Fredua Boakye

“Growing up, people were always telling me that I was the ‘whitest Black kid’ they knew because I loved ‘white rock music’ like Radiohead and Dead Kennedys,” says Fredua of Bad Rabbits. He laughs, and quickly responds to them: “But you can’t ‘act a colour,’ and Rock & Roll culture isn’t reserved for X race. But I will say this until my dying day: Rock & Roll was created by a Black Queer woman named Rosetta Tharpe.”

Fredua is the frontman of Bad Rabbits, and I had the honour to speak with him about race, rock, and his thoughts on being a Black American in 2016.

Fredua tells me that conversations of race and belonging within his scene have always been a part of his consciousness, explaining the common lamentation among young men of colour that he was never “Black enough” for the Black kids, and “too Black” for the white kids.

“I considered myself a hybrid from the jump because nobody on either side liked me… The only kids who accepted me in school were the punk rock kids.” For Fredua, this embrace of the punk scene of the late 80s led to an early and profound appreciation for bands like Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, and Public Enemy.

The moment of clarity that gave Fredua a real understanding of how he could fit into the Rock scene came when he saw Fishbone and Living Colour music videos, with Black musicians like Kendall Jones and Vernon Reid “not rapping, not singing, just jamming with guitars. When people said I was the ‘whitest Black guy’… There was nothing ‘white’ about what I was doing. Period. I was doing what I saw, and that was a Black person playing this music.”

When I asked Fredua about conversations of race in his current role as the frontman of a multi-ethnic band in a scene dominated by white dudes, he emphatically affirmed that there has never been racial tension at a Bad Rabbits show, as people are too busy having a good time. It’s when he stops making music for people to dance to, and starts talking about things that make him angry and upset – like the ability for police to routinely kill Black people with impunity – that tempers begin to flare.

Fredua explains, “There are probably a bunch of my fans that are inherently racist, and I know this because I’ve argued with them. They’re the types that grew up thinking Black people are supposed to only be entertainers or basketball players. When they see me speaking my mind it’s suddenly ‘Fredua, you’re an entertainer, you shouldn’t be talking like that!’ People are angry at the fact that I have the nerve to talk about things going on instead of making a song for them to dance to.”

In response to the recent spate of highly-publicized killings of Black people by police, Fredua posted a video to his personal Facebook page in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Fredua tells me that the response from most friends and fans was positive, but one fan came out of the woodwork to leave the following comment: “I follow you because I think your old band was awesome, but let’s be honest, this militant black guy thing isn’t working out for anyone.”

Fredua explains it’s no skin off his nose – people who see him not as a Black human being, but strictly an entertainer aren’t real fans anyway. The reluctance of white peers and fans to see him as anything but a stage presence has bothered Fredua since he first started singing: “I look back at school, and I mean, I did chorus for the girls. Don’t get me wrong,” he says with a laugh, “The girls loved my voice. But they didn’t love me. Because I didn’t look like them.”

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I asked Fredua if these reactions to his showmanship bother him when he looks back on them, and he is quick to point out that he’s one of the lucky ones. “I lived out my dream. That dream was to make music and act like a damn fool for the rest of my natural life, and I don’t have to worry about aging because I found the fountain of youth through music. I have a beautiful house and a beautiful wife and a beautiful dog and I get to do something I love all the time.”

Fredua mentioned that Bad Rabbits has a new album one year in the making that will have more anger in it than previous records. He describes some of the album’s lyrical content as “two year’s worth of anger,” much of it directed toward the issues that we spoke about.

The new album, American Nightmare, is planned to drop in September, but will likely end up coming sooner. When I naively asked if the early release was due to the urgency of the message, Fredua’s voice dropped to that sacred place where the spirit meets the bone:

“This is the thing that kills me about this issue of police brutality,” Fredua says calmly, but with palpable fury. Cops are always gonna kill people. As long as there’s a justice system that lets these people kill someone and go about their day, there is never gonna be any type of change. This country is hell bent on keeping things the way it is – to keep the haves and the have-nots, the white and the Black, the Us and the Them, separate.”

The footage of the recent shootings and lack of legal action against the officers involved has made it abundantly clear to the public that it is possible to kill a Black person with little to no consequence. Black activists like Fredua, understandably furious that their lives are proven to be worth less than white victims of similar violence, are routinely portrayed by mainstream media as “armed-and-dangerous Black Power rebels,” seconds away from violence.

Fredua (Second from left) with Bad Rabbits
Fredua (Second from left) with Bad Rabbits

In an interview with The New Yorker, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza explained that this image is “a battle that we are consistently having to fight. Standing up for the rights of black people as human beings and standing against police violence and police brutality makes you get characterized as being anti-police or it has you being characterized as cop killers, neither of which we are.”

