By Jill Krajewski
On a sunny Sunday afternoon outside Ottawa’s City Hall, you could hear the ocean.
No water was necessary, just the skillful blend of sounds and sea-themed lyrics of Claude Munson and The Storm Outside. Layering trumpet with thundering bass, chiming guitars and the crescendo of drums, the local alt-folk group gave Jazzfest’s OLG stage a captivating sonic landscape that swelled and faded like the tide.
Strapped in an acoustic guitar with a deep blue shirt, Claude himself opened their set with a solo version of “Driftwood” from their 2012 self-titled LP. It’s easy to see why Munson is a figure at Mugshots Jail Hostel open mic nights – his melancholy, yet driven picking patterns and urgent nasal voice inspire thoughts of Neil Young.
Even then, Munson’s star shines brighter with The Storm Outside. Their first full number, “A Pirate’s Tale,” drove Munson’s repeated lyric “I’m in the rain” from evoking a drizzle to a downpour, thanks to the buildup of trumpet revelry and crashing cymbals. Philippe Charbonneau’s upright bass added such a depth to the song that I grew to miss it while he played a standard bass for most of the show.
The band confidently explored the sonic landscape they painted with their instruments. Seeing them bobbing to the music, mouthing lyrics, exchanging smiles and the odd “WOO!” from drummer Pascal Delaquis, it was pretty clear that these are guys who love what they do. From the audience’s seats, it made the band more lovable as well.
You’d think that The Storm Outside’s dramatic music would lend itself to a more brooding frontman, but fortunately it doesn’t. Munson’s casual banter included a reference to the band as “my sexy boys,” a declaration that “the storm is gonna come DOWN!” in a mock evangelical voice, and an introduction to the song “Tumble Over” as a song that would tumble us over… out of our chairs.
Though I cringed at that last one (an audience member behind me mused if Munson was planning on a stand-up career), “Tumble Over” ended up being the most dramatic song in the set. The band’s ability to build and build and create gaping silences in sync made Munson’s corny lead-in all too accurate.
The set wasn’t all about crashing waves either. Théan Slabbert, filling in for Jean Francois Delaquis on electric guitar, excelled at delivering ambient riffs whose summer-y echoes made my desire to run to the ocean (or, more realistically, Mooney’s Bay) greater with every pang. “Dream Dance,” a song from their upcoming follow-up, featured a soft calling trumpet against a backbeat engineered for swaying sweethearts on the dance floor.
“Do you smell peach sunscreen?” asked a woman beside me. At that point, I didn’t know whether it came from the crowd or our imagination. Thanks to Claude Munson and The Storm Outside’s convincing enthusiasm for their beach-ready songs, we were happily too spirited away to tell the difference.