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Bluesfest: A summer evening with the superb Hilotrons

By Alejandro Bustos on July 12, 2015

Since forming in 2001, the Hilotrons have become one of Ottawa’s most innovative musical groups. They have also gained a reputation for being involved in numerous interesting projects: among other things, their music has been performed at the Ottawa International Writers Festival, they released a special double-sided album that can only be played on a Fisher Price toy record player, and they honoured World War I veterans in a special concert this past fall.

With eight releases under their belt — if you count their debut EP, subsequent LPs and the special release of Rhythm Of The Film As An Art Of Movement, which is only available to fans who support the group through Bandcamp — the band has an impressive repertoire of songs that are built on numerous influences.  (The group’s tunes draw from such sources as electronica, funk, rock. pop and anything else that works with their musical ideas).

This cross-pollination of styles is something they do on purpose, as the group describes their compositions as a means to transcend the idea of genre.  Local music lovers can now hear this experimental sound first-hand on Thursday, July 16 at 8:15 pm when the Hilotrons play Bluesfest on the Canadian stage.

The upcoming show is filled with tension, says Mike Dubue, the Hilotrons’ vocalist and keyboardist, in a tongue-in-check email interview with Apartment613.

“We go on after our rival band: Fet.Nat,” says Dubue.  “We hope nothing goes down, but tensions are high.  Our bass player and their drummer have been know to fist fight at past shows, where we shared bills.  It’s ugly!  Once, their lead singer smashed in my car window . . . But the rumours of us kidnapping his dog and sending lewd photos, as retaliation, are absurd and incorrect!”

Turning to a more serious note, Dubue offered a frank assessment of the music scene in the National Capital Region.

“This city has had many healthy periods for its music scene.  Arguably, this is the worst phase,” he tells Apartment613, when asked for his thoughts on the state of the local music community.  “A few points: I think the NAC’s oil money is disgusting and watching local bands buy into their bullshit is pathetic.  Fuck them and that stupid provincial Scene thing they do.”

He also had choice words about the current stock of available venues that local musicians can play in, as well as the large number of festivals which — it can be argued — give musicians a false sense of success.

“I think it’s pathetic that people are opening up 150 cap clubs in Ottawa.  Like, we need 500 cap!” he writes in an email.  “There are [also] too many festivals and too many parties on unceded land, as in ALL of Ottawa.”

After venting, however, Dubue offers a more nuanced perspective.

“But I’m not really saying anything, here. I’m just talking trash!” he says.  “Some philosophy: does a healthy music scene need to constantly identify with being glorious and booming or is there some false sense of security going on?”

This insightful question is something that you would expect from a thoughtful artist who is arguably one of the leading musicians in our city.

The Hilotrons play Bluesfest on Thursday, July 16 at 8:15 pm at the Canadian Stage.  For information on obtaining a festival pass you can go to the ticket section on the Bluesfest online site.

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