Day four of Megaphono wrapped up with a jam-packed lineup at Hull’s Axeneo7 art gallery. Online tickets for the show had already been sold out for a week and at 10 o’clock, an hour and a half before the first band was to go on, it was announced that tickets at the door were sold out as well. From 11:30 until 2:00 am the crowded gallery housed some of the best acts we had seen this week.
The night kicked off with a rousing set from Toronto artist, Michael Rault, accompanied by a three-piece band who’s infectious jams were a harmonious balance of psychedelic infused pop hooks quickly drew in the gathering crowd. They opened their set with “Real Love,” a comfortable bass-driven track punctuated with well-timed drum fills. As they played on, I couldn’t help but feel that their sound was a perfect combination of Tame Impala’s bass lines and Young Rival’s hooks, especially on their second last song, “Too Bad So Sad.” Michael wrapped up the set with a soulful bluesy guitar solo and the band finished with a coordinated bang.
Across the hall, Darlene Shrugg didn’t waste any time getting started, as the five member art-rock outfit quickly busted into raucous jam. The eclectic group, which included members of Ice Cream, U.S. Girls and Slim Twig, who would later close out the night with a DJ set, played their first track, “Inherit” with restrained intensity. It was clear that all of the members were personally invested in the music, and they finished with a coordinated flourish. This was mirrored by the crowd. Some die-hard fans were immediately dancing and signing along. Through the next few tracks the band played to their strengths, namely the contrast between the singing voices of each member, minus the drummer, who certainly made up for it with her intensity behind the kit. Each song was an interesting mix of discordant and familiar chord progressions and piercing vocals, finishing with “First World Blues.”
Back in the lobby, Hull’s very own Scattered Clouds drifted into their first brooding experimental number. The crowd was immediately drawn to their pulsing and, at times, pummeling synths, which effectively created an ominous psychedelic atmosphere. At this point, the venue was at full capacity with standing room only as the three-piece drove on in an impressive display of multi-instrumentalism, syncopation and controlled noise. Driving bass lines and interesting hypnotic rhythms from the percussionist succeed in creating a macabre soundscape of reverb that matched the red lighting as the band worked their way through most of the tracks from their latest record, The First Empire.
Even before Scattered Clouds had finished, people started filling into the larger room across the hall in preparation for local favourites and headliners, New Swears. You could see quite a few New Swears t-shirts in the crowd as they waited patiently in front of red and green backlit signs sporting the band’s name. Right away the band busted into a quick rendition of “Day Dreaming,” from their latest album Junkfood Forever, Bedtime Whatever. Underneath a flurry of confetti a mosh pit was already underway, and by mid way into the second song there was already a broken mic stand and crowd surfing as the crowd sang along and danced with reckless, but friendly, abandon. This continued and amplified throughout the rest of the set as they played through favourites “Two Darts,” “Stay Gold,” and the requisite “See You In Hull.” The show climaxed with the family-friendly “No Fun,” which soon had the whole crowd singing “I’d rather be fucked than be myself” over and over again while the band formed an impressive human pyramid as they played their instruments. For a very accurate representation of the atmosphere at this show, check out the end of the video for “Stay Gold,” linked below.
With the walls sweating and the oxygen levels in the room severely depleted from all of the people occupying such a small space, people went in search of a much-needed breather. Many preceded outside to a welcome bonfire under the stars while others visited the bar as US Girls and Slim Twig started their DJ set to wind down the night. All in all, it was a fantastic way to end a sincerely enjoyable, but exhausting week.
In its second year running, MEGAPHONO has upped the ante and significantly expanded its scope and size. The festival, which takes place February 2–5, 2016, brings industry professionals to Ottawa and gives local artists and delegates the rare opportunity to connect with those who are working in the music business.
Last year saw the release of the Connecting Ottawa Music report on the city’s status in the music industry, which presented some revelations about the challenges Ottawa faces with respect to its lack of music infrastructure and connectedness to the wider industry in Canada and North America. We at Showbox were very proud to contribute to this report by providing important data on 2014 album releases.
This unprecedented report not only outlined the barriers that are preventing Ottawa from moving forward as a “music city,” but it also offered a glimmer of hope by providing recommendations and a strategy based on core principles. One of the most critical recommendations from the report reads as follows [p.65]:
3. Connect Ottawa’s music community to the global music industry.
Advocate for Ottawa’s music community at national institutions
Facilitate exchanges with more prominent music clusters
Lead delegations to trade shows and festivals (e.g. MIDEM, SXSW)
Promote Ottawa’s music cluster to outsiders
MEGAPHONO is doing something that has never really been done in Ottawa before. Not only are the organizers tirelessly reaching out to important industry personalities in places like Toronto, Montreal, Los Angeles, New York City, and London (UK), but they are actually bringing them to Ottawa over the course of the festival. This affords Ottawa artists the opportunity to have an audience with the people that might be able to advance their careers – or at least get on their radar. This includes booking agents, record labels, music publishers, film/TV music supervisors, managers, publicists, and more. Like any other business, music is about connecting with the right people, and just as the report recommends, Ottawa needs to bring industry personnel together so that coalescence can happen.
“MEGAPHONO is about getting the right people in the room to see our artists,” says festival director Jon Bartlett. “The best way to tell the story of Ottawa music is to drag industry folks here to see and hear it for themselves. If we put our best artists on stage with key music people in the room, I’m confident good things will happen.”
Attendees will enjoy four solid days of music, with all performances open to the public. Over those four days, 60 artists will be performing in Ottawa at various locations, 47 of which are local acts.
Noted music critic and author Jessica Hopper (MTV, Pitchfork) will kick things off at the launch on Tuesday, February 2nd with a keynote speech at St. Alban’s Church; MEGAPHONO will also screen a film this year called Terminal Device, directed by Ross Turnbull, edited by U.S. Girls‘ Meg Remy and with music composed by Slim Twig.
Additional panels and networking opportunities with industry reps are available to those purchasing a delegate pass. Fan festival passes are $50; delegate passes run for $100. Both are available at http://www.megaphono.tv/passes/.
Highlights of this year’s festival include:
MEGAPHONO Meltdown — MEGAPHONO after party in Hull, QC at AXENÉO7
PANELS — daytime talks focusing on music industry-related topics and conversations focused on our local music community
FREE SHOWCASES — Wednesday & Thursday afternoon showcases in the Centretown & Hintonburg neighbourhoods
Over 30 visiting delegates from LA, NYC, London (UK), Toronto & Montreal
Tuesday, February 2nd
4:00 – 6:30pm
MEGAPHONO FESTIVAL OFFICIAL LAUNCH
w/ keynote by JESSICA HOPPER
@ ST ALBANS CHURCH Event Link
THE ACORN / EMILIE & OGDEN / PIPAHAUNTAS
@ ST ALBANS CHURCH Event Link
THE VISIT / HEAVY BEDROOM / NOVEMBER @ BLACK SQUIRREL BOOKS