Good Turnout for Lowest of the Low at Ritual

April 11th, 2016 by  |  Published in Concerts  |  4 Comments

Lowest of the Low

On Friday night, I went to Ritual Nightclub to check out No Fly List, the Nils, and Lowest of the Low. It was my first time going to Ritual, so I had no idea what to expect as far as atmosphere, or even general layout, but it turned out to be pretty awesome.

I don’t know what it is about basement clubs, but they always seem to be some of the coolest places to see shows. Ritual is a very big room with high ceilings and dim lighting (no one wants to be in a bright rock club). The bar is located at the back on an elevated platform, out of the way of the crowd—a nice vantage point to watch the show from while grabbing a drink.

A little after 9pm, No Fly List took the stage. They’re a four-piece from Ottawa who, according to their bio, take influences from an eclectic variety of bands like Thin Lizzy, Fugazi and Radiohead. I definitely heard a pretty wide range of styles in their sound, but there was an overlying tone that had a very 90’s feel to it.

The singer/guitarist and drummer had excellent harmonies, with the drummer’s slightly higher range complementing the steady mid-range vocals that flowed over the songs. There was something about the singer’s voice that, again going to that 90’s vibe, had a low-energy to it, but that fit the overall sound very well.

The set was great and full of catchy, melodic songs, occasionally taking on somewhat folky traits. They were fun to watch, and the rhythm section seemed to really be enjoying themselves, often connecting with each other during certain songs. My favourite songs of the set were “Hope Springs Eternal” (I’m currently reading “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption”, which is subtitled “Hope Springs Eternal”–so I thought that was cool) and an awesome cover of “Ever Fallen in Love” by the Buzzcocks.

The Nils were up next, and I’m just going to say it right now: They completely blew me away.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Nils, they’re a punk and alt-rock band from Montreal that was formed in 1973, so, they’ve been doing this thing for a while. Their frontman, singer/bassist Carlos Soria, was a founding member along with his younger brother Alex Soria, who took his own life in 2004 on the train tracks near his home.

When they got on stage, they fiddled with their gear a bit and quickly tested the mics to make sure everything was working, and then they were just off. They didn’t even wait or say anything to the sound guy so that he could turn off the club music, they just started. There was an attitude that smacked you in the face from the first note. I knew I was in for a good set when the guitarist broke a string in the very first song.

Honestly, Carlos is kind of a scary looking dude. He has weathered features that give him the appearance of someone who’s seen some stuff, and I don’t doubt that he has. He fits perfectly into the role of frontman to a punk band. After the first song, he immediately began to call out the audience for their reluctance to move closer. He was pretty clearly irritated by the horseshoe formation that had formed, but the moment either passed or maybe he just decided he didn’t give a shit, because he just went back to playing and the band thrashed about, kicking and shoving at each other through each song.

These guys are really just pure, old-school punk, tapping into a 30-year-old energy that a band full of teenagers would be hard-pressed to match. There’s just a very true spirit to what they do. In keeping with that, when a tray of whiskeys got brought up to the stage, Carlos raised his glass to the audience, toasting: “Fuck art! Let’s get drunk and meet girls!”

The “horseshoe curse” was broken almost immediately once Lowest of the Low hit the stage. The crowd definitely enjoyed and were responsive to the other bands, but it was clear who the majority of them were there to see.

The band wore matching black dress shirts with monogrammed logos on them and, much like the Nils, began with little warning. There was an abrupt eruption of feedback, with shrill and chaotic harmonica and guitar feedback transitioning into their first song.

Lowest of the Low have a really fantastic dynamic, weaving folk and folk-punk traits into a somewhat R.E.M-like alt sound. The sound shifts from song to song with the frontman, Ron Hawkins, switching between electric, hollow-body and acoustic guitars while the harmonica also adds dimension to the songs. During “City Full of Cowards,” they implemented a lap steel guitar which really added to the folk aspect.

They played plenty of classics from their acclaimed album Shakespeare My Butt (including my favourite, “So Long Bernie”), as well as many other great songs and a few tracks from Hawkins’ solo work (one of which, “Til it Kills Ya,” was inspired by the Kurt Cobain Montage of Heck doc). They were tight and professional, but also had a very loose and intimate connection with their audience. As I had said, the majority of them were there for Lowest of the Low, and I think the band picked up on that vibe, which made for a really fun atmosphere and a good night.


Edit: The original article mistakenly named Stephen Stanley as the lead singer of Lowest of the Low. We apologize for the error.


  1. Russ says:

    April 13th, 2016at 3:10 am(#)

    Nice article on Friday’s show! One quick correction, the Lowest of the Low frontman is Ron Hawkins, not Stephen Stanley. Cheers,
    -No Fly List

  2. Scott Martin says:

    April 13th, 2016at 9:38 pm(#)

    Thank you for pointing out the error. It has been corrected.

  3. Claude says:

    April 13th, 2016at 9:54 am(#)

    Low frontman is Ron Hawkins, not Stephen Stanley. Stephen Stanley is no longer in the band.

  4. Sue says:

    April 13th, 2016at 10:07 am(#)

    Frontman for Lowest of the Low is Ron Hawkins.