It must be said right off the bat that I am a tad biased towards Festival de la Bète Noire. A multidisciplinary horror theatre festival, it runs from February 19-23 at MainLine Theatre. I have the honor of being the illustrator for one of the festival’s shows, Quagmire Productions’ How to the Kill Your Baby 101, a one-woman show about post-partum depression.

Festival de la Bète Noire was founded in 2018 by Mylène Chicoine, who is now its Executive and Artistic Director. It features a wide variety of live performances from solo shows to storytelling to stage plays to dance shows, though it welcomes everything from puppetry to burlesque to shows Chicoine cheerfully refers to as “unclassifiable”. I had the opportunity to sit down with her to talk more about the festival and why she started it.

When Chicoine founded the festival she immediately got to work collecting a team. Among them are Tyla Webster, Assistant Director and Artist Liaison, Technical Director Eric Wrazen, Christian Menard, Finance and Director and “Professional Boring Guy”, and their Administrative Assistant Robin Friedman.

I’m not a horror fan so I was curious as to whether Bète Noire is truly for everyone. Chicoine says that it’s for anyone who wants to experience something truly unique.

“Part of the reason I put this festival together is because I use fear the same way other people use laughter. For me it is a form of therapy, it is a form of catharsis, it’s a way to deal with those deep dark hidden things inside that you don’t want to deal with but then you put it on the stage and you deal with it together.”

She compares the Bète Noire to the Montreal Jazz Festival, noting that you rarely actually hear any jazz at the Jazz fest. She points out that horror is a huge and diverse genre that includes everything from murder mysteries to psycho thrillers to ghost stories and not just blood and gore.

When asked if there would be blood in these productions, Chicoine admits there will be blood and maybe guts, but nothing will be sprayed on the audience. She also adds that there will be content and trigger warnings and things that are meant to push boundaries, adding that some shows are scarier than others.

“But once you do it, you did it, and you survived.”

The Festival’s offerings this year include the aforementioned How to Kill Your Baby 101, Marissa Blair’s BDSM horror piece Triptych, The Malicious Basement’s Maintenance on cyberspace, Kay Komizara’s Monstrologyka about monsters and witches and many more. You can see the full lineup on the festival’s Facebook page.

The shows vary in length but are generally about an hour long. Chicoine said that she has not seen the shows yet. Her and her team selected participants based on the overall message and boundary pushing.

“Something that’s a little out of the ordinary as opposed to ‘here’s some horror’.”

Applications took place online, with people submitting a blurb of about 25-50 words. Though she admits the team knows some of the artists and has seen their shows, the overall criteria was interest with her team taking votes on what to include in Bète Noire.

In addition to the shows themselves, the Festival includes open mic Fright Nights, the Opening Night Horror Gala featuring horror skits, an art exhibition throughout MainLine theatre, as well as horror trivia night – about ALL horror, not just movies. Originally started as fundraising efforts to cover the costs of the Festival, these events adjacent to the festival have become a way to bring the community together.

When I asked Chicoine if there’s one thing she could say to prospective audiences, she invited people to join her on this journey.

“Go check it out. Go fight your demons. Go love them. Go embrace them. That’s what the Festival is for.”

Lesbian Speed Date from Hell is a true horror comedy. Following a successful run at the Mainline Theatre as part of Off- JFL/Zoofest, it’s back as part of Montreal Pride’s official programming. Presented by Pride along with Christina Saliba, the show is funny and scary, and for abuse survivors, it can be triggering.

The play revolves around Jackie (Katharine King So), a young lesbian who is grudgingly attending a speed dating event hosted by her friend and neighbor Regina (Kathy Slamen). Regina is your typical lesbian cougar. In case you had any doubts, Slamen’s costumes consist of mostly of leopard print, and her portrayal is a hilarious mix of sassy, maternal, and raunchy.

At the event, Jackie meets Amy (Martha Graham), an awkward blonde, Natalie (Alexandra Laferriere), a beautiful black lesbian jonesing for Regina, Kyle (Jeroem Lindeman), a stereotypical dudebro and Ashley (Kate Hammer), a former one-night stand of Jackie’s with a big grudge.

What follows is a display of awkward conversations, hilarious facial expressions, and uncomfortable torture scenes.

Hammer’s portrayal of Ashley is at once horrific and riveting. All the time she’s on stage you never doubt her anger, her malice, or her psychosis. Her madness is believable yet just over the top enough to keep the play from being too real.