Fredua expressed a similar frustration, explaining that “it’s easier for news channels like CNN, MSNBC, and FOX to show footage of angry Black people on TV than it is for them to show smart Black people with an idea. Nobody is listening to the solutions we’re trying to offer. And the picture they put up of the shooter in Dallas? A pissed-off black man with a dashiki and a fist up? That puts a target on my fucking back!”

Despite all of the difficult topics that came up in our conversation, Fredua’s determination to keep performing and thriving as a Black man in America in 2016 shines through. His concluding statement was one of hope:

“I was raised by two West African immigrants that came to this country on an American dream…I’m gonna make sure that I achieve it through them with my voice. That dream was to have a prosperous, peaceful, God-fearing life. I will die for that. I’m not afraid for a shooter coming to my show, I’ll jump in front of any bullet to protect a fan. I’m gonna do what I do until I die. I will literally die for this.”

This week we have a very special edition of Shows This Week as I preview the Second Annual NDG Porchfest. After a very successful first year this “community music festival held on the front porches of NDG” will be back this weekend with over 70 performances to choose from over two days.

If you’re unfamiliar with the event you should check out FTB’s preview last year that pretty much sums it all up. Rather than speak about the event as a whole I’ve decided to preview five of the acts that are symbolic of the variety and all inclusive nature of this festival.

Martin Goyette

One of the more established acts in this year’s fest is St-Henri born blues singer Martin Goyette. The former competitor on Season Four of La Voix will be sharing his “whisky-throated” voice and soulful harmonica playing to anyone traveling down Wilson Ave. this Sunday.

The Blues on a porch just feels right and when you’ve got one of Quebec’s best in Goyette providing the entertainment in this unique setting you should take advantage!

Martin Goyette plays the porch at 4098 Wilson, Sunday May 8th, 12:00 pm, Free Show.

Bud Rice

It’s good to see that Porchfest doesn’t discriminate against back porches. According to the schedule, Bluesy-Folk singer Bud Rice will be playing in “the lane between Marcil and Oxford,” I’m assuming on his back porch. Or maybe he’s just going to hang out in the middle of the lane and sing some songs.

Perhaps Bud doesn’t have a front porch. Maybe the acoustics are better in the lane. Does it really matter? It’s a show in a lane, what are you waiting for! To get you in the mood for an outdoor show here’s a duet: Bud and a train. Hopefully Bud will be a little warmer on Sunday.

Bud Rice plays the lane between Marcil and Oxford (closest to 2140 Marcil Ave ), Sunday May 8th, 2:00 pm, Free Show.

In The Name of Havoc

While most of the performers are of the blues-folk variety there are some notable exceptions, best exemplified by In The Name of Havoc. This hardcore punk band just released a five song EP and hopefully they will be brightening everyone’s Saturday on Sherbrooke Street with some of the new tracks.

They’re promising an “acoustic set,” most likely to keep the neighbours happy, making this the most all-ages / family friendly punk show of the year.

In The Name of Havoc plays the porch at 5826 Sherbrooke Street West, Saturday May 7th, 1:00 pm, Free Show.

The Record Breakers

The all-ages aspect of this festival applies as much to the bands as the audience. The Record Breakers are a group of teens from the West Island who write their own tunes and throw in some classic covers to boot.

This rock band might be young but their list of musical influences reads like a history of rock and roll: The Beatles, The Who, Rush, Nirvana, Muse, to name a few. This isn’t one of these “they’re good for their age” things either, these kids can play.

The Record Breakers play the porch at 4073 Hingston ave, Saturday May 7th, 1:00 pm, Free Show.

Blue Monkey Project

For those looking for more of a dance groove I would suggest checking out Blue Monkey Project.  With a mix of “funk, soul and rock n’ roll” you can finally dance in the middle of the sidewalk and not look out of place!

Well you still might look out of place but who cares, it’s funk on a porch. Like with everything else in this festival, the conventional rules don’t apply.

Blue Monkey Project plays the porch at 4620 Hingston Ave, Sunday May 8th, 2:00 pm, Free Show.

* Featured image of The Guillaume Jabbour Band playing Porchfest NDG 2015 by Jesse Anger

Know a band or an artist that should be featured in Shows This Week? Maybe a show FTB should cover, too? Let us know at music@forgetthebox.net. We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!

