I had no idea what to expect when I entered the Mainline Theatre to see Brave New Productions’ staging of the Martin Sherman play Gently Down the Stream. I knew that the play was part history lesson, telling the history of the persecution of gays in the United States, but I had no idea what the format was going to be. As a reviewer, it’s often best to go into historical plays without any prep – a true test of how well the play tells the history without boring the viewer.
The play is set in the London flat of Beau, a gay pianist from New Orleans, whose claim to fame was being the accompanist to cabaret singer Mabel Mercer in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. The history of gays in the United States is told by Beau to his young English lover Rufus, who is fascinated with history and into older men.
Beau’s knowledge of the past is fragmented and Joe Dineen’s portrayal is at once sincere, funny, and heartrending as he describes losing a lover to the terrorist attack at the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans, and another to the AIDS crisis. Dineen’s Beau comes off as veteran-like and sweetly grandmotherly.
It is not, however, the history lesson that sets this play apart. It’s the sincerity with which the relationships are portrayed. The age difference between Beau and Rufus – the former is in his late sixties, the latter in his late 20s – is a constant point of contention, as is Rufus’s mental illness. The on-stage kisses between the two men seem real, not forced, and you get a feel of genuine intimacy between all the characters and a sincere snapshot of gay male domestic life.
Sean Curley’s Rufus is one of the most realistic portrayals of Bipolar disorder I’ve seen on the stage. Montreal native Daniel James McFee is sweet and saucy as the tattooed performance artist, Harry.
Brave New Productions’ play is not perfect. Though he never breaks character, Joe Dineen seems to have trouble remembering his lines from time to time, though he does recover quickly enough. Sean Curley’s British accent slips here and there, and while his portrayal of depression is on point, it lacks the look of deflation depressed people usually have. People who aren’t into history or domestic scenes may find parts of the play boring, but they brought a tear to my eye.
If you want to laugh and cry, and learn a little and see scenes separated by beautiful old timey music, you need to check out Gently Down the Stream.
* Gently Down the Stream is playing at the Mainline Theatre from August 2 to 11th. Tickets and info through MainLineTheatre.ca
** Featured image by Donald Rees, courtesy of Brave New Productions
Montreal Pride is upon us and with it tons of amazing entertainment! Whether you like drag shows, workshops, films, plays, or parties, Pride has something for everyone, all it requires is that you have an open mind and not be a bigot.
The History of Sexuality is one of Pride 2018’s many theatrical offerings. It started as a low budget two week production at the Mainline Theatre in September 2017 and was selected to be part of Pride’s 2018 programming. It was also recently awarded a grant from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Quebec (CALQ).
The History of Sexuality is producer/director/playwright Dane Stewart’s creation. He had the idea while doing his Individualized Master’s degree in Theatre, Communications and Gender and Sexuality at Concordia.
“I knew that I wanted to write something about queerness in Montreal but I didn’t know exactly what the format of the play was going to be,” the playwright said in an interview.
Stewart was more interested in the method of writing, so he had the idea to do interviews. The play is based on a series of interviews he conducted with queer people living in Montreal which he then worked into his script.
Many of his subjects were friends and acquaintances, while others were second and third degree connections he made by reaching out on social media. In order to tell their story faithfully, he offered copies of his script to interviewees for feedback in cases where he used their actual words in the play, and made sure he had everyone’s consent to include them.
“One of the things I wanted to incorporate while I was writing was a feedback mechanism,” he noted, “I used their words in the script, I then returned the script to them with those scenes so they could reflect on whether or not they felt they were adequately represented and if they felt they hadn’t been, I worked with them, usually one-on-one, to address those issues.”
I asked Dane about the title of the play as many would see the title and assume they were getting a history lesson. Dane explained that the play’s title comes from a book of the same name by the philosopher Michel Foulcault.
“The History of Sexuality is kind of a bland book,” Dane said with a smile. “But it’s a sexy title. Put that title on something and pair it with a sexy image and people will come see it.”
He said that audiences will see a show that’s really sexy.
“There are on-stage representations of sex and there are all these different types of queer relationships represented,” he explained, “so there is a really sexy element to it. It is also highly intellectual. It doesn’t approach sexuality just to say ‘come and watch these people get naked on stage’, it’s ‘come and let’s watch people represent sex on stage and then let’s analyze the power and the truth and the dynamics that go into that.”
Stewart is not worried that he’ll lose audiences by being too intellectual because he admits that he’s not going to appeal to everyone:
“It’s been really a process over the three years I’ve been working on it to pare down the intellectual theory and really make it digestible and I think we’ve done a half decent job of that. People will have a fair number of questions hopefully…It’s about analyzing what power dynamics look like in our sexual relationships, what power dynamics look like in our romantic relationships, how we’re socialized and raised into those power dynamics and how do we, moving forward as a society, start to deconstruct that to make society as safer place for expressing sexual identity.”
