©Brett Delmage, 2017
The Chocolate Hot Pockets performed among a variety of original visual paintings and sculptures at the Orange Art Gallery, including this sculpture by Maria Saracino ©Brett Delmage, 2018

The Chocolate Hot Pockets
Orange Art Gallery Music Nights
Friday, January 12, 2018 – 8 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this event

“Don't go out” - that was the message Friday on Ottawa weather forecasts and newscasts, with predictions of a flash freeze that evening, combined with a bone-chilling wind chill. Ottawa Public Health issued a frostbite advisory, while the police advised residents to avoid unnecessary travel.

But for the 20-odd people who did make it out to the Orange Art Gallery in Hintonburg, the Chocolate Hot Pockets put on a hot, funky, and enjoyable show that kept them listening throughout the evening.

The art gallery has been running monthly music nights with local groups since August, when it received its liquor license. It's featured pop music by River City Junction, jazz by Constant Black, swing by the Brian Downey Quartet, and New Orleans-inspired music by the Mumbo Jumbo Voodoo Combo.

Gallery owner Ingrid Hollander said the nights had been going well, usually attracting 60 to 80 people: “They've been building every time. We get more and more people out and everyone seems to have a great time when they come. Unfortunately, tonight's a bit of a snow storm so not so good tonight.”

“We're going to keep switching it up, having different genres.”

Why were they holding the music nights? “My husband's a musician and we've always liked music. And I just think the fit of our gallery with all the art on the walls and then having the music element … combining all the different arts together, it's a really fun mix. Especially in this old building. I think Ottawa needs a few more venues for all ages.”

At the music nights, a local chef offers food for sale: for this evening, $5 tacos with a choice of two fillings and plenty of toppings. “One of our clients from years ago, he always told us he was a chef. So when we started doing these music nights I thought it would be fun to have the real chef atmosphere. Every time he serves something different. And of course you want to have food with drinks, so we're trying to combine food, music, drinks, art and all of it together.”

The gallery moved to its present location, a two-story brick building that's more than a century old, in 2014. The building was formerly a bank for the railway, and the Chocolate Hot Pockets ended up playing right in front of the armored door to the former bank vault.

Upstairs and downstairs, all the walls are covered with paintings small and large, with sculptures filling in many odd corners. Most are representative art, although there's a few abstracts. Hollander said that the listeners at the music nights naturally also gravitated to looking at the art. “We've sold paintings during these music nights as well just from people looking at the art while they're enjoying the music. I think all around everything helps each other.”

The Hot Pockets – Ed Lister on trumpet and keyboards, Alex Moxon on guitar, J.P. Lapensée on electric bass, and Jamie Holmes on drums – played three hour-long sets on Friday, mixing up songs from their three albums plus some of their favourite covers by R&B artists like Tina Turner, Bill Withers, D'Angelo, and Blackstreet.

The vibe was energetic and multi-layered. Holmes provided a powerful underlying beat for the music over which the other three played expressively and intensely. Sometimes – for example, in their opening original, “Cop a Feel”, or their ballad “Cherry Blossoms” – the sound was more of a 60s modal jazz, with Lister leading off with a finely-tuned melody on muted trumpet, and Moxon responding with fluid guitar.

Other songs, like “Peche And Frites” and “The Golden Frenchman” were more funky, with noticeable use of effects on both guitar and keyboards and a strong driving beat. While the groove was always present in their music, there was also a large dynamic range and a consistent use of melody to counterpoint that groove, with not just Moxon and Lister but also Lapensée contributing to the melodic feel.

CHP has been together for more than six years now, and Moxon, Lapensée, and Holmes together for even longer, and you could reliably hear that in the tightness of their playing. For this show, they deliberately worked to provide a seamless stream of music in each set, with relatively little talking: the songs flowed well together and the energy level stayed very high, despite the lower attendance.

At the end of the second set, the audience greeted Lister's last few high staccato keyboard notes with strong applause.

And … by the way … it was cold that evening, but not that cold by Prairie standards or even Ottawa standards. I wrapped up warmly and walked 2.4 km home after the show and didn't freeze.

Set List

Set 1

  • Cop a Feel
  • SDM (D'Angelo)
  • Use Me (Bill Withers)
  • Beautiful (Snoop Dogg, Pharrell Williams)
  • Cherry Blossoms

Set 2

  • Peche And Frites
  • What's Love Got to Do With It? (Tina Turner)
  • The Golden Frenchman
  • Holy Smokes
  • No Diggity (Blackstreet)
  • PG Funk

(OttawaJazzScene.ca left near the beginning of set 3)

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