Archive for January, 2009


Crap Art ’08/’09: A Musical Revolution

On Tuesday December 30th, a handful of Ottawa Indie singer-songwriters converged on an undisclosed location in Centretown for a 24 hour music marathon. The songs that came out of it were stylistically eclectic, and the art was definitely not crap (to the slight chagrin of the event’s inciters, Adam Fogo & Brian Simms).

The aforementioned undisclosed location has 3 floors, all of which were used at some point for writing and then imediate recording of the compositions. The 1st floor was the most raucous, as it had the drum kit (and the piano). The second floor was more folksy, and the 3rd floor was the most 2-headed. On one hand, the edgiest and most modern music of the day (and night) was made up there, but -contrarily- so was the crapiest. Apparently there is a very fine line between high art and total crap. (Apologies to those who were involved in the crappy portion, although it’s pretty much the same people who also blew the the proverbial sonic doors off their hinges up there).

My first song took place on the 2nd floor with Meredith Luce & Neil Gerster. Fuelled by enthusiasm at the starting gate, I came up with an acoustic guitar sequence, which Neil sung over. I can’t remember which instruments the other two were playing. (Finishing the recording of each song was a thrill, and gave a great sense of accomplishment. And then, before you knew it, that song was histoire and you were on to the next.)

My next song was with Neil again, and Dean Watson. We would pick partners and then instruments from hats, and I pulled mandolin, which I’ve never played. This small matter didn’t get me out of playing the mandolin, mind you. What we got, nonetheless, was awesome, and I played ok for a beginner (thanks to Dean for suggesting we stick to simple G,C & D chords – I threw in a D minor, which I figured out how to play). Neil wrote & sung the verses, and I wrote & sung the refrain.

For my 3rd song I was in the mood to write a dark, slow-ish song, which I felt the album would need anyways. I was playing with Dean & Lisa Poushinsky, and the song, “When You’re Wicked Like Me” wrote itself in about ten minutes. It may actually find it’s way into an Ashley Newall set. Dean & Lisa’s call & answer back-up vocals really helped bring the thing to life.

With all the singers kicking around, harmonies abounded. On one song, Brian had been the odd man out and was writing on piano on his own. We all finished ahead of him and joined at the piano singing about 8-part harmonies, call & answers, & ooo’s and ah’s. That particular scene was really tinged with a sense of community & religion.

My goal upon arriving had been to play some keyboards, & I got my chance with a little toy one mid-evening. I was thinking something trippy – almost elevator-esque- and Dean dialed just the right feel up on guitar. Meanwhile, Brian was composing something kind of concert pianish for the piece, which he couldn’t play & sing the verses at the same time, so I switched up my 80’s keyboard intro for the bare chords during the verses. I believe this one was called “Hotdamn it’s Cold!”

Then there was “The Ballad of Tiny Thompson”. After mulling through tabloids, obituaries, instruction manuals, and greeting cards for lyrics (on previous tunes), we were at a loss for our next one. Meredith was using google search, and finally hit on something with the “I’m Feeling Lucky” search option. It was the bio of a hockey goalie, Tiny Thompson, and the happenstance was unmistakeable as we’d been staring at a book on a shelf all day on hockey goalie masks (- so it was clearly meant to be). The lyrics more or less wrote themselves from Tiny Thompson’s bio, and I think Mer wrote the music, and I wrote the chorus chords, which I wouldn’t mention except for the fact that I’m slightly proud of them. For a quite a while afterwards Brian was all ‘teeny tiny thompson this and teeny tiny thompson that’ left, right & centre. It’s great to have a hockey song in the mix.

My favourite refrain on the day was probably “The Truth About Women Our Age”, with Brian leading the vocal charge with ghusto, and with the whole supporting cast singing along in harmony. (Click on the song title to see video of this song performed at the Georgetown Pub Open Stage.)

By the end of the night the picking out of hats thing fizzled out and as we mulled about the kitchen, little song seeds were hatching in the living room. We’d all eventually gravitate there, and the last three songs or so were such birthed. Dean came up with a lullaby, which will go nicely on the (double!) album. Tip of the hat to Ringo’s “Goodnight” (and Jellyfish’s “Hush” – that’s right, Tara!). Also in this mix -with all hands on deck- Tara Holloway belted out “Takes What It Takes” in true Holloway fashion. It was a thrill, with no lack of drama in following this dynamic singer, for your Bongo King to be bongo-ing along on this one.

Dan Overvelde showed up late, and became like a lucky charm. He didn’t play any music, but dressed like a pimp from the 70’s, he was totally styled out! Arriving slightly earlier was Graham Boyle, who wrote a killer song for which the world seemed to stop as we were playing it. Mike Shultz also made a cameo appearance on a tune.