I asked Stewart who he feels needs to see this play the most. He said the two groups are members of the queer community and, for the educational side of it, straight men.
“I think we’ve done a decent job representing real, honest queer experience on stage. A lot of representation of LGBT folks you’ve seen still is like a stereotype and we really work to overcome that so I think there’s a feeling of empowerment in seeing that representation.”
Regarding straight men, Stewart mentions that he recently incorporated an edit into the script. It’s a scene that will show in upcoming performances in which a woman recounts an experience of being sexually assaulted overlaid with audio clips from the actual interview he did.
In the scene the actress is speaking in dialogue with the actual audio clip. Following the #MeToo movement, Stewart really wanted to address that issue in his play, “and especially address what can men do improve their own actions, to address their own behaviors.”
“I incorporated an interview I did a couple of weeks ago with a man who identified as a perpetrator of sexual assault so we actually have the actress who’s playing a survivor of sexual assault interviewing another actor whose speaking from text from that interview. It’s intense, for sure, but I’m hoping to give straight men a point of access to say ‘Ok, I’ve heard all these conversations, I’ve heard all these women and others sharing their experiences of violence maybe I’ve perpetrated that but how do I recognize that and how do I start to move forward and be a better human.”
In the era of #MeToo and a growing recognition that sexual identity and consensual expressions of it is not something to be ashamed of, The History of Sexuality sounds like the kind of play everyone needs to see.
Summertime is peak festival season. This is supposed to be a fun, exciting time of year when you get to see some of your favourite artists or discover new ones. But for others, festival season can also mean an increased period of unwanted sexual advances.
Despite the heightened awareness surrounding these issues due to the #metoo movement, sexual harassment and assault is still prevalent at festivals all around the world. A quick google search reveals articles with disturbing titles like Sexual Harassment was Rampant at Coachella 2018. And in response to the high number of sexual assaults at festivals in Sweden, the first cis, non-binary, and trans women-only music festival, Statement Festival is scheduled to launch in late August.
In Montreal, a real conversation about sexual harassment and assault at festivals started in 2016. When Osheaga officials initially brushed off Melanie Doucet’s claims that her drink was spiked, she went to the media to share her story. Doucet’s story inspired The Montreal Women’s Council to survey women about their festival going experiences.
The results of the survey, which included women of colour, women with disabilities, and members of the lgbtq community, were both scary and unsurprising. 56% of women who attended festivals in Montreal reported being harrassed. 37% of women surveyed admitted to being sexually assaulted. And that’s only the women who were willing to come forward. Many victims, either out of shame or embarrassment, never speak up.
So how has Osheaga, which starts this year on August 3rd, responded to these issues? For the second year in a row, the festival has hired the Les Hirondelles intervention team to roam the grounds. In a press release for this year’s festival, executive vice president and chief operating officer of evenko Jacques Aubé stated that “The presence of the Hirondelles is perfectly in line with our primary objective, which is to allow all festival-goers to fully enjoy their entertainment experience in a safe environment.”
Recognizable by their armbands with a pair of swallows, The Hirondelles are specialized security squads designed to increase the safety of vulnerable people at the festival. They will also have booths on the grounds that act as safe spaces for people who feel threatened.
It’s commendable that Osheaga has started taking steps to ensure that everyone (we can’t forget that men are victims of sexual harassment and assault as well) can feel safe from these kinds of vulgar and inappropriate situations. If only we could live in a world where everyone could just keep their hands or comments to themselves, and enjoy the music.
On Friday Osheaga returns to Parc Jean Drapeau for three days of music, art and general fun in the sun. As a result, we at FTB have been putting together our lists of performances we’re most looking forward to see.
Yesterday Stephanie Laughlin put out her list of top choices, today it’s my turn. It’s a mix of bands I already know, ones I want to get to know and ones I want you to get to know. The list is completely personal, totally biased and omits any act that I deem “too big” to preview.
You might have bought a ticket because of the headliners, but there’s a whole day of stuff to do before that so let’s get started.
A year removed from releasing their critically acclaimed 5th studio album A Black Mile To The Surface, the Atlanta Georgia indie rockers Manchester Orchestra are still out on tour in support and they’ll be hitting the Osheaga stage on Friday afternoon. Their music ranges from melancholic ballad to energetic rock with lyrics that feel very personal, sung ever so sweetly by frontman Andy Hull.
Their songs feel musically spacious yet lyrically intimate, designed to evoke a powerful and emotional response from their audience. What better excuse could you have for leaving work early and getting the jump on the weekend.
