Under The Radar : House Show 16/05/27

May 31st, 2016 by  |  Published in Concerts

House Concert 2016-05-27

A part of Ottawa’s music community is those house shows (…sometimes termed ‘basement shows’) that just happen. They are sometimes unplanned or random, popping up at various places, like someone’s livingroom or basement, or a spare space somewhere – but always ‘under the radar’. Local bands and solo artists get together to play in a relaxed atmosphere bereft of the stress of satisfying the needs and demands of the music industry. They do it for fun and for their fans and friends. It’s not about money… it’s all about the music. And connecting that music with people …people who are there to hear the music.

The people, the ‘audience’ (if you can call them that), are a group of people who are at the show because they know somebody who knows somebody who knows one of the people putting the show together or one of the artists or bands. They get invited and eventually, find out where the particular show they are invited to will happen. Or sometimes, you just have to…
Ask A Punk.

I was fortunate to be invited to one such event last Friday by a musician friend. Musicians I knew, and some whom I wanted to meet, were jamming there so, of course, I couldn’t not go.

House Concert 2016-05-27 Tariq Anwar

Local singer/songwriter/musician, Tariq Anwar, opened the night with a few of his originals including Get Your Mind Over It (…probably my favourite song of his). He ended out his set with a Radiohead tune and, in tribute to Gord Downie, a song by the Tragically Hip. Tariq is well known in the city and has gigged and collaborated with other local musicians including Dynamite Motel with whom he has formed an innovative duo, Colours In The Dark.

The thing about these house concerts is that musicians who are friends of the local musicians getting together can be invited, as well. In addition to the Ottawa musicians that night were Nadia Kazmi, a Calgarian now living (…with a thriving musical career) in New York, and guitarist William Rowley, who is from Paris and is travelling with Nadia and his close friend Diane Merli, an artist and poet who also lives in Paris. (Ah! …Pah-ree!)

House Concert 2016-05-27 Nadia Kazmi - Photo by Krisanne Johnson

Nadia Kazmi – Photo by Krisanne Johnson

Nadia Kazmi is a singer/musician who also writes powerfully poetic lyrics to her songs that cannot be squeezed into any particular limiting genre. With a bold impressive presence and equally strong vocals, her repertoire ranges from dark, moody rock ballads to screaming Rock&Roll and has toured extensively on this continent as well as parts of Europe.

House Concert 2016-05-27 William Rowley

At the house concert, Nadia perfomed, with William accompanying her, several of her originals including Haunting from her 2015 album and 3rd release, Lamb.

(…though my favourite of hers is Dime Store Punks)

House Concert 2016-05-27 Onionface

Onionface… what can I say about Onionface. Wait a minnit… I already said lots on this review about this band that plays the down-est ‘n’ dirty-est R&R on the f*kin’ planet. And that Friday night was no exception.

Guitarist/vocalist Stefan Jurewicz started the set solo doing an excellent cover of Willie Dixon’s Spoonful. Then Calvin McCormick and Jon Schultz joined Stefan onstage and ripped into some of the bad-ass-est Rock & Roll on this third rock from the sun. Howling through songs from their album, Live At The Glue Pot, like Remember When (…we used to dance to rock and roll) and Alien Baby to end with my favourite, Birdman. Onionface just basically… kicked ass!
(…thanks for the dedication, Stefan)

House Concert 2016-05-27 Elementals

One of the main reasons I wanted to attend this house concert is because the Elementals were playing, and as I had been streaming their latest album, I’m Not Here, I’m Not Real, periodically over the last month and a half, I needed to see them live.

Coming from the demise of The Apollohs and The Arcanes, neither of which I’ve heard, the Elementals on this album are more powerful and musically mature than the EP of late 2014, showing confidence in blending diverse styles like punk, metal, shoegaze, and grunge with a not-so-typical indierock base – though they can write a fine indierock tune …check out Belladonna on the album.

Two of the pieces they performed Friday night are off the album, Sunbirth and Phantoms, but the other three – Ripper, Angel Static, and Beautiful Day – are new (…to me, anyways, as I haven’t seen them live until now). A new album in the works, perhaps…or a shift to a slightly different sound, maybe …or a mixture?

What do I like about Elementals? The head-pounding epidermis-stripping ‘wall of sound’, for one (…I’m a fan of both Shoegaze and Stoner/Psyche/Desert). The fact that, besides the dominating volume and sheer resonant force, I can still get the lyrics. And growl and feedback and ground-pounding bass & drumming and ear-numbing guitar-squeal. Looking forward to another full-length issue from the ElementalsCody Smith (Guitar/Vocals), Rick Vaughan (Bass), and Jamie Speck (Drums) – definitely an adroit and accomplished band to keep an eye on and an ear out for.

It was difficult to choose a song, so I went with the one that I tend to headphone at bleed-ear volume which, if you play on loop, never ends, Sunbirth

I’m a huge supporter of house shows/concerts, whether with several bands and artists or as small intimate Folk settings. Where gigging at bars and venues is the life-blood of many bands and artists working to make a living with their art, the house show is part of the soul of music. Before the first wax cylinders and records were invented, before record companies and record distributors and the whole gargantuan behemoth machine of the music industry existed, this is how people heard and made music. Since the times of minstrels, troubadours, bards, and the chanteur/chanteuse, people gathered at homes to hear music.

These ‘under-the-radar’ house concerts/shows were an integral part, as well, of the fledgling rave culture of the late eighties and early nineties where much of the innovative music by some of the most fore-thinking djs in techno and trance were heard. Despite efforts to curb or eliminate them, house shows will always be a part of the culture of music, for the distinction betwixt ‘stage’ and ‘audience’ dissolves and the musicians and singers are eye to eye with people who want to see and hear them, and the people are there – not to drink or to meet up after work and party – but to hear the music.

So… if you desire to experience music close-up and personal without all of the cacophony that permeates bars and clubs, or without having to be surrounded by thousands of other people at a stadium concert, check out the house show sub-culture, because ultimately…
…it’s all about the music.

(…just Ask A Punk)

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