Kiwi Jr. Kept Ottawa Cool Amid a Scorching Summer Heatwave

Club SAW, July 23

Photo: Ming Wu

BY Daniel SylvesterPublished Jul 24, 2022

In what seemed to be a perpetually rescheduled Ottawa tour date (which, at one point, had them opening for '90s indie supergroup TUNS), Kiwi Jr. finally made their way to the nation's capital with a new album and tourmates in tow. The addition of Weird Nightmare (METZ leader Alex Edkins' side project) saw past ticket holders and fans of the openers braving the recent heatwave, congregating indoors for this eclectic bill.

DISHPIT bandleader Nora Kelly kicked off the evening with her titular band. Ornamented in gaudy thrift shop findings, Kelly mugged her way through a well-received set of cowpunk-inspired fare that demonstrated the quartet's gift for melding an ironic facade with an authentic performance. 

Bringing with him Jim MacAlpine and Michael Catano of '90s Canadian math rock pioneers North of America, Edkins debuted tracks from his self-titled LP as Weird Nightmare. In a return to his hometown, Edkins addressed the bustling crowd, "Glad to be back at Club SAW. This place changed my life in a good way." Moving through a tight 35-minute set of swaggering throwback post-punk, the quartet impelled a select few into sweaty mosh pit during "Lusitania," while Edkins made most of the tiny stage, gliding through windmill guitar strums during their spirited cover of Sparklehorse's "Happy Man."

While a great portion of the audience vacated the 285-capacity club after Weird Nightmare's performance, those remaining pressed close to the stage to witness Kiwi Jr.'s first Ottawa show since 2020. Opening their set with "Unspeakable Things," the leadoff track from their upcoming LP, Chopper, the quartet found themselves in a position of trying to tour songs from last year's Cooler Returns while debuting new material. Strumming his 12-string electric Fender Stratocaster through a wonderfully scattershot set that included renditions of "Domino" and "Nashville Wedding," vocalist Jeremy Gaudet remained uncomfortable on stage, awkwardly returning to the same witticisms about the excruciating heat inside the club.

After sliding into older material, including the beloved "Salary Man" from their 2019 debut, Football Money, Gaudet moved into second gear, clutching his mic stand through the song's bridge while rocking back and forth to interact with bassist Mike Walker. Feeling the rise in energy, the quartet moved directly into a buoyant rendition of "Nothing Changes," leading the clammy crowd through a mass dance-along. Closing their all-too-brief 35-minute set with favourites "Cooler Returns" and "Waiting in Line," Kiwi Jr. learned to embrace the oppressive heat and small crowd, allowing themselves to sweat through their office attire and deliver a terrific fourth-quarter rock 'n' roll comeback.

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