Rainbow Kitten Surprise
Besides the obvious fact that their name is just flat-out awesome Rainbow Kitten Surprise also brings some serious musical talent to the table. Their songs are driven by solid bass and drum grooves, their lyrics are witty and fun, their vocal harmonies are spot on. They’re the type of band that even if you don’t know them all that well, it won’t be hard to get into the show.
John Jacob Magistery
There’s no way I was going to miss the chance at a little hometown bias in the list, Montreal’s own John Jacob Magistery are on early Saturday. It’s well deserved that the local art/folk rock ensemble is getting a spot on a big stage so I feel it’s only right to show a little support.
If you’re unfamiliar with them here’s their bandcamp page plus their video for Carol, a track I could listen to all day every day.
Laura Pergolizzi (LP’s her stage name) has been around for a while, released four albums and written songs for some pretty big name acts. I’m not familiar with her work but after listening to a few tracks I was won over.
It’s apparent right away that she’s someone with a truly special vocal style. I’m now looking forward to checking her out live when she plays midway through Saturday afternoon.
I could go on and on but with about 100 acts in the festival you have to draw the line somewhere. Besides I’ve got some sunscreen to buy, they’re calling for blues skies all weekend.
* The 2018 edition of Osheaga runs August 3rd, 4th and 5th. Tickets available at osheaga.com
** Featured image of John Jacob Magisteray courtesy Oshgeaga/Evenko
Osheaga, the popular music festival which comes rolling into Montreal every August, is upon us yet again. Anyone who’s taken a gander at the schedule is likely pumped for all the major acts showing up; who wouldn’t want to see Blondie, Florence and the Machine, or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs perform?
And while I’ll definitely be checking out those shows, what I’m more interested in is discovering new bands I’ve never heard of before. Now they might be old news to you young hip folks, but here are five bands this 30-something is excited to hear for the first time:
Birds of Bellwoods
This folk-pop quartet from Toronto has been building solid buzz ever since their award-winning EP The Fifth. These actor/musicians apparently really bring their A-game to their stage performances.
One blogger praised the band by declaring “When all four members of Birds of Bellwoods step up to the mic, something amazing happens. Their voices play off each other and the audience is reminded of all the beauty in the world left to fight for.”
I’ll find out on Friday if they live up to the hype!
A quick YouTube search of this American singer/songwriter from Memphis shows that I’m definitely late to the game in discovering her music: Her video Appointments has a million views and her NPR Tiny Desk Concert performance has over two million.
Baker’s debut album Sprained Ankle in 2015 was on all sorts of year-end best lists from NPR Music to New York Magazine’s Vulture. From what I’ve listened to so far, she sounds like the perfect music to play when you’re relaxing at home and need a good cathartic cry.
Milk and Bone
One of the joys of living in Montreal is we have a plethora of musicians creating amazing art. One of the downfalls is there’s so much to take in sometimes you miss out on awesome bands like Milk and Bone! But thank goodness I get to finally see this dreamy electro pop duo which hails from my hometown.
This Australian indie-rocker has been making a name for herself ever since her 2016 single You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me, one of the catchiest songs about rejection ever released. Her music immediately makes me nostalgic for the pop-punk days of my youth, when I’d jump head first into a mosh pit at Foufones Electroniques. I may not hit the pit anymore (seriously, i’m in my 30s), but I will be there from the back, eagerly cheering her show on.
This all-female glam rock band from Toronto immediately caught my attention with their undeniable style. (I’m a sucker for a well put together 60s look). And taking a look at their music on YouTube showed that the band isn’t all style and no substance. Their tracks Money and T-Shirt are catchy rock songs I could easily see playing at my next party.
* The 2018 edition of Osheaga runs August 3rd, 4th and 5th. Tickets available at osheaga.com
** Featured image of The Beaches courtesy Osheaga/Evenko
To conjure a more perfect day for an outdoor festival, one would have to conjure a cluster of unicorns to fart pastel coloured clouds of glitter and cupcakes. The sun was bright, the breeze was cool, and no one was talking about Humidex. I had a ziplock full of toilet paper, and was ready to rock the day away.
The pre-game ran late, and I started to panic: we must make it in time for L7! There with 15 minutes to spare, I was glad to see so many eager faces and bands shirts (because 3pm doesn’t feel like the epic time slot they deserve, but no one asked me).
They played everything: from Andres, the first song of theirs I heard back in *ahem* 1994, to last year’s fab singles, and singing along with them in the sun on a Friday afternoon, was epic. Drummer Dee Plakas was out with injury, so Motley Mel held down the beats like she’d always been there.
In fact, in my only almost-brush with fame, I swear Jennifer Finch and Motley Mel passed right in front of me at the Sick Of It All stage, but it happened so fast that I didn’t have the chance to make a fool of myself, so it worked out for the best.
Sick Of It All had all the energy you complain that you don’t, and I had to remind myself that brothers Lou and Pete Koller have been fronting the band since 1986. They fired up the crowd, and then hosed them down.
