On September 26th, Pop Montreal returns with another five days of music, film, panels, and visual arts. It’s been a few years since I’ve attended this very Plateau/Mile End festival, but I already know I’m going to have a good time. Because unlike other bigger festivals where you’re drawn to check out what you know, at Pop you’re guaranteed to discover a whole slew of new exciting artists you’ve never heard of before.

Here’s my list of what I’m most looking forward to checking out at Pop Montreal 2018:

Bad Reputation

Ever since I first heard the song I Love Rock n’ Roll as a teenager, I was drawn to the badass that is Joan Jett. This year as part of Film Pop, the festival will be screening a documentary by director Kevin Kerslake about the legendary feminist punk rocker. I’m also looking forward to attending the screening at the newly opened indie/art house movie theater Cinema Moderne on St-Laurent.

Wednesday, September 26, 8pm, Cinema Moderne, 5150 St-Laurent. Tickets $12

Kilo Kish

While rap music isn’t usually my thing, I was so drawn by the music video for Elegance by New York artist Kilo Kish that I officially have added her show to my must-see list. While researching Kish I discovered that Pitchfork recently dubbed Elegance one of the best songs of 2018, declaring “Building from the stream-of-consciousness style that characterizes most of her catalog, Kilo Kish turns her racing thoughts into crackling electricity.”

Wednesday, September 26, 11pm, Piccolo Rialto, 5723 Ave du Parc. Tickets $20

Puces POP

My favourite part of POP. The festival has these fairs year-round now (if you’re friends with a Plateau gal, you’ve undoubtedly been dragged to one of these events), but the biggest of them all is always during the main festival in September. For three glorious days, you can shop for prints, jewelry, food, makeup and clothing. So come watch hipsters gather in their natural habitat, and leave with a cute new print to hang on your wall!

September 28-30, Eglise St-Denis, 454 Laurier Est. Schedule

Molly Nilsson

Molly Nilson is a Swedish pop singer that, according to Pitchfork “does ennui like no one else.” That combined with her 80s music sound has me excited to see what she does onstage. I would love to tell you more about her but she doesn’t have much of a social media presence… which kind of only makes me want to get to know this artist more.

Thursday, September 27, 8:30pm, Bar “le Ritz” P.D.B., 179 Jean-Talon Ouest. Tickets $16.50

Art POP

In between film screenings and shows, I plan on checking out the many art shows that are also happening during Pop. Here’s just a sampling of the ones I’m most excited for:

Où sommes-nous

OBORO and White Frame co-present Où sommes-nous, an exhibition by Judith Albert, Katrin Freisager, Dana Claxton, and Nik Forrest. These four established artists open and disrupt our knowledge of space and time, bringing into question the line between reality and illusion through poetry and resistance. (info)

Pop Pavillion

Art POP is collaborating for the very first time with the Association of Visual and Media Arts Masters students (AEMAVM) of the Université du Québec à Montréal to co-present POP Pavillon, AEMAVM’s annual group exhibition showcasing the work of 11 exciting, emerging artists. (info)

Whispering Pines

Centre Clark presents a new exhibition by Shana Moulton, an artist who creates evocatively oblique narratives in her video and performance works. In Whispering Pines, the artist presents art pieces combining an unsettling, wry humor with a low-tech, pop sensibility.(info)

* POP Montreal 2018 runs September 26-30. Full schedule available at POPMontreal.com

** Featured Image: Screengrab from Kilo Kish’s Elegance video

Michelle Blanc won’t win in Mercier and Parti Québécois (PQ) Leader Jean-François Lisée knows it. Keeping her on the ballot is all about how removing her would play outside of Montreal.

Mercier, which includes a large chunk of the Plateau and Mile End, is Amir Khadir’s riding, or at least it will be until he is replaced in this year’s Quebec Election (he’s not running again). It’s the first riding Québec Solidaire (QS) won (they took it from the PQ) and it remains a stronghold for them.

The prospect of the PQ reclaiming Mercier from QS was a longshot to begin with, even with Khadir gone. Running Blanc, a trans woman, as the candidate, might have seemed to the PQ brass like a shot in the dark that might just get some progressive voters to flip back to them.

The problem is Blanc turned out to be quite the racist and overall problematic candidate.

In late August, a since deleted tweet from earlier this year surfaced in which Blanc used a racial slur to complain about a Bell customer service agent:

“An employee insists on calling me ‘Sir’ because my voice is masculine. My response, your voice is African and I don’t call you my little (n-word).”

Lisée defended Blanc by arguing that she was a private citizen, not a candidate, when she wrote the tweet and we shouldn’t be judged by our past mistakes. The past, in this case, being six months earlier.

