The Lowdown on the Quyon Hoedown

Ottawa XPress – Shotgun – September 8, 2006

During my vacation last month in Halifax at a Maritime wedding – surrounded by great live Celtic music and friendly types merrily jigging their hearts away in celebration of love and happiness – I found that sticking to my self-imposed four-months-off-the-booze pledge was challenging.

I finally succumbed to an offer of a glass of wine from Andy at the reception and, with Lindsay’s hospitality later, how could I turn down Alexander Keith’s “Red” beer and Cape Breton fiddles at places like The Triangle Irish Pub and The Economy Shoe Shop Pub? After all, I never said I didn’t like the taste of beer, I just can’t stand all the sad-sack drink-and-dials that seem to happen when I’m sloshed back in Ottawa.

But getting shit-faced in other provinces (especially around coastal folks and Celtic music), well now, dang! that seems to really work for me!

And that’s why I’m gonna pass it on: Yep, I’m telling you to pack up your favourite wool sweater, fill up on gas on the Ontario side and road trip down to Quyon, Quebec on Saturday September 10 for the Third Annual Halfway to St. Paddy’s Day show featuring The Town Pants and Toronto’s the Backstabbers Country Stringband at Gavan’s (1157 Clarendon Street, 819-458-2354).

You might remember those Molson Canadian beer commercials where the guy finds his fridge empty of beer and travels across Canada in sleet and snow accompanied by a musical score of the Proclaimers’ “(I’m Gonna Be) 500 Miles?” One of those guys belting it out is a member of The Town Pants.

They’re currently on tour to support their latest CD, Weight of Words, having already put out Piston Baroque, which was produced by Hugh McMillan from Spirit of the West, and Liverdance. The upcoming gig is being described as a chance meeting with Shane MacGowan and Hank Williams at a pawnshop heist – a crossover between the alt-country and alt-celt scene.

Exclaim! magazine describes The Backstabbers ( as “Hogtown’s favourite lo-fi old timey songsters, [who] mine bluegrass and the like for another bull’s eye set of hurting-and-too-drunk-to-care tunes.” As for The Town Pants, critics say the band’s unusual mix of music proves just how far the group has come from its small Irish pub roots, to be one of the most original and entertaining live acts currently on the Celtic roots scene.

The Town Pants ( are Ottawa born-and-raised brothers Dave and Duane Keogh on dual-lead vocals playing banjo and guitar, respectively. A CD called Irish Drinking Songs by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem played its part in the beginning of The Town Pants, but their strongest influences came from their growing up in a large family of Irish and Acadian ancestry where music was an integral part of the households. It rocked kitchen parties full of cousins, granddads, uncles, aunts, but especially their father, Lorne Keogh. He taught Duane how to do a superb Elvis impression before he could count, which makes it perfect that now he’s playing Quyon, home of the three-storey Elvis.

The band is rounded out by a Quyon cutie-Virginia Schwartz-on fiddle and Aaron Chapman on mandolin, tin whistle, harmonicas and musical saw. Chapman was also one of the original founding members of the Scottish Celtic punk rock band the Real McKenzies and credits rowdy Celtic music with having the same honesty and passion as punk.

The fact that the gig is in Quyon makes for some interesting stuff too. About Gavan’s in Quyon: “They get good crowds out there but nobody knows about it,” Chapman tells Shotgun. He describes the scene as a bit like some rural Blue Velvet.

More peculiar is the first time the Town Pants played in Quyon. The power went out at the end of the night. “The fire department from two towns over had to come,” recounts Chapman, “but it didn’t stop anything going on. Everybody just went outside the building and we played acoustically outside the place and a bunch of people got their guitars and fiddles and whatnot and just sort of joined in.”

He adds jokingly, “I thought Jeb and Scout and Boo Radley were going to walk up any second with smiles on their faces.”

Ah, nothing like a huge West Coast band playing an East Coast vibe at a small-town gig that’ll blow your mind. Or the electrical sockets. And your liver…


HOLY FUCK! is what you’d be saying too if you were out with me and three friends at Helsinki Lounge and Disco two weeks ago. Presented in conjunction with art curator Guy Bérubé, HOLY FUCK II was an invitation-only homoerotic interactive evening of art, talent and music. And a middle-finger salute to the Vatican and political leaders who are against same-sex unions.

We ate delicious fruit and watched a fun porn shoot orchestrated by Ottawa culture pimps, Guerilla Magazine (see the photos at We looked on as a leather-clad beauty knelt upon a red-velvet bed in a constructed ’70s bedroom set and bared her breasts to suckling twins for Aaron McKenzie Fraser’s camera. Hand it to gay-positive artists and their community to expose fabulousness in style.

– Sylvie Hill