King So’s Jackie is a perfect foil for Ashley’s crazy. Her screams are bone-chillingly realistic and her fear and outrage appropriate.

Survivors of abuse will likely find the interaction between Jackie and Ashley uncomfortably triggering as there is blood and violence and accurate portrayals of pain. But there is enough humour in the play to balance it out.

The fight choreography is hilariously done in slow motion and with more courtesy than one would expect in a struggle between a psychotic murderer and a desperate victim. There are murder mystery clichés like the strategic use of on and off lighting, and Jeroen Lindeman’s Kyle is amusingly obnoxious and a reminder of why our culture needs more feminist entertainment like this.

That said, if you’re an abuse survivor go in prepared to be a little uncomfortable and reassure yourself that with the horror comes plenty to laugh about. For everyone else, be prepared to laugh, cry, and gasp in horror.

It’s an emotional rollercoaster of a show, but it’s worth it.

Lesbian Speed Date From Hell runs until August 16, tickets available through Montreal Pride

What to do, what to do… I know: check out some of these shows this week.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 30

New Moon Psychedelic Mass: NooM + Light Bulb Alley + Bearmace + Hoax @ Café Cleopatra (upstairs)

A new monthly event comes to us from the collective known as Witching Hour Events. To be held every new moon cycle, events feature short works by local filmmakers, performances by local bands of every genre, multimedia activities and visual arts. The event’s creators say it’s all in the spirit of exchanging ideas and information and sharing creative experiences to inspire change.

This version will feature performances by NooM, Light Bulb Alley, Bearmace, and Hoax. Attendees are even encouraged to bring a small instrument or other sound-making device to use during a short jam to honour the new moon.

Dressing like an alien for this edition is also encouraged.

Free before 10 p.m., $5 after.

Pierre-Guy Blanchard, Jérémi Roy and Sam Shalabi trio @ Bethlehem XXX (6568 boul. Saint-Laurent)

Members of Land of Kush, PACHA, and part of the Constellation Records family, the trio will perform an early set at a Little Italy food joint owned by musician, artist and chef Beaver Sheppard.

Show starts at 6 p.m. and ends at 9 p.m., $7.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 31

Trade Secrets + Archery Guild + Formalists + Blood @ Brasserie Beaubien

Doors at 9 p.m., $5.

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 2

Lymbyc Systym + Arms and Sleepers + Atsuko Chiba @ Il Motore

Doors open at 8:30 p.m., $10/$12.

Bass Drum of Death + Alex Calder @ Casa del Popolo

Doors open at 8 p.m., $8/$10.

CJLO recently launched a compilation album for their artist outreach program – which helps support local artists by recording and promoting their tracks. The launch party was a musical sweat fest. Highlights of the evening were The This Many Boyfriends Club and Blood, two local bands with decidedly different sounds, whose alchemic notes caught our attention. Below is a review of their latest releases along with the debut album of local artist Ari Swan.

Blood – Kasey/Organism and CJLO Compilation 2013

Blood is David Kleiser, Fraser Roodbol (formerly of Annette’s Beach Party), Ben Griffiths, and Andrew Bates. My ears first perked up to their sound during the CJLO launch party when Blood sang “It takes a lot of cum to find the right one”, a lyrically crass image that merges with the psychedelic smoothness of the band’s sound to create a clever insightful image reflecting on the visceral experiences of searching for connection. Their sound is decidedly retro but blends more modern elements towards a sound that’s been absent on the indie scene for quite some time. There’s often a danger when it comes to making music that refers to the rock days of old, but Blood isn’t offering a caricature, they are translating it. Of the four tracks available by Blood, “Teen Jesus” and “Kasey” are the standouts. Overall, this sound’s pretty dope and I look forward to seeing what a full length from these guys will sound like.

See Them:  At CFC on October 31st, they’ll be the dudes dressed up as Neutral Blood Hotel and promise to play two songs from Avery Island and two songs from Aeroplane.

