Published Nov 23, 2019There was a sense of camaraderie that quickly took over the Babylon nightclub as it slowly filled up for New Swears' homecoming in Ottawa, which, given the large number of friends and family in attendance, was not surprising. Playing a hometown show can often go one of two ways: you've either exhausted local goodwill and your shows become sparsely attended, or you're greeted as homegrown heroes and the room is packed to the brim. The scene on Friday night at Babylon was of the latter variety, with plenty of goodwill to go around.
The night started off almost an hour late, which is par for the course for these types of gigs, with Remi Royale, who's somewhat of a legend in Ottawa. Part WWE announcer and part rodeo clown, Royale is like if your horny drunken uncle was also your wedding singer. Clad in his usual red suit and hot dog belt, he kicked off his set in the crowd and stayed there for almost its entirety, while belting out covers of songs such as Frankie Valli's "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" and Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline."
As layers of clothing were removed, he made his way through the already sizeable crowd, getting revellers to sing and dance along with him. Say what you will about the shtick, it clearly works, because by the end of his short set, the audience were appropriately riled up. After thanking security and the bar staff for the umpteenth time, and repeatedly hyping up the headliners, he picked up his clothes and was off.
Donning matching red tracks suits, Toronto garage rock three-piece band Wine Lips took to the stage. Known for their explosive and irreverent music videos, their live show is far more straightforward, which is effective in putting their material front and centre. The trio proved to be quite adept at keeping the already hyped crowd captive and engaged without losing any of the early energy provided by Royale. Playing a combination of new and early material, with a good helping of their latest album, Stressor, their set was tight and to the point, demonstrating both promise and seasoned execution.
For New Swears, returning to Babylon a mere five months after launching their latest album, Night Mirror, there, Friday night's show was tantamount to a victory lap for a group of local boys who've done good. Also wearing matching suits, this time of the tulip-adorned variety, they kicked off their set with "Two Darts" off their debut LP, Funny Isn't Real. From the very first notes, the crowd were whipped into a frenzy of mosh-pitting and crowd-surfing, even at times when the songs didn't necessarily warrant it. Each new song was accompanied by a shot from a confetti gun, while increasingly larger inflatable toys quickly took a beating from the unrelenting mosh pit.
By the time the band launched into "Candy Land," as bassist and singer Sammy J Scorpion crowd surfed, the show felt less like a headlining gig and more of a raucous high school house party. If you've been to a New Swears show before, this is nothing new, as their live gimmicks have become something of a calling card. However, you can't help but feel as if the project is stuck in some sort of arrested development, and wonder if there's any real interest in moving past the theatrics and stunts. Because beyond the confetti, balloons and inflatable toys, there's a seriously talented group and some incredibly catchy tunes.
Maybe it was just the energy of the hometown show that took over, with all the posturing for friends and family that comes with it. Whatever the case may be, it's guaranteed that nobody in attendance left disappointed, or dry for that matter, and there are far worse ways to spend a Friday night that smacking your friends around with an inflatable bat.