Megaphono fest day 4 pics/review: New Swears, Michael Rault, Valois, Isaac Vallentin & more
New Swears / Valois / Isaac Vallentin @ Megaphono 2/5/2016
Where did the time go? One second we were watching The Acorn perform in a church, the next we found ourselves in an art space across the river in the province of Quebec - the city, Hull - watching the New Swears throw a full-on punk rock show in our faces.
My last day of Megaphono in Ottawa, a cold, pristine winter day, and I finally took some time to check out a bit of the city. A short walk from the Hotel Indigo to Parliament Hill, I wandered along the grounds for a bit taking pictures, before venturing over the still-skaterless canal to Major's Hill Park and up Mackenzie Blvd to the National Gallery of Canada.
The festival part of the day began a few hours later in Gatineau with performances at Zibi, the onetime home of a now abandoned industrial paper mill. A sprawling complex that's slated to be turned into a multi-phase "city within a city" development.
As people mingled in the welcome center, some of us went on the Secret Mill Tour Sound Experience, which quite simply was the most magical experience of the festival. "Catnip for photographers," I said at one point of being allowed to walk around such a massive, abandoned structure and make pictures.
But the magical part was getting to see two very special performances by Isaac Vallentin and Her Harbour who were set up in separate parts of the mill. We reached Vallentin first and crowded around him to hear a couple of songs. He, lit by a half circle of industrial flashlights with a stack of the mill's colorful industrial pipes to his left. His voice reminded me a lot of Bob Schneider with the same knack for heartfelt songwriting.
From there we were led further into the mill, up some stairs and came to Gabrielle Giguere, who goes by the moniker Her Harbour, sitting in a chair on a large concrete circle with paper lanterns encircling her. She sang a couple haunting and beautiful songs accompanied by just an autoharp.
Back inside the welcome center I caught the eager and endearing, synthpop band Valois. A little rough around the edges, you get the feeling in a couple years they'll gel into a solid pop band. After that was francophone singer, Yao, who had one of the most energetic, passionate sets of the festival. A mixture of hip-hop entertainer and R&B crooner with a range of genres including funk, reggae and blues, it was a brilliant set that spread feel-good vibes all around.
Before spending the rest of the night in Hull, I dashed back into Ottawa to catch solid sets by folk troubadours Jack Pine, and Chris Page at Bridgehead Roastery.
And then it was back into Hull and over to Le Gainsbourg to see experimental jazz band Saxsyndrum, a -- yes, you guessed it -- sax and drum duo brimming with processed beats and moody effects running amok. Not entirely my thing but the entire place was packed and loving every second of it.
On my way to the closing party I stopped by Le Troquet to see catchy rock-pop outfit, Saint Clare. Seven of them crowded onto a tiny stage they played a blistering set with sweaty barroom bravado.
The final stop of the night and the festival was the art gallery/residency/workshop space AXENÉO7. Michael Rault and his band started things off with an assured set of hooky psych-pop. About midway through his set I encountered some technical difficulties with my gear. And by technical difficulties I mean I managed to leave my hotel without spare batteries for my camera. So, a quick, unexpected roundtrip back to my hotel in Ottawa caused me to miss Darlene Shrugg. But I made it back in time for the start of Scattered Clouds' dark, bruising minimalist rock.
The final band of the night in another part of the gallery was New Swears and this was the most unabashed, punk-rock show of the festival. Confetti, moshing, crowdsurfing, camera strobes going off everywhere... it was mental, it was loud, it was epic. The band was in the crowd, the crowd swayed very close to the stage. It was the perfect way to end the festival. There were DJ sets by U.S. Girls and Slim Twig to take festival revelers deep into the night, but I opted to sign off on a high note with a painfully early flight back to New York looming a few hours away.