It’s Friday night and I did not expect to be in the center of a full house at Raw Sugar Cafe with a chilling outside temperature of -32 degrees Celcius and three guys I’ve never heard of performing acoustic folk/country sets.

Raw Sugar is located in Ottawa’s Chinatown, right beside the Royal Arch that was built in the latter part of 2010. This little cafe has been a favorite of mine for years, from their delicious hot chocolate made with fair trade Camino cocoa to the delicious home-made cookies to their warm and inviting atmosphere with vintage furniture, pastel walls and mismatched china. There’s a small library and magazine rack for leisurely reading and a mobile vintage clothing shop. On Sunday afternoons, you’ll see a group of knitters chatting about their lives while working on their yarn projects. Tuesday evenings is Beats & Boards where, you guessed it, you play board games and listen to DJ beats. For the other nights, they have live music with performers from Ottawa and abroad.

On this particular Friday, I left the warmth of my home and walked the 20 minutes to the cafe to discover some new music performed by musicians who were unknown to me aside from their names. Out from the bitter cold air I stood at the entrance of the venue with red cheeks, foggy glasses and the aroma of strongly pressed coffee dancing in front of my face. Half blind, I searched for the person who would grant me access to the warm venue so that I could begin to comfortably thaw my body with the help of a hot beverage. Name. Check. Stamp. Check. I was in! I beelined to the only available seat in the cafe, unloaded my jacket and lined up at the bar. Raw Sugar is a small cafe. When you walk in, the bar is directly in front of you. To the left are a few chairs and tables and the right houses the main audience area and a small stage which is occupied by chairs and tables at times when there is no scheduled performance. Back at the table with a hot chocolate and a soft pumpkin cookie, I was ready for the evening’s performances.

On the bill that night were Jay Carson, Doug Wallace and Jordan Thomas. I’m not a music critic; heck, I wouldn’t even be able to tell you if a guitar was in tune. I can, however, tell you whether or not I as an indie music lover enjoyed the acts that were presented. In a nutshell, I would walk double the distance with Jack Frost himself to see these talented guys on stage again.

Each with a beer and a guitar, the trio took turns on stage. First up was Jay Carson who sounded a little nervous which hindered the flow of his songs, but when he finally found himself he also found a new fan. Next was Doug Wallace, known as Fog Eye to his friends, who shared an amazing performance. His music had a 70s feel, think James Taylor and Van Morrison. Finally, Jordan Thomas was a little monotone, but his beautiful voice and soft melodies made up for the lack of energy. Wallace and Thomas each had a love song in their set about their new marriage, and Carson had a song about encouraging his future son to grow a beard to save his face from winter’s chill. Whether it was a love story or a humorous tale, the music warmed my soul.

At close to 11:00 p.m., the neighborhood curfew set in and it was time to head home. High from the sugary drinks and enjoyable live music, I was unconcerned about the frostnip forming on my legs as I took the cold walk home.

Carson, Wallace and Thomas are working on producing some music to share down the line, but in the meantime you can catch Thomas on stage with his band Suns of Stone. I’ll keep you up to date about their upcoming plans.

Photos from the show.

Jay Carson


Doug Wallace aka Fog Eye


Jordan Thomas


A Full House


The Stamp



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