Don’t Look Back in Anger

Ottawa XPress – Shotgun – December 16, 2005

Looking back in the news of the year past usually involves considering all the wars and bad shit that happened.

Different things stick out for different people. For me, it’s a mix of the monumental and the common and especially of things that maybe the entire world didn’t hear about but were important to us locally. Here are a few things that stood out for me while I was out and about in Ottawa in 2004.

This year saw a healthy number of bands in the local scene receiving a lot of attention and developing stronger followings through CD releases. The Tulip Festival featured some of them, including what turned out to be my favourite – Andrew Vincent and the Pirates, who egged on the crowd to throw their socks up on stage. T

he Pirates, the Kelp Records party at Zibibbo, Clark, The Acorn, The Setbacks and Siobhan were all consistent in their ability to pump up audiences and inspire mile-wide smiles for concert-goers. Also back on the scene was Janice Hall, along with newcomer bands Red Fey and Autonomous Unit.

In addition to the locals, it was possibly the best year for other acts that included everyone from Wilco and Sonic Youth to the Pixies. Jonathan Richman was far too incredible for words. And I’ve never seen anyone play a mobile phone and palm pilot quite like Danny Michel at his Black Sheep Inn shows. Remarkable.

Outside of yet another successful Tulip Festival, another standout was the first annual Westfest in June, organized by powerhouse Elaina Martin and writer Suki Lee. Held in Westboro, it featured great literary, music and dance talents on its little stage and brought us Jane Siberry, whose speech at the festival launch party at Saw Gallery in May was unforgettable. Sugarcoat the business aim of the festival? Not her!

And indeed, Siberry and other local talent did help raise the profile of Westboro and encouraged business to the area despite the main drag being a gravel pit of construction. Considered the new Glebe, Westboro is now on the map for more than just the Subaru dealership and Bridgehead Coffeehouse.

As for business in Centretown, places like Sushi 88, Northern 2, and the El Morocco continued to dish out fantastic eats with exceptional service, while Zibibbo closed down. The Golden Thai on Booth Street changed owners and its formerly fantastic service and menu now disappoints. And, I’ll never eat at Dunn’s again after hearing in the media about the owner dude closing shop without warning in Kingston.

Speaking of labour issues, 2004 saw another strike for the public service. In December and January, public servants will vote on some important issues. One of them, which I read about on the PSAC website is the formation of a “social justice fund.”

Tell me, how can an organization – one which shows no interest in improving communications among its members to dispel the disillusionment among the masses – be proponents of a social justice fund? But perhaps I expect too much.

On a lighter note, memorable events of 2004 in Ottawa include CBC’s Poetry Face Off, which continues the great tradition of challenging five poets to outperform each other; the Great Glebe Garage sale; art auctions at Saw Gallery; and my first visit to the Ottodrome on Highway 7 (

In looking back on 2004 I do so mostly with a cultural, rather than a political outtake. And in my opinion, more than being just a white chick who writes about sex, I guess I’m a white chick who writes about shit. Hit-or-miss. And in a world where we’re assaulted daily with a barrage of negative news, sometimes it’s nice to know that talking about nothing is actually something.

With the continued help of readers’ responses online and in the letters section, Shotgun’s triggered debates this year, and there’s still a lot more we’ll take aim at and a lot more to do in 2005. Looking back, here’s Shotgun’s Top 20 list of things to do next year (if you haven’t already):

1. Interact with porn to “get” how the industry needs improving.

2. Don’t get pissed if you miss a gig because of bad-ass pms.

3. Don’t shit your pants on the first date.

4. Explore the history of the city.

5. Watch out for rebound sex and K-Tel records that’ll turn you on.

6. Remember: the green grass on the other side might just be Astroturf.

7. Buy a Danny Michel CD.

8. Attend a durtygurls event.

9. Frequent strip bars.

10. Enjoy life before, or without, baby.

11. Get educated about unions.

12. Celebrate pagan holidays.

13. Fire the accountant; get new one.

14. Go to pub; expect more condos.

15. Cherish monogamy.

16. Love thyself.

17. Love the family, even if they’re nuts.

18. Buy some home-grown erotica.

19. Write a To-Do List

20. Think: “If I was a chicken, would people want to eat me?”

– Sylvie Hill