Around the same time, Blanc called philosophy professor and blogger Xavier Camus a pedophile in another tweet after Camus blogged about ties between the PQ and the far right. This time Blanc apologized herself and deleted the tweet after Camus filed a cease and desist order.

Then, a 2007 blog post surfaced in which Blanc complained about members of the Hasidic Jewish community not saying hello to her and wished that they would just “diappear” from her sight. This time there would be no apology from either Blanc or Lisée, instead she offered “no comment” and her party leader started talking about free speech.

So why doesn’t Lisée just drop Blanc as a candidate? Or, at the very least, why doesn’t he urge her to re-think alienating the Hasidic community, which makes up part of the riding she is running to represent?

That would be an easy calculation to make if the PQ’s goal was, in fact, to take back Mercier. While it may have been that originally, now the party’s biggest concern is not alienating voters who agree with Blanc’s bigoted statements in ridings where the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) is poised to win.

The PQ, over the past ten years at least, has really had two bases: progressive sovereignists in Montreal and Quebec City and right-leaning nationalists everywhere else. For the most part, they have managed to play to both of them, with a few notable exceptions like André Boisclair losing the right and Pauline Marois losing the left with her Charter debacle.

Now, a chief architect of the Charter is heading the party, looking at poll numbers and calculating that the only way the PQ can remain relevant is to give up on winning in Montreal and hope the right-leaning part of its base doesn’t think the party has turned its back on them. Keeping Blanc on the ticket in Mercier is a sure way to show them that they haven’t abandoned the bigots.

Blanc won’t re-take Mercier and Lisée may even lose his seat in Rosemont, but that doesn’t really matter to the PQ now

Montreal’s The Holds are a band inspired by the greats and their local contemporaries. Frontman Ryan Setton cites classic R&B artists like Otis Redding and Stevie Wonder, classic rock acts such as The Animals and Led Zeppelin and  local acts like John Jacob Magistry and The Damn Truth among the band’s influences.

“When we approach what we do,” Setton said in a telephone interview, “we’re influenced by the past but we’re not thinking about it. We’re definitely in the moment of what’s going on now (on the Montreal scene). The result is The Holds.”

Setton feels that the scene that influences them is also one that gives back.

“Montreal’s always been a very supportive scene, a lot of people are supporting the bands,” he said, adding that “it can be tough, though, at the same time because there are a lot of bands. So it can be intimidating sometimes as an artist to find out just where you fit in.”

The Holds is Setton on vocals and guitar, Justin Wiley on drums and percussion, Eric Hein playing lead guitar and André Galamba on bass. That was the same lineup I caught at their EP launch two years ago, shortly after the band’s formation.

“We are lucky enough to have the same lineup for years,” Setton observed, “building chemistry and having a good band chemistry and interaction between the musicians is super important. With the first EP it was more like ‘Hey, let’s do this!’ We didn’t really know where it was going to go. But doing this second record it was clear we’re all on the same page…There’s no confusion as to what direction we’re headed in as a band.”

While The Holds are a band that sticks together, they also tried living together for four days in the country. This was in order to record their first full-length album Juke, featuring songs they had already written over the course of a year and a half.

“We had recorded many times in the city,” Setton remembered, “and at the end day everyone would go home and we’d have to come back in the morning and get back into the flow. That’s why I thought if I get everyone together, we’re in one place, we’re stuck there…and it was totally worth it because it all worked out for the best.”

You can hear for yourself this Saturday when The Holds play live and release Juke. In the meantime, enjoy this video from their first EP:

* The Holds Juke Album Launch with special guests Celina Wolfe and Lea Keeley is Satuday, August 25 at 9pm (doors 8pm) at le Petit Campus, 57 Prince Arthur Est. $10 (includes a dropcard with a download code for the album)

Dawn McSweeney has been writing for years: short stories, poetry, even some journalistic pieces for this very site. Now, she has finished and published her first novel, The Hills We Climb By Accident.

“The story lent itself to the length of a novel,” McSweeney said in a phone interview, “I started writing it with the hopes that it would be a book, but I’ve done that before and they don’t always get there. This one did.”

McSweeney did try self-publishing once before, back in the early 2000s, which meant actually paying for paper and doing it yourself. She finds that now there is much more opportunity for authors to get their work our there, but, of course, there are limitations.

“There’s no support, there’s no net, there’s no person who is the expert who is guiding this whole ship, it’s kind of like ‘here are some words, I hope they stick’,” she observed, while also noting that her daughter’s friend got her book as an Amazon recommendation, so “maybe there is a fair shot to be had.”

Location may have played a part in that recommendation as McSweeney’s book is set in Montreal, which, as she puts it “not enough” are. This choice was, in part, because it’s what she knows, but also due to some of the unique aspects of life in our city.