Last Friday evening at the Corona Theatre looked like a scene straight out of Cameron Crowe’s acclaimed rock n’ roll drama Almost Famous. The venue was packed to the brim with rowdy, power-chord-hungry teenagers sporting long, greasy hair and leather Iron Maiden jackets. And if I had a nickel for every time that I saw someone toss up the rock sign (otherwise known as the sign of the horns) during one of The Sheepdogs’ ultra-classic sounding guitar solos, I’d probably have enough nickels to fund the construction of a time machine to send all of those kids back to the generation that they clearly missed out on (or at least think they missed out on).

Now while I don’t want to sound overly skeptical of the crowd’s enthusiasm and excitement– the energy was palpable at the Corona– I do wish to express that my first official Sheepdogs experience was pretty surreal. A total blast from the past, you might say.

Sheepdogs Corona Theatre Montreal 2While the teens (and pre-teens) were busy shredding gnarly air-guitar and starting short-lived mosh-pits, the other demographic of the crowd, composed of 40-year old Dads and their spouses, were quietly bobbing their balding heads, and shuffling about in Asics running shoes, probably reminiscing on a time when rock music was more culturally cutting edge, and less obscured with piles of layered-on nostalgia.

That’s not to say that The Sheepdogs’ sound can simply be reduced to mere genre re-hash— serving merely to fill the cultural void which emerged in the mid-90s, after hippie revivalism and guitar-based rock moved deeper and deeper underground. Indeed, while some of the younger fans at the Corona were blatantly appropriating a style and a culture that they knew relatively little about, the band onstage that night is an important Canadian cultural emblem, carrying the sonic torch of seminal rock bands like The Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive into the 21st-Century. The Sheepdogs’ tendency to evoke nostalgia doesn’t feel like a cheap gimmick; instead, their performances remind us that we need more bands like these guys to keep the ethos of rock music alive.

The show on Friday night harkened back to the glory days of classic rock; the 2-part guitar harmonies (a technique the band likes to call “guitarmonies”) on the fan-favourite Southern Dreaming recalls both the deep-south rock stylings of the Allman Brothers, and also the blistering double-guitar lead on The Guess Who’s Share The Land.

As the night progressed, The Sheepdogs worked through a setlist composed of new material from their aptly titled 2015 release Future Nostalgia, as well as a host of hit songs from their critically praised debut and sophomore records.

The Sheepdogs closed their initial set with arguably their most well-known and recognizable track, I Don’t Know before returning for an encore that featured a 12-minute rendition of Neil Young’s classic Down By The River. Not only was it an epic way of closing out a nostalgia-laden evening, the choice of song seemed to be a deliberate gesture to the band’s roots– the days when drinking beers and jamming along with Neil Young records in someone’s basement took precedence over rehearsing polished live performances.

Sheepdogs Corona Theatre Montreal 3

It’s hard to imagine that The Sheepdogs were teetering on the brink of musical oblivion just six years ago. After years of relentless touring across Canada, and countless nightmare “touring adventures,” the band was severely in debt and on the verge of giving up. That was, until a Canadian record producer silently submitted the band’s name to be considered for the 2011 Rolling Stone Cover Contest. The rest, of course, is classic-rock-revival history. The Sheepdogs went on to win the contest, and in doing so, became the first unsigned band in history to appear on the front cover of Rolling Stone.

The Sheepdogs’ performance last Friday at the Corona was the band’s first show in Canada after an extensive European tour. Although the Saskatoon natives were still thousands of kilometres from their true stomping grounds, they were nevertheless “thrilled to be back home,” according to lead vocalist and band frontman Ewan Currie. Their 2016 Canadian tour, which will bring them westward all the way to Vancouver before returning back east, will naturally be remarkably different than those brutal treks across Canada a less than a decade ago.

The band has rightly earned a special place in the hearts and minds of a Canadian classic rock fan base that still craves those sweet, southern-influenced guitar hooks and delicate three-part vocal harmonies. Friday night’s performance reminded me that The Sheepdogs were able to pull through in the end, turning their Cameron Crow-esque pipe dream into reality. Finally, it seems, The Sheepdogs have made it.

* photos by Georgia Vatcher

Sometimes it’s hard to pigeonhole a band’s sound. That’s usually a sign that the band really has something new and interesting to offer. Montreal’s The Holds is one of those bands.

The five-piece hailing from NDG (my old ‘hood) launched their self-titled debut EP Friday at O Patro Vys on Mont-Royal. A download of the EP was included with the price of admission.

Opener Joshua Carey of Po Lazarus kicked things off with a very intimate set. Alone with his guitar and mandolin until the last tune, he welcomed the crowd with some of the Po Lazarus repertoire and even a new original tune, setting the stage perfectly for the explosion that was to follow.