There was a great turnout of cool families with adorable mini punks, so we’re teaching the children well. Bonus points go to those who had to balance small humans over sketchy Porto potty seats and managed not to drop them in the blue. My ziplock of tp proved essential before the sun had even set.
Me First and The Gimmie Gimmies brought the slick threads, and cool classics. They have an endless repertoire, of course, yet I never thought I’d be part of a crowd singing John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads; I was, and I liked it!
They did other improbable ones like Jolene and a super deep cut, a cover of a cover, 60s French band Les Pirates version of Del Shannon’s Hat’s Off To Larry, Oublie Larry.
Fresh of their Thursday night appearance on Jimmy Kimmel, and on a collective three hours of sleep, The Interrupters brought the upbeats, and the hits we wanted to hear.
Rise Against put on a helluva show, which I’M sure didn’t surprise their fans, though I was pretty unfamiliar with them, so I got to be freshly impressed.
There was a neat little food court near the Garden Stage, and I had an awesome kalbi meatball sandwich that I swear was from Lavandaria, but I can’t seem to find any online listing to prove that the reservations only Westmount eaterie was out punking, so all I have is my half baked, sun and beer soaked memory of a damn good sandwich.
On our way out, I had one more stopped planned, and that was for DOA, who haven’t actually stopped doing anything since 1978. It was a pleasure to close out the night with a band that was proudly celebrating their 40th anniversary.
This being my first trip to 77, it’s safe to say that I’ll be back with bells on next year. A shout and and much respect to those who did the three day double fest of 77 Mtl and Heavy Montreal; it’s Sunday night, and I’m still beat from Friday…and still super jazzed, too… and totally typing in my new L7 shirt.
LOL Live! Is one of Just for Laughs’ newer offerings, so when they invited me to attend the show, I was intrigued. Presented by Kevin Hart, it’s described as a “A four-night multi-comic mega-event showcasing some of the best comedians from across the continent appearing at the Just For Laughs Festival” so I attended the show on Friday night not recognizing any of the names on the roster but prepared for a good time.
Like any multi-comic event, there are going to be some good acts, some great ones, and a stinker or two. I’m going to talk about the best and the worst.
James Mattern hosted the event and I have to say that as a host he was not the best. While he did a good job warming up the audience for the fact that the show was filmed, his enunciation of the comedians’ names needs work. Me and my guest had so much trouble understanding his pronunciation that I had to look up the names of the comedians before writing this review.
That said, James Mattern IS funny.
His rant about names in the US was hilarious and reminiscent of the late great George Carlin’s work. His bit about Spinach vs Kale vs Arugula was current and funny. He may not have been the greatest host, but he is clearly a great comedian.
If you want to see a comedian slip seamlessly from jokes about single womanhood to jabs at the Catholic Church, you need to see Vanessa Graddick.
Her style appeals to the single woman in us all, and every joke felt at once personal and endearingly funny. Whether it was her talking about going to different churches to find the best single men, or advising us to toss out our self-help books so we don’t become a “bitter bitch”, she was a joy to watch.
Josh Adam Meyers
Josh Adam Meyers began on a hilariously self-deprecating note.
He introduced himself by saying “I sound like I have influenza and I look like Billy Bob Thornton.”
His humour was a funny combination of pop culture criticism – like how The Walking Dead is implausible because it’s a zombie apocalypse where no one uses cuss words – self deprecation, and vulgarity.
He was the most physical act of the night, unafraid to do sound effects and move his body to get his jokes across – like in his bit about how doggy-style changes with age. He was a treat to watch and I hope he comes back to Montreal.
Rafinha (Rafi) Bastos
Rafi Bastos was by far my favorite act of the night.
He introduced himself as Brazilian : “So yes, I wax my vagina.”
His jokes were hilarious observations about his experiences as a Brazilian man coming to grips with the English language and American culture. One of his best jokes was about sexting:
“We don’t do sexting in Brazil—because we actually f*ck.”
Bastos also made the best and only Trump joke of the night, saying that he thought it would be hard for him to be understood in English… “then I heard the president speak.”
Rafi Bastos’ act is ethnic humour done right. Just for Laughs would be wise to include him on the roster for The Ethnic Show next year.
The true modern test of a male comedian is how they handle a sexist joke. As a huge stand up fan, I’ve seen Jimmy Carr, Rafi Bastos, and JFL newcomer Ron Taylor do this gracefully. Unfortunately, Andrew Schulz failed this test.
In the era of #Metoo, the last voice we need is that of a sanctimonious cis man ranting about how the food is better in countries where women are mistreated. We don’t need jokes that make domestic violence look like it’s a good thing; not only is it offensive, it’s lazy. If the best a comedian can do is praise the mistreatment of women, it’s time to go back to the drawing board or consider a career change.
