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The unapologetic politics behind Pussy Riot’s fame are unlike
any group in recent memory. They’re a young rainbow-balaclava-chic
feminists, forged by a world order unlike any other in the Global North.
Often when you tell someone you’re a Pussy Riot fan, you’ll
be met with something like: “oh, yeah – I’ve heard of them, but I don’t really know
their music? Are they the ones with the masks from Spring breakers?”
Their band name obviously draws a visceral reaction—a deliberate semantic shock tactic not unlike those used in the past by other feminist activists like those tried to the Dyke March, the Slut Walk, or Bitch magazine.
As Russian cultural observer and academic Kevin M.F. Platt has said: “feminism in Russia is extraordinarily contested. It’s not as though a standard anti-regime person is necessarily going to think at all about feminism, or if asked, identify herself as a feminist or a feminist sympathizer. Feminism represents a peculiarly marginalized set of political concerns in Russia.”
Many catch wind of Pussy Riot’s fiery activism – which has taken many forms over the years – long before getting into their music. Prolific front woman Nadezhda Andreyevna Tolokonnikova (to her fans: Nadya Tolokno) has gained international notoriety for her headstrong willingness to take on all levels of an oppressive government regime—even from from behind bars or Russian labour camps. No wonder those rad Free Pussy Riot shirts are still a thing.
The crowd at Ottawa’s July 13 Bluesfest show was disappointingly small, and a bit less radical than one might have expected. Likely symptomatic of the side stage Pussy Riot were perplexingly relegated to, or of course, the fact that we’re in a national capital in an election year. But the few fans who did turn out were high energy, danced hard and definitely hungry for more long after the band and dancers left the stage.
Ironically Snoop Dogg’s sexist guilty pleasure of a performance
fell immediately after Pussy Riot’s show on the same night, which would also explain
the relatively small crowd.
It is clear by her work that Nadya Tolokno puts deep thought, compassion and a healthy dose of rage into every piece of art she produces. Arguably everything she and her bandmates have done over the years has been some form of interpretive art prompted by a contemporary political event worth protesting. Listen closely for the subtle subliminal messages and whispering voices behind their lyrics; striving to move the dial on whatever the social justice issue of the day may be.
Thursday, July 18
Friday, July 19
Funk yo Self at Irene’s
8-Trax at Live! on Elgin
Saturday, July 20
Sons of Pluto + Beau Réal at Bar Robo
Sunday, July 21
Gypsy Muse at Irene’s
Guitarscapes w/ Nathaniel Larochette at The Record Centre
Hull’s own Fet.Nat has been shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize for their outstanding album Le Mal, released earlier this year on Boiled Records. The Polaris Music Prize is rolling out the Short List today throughout the duration of the afternoon.
The Polaris Prize is a not-for-profit organization that honours, celebrates and rewards creativity and diversity in Canadian recorded music. Last year’s winner was Jeremy Dutcher for his exceptional work Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa.
Fet.Nat—which includes members JFNO, Pierre-Luc Clément on guitars, Linsey Wellman on saxophone, and Olivier Fairfield (Last Ex, Timber Timbre, Andy Shauf) on drums—take traditional music structures and genres and turn them inside out. Their self-described sound “bombastic and off-kilter mix of punk, free jazz, and noise punctuated by nihilistic franglais poetics” is about as close as anyone will get to nailing down this group’s sound.
The band is renowned for their theatrics during their explosive and unnerving live performances, untethered from the one dimensional band-audience dynamic. Their recordings are precise and intricate, yet imply a dose of chaos as the antidote to cookie-cutter structures.
FET.NAT - Patio Tuesday - YouTube
Le Mal is the first full-length since 2014’s Poule Mange Poule—a record that blew minds five years back. With Le Mal, Fet.Nat builds on what they’ve created in the past and offered up a frenetic rhythm & bass, sax dubs, electronic sprinklings, and a vocal poetics that when taken together can only be discerned by those who can appreciate their deviance and eccentricity. “Experimental” doesn’t fully capture the magnitude of what this band is doing. Le Mal is comprised of two sides, one containing MIDI interpretations of the other.
