Tag: food

Sanctum :: Pressed

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Originally conceived as a “hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop,” Pressed quickly evolved into a hub for the Ottawa’s diverse arts community since opening in Nov. 2011. On any given night, you can expect to hear pummeling noise, tuneful folk and jazz and gleefully weird punk, psychedelia and more wafting from its windows at 750 Gladstone Ave. But you can’t just focus on music to get the breadth of Pressed. The restaurant hosts regular [poetry performances], and you’re just as likely to see a local literary event, zine party or craft fair as you are to see a band nestled in its organic wooden interior. We spoke to Pressed owner Jeff Stewart, as well as Lidija Rozitis, the venue’s booking manager (and a vocalist and guitarist in local bands Roberta Bondar and Blue Angel), to get a better understanding of this eclectic environment.

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Pressed’s stage (photo by Yuko Inoue)

 

What do you feel Pressed’s appeal is? What makes it unique, and how do your acts contribute to that distinctiveness?

Lidija Rozitis: From a musical standpoint, I felt like there weren’t too many venues in Ottawa a few years ago. A lot of the shows I went to were at houses. In the last little while, however, I have seen a decline in house shows and more venues becoming established around the city (Gabba Hey, House of Targ, Mugshots, Cafe Alt). House shows are really nice though, and I think Pressed (sort of) imitates the cozy, intimate vibe of a house show … Bands are allowed to move furniture around to suit their musical set up, and there are couches and church pews to sit on. And the place smells like your grandma is making delicious smoked chicken! It’s small, and it’s cozy. It’s not a nightclub or fancy bar, but that’s what makes Pressed unique.

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The restaurant during business hours (photo by Matthew Blenkarn)

 

What does Pressed offer the spoken word community? How do you help give them a space?

Jeff Stewart: I think in a number of ways. First of all, we have standing events here that are spoken word and poetry related. We have artistic showcases hosted by (Ottawa poet) Brandon Wint. We have a Words to Live By series and then a Railroad Poetry series. Those three events appeal to different types of audiences, so I think just having standing events like that creates an association between the place and spoken word. I think the layout of the place and having the right sound, light and size for those types of events just creates an inviting nest for people to come and have their events.

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Zine editor and writer Lily Pepper at the launch party for the YOW zine (photo by Matthew Blenkarn)

 

You’ve also hosted a few Ottawa Zine-Offs and you have a zine rack. What about zine culture?

JS: I was open to the idea when (zine editor and writer Lily Pepper) approached me to have a zine rack here, and then I think, based on that, it became a bit of an anchor for zine culture. There were some people who wanted to have events here where they were creating zines and talking about zines and it seemed like a logical extension of that. I think that is something that has built a sort of community feeling. It’s sort of a grassroots feeling where you don’t always have a form of entertainment foisted on people as a developed, finished art form. It’s more people coming together and creating in a space in a more spontaneous, democratic kind of way.

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Gloria Guns of Scary Bear Soundtrack performs at the YOW zine launch party (photo by Matthew Blenkarn)

 

Why have such an eclectic line-up?

LR: There are a lot of amazing music venues that have opened up in Ottawa recently, so it’s somewhat limiting to book four piece rock bands for an entire month. We do have many bands playing at Pressed, but with that said, I also have been trying to book more and more diverse musical acts every month. Pat Moore hosts a weekly Bluegrass night, Tariq Anwar hosts a monthly Open Mic night, Brandon Wint puts on a great monthly spoken word and musical showcase, and there are many jazz, classical, and experimental musicians performing at the space. Even then, music isn’t the only art form requiring performance space. Because of the portability of tables and furniture at Pressed, the space can serve as both a sit down or standing venue. I think this versatility appeals to all types of artists, because the space serves whatever need you want it to. I try to book as many diverse types of events so that the space doesn’t become pigeon-holed as the venue to do one certain type of artistic thing, but rather continually seen as a space to do whatever you want.

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The awning that shades Pressed’s small outdoor seating area (photo by Matthew Blenkarn)

 

How would you like to see Pressed grow in the future?

JS: I think I’d just like to see us continue along the lines that we’re going along right now. I don’t want us to get too big or large-band oriented, because I like the community aspect of the things we do. I think we have a really nice balance right now of bands coming in from out of town, from promoters and local bands and acts, local spoken word and then grassroots types of events as well. I think I’d just like to continue to become more and more integrated with the community and be seen more and more as a community living room and play space, I think.