The Willowz made a last minute visit to Ottawa on their trip through Canada. Due to some haphazard scheduling, the date itself was strangely situated before Hamilton, Toronto and Montreal gigs that meant the band would have to drive south six hours, then north another eight in the following days (then back down for another Toronto gig the day after they played Montreal, another six or seven hours’ drive).

The last-minute booking was reflected in the opening acts, with the promoter still looking for bands on the day before the show.

First up was Rory Lavelle. Lavelle used to be in a band called Clark (which has since changed its name to Clark the Band, to distinguish itself from other bands named Clark), which last I heard sounded like they were influenced by XTC. By comparison, Lavelle sounds more like he’d be comfortable opening for Canadian singer-songwriter Howie Beck or the late Elliott Smith. He sung heartfelt, melancholic tunes in a fine tenor with a barely detectable rasp, accompanying himself on guitar, piano and accordion. There was some loud clapping from the sparse audience (myself included); unfortunately his brief set was curtailed by the promoter. This was because the Willowz had arrived at the moment when the show was actually supposed to begin. The latter part of the evening was already spoken for by DJs Gaz and Elliott of Ottawa’s Mod Club.

Next up were the Flaps, a very capable instrumental band filled with scene veterans; left-field surf sounds are their specialty and they are quite popular with Ottawa audiences. An encore was demanded and received.

Then came the Willowz. Frontman Richie James Follin sang in a louche nasal voice as the quartet snarled and swayed its way through a 45-minute set that ranged from garage rock rave ups and a cover of Arthur Lee’s Love to space sounds that would have been at home on a Pink Floyd single. Drummer Alex Nowicki’s long blonde hair was a constant whipping blur as he hammered the traps. Guitarist (and organ player) Dan Bush was only slightly less mobile, though he still bobbed and stretched over backward with grace of experience. Bassist Jessica Anne Reynoza swayed and bumped with Follin before perching on a riser so she could bend over a microphone to sing her backing parts.

Despite an enthusiastic poster campaign by the promoter and considerable Internet chatter, about 30 people were in attendance – but they gave up hearty applause for the band, who promised to return.

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Commenting On: Babylon, Ottawa, 18/9/2005 - Willowz with Rory Lavelle and The Flaps

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