Megaphono: Mushy Gushy, Area Resident and Little You Little Me
Photos by Els Durnford
It was another snowy day in Ottawa and another great day for a Megaphono showcase. This time it was an afternoon show at the Record Center with Ottawa’s Mushy Gushy, Area Resident, and Saint John, NB’s Little You Little Me.
Mushy Gushy blasted out of the starting block playing their first four songs with no breaks, and barely slowed at any point during the set fitting in as many songs as possible. The boys were on fire and so tight as they rocked songs from both their tapes and even treated us to a new track. They played “Summer Lusting” off their first tape Tight Snake. Not a much better way to remember that sunny days will in fact return than a song with the opening line of “Everyone wants to fuck in the summer time” while the snow was really coming down outside. The band played an assortment of fun and energetic tracks from Tight Snake and their more recent release, More Butter. The crammed in crowd at the Record Center was really digging the music with a lot of heads bobbing around. The new song they played was pretty smooth and I hope that means the band will have a new release for us this year.
Cory from Mushy Gushy laying down some riffs. Photo by Els Durnford.
Opening for Mushy Gushy was Area Resident, which is the musical project of CBC traffic man Doug Hempstead and friends. On an afternoon like this one, he was probably much happier behind his drum set singing his songs than talking about traffic in a snow storm. Doug is a story teller, whether it is the lyrics of his songs or between songs, the man has tales to share. I guess it pays off to spend your days working in a news room. With help from fellow CBC web and radio personality Kristy Nease, and Carleton University music instructor John Higney, Hempstead impressed the crowd and filled the room with warm vibes all around.
Kicking things off with the smooth and catchy song “Riverside,” they caught the crowd’s attention right away. Not only are the songs really good, but a lot of them actually have comical back stories. One of the funniest pieces was that while he was crowdfunding for one of his albums, a friend of his said he would donate but only if he wrote a song based off a bizarre OPP press release. The release was about some young kids who broke into a cottage in Lanark County and then drove away in a pickup truck, only to end up in the river. Then, of course, they refused to turn themselves over to the cop and just sat in the truck for 20 hours. Hempstead would have been remiss not to write a song about it, and “Lanark Double Soaker” ended up on the final cut of Area Resident’s latest album Delano. Another great track was “Warm It Up First” which is about the man who stole gold from the Canadian Mint by smuggling it out by putting it up his…well, you know. All in all, things really picked up as Area Resident played to the full house.
First up on the bill was Saint John, NB’s Little You Little Me. These guys have been around for quite a few years now, and their energy on stage showed no signs of slowing down. While I only caught the last few songs of their set, they set the mood for a snowy Saturday afternoon in Ottawa by playing some crunchy rock and roll for us to forget about the cold. Their brand of pop-laced garage rock is something that Canadian music fans are soaking up, and the guys took the stage with big smiles and set the tone. They played songs from deeper in their catalogue, and newer ones from their most recent EP entitled In Under Fourteen Highly Concentrated Minutes. These guys do a great job a sharing vocals and rocking their respective instruments. Each song got the crowd grooving along with them, and the band was clearly having a great time. Not to shabby for a bunch of guys who drove from Saint John to Ottawa the entire night before. But hey, that’s what bands do! Looking forward to these guys making their way back to Ottawa soon. All in all, it was another successful show at The Record Centre, and everyone left with smiles on their faces.
Megaphono: Trails, Luka and Keturah Johnson at the NAC
With the snow lightly descending on the nation’s capital, the NAC’s Fourth Stage was a perfect setting for a Friday night Megaphono showcase featuring Trails, Luka, and Keturah Johnson.
This was my first time at the Fourth Stage in a long while, and what a beautiful room it is. It really helps create a very intimate setting for a performance, especially when it is a sold out standing room only show like this one.
Trails performing on the Fourth Stage of the NAC during Megaphono 2018 in Ottawa.
Headlining the night was Ottawa’s Allie O’Manique, better known to most as Trails. In just a few years she has really gained a lot of momentum in Ottawa as one of the truly up and coming artists in town. Now you may find it hard to call someone up and coming when they have already opened for Andy Shauf in the UK, but Trails stills feels so new and fresh to me. She has so much potential, which in itself is pretty scary but mostly exciting.
O’Manique certainly knows how to turn on an eerie haunting edge to her vocals which melds perfectly with the instrumentation of the backing band on this night, Especially on songs like -“Mourning/moaning/morning/snowing ” from her debut full length album The Past Is Coming Fast. Of course, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have local musician extraordinaires—Philippe Charbonneau, Pascal Oflaki, and Jamieson Mackay—as support on stage.
While much of the music has a much more mellow and psyche feeling to it which can both serenade you to sleep or ease you into deep meditation, the band did switch things up a little on one song. The rowdier jam was maybe a little too much for them though, as guitarist Jamieson Mackay blew a string. Like a true champion he powered through. However, there was a moment of worry when he told the crowd he might not be able to play the “sweet lick” at the end of their powerful finale “Leave Her Be.” Luckily for us, he found a way and capped off the absolutely song which she wrote and arranged with Jonas Bonnetta of Evening Hymns, and really shows the growth and immense potential for more.
Luka impressing the NAC crowd at Megaphono. Photo by Els Durnford.
Setting up Trails’ set was poet and crooner Luka Kuplowsky and a group of smooth rock n roller from Toronto who perform as Luka. Kuplowsky, rocking an acoustic guitar with no strap, reminds me of early Lou Reed in how he almost speaks over the music more than singing most of the time and delivers poetry with the upward intonation in his voice at the end of his lines. I was immediately hooked from the first song “City By My Window” to the amazing closing track “O My Heart Is Full” which is a near perfect song in my opinion, have a listen.
If the singer’s smooth stylings weren’t enough, he is surrounded by very talented musicians, including an extremely entertaining drummer and a dynamic flutist—yes, a flutist. I believe there were more flute solos in the performance than guitar solos, which is not something you see every day. One of my favourite songs from the night was “Quick Reflex” off his latest album What Kind of Animal, which tells the story of a hand-me-down baseball cap with a beautiful melody and finishing with a roaring crescendo in the live performance. This was just one of many very impressive moments of pure chaos with the soft vocals, off beat drumming, rapid guitar and bass strumming and racing the flute that really took the performance to the next level.
Keturah Johnson serendating the NAC crowd during Megaphono. Photo by Els Durnford.
Opening the night was another stellar local performer, Keturah Johnson, who on this night was flying solo and without her The Heavy Medicine Band companions. Johnson is absolutely masterful at looping her own guitar and incredible vocals, then playing and singing over those loops. It had my jaw dropping right away. Johnson’s vocals are so powerful and filled with passion and sometimes darkness that there are moments that make your spine tingle.
Her solo performances takes the time to fully craft the song, but the end result is beautifully layered beyond any a regular solo performance delivers, and the process is like watching someone play a bunch of smaller tracks that perfectly fit together. It is comparable to watching and old-school DJ craft a mix on vinyl from scratch, except this is being performed with very different instruments. And Johnson has no fear of the sounds of the classics even with the “modern” looping technology songs like her finisher “Conduit” shine on her influences like Pink Floyd in all the right ways.