Ottawa’s coldest music festival and conference—Megaphono—has once again returned for its fifth year. Night one got off to a solid start over the bridge in Hull, QC, and my first destination of the evening was Le Troquet.

Sadly, I missed the first act Corey Gulkin, mostly due to the fact that I’m always late for everything. It’s a problem. I would be remiss to acknowledge her, though, as her dark experimental folk is worth a thorough listen. Her live show is equally compelling, and the crowd seemed nice and warmed up following her set as I walked in.

Sparklesaurus performing at Le Troquet during Megaphono. Photo by Els Durnford.

The place was packed. I mean, really packed. Music industry delegates from all over the world were in the house and the staff at Le Troquet did a great job at keeping up with the busy crowd. Sparklesaurus took the stage after some quick checks, all glittered-up for the big show. They approached the stage with their usual charm, caressing the audience’s ear drums with swells of jangled guitars from Felicity and sprinkles of keys from Shamisa. Brad held down the percussion and kept time with Colleen’s robust bass lines.

Delegates and weathered fans alike marveled at the performance, as the audience was shoulder to shoulder with smiles abound. The most die-hard fans up front gazed with affection as the band played their set. Sparklesaurus ended with the song “Angel Bread,” and as always, showed us why they’re one of Ottawa’s hidden gems that the world needs to see more of.

Marie-Clô performing at Le Troquet during Megaphono. Photo by Els Durnford.

We stuck around to see a few songs by headliner Marie-Clô, an incredible local musician who is making some waves in town as a Franco-Ontarien singer-songwriter. She had enlisted the help of another band that many music fans in Ottawa may know—members of Pony Girl. The chemistry was instantly visible on stage, as the long-time band played through Marie-Clô’s repertoire with ease and precision. Although there were a few technical issues throughout the set, her voice beautifully rose above any disturbance and locked in the audience’s attention throughout.

TEKE::TEKE performing at Minotaure during Megaphono. Photo by Els Durnford.

A few of us quickly wandered down the street to catch some performances at Minotaure, a place I had never been before and was thoroughly impressed with. The brick back wall of the stage and lush red lighting made this venue a visual eyegasm. The first band was Montreal’s TEKE::TEKE. The group began as an homage to renowned Japanese guitarist Takeshi “Terry” Terauchi, and contains a concoction of members from well-known Montreal projects such as Pawa Up First, Patrick Watson, Boogat, Gypsy Kumbia Orchestra and Dynamo Cleoptara. Terauchi himself was involved with Japan’s 60’s and 70’s garage rock scene, and has evolved into a legend of sorts. He transcended the boundaries of genre and became known for mixing traditional Japanese music with his own brand of ‘Group Sound’ rock and Ventures-like surf grooves.

In a similar way, TEKE::TEKE takes traditional structures and expectations of what surf rock sounds like and flips them. By fusing Japanese ‘Eleki’ with elements of modern music such as shoegaze, post-rock and noise, TEKE::TEKE approaches music in a confrontational way. And I mean this in the best way possible—it’s punishing, but feels good. Who knew masochism would be a part of the show?

All jokes aside, the seven-piece group knew how to translate their conception of music into emotion. They added layers and dimensions to surf rock that I didn’t even know existed—probably because I had never heard anything quite like this before.

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SATE performing at Minotaure in Hull at Megaphono. Photo by Els Durnford.

The last set of the night was SATE, and I was taken by surprise by her performance. Imagine Tina Turner and Jack White got together and started a band. That was SATE, and it was awesome. She forged rock and roll with blues and soul, holding nothing back on stage. Her band was as diverse as it was talented, as crunchy guitar and gritty bass lines penetrated our chests. With her blonde braided hair swinging behind her, SATE’s performance was nothing short of theatrical. A natural in the spotlight, her black lips and risqué attire all contributed to the overall impact her music had. Although there were some technical difficulties with the vocal mic, the group overcame and delivered.

It was encouraging to see such diverse acts take the stage on Thursday night in Hull, and if last night was any indicator, this festival is going to be a memorable one.

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