A short but sweet half-hour set by Ottawa-based duo Etoile Noire drew a roomful of listeners into The Papery at Bank and Fifth early Friday night. The two stood side-by-side in the store front nook, armed with guitars and mics, to deliver their Canadiana blend of country, folk, and roots/rock.
Lead guitarist and vocalist Justin Trudeau and singer, guitarist and percussionist Fabien Melanson have each built up a solid history of musical experience. They also have a strong network of fans and fellow musicians from their solo and band careers. Together, their collaborative efforts have brought a diverse array of styles that are evident in their music, with sophisticated structure, great rhythms, and lyrics that are filled with both poetry and wit. The past year has been going at a whirlwind pace for the duo, beginning with the release of their first single “Gone” in February followed by a hefty handful of well-attended gigs, including an invite to do two back-to-back Marvest shows. They release their first full length album on November 8 at LIVE! On Elgin, and are already planning their east coast tour to follow.
The set began with “Native Girl” which featured Fabien’s warm vocals and Justin’s great lead work, followed by the country-flavoured and quick-paced, “Get Stoned.” I enjoyed some great chicken-picking guitar work by Justin, as well as some nice counter vocal melodies. The two also each brought one of their own songs into play: Justin’s “Tripping On Emotion” conveyed a personal world of hurt that somehow spun into this great song with a happy vibe, and witty lyrical content. I loved the half-time drop into the chorus, harmonies, and more counter melodies near the end. Next, it was Fabien’s turn to play his own song of heartbreak, “Room For One.” Its country-infused flowing melody featured a catchy foot-stomp box rhythm that carried its way straight into the feet of the listeners.
One of their newer songs, “Shadow Of The City”, was a beautiful three-quarter-timed, piece of folk magic that featured a nice change into the chorus. It was another example of the small details of interesting twists, turns, and textures they write into their music. The two finished off the set with their single, “Gone”, and the crowd got into the song’s rhythm and energy. The two then took their set over to Whole Foods Market, which I’m sure stirred up a whole new crop of fresh fans. The time and care that Etoile Noire put into writing their songs makes each one a work of art, and completely memorable, as I left with the sound of their music still swirling in my head.