The Everybody Loves Everybody Festival (E.L.E.Fest) had the vibe of a carefree summer block party as it gathered an enthusiastic crowd on the University of Ottawa campus Friday night. The festival celebrated a diverse range of local Ottawa acts with a long lineup that included The Lionyls, Zoo Legacy, City Fidelia, and headliner SonReal. Three collaborative performances of brand new songs added a unique twist to the night.
“E.L.E. Fest. is all about bringing the local music community together to help shine a light on each other,” said co-founder Sean Callaghan. “We really wanted to do something unique that would make [it] a one-of-a-kind show that you couldn’t see anywhere else.”
Performances kicked off at 3pm and by the time the sun was starting to go down, rock group Eagleson had crowd members dancing up close to the stage. Students were wandering over and joining in as their classes let out, while others enjoyed the music from the patio at Cafe Nostalgica. At the highest point of the night, the crowd swelled to almost 400 people.
The festival was free entry, but collected over $800 in donations for Candlelighters, a charity for families of children with cancer in Ottawa. Further profits from the festival’s after party will also be donated to Candlelighters.
Electronic act NDMA and jazzy hip-hop group BlakDenim were the first acts to collaborate, performing their song “We’re Not The Same.” All of the collaborations can be listened to at the E.L.E. SoundCloud page.
The Lionyls took to the stage at 8pm with an energetic mix of rock and funk, layering lead singer Zach Raynor’s soulful vocals over heavier guitars. They collaborated with rapper City Fidelia on “High,” a fun, upbeat soul number that had Raynor sliding and dancing around the stage.
Raynor co-founded the festival with Callaghan last year, and he seemed blown away by this year’s turn-out when I caught up with him after their set. “Last year we had to drag people in off the street to come see us,” he joked, “but this year it’s a thing, there’s people here, there’s a huge stage […] They did everything right, and you can really see the growth.”
Zoo Legacy were a big hit of the night. Lead singer Nick Pouponneau delivered strong vocals with easygoing confidence, while the band backed him up with a frantic, excited energy that had catchy songs like “She’ll Never Fall In Love” rolling out over a crowd that was more than happy to jump along, hands in the air.
The enthusiasm of the night felt intensified by a sense of connection between the crowd and the local performers. “I feel proud to be here like an ambassador for Ottawa music,” said Pouponneau after his show.
Zoo Legacy played the last collaboration, “Ghost,” with Sarah Bradley, the lead singer of Fevers, whose smooth vocals matched Pouponneau’s rapping every bit of the way. Check out the video above.
Discussing the collaboration afterwards, Bradley said “I think it’s easy as an artist to get comfortable in a niche or a community of people, so it’s really interesting to collaborate with artists who are in a different genre than your own. It’s unfamiliar, it’s new territory, and it can only help you grow as an artist.”
The festival’s headliner, rapper SonReal, brought an urgent sort of energy when he took to the stage, hands gesturing wildly on the beats of songs about finding a sense of meaning. He was full of grins for the crowd, who were entirely caught up in his energy and chanted him back on stage for one more song after he finished.
Vancouver-based SonReal was the only act from outside Ottawa, but he was full of appreciation for the city. “I just love coming [here],” he said after his show. “I feel like the vibe here is […] people that love music, and people that love to share love and give a lot of energy back.”
He also had a lot of praise for the acts that played before him. “I wasn’t familiar with anybody, but so many of the acts tonight were very, very good,” he enthused. “Like very good. So Ottawa has a lot of talent. I’m definitely looking out for lots of the artists that I saw tonight now.”