New talent abounded at the 2017 Megaphono Music Festival in Ottawa (pics/review)
The third annual Megaphono Festival took place at the beginning of February in Ottawa, Canada. We sent contributor Dominick Mastrangelo back again this year to check it out. His *slightly* belated pictures from the snowy fest, which focuses on emerging talent, are in the gallery above and day-by-day reports are below.
Day 1 – February 1, 2017
The third installment of the Megaphono music festival took place earlier this month in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. This budding local and regional music industry event, following the ‘panels by day, showcase by night’ format, brought in delegates from across North America and as far as Iceland and England.
The first night’s showcases began where last year’s festival wrapped up – across the Ottawa River in the Quebec city of Hull. I spent the night bouncing between two venues – the DIY space Le Temporaire, and the dimly lit cabaret bar, Le Petit Chicago. At the former, I caught lo-fi hazy pop from Pippa, a solo artist I’d seen open the festival last year (then billed as Pipahauntas.) She was followed by the assured soulfulness of Un Blonde – the project of Montreal’s Jean-Sebastien Audet. The night finished with Toronto-based, Colombian-born Lido Pimienta who sang socially conscious songs and danced with frenetic abandon over electronic beats with Latin and African inflections.
Over at La Petit Chicago I caught a bit of Lucila Al Mar‘s engaging set of solo acoustic folks songs before seeing a solid set of straight-up pop from Malak. The songs served mainly as a backdrop to her powerful pop-star-ready voice which was the real showpiece of the set.
The night finished back in Ottawa for a raucous, late-into-the-night session of karaoke at Umi Cafe presented by Meg Remy of U.S. Girls.
Day 2 – February 2, 2017
“When the snow falls at such ease / comfortably at my feet” – Cedric Noel
With big, fluffy snowflakes falling outside, the second day of music at Megaphono in Ottawa started early with cafe-performance spaces Pressed and Bar Robo presenting an afternoon complement of easy-on-the-ears artists.
At Pressed I caught a bit of Mark Fossen‘s solid folk songs, with lovely vocal and violin accompaniment from Annie Martel before heading over to Bar Robo where Cedric Noel already had the crowded space hanging on his effortless tenor and a gently strummed electric guitar. I was sucked in as well, won over in seconds. I stuck around Bar Robo to catch the duo Best Fern’s minimalist, atmospheric compositions built around the fragile, whispery vocals of Alexia Avina.
From there it was back to Pressed to catch Snowblink’s Dan Misha Goldman‘s excellent acoustic set featuring songs from his upcoming solo release Champion of the Afterworld.
Following a delegate beach party-themed mixer, it was off to Dominion Tavern to see the fuzzy-rock of the appropriately named duo Expanda Fuzz before decamping to Barrymore’s Music Hall, an old theater-turned-performance hall with old school charm. The heavily anticipated bill featuring Montreal’s I.D.A.L.G., Sackville, New Brunswick’s Partner, and local punk heroes New Swears served as the perfect antidote to any stuffiness the venue (and it’s somewhat uptight staff) may have imbued.
I.D.A.L.G., a sextet, were scuzzy psych-rock excellence. Partner, the duo of Josée Caron and Lucy Niles, were a fun blend of power-pop and arena rock showmanship (Caron, in particular, was repeatedly atop a monitor, sporting Harry Potter glasses and wielding a double neck guitar.) Already tapped in Canada for bigger things, their anthems about Ellen Page and getting high, mixed with their between-song banter with an adoring crowd, made for one of the most enjoyable sets of the festival.
Having seen New Swears last year in an art space at the Megaphono closing party, I was wondering if — in a much bigger space — the band would be able to maintain the level of insanity and intensity I had witnessed almost a year ago.
That wonder was whisked away in an opening salvo of silly string, shiny confetti, ferocious mosh pit and crowdsurfing; proper punk spectacle. All four members, clad in sunglasses, mugged and played to the crowd below them, not those further back and higher up the venue.
Later in the set, a Megaphono banner that had been standing innocently at the back of the stage all night was unceremoniously sacrificed to the crowd, which duly mangled it. The banner was followed instantly by another in a procession of stage divers, much to the dismay of the security guards, who ultimately gave up trying to shepherd people from the stage.
DAY 3 – February 3, 2017
The final day of Megaphono started over at Record Centre where I caught two excellent sets by melodic garage rockers Mushy Gushy, and Coastal Pigs.
The Bonsound showcase at House of Common followed, featuring soft-singing acts Beyries and Safia Nalin, which bookended the dancy electro-pop of Montreal’s Geoffroy.
Next, I dashed over to the Gallery Recording Studio to catch Claude Munson. Discovering Cedric Noel the day before was how I felt about discovering Munson at last year’s Megaphono. His otherwise winning set marred by an intermittent front-door alarm/bell that nobody could seem to disable.
A leisurely walk across the bridge — as ice-skaters commuted in the dark below via the frozen Rideau Canal — to the final stops of the night: Black Squirrel Books, its downstair space, PDA, and next door neighbor, House of TARG.
At Black Squirrel Books I caught the earnest indie-pop of Lonely Parade, and the quirky-fun, raucous punk of Bonnie Doon. Downstairs at PDA was Trails, Allie O’Manique’s beguiling vocals backed by slight, dreamy electric guitars.
To cap the evening, and the festival, it was over to House of TARG to catch Petra Glynt, the solo project of operatically-trained vocalist Alexandra Mackenzie. It was an energetic set as Mackenzie drummed and danced below a glittery disco ball and pinballs machines that line the inside of the venue, her deep enchanting voice soaring easily over backing beats and programmed blips.
Words & photos by Dominick Mastrangelo