Archive for Canada

KEN Mode @ Ottawa

Posted in Gigs, Travel with tags , , , , , on November 3, 2013 by Noise Road

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Despite of, or maybe because of, a series of questionable life choices, Noise Road has some unique experiences in some disparate parts of the world burnt into our skull. Music is my first love, and my days are soundtracked. Whenever I can get away with it, an IPod is jammed into my ears – on the way to work, at work… on a slow train to Oxford, or a budget flight to Helsinki. My last 4 years have been punctuated by killer gigs in the UK, but also in Europe and now in North America.

When Ken Mode launched into the opening riff of Daeodon, my eyes shut, my body grooved… and I had a memory jolt of looping that track, Irvine Welsh novel in fist, on a train between Amsterdam airport and the Roadburn Festival. It may not seem like much to you, but these flashes of good times make me think that not all my life choices have been wrong. I have seen and heard some cool shit in some unique places.

It was 21 degrees in Ottawa a couple of weeks ago. I was glad that the weather had held for a minute on my arrival into Canada. This morning it was -7 degrees. The locals didn’t even blink. This isn’t cold. Wait for winter.

So in 3 layers of clothes, I booked on over to Cafe Deckuf. Downstairs, Orange Goblin played the main Mavericks room. Orange Goblin are great live. It was a shame to miss them. But KEN Mode, dude. KEN Mode!

Ottawa locals, Black Oak Decline, kicked off the evening with a bass-driven, sludgy-hardcore set. Most of the punters were here already, and an energetic set on a Tuesday night was warmly received.

Full of Hell truly play Noise Rock. That is noise and rock. Their knob twiddling feedback and reverb ebbs and flows, saturating the room with noise, before they locking in to furious blasts. Its like Eyehatedgod on speed… well, Eyehategod on more speed.

KEN Mode open the attack with Counter Culture Complex. Before boarding the stage, KEN Mode seemed like a bunch of laid-back dudes. They chatted with the punters and with local faves, Fuck the Facts. Now KEN Mode fully embody their Black Flag inspired name, Kill Everyone Now Mode.

Vocalist/Guitarist, Jesse Matthewson, has the crazy eyes. The dude looks like he wants to kill everyone now. At the close of the last song, he picks out individuals in the crowd and holds a stare at them. I was one of those dudes. I came back from that void broken.

Secret Vasectomy and Your Heartwarming Story Makes Me Sick may have jokey titles, but there is not an ounce of irony or humour in the set. It is flat out intensity.

KEN Mode and Ottawa, you have burnt a fresh memory into my skull.

Cancer Bats / Bat Sabbath @ Mavericks, Ottawa, Canada

Posted in Gigs, Travel with tags , , , , on October 21, 2013 by Noise Road

cancer-bats-double-header

In a heavy-music landscape where genres are continually, and passionlessly, subdividing like asexual starfish, it is difficult to gain consensus on what is metal, and what is good. Black Sabbath is that consensus.

There are death metal fans that won’t listen to anything with clean vocals, serious fans that pay no mind to any nonsense about satan and wizards, grind freaks who won’t tolerate anything decipherable or beyond 30 seconds in length, technical prog freaks who can’t truck with anything in 4/4 and that doesn’t last at least 17 minutes….

.. But all of them agree on Black Sabbath. And if they don’t, don’t you trust them. As Phil Anselmo said “Your trust is in whiskey, and weed, and Black Sabbath”

Crowds at hardcore/metal crossover shows can be particularly splintered. I remember a Converge show at Fowlers where metalheads on the perimeter gave death stares to hardcore kids windmilling in the pit. Cancer Bats attracts both hardcore and metal kids, and everything inbetween… yet here we all are, singing along to old Sabbath standards. These are our hymns. This is our traditional folk music.

Splitting my lungs with blood and thunder to War Pigs is one of the funnest nights I’ve had in a long while. That shit should be prescribed to the clinically depressed. Free Cancer Bat gigs should be added to ObamaCare.

The fun started early in the night. Quebec’s Dance Laury Dance surprised with a swaggering hard rock set, complete with duelling solos and the odd high-pitched, power-metal scream. The majority of the set was fist pumping, anthemic stuff to neck your Keith’s Red to.

