Megaphono 2018 was a banner year for the festival, and last weekend delegates from all over the glob descended on the capital for a weekend full of shows and panels. There were visibly more people out than previous years, and the programming brought crowds out to venues from deep in Hull and Gatineau, to Centretown, Hintonburg, Chinatown, Old Ottawa South, and more. Here are some of our photographer Els Durnford‘s best shots from Megaphono 2018.
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.
Foo Fighters, Dave Matthews Band, Beck, Jethro Tull, Courtney Barnett, and more to headline Ottawa Bluesfest 2018
RBC Ottawa Bluesfest has released its initial 2018 lineup, which will hit the stages July 5 – 15, 2018. Many whispers of Dave Grohl and his band of Foo Fighters being added were making their way around town, and the explosive rock band is one of many exciting inclusions in this year’s edition. The Dave Matthews Band, which was confirmed a few weeks back, will also headline the festival and give festival-goers a reason to get excited.
Other notable acts include Jethro Tull, Beck, Zeds Dead, the War on Drugs, Courtney Barnett, BROCKHAMPTON, Chromeo, Colin James, Shaggy, Oh Wonder, Ghostface Killah, Passenger, Machine Gun Kelly, Shawn Mendes, Naughty by Nature, the Strumbellas, Keys N Krates, Grandtheft, Hanson, Benjamin Booker, Noname, Dear Rouge, Kimbra, and more.
Some stellar Ottawa acts were also announced, including Catriona Sturton, Alanna Sterling & The Silvers, Amos The Transparent, Cody Coyote, Graven, Her Harbour, Okies, TAPAS, and many more.
A one-day pre-sale will begin early on February 15 at 10 a.m., with an adult festival pass starting at $209 (+ HST). A full-festival pass will start at $139 (+HST). All tickets will go on public sale February 16 at 10 a.m.
Check out other options and more details on the Bluesfest website. Have a look at the line up (so far) below.
TD Winter Jazz Fest: Feb. 8-10, 2018 La Nouvelle Scène, 333 King Edward Ave.
The TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, which had its initial run in June-July, is set to re-capture summer’s heat (and sweep you off your feet) with a roster of eclectic and steadfast names in jazz. The festival has consistently brought household names to the city since its humble inception as a weekend-long event in Major’s Hill Park, back in 1980. Founded by musicians for musicians, this year’s winter installment makes good on its roots with designated time slots for open jam sessions, bringing together jazz troubadours from near and afar in unlikely musical encounters. If that’s not honouring the spirit of jazz, what is?
More information and tickets can be found at the Winter Jazz Fest website here.
Thursday, February 8th, 9PM –Studio A
“Subtlety “and “grace” are traits that continually crop up in describing Barbra Lica’s take on vocal jazz. Though her restraint is key, she possesses universal humour and infectious wit, tackling love and love lost with the singularity required to sell her heartthrob telltales. Her voice is a marvel in itself, an old friend betraying warmth and wonder, emphasizing authenticity over acrobatics. Her third release to date, 2017’s Juno-nominated I’m Still Learning, has all this in spades. Don’t miss her performance this Thursday, which features an all-star quartet to boot.
Quartetski Does Bartók’s Mikrokosmos
Thursday, February 8th, 6PM – Studio A
These improvisational mad scientists launch the work of contemporary composers into the future, deconstructing and re-imagining the sonic possibilities of timeless compositions—employing “violin synthesizer,” melodica, and turntable, to name but a few notable deviations from the traditional jazz palette— through live experimentation with mood, colour, tone, and more. Sound daunting? Fret not (and excuse the pun). Though this sextet casts you into uncharted waters, they’re just as good at reeling you back in.
Steve Boudreau Trio
Saturday, February 10th, 5PM – Studio B
Steve Boudreau is an Ottawa gem, a jazz pianist and educator that’s more than earned his badge of instrumental virtuosity. He has long functioned as a secret weapon on the sidelines, jumpstarting the careers of young performers at Carleton University, as well as contributing compositions and performance to a number of productions across North America and Europe. With this trio—featuring John Geggie on bass and Michel Delage on drums—Boudreau has come into his own with a slew of original music and captivating tributes to Canadian composers. Ace arrangements, all seasoned players… what’s not to like? Be sure to check out this beacon for local talent.
Thursday, February 8th, 10PM – Studio B
Angeli’s Sardinian guitar is a truly unique instrument, boasting three sets of criss-crossing and parallel strings atop one another, motorized fingers and propellers—which often hammer out a bass or counter-melody to Angeli’s own melodic musings, and a modified bridge and headstock that allows the one-man orchestra to bow cello parts atop the instrument’s traditional acoustic guitar base (horizontal strings, contrarily, function more like a dulcimer). Armed with a looper and a soundscapist’s arsenal of pedals, Angeli jams with himself in real time, exploring exponential musical ideas that defy easy categorization.
