By Owen Maxwell
While most loyal music fans in Ottawa don’t subscribe to the myth that Ottawa is a boring city, it’s hard to argue that the local industry can’t match the support of neighbours like Montreal or Toronto. That’s where festival organizer Jon Bartlett said Megaphono is trying to make a difference.
“Instead of having bands go to these showcases to get their music seen, we wanted to bring the industry here to make opportunities for them,” said Bartlett. “It’s a way for us to help a lot of bands in a short amount of time rather than our label work which is the reverse.”
What started as a simple way to pitch music to film and television projects is now a haven for bands to learn how to navigate the business side of the industry.
“We’re going to have close to 40 industry people, from international festivals as well, making it our biggest year yet,” said Bartlett. “We’re excited to see what comes of it.”
Organizing panels for artists this year wasn’t as straightforward as previous years however.
“Now there’s so many panels happening all the time, we’re trying to present things in a new way,” said Bartlett. “We want to talk about the notion of showcase festivals, and making bands export ready, as well as educating bands on funding and how to fill out applications to get their music licensed.”
Over 50 artists are playing this year including New Swears, Petra Glynt, Pony Girl, Novusolis and more. The festival is even including artists from Toronto and Montreal.
“We want to build networks between bands as well as industry people,” said Bartlett.
The fest is also creating staggered sets between nearby venues like Zaphod’s and The Dominion, as well as House of Targ, Black Squirrel Books, and PDA projects, creating what Bartlett calls mini-fests within neighbourhoods.
Piggybacking on the momentum of the upcoming Juno’s in Ottawa, Megaphono is looking to bolster even more great exports out of Ottawa, and repeat past success.
“We want to make more stories like New Swears whose set last year got them picked up by Dine Alone,” he said.
Megaphono takes place February 1-3 2017, for a full list of artists and venues visit megaphono.tv.
Bonnie Doon (Ottawa) :
Bonnie Doon bring surf-rock back to life with the right balance of antics and premeditation. While two drummers is becoming a common occurrence in rock, Bonnie Doon is still one of the only bands to rock two bass players in the same band, giving them an intensely deep and heavy sound that will shake your whole body before you even start dancing.
Their mix of sludgy, lo-fi beach noise may sound frantic and rough but there’s a lot more to their music than just raw energy. Songs like “Hot Dinosaur” give fresh commentary on dirty old men who creep on women and their hit “Pizza Shark” has immortalized one of Centretown’s most infamous places with catchy glory. Bonnie Doon blur the lines between fuzzy party-rock and politically charged punk without ever beating their listeners over the head.
The band is a force of nature live, ripping through songs with reckless abandon. They’ll preview new material while bouncing frantically around the stage, screaming into their microphones with the electricity of a lightning storm. Unique in the most entertaining of ways, the gang from Bonnie Doon turn every show into a party but make no mistake, they’re always running the show.
Un Blonde (Gatineau/Montreal):
Jean-Sebastien Audet, better known by his stage name Un Blonde, crafts brilliantly complex and rich soundscapes mixing elements of 70s classic rock with more modern and experimental composition and producing techniques. Layering vocals seemingly endlessly along with subdued guitar lines and scratching percussion, tracks stray from soft slow-jams to bustling funk-infused tracks mixing drone composition with additive layering. On his latest record Good Will Come To You Audet runs the gamut of his different sounds, taking a Bon Iver style and making it something completely unheard of before. Throughout there’s an overpowering sense of melody and groove that permeates the entire record, always adding something to the mesh of sound every few seconds.
Surprisingly, Audet is able to translate most of his complex writing into a live setting with only a few layers falling away after the advantages of the studio are stripped away. Audet and company bring the music alive, taking the abrasive energy of the record and feeding into it aggressively on stage. The synergy required to keep his complex compositions breathing is overtaken as the band go even further to improvise adding a whole new dimension to the songs live.
Scary Bear Soundtrack (Cambridge Bay, Nunavut/Ottawa):
At one point Scary Bear Soundtrack was one of the world’s Northernmost indie bands in the world, performing out of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut while singer Gloria Guns was working there. After some time writing an album over email with Avid Napper, the band transferred back to Ottawa and has been here for the past few years.
Their music mixes lighter and guitar fused indie rock with light touches of synths to songs that navigate the waters of synth-driven music. Moving from dance jams to powerfully pensive shoegaze tracks the band goes into deeper, dreamy songs as well, taking listeners on a sonic journey. Lyrics cleverly mix in the classic and accessible motifs of love and friendship with concepts related to their time in the north with tracks like the “The Longest Night” mixing ideas of dark emotional times with the everlasting dark of the north.
The band use some pre-recorded tracks live to fill out their dense sound and give their audience the full experience of their songs. Their show will make you dance, sing, think and fall into the depths of your own mind as they stretch their musicianship to its limits to bring their music alive.
Ottawa-based hip-hop collective Blakdenim manage to hit so many genres, it’s almost a misnomer to simply call them a hip-hop band. With touches of funk, rock, and soul the band are truly the full package, mixing in the essence of each sound before including more superficial elements from each. With their massive sound ranging from core instruments to trumpet and flute the band bring a truly unique sound to their brass-infused hip-hop, with enough jazz influence to make every track as dynamic instrumentally as they are vocally between the powerful mix of singing and rapping. Rhythms and melodies contagious, tones inviting, beats that will move your feet and lyrics that will move you emotionally, the band offers everything you’re looking for in its layered sound.
When taking a stage Blakdenim’s sheer numbers push the performance higher than your typical hip hop outfit. With their brass members covering multiple instruments and vocals, vocalists taking the sonic reach into the stratosphere, and emcee work by Precise Kenny Creole that meshes audience interaction with pushing the strongest performances out of the band. Needless to say this is one of those bands that just need to be seen to be believed with stories from their shows being passed around every time they play, becoming legends of the Ottawa scene in their own right.
One of the more subtle performers coming to the festival, November mixes an R&B soul into some deeply intricate electronic and synth heavy compositions, with some truly stirring vocals.
Going from almost minimalistic levels of intricacy to ethereal, reverb-laden echo chambers the music has an overpowering quality to it and distinctly moving in its emotional weight, letting the vocals push that even further lyrically and with their own moonlight, dark neon melodies.
Tracks range from a lighter electronic fun to cinema scoring beauty with the killer melodies and top notch production meeting in the middle for some absolutely devastating music that works on every level. His music explores the issues of young adult life through his magnifying glass and personal lens, diving into themes of homosexuality, human emotion, and a darker side of adulthood for music that cuts to the core of our modern being.
November mixes in his theatrical background into his live show bringing his songs to life and giving an exciting yet emotionally driving performances that will hit you in all the right places and leave you wanting more.