Unlike Kaylee and Jess who both recently moved to Toronto, Catherine, Kate and I are in Ottawa, the city we’ve all called home for most of our lives. The familiarity that comes from living in the same city for many years is like a double-edged sword. On one hand, the comfort of knowing your surroundings like the back of your hand is an upside. However, there’s also the downside of feeling like you’re at the same places, with the same crowd all the time – that can be frustrating and leave you wanting more.
However, as Kate so graciously explained in her latest post, Ottawa has exciting events popping up all over the place…you just have to look for them. This is exactly how I felt when I attended Ottawa’s first ever Hip Hop Karaoke night.
Organized by DJ So Nice of Ottawa’s Philly Moves and hosted by MC Devin Atherton, when I first heard about this event, I could barely contain my excitement. For someone who (surprisingly…or not) has had an ongoing love affair with this music genre since my teens, I couldn’t wait to see performers take the stage and spit lyrics in the styles of some of my favorite artists. DJ So Nice told me that these types of events were hugely popular in the U.K. and that they had grown large followings in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. So, once befriending Atherton, the two decided that Ottawa deserved an event of it’s own.
It was held at a venue I had never been to before, Mugshots, the bar at the old Ottawa jail. Located at 75 Nicholas Street in the Byward Market, I knew that the jail (the location where many a soul was hung back in the day) had since been transformed into a hostel for travelers. What I didn’t know was that this event would be the breath of fresh air that I needed.
With stonewalls, trees growing and no ceiling, I definitely felt miles away from Ottawa. Actually, it felt like I was at an off-the-beaten-track place in Europe or Australia. The atmosphere was so relaxed. A small stage, small bar, picnic tables and stars overhead made for the perfect feel. The crowd was so diverse, and everyone was so supportive of the brave performers who took the stage.*
The dance floor was bumping as the crowd mouthed along the words (if they could keep up). Atherton acted as not only as a keeper of ceremonies, but also as a hype man and comedian. Mixed in between performances were DJ sets by So Nice, which kept the crowd moving.
Some notable highlights: one performer not only impressively rapped all three parts of Look At Me Now by Chris Brown, Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne in character. But dressed up as ALL. THREE. CHARACTERS. Also, two awesome guys got up and brought us Ante Up by MOP and literally made our night.
In a nutshell, we had a blast attending this event and can’t wait for it’s next installment. Being held one Thursday each month, HHKOT is definitely a must-attend event for the Ottawa chapter of inanutshell. You may (read: will) see us on stage next time around. The question is not whether we’ll perform, but WHAT we’ll perform. So much hip-hop, so little time.
*There are no lyric screens or prompters at this event. As they say, practice makes perfect. The next installment of HHKOT is being held on July 19th!