Photos by Ming Wu/Photogmusic
The evening of February 2nd saw the launch of Ottawa’s greatest mid-winter festival, Megaphono. Following an opening keynote speech from Jessica Hopper earlier in the afternoon, St. Alban’s Church hosted the fest’s inaugural musical performances, featuring Pipahauntas, Emile & Ogden, and The Acorn.
First on stage was Pipahauntas, who delivered an earnest set of vocals over jazzy, schizophrenic beats constructed from eerie samples, and hints of what sounded like R2-D2 [sorry, Star Wars fixation].
The vocalist donned a twinkling top, her hair a lunar-purple in the dim glow of the blue lighting; fittingly, this bedroom R&B sounded like the future. Dreamy melodies transported the audience to the outer reaches of our solar system, drawing us through the Oort Cloud and into the Milky Way. Powerful bass grooves pounded from underneath St. Alban’s large gothic arch, which pointed like the nose of a NASA rocket heading to the moon, blasting off with resonant vibrations in the bulky wooden pews beneath our bodies.
Pipahauntas closed her performance with a new song, which conveyed a solemn vocal hook delivered over a beat like something from an atmospheric Snoop Dogg album. This performance is what I imagine Chris Hadfield listened to on SpacePop Radio -101.7 AM while he secretly re-populated Mars.
It was strangely satisfying to be pulled back to planet earth so swiftly by Emilie and her beautiful, wooden bandmate Ogden, who filled the great stone building with angelic music. That’s right, Ogden is the harp.
Emilie & Ogden’s set was seemingly flawless; its magnificence augmented by the natural reverberation in the high-roofed church. Her playing was robotic, as bass notes rang confidently like the stomping of your dominant foot, while plucked melodies twinkled and swirled like stars in the night sky, except they were right here, fifteen feet from some of our noses, dancing just like they do twelve thousand light-years away.
Part-way through her set, Emilie jumped into a melancholy rendition of Taylor Swift’s “Style”, turning the pulsating pop-song into a pensive folk tune. Later, her song “10,000” was blissfully mournful, as the singer’s voice tumbled and cascaded over sparkling harp crescendos.
Lastly, hometown heroes The Acorn took the stage, lead by frontman Rolf Klausener. Their performance consisted of many songs from their sleepily-euphoric album Vieux Loup, which translated extremely well into live performance.
This set opened calmly, but quickly escalated into a wonderfully-roaring entity, like a burning fire — full and warm and lighting our faces. At this point, fragments of light danced across the chapel ceiling like shooting stars, adding to this cosmic evening. The Acorn’s music was thick and mellow, with luxuriant keys and steadfast vocals echoing above an unobtrusive rhythm section. A highlight of their set was the rather upbeat song “Misplaced”, which caught the attention of the seated audience and caused heads to nod.
Listening to The Acorn in the vast, wood-adorned St. Alban’s Church paralleled being in a log cabin, in the dead of winter, with a lover/with a broken heart. Meanwhile, in the dead of this winter, music-lovers in Ottawa rejoiced for the kick-off of Megaphono, and this astral Tuesday evening’s performances were well worth rejoicing for.