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Megaphono set to give industry peeps an insider's look at Ottawa's sonic side

Music festival aims to give Ottawa bands a boost

The Hilotrons' Mike Dubue presents a Chamber Feast for Megaphono Feb. 3 at the St. Alban's Church alongside the likes of Socalled, Thomas Annand and Pemi Paull, among others.


The Hilotrons' Mike Dubue presents a Chamber Feast for Megaphono Feb. 3 at the St. Alban's Church alongside the likes of Socalled, Thomas Annand and Pemi Paull, among others.

It hasn’t taken that long for Jon Bartlett’s Megaphono showcase festival to bear the kind of fruit he wants Ottawa bands to feast on.

Just over a year after launching the first Megaphono festival in 2015, Ottawa garage punks New Swears were signed to Dine Alone Records, and a subsequent 7-inch release ensued with new album promised for 2017.

If you backtrack from the band’s success, it will lead you all the way back to 2016, when New Swears closed out the festival in mad style, as they normally do.

“Last year they closed it down and I think made a big impression with a lot of the folks that were here,” says Megaphono Director Jon Bartlett. One of those people standing at the back of the room, bobbing to the crazy Ottawa party band, was Craig Laskey from the legendary Horseshoe in Toronto. A couple of minutes later, he was texting Dine Alone founder Joel Carrier about this wicked Ottawa band he had to check out.

“That kind of started the wheels in motion,” adds Bartlett.

“New Swears went down and played Canadian Music Week, they closed down the Horseshoe and they did a west coast show and played in LA and one of the Dine Alone guys came out and saw them there. That led to them getting signed and they’ve got a manager now. It’s great. I think it’s encouraging.”

That’s the whole idea behind Bartlett’s Megaphono Festival: bring the industry peeps to Ottawa and we’ll wow them with our sonic voice. It worked with New Swears, and with the Ottawa talent pool starting to flood over, it will likely happen more and more.

What makes this festival unique aside from the hyper local focus that sees even the headliners hailing from the national capital region, is the industry side of things, where Bartlett and crew bring in some of the world’s top music gurus for insightful talks aimed at helping Ottawa bands break out of the basement.

There will be speed meetings, networking sessions and industry talks led by PR firms, critics, producers, and festival directors, including Iceland Airwaves Festival Director Grímur Atlason, who has transformed Iceland into a humming artistic hub of local shenanigans for four days every November.

But it’s the way in which he does it. There are no record sales or Billboard chart stats that go into building an eclectic Airwaves lineup.

“He doesn’t care that much if a band is super popular or whatever the hype is,” adds Bartlett.

“It’s all built around really great, interesting artists, and Iceland itself has amazing musicians and artists.”

It's similar to Ottawa in that regard, and if you look at Megaphono's stacked local lineup for its third edition running, you'll believe me.

Along with New Swears, Megaphono has billed up Constantines frontman Bry Webb, Ottawa “rowdy” kids The Steve Adamyk Band, Hilotron's head Mike Dubue, as well as Pony Girl, Scattered Clouds and Ottawa spy soundtrack sultans The Reverb Syndicate, among many others.

These local bands won't just be playing shows to industry big wigs who can give them the valuable knowledge and tools for success in the biz, but they'll also be able to connect with similar artists, floating in similar rafts –  all trying to navigate into the same speedy, competitive current.

 “We also wanted to partner up some artists  with like-minded artists from outside of the city. Part of it as well is to try to make new connections with bands, not just industry people. And I think we have tried to push the idea of Ottawa bands going to Toronto or going to Montreal to play.

There will be close to 40 people sitting on several panels throughout the weekend festival, including Friendly Fire Recordings' Dan Koplowitz, Matt Sonzala from Austin's SXSW and Carla Gillis, music Editor at NOW Magazine, among others.

Megaphono runs Feb. 1-3 at various venues throughout the city. Check out the festival's website at

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