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Off topic, but I love the North American system of tipping every beer order. Tip decently, and the bartender searches you out at the bar. They remember your order. I don’t know anyone in Ottawa yet, but several bar tenders are already opening my preferred bottle as I approach the bar.

This was my first show since starting my 3-year bit in Ottawa a few weeks ago. Its not just the bartenders that have been friendly. The friendliness of Canadians has made the move a lot easier. Also, the weather holding for a few extra weeks, has alleviated my fears of walking straight into the ice planet, Hoth.

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Tonight, Ottawa’s packed Mavericks venue bursted with enthusiasm. The crowd’s cheers never relented between Cancer Bats’ songs. The frontman described it best, calling it a rager.

Cancer Bats bring so much positive energy to the show. It’s just so much fun.

Deathsmarch has that old-school, positive hardcore feel, with the room yelling “Hey world, you’ll never break me…”. The punters bounce to Bricks and Mortar . The heavy riff of Hail Destroyer has the kids throwing themselves into each other… And the room explodes for the excellent Beastie Boys cover, Sabotage.

It is all so smile enducing…

A refresh at the bar, and we’re back at it for Cancer Bats second set as their Black-Sabbath-covering, super-villain, Bat Sabbath alter egos… And good lord, I challenge you to not groove out to their rendition of Supernaut.

Bat Sabbath’s covers are surprisingly faithful. War Pigs swings like it should. The solos are spot on. Maybe that jazzy Geezer/Ward feel is replaced by a bit more of a straight-up, punky energy… and a caped frontman definitely brings a hardcore yell to cope with Ozzy’s challenging vocal range.

I would take this sweaty energy, this intimacy, and this fun version of Sabbath over the bloated “real” Sabbath playing arenas around the world this year. No doubt.

After the group sing-alongs to Paranoid, Iron Man and War Pigs, I walked out into the Ottawa night.

Ottawa, I think you and I are gonna work out.

A Fair Warning to Canada

Posted in Admin, Travel with tags , on October 21, 2013 by Noise Road

Noise Road is in you.

Primus. Poutine. Poles (Totem).

Posted in Gigs, Travel with tags , , on August 18, 2012 by Noise Road

We were casually nursing a coke in the McDonalds across the road when Primus started their set.  Unknown to us, Primus started the show at doors opening time.

Noise Road’s good friend, Bexter (you may know her by one of her many aliases – uzBECistan, Stan, Izzy etc) won tix to Primus.  So I spent my final night in Vancouver at another gig!  Win!

The day after the Corrosion of Conformity gig ended unexpectedly loose.  It started innocently enough with a traditional Canadian thinly-sliced meat sandwich and poutine…  but it ended many hours later at 3am in a suburban bar.

Poutine is a mix of chips, curd and gravy.  Curds?  I don’t think I’ve heard of Curds since the childhood poem:

Little Miss Muffet

Sat on her tuffet

Eating her curds and whey…

Firstly was that Muffet chick on some kind of muscle-building whey-protein kick?  Secondly what the feck is a curd?  Whatever they are, they do not sound tasty.  In fact I heard that Saddam Hussein so hated curds, that he tried to exterminate every single last one of them….  Hmmm, maybe I should delete that last line.  Genocide is never cool.  In fact nothing to do with Saddam Hussein is cool – including the internet snuff film of his execution.

Anyways…  Curds don’t sound delicious, but trust me, poutine is delicious.

The options for the afternoon were either a walk through the park for the stunning views… or the Granville Island Brewery.  The die was cast as soon as we made the decision to sample some beer.  Why do Canadians do a shot with every beer?  We drank beer in the brewery. We drank beer and Jameson on the water.  We ate dinner and drank beer in a cooking school in Jericho.

As far as I can tell Jericho is a Vancouver suburb owned by Canadian wrestler, Chris Jericho.  Y2J.  It could have been worse.  We could have had dinner and drinks in Benoit.

