Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 2020: #25 Gateway Drugs “Wait (medication)”

<< #26    |    #24>>

Back on Cinco de Mayo, 2015, I went to see Swervedriver perform at the now defunct Zaphod Beeblebrox in Ottawa’s Byward Market. I had been excited to see yet another re-formed shoegaze legend, but as much as I enjoyed their set, I found myself quite surprised to leave the show even more impressed by the opening act.

Los Angeles-based four-piece, Gateway Drugs, had only just released their debut album, “Magick spells” the month before, and they had already toured as support for noise rock and shoegaze icons Ride and The Jesus and Mary Chain. They were led by a trio of siblings – Noa (guitars), Liv (guitars), and Gabriel (drums) Niles – each sharing vocal duties, while the fourth member, Blues Williams, simply looked cool and accompanied them on guitars and bass. The quartet were all in black, leather, furs, and sunglasses and were playing a garage rock infused shoegaze that sounded at different points like early Dum Dum Girls, Brian Jonestown Massacre, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. I left the show with a copy of the aforementioned debut album on CD and duly fell in love with it. Its accomplished sound and the pop sensibility that lies just beneath the surface of all those roaring and screeching guitars could easily be traced back to the music surging through the veins of the Niles siblings (children of The Knack’s Prescott Niles).

I was convinced they were going to be huge.

But then, there was nothing but relative silence from the group for almost five years.

Fast forward to 2020, just a few short days after the WHO declared COVID-19 to be an honest-to-goodness pandemic and things started to shut down in earnest, a new Gateway Drugs single appeared, seemingly plucked out of the ether and there finally came the news of the long-awaited sophomore release. I say this last bit with my tongue firmly planted in cheek because perhaps I was one out of only a small handful whose interest hadn’t waned in the interim. This first single really got me excited and that was only multiplied by fifty or so when I learned that “PSA” was produced by The Raveonettes’ Sune Rose Wagner.

“Put myself on a leash, I’d stay
Kill myself just to hear you call my name”

Of course, that first single was none other than “Wait (medication)”, our song of focus today. I’ve read that Liv Niles has called it a reflection on excess, madness, addiction, and how “extreme highs give way to extreme lows.” It’s an apt Coles Notes for the jackhammer drum beat, crunchy bass line, clanging and twangy guitar screams, and the dual vocal assault by Liv and her brother Noa. It is a four-minute salacious stroll down the chaotic and messy trail blazed by the JAMC and the BRMC.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2020 list, click here.

Categories
Live music galleries

Live music galleries: The Strumbellas [2019/2022]

(I got the idea for this series while sifting through the ‘piles’ of digital photos on my laptop. It occurred to me to share some of these great pics from some of my favourite concert sets from time to time. Until I get around to the next one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts page.)

The Strumbellas live at CityFolk, 2019

Artist: The Strumbellas
When: September 12th, 2019 and June 24th, 2022
Where: CityFolk Festival, Lansdowne Park and Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival, Mooney’s Bay Park, both in Ottawa
Context: I know, I know, two of these ‘Live Music Galleries’ posts in a row (and this one’s a bit different to boot*) but I just couldn’t help myself. I finally got out to see some live music this past weekend, the first in over two and a half years, and in a crazy bit of symmetry, it just so happened that the first headlining act I got to see was also the last one that I saw before the pandemic put a monkey wrench in things. Things have changed somewhat in the years between these live sets by Canadian indie folk collective, The Strumbellas. Their frontman, principal songwriter, and founding member Simon Ward stepped away from touring duties earlier this year and was replaced by Jimmy Chauveau. The rest of the band is still intact, however, and as lively as ever. I actually I think I enjoyed Friday night’s show more than I did when I saw them in 2019 and it’s not just that I lived the realization of how much I missed the rush of live performances, though that was certainly a factor. I actually became more familiar with the band’s catalogue in the intervening years and could easily sing along with all their huge numbers… and sing along loudly I did. Now, I really can’t wait for Bluesfest.
Point of reference song: Spirits

Original lead singer, Simon Ward
New lead singer Jimmy Chauveau
Jon Hembrey, 2019
David Ritter and Darryl James, 2022
Isabel Ritchie, 2019
Dave, then
Dave, now
Jeremy Drury, 2019
Isabel Ritchie and Jimmy Chauveau, 2022
Isabel Ritchie, Jeremy Drury, and Simon Ward
The Strumbellas live at Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival, 2022

*This gallery is a mixture of the two different concerts, two a half years separating them. And yes, the older photos are much better. This is because I, myself, was having a hard time standing still enough to take clear photos at this past weekend’s show.

Categories
Live music galleries

Live music galleries: Nap Eyes [2016]

(I got the idea for this series while sifting through the ‘piles’ of digital photos on my laptop. It occurred to me to share some of these great pics from some of my favourite concert sets from time to time. Until I get around to the next one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts page.)

Nap Eyes at Ottawa Dragon Boat festival, 2016

Artist: Nap Eyes
When: June 25th, 2016
Where: Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival, Ottawa
Context: Tomorrow marks the beginning of this year’s edition of Ottawa’s Dragon Boat Festival and if the weather gods are kind, it will mark the return of live music to my life after a two and a half year absence. Of course, the festival itself is mostly about the dragon boat racing and raising money for charity but it also includes free, all-ages concerts that typically showcase the finest in Canadian talent. I’ve seen some excellent shows there over the years, a few from which I’ve shared photos on these pages. Back in 2016, I caught Halifax, Nova Scotia’s Nap Eyes just after they released their critically acclaimed sophomore album, “Thought rock fish scale.” I was truly excited to see them because I had just discovered them and had been talking them up to friends and colleagues, describing them as The Velvet Underground, if all their songs meandered just so, like “Sunday Morning”. Live, they were completely as I suspected, all jangly and crashing guitars, and jaunty, consistent drumming. All four band members were playing in their own world, eyes closed and heads down, as if the audience weren’t there most of the time. Frontman Nigel Chapman’s vocals were uneven and unassured but in my opinion, that’s what gives the songs their edge, like early Belle & Sebastian or New Order: tentative but charming. It was an amazing show, nonetheless, and one during which I found myself lost in the music throughout most of the hour.
Point of reference song: Click clack

Seamus Dalton and Nigel Chapman of Nap Eyes
Josh Salter of Nap Eyes
Brad Loughead of Nap Eyes
Seamus Dalton
Nigel Chapman