A Great Time To Be Alive with Megaphono Round Two

All photos by Andre Gagne. 

“What a great time to be alive,” says Amanda Lowe as she strums a few notes on her guitar. If you are a music fan in Ottawa this week, those words couldn’t be more true. Lowe was taking the stage in the aptly named Pressed (due to its bunched together crowd) for the second Megaphono Festival.

The festival, taking place between February 2 to 5, is a celebration of the Ottawa-Gatineau/Eastern Ontario music scene.  And what a party! The amount of selection and styles is staggering. Five venues! 17 shows! Award winning vocalists, country twang, breezy folk, Indi Pop power chords, colorful hair and funky grooves and that was all just Wednesday!

Lowe, a Sri Lankan singer-songwriter from Charlottetown (with the amazing Twitter handle @BarryMandaLowe) was on a bill that included Danielle Allard and Michael Feuerstack.

“You can howl if you want,” she tells her attentive audience, and right on cue with the street light outside the window flicking to green, the crowd breaks into a cacophony of howls that travel out the door, weave around the clustered smokers outside and vanishes somewhere down Gladstone.

You could follow those howls to Little Italy and into Two Six {Ate} to find Justin Trudeau playing guitar with Julie Corrigan. Okay, not that Justin Trudeau but the duo, under the watchful eyes of Tom Waits, Alice Cooper and James Brown (in attendance via some artwork on the walls) served up some country and roots that would have all those famed musicians toe tapping. Corrigan, playing her first Megaphono, spoke fondly of her home in Shawville, Quebec before ending her set with the cut “Home” from her current album The Language, currently #1 on CKCU’s Top 50 Albums of 2015.

“You couldn’t wait to leave, couldn’t wait to roam / but you will come back / there’ll be a song pining for you,” she sang. Across town more songs awaited.

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Some from Pressed slid up the icy walkway to join the congregation clustered into the pews at St. Alban’s Church where Toronto’s Fiver (AKA: Simone Schmidt) took the stage. Awash only in blue light and the cast off from the EXIT signs, Schmidt’s voice sang out of the shadows. No Depression’s Justin Wesley described hearing it as “awesome and haunting, strong as oak but sanded with sublime vulnerability.”

The next dreamy and hypnotic act was Merganzer. Fronted by violinist Mika Posen (of Timber Timbre fame) this was dream music. Close your eyes and drift to the Mikatron, a string machine created by Posen herself featuring 90 different samples of the violin. If you missed the show, check out her album Mirror Maze and see what I mean.

Related: Speaking the Language with Julie Corrigan

With music reflecting his prairie roots, Andy Shauf ended the evening at. St. Alban’s. If all this wasn’t enough music for you, then you could head towards The Market where, at Zaphod’s the Riot Police caused a little musical disorder with the ever colorful Peptides over a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. Need more? Next door at the Dominion, Boyhood played to a packed house followed by Duchess Says, who ended the night sometime after one in the morning.

There’s still time to catch a slew of shows at Megaphono at venues like the ElmdaleThe Record CentreBabylon and more. Artists playing the fest’s last two days include Lynne HansonJack PineNoisy LocomotivePony Girl and more than 30 others!