Picture this: some great beats being dropped, break dancing and pop and lock dancing happening, people cheering when the dancers execute an awesome trick, underground rappers performing on stage, and everyone having a great time. This doesn’t quite sound like an Ottawa event. Easily identifiable with Toronto, New York City, Chicago, LA, etc. Don’t underestimate the urban and hip hop scene of Ottawa. I personally thought it was pretty lacking and almost non-existent until a couple of weekends ago.
House of PainT is a celebration of the four main elements of hip hop: graffiti writing, bboyin/bgurlin, djing and mcing. This year marked the 11th year of the festival. That is quite awesome for something like this! The weather seemed a little dicey for the evening that I went. Imminent clouds loomed in the background and the forecast called for showers. It still didn’t stop me from attending :).
Off to the side, underneath a tent, mini pop and lock battles were happening. Participants were trying to qualify for the semi finals and the finals to be held on the main stage. The warmth, encouragement, talent and support that was felt all around while the dancers battled it out was so positive and amazing. And wow, those dancers are in amazing shape. So many of them had 6-packs and looked fantastic! Puts me to shame and makes me feel like I need to become more fit.
The event is held near Carleton, and the main stage is underneath an overpass. This overpass is one of the few sanctioned areas in the city whereby graffiti is permitted. This area is used as one of the main features of the event. All weekend long, the walls of the overpass were being painted by local graffiti artists. Such vibrant colors, and stories, could be told from the art. I would be scared out of mind if I was up on the scaffolding.
The headliner for the Friday night when I was there, was a hip hop legend by the name of Jean Grae. She has worked with artists such as Common, Lauryn Hill, and more. Jean really got the crowd pumped up. No one was left sitting, and everyone made their way out towards the floor of the stage. I got thinking while I was there, that rappers are actually extremely intelligent. They have to be so quick to think and be able to come up with rhymes on the spot. It created a new appreciation for rappers for me. Unfortunately, around 10pm, the concert was cut short. Heavy, heavy rains and wind came whipping through the tunnel. For liability reasons, the rest of the event had to be cancelled. A magical moment happened after that. All of the dancers started their own circles on the stage floor and kept the energy alive. Onlookers happily cheered and the show did go on, just in an unconventional way.
Mark your calendars for next year, and make sure you check out House of PainT.