SOUND SEEKERS: Politique, Free School, and where to be this weekend with Fateema Sayani

Politique plays at the launch of Saw Gallery's Free School

Free your mind with Politique
SAW Gallery in Ottawa is a boundary-pushing venue for contemporary art. It has existed since 1973, but really came into the public consciousness in 2003 with a show called Scatalogue: 30 Years of Crap in Contemporary Art. That’s when the stuff really hit the fan. The exhibit contained a wooden Brian Mulroney statue with the former PM holding a pile in his outstretched hand. There were also soiled trousers and cow pie clocks from Utah. The gallery, at the time, received 75 per cent of its funding from various levels of government and the blowback was loud. Then-Canadian Alliance MP Chuck Strahl called the show a waste of public money.

Those concerned about the gallery’s contribution to the community might appreciate a series starting next Wednesday and running into early March. Free School is a lecture series for visual artists in the region. Leaders in the field talk shop with artists, though the consciously curious are welcome as well. (The Free School Series is precisely that — free; call 613-236-6181 to register.) To kick the series into high gear, the gallery has invited Politique to its opening party. Hear blip-heavy synth rock from the Ottawa band that softens the robo-quality of their computer-made tunes with live instruments and the soft vocal touches of singer Mallory Giles. Wednesday, Feb. 23, 8 p.m. Club Saw, 67 Nicholas St. Free.

Where to be this weekend
Ottawa world-grooving outfit The Souljazz Orchestra is on home turf for a spell. After that, they head to Europe for dates in France, Germany, and Greece. This one’s a guaranteed good time of horn-heavy, beat-happening, floor-filling music. (The band just received a Juno nom for Instrumental Album of the Year too.) Saturday, Feb. 19. Babylon, 317 Bank St.; Friday, March 4. Le Petit Chicago, 50 Prom. Du Portage, Old Hull.

Go ahead and call it a comeback. Roots rocker John Allaire, on the mend after a heart attack almost four months ago, started a weekly songwriters’ showcase at Quinn’s Ale House in Ottawa South last month. It takes place every Saturday from 3-5 p.m., in a “spectacle” style. You’ll see songs, stories and special guest performers. As for the heart attack, Allaire says doctors have given him the OK to perform once again. “Doctors figure about a 98 per cent recovery for the ol’ ticker, ” he says, “and I’m running five kilometres a day on the treadmill, so that’ll either kill me for once and for all, or make me Superman!” Catch the alt-country action hero with his band The Campistas. Tara Holloway opens. Friday, Feb. 18. 9:30 p.m. Irene’s Pub, 885 Bank St. $10.

Sound Seekers is published weekly at Read Fateema Sayani’s culture column in Ottawa Magazine. Subscribe to the print edition here.