The night ended in yet another bar.  I have no idea where we were.  All I know is that I left a swag of recently purchased Canucks souvenirs there.  I also left the contents of my wallet in their till.  Late night drunken taxi rides from bar to bar in a strange city are never a good idea.

Feeling a little sore the following morning, I dragged my remains around the sea-wall that encircles Vancouver.  As Noise Road has said before, Vancouver is a beautiful city.  The sea wall walk allows you views of the densely wooded mountains, totem poles and seaplanes regularly landing in the bay in front of the city skyscrapers.

Primus

I am not a massive Primus fan.  I struggle with virtuoso musicians, whether they be guitar or on bass.  With bass superstar and Primus main man, Les Claypool, I was fearing something a kin to that awful Red Hot Chilli Peppers gig where Flea w@nked himself off with a bass for 90 minutes, occasionally broken up by some 3-note-range singing from Anthony Keidis…  but it can not be denied that Primus put on a good show.

The venue itself was somewhat odd, as it was a fully-seated traditional theatre.  Even coming in 20 minutes late, the usher saw us to our seats.  Punters had to groove to Primus’s frenetic bass work standing in front of their designated seat.

The stage was set up spectacularly with giant astronauts guarding stage left and stage right.  A video of a man’s face disturbingly looped in the astronaut visors.

With no opening acts, Primus played 2 sets of nearly 90-minutes length each.  The stomping funk fest only paused to screen a hilariously un-PC Popeye film.

Throughout the night, main-man Les Claypool produced all manner of bass guitars.  When utilising the stand up bass, Claypool donned some kind of pig mask.  Primus are weird, dude.  Fittingly, I smelt weed for the first time at a gig for a long time.  If there was a gig that I associate with weed, it is this one.

I am no Primus expert, but I am guessing that these were far more jammy renditions of their tracks, as the song lengths was long.  The set was highly enjoyable, but 3 hours of jammed-out tracks was just a bit much for a non-hardcore fan.

A couple of familiar tracks, Jerry Was a Race Car Driver and Winona’s Big Brown Beaver did keep me interested in the funked-out jam fest.

The following morning my time in Vancouver was up.  My quiet week in Vancouver turned out to be extremely eventful and extremely fun.  Many thanks to my awesome hosts, the Count and Bec.

Go to Vancouver.

Corrosion. Conformity. Canada: Part 2

Posted in Gigs, Travel with tags , , , , , on August 15, 2012 by Noise Road

On the bus to the show, a dude yelled at his missus to leave him alone as “his homeboy had just been stabbed”.  As we approached the corner of East Hastings, two women lay on the footpath being attended to by the authorities.  We joined the queue outside the Rickshaw Theatre and watched pros escorting punters down the block.  On East Hastings, you are a spectator to human misery.

Inside, the venue was a far happier place.  The Rickshaw is a traditional theatre with a balcony and some seating on the floor.  Tonight it came complete with a calzone man.  A stereotypical old Italian man strolled amongst the punters with a tupperware container, holding up a picture of calzones.  Every venue needs a calzone man.

Tonight, The Count and I were joined by his good Northern Irish friends, Gareth and Rachael…  and of course our even newer friend, the Calzone man.  For ease of future reference, let’s call him Luigi.

None of us, except maybe Luigi, knew any Corrosion of Conformity outside of their Pepper Keenan era.  Pepper Keenan joined the then three piece CoC as vocalist/guitarist during the bands’ most commercially successful period.  The Deliverance album is huge dude – Clean My Wounds, Heaven’s Not Overflowing, Albatross.  Go buy it.  With Pepper Keenan tied up with his duties in NOLA doom titans, Down, CoC decided to finally reassemble as a three piece.

I’ve never seen CoC with any lineup.  Why not see them in Vancouver… with my good mate, the Count?

Gaza

I saw Gaza in Brighton and London, when they supported Converge on their UK tour.  The solid performances that I have previously seen from Gaza and Torche, made this concert a must see during my week in Vancouver.

As is often the burden of opening acts, the sound mix was a little off.  At times the guitar leads did cut through clearly.  At other times they were lost in a muddy sound during the sludgier pasages.