“The MIDI concept was designed as an experimental trilogy, to try to extract ourselves from our own musical equation in three steps: step one being side A’s electric instruments, and step two being side B being MIDI refractions,” explains Clément. The third step will be full erasure, happening only at the end of the existence of FET.NAT.”
“The way we worked on this record makes it special because I freely let PL and Oli do whatever they want with the lyrics, which was more like a résumé of poetry,” says JFNO. “Rarely have I seen this type of shared trust and ethic between writers and musicians. By letting go, it made la suite des choses very interesting and unique.”
Fet.Nat stands shoulder to shoulder with some lofty finalists, including Dominique Fils-Aimé, Elisapie, Haviah Mighty, among others. With such incredible albums at the forefront of this year’s Polaris Shortlist, it’s anyone’s guess who will take home the prize at the Polaris Music Prize Gala, which will be held on September 16 at The Carlu in Toronto.
Stream Le Mal across major streaming platforms here.
Two years after taking a break from playing keyboards with Tokyo Police Club, Graham Wright and his band Girlfriend Material are back with a music video for their song “First of the Month,” the first single from their latest album Cool Car being released July 12, by Dine Alone Records.
The “supergroup” comprised of fellow Tokyo Police Club member Josh Hook on guitar, and Jake Boyd from Hollerado on drums (from Ottawa). Wright met their bassist Joseph Garand, a veteran of the Toronto punk scene, after befriending him in a bar with the hopes of renting his apartment.
“Generally, when you think of a super-group you think of something like the Travelling Wilburys where it’s a bunch of lead singers,” Wright says. “But no one in Girlfriend Material was the lead of their bands and I think that brings a really interesting energy since three of the four of us have spent the last decade of our lives playing some version of second fiddle in their respective bands. Everyone is very generous and very pliable.”
Wright describes Girlfriend Material and their new albums sound as “verbose grunge rock,” and wrote the majority of the record between the age of 28 and 30, which manifests itself in some of the more existential topics and the way it attempts to grapple with adulthood.
“I think the subtext for a lot of our music is a wistfulness of a simpler version of experience,” says Wright. “Having a breakup when you’re 30 years old and it’s your tenth breakup, it’s not less painful than when you’re young, but there’s a sweet simplicity to being young and heartbroken. You don’t have the luxury of being naive about it anymore, you have to know that you’re going to get over it or that you’re over-reacting.”
That routine and familiarity of a break-up in your late 20’s and early 30’s is the specific subject of “First of the Month.”
“I was walking around at the end of some month while everybody was moving and I got to thinking about how, on top of all the other stuff, breaking up is just such a logistical nightmare. Especially in a city where nobody can afford rent and finding apartments is impossible,” Wright says. “Even though it’s coloured with all sorts of high drama, the aftermath of a break up is essentially a mundane process of packing up plates and awkwardly arranging, like, the return of keys.”
Even though the album may cover some rather heavier topics, it’s still a very fun album to listen to with catchy riffs and optimistic melodies and at times genuinely funny songwriting.
The albums first track “Peace Sign” is an energetic love song about the need for constant validation from your partner. “Boys in Bands” is a pop-track about repeating the same mistakes over and over again. There’s even a mini-punk interlude in the 37-second “Crap” which is about pretending to be something you’re not.
“There was a while where I thought maybe this was a punk band and I realized very quickly that I don’t write punk songs very well,” says Wright. “’Crap’ is kind of a nod to that. Here are nerds pretending to do punk schtick. “
With the album releasing in the second week of July, Wright hopes this will be a successful summer album but he’s not sure if that’s the specific purpose he had in mind when he and the band were putting the album together.
“When I think about what I’d love more than anything for these songs and this record to do, is be like I remember when I was like 16-17 and I was leaving a party or a friend’s house or a school dance. It was after the thing with all the crazy emotions was over and I was walking home by myself or driving with some friends in sort of the afterglow, the music that we would put on then, in our headphones or the car stereo, was so fundamental and important to what I understand as what it’s like to experience life,” says Wright. “I know it’s a lot to ask but I would love it if even one of those songs became that for someone.”