I did not laugh once during his set, and looking around me, I saw that many women felt the same. The audience members who were laughing were mostly men.
I waited for Schulz to save his set with a little self-deprecation, or perhaps few funny jabs at men – ANYTHING to indicate that he actually respects women or that his comedy was not stemming from genuine misogyny, but it never came.
Instead there were jokes full of racism and ethnocentrism that confirm every negative stereotype about Americans – that they’re sexist, racist, and proud of their biases against other countries and cultures. His one funny joke was about Canadian bacon: “not everything has to be shaped like a hockey puck!”
The rest of his set was cringeworthy.
Shows like LOL Live! are fun, but be prepared to not like every act you see. Be prepared to be offended and even outraged, but if you can handle one stinker in a mass of good and great acts, check it out.
New Faces of Comedy is a Just for Laughs institution. After a couple of rounds of auditions, some of North America’s best comedic talents have a chance to take the JFL stage and show the world what they can do.
The people who perform at this show know they’re not just doing it for people out to be entertained, but also industry members and agents looking for the next great comedic talent. This annual event has not only launched the careers of Amy Schumer and Jimmy Fallon, but also that of host Alonzo Bodden who got his start on New Faces twenty one years ago.
From the get-go, the audience was warned the event would be filmed as part of a documentary. Bodden told us what we should do and not do. With all of us briefed, he slipped smoothly into his role as host, warming us up with jokes about the summer students posing as Just for Laughs security and the “cutest” cadets acting as police on festival grounds.
His best joke that night was about the #MeToo movement and his wish that he’d one day hear a story about a woman complaining of sexual harassment that ended with a male relative beating the heck out of the harasser. With the audience sufficiently primed, he began introducing the comedians.
With shows like New Faces, there are bound to be some comedians that fall flat with some audience members. Rather than focusing on the negative, I’m going to talk about those that really stood out to me and made me laugh the hardest.
For me the true test of a comedian is their ability to tackle difficult subjects and make them funny and Springs was one of the best last night. She tackled topics like Libyan slavery and drugging women’s drinks for the purpose of rape in ways that had everyone laughing.
In the era of #MeToo, Springs is the kind of voice we need to hear more of: a strong, beautiful woman of colour who’s hilarious, sassy, smart, and unafraid. She also made the best Trump joke of the night, saying that he got his wife from a “build a bitch” workshop.
Rocky Dale Davis
Rocky Dale Davis is originally from Alabama and you can tell the minute he speaks. He delivered his jokes with that southern twang people generally associate with lower IQs and Trump voters (same thing). He began his act by addressing his accent, saying that his attempts to speak Spanish made him realize that: “I sound racist in every language.”
Davis’ comedy revolves around the contrast between the ignorance and racism of his roots and his current, more woke, worldview. He used sports analogies to explain that Trump isn’t as racist as the people he grew up with and though not all his jokes were homeruns, there was something hypnotic about his stage presence that made it impossible to look away.
In an era where people on the left look at Southern Americans with utter contempt, Davis’ comedy is a refreshing one that’s both self deprecatingly funny and brutal.
No comedy show is complete without someone taking the piss out of rich white people and no one did that better than Nina Tarr.
Tarr’s strong suit is impressions and her ones of “botched plastic surgery face” and “De Niro giving a blow job” were hilarious. What stood out most for me was her use of the term “BILF” aka Baby I’d Like to F*ck, a term she used for spoiled rich women who infantilize themselves to attract men, and whom she mercilessly imitated in her performance.
In an era of Muslim bans and Niqab bans and Islamophobia, Usama Siddiquee is the kind of comedian we need.
He’s Muslim, fearless, and funny as hell.
Whether it was his crack about his mother suggesting he change his name after 9/11, or how having sex once sent his Muslim values out the window, he was a treat to watch. He was consistently funny throughout his routine, tackling such edgy topics as terrorism, racism, and sexism with grace.
Shows like New Faces of Comedy are a bit like buying a surprise bag from your favorite store. You might not get everything you like but you’re bound to see some great things. Check it out. It’s worth it.
* There are two more New Faces of Comedy shows on July 27th with one group of comedians at 7pm and another at 9pm. Tickets available through hahaha.com
** Watch for our review of the second group from Wednesday night coming soon
If you want snarky raunchy humour delivered in a sophisticated British package, you need to check out Jimmy Carr.
He performs in suits with immaculately slicked and trimmed hair and delivers his jokes with a posh British accent that belies his often vulgar content and wit that is as brutal as it is funny. His offering at this year’s Just for Laughs Festival, Jimmy Carr: The Best Of, Ultimate, Gold, Greatest Hits World Tour was no exception.