But Gaza won overall through energy.  If there is a genre that can withstand any sound mix, it is hardcore.  Hardcore is energy.

It is visually difficult to look past Gaza’s giant of a front man.  Singing side on, the lanky vocalist makes his bandmates look like Oompa Loompas.  He demands attention with his stage presence and his anti-religion rants between tracks.  His effectiveness was slightly dulled by the sparseness of the crowd that early in the evening.  His off-mic bellows, and on-mic whispers seemed lost in the empty space in front of him.  Still earnestness and energy won the day.

However, most valuable player for Gaza goes to the drummer.  He was the epitome of energy, squeezing in blast beats amongst straight up hardcore and sludge.

Black Cobra

Two-man stoner act, Black Cobra, continued a diverse night of solid acts.  The vocalist/guitarist’s low end filled the room.  The drums propelled the music forward, while the guitar broke into a lead.

Torche

The first half of Torche’s set suffered a little from a lack of clarity through the mics.  This half of the set was almost poppy stoner.  There is melody through the vocals and I couldn’t pick up a single word, due to the mix.

Torche appear based in a grunge or 90s alternative sound.  It is great to hear someone still progressing that sound, when we are so close to the spiritual homeland of 90s alterno.

The mix was far kinder to the sludgier second half of the set which worked up to a big rock ending.

Corrosion of Conformity 

Corrosion of Confromity was a massive surprise.  I was expecting a variant on the southern sludgy rock of Deliverence.  Instead CoC delivered upbeat punk songs, which stopped suddenly for a sludgy southern rock riff and crooning vocal, only to start up another punchy burst just as suddenly.

Most of all the set was fun.  They are almost a happy, positive yang to Eyehategod’s anarchic, slit-your-wrists yang.  Song titles like Psychic Vampire give you a sense of the fun attitude of the band.

Visually, the band are a bunch of characters that could have been pulled straight from the woods of North Carolina.  Their joy on stage translated into a loose pit in front of the stage.  There was the odd bit of a trouble due to the looseness of the pit and knobness of one punter in particular.

In contrast to the mix troubles earlier in the night, the melodic vocals from all three members could clearly be heard.  That’s important because the world needs to know about Psychic Vampires.

The strength of tonight was in the diversity and tightness of the opening acts, coupled with the character and unique sound of CoC.  CoC don’t sound like anyone else.  In an increasingly homogenised world, that is something to celebrate.

On my return to Glasgow, I bought the new CoC record and so should you.  Go see Corrosion…  in Vancouver if you can.  Say hello to my calzone man, Luigi.

Corrosion. Conformity. Canada: Part 1

Posted in Travel with tags , , on August 15, 2012 by Noise Road

Monday morning we were hiking through the dense pines of Grouse Mountain.  Wednesday evening we were lining up outside the Rickshaw Theatre, watching the junkies and the pimps interact on East Hastings Street.  Earlier in the week, we had bussed down East Hastings to see junkies sprawled out along the footpath.

Vancouver is a beautiful town.  The city is surrounded by green mountains and deep blue bays.  Vancouver is a wealthy city.  Yachts fill the bay.  Everyone has new, big cars.  Nice restaurants are every where… Yet right in the middle of town is East Hastings…  I’ve seen this before in big American cities – but I thought Canada would have had more of a social safety net.

North America does not do homelessness and drug addiction well.  You don’t see this in Western Europe.  Scotland has had drug problems since at least the social upheavals of Thatcherism.  There are some really sketchy areas sprinkled throughout the region…  but at least most of those people have housing.  They are not laid out on East Hastings St from one end to the other.  North America just has this wrong.

If not for compassionate reasons, you would think that Vancouver would help these people on purely selfish motives.  It can’t be good for tourism to have this blight on your city…  and if you don’t help people off drugs, they’ll break into your house and steal your sh!t.

I got my first glimpse of Hastings as we caught the bus to the ferry terminal.

How awesome are ferries?  I look back at little of my year on England’s south coast with fondness – but my favourite part of everyday was the journey to and from work on the ferry, blindly sailing onward through a thick morning fog, amongst the cruiseliner behemoths.  I look forward to global warming melting the ice caps.  We will all have to ferry to work.

