Ottawa: Highlights from an Underrated Punk Scene

We often see clusters of great bands coming from the same city around the same time. London, for example, in the late 70s gave way to some of the greatest bands we’ve ever seen: The Clash, Cock Sparrer, the Sex Pistols, and really too many others to name and do justice. California had two punk rock renaissances, one in the mid 1980s with Black Flag, the Dead Kennedys, and Agent Orange (see ‘american hardcore’ for the details). The other occurred in the mid 1990s with Rancid, Face to Face, and the Swingin’ Utters (see the documentary ‘one nine nine four’ for the story). Lately Gainesville, Florida (the Fest, Against Me!, No Idea Records) and New Jersey (the Gaslight Anthem, the Disconnects) have been getting a lot of attention.

I think that we notice these bands in clusters because for a band to succeed and be heard a local network of venues, promoters, bands, labels, and fans are needed as a support network. You need people to show up, different places to play, and labels to release your records. Trying to make it on your own, without these things would be a an uphill battle.

The cold capital of Canada has an unusually high ratio of awesome bands to people. I’m not sure what about the city makes it a hot bed for underground punk to flourish in. Could it be the venues? I have fond memories of some violent slam dancing at a Paint it Black show at Cafe Dekcuf (“fucked” spelled backwards!), I think the Slackers were playing Ottawa that same night. The venue selection + the solid fan base make Ottawa a stop on every significant punk band passing through Ontario or Quebec.

White Wires deliver garage punk with some poppy hooks reminiscent of label mates Marked Men.

Crusades have a driving mid 90s punk feel whilst singing polemics against organized religion. In the vein of Bad Religion or Dag Nasty.

The Sedatives super catchy yet dignified pop-punk in the vein of Screeching Weasel and the Lillingtons.

The Visitors are another pop-punk band, all three guitarists/bassists take turns on vocals giving them varied sound and diverse records. I had the pleasure of listening to this band open for Screeching Weasel.

There’s also the power-pop catchiness of Mother’s Children.

Ottawa appears to be capital of underrated pop punk (and of Canada). Do you self a favour and check out other bands in the city (this list just scratches the surface). You can find some info here and here.