Rage Against the Winter Blahs with Doldrums 2016
It was the fall of 2011 and Lucas MacKenzie and his band New Teeth had just performed a set at Bluesfest. The festival grounds were full, the stages pumping out band after band and everyone seemed to be having an amazing time. For local bands like MacKenzie’s, the summer fests were a prime spotlight. Yet, with the sun pouring down upon him that hot July day, he was thinking towards the winter.
“Man, I wish these types of opportunities existed year round!” he thought. Then it dawned on him. Why couldn’t it?
“The Ottawa scene was in a transition. Ottawa Showbox wasn’t that established, Herd Magazine didn’t exist, Megaphono was a dream, Bruised Tongue was a shadow of what it has become and I felt like it needed another hub,” explains Mackenzie. “I had so many friends in all these disparate and disconnected circles of bands. I wanted to bring people together during a time of year where it can really feel like the city has shut down.”
MacKenzie decided to put together a collection of shows for the winter days of listlessness before the big festivals rolled into town along with the better weather. He choose the fitting name of the Doldrums Music Festival and turned it loose in February of 2012. The first year saw sell out nights with performances by over 15 bands at three different venues. Since then, the festival continues to give local talent unique places to perform like Café Dekcuf and Pressed.
“The main mandate has been to showcase local acts at a time when the local scene needs opportunities,” says MacKenzie who has since moved to Toronto and has turned the festival over to new organizers.
This year Doldrums takes place at Club Saw and, sticking to MacKenzie’s framework, highlights a varied mix of local bands over two nights.
“The Ottawa scene is currently in a period of diversification and change – particularly as a result of the hard work of women and femmes of colour and a new generation of people putting on their own shows and starting their own bands,” says Brittany Neron, guitarist and vocalist for the powerpop group Creep Wave performing on the 19th. They believe festivals like Doldrums offer a lot of diversity for bands who might not generally play together and allows for more exposure to a wider audience. “Often, smaller festivals can function with a more DIY ethic than the larger festivals too, which is great.”
Chris Love, singer for the experimental pop duo Pith and the Parrenchymas agrees. The band formed after previous projects were grounded and, together, they moved into the post-rock, psych and pedal board realm which Love basically breaks down as guitar music. They play on the 18th.
“Small fests like Doldrums are fantastic because as a band you get the best of both worlds. The beauty of playing a fest, big or small, is that for once you as the
musician don’t have to worry about all the logistics of hosting or promoting your own show,” says Love mentioning that festivals like this one help with one of the of the main problems with the DIY music circuit. “We’re supposed to be our own promoters, our own managers and turn our own houses into venues. Personally, I suck at all those things. So it’s amazing to have all that handled for you and know that all the contingencies are taken care of by the fest.”
Richard Vaughan, bassist for Elementals (performing on the 19th), looks forward to being able to connect with other local bands at Doldrums. The group got a boost at the end of 2015 when Ottawa Showbox called their release I’m Not Here, I’m Not Real “a doozie of a first album” and placed it in their top local releases of the year.
“We get compared to Nirvana a lot, which is something we are going to try and avoid for our newer material,” says Vaughan adding that though their Doldrums show on the 19th will either be a train-wreck or organized chaos, he guarantees it will be an all-around spectacle. “We’re all maturing musically, listening to a wider range of artists, finally settling into a sound of our own that will continue to grow and evolve.”
With a variety of local sound to choose from, whether you want to hear some dream pop, SYNTH DOOM, experimental electronica, emo psych or garage punk, MacKenzie can look back from his new Toronto home and see that winter festival creation born on a hot summer day five years ago continues to thrive.
“It’s two nights of lovingly curated music, representing the very best of what the diverse local scene in Ottawa has to offer,” he says. “Rage in the face of winter!”
Doldrums Music Festival 2016 Lineup
Club Saw – 67 Nicolas Street