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House of PainT celebrates a decade of community-building through beats, dance and grafitti

By François Levesque on July 25, 2013

House of PainT (HoP) is celebrating ten years in 2013 and they’re getting things started with a bang at a big unveiling party this Friday at Ritual. Alongside the reveal on the programming, music and art components for the fest itself, DJ Ruby Jane, BlakDenim and Chicago’s Hypnotic Brass Ensemble are taking the stage to make the people of Ottawa dance.

I caught up with organizers Rob Reid and Melissa Wheeler as well as Ottawa-born DJ Ruby Jane to get their thoughts on 10 years of HoP, the lowdown on Friday’s festivities and what’s to be expected this year under the bridge.

DJ Ruby Jane has been involved with House of PainT one way or another for the last decade. Here’s her take on the genesis of the festival.

“The story goes that over 10 years ago, a bunch of graffiti artists were hanging out under the bridge at Brewer Park, painting and listening to the rap group House of Pain.  For whatever reason, they began calling this highly bombed area “house of pain.” When it was time to celebrate how the city had just deemed that area a legal graffiti space, House of PainT was born.”

In Ruby Jane’s own words, HoP began as a very small event that brought together the artists in Ottawa’s hip hop community for a daytime jam. Over the next decade, HoP grew to become a very inclusive festival bringing together everyone in the Ottawa community. Parents, children, dogs, friends all come out to see the art and dancers and hear awesome music. The introduction of art, dance and DJ workshops to the festival has allowed for artists to learn from each other, and for the uninitiated to explore a new art form. HoP also began to earn some national attention, and many artists from other cities now travel to Ottawa to join in on the party.

“Last year was a huge musical year for us with all the Canadian content [Radio Radio, Shad, Maestro Fresh Wes, among others], says Reid. Instead of trying to top that we’re looking to get one big act and focus on local talent.” HoP is also moving its live music showcase to Friday evening. The main event – as Reid put it – will be the graffiti artists and breakdancing crews that will be performing throughout the day Saturday, from 11am to 11pm. Ruby Jane later adds “It’s keeping hip hop in the street, spray-paint on concrete walls and a bboy battle on linoleum.” It’s really an old-school block party.

Aside from these two big events, poetry night returns this year and workshops for artists are also coming back.

All will be revealed at Ritual on Friday night. The event also serves as the Ottawa release of Hypnotic Brass Ensemble’s latest record, FLI: The Customs prelude. As a special treat, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble is offering a free download off its album.

For DJ Ruby Jane, it’s an honour to be part of such a great line-up and to do it under the HoP brand. “I’ve never seen BlakDenim live, but I love their experimental sound and am looking forward to their set.  As for Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, I’ve seen them a few times and they never disappoint. Brass bands spring from the heart of jazz. They’re not robotic marching bands in a parade or on a football field. They come from the street, and deliver a positive force. I feel the House of PainT festival operates in that same spirit.”

The HoPX launch party takes places this Friday, July 26 at Ritual Nightclub. Tickets are $15. House of PainT is from September 11 to 15th in multiple locations.

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