[Ottawa correspondent Ross MacDonald was on hand for the final USS show in the city. Review by Karen Coughtrey.- AC]
Ottawa was in for a treat the night of Thursday, June 9, 2022, with the Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker (USS) performance at the Algonquin Commons Theatre. It was the Final Final Ottawa show for the band who performed their final show in the same venue on Nov 26, 2021 (but then lockdowns, etc…).
The night was opened by Cheap Suits, a band that USS’s Human Kebab would shout out as idols of his from his Trent University days. Although the band was formed in Scarborough, many of the members met at Trent University and anyone who attended Trent in the early 00’s, or lived in the area is likely very familiar with the ska band as they were, and somewhat still are, a regular in the Peterborough music scene; and they, of course, played their early hit from those days, ‘Ska Saves’.
They recognized that the Ottawa audience was most unlikely to be familiar with their music and that it had been a few years since they’d performed but the crowd was receptive and clearly enjoyed the great opening set, a highlight of which was the ska twist on their cover of Billie Eilish’s ‘Bad Guy’.
Some in the audience could be seen reliving the heyday of ska and were seen pulling out the old dance moves and skanking to their songs ‘Julia’, ‘Lead Singer’, ‘Perfect Girl’, ‘Two Tone Town’, and ‘It’s Time’.
The alternative rock duo from Toronto, Ash Buchholz and Jay “Human Kebab” Parsons, had the crowd meeting their high energy off the top of their set as they opened with ‘Yo Hello Hooray’ and they certainly lived up to the after-party vibes they strive and are known for. The audience was on their feet immediately and would spend the night with hands in the air, glow sticks waving, jumping and dancing as suggested by the group.
Human Kebab demonstrated that he is a seasoned hype man, entertaining the crowd with wild leaps, spinning records with his knee, and even a headstand all while making sure to share the mic with members of the audience so they could sing along with Ash on favourite tracks such as ‘Freakquency’, ‘Anti-Venom’, ‘Medicine’, ‘Alien’, ‘Work Shoes’, and ‘This is the Best’.
Matt Murphy would help the duo “slappin’ da bass” with a drum solo between their popular tracks ‘N/A OK’ and ‘Laces Out’. They would also share an Ottawa connection to ‘Laces Out’, the video for which was shot in Kanata (the west end of Ottawa) by Brookstreet Pictures. It featured Human Kebab’s brothers, at least one of which was in the crowd that night, and audience members were let in on the secret humorous details of a deleted scene.
The duo would sample the music of others into their tracks (usually into the intro) such as Coolio’s ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’, ‘Lose Yourself’ by Eminem, and Joe Cocker’s ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’. They would also have the audience complete a mid-show stretch and ended the night with a dance party featuring ‘Lithium’ by Nirvana, ‘Mr. Brightside’ by the Killers (Ash played the drums), ‘Fat Lip’ by Sum-41 and OutKast’s ‘Hey Ya!’.
It will be remembered as a special night for the USS superfans. Two fans would enter before the show to great applause wearing lit up USS shirts and were immediately barraged for selfies. The band made sure to note and appreciate many longtime fans who were in the audience, perhaps most notably DJ Noah, the music director for local alt-rock station Live 88.5.
DJ Noah was wearing one of the first-ever USS shirts and was the first to play USS on the radio in Ottawa. He joined the band to give them a retirement card, “To thank them for making our lives brighter every single day” and would remain on stage to hype ‘Hollow Point Sniper Hyperbole’. One of their young fans would also have their night made as the duo inserted into the encore setlist and dedicated the song ‘2 15/16th’ to a young boy they met before the show.
The duo made another last-minute change to their encore plans and decided to play the audience request ‘Stationery Robbery’ and closed out their encore performance with the first-ever USS song written, ‘Me vs Us’. It was another unplanned extension to their encore and was made memorable as Human Kebab needed to act at the mic stand for Ash, as he had already put away the equipment.
Although the band would have two more shows in this final tour, they were clearly in an emotional and reflective mood. Ash mentioned that when the band first started he was in a liminal state and explained the term liminality (a term for the psychological process of transitioning across boundaries or borders) as ‘It’s not quite where you were but it’s not quite where you are going, it’s the in-between place”. He would later opine “that everything has a beginning, a middle and an end, even your wildest dreams” and that theirs, when they wrote ‘Me vs Us’ which opens with the lyrics “Here among my wildest dreams”, “hadn’t come true yet but it is coming true, has come true, this is it coming true.” Being in attendance at the duo’s final show in Ottawa was likely a dream come true for many in the crowd as well.
Ash Buchholz – vocals, guitar, effects
Jay “Human Kebab” Parsons – turntablist, hype man
w/ Matt Murphy – drums