His show is a selection of his best jokes combined with brand new material. Carr began with engaging the audience with local humor, cracking jokes about Canada only having three cities and how he’s now a Newfoundlander because he passed “Newfie initiation” – drinking a shot of screech and kissing a cod… or screwing your sister.
It was a great introduction that set the tone for his show in which no topic, from pedophilia, to bestiality, to sex, to relationships to homosexuality to religion was off limits. That said, if you’re the type get offended by jokes about these things, Jimmy Carr is not the comedian for you.
But he IS funny. I couldn’t take notes during his show because I was laughing too hard.
Whether it was his quip about how he can’t wait to see how America ends, or his classic joke about buying a book called Cheap and Easy Vegetarian for his girlfriend because she’s also a vegetarian, there was no time during his performance that I or the people around me were left wanting.
The biggest fail of the night came not because of Jimmy Carr, whose clean-cut deadpan delivery made even the most offensive jokes funny, but because of the audience. Carr is a comedian who likes to engage the crowds he’s entertaining and anyone who’s seen clips of his shows online would know this prior to seeing him on stage. In addition to picking on people near the front row, he asked questions to the audience at large.
Unfortunately any time Carr posed a question to the audience, there was up to a full thirty seconds before anyone answered him. It was painful to witness, though no fault of Carr himself who with more aggressive prodding finally got the timid crowd talking to him.
If you go to Carr’s show, you’ll have a great time but be prepared to participate a little. It makes the difference between a good show and a great one.
Alright Kiddies, it’s time to lace up your boots and get your hair all spikey, ‘cuz the punk show is coming. 77 Montréal is back for its sophomore season, and it’s bringing bands spanning 40 years, two continents, and four countries to celebrate the history of punk music and culture in our badass belle ville.
Rise Against is headlining, along with AFI, and Suicidal Tendencies (Get Your Fight On! is out now), but the whole lineup is a veritable Who’s Who.
Reuniting in 2015, OG riot grrrls/nineties icons L7 released their first new music in 18 whole years last year, teasing a 2019 album. The singles, Dispatch From Mar-a-Lago and I Came Back to Bitch make it clear that they’re still ah-mazing and political, so whether you’re feeling nostalgic, or looking to be cutting edge, this one’s special.
From the eighties, there’s Sweden’s Satanic Surfers who got the band back together after an eight year break for 2015’s Amnesia Rockfest, and have been rocking since, while NYC’s Sick of It All haven’t stopped since 1986, so why the hell would they now?
You know that punk cover of that non-punk song that you dig so hard? It’s by Me First and The Gimmie Gimmies, and they’ll def be bringing sing alongs to this party.
I had no idea that hardcore pioneers DOA were Canadian, but they are, and that’s awesome! From Vancouver in 1978, all the way to their 2018 release Fight Back, they’ll be closing out the night with decades of bangers.
And while they’re repping our West Coast, The Planet Smashers, Les Fucking Raymonds, and Pussy Stench will be showing off Quebec’s skills.
Edinburgh, Scotland’s The Rezillos have been together longer since they reunited in 2001 than their original 1976-1987 stint, but they still deserve the old school cred. They, as well as The Interrupters, are scheduled to make me wish I wore my crinoline, so catch me doing my best Daisy Duck dance by these stages.
I’ve got a Spotify list going, so you can really plan your day!
But wait, my Hardcore Hotties, there’s more than just music!
There’s a vinyl booth promising new, used, and rarities, along with a concert poster gallery showcasing some of Montreal’s rock history, with prints for sale. I’m betting they’ll have some of the goodies featured on the Mtl ‘77 You Are the Scene Archive, which is a trip all by itself. There you can find a poster for when the Dead Kennedys played The Spectrum, with tickets on sale at Dutchy’s, and pics from when Iggy Pop, David Bowie, and Blondie played for a whopping $6.50 a head.
In that vein, films and documentaries on punk history will be played on site throughout the day, making it a full throttled cultural immersion.
This is the first Parc Jean-Drapeau event with a straw ban, but beer sucks with a straw, so whatevs. Reusable water bottles are being encouraged, with free refill stations to keep us hydrated, which is awesome, as paying for water is decidedly not punk.
All this bang is a seriously reasonable $70, and for the rockers who just can’t get enough, you can combine it with Heavy Mtl for $210, and really call it a season.
In honour of the release of Denys Arcand’s most recent film, The Fall of the American Empire, I thought I would take a look at his roots, the head-turning Quebecois classic, The Decline of the American Empire (Le déclin de l’émpire américain). A film that, in 1986, seemed very topical and relevant.
The Cold War was still happening, the threat of nuclear war hung casually over everyone’s heads, the Soviet Union was on the brink of collapse, the AIDS epidemic was rampant. For some, society seemed to be in decline or at least on the brink of it.
