Kelp Records is the brainchild of John Bartlett, a label launched to release the music of his own band. The one-man operation followed him from the Maritimes to Toronto to his current hometown of Ottawa,where it, and he, currently reside.Incredibly enough the label has been chugging along for a decade, with its latest release (Chris Page’s 'Decide To Stay and Swim') being No. 36 in its catalogue.

In celebration of this landmark, a dozen or so acts, past and present, descended upon various venues around town over three days to fully display all the local gems Bartlett has participated in or promoted.

His own country act Greenfield Main and its brother band South of 78 had done a noontime gig at a microbrewery/pub. Several of the label's more off-the-wall acts had performed the night before at Cafe Dekcuf; this Saturday night it was the turn of the microlabel’s more pop-friendly acts to perform. A couple of hundred people or so appeared to commemorate the anniversary (plus drink).

Veteran powerpop singer, guitarist and songwriter Chris Page (Stand GT, ResinScraper) was first up. Normally he performs solo, but this time around Ottawa superproducer Dave Draves (Sarah Edwards, et al.) and a drummer were around to thicken the sound out. The extra bottom did his already punchy material a world of good.

Toronto’s Detective Kalita was the next act; singer and guitarist Andy Swan looked quite distinguished in his tweed jacket, tie and brogues. The band’s recorded work is somewhat offhand, fragile indie rock. Pavement and Silver Jews are frequently named by way of comparison. Live, however, the work was surprisingly tight with Swan sounding a bit like a young, tenor Lou Reed andlaying down some very sharp lead lines along with newly acquired gooney-dancingbassist G. Smith and drummer Shayne Cox. Had I not already heard the album I
would have been moved to buy it.

During the intermission an excerpt from the Kelp Records 10th anniversary DVD(when they first mentioned there was one, I assumed they were joking, but no...) was played: A Rhume show in Toronto where Bartlett, the band’s lead singer,was involved in some preplanned pro wrestling involving a masked foe , severalfolding chairs used as blunt weapons and a final flying attack. After being pummeled, Bartlett made a swift recovery and bounded on stage to finish the song. I’ll bet you David Geffen never did anything like that.

The Recoilers — yet another trio — play a soft-loud 1980s psychedelia, somethinglike Husker Du mixed with Pink Floyd, with a bit of Weezer mixed in. Their sense of dynamics has improved immeasurably since their first performance a couple of years ago, when they sounded somewhat featureless and fuzzy. They still rely heavily on guitar effects, but now they shape the sound into recognizable songs.

After the Recoilers' excellent and well-received set, long-serving local garagerocker Andrew Vincent and the Pirates performed, great as always but a bit underwhelming after the previous high-energy performance.

By this time alcohol consumption at Barrymore’s had reached its peak, andBartlett’s own group Rhume appeared to perform their music. After handing a large bouquet of flowers to his wife, Kelp Records supremo and Rhume chief Bartlett ascended the stage, striking in his blue velour jumper with the fleur-de-lys on the back, to lead his group through their trademark combinationof a combination of highly intoxicated Guided by Voices-influenced rock’n’roll and French-Canadian chansons. Thus, the night concluded amid a flurry of
beer-spraying and more enthusiasm than accuracy.It’s fair to say a good time was had by all — except by whoever had to mop the floor afterward.

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