Ten great Ottawa Bluesfest sets: #7 The Reverb Syndicate – Saturday, July 11th, 2015

(This year’s edition of Ottawa Bluesfest has been cancelled, for obvious reasons. In previous years, especially on my old blog, I would share photos and thoughts on some of the live music I was enjoying at the festival throughout the duration. So for the next week and a half, I thought I’d share ten great sets, out of the many I’ve witnessed over the years, one for each day on which music would have be performed. Enjoy.)

The Reverb Syndicate live at Bluesfest 2015

Artist: The Reverb Syndicate
When: Saturday, July 11th, 2015
Where: Canadian Stage at 3:15pm
Context: One of the great things about Ottawa Bluesfest is the focus that organizers place on promoting local talent. It’s a great gig for the bands and artists because they get exposure to crowds that they normally wouldn’t draw and they are able to attend the festival for every day after their own performance. And it’s also great for the audiences who take the time to be treated to inspired performances by local acts. Every year that I have gone to the festival, I have seen some excellent local acts and there are a great many that I could’ve chosen to include in this series. In the end, I went with an afternoon set by surf-rock outfit, The Reverb Syndicate, not just because I work with the drummer of the group and it was super fun seeing someone I knew up on that stage but also because it was like the end of an era for the band.

Over the course of the year leading up to that set, I had seen them live for the first and second time and had purchased their latest album, The Odyssey, on vinyl. The Reverb Syndicate was at that point becoming one of my favourite local bands. As it would turn out, that set at Bluesfest was their last show as a four piece, since guitarist James Rossiter departed for England shortly afterward. I seem to remember that the band acknowledged the occasion at the outset and called for a drink in his honour.

Hours afterwards, I ran into Michael, the aforementioned drummer, milling about in the crowds and he complained about how many errors he had made but from where I was standing in the audience, it was a flawless performance. The Reverb Syndicate were joined on stage by a pair of “go-go dancers”, a nice touch given the genre, and whom, if I remember correctly, were partners of a couple of the band members. These two dancers had their work cut out for them because the one hour set was a lively one, electric, and with barely room for rest.

On top of playing both sides of their newest record, “Odyssey”, which in themselves work out to almost twenty minutes a-piece of tiring madness, the quartet played a handful of upbeat tracks from older albums, plus a cover of a classic Ventures number. There was plenty of sweet guitar work and impressive, spot-on drumming, all accompanied by some incidental bleeps and bloops by an honest to goodness Commodore 64, “not a prop”, but an instrument used frequently on the aforementioned “Odyssey”.

Good times indeed.

Mike Bradford of The Reverb Syndicate
James Rossiter of The Reverb Syndicate
A fuzzy Michael Sheridan with glasses
Lauren Hart and Jeff Welch
Mike Bradford
A clearer Michael Sheridan without glasses
Katie Bonnar, Jeff Welch, and James Rossiter

Setlist: (not available)

Best tunes of 1990: #5 Jane’s Addiction “Been caught stealing”

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“I’ve been caught stealing
Once when I was 5
I enjoy stealing
It’s just as simple as that”

Haha. If it were only as simple as all that. Farrell does like to play with us all. After hearing his intro to this very tune on the “Kettle whistle” compilation, where he muses about and chastises a fan for stealing another man’s girl, worse yet, his best friend’s girl, I wonder if anything Jane’s Addiction does is so simply black or white.

I’ve already made mention that “Ritual de lo habitual” was my introduction to these guys when I posted about “Stop!” at the number 26 spot on this list. If you’ve read those words, you’d know that this album is still my favourite album in their catalogue and using logic, you might surmise “Been caught stealing” as the likeliest candidate for my favourite of their tunes. You’d be right. It is also their biggest tunes, and so probably, a lot of people’s favourite Jane’s Addiction tune. The video and its circulation on the music channels was one of the major contributing factors to its success. The video matched the song in chaos and hilarity, featuring members of the band shoplifting in a ridiculous manner.

“Been caught stealing” is a rebel without a cause. It rocks a serious groove, the bass is heavy and funked out, the guitars scream metal and the badass lyrics are sung in a badass manner. Yet as much as I loved it from the beginning, I loved it even more when I heard the outtake version on the aforementioned “Kettle whistle” compilation. Go ahead. Have a listen and glory in its laidback lounge aroma, replete with steel drums and scat singing.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.

Best tunes of 1990: #26 Jane’s Addiction “Stop!”

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Señores y señoras… it’s Friday! A perfect day to unleash song number twenty-six: Jane’s Addiction’s “Stop!”

In the fall of 1990, my friends and I were still very much in love with the claustrophobic angst of Nine Inch Nails’ brilliant debut, “Pretty hate machine” and by then, we were all listening to Nitzer Ebb and Ministry and some of us, even Skinny Puppy. Industrial was the buzz word of the day. It was all we wanted to hear and what we were all on the lookout for. And in the midst of all this, a friend (who will remain nameless) slipped me the “Ritual de lo habitual” cassette, telling me that this was the latest in Industrial. I listened to the tape and loved it right off, but didn’t think the sound fit in with those other bands. Still, we were young, what did we know about genre? We didn’t have Wikipedia and Pitchfork telling us everything we needed to know about music. But we knew what we liked.

And we definitely liked Jane’s Addiction.

“Ritual de lo habitual” was the four-piece LA-based group’s third album and the last before the first incarnation of the band was dissolved. Jane’s Addiction started out a few years earlier with their unconventional, self-titled debut, which was a live record that featured early versions of now iconic tunes and covers of songs by The Velvet Underground and The Rolling Stones. Then, their sophomore release, 1988’s “Nothing’s shocking”, was a proverbial sucker punch to the solar plexus, the original lineup of Perry Farrell, Eric Avery, Dave Navarro, and Stephen Perkins unleashing a loud and brash cacophony of metal, funk, surf, punk and psychedelia on the buying public. Though many people see “Nothing’s shocking” as Jane’s Addiction’s best work, I prefer “Ritual”. Sure, it’s a drug-fuelled mess at times but it is still quite accomplished and cohesive and of course, it was my introduction to the influential alt-rock band.

“Stop!” is the starting point on the epic journey of the album and was one of two lead off singles to be released from it (the other being “Three days”!). The Spanish introduction plays like a post-modern gimmick, the female announcer revving up the crowd of listeners for Jane’s Addiction to leap up onstage and punish their instruments. Navarro wails away on the guitars, somehow seeing through the heroin haze, and the rhythm section of Avery and Perkins shift gears from fast to slow to fast again with apparent ease. And the ringleader of this circus of freaks, Perry Farrell, comports himself like a man unhinged, his whines and screeches perfect to shout along with as your body is being tossed about like a ragdoll in the mosh pit. It’s all fun and games until you lose one of your 16 hole docs or a Birkenstock sandal in the fray.

…Stop… now go!

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.