by Michael Thomas
Thursday night had a whole lot going on, but took some effort to find the gems.
My night started at the Cadillac Lounge where James Irwin performed solo. Though the venue was small, the crowd was respectful and engaged Irwin’s surreal stage banter. With his acoustic guitar, Irwin played through five songs, each with the rich lyrics that define his songwriting. “Pink Noise” painted a beautiful, serene picture but he later switched gears with “Crystal Johnny,” a seething song about writer’s block and not loving music that everyone else did.
I got to Handlebar for the last two songs by Jill Zmud, who played quiet folk songs along with an electric guitar and upright bass player. Her tranquil songs seemed right at home in the intimate venue. She was the first part of the Megaphono showcase, highlighting acts from the Ottawa area.
Bluegrass outfit Jack Pine and the Fire were up next, bringing songs about money, the environment and going home to the stage. The band charmed with some pleasant vocal harmonies and fast-strumming style.
A song about the pursuit of money was a particular highlight, as was their environmental song “Make Up or Break Up.” They ended with “Lone Wolf, ” which used a series of clever metaphors to explain why being a wolf is the best thing to do.
The end of my night belonged to Hull, Quebec’s Scattered Clouds, who promptly brought about ten times the noise that the previous acts did. Part of that came from the absolutely mountain of keyboards, samplers and more all operated by Mike Dubue, while Philippe Charbonneau brought the bass and deep vocals. Jamie Kronick added to the noise with drums.
Playing all six songs from The First Empire, they began with the bass groove of “People Talk” before leading into the creepy “Enchanteresse.” After “Fallen,” they took a bit of a break with “Floating Underwater,” and just like in the album, it was the only moment of reprieve from their colossal wall of sound. “Deepest Night” was heavy, but “The First Empire” was absolutely crushing, and it was immensely satisfying to see the band relish every single note, even as a CMW official tried to get them to wrap it up.
I have no doubt the Yips probably brought the night to a close on a high note.