Top Five Ottawa Punk Bands of the Last Decade

March 31st, 2016 by  |  Published in Features  |  1 Comment

Steve Adamyk Band has put out four full-length LPs since 2010.

Steve Adamyk Band will once again appear at Ottawa Explosion Weekend this June. (Photo courtesy of Steve Adamyk Band)

Festival season is on the way, and that means Ottawa Explosion Weekend is right around the corner. As both a primer and a retrospective, I’m counting down the top five Ottawa-area punk bands over the last ten years.

David Haddad, a new contributor with Spotlight Ottawa, reviewed the legendary Ottawa Gaga Comp recently. The comp was recorded during a fertile period in the area’s music scene and featured bands like the Sedatives, the Creeps, and the White Wires. The album also had a lot of bands that I’ve never seen live—which is a large regret of mine.

I moved to Ottawa during the mid-oughties. Sadly, for a long time I was one of those guys who only turned up at a show if bands like A Wilhelm Scream or Propagandhi were headlining. There were a few local bands that I enjoyed, like Contrabandit and Finderskeepers, but I missed out on a lot of terrific music.

That changed when I went back to school in 2012. It was the first time in almost two decades that I wasn’t regularly working an evening or early-morning shift. Suddenly, I had a lot more time to go out—so I saw a lot more local bands. The first band I really liked was Crusades. Their successful combination of hardcore and DIY punk prompted me to look at the background of the members, to find out what else they had done.

Looking at the individual discographies of drummer Jordan Bell, vocalist/guitarists Emmanuel Sayer and Dave Williams, and vocalist/bassist Skottie Lobotomy led me to a number of bands that quickly became fixtures in my queue. Some of them featured members of Crusades, and others were bands that I became exposed to just from falling down that rabbit hole.

So without further ado, here are the top* five** Ottawa punk bands of the last decade***.

*My opinion may not represent your own.
**More than five bands are actually listed.
***Unnumbered, in no actual order—because that’s elitist.

Too many bands put out one great record, and then bungle the rest of their discography. This was not the case for the Zebrassieres, who got better with every release—ending with the masterpiece LP I Am a Human (2013). Part punk rock, part new wave (but isn’t new wave actually punk rock?), this band will always be remembered fondly in Ottawa. Irresistible tunes that you and your pre-teen daughters and nieces can dance to during cookouts this summer.

My favourite band on this list, the Sedatives play a style of punk rock I affectionately refer to as “monster-mash punk,” due to the moody, catchy organ parts and Halloween playability. Although this band had a dark sound, their music was full of great hooks and aggressive guitar parts that stick in your head for days. They only put out an LP and a few seven-inches, all of which I’m pretty sure I can play on the guitar blindfolded—but isn’t it the best records that you can say that about? Word is these guys are jamming again, and have a gig scheduled in May. Perhaps an appearance at Explosion Weekend is on the way?

Year Zero
I initially loved Year Zero because of how much they reminded me of the Hopeless Records band Digger, especially the track Seasons, which I would actually implore you NOT to listen to (you won’t be able to concentrate on anything else for days). Their record Year One is full of relationship-based lyrics and gorgeous guitar melodies. They are another band that put out one record and moved on, sadly—so there will be no Year Two.

This is my favourite band of Skottie Lobotomy’s, which is saying a lot considering that he has been in the Creeps and the Riptides. The presence of Emmanuel Sayer and Dave Williams means there are some different sounds here, but the albums have strong, cohesive themes. A glance at their album art effectively foreshadows their work, but unlike most other dark punk bands, they know when the narrative needs to speed up.

Steve Adamyk Band
If you’ve ever heard the Marked Men, then you know what this band is about. Steve Adamyk Band has become a fixture in the Ottawa music scene due to timeless pop-punk riffage, catchy hooks and a prolific release schedule. They’ve released four LPs and seven 7″s by my count, and show no sign of slowing down. Their latest record Dial Tone is a great garage record, fitting in nicely with labelmates Radioactivity and Mind Spiders over at Dirtnap Records.

Stuck in a Hole
Stuck in a Hole were a fun hardcore punk band that disappeared all too soon. They only put out an EP worth of material, but it was one memorable bit of work. They were catchy, fast, sloppy, and perhaps the truest punk band in the city during their short run. The frontmen are now in Zex.



  1. 77bergs says:

    April 1st, 2016at 2:18 pm(#)

    Good list, but clearly the White Wires are the best thing to ever come out of Canada.