Friday, February 9th, 9PM – Studio A
Ever experienced synesthesia? Chet Doxas’ “Rich in Symbols” comes close, fusing the saxophonist’s love and knowledge of visual art with modern, electronic-infused jazz exercises. Inspired by the art movement of New York City’s Lower East Side from 1975-85, Doxas wrote the music for this performance by ear while studying his favorite paintings in various museums throughout New York City. These very paintings will be projected in HD behind Chet and his accompanying quartet as they play, fusing the senses for a symbiotic smorgasbord of sax, vintage synths, and infectious grooves (keep your ears perked for that unmistakable 80’s influence). Expect a show as vibrant as NY graffiti.
Ottawa’s Casa Lagarto has released their brand new EP called Shed It, a six-song trip that features thick grooves and atmospheric textures throughout.
The band is comprised of well-established Ottawa musicians Jason Barkhouse (guitar/vocals), Arturo Portocarrero (drums/vocals), Travis Kinnear (bass/vocals), Jonny Yuma (guitar/vocals), and Grant McNeill (guitar), some of whom are members of The Yips (RIP), Lost to the River, and Fire Antlers.
Casa Lagarto is the reincarnation of sorts—it was an old stomping rockabilly project that Jonny, Grant, Travis, and their pal Phil Horne had called Chero Chavo, which was active from 2013-2015. With an expanded and altered lineup, the band’s sound evolved in 2015 to become Casa Lagarto (the name being a nod to Jim Morrison and author Carlos Castaneda). With Casa’s new members Arturo and Jason coming from different styles and musical backgrounds, the group quickly rounded out its sound as a whole. To date, they’ve had plenty of action live, having shared the stage with such acts as Del Bel, Saxsyndrum, Bob Log III, Twin Peaks, Bloodshot Bill, to name a few.
Shed It truly sounds like it was written in a shack in the desert. There’s a looseness to the whole thing that makes the album easy to sink into, slowly taking the listener deeper and deeper like quicksand. The album is rich with reverb and jangly guitar tones, deep and groovy bass lines, and Arturo’s lax and unobtrusive drum rhythms resonating throughout. Jonny’s hollow strumming and deep, simmering vocals bring another dimension to Shed It, though, completing the spooky yet captivating aesthetic of the band.
According to the band, the album’s name refers to shedding the skin you’re in, or shedding the skin you’ve been. It’s a cunning reflection on the good, bad an ugly from the past, the masks we often wear throughout our lives—and a desire to burn old bridges in hopes of charting new paths towards healthier self-understanding.
Casa Lagarto might fall somewhere between Dirty Beaches and Timber Timbre with respect to their musical approach. They create atmospheric and cinematic soundscapes, building and maintaining a subtle tension throughout Shed It. The song “Desoronto,” for example, feels like the prelude to a pistol duel in a classic Western. The washed out and weary track “El Dorado” burns slowly, with instrumentation and lyrics that create dark imagery and places the listener directly into “the valley of the shadow.”
The group has already released videos for their songs “Lights Out” and “Scarecrow” (produced by Black Lab Studio), and are pleased to share a brand new one for “Deseronto” (above), which was shot and produced by Santiago Trugeda. Even more, they’re already heading back into the studio in March 2018 to start recording tunes for their next album, and concert-goers can forward to them hitting the road in the near future.
‘Shed It’ is an exclusively digital release which you can listen for free at their Bandcamp page or stream on Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, Dezer, and all streaming sites. You can also enjoy the stream below.
Ottawa folk troubadour Claude Munson is almost ready to release his new album, titled The Silence Came After.’ Although it has been six years since his full-length debut and the Storm Outside came out, we’re more than excited to share the first video and single off the upcoming LP, which is the song “Saluted by the Light Outside.”
The video suits Munson’s sound and aesthetic to perfection—it’s earthy, intimate, harmonious, and invokes emotive imagery and textures. The video was directed, filmed, and edited by Alexis Zeville and filmed in Québec’s mystical Laurentians. It captures shots of light and smoke breaking trough the trees, nature, and walks in the wood. There is a simplicity to it, and the contemplative story effectively underlines the song’s narrative.
On February 3, 2008, The Balconies took to the stage for the first time here in Ottawa. The band probably didn’t know what the future held at that time, but they quickly jumped down the rabbit hole into the unknown. Shows led to tours, tours led to funding, funding led to albums, which ultimately led to more tours. Their fan base grew from being their Ottawa friends to friends around the world, playing stages from SXSW to Europe.
Saturday night’s show was one of two for the band’s final send off for those loyal hometown friends and fans. Friday’s show appeared packed from the many Snapchats and Instagram stories floating around, and a line quickly grew outside The 27 Club despite the snow beginning to fall. The Love Machine reunited and opened up the night, and they too drew many familiar faces which were easy to spot as they wore shirts clearly reading THIS IS LOVE. Sing-a-longs of their early songs solidified that fans were in the house, and even those who weren’t familiar were able to sing and dance along to their catchy songs.