According to one of the main characters, Dominique, in the film’s second scene, society’s decline is evident because of its focus on self-indulgence (in this film’s case, that focus is mostly on sex). This, she says, is indicative of our collective demise.
This is the thesis of her new book, Changing Concepts of Happiness, and the film itself. In an interview with her friend and journalist, Diane, Dominique recounts how this is evident in examples throughout history: in third century Rome, the idea of conjugal love first comes from Diocletian just before the Empire’s collapse and Rosseau’s idea of happiness came in during the French Revolution. Now, she argues, we are witnessing the decline of the American empire.
Diane interviewing Dominique in one of the opening scenes of the film
The film follows eight characters, mostly academics, a group of four women – Dominique, Louise, Diane and Danielle and four men – Remy, Claude, Alain and Pierre. They are all colleagues at their university’s history department with the exception of Danielle who is a student.
The four men cook an elaborate meal at a lake-side house, while the women, in the meantime, workout at the gym. The camera constantly cuts and pans from one group to another while they indulge in recounting their sexual exploits.
Of the men, Rémy seems to be the most active hedonist of the group, as they all retell their sexual adventures seemingly trying to one-up each other. In one anecdote, he recounts that on the way to his mistress, he was craving sex so much that he had to stop at a brothel.
Alain, the youngest of the group, believes he is unlike all the others because he “doesn’t want to have sex with a new girl every night.”
Pierre lives with Danielle, who he met a massage parlor, after learning she was a student at the university.
Claude, the only gay man in the group, recounts how he likes to “cruise” gay hotspots in Montreal. He once had a lover, but he died in an accident and since then Claude has an uncontrollable lust.
He also has a mysterious disease. Claude is portrayed quite well as an openly gay man on the big screen, years before Philadelphia.
The women similarly discuss their sex lives. Diane describes her sado-masochistic relationship with her new boyfriend Mario once Louise discovers scratches on her back and notes how powerful she feels while in it experiencing the “power of the victim.”
Dominique, single and never married, is equally as promiscuous as Diane.
Danielle, the youngest among the women, is similar to Alain in that she has not had the same experiences and still believes that all she needs is to “be happy.”
Louise, the most conservative of the group and Remy’s wife, blushes at the idea of even flirting with her tennis instructor. She suspects Remy is unfaithful on his trips away but takes comfort in knowing (or rather believing) that while he is at home, he is 100% faithful. The women of course, know this is not true as both Diane and Dominique have in the past slept with Remy.
While at first, mostly all in good fun, the conversations and witty wordplay take a dark turn once they all meet for dinner. Secrets about them are spilled and grievances are voiced, exposing a group that at first seemed very modern in their sexual openness now seeming utterly unsatisfied and unfulfilled.
The degeneration of the group dynamic at this point in a way is a reflection of how Arcand saw society. That personal indulgence for indulgence’s sake is a sign of decline.
Decline is very much influenced by the 1981 film My Dinner With Andre, in its very dialogue-heavy script rife with wit. Although the focus throughout is very much on sex, we do not really see much of it. That sentiment is encapsulated well from one line from Mario:
“They talked about sex all afternoon as if they were getting ready for an orgy. Instead, the big deal is a fish pie!”
Original trailer for the film
The film itself today with its fashion as well as some racial stereotypes, comes off as dated. The ideas however, still come off as somewhat relevant.
In the era of Facebook and social media, it seems that attempts at quick personal gratification are all around us and might speak to a dissolving social structure With the election of Trump and all the other malfeasance in the world it might seem that society could be in decline once again (or even failing as Arcand would argue in his most recent film).
Some might posit, however, that to argue our “society” itself is in decline is questionable. The fall of empires have generally been a good thing for societies as it can mean change for the better, though it does, in many instances, cause periods of disarray. In this sense, the moral relativism of the film can seem kind of preachy.
Regardless of this, the film is quite fun and edgy because of its wit and subject matter and still has strains of relevance to viewers today. So before you go out and watch Arcand’s new film, I’d recommend a quick viewing of this classic first.
When it comes to Tom Green, “expect the unexpected” is pretty much a given. Still, nothing could prepare me for the star of Freddy Got Fingered reciting all the Prime Ministers of Canada since Confederation in order.
But that’s exactly what he did at the end of our phone interview plugging his one-night only show at Just for Laughs. He got it right, too (yes, Wikipedia and I fact-checked Tom Green) and would have done the US Presidents, too, if it wasn’t time for him to move on to his next interview.
Green said that this history lesson will be part of his one night only show at Just for Laughs. Last time I caught him perform, modern US politics were center stage, too, as it happened in the lead-up to the last US Presidential Election. This time around, though, don’t expect him to focus on the current state of US politics.
“I don’t like my audience to think they are coming out to hear somebody preaching against Donald Trump for two hours,” he said, “because that’s not really what my show is about.”
