A Weekly Musical Battle Royale

By Andrew Lacelle — Tue, 26/03/2013 - 17:19

Thursday nights in Ottawa are always a toss up. If it's your pay day or you don't have to work the next day, it's an obvious choice for a night out. Usually, however, Thursdays are just a "pre-date" to the Friday night, where the real action happens -- perhaps meeting up with friends for some good food or to watch the game. But, ever since "Beerfest Battle of the Bands" at Lunenburg Pub has been running, Thursdays have been a little different in Ottawa.

I have been a patron of the Beerfest and I have also participated in the showcase. I can say from first-hand experience that it was unique  compared to other "Battle of the Bands" events where the musicians have to sell advanced tickets or pay cash up front. It's a great night of eclectic music in a warm atmosphere, where artists get to showcase their talent and battle it out for cash money and prizes. And, of course, the $2.00 beer helps too!

Couch Assassin had to get the inside scoop on this event, so I sat down with Ashley Newall, founder of the Beerfest, to get a better understanding of what it's about.

Couch Assassin - Why did you start this event?

Ashley Newall - We started Beerfest Battle of the Bands to provide a new venue (the fantastic and stylish Lunenburg Pub) for Ottawa indie bands, and to put them in front of a substantial audience that they might not otherwise have access to. The night also works in conjunction with the Lunenburg's Open Mic Wednesday Nights in terms of presenting and supporting local live music at the club.

Couch Assassin - Have the bands been responding well?

Ashley - One of the most rewarding aspects for me, as the host and as a musician myself, has been the delight of the artists. We create a friendly atmosphere for them to thrive in, and the bands are having a blast rocking out for the big crowds. They also voice their appreciation for the support to live local music that the Lunenburg is giving with this weekly event.

Couch Assassin - What makes this "Battle Of the Bands" different?

Ashley - It's a gig - pure and simple. It's like a candy with a battle of the bands wrapper on it, but ultimately, it's not about who shreds better, or who brings out the biggest crowd, it's about having fun and connecting with the audience. Having said that, the show is actually about the fans - their votes determine who wins the big prize at the end of each Thursday night. Another thing that makes us different, though, is that all the bands get paid! This, in my experience (particularly with battle of the bands shows), is rarely the case.

Couch Assassin - What can bands win?

Ashley - Cash, first and foremost. Each and every Thursday we have three bands playing for $500 in cash and prizes ($300 in cash and $200 in prizes). Prizes include St. John's Music gift certificates, clothing, and Ottawa Senators tickets.

Couch Assassin - Do you keep it diverse?

Ashley - Indeed, it's as diverse as the variety of bands & styles that Ottawa has to offer. We've got pop-rock and indie of course, plus folk and country. We've got an improvisational band called Sneakmodetripper who make up their songs on the spot (they'll be appearing in the Champions League Edition on May 16, having won their Winner's Circle Edition in January). We've also had rap and reggae, plus recently we even had a 'stoner rock' band called The Opium Den.

Couch Assassin - Who was your personal favorite so far?

Ashley - That's so hard to say, simply because we've had so many incredible nights. In fact, as the host, I have to remain completely neutral, but I can name some of the winning acts who have moved on to Winner's Circle and Champions League editions of the soiree: The Owl Eyes Project, Harea Band, Tara Holloway, and Sneakmodetripper to name just a few. New Elders - who came in second on their night - deserve an honorable mention in this regard as well. If I were to list all the incredible bands I've seen and been introduced to, that list would be very long.

Couch Assassin - Can anyone apply?

Ashley - Anyone can apply by sending a link to their music or a video to ashley@theburg.ca. Full bands and duos, as well as original bands and cover bands all qualify. There is quality control, of course, and I vet the bands that way. If I'm on the fence, I'll invite them to play acoustically at our Open Mic Wednesday Nights. A band called the Chicken Bangers, for instance, got into Beerfest BOTB's by first auditioning at our open mic.

Beerfest Battle of the Bands
Every Thursday at the Lunenburg Pub
Tickets $2 at the door

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