Blues and More

From the moment The Holds took the stage, they were in show mode. The light instrumentation that served as a backdrop as frontman Ryan Setton introduced the show and got the audience to count down from ten gelled into the first song when the countdown was done. From there on it was all energy.

When you listen to The Holds, the first thing that comes to mind is the blues. This musical genre permeates every tune they play, but it’s never alone. Their songs are also rock songs, and quite a few of them are borderline or outright psychedelic, too.

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I’m not just saying that because of the live projections done with vintage projectors courtesy of Daniel Oniszeczko that gave the show its visual feel. There’s something trippy in the music, too.

Very Montreal

The band is made up of Setton, Andre Galamba on bass, Eric Hein on guitar, Justin Wiley on drums and Alex Lebel on keyboard. While the presence of keys in a blues rock band, or a psychedelic blues rock band may have you thinking Blues Traveller or The Doors, there is something else at play when it comes to The Holds and it starts with the crowd.

O Patro Vys was packed. Taking a look around the room, I got the feeling that I was at an Indie Rock show, something Montreal is known for. Admittedly, the fact that Dan Moscovitch of First You Get The Sugar produced their EP may have had something to do with that, but there was more to it.

the holds o patro vys 2

From the little card with free download instructions to get the EP to general atmosphere the band created in the room, the event was very tech-aware and very indie. And all this to go along with generally longer blues-infused tunes. A very Montreal experience.

It’s one you should hope to experience for yourself if you missed out last Friday and one the people who were there most likely want to experience again. We have that chance on Saturday, March 12th at Turbo Haus in St-Henri. Until then, you can enjoy The Holds at home or wherever you are by downloading their EP from iTunes via their site theholds.com. You’ll be glad you did.

* Photos by Steve Walsh

Montreal-based blusey rock band The Holds are launching their self-titled debut EP this Friday. FTB’s Hannah Besseau had a chance to speak with lead singer Ryan Setton and ask him about the upcoming show, the band and making their recent video:

* The Holds launch their at O Patro Vys, 356 Mont-Royal Est, Friday January 29th. Joshua Carey of Po Lazarus opens and the show starts at 9pm.

* For more: theholds.com

* Featured image by Steve Gerrard.

NDG, yesterday you outdid yourself. You welcomed summer to Montreal in the best way possible: with a truly grassroots and community-based music festival experience.

It just made so much sense. Of course an idea like PorchFest would work in my old hood. NDG is known for its abundance of musicians, laid back weekend attitude, and strong community feeling. Plus it has some rather nice porches.

There’s no need for an over-hyped, over-commercialized festival here. NDG residents can go downtown if that’s what they’re looking for. In the Deeg, it’s all about hassle-free good times, partying with neighbours and, of course, great music.

On my first early afternoon Porchfest odyssey, I had the perfect musical travelling companion, my mom. A long time NDG resident, she felt right at home walking around the streets she knew all too well, now emboldened with a musical party vibe that was always there, just not in such an obvious way.

This wasn’t an event tailored to a specific age group or musical genre. There were children, seniors and every age in between. There was folk, rock, electronic-styled music with real instruments and even a punk band doing an acoustic show. We didn’t catch the punk band and almost caught the electronic act, but we took a wrong turn.

Multi-Generational Appalachian Country in the Early Afternoon

Our first step was a glorious mis-step, as we headed down the wrong street and caught an excellent show. Now, to be clear, our error had nothing to do with the listing of events provided by PorchFest organizers. They offered as clear a guide as possible of when and where each of the 60+ acts who had signed up were performing.

No, in our excitement, we mistook Wilson for Melrose and caught a performance by Stephanie Flowers and the Sticky Finger String Band completely by accident. This multi-generational country band was fronted by a 12-year-old with incredible musical talent for someone her age or any age. They will be playing the Montreal Folk Fest later this summer.

While their style may have sounded bluegrass, they made it clear to the increasingly growing audience that it was, in fact, country music from the Appalachian region of the US and, in fact, a precursor to bluegrass. What was made clearer was that this band knew how to play and really capture a crowd with their music.

The stage Stephanie Flowers and her band played on was actually the front porch of an apartment building. It was used by multiple acts throughout the day. Before we arrived, FTB’s Jesse Anger caught The Guillaume Jabbour Band playing in the same location. He liked what he heard and took a pic of the band and the spot:

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The Guillaume Jabbour Band

Backyard Rock Rocks

While, for the most part, this was a front porch-centric event, we were fortunate to catch a show on a back porch and, more to the point, sit in a back yard to take it in. It was a performance by Les Skidoos Jaunes, a local rock band playing cover songs in both English and French, occasionally changing instruments. Full disclosure, the drummer is my brother. I guess you could say it was a real family affair, as is PorchFest overall.

