Any night of the week, you can find queer wannabe warblers belting out karaoke tunes throughout the city. Whether these singers are frequenting the Lookout or Swizzles, the puppet masters behind the music are Christopher Doyle and Danni Plume, of Dog & Pony Sound.
Founded in 2001, Dog & Pony’s first gig was at Monroe and Friends, a little basement bar on Queen Street that would eventually become Swizzles. In the years since, the once fledgling company has amassed legions of fans, is consistently voted Ottawa’s best karaoke company by Xpress readers and now hosts between 12 and 14 shows a week.
Yet, the story of how Doyle, the Dog, and Plume, the Pony, met and founded their company is as strange as a gothed-out teen singing along to Madonna.
For years, both worked in the same North Bay mall but failed to meet officially. In the 1990s, Plume moved to Ottawa, and coincidentally, Doyle followed suit. Once in Ottawa, they worked on the same street and lived in the same neighbourhood but still did not meet. Finally, in 2000, the two met at a bar, appropriately named The Rendezvous.
At the time, Doyle had established himself as a well-known club and radio DJ, while Plume, a web developer and IT administrator by trade, was a self-taught musician with a passion for singing. Amalgamating their mutual love of music, they founded their company.
Although the outfit struggled at first, Dog & Pony quickly prospered, with regular gigs at queer bars like The Edge, Club Polo and VIP, in addition to several straight establishments.
Doyle says friendly Dog & Pony “pals” manage to convert any apprehensive bar-goer who might be put off by the queer crowd.
“It’s in our nature to be accepting of everybody,” Doyle says. “Those that follow us either already are or soon become very accepting as well.”
The popularity of karaoke has remained steadfast in Ottawa, Plume says, because as human beings, we crave an outlet for artistic expression and karaoke is an accessible way to do it.
“Karaoke is singing, and singing is an expression of emotion,” he says. “Karaoke can be that catharsis. These are powerful motivators and provide the support to put oneself out there, to get up and try, whether for the first time or trying a new song.”
To accommodate their full roster of shows each week, Dog & Pony relies on a small “stable” of hosts. From Richie “The Hound” Lefebvre to the newest animal in the stable, Jayda “Bonobo” Kelsall, Plume says they adopt their hosts rather than hire employees. Requirements include being personable, likeable and sincere, Plume says.
“With reasonably acute hearing,” Doyle adds with a laugh.
“Sound engineering can be taught, but the personality traits we look for are inherent. For this reason, we don’t hire blind,” Plume says. “We watch people interact and communicate with each other and approach them based on these attributes.”
Communicating with the community is something Doyle and Plume have excelled at for years. They have overseen functions for the Liberal Party of Canada, the Ottawa Police Service and the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
In addition to the many functions and charitable events Dog & Pony participates in annually, Doyle produces the annual Mister Leather Ottawa competition and says he is already planning the 2013 celebration of all things kink.
If you are looking for a Christmas serenade over the holidays, Dog & Pony will be working every day with a sack full of songs, including Christmas Day karaoke at Swizzles.
Visit their official site for links to their Facebook, Twitter and interactive schedule or to browse through their list of more than 27,000 songs.