Photo by Elizabeth Durnford/Ottawa Showbox
Setting Wednesday’s Megaphono stage at St Alban’s, a relatively dark room with a single blue light filling the stage. A lighting arrangement that makes photos difficult for anyone, I was nervous I would spend the night consumed. I put my camera away. As the first artist started off the night, Simone Schmidt, also known as Fiver, brought with her detailed lyrics, telling stories as her voice reached all corners of the room. Well received by the filling house, the crowd listened intently to her set and the stories within her lyrics.
The stage was quickly turned over to Merganzer. Comprised of four musicians, instruments included a short keyboard and a violin giving way to many possibilities. Increased lighting made photographers hopeful, but I chose to leave my camera off for the most part and take in whatever Merganzer had to offer. Their continuous sound, as well as contrasting bass and harmonies left the audience in a trance. Having previously heard the headliner, the parallels between these artists were hard to miss. Carefully crafted lyrics, combined sounds made for an evening of core-shaking music.
Andy Shauf’s music holds an element of what I can best describe as a deep and poetic sadness. His carefully chosen lyrics paired with his soft-spoken demeanor give his music a cold radiance that vibrates deep into the audience. In addition to his haunting, yet hopeful stage presence, he brought with him a mixture of new songs that will be released on his upcoming album, and songs found on his The Bearers of Bad News album. For anyone who considers themselves to be avid Andy fans, they may have noticed connection between these new songs, and his earlier Darker Days album, or maybe that was just me.
He played to the now overflowing house, all there to see him, made clear when he played favourites and the large crowd was consumed by silence. He kept his conversations with the audience to a minimum, only giving hints to what his new work was inspired by, “here’s a song about dying and getting trapped in your body,” said Shauf. Slightly morbid, poetic, and beautiful, but Shauf brings it all together, leaving the audience longing with anticipation for his next album release.
At the beginning of the night I chose to keep my photography to a minimum. To take in what each of the artists had created without getting caught up in what minimal theatrics were taking place. It was clear that these particular artists were careful with their words, creating the theatrics within the stories and imagery given to the audience. Something not easily captured on camera.
Writer’s note: Despite efforts by many, it was not made clear if Andy Shauf was able to find a Burger King in Ottawa to enjoy a Whopper.