Green feels that politics are all anyone is talking about in the States these days, including him, so while he does do a few minutes on the topic, he focuses more on “social issues and talking about the absurdity of life in today’s world, all of the things that aren’t directly associated with politics but are still kind of interconnected with them.”
Green has been performing stand-up since he was 15, with a break to get famous on MTV and in movies. For the past decade, though, he has been making live audiences laugh pretty much full time.
While he always has old and new material in his head and a tentative plan for the show, it’s never set in stone. He edits his show in his head depending on where the crowd wants him to go.
“When I do a joke that may be a little, let’s say, outrageous and if I feel that the audience loves that sort of outrageous commentary, maybe I’ll do a few more jokes like that,” he noted, “but if they’re getting tired of a certain type of subject matter, I’ll know maybe before they do and switch.”
While Green admits that many comics employ improv and audience work like him, what sets him apart are the different energy levels he brings to a show.
“It’s not just about the material,” he said, “it’s about how I’m saying the joke, the speed that I’m going. I’ll literally have nights where I’m doing standup and I’ll realize that this crowd wants me to be more weird, so I’ll change my personality on stage. Then there are some nights I’ll be performing in Las Vegas where I’ll notice the crowd wants me to be a bit more normal.”
But did all those TV stunts Green pulled off with people on the street influence his approach to stand-up?
“It’s almost in reverse,” he said, “people forget that I did stand-up for several years before I started The Tom Green Show. They don’t really necessarily realize that all that stuff on the street, that was rooted in stand-up. The rhythm of me walking down the street with a hand-held microphone talking to people on the street kinda came from me doing stand-up in a comedy club and talking to people in the crowd.”
Green does admit that they definitely both have influence on each other as he has brought his years of trying to pull comedy out of people on the street to the stand-up stage. He even tells people interested in his live show that only know him from TV and movies:
“It’s kind of like those bits I do on the street, except it’s happening live with people in the front row.”
Having seen him perform live once, I can attest to that. This time, though, the people in the front rows should probably brush up on their Canadian and American history.
* Tom Green: One Night Only, part of the 2018 Montreal Just for Laughs Festival, is Wednesday, July 25, 9:30pm at Maison Théâtre, 245 Ontario Est. Tickets available through hahaha.com
Francisco Ramos is a newcomer to Just for Laughs. A Venezuelan who moved to the United States in his teens, he has a unique perspective on what it’s like south of the border for immigrants, something that is prominent in his comedy and which has surprisingly remained constant even in the current political climate.
“I thought it was going to be more especially when Trump became President,” Ramos said in a phone interview, “but it hasn’t. It’s kind of been the same in terms of stereotypes that people have not for Venezuelans but for Latinos in general. I still use it to get my comedy out there and get the stereotypes out.”
Ramos, who will be performing in this year’s JFL Ethnic Show, doesn’t feel that American comedians, in particular those from visible minority backgrounds, have an obligation to address the current state of US politics. He has noted, however, that he never experienced racism or discrimination in Venezuela, but has since he arrived in the US.
“I think that when you’re an ethnic comic, especially in the States, and I know a lot of them, we don’t talk about it because we need to or we have to,” he observed, “ it’s stuff that has happened to us and we have some kind of experience and then we talk about it.”
While Ramos’ comedy does touch on politics, it’s not the main point.
“For me the main thing is to always be funny, he commented, “I’m not going to talk about anything that’s not funny. I do hit it but I don’t go so direct to it. I will be talking about it but it’s give them the funny first. I also don’t try to divide people. Everybody’s got their own beliefs and I try and respect that. I will tell my point of view, but in a funny way.”
One thing that does come out quite a bit in his comedy, and surely will at The Ethnic Show, is the all too common misconception in the states that Latino means Mexican.
“I mean I get it,” Ramos observed, “because the majority of Latinos in the US are Mexican. If that’s what you grow up with, that’s what you think everybody is. For me I’m trying to go ‘yeah, there’s Mexicans, those are Venezuelans, those are Colombians and we’re similar but we also have our differences’. I try to take it as a whole as hit on those universal things that I can do with my comedy. If I hit that, more people will be interested in seeing me and hearing more about the other stories they haven’t heard of.”
Ramos majored in the admittedly un-funny fields of Finance and International Business and started working at an investment firm after college. Then, after what he describes as a “quarter-life crisis” he moved to LA to do standup.
This journey has led him to the JFL stage for the first time. He is thrilled to be here, and when asked about the current state of US-Canada relations:
“I’d say, well now you feel how we feel. I’d say to Canada ‘keep doing what you do’ because you’re doing a great job with your prime minister and everything.”
* Francisco Ramos performs as part of The Ethnic Show in the Just for Laughs Festival starting Wednesday, July 11. Tickets available through hahaha.com