This is Raw Vol. One: Four songwriters, One stage

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It may have been 4/20, but these four local singer songwriters were not blowing smoke at Avant Garde.

Kevin N. Hell, Keturah Johnson, Eve Chamberland and Ted Shehan took the stage amidst wall to wall World War II era Russian posters, Russian beers (Baltika is amazing), Vodka and delicious martinis.

Dubbed a punk rock singer songwriter circle, all four sat on stage taking turns playing a great mix of original pieces and covers.  They fed off each others’ energy, laughing and trying not to be too intimidated by the talent of the previous performer. I have never been to an event like this, but it was really wonderful with the ever changing sounds and voices.  It was like seeing four concerts at once, so I decided that the best strategy was to give them each a paragraph in the write up.

First off let us start with the brains behind the operation, the organizer, Kevin. N. Hell. A veteran of the Ottawa scene, having played in local punk rock bands such as C.R.B, Tonk & The Honkys and The Unremarkablesh, had a very bluesy folk sound to his original songs and quite the interesting voice. I really liked his original blues piece based loosely on his current task of planning a wedding.  He did covers ranging from Mojo Nixon’s “Are You Drinkin’ With Me Jesus?” to punk rockers The Deadboys’ “All this and More.”

To Kevin’s right, was Keturah Johnson.  Her soulful passionate rock is beautifully complemented by her powerful voice. She played a great mix of originals, including the touching “Boy with no care” and covers, which was highlighted by the very dark and moving “Waiting Around to Die,” by Townes Van Zandt. If this sounds like someone you want to see, and it is trust me, you can check her out today (Sunday April 21) at the Hintonburg Public House.

Up next in the rotation was Eve Chamberland, of the recently defunct celtic-punk band The Beer Barons.  Eve did not to follow suit with everyone else who had guitars, she played her songs on a banjo. The banjo gave her a more of a bluegrass and folk sound. Her original songs were very story-like, one of which was about her kind of creepy love obsession for Stephen Colbert. Eve mentioned “I should not have sat beside Keturah, tough to follow her up every time around.” But, Eve held her own very well and had a lot of fun with her covers.  Playing Camper Van Beethoven’s “Take the Skinheads Bowling,” “Fancey Beers” by The Two Man Gentleman Band and The Hives “Wait a Minute Now,” was my favourite by Eve.

Last but definitely not least, was late addition Ted Shehan of the local band the Chicken Bangers.  Ted has energy, a lot of it, and his constant foot pounding had Kevin jokingly mention that “we have our new Stompin’ Tom.” Joining Ted at the front of the stage was the rest of the Chicken Bangers who brought a long a guitar and a shaker to support their fearless leader through his songs. His originals had a punky high tempo country twang to them.  For his covers Ted played an Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ song and best of all, in honour of 4/20 played Dylan’s classic “The Times they are a Changing,” which got the other three on stage to jump in for the first time.  They may have stumbled through that cover, but their energy carried it.

All in all it was a great night and an awesome showcase to help discover local talent.  I am very much looking forward to volume two.

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