of Jon or me, strangely - maybe we'll snap a couple when we're dancing (oh god...).

Download:
Wire - Dot Dash (Early Demo)
4 comments

Canada Day Coverage - Pt. 2

Calum Marsh

England lost. Goddammit. The bar was fairly exciting: I spilled water all over myself during the penalty kicks and drank some delicious beer with Jon. Tess got bored and confused fairly quickly and Jon didn't arrive until the end of the second half, but I enjoyed myself nevertheless. We're currently drinking some Guinness and listening to a Unicorns LP - fun times!

As soon as we're done here we'll be heading further downtown (I'm a few minutes from the Hill and whatnot) to enjoy the End Hits vegan barbeque and maybe buy a couple of records. Maybe we'll see you around.

Download:
Buck 65 - Jaws Of Life
6 comments

Canada Day Coverage - Pt.1

Calum Marsh


Greetings to you, dear reader! I'm spending my very first Canada Day in the nation's capital today, and to celebrate the occasion I'm going to be getting very drunk - hurray! Jon and I (along with my lovely companion Tess) are going to be wandering the city all afternoon, heading back to my downtown apartment periodically to update everyone our festive activities. Here's our tentative plan:

11:00am - World Cup Game @ Generic British Pub
2:00pm - Jon joins Tess and I for drinks @ My apartment
2:45pm - Wandering the busy streets @ Downtown (Bank & Rideau)
3:30pm - Vegan Barbeque & Record Shopping @ End Hits (Corner of Bank & Dalhousie)
4:00pm - Afternoon drinks @ My apartment
5:00pm - Jetplanes Of Abraham @ Zaphods
6:00pm - Buck 65 @ Major's Hill Park
6:30pm - More Drinks @ The Apartment
7:30pm - Stars @ Parliment Hill
8:15pm - Last apartment drinks @ My Apartment
9:00pm - Bar till 2am @ Zaphods

Now doesn't that sound like fun? Make sure to say hi if you happen to see either of us at the bar or at the concerts.

Download:
Boards Of Canada - Dayvan Cowboy
The Decemberists - July, July!
4 comments