After about 14 hours of writing and recording we retired to the TV room, lit a fire in the fireplace, and one by one listened to our tracks. Laughter & applause abounded (and the odd red-face). 20 songs were written and recorded in total, making it a double album! Some keeners launched into making some videos at this point (@ 4am), but the majority of us collapsed into much deserved sleep.

There’s some talk now of staging and performing this piece, perhaps at a small soft seat-theatre, in the spring.


Clive Doucet for Mayor! Or Brian Kilrea! Or Spartacat! Anybody but Leisure Suit Larry O’Brien!!

So far Ottawa has lost an estimated 280 million over a 3.4 million dollar bus scheduling conflict. Some businesses are teetering on bankrupcy. Thank goodness Clive Doucet (someone in council – anyone!) has split with O’Brien on this farce and called for new negotiators. The two sides aren’t even talking! And all the while Larry O’Brien continues to lead this city like it’s his personal business, with no accountability to, or care for, the 850,000 people he’s putting out over his pride to balance the budget and bust the union. We’re now paying for his alleged lawbreaking/bribe offer to his mayoral rival – in the face of his impending trial (and having been embarrassed by council going behind his back to approve the arts & culture funding), he desperately needs a political victory, and the OC Transpo strike has become his hobby horse. He needs to think of the city first (ahead of himself) and fall on his sword. He could actually be in jail in several months time – too late though to help us now, but at least it may stave off his next bone-headed move. This man is a total disgrace as mayor and must be made to resign.
Perhaps we need a junior hockey coach to whip us back into shape. Step forward highly respected Ottawa living legend, Brian Kilrea. A Memorial Cup victory is all the credentials I need. Then if we ever wanted to know what’s going on at city hall, we could just tune into the Team 1200 for his regular morning call-in.
Or maybe Spartacat is what we need to put smiles back on our faces. I know our Sens aren’t doing so great, but Spartacat is fuzzy and enthusiastic to the max! And kids love him, and it’s all about the kids, right? And that move that Sparty does when he’s shakin’ all over – how cool is that?! It should also be mentioned that he shoots free hotdogs from a hotdog bazooka – he could walk down Rideau Street Rambo-style & feed the homeless!
Take one for the team, Larry – hit the road!



Chillin’ Evening w/ Dave Gaudet & Meredith Luce at the Black Sheep

Dave Gaudet made a triumphant return to Ottawa on January 3rd @ the Black Sheep Inn, opening for a band he used to play in, Meredith Luce & the Mandates. The packed room was only too happy to have him back from far-off Vancouver.

He opened the set with my personal anthem for the fall of ’06, “Walking Disaster”, originally written for his former duo, Los Llamas (featuring Nick Eakins). This song also appears on his self-titled 2007 EP. Dave’s set picked up as it went on and peaked near the middle with a new song, “Light on the Consequence”. Also near the middle of the set Gaudet played the rock-solid “Sittin’ Tight in the Fire”, and payed homage to fellow Ottawa indie artist (& fellow Dave), Dave Norris, covering Norris’ song, “C’mon Lighthouse”. He wound down the set with a fan favourite called “Missing the Point” and went out with one of the most popular & radio friendly songs on his EP, “Wrecking Ball”.

In between sets the world stopped for Canada’s world junior team to finish their semi-final game versus Russia, by this time in overtime after Canada scored to tie with 6 seconds left. Fortunately the good vibrations on the night continued beyond the game as Canada prevailed in a shoot-out. (Meredith’s drummer Tim Watson’s spirits were clearly tied up in the game as he anxiously & excitedly took in the dramatic overtime & shoot-out – fortunately for Luce, Team Canada insured Tim did not take the stage a dejected hockey fan.)

Meredith Luce’s band took a minute to warm up on this cold night aswell, but once Adam Fogo -on viola da gamba- hit the stage for the aptly titled “Snow Country”, the band achieved lift-off. Luce’s sweet, clear vocals soared and the vibe created by her and her Mandates was cozy & warm. Next, Gaudet joined his old bandmates on “Neck of the Woods”, the title track off Luce’s recently released CD. The band -featuring the aforementioned Tim Watson on drums, Graham Boyle on bass & Eric Vieweg on lead guitar- was really grooving at this point, and again the vibe matched the room and the night. Next up was the toe-tapper “The Ballad of Bob & Sally”, an ode to Meredith’s parents. It was a little looser in places, but still warm & fuzzy. “Pages” from Luce’s CD “October” came next, with it’s cool, bossa nova rythem. This was followed by a toe-tapper that was introduced as a ‘murder mystery’. Luce rounded out the show with the stellar title track off her previous CD called “October”.

Overall, the night was tons of fun for friends & fans of Meredith & Dave, and the music was suitably chillin’.

videos from the show @ (This was my first attempt with my new camera to video anything, much less an amplified concert, so it’s not exactly HD quality… I’ll get better.)
photos from the show @

Flickr Photos

January 2009
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