Dancing to the Beat of the Doldrums

By Alex James — Wed, 25/03/2015 - 11:12

To be honest, I’m not usually too affected by winter. The cold snowy weather, the long slushy commutes or musky fresh-air free apartments are just something I’ve learned to get accustomed to as part of life in Ottawa. But this winter (particularly February) has felt painfully long and this year, for me and many others, there was no escaping the grips of cabin fever. With mid-March looking more like mid-January, it seems we are just going to have to start spring ourselves.

If this sounds all too familiar to you, Peter Zachar, Andrew Grosvenor and Gavin Dyke may have just what the doctor ordered.  What better way to celebrate the impending change of the seasons than to launch yourself enthusiastically forward with energy and passion and a rallying cry that says “Winter can kiss my a$$!”. Enter Doldrums Music Festival.

Now in its 4th edition, the annual Doldrums Music Festival has put together an outstanding lineup of eight bands over two nights (March 27 & 28) that are guaranteed to get your feet moving and make you forget all about the gloomy weather outside. Taking place at two unique venues in the local music scene, this years’ lineup features two separately ‘themed’ nights, beginning on Friday night at intimate and cozy Pressed , known for its popularity among the local folk rock and indie poet crowd. In keeping with tradition, this night will feature, among others, thoughtful singer/songwriters Black Dogs and blues-rock queen Riishi Von Rex, both returning to the festival lineup. Friday night will allow you to dissolve the stresses of the week just passed, and begin the process of defrosting the libido at a venue where you can casually sip your drink, or groovily sway to the sound waves as you please. Tickets for Friday are going fast, and should be secured immediately if you would like to guarantee your spot at the show.  

If the first night doesn’t really float your boat, or if you just want to ramp it up a bit, the following night at Club Saw (you know, that unusual sound resonating from the basement of the Ottawa Art Gallery) will provide a second set of four bands that will dominate your senses and push the needle into the red. Saturday sees local innovative phenom Pith And The Parenchymas and in-your-face progressive punk rockers Big Dick take the stage, among others for a raw, straight-up musical experience that only Club Saw and its’ no B.S attitude can deliver. Oh, and did I mention they will be serving Beau’s beer?

If ‘night one’ of Doldrums is an inspired reminder winter has overstayed its welcome, ‘night two’ will, not so subtly, make sure this season of slush and drudge has no problem finding the door.  In corresponding contrast the two nights work in tandem to showcase some of the best (if not the best)  local talent has to offer and  in a format that is a welcome departure from the single night, poorly advertised pub shows, or the multi-day, full festival marathons that leave the wallet and attention levels drained.

I was able to speak with Peter Zachar (in his first year co-organizing the event) about his recent involvement with the festival. He provided some insight into the past and present of Doldrums, what he believes makes the event unique, as well as potential future directions.

“The Doldrums Music Festival was established four years ago as a respite from the cold and slushy tail end of winter in Ottawa,”  said Zachar. Initially conceived and organized by a local Ottawa musician, past incarnations have stretched to three (2012/13) and even four nights (2014) totalling as many as 15-20 bands. Zachar, and fellow co-organizers, made a conscious decision to scale back the amount of bands and allow a more concentrated music experience with increased focus on each band, rather than the sheer number of acts. The festival, always well attended, has maintained a strong emphasis on local artists, bringing exposure to local bands and connecting them with fans and local organizations. The reduction of bands allows the audience to feel more engaged with each band, increases coherence of the themes of the evenings, and gives the bands more time do what they do best. Play music and entertain audiences.

This year, Doldrums has added another level of promotion with a series of interviews available on YouTube aimed at tangibly increasing the level of exposure for both the artists and the festival. Zacharmentions that this is a deliberate attempt to deliver the bands with a concrete take-away and further material for their portfolios, in addition to the inherent benefit of performing in such a great festival lineup. This is again facilitated by a more focussed and compact number of acts than in the past, and further promotes the festivals aim to grow and strengthen familiarities and connection between local bands, fans and businesses.

To this end, the organizers have taken what they’ve learned from the evolution of Doldrums and this year, the festival is partnering with local businesses, such as Dave’s Drum Shop, Spaceman Music and local music label Ringbill Records, as well as prominent (and delicious) Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. Adding advertising power, Doldrums has enlisted the partnership with Ottawa community radio station CHUO, known for its tradition of uncovering and promoting local artists and talent.

 When asked about the future of Doldrums, Zachar spoke of potentially re-adding a third night to the lineup, but keeping each night a ‘themed’ combination where many can attend an event to see their one chosen band, and leave with after discovering 3 new potential favourites. They hope to grow the promotion of the bands while continuing to provide as much direct benefit to the artists as possible, as well and increasing sponsors and participation from local businesses. 

At the end of the day, the focus will always be on ‘being a festival, and doing it well’.

The organizers of this years’ Doldrums Music Festival, all local artists and established fans of the event, have really put together an effort and a product that is informed by quality knowledge of the Ottawa music scene, and the execution undeniably rooted in a labour of love. This is one of those rare independent movements that simultaneously benefit the artists, the fans, and a city that is constantly yearning (especially at this time of year) for an excuse to really let loose. This is the kind of weekend we need, and the type of event we should all be trying to promote; a chance to experience Ottawa’s top talent in a uniquely directed, multi-venue mini-festival. For the minimal price of entry, it will be tough to find a better bang for your buck.  

Doldrums Music Festival Night 1
featuring Winchester Warm, Tindervox, Black Dogs, Riishi Von Rex
Friday, March 27th @ Pressed
8pm   $8 in advance, $10 at the door

Doldrums Music Festival Night 2
featuring Big Dick, Ornaments, Pith and the Parenchymas, Dreamphone
Saturday, March 28th @ Club Saw
8pm   $8 in advance, $10 at the door

Back to the blog page

Add comment