Finally the time had come for the much anticipated final show for The Balconies. The stage presence of lead singer Jacquie Neville energized the crowd, getting them to jump along to their favorite songs along with her signature hair flipping throughout the set. Though the small venue made for an intimate final evening, she was quick to point out the family support in the room, letting everyone know her grandmother, and other family members were in the house continuing to support them. The set began relatively early for a headliner, which meant the audience was in for a 90-minute set to tie-off the ten year journey of the band. During the final song (pre-encore) Jacquie hopped off the stage into the audience to have a sing-a-long, hug it out with some family and friends before hopping back on stage pointing out that everyone looked like they had cut onions before coming out.
As the band re-entered for the encore, they took a moment as they emotions of the room hit the stage and reality set in that these were the final moments for the band. A slow song to capture that emotion first, before getting the energy back up to end the night. Joined on stage by The Love Machine, they danced it out with the crowd before giving Ottawa one final bow.
Tapas is the name of a new hip hop trio in Ottawa, but they’re anything but rookies. The group consists of two of Ottawa’s finest MC’s—G.Grand, and Hyf—along with locally-renowned producer Jeepz behind the beats. Together they are a force to be reckoned with.
What’s so special about a hip hop crew like this getting together?
I would argue that good chemistry is more crucial in hip hop than more than any other type of music. Not only do the styles and flow need to weave together well, but each MC also needs to offer something different to the music. Think of Wu Tang Clan, El-P and Killer Mike, Talib Kweli and Mos Def, Andre 3000 and Big Boi, Q-Tip and Phife—all the great groups have a push-pull dynamic, working off each other’s style while contributing to the larger work. While each MC is undoubtedly extraordinary in their own right, in the case of hip hop, the sum is greater than the parts.
This is the case with Tapas. Individually, G.Grand and Hyf are well-respected in the music community and considered examples of intelligent, talented MC’s in Ottawa. Hyf is the stage name of Sergio Guerra, an accomplished Salvadorian-born MC, poet, and producer who is also part of the slam poetry/hip hop ensemble called Missing Linx, along with well-known artists Just Jamaal, Cannon2x, PrufRock Shadowrunner. He is also the co-founder of the local avant-garde label, Nationaless Mind Records, which has an impressive roster of artists and continues to push traditional boundaries in the music industry with a progressive agenda and mission. Hyf is also a two-time Canadian Festival of Spoken Word finalist, and has garnered local praise over the years for his broad lyrical vocabulary and sharp phrasing and flow.
G.Grand grew up in London, ON, listening to soul, R&B, and rap as well as a diverse group of musicians with whom his father worked as a manager in the 1990’s. He moved to Ottawa for university and started cutting his teeth as an MC recording tracks throughout his undergrad at UofO. While exploring his new path as a musician, in 2010 Grand was introduced to producer and future collaborator, Jean-Paul Tyo—better known in the Ottawa/Gatineau music community as Jeepz.
Jeepz is, by far, one of the most proficient and versatile producers in the Ottawa area. His style is informed by the smooth, groovy beats from the golden era of hip hop in the 1980’s. Drawing on the methods of game-changing producers from this time–notably the late J Dilla–Jeepz has constructed a sonic bridge for us to experience hip hop in the same way that listeners of A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and The Pharcyde might have in the past.
His tracks give off an air of perfectionism, in the sense that each layer and each tone is intricately fine-tuned to create a truly “vintage boom-bap” sound. As a multi-instrumentalist, Jeepz started working on beats with his first drum set in grade seven, learning the ins and outs of rhythm while continuously trying his hand at new technologies by which he could make music. Over the years, he continually pushed himself to be better, and now he is two-time Ottawa Beat League champion.
Call it fate, or luck, but this chance meeting of ingenuitive minds was the start of a partnership that truly unlocked the skills and potential of Grand, Hyf, and Jeepz.
“The things that never change are an appreciation for quality and craftsmanship in the music and the understanding that hip-hop culture is always evolving,” explains Grand. “Making sure that we stay open-minded to new elements of the culture while still being able to call out aspects that we think are less positive has become more important as we’ve grown up with hip-hop.”
The trio that is Tapas is therefore a well-oiled hip hop machine, with plenty of years of experience behind them. Their self-titled album transcends any specific style and flow of hip hop, dipping into the vintage-era sounds and samples on tracks like “Loop it Up,” but also tracks like “Gotta Love It” that touch on modern-era methods that favour sub-divided hi-hats, heavy kicks, and layered synthesizers.
“The sound is just a natural extension of making the music we want to hear right now,” says Grand. “We didn’t force anything, but we wanted to make sure that we were pushing our sound forward and challenging ourselves to try new things.”
“I hope people recognize the work that we put into this in terms of pushing ourselves lyrically and especially on production side to make a quality project. We also hope that people see that we’re proudly representing the Ottawa hip-hop community because our scene doesn’t get enough credit for producing some very dope artists.”