Today’s ferry took us across the bay and towards our goal, Grouse Mountain.

Grouse Mountain

The sun was out, which apparently is not a common thing in Vancouver.  During my visit the weather has certainly been better than my Glasgow base.  The weather makes the lush hills of Scotland beautiful and so too it makes the dense woods of Vancouver beautiful.  A few minutes bus ride from the bay and you are lost in dense pines.  Moss covers falling branches, and the sound of rushing water envelopes.

With the tall tress and endless green, the woods feel like the speeder chase scene in Return of the Jedi.  No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t find an Ewok to catch and eat.  Maybe the birds of prey circling these parts picked up any stray Ewoks.

As we pressed on towards the spectacular suspension bridge at Lynn Canyon, it becomes a tad more touristy.  The tourists come for good reason.  The view on either side is breathtaking.  Further down is a deep pool of clear water that demands you to look into the abyss that mirrors the emptiness within your own modern soul.  Sorry, I got all emo on you there.

Museum of Anthropology

The Count asked me what I wanted to do in Canada.  I wanted to hike in the woods and I wanted to see some Totem poles.  On Monday, we hiked.  So on Tuesday we headed to the Museum of Anthropology.

We bused out towards the university, for a quick hello to uzBECistan and her bunny, Charlie.  We left Izzy and Charlie to go about their work whilst we busted on down to the Museum of Anthropology.

The native american pieces are amazing – the totem poles, the statues, the carvings.  This country is an old, old land.  The art expresses a mythology and a nature that the people were connected to.  In many of Joseph Campbell’s writings he expresses that modern people’s disconnection with myths and nature is a source of unhappiness.  I don’t know if these artists were happy, but their works are certainly powerful.

Intriguingly though, I also really dug the work of a modern artist who openly stated that his art had no meaning, no connection to myths.  He just used the aesthetic of his ancestors in modern art formats.

On the way back to the flat, we passed back through the excellent Scrape Records to pick up Corrosion of Conformity tix.  While we were in Scrape Records, two dudes stopped by just to talk bands with the dude running the shop.  Its awesome that places like that still exists… but enough of this yakking we got to get to the Count’s 30th – a night of meeting new, interesting people from Northern Ireland and Canada, a night of drinks and a night of metal, all in a cool bar in a foreign city.

It was a big night, so the following day was a lazy one on the couch to prepare for Corrosion of Conformity…

North West Squalls

Posted in Travel with tags , on July 24, 2012 by Noise Road

Disbelief, this weather falls;

Callous, North-West squalls

– Gypsy Kids, Narrows

There is an old Billy Connolly riff that goes something like “There are two seasons in Scotland…  June and Winter”.  At the start of what we laughingly call “Summer” in Glasgow, Noise Road traded in Atlantic North West squalls for Pacific Northwest squalls.

Yeah, it’s fine

Walk down the line

Leave our rain,

A cold trade for warm sunshine

– No Excuses, Alice in Chains

A 9-hour flight is a long flight for one week in Vancouver.  Not for the Count’s 30th it ain’t!  We’re Australians.  It takes us hours to fly to the nearest town in Australia.  It’s a four hour flight to leave the country from our hometown.  We laugh at a 9-hour “long haul”.

Noise Road’s good friend and The Count’s lovely missus, uzbeciSTAN, and I conspired to surprise the Count.  I sat down on Stan’s couch, while she went into their bedroom to rouse the Count.  After 3 years separated by oceans and continents a misty eyed reunion of the great Adelaide mates occurred.

Tears that soak a callous heart

– I Stay Away, Alice in Chains

After a quick de-stenching shower, the power trio of the Count, Stan and I, headed downtown for sushi and a walk along the sea wall.

Making the most of the hire car, we headed up the spectacular sea to sky highway that links Vancouver to the Whistler ski fields….  You look down at heavily treed islands and peninsulas in a deep blue bay.  Less than an hour from the city and we are at the base of a massive waterfall.  Welcome to Canada.

We made further use of the car for a road trip down to Seattle, a spiritual home of Noise Road – but that’s a riff for another day…