“People tell me that in other places they don’t use parks the way that we do.  We treat a park like a beach and  lay out in a way that in other cities maybe they don’t,” the Montreal born and raised author observed, noting  that “the things we take for granted and just process every day are actually flavourful experiences that are site-specific.”

McSweeney grew up thinking that if you set your story in Canada, it will be considered just a Canadian story, without the prospect of getting traction internationally. However, she now feels that a Montreal story is different.

“We’re OG hipster in that way,” she observes, “we have that caché of a very small space that we have injected so much personality into.”

Family relations also play a big part in her story, too. And one planned plot point was unexpectedly mirrored in McSweeney’s own life as she was completing the book.

“I didn’t plan for that to happen,” McSweeney observed, “and it was strange to be writing about that concurrently.”

The Mountains We Climb By Accident follows its central character Talia from the present day, to a few years prior, to her childhood, then back to a few years ago, then back to the present, then to her teenage years and so on. It reads like several short stories woven together thematically rather than chronologically.

McSweeney says she chose this structure to better emulate how a person actually thinks:

“We are just a collection of our disjointed experiences,” she explained, “they are all each a chapter and are all each a separate narrative. You can remember something from your childhood so poignantly and then completely forget a conversation you had last week. One becomes the afterthought and one becomes the centerpiece memory. Sometimes I struggle to write something in a straight line because that’s not how it feels when I experience it.”

You can experience this unique narrative structure and a story based in Montreal right now.

The Mountains We Climb By Accident by Dawn McSweeney is available now in paperback and can be pre-ordered as an e-Book

The History of Sexuality is a play that is going to make you uncomfortable, but the reasons it will are the very reasons why you should see it.

Following a successful run at the Mainline theater in September 2017, it was selected as part of Pride 2018’s programming. Playwright, director, and producer Dane Stewart set out to write a play about queerness and power dynamics and the result is a piece that is visceral, heartrending, intellectual, sexy, and authentic.

The play revolves around a Master’s seminar about Michel Foucault’s book, The History of Sexuality taught by Marie, played by Renée Hodgins. It is through this seminar that the stories of the professor and her students are tied together. Though they have their own lives and relationships with power dynamics and sexuality, they always end up in class to talk about Foucault.

Hodgins’ portrayal is partly of the stereotypical passionate university professor doing her best to make her students think, while at the same her character is given depth through her relationship with her long-term partner, Gayle, played by Haitian Canadian actress Melissa Toussaint.

Gayle is disabled and the struggles between her and Marie to maintain intimacy despite the disability are relatable and real. Toussaint’s Gayle is one of the most faithful representations of the struggle to live with disability I’ve ever seen on stage.

You feel her frustration as she struggles to find a job not only as a black woman, but as a disabled black woman, and you see the deflated look of depression so many disabled people have when Toussaint is on stage. It is a look similar to that of Madeleine, a black woman struggling with depression while doing her best to maintain her relationship with Alissa – played by Kayleigh Choiniere.

Madeleine – played by Jazmin Illidge – is a woman struggling to find her place in the world despite being a black lesbian with depression. You feel the listlessness in her portrayal and the impact on her relationship with Alissa, who works as a stripper. Alissa shares her struggles with being objectified in her work and her portrayal is a good demonstration of how ordinary and likeable strippers can be. In the play, Alissa is asked to introduce her classmate Talia (played by Katherine King) to stripping.

It is Talia and Darr, the play’s transgender character played by Darragh Mondoux, who are in one of the most important parts of the play. This section addresses sexual assault, and is overlaid with audio clips of an interview Dane Stewart did with an actual sexual assault survivor.

It mercilessly addresses the fact that it is the female victims’ accounts that are always put on trial and not men’s, and with every graphic detail, audiences are made profoundly aware that coercion or the simple violation of the accepted terms of a sexual encounter can turn a consensual encounter into a rape.

The play also includes an interview with a male self-professed perpetrator of sexual violence. It is an uncomfortable topic, but it’s an important one that we need to keep talking about.

The History of Sexuality also addresses kink, which is another topic that might make people uncomfortable. Craig – played by Trevor Barrette – is a student in Marie’s class, but he also works as a gay male escort, and is into puppy play. You see him being whipped by his master Martin, played by the Oliver Price who comes off a bit cold but well-suited to the part, as well as some simulated pee play that may make some people squirm.

That said, Barrette’s Craig is sweet and loveable and the relationship between Craig and Martin helps to demystify some aspects of kink. The portrayal also addresses the issue of emotional abuse while highlighting the power submissives have in BDSM relationships, a notion that is typically misunderstood. After Fifty Shades of Grey, we need more realistic portrayals of kink like this one and Stewart, Barrette, and Price certainly did it justice.

