Ottawa Psych Fest 2018 at House of Targ

Support: The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol| Hawkeyes | Shooting Guns
July 7, 2018 at House of Targ
Promoter: Birdman Sound/Cardinal Fuzz Records

The week leading up to Ottawa Psych Fest 2018, a co-presentation by Birdman Sound and Cardinal Fuzz Records, was a sweltering pot of soup in Ottawa. By Saturday, the heat had led up a bit, enough to feel comfortable in clothes and in one’s skin; perfect conditions heading into a packed venue. I anxiously set out on my motorcycle and headed to the show. Doors opened at 9 p.m. so I thought it best to arrive then and try to beat the crowd, if possible. A good call. I was able to find a good spot to put my gear down and mentally prepare for the evenings’ welcome assault on the senses.

My nervous contemplation was interrupted by a, “hello”. It was John Westhaver, owner of Birdman Sound and drummer for The Band Whose Name is a Symbol. We had a great conversation before he had to step away. He was busy. Not only did he organize the festival but his band was also playing that night.

I wasn’t sure what time it was when John hit the stage to start the festival off, it had to have been after 10 p.m. for sure. After an intro from John, The Golden Rule started their set. The UK based duo consists of Dave Cambridge (head of Cardinal Fuzz Records) and Brett Savage (Dead Sea Apes). Both were on guitar and used few effects. It was a slow ambient journey that built up to something great, and then it stopped! After about 5 minutes or so, they just got up and unplugged their gear! They brought us to the edge and left us there! It was the shortest set I’ve ever experienced, but a great one. It only left me and many others wanting more.

After a short pause, BC, and former Ottawa artist, Mark Alexander McIntyre, appeared on stage. McIntyre played a solo acoustic set. I found it more folk than psych, with a Bob Dylan feel. His lyrics were poetic and at times urgent, singing about political and societal issues. I found his profanity deliberate and smartly placed, which was cathartic.

The band I was most excited to hear was The Band Whose Name is a Symbol and they were up next. After a brief pause, John, unassumingly, started the set by playing the bells/chimes on his kit. I was wondering what was happening. I found it all very mysterious. The rest of the band came on stage one by one and then they slowly started playing. Throughout their set, the band was tight and heavy, playing symbiotically. It was amazing to watch. I found the bass lines incredible throughout the set. Behind them, psychedelic images played, reflecting off of John and his cymbals, only adding to the psychedelic atmosphere being projected both on screen and musically. They did not disappoint.

The band played 8 tracks, collected from various albums they have released over the years. A friend managed to get me a copy of their set list and it is available below. It seemed as though the band shortened the tracks, either that or I was too much in the moment to gauge time properly. The last track was incredible, ‘Tsunami Of Bullshit’, and an awesome choice to end the set.

Hawkeyes are a space rock band from Kitchener, Ontario. I hadn’t heard of the band before Psych fest so I was in for a surprise. As with The Band Whose Name is a Symbol, Hawkeyes are a big band as well. I noted a bass player, four guitarists, a keyboardist and drummer. They created a great wall of sound. The band played as if they were playing the tunes live for the first time; with excitement, an element of surprise and playing in the moment. When they played their track, ‘Howling Damned’, it was a rumbling explosion of climactic goodness and just continued until the end.

The last band to round out Psych fest were Shooting Guns. This heavy psych band from Saskatoon also did not disappoint. They had a hard-hitting and driving sound with incredible drumming. The comradery they had with Hawkeyes was evident. Hawkeyes’ friendly banter and shenanigans did not phase the band one bit and definitely added to the whole positive vibe of the night.

The festival ended well into the wee hours, and it ended as it began, with an air of positivity and mind-blowing creativity. The friendships and mutual respect between the bands really came through and welcomed the fans in. Hats off to John Westhaver, Cardinal Fuzz Records and House of Targ for putting together such a great event. It was a well-oiled psych machine. Looking forward to next year already.

(The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol  – Set list)

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