Ottawa Gaga Compilation: Volume 1

March 28th, 2016 by  |  Published in Local Releases  |  1 Comment

Despite a brief hiatus, the Creeps are one of the Gaga Comp bands that are still active today. (Courtesy of  The Creeps)

Despite a brief hiatus, the Creeps are one of the Gaga Comp bands that are still active today. (Courtesy of The Creeps)

“You ready to go Gaga?”

Ottawa Gaga Compilation: Volume 1 opens with the voice of The Beach Blankets’ singer posing this question to his band and, seemingly, you the listener, before they break out into an energetic spasm of garage-rock goodness. The constant presence of cheering and hooting behind the track make it the perfect opener for this compilation, setting the tone for an intimate yet loose listening experience.

In 2009, Going Gaga Records and the Ottawa Gaga Weekend acted as an epicentre for punk and garage rock in Ottawa. In an effort to capture and preserve this, 15 bands were gathered by Ian Manhire, Jordy Bell (of the Creeps, who appear on the record), and Ian Showalter over two weekends to lay down tracks for Ottawa Gaga Volume 1.

Since then, many of the featured bands have either disbanded or taken new forms, which makes this compilation the ultimate snapshot of a specific moment in time in the Ottawa music scene. Lending even further to that is the way in which Ottawa Gaga was recorded. Practically every song was done using the same equipment, and everything was all recorded in the same building/room. This gives the collection a certain continuity and atmosphere that is a unique trait to find in a compilation.

The album was recently put online ( in its entirety, and although the recordings are over half a decade old, any fans of the local punk/garage scene will be left salivating over this treasure trove of some of the best noise the city has churned out.

There were many moments I enjoyed on this compilation, and no duds in the bunch, but there were certain songs that grabbed my attention more than others. With the exception of the explosive opening track, the next one to really hit me was “Cut Up,” by Million Dollar Marxists.

I think what stood out the most about the Marxists track was that when compared to the six songs previous, it had a more serious tone. The other songs felt more loose and care-free (besides “Nuthouse Inn” by Botched Suicides, which had heavy Motörhead vibes going on).

While that is definitely my favourite of the 15 tracks, the next runner up would absolutely have to be “Crawling Around” by Savage Crimes. I’m a sucker for snarly, obnoxious punk vocals, and “Crawling Around” has attitude dripping from each syllable. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the cadence found in the vocal performances of the late Darby Crash, or even some of the wildness of H.R. from Bad Brains. The entire song had a carelessness to it that just makes for the best kind of punk.

While it didn’t strike me as anything special on the first few listens, I eventually found myself replaying “Teenage Runaway” by the Sedatives again and again. I guess it was something of a slow burn, but once it started to sink into me a bit, I couldn’t get enough of the track’s relentless pop-punk momentum. The creepy organ tone that plays along throughout the song also adds character, sounding like a church organist gone rogue. Apparently the Sedatives are rehearsing again and have at least one upcoming show booked, so I definitely plan to indulge further into their discography in preparation of the band’s return.

“Dance with Me” by the Felines fit the compilation well, though it didn’t do much for me. I’m just not a fan of spoken words in songs, even if it’s just part of an intro—but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t grin every time I heard the vocalist say in her faux-southern-belle accent “I think you’re awful cute, and I think you’re super sweet.” The song itself could be described as “awful cute” or “super sweet” and also has 50’s, doo-wop charm that fits well with the loose vibes found elsewhere on the album.

Overall, Ottawa Gaga is a fun listen from start to finish with practically no filler. It acts as a reference point to a specific moment in time, and is something of a punk-rock time capsule for the Ottawa music scene. These songs and bands had a huge part in informing the current music scene in the city, and are deserving of some attention now, even if it’s a compilation from seven years ago. Give the compilation a listen or download it from the Bandcamp page, and I promise: You will not regret going Gaga.




  1. Top Five Ottawa Punk Bands of the Last Decade :: Spotlight Ottawa - Your local music scene. Get out and experience it! says:

    March 31st, 2016at 9:31 pm(#)

    […] Haddad, a new contributor with Spotlight Ottawa, reviewed the legendary Ottawa Gaga Comp in honour of its online release on Bandcamp. The comp was recorded during a fertile period in the […]