Their album Cool Car releases on July 12, and you can watch their video for “First of the Month” below and listen to the single on most streaming services.
Girlfriend Material - First Of The Month - YouTube
Since they parted ways back in 2011 to chase peripheral passion projects—including a firefighting career for lead singer George Pettit—the only band ever is back.
And if they’ve aged while on hiatus (as many of their greying fans definitely have), it didn’t show on Friday night at Bluesfest.
By the time the hot sun had quietly set after the Offspring ended nearly an hour earlier on the main stage, inhibitions were conveniently slipping away just enough for a few bodies to be lifted off the ground and carried away by stage-front security.
A satisfying taste of those familiar rolling, melodic intros AOF fans have come to know and love were offered up right off the top with “Accidents” and “Pulmonary Archery,” followed later by their electric new single “Familiar Drugs” and “This Could Be Anywhere in the World.” Even with the noticeable absence of a couple hits like “.44 Calibre Love Letter,” many of their best from the mid-2000s off their third-studio album Crisis made for a stacked and generous set list.
Moshing through their heavily-charged new single “Familiar Drugs”—perhaps a metaphor for these Juno award-winning Canadians’ unanticipated renaissance after nearly a decade—plenty of dust rose and shirts were torn, but never enough to thin out the crowd.
By the end, bouncers were shooting out sobering, ejaculatory jolts of cold water with firehoses (similar perhaps to what George now uses at his day job) yielding a damp and dirty last few minutes for audience members closest to the front.
During an older fan-favourite, “Happiness by the Kilowatt,” George stepped back and let Dallas take the lead for the last encore song of the night: an unexpected take on the chorus of The Tragically Hip’s “Locked in the Trunk of a Car”—something diehard fans might recall him covering in the past in his much softer sonic capacity as City and Colour.
While sober and with much less to prove than the angsty 20 year-old I once was the last time I saw Alexisonfire at Warped Tour in 2006, others like myself may have felt a bit apprehensive gravitating toward either pit to mosh (George shepherded two of them to “spin” on either side of the stage).
But even with the usual abundance of raging shirtless punks, the uniquely inclusive subcultural nature found in this genre was undeniable—especially given the little dude piggybacking his dad in bright pink earphones, right on the edge of the pit, the entire show.
Mark ii‘s new track “On My Mind” is a perfect tune for the summer. The bright and uplifting staccato synth rhythm that is sprinkled over the song is tempered by the underlying deeper bass tones. Mark Howell’s vocals provide a calming and relaxing touch to the song’s overall feel, rounding out the electro-pop aesthetic of the track.
“On My Mind’ seeks to understand the uncertain and precarious nature of a romance that wont settle,” says Howells.
We had the pleasure of working with Mark ii at our last big Showbox Concert Series event, the 90’s Spring Fling back in May. Needless to say, people in the crowd couldn’t resist dancing and moving their bodies throughout their set due to the irresistible catchiness of their music. The group is quickly garnering notoriety for their energetic and explosive live performances as well as their songwriting. “On My Mind” is one of several singles the band has released since 2018’s technicolour EP.
We at Ottawa Showbox don’t typically post editorials, particularly those which have nothing to do with music. However, I like to think that we’re a community-oriented website, and so every once in a while we can discuss other issues facing our community. My hope with this post is to shed some light on the other side of the Fairmont Château Laurier debate—one which has been unfairly covered by local media. I haven’t seen one article in defense of the proposed modern addition. So, as any frustrated writer does, I started writing. Since I didn’t get a response back from the Citizen’s op-ed desk, I’m asserting my editorial authority and posting it on here.
Rarely is there as divisive an issue among Ottawa residents and City Councillors as the design of the Fairmont Château Laurier’s new addition.The only other time I can think of this kind of fury taking over the capital is when Kanye West headlined RBC Ottawa Bluesfest a few years back. It really makes one wonder where our priorities are with respect to the public interest and well-being of our city.