The History of Sexuality does have its flaws.

The portrayals of the characters in prostitution seem to minimize its dangers. The classroom scenes can get a bit boring and heavy with intellectual discussion, though they do succeed in addressing the viciousness with which some people on the Left speak to those with opposing views.

David Hudon is perfect as John, the stereotypical cis white male who is a slave to the gender binary and adheres to essentialist notions of differences between sexes. You feel John’s defensiveness constantly when he is on stage as well as how quick his non-gender conforming classmates are to attack him. Though the character has no backstory, Dane Stewart admitted in an earlier interview that the character is meant to represent the majority of men women and queer people have to deal with regularly.

The History of Sexuality is the kind of play we need more of. It’s not perfect, but it helps to demystify many aspects of sexuality many cis straight vanilla people would like to ignore but cannot. If you identify as queer, disabled, or trans, or a person of colour you will see aspects of yourself on stage and feel the power of being adequately represented. If you’re a woman who’s been victimized in the past, you will feel vindicated. If you’re cis and straight, the play will hopefully make you realize that people are people. For this reason alone, it’s worth seeing.

* The History of Sexuality runs August 9th through 12th. Tickets available through Place des Arts

** Featured image of Darragh Mondoux in The History of Sexuality by Peter Ryaux-Larsen

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

Day 3 of Osheaga seemed like any other. Folks both young and old lining up for the attractions in between the long awaited sets of their favourite artists.

The atmosphere was jolly, friendly and exciting. There was much to be entertained with and everyone seemed delightfully entangled with the surrounding crowds and atmosphere.

With seesaws, contests, and plenty of freebies, Osheaga is certainly a place where one could relive their youth.

Ready for Day 3

 

These dudes clearly didn`t read the sign

 

Checking out the Perrier Greenhouse

 

Fun comes in all forms at Osheaga

 

Jungle wowing the crowd

 

A screen grab, so to speak

 

DVSN from a distance

 

Excited crowd for Brockhampton

 

Excited crowd with Brockhampton

 

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.

* The History of Sexuality runs August 9th through 12th. Tickets available through Place des Arts

** Featured image by Peter Ryaux-Larsen. (L to R) Darragh Mondoux, Trevor Barrette, Kayleigh Choiniere

Even with 95% humidity day two of Osheaga was still was packed, energetic affair. As we arrived this afternoon, it was hard not get swept up in the crowds of kids singing “Ole, Ole, Ole, oh LEY!”

It really set the tone of what Osheaga is all about; swarms of people heading off island to get rowdy.

Here are a few snapshots of the day:

Chad and Avril waiting in line to get on the Yellow Line

 

Aaaand we’re back!

 

There’s a ball pit on sight so that kids of all ages can play when not checking out bands.

 

When you’re the old people at the party this is the band you’ve been waiting for. Blondie is still rocking it as hard as ever

 

Nice to see some local eateries represented. Grumman ’78 is a favorite for St-Henri locals and now known to the locals of Osheaga.

 

Not to mention it’s damn tasty and a great way to re-fuel before more music

 

Chilling in the back as the sun goes down listening to Lord Huron. You have to sit sometimes.

 

San Holo saying goodnight

 

There were nighttime makeovers too

 

We decided to watch Arctic Monkeys from a safe distance

 

Here’s a better view (photo P Beaudry, courtesy Osheaga/Evenko)

 

The view as you leave Osheaga

A day at Osheaga is like a rollercoaster. It’s fast, crowded and constantly in movement.

The key, just like a roller coaster, is to stay focused on the spot right in front of you and keep your wits about you.

It’s impossible to do everything and trying will result in truly doing nothing. Instead pick what you like the most and stick with it.

Here are a few brief moments in time that capture some of what went on today:

The Scene

 

The Music (Of Course)

Rainbow Kitten Surprise (image P Beaudry Courtesy Osheaga/Evenko)
Chromeo (photo Chris Zacchia)

The Food (more on this tomorrow)

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.

Manchester Orchestra

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.

 

 

LP

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!

Julien Baker

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.

Alex Lahey

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.

The Beaches

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.

“Let’s celebrate like we don’t give a faaaahhhhk!” – SOIA

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.

Deep shag astroturf!

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.

* Photos by Dawn McSweeney

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

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.

Vanessa Graddick

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.

Andrew Schulz

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.

Daphnique Springs

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.

Nina Tarr

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.

Usama Siddiquee

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.

* Jimmy Carr: The Best Of, Ultimate, Gold, Greatest Hits World Tour runs through July 29th. Tickets available through hahaha.com