Mike Essoudry’s Mash Potato Mashers at Le Petit Chicago

On Saturday night, I caught a great performance by Mike Essoudry’s Mash Potato Mashers, an all brass-and-drums marching band who take klezmer, Brazilian, jazz and funk, mix it all up, and create some deliciously messy, beautiful, cacophonous musical biscuits. As an added bonus, it was a chance to catch up with some old friends from my Crazy Go Nuts University days, Brad and Peach, who along with me, were engineering students and contributors to Golden Words.

The Mash Potato Mashers played in that part of Gatineau which we used to know as Hull. It’s a good deal quieter than in my late high school/early university days: back then, with Quebec’s drinking age of 18, last call a good two hours later and the fact that their culture invented the concept of laissez-faire, it functioned as a sort of Tijuana for us Ontario kids. The venue was Le Petit Chicago, and as the cab sped me there, the cabbie felt obliged to inform me of the crowd.

“Are you sure that’s where you want to go?” he asked with only the slightest hint of a French accent. “It’s an older crowd there.”

“I am part of that older crowd,” I assured him. “I remember when we used to call the place just ‘Hull’.”

“Okay, then,” he said, “then you’ll remember some of the old places. See that club called Addiction? That used to be Ozone.”

“Oh my god!” I said “Ozone! I remember that place from high school and university. Ellen even took me there once.”

Of course, the cab driver had no idea who Ellen was. That was just me failing to keep my inner dialogue inner. For someone with whom I completely struck out, she ended up paying me an odd-but-appreciated compliment a while later, when complaining about boys: “There are three kinds of men in the world: scum, art fags, and Joey.”

“And that place over there,” said the cabbie, pointing to what looked like a bistro, “was Shalimar.”

“It cleaned up nicely,” I said.

He pointed out a couple of places that would’ve been packed solid on a Saturday night during the Wedding Singer era, but now looked about as placid as my own Sparks Street once the sun goes down, after which we arrived at Le Petit Chicago.

The Mash Potato Mashers put on a killer show, keeping the audience entertained as they bounced from melodies based on Jewish folk songs to samba to New Orleans jazz, often in the same song, and all without missing a beat. They got the crowd jumping and clapping along, and they all looked they were having a grand old time doing it. I’d gladly catch another one of their shows.

Here’s how they closed the evening:

After that performance, it was our turn to close the evening with our final number: a run to the Elgin Street Diner for club sandwiches and smoked meat poutine.

All in all, a nice night out.

I took a lot of photos at the show, and if you want to see them, they’re in the slideshow at the top of this article, as well as in this Flickr photoset.