I am fully prepared to not make any new friends among distraught readers and opponents of the modern design of the Château’s addition. I just hope that they read this whole article first before casting their judgement, and also realize that our city faces much bigger problems than the look of a hotel’s new addition.
There are reasons why Ottawa is known as a “boring government town” or “the city that fun forgot.” It’s because there are a lot of boring, comfortable people that live here who relish their position as part of the status quo. In this case, their indignation towards architectsAlliance, the architectural group that is spearheading the design of the addition, is typical—and expected. Why? Because Ottawa is a city that takes one step forward with progress, and then takes three steps back. It’s a city where restaurant chains and Starbucks are the norm, and where the arts are pushed beneath the surface and forced to survive within the confines of what’s “comfortable” for the public. Ottawa is a city that does not easily embrace change or challenge the status quo. I’m not suggesting that everyone who is in opposition to the current design proposal is inherently boring, however I do think that those who argue in favour of a remake of the old design are part of the reason Ottawa continues to be referred to as bland. Frankly, they’re a huge part of the problem that is holding this city back.
We’re a city whose edgiest downtown architecture is the angular facade of the Bank of Canada Museum adjacent to its head office complex.
The BoC building was built in 1937-1938 in the late neoclassical style with grey granite from Quebec. The building itself won a myriad of architectural awards, including the Gold Medal from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. The original stone facade is beautiful, to be sure. The modern glass structure addition which was built overtop of the original stone building was completed in 1979. In 2000, it was named by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada as one of the top 500 buildings produced in Canada during the last millennium.
Ironically, the glass addition to the BoC is also shaped like a box. The design is also in direct opposition to the original neo-classical style of the old building. Sound familiar? The BoC’s modern addition is an example of architectural forethought and progressive design.
The Bank of Canada’s original neo-classical facade sits embedded within the modern glass addition.
Just because one doesn’t see the process or value in a design doesn’t mean it’s not there. A lot of work and planning goes into these projects, and those who whimsically comment on its ugliness tend not to appreciate that design encompasses more than just the outward-facing form. There’s more to it than meets the eye. For example, the current proposal takes into consideration energy conservation and is made to be a next-generation eco-friendly building. There is more to understand about a building’s design than just its aesthetics. I also should point out that opinions of how things “look” are subjective, and are not unanimous. Although the local media’s coverage of the issue maybe make it seem that way, the truth is that there are lots of world-class architects and designers who would consider the current proposal a brave and stunning addition to our city’s architectural landscape.
Second, design by committee doesn’t work. The Château Laurier is a privately-owned institution that should be able to operate and make decisions about its architectural direction without complaints from some angry tweeters and commenters. But even more dangerous of a precedent is the City of Ottawa getting involved. Multiple Councillors threatening to take away the hotel’s heritage status, in a weak-willed move that makes them look as though they’re fighting for the people, yet actually harming Ottawa’s progress towards a city of the future. This whimsical heavy-handedness by Councillors like Catherine McKenney and Mathieu Fleury (both of whom I am normally extremely happy with, as they clearly care about their communities) has no place in the domain of private enterprise or architectural decision-making, and serve as a bold reminder that Councillors can act on the temperaments of angry members of the community without thinking of the future implications of such a precedent.
It’s like if a child doesn’t like the rules of the ball game they’re playing because they’re losing. The child may angrily pick up the ball mid-game and storm off, but the ball is not theirs and the rules are not theirs to re-write.
Let the design professionals do their job.
Lastly, designers have always pushed artistic boundaries. Art and design should be disruptive.That’s why we no longer live in medieval castles or wooden barns. For people in the 1800s, the CN tower would have looked deplorable and frightening. But to move forward as a society, disruptors are needed—particularly in the field of architectural design. In this case, the Toronto-based architectsAlliance group has spearheaded several massive, progressive projects such as UofT’s Centre for Civilizations, Cultures & Cities, the Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, and perhaps most impressively—Toronto’s breathtaking Pier 27 development that has modernized and transformed the waterfront. We must look beyond the public’s one-dimensional analysis of it looking like a “box” or an “air conditioner.”