Hear them: http://bloodsongs.bandcamp.com/

http://cjlo1690am.bandcamp.com/music

a0025657284_10This Many Boyfriends Club – Die or Get Rich Trying / A Pumpkin Like You

This Many Boyfriends Club has been pretty darn prolific in the last year coming out with two more EPs. Tracks for “Die or Get Rich Trying”, mixed and mastered by Marshall Vaillancourt  (Archery Guidld), were recorded as part of the CJLO Artist Outreach Program. The Boyfriends thoroughly nailed it when playing the tunes live – giving them an even more ragged edge that I actually prefer to the recorded tracks. That being said, since their Ep Anything Is Popsicle, the Boyfriends have added quite a bit of punk rock to their dandypunk twee pop cake mix. Danger-Winslow Danger’s grittier vocals are a pleasant surprise. Top tracks on Die or Get Rich Trying are “Sylvie” and “Alright/Already”. Available as a B Side on a limited cassette tape edition of Die or Get Rich Trying is a bonus EP A Pumpkin Like You, which feels like a musical step between Anything is Popsicle and Die or Get Rich Trying. A Pumpkin Like You, stronger as a coherent hole than Die or Get Rich Trying, boasts some fun frolicky tracks that are closer to the band’s twee beginnings. Our favourites are “a little fucking candor” and “polly anne marie.”

Hear Them: http://thismanyboyfriendsclub.bandcamp.com/album/die-or-get-rich-trying

See Them: Nov. 2nd at CFC with Smokes and White Like Fire.

a1221310642_2Ari Swan – Symphony Plastique

“I’ll build you a symphony, if only you’d ask” says Ari Swan’s page. Well, we’re definitely gonna be asking (politely of course) now that we’ve heard Swan’s debut album.

I first heard of Ari Swan when she played with Gabrielle Papillion, one of my favourite Canadian folk artists. Upon further research, it’s pretty clear to me that Swan has got quite a bit of experience under her belt including Folly and the Hunter, Little Scream, Heirloom, Lakes of Canada, and Chimneys. Recently, Ari Swan has released Symphony Plastique, an EP of her solo project and it’s pretty darn rad. Violin driven pop is a hard thing to pull off, I’ll admit it’s something I often find overbearing, but Ari Swan does it masterfully and with charm. Recorded by Jamie Thompson (Unicorns), Symphony Plastique seems to have been a two person album with Ari Swan on violin and vocals and Thompson on percussion and effects. A two person art pop symphony that weaves loops and experiments with all the things a violin and a voice can do. Impressive, very impressive. “I’ve Come with Nothing” and “Words that Follow” are our favourites.

Hear Her:http://ariswan.bandcamp.com/album/symphony-plastique

When it comes to the live concert experience, we expect a lot from the artists up on stage. But what about the crowd? If we demand that an audience display as much energy and excitement as we’ve come to expect from our favourite bands, every show would be like the ORG713 show that happened at Sala Rossa last Thursday.

Most of the crowd were very happily and exuberantly dancing along to every song. As one girl at the show put it, it was as if they were all competing to see who can dance in the most psychotic fashion. Indeed, most people looked like they had lost their minds from sheer joy and good times.

This much frenetic, arrhythmic movement is usually reserved for the most brutal heavy metal mosh pits. But there was a style and grace to the dancing people not present at louder, heavier shows.

The show featured Montreal bands The Haiduks, Blood and Archery Guild. Headlining was Toronto-based psychedelic outfit Ostrich Tuning.

The Haiduks’ psychedelic 60s pop started the show off on the right foot. Their warm sound has a tendency to envelop you in a fuzzy blanket of comfort and make you feel a little zoned-out and loopy.

Just when you were feeling nice and relaxed, spanking-new band Blood took the stage. Founding member and show organizer David Kleiser describes Blood as “Elephant 6 forming a KC and the Sunshine Band cover band.” This is when the crazy dancing started. The lights were off and some very trippy footage from obscure old films was playing on a big screen behind the band.

The captivating visuals continued when Archery Guild took the stage. The lights were back on and all nine (and sometimes ten) band members could be properly seen. Sala Rossa is a great venue to see bands with big lineups and even bigger sounds. There’s something about the way those chandeliers and the velvety red curtains get reflected in brass instruments. It makes you feel like you’re in another time.

In all honesty, I missed Ostrich Tuning’s set. The show started well past the advertised start time of 8 p.m. and I wasn’t able to stay until the end. I can imagine how their darker, moodier brand of psychedelic indie rock brought the entire evening to a beautiful culmination.

This video nicely captures the essence of the show, minus the amazing music.

ORG is a multimedia creative collective made up of musicians, artists and filmmakers. They regularly schedule events to showcase music, zines, comics, posters and other pieces of art from members and friends. To read more about the collective, see Pamela Fillion’s interview with David Kleiser.

Archery Guild

Photos by Bianca David.