We must look beyond the public’s one-dimensional analysis of it looking like a “box” or an “air conditioner.” Most buildings look like boxes, if you think about it. And I think if we all took a deeper look into the intricacies of the design instead of how it looks from 500 meters away, we might have a new perspective on the thing as a whole.
Pier 27 on Toronto’s Harbourfront.
To conclude, any forward-thinking modern design of the Château’s addition is better than reverting to an outdated, passe one. Discomfort and disruption are the drivers of change. City councillors and the general public should leave the design alone, and let architects do their job. The current “box” design may not be perfect, and criticism by peers in the architectural design industry should be welcomed. However, this heavy-handedness is unwarranted, inappropriate, and ultimately harmful. Reverting to the default position that the addition should just look like the rest of the building (or something similar) is regressive and will negatively affect how the rest of the country and the world perceive us.
A better, disruptive, modern architectural design for the Château Laurier should be part of Ottawa’s vibrant future as a global capital. But it’s not what Ottawa deserves. Until Ottawa’s residents and Councillors stop getting up in arms over things like a modern architectural addition on the Château Laurier, Ottawa will continue to be the comfortable, boring city that we continue to be known for. Hopefully now that the bid to retract the Château’s heritage status has fizzled out we can get back to focusing on more serious challenges such as affordable housing or access to services in our city. But maybe getting up in arms over those more important issues is too much to ask.
Ottawa Showbox is excited to premiere Westpot, Ontario’s very own singer-songwriter Owen Davies‘ new video “On the Ridgeline,” the first single off of his upcoming record Lollipop Pumpkinhead.
The video and the music for the song was edited by local wiz Pascal Huot (Pony Girl), of Huot & Valentin. “On the Ridgeline” features Davies wonderful blend of electronic and folk music, with dashes of shoegaze and psych, over footage from the 1960’s movie “Grandfather of the Blue Ridge” by Hugh M. Morton.
The retro visuals, which feel like old family travel footage, include scenes of people smelling flowers, young ones running around playing, long car rides, wild animals and even some sweet old-school cars (maybe ultra-modern for the time) racing through the mountain side. It is a beautiful combination of for both you eyes and ears as Davies voice serenades you.
Speaking about the song, Owen Davies said ” “On the Ridgeline” was one of the last songs I had been working on for the record. The idea came up when I was at my cousin’s cottage with my friend Dave. Across the lake is an island that’s for sale and it has a long limestone ridge on it that faces the cottage. Dave and I were imagining building a series of small shelters on it and calling it The Ridgeline. Soon after, the verse melody of “On the Ridgeline…” was stuck in my head. It ended up being a tough idea to flesh out. I was pretty ready to ditch it. I brought it to my long time collaborator, Jeff D Elliott, who co-produced the record with me, and it really took off. Now, I think it’s one of my favourites from this record.
While Davies isn’t from Ottawa, he spent a number of years living in the nation’s capital, and this clearly had an impact on him and this song in particular. “This song was inspired by an actual ridgeline located outside of Ottawa at my cousin’s cottage” said Davies. Davies is also signed to local record label So Sorry Records, so Ottawa runs strong within him even if he is now living in Montreal.
Thursday, July 11
Friday, July 12
Akounak | Zerzura [opening reception + opening weekend]
Ports of Spain // Teenage Fiction // Yarns
Al Wood duo live in the taproom
Saturday, July 13
Monowhales, Valois (single release) and Subtle Curves at LIVE! on Elgin
Seaway and Blink-88 at Ask a Punk
Big Rig Brewery presents HOPE Volleyball SummerFest
That’s Hot, a 2000’s dance party
Sunday, July 14
Guitarscapes at The Record Centre
Trundled – Bar Robo
Bluesfest continued after the regular Monday break with day 5 on Tuesday. Our photographer Els was on site to get some great shots, including sets by Kygo, Buddy Guy, Sue Foley, and more. We’ve embedded some of their approved photos from Instagram posts below her gallery.