The band was joined on stage by Blake Adams and other members of the Adams family who were hosting this event. They were also offering up hot dogs and freshly squeezed lemonade and only asking for donations to the NDG Food Depot in return.

As Les Skidoos expertly played through their varied repertoire of more recent and older rock tunes, more people arrived via the alley and took their spots in the backyard. Near the end of the show, the crowd taking in the event was bigger than ones I have seen at some bar shows booked months in advance on good nights.

PorchFest NDG (2)
Les Skidoos Jaunes (also in featured image)

People were really getting into the music and the scene, singing along and even dancing a bit. Not bad for a lazy Saturday afternoon.

Once the Skidoos had finished playing and the official PorchFest show was done for this particular porch, my mom had had her musical fill and left. I decided to stick around. Mike Dawson was doing a set on the balcony and there was a real jam vibe happening.

This meant I didn’t get to catch some of the acts playing in western NDG. Come to think of it, there were quite a few acts I would have liked to catch but didn’t get the chance to: FTB Fundraiser veterans Po Lazarus and some former members of the United Steel Workers of Montreal performing together to name but a few.

No, it’s not possible to catch all of PorchFest. So much is going on in such a short period of time. Regardless of what specific acts you get to listen to, though, one thing you will experience is the overall feeling of a community coming alive culturally on a beautiful summer afternoon, and the first one of the year at that.

As for those acts you missed, well, there’s always next year. And that’s not some hollow promise, but rather something to get excited about.

* Photos by Jesse Anger

Taking inspiration from jam bands like The Grateful Dead, Po Lazarus recently recorded their debut self-titled EP live in one (almost) continuous take. This ambitious and experimental style is something the Montreal quartet clearly thrives on. At its core, Po Lazarus is a folk-rock band, but as their five-track EP demonstrates they’re also a band continuously striving to find new ways of making music.

As with all experimentation, the final results are mixed. As lead singer Joshua Carey croons about lost loves, one night stands, self-doubt and redemption, the music shifts between sweet folk, harder rock and straight up country.

As much as the band doesn’t want to admit it, they’re masters at putting on a great performance. When you see a live Po Lazarus show, it’s difficult not to get swept up in the vibe and feel like these gentlemen are making sweet love to your eardrums. Upon repeated listens at home, the band’s strengths and weaknesses start to become more apparent.

In the psychedelic-fuled lead track Backyard Voodoo Carey’s voice sounds like the love child of Jim Morrison and Thom Yorke. When first hearing the lyrics, it’s hard to take Backyard Voodoo seriously (Chicken bones are strewn/From the ceiling of your room/and brickdust is guarding the cupboard where you keep your/broom). But just like dark magic, upon repeated listens the song grows on you.

In more folk-ish Po Lazarus songs like The Seams, the guitar wailing away seems out of place. But in Backyard Voodoo the guitar is perfection. And when you combine that with Mo Novak’s solid drum beat, I could listen to Carey ramble on about nonsense forever.

I’m Coming For You is one of the most polished songs on the EP. The song’s impact slowly creeps up on you and has just the right doses of pop, rock and folk. The best guitar solo on the EP can be found here and features some impassioned vocals from Carey.

Conversely A Couple Weeks Time is the blandest of the offerings on the EP. While you have to appreciate the desire to try different things, country is clearly not a style that inspires the band as much as folk or rock.

If You Are Alone is the most obvious crowd pleaser of the EP. Ukulele, falsetto and simple lyrics is always a great mix. Especially when performed live, Po Lazarus knows how to make this combination work for them. With the incredibly infectious chorus (If you are alone/Well i’ll be the one to take you home x2) it’s hard not to find yourself singing along to this song whether you’re in a packed bar after a few pints, or stone-cold sober sitting alone in your living room.

All and all this EP signals Po Lazarus is a strong band that’s here to stay. It’ll be exciting to see where Po Lazarus’s goal of experimentation takes their musical style and lyrical inspiration next.

To celebrate the launch of their EP, Po Lazarus is having a party tonight, Friday, August 8th at Turbo Haus. Tickets are $10 in advance, $14 at the door. To download a copy of the EP for yourself, make sure you check out Po Lazarus’s bandcamp page

 

 

Ice storms.

Triple pant layers for slippery grocery shopping trips.

Post-holiday back to the grind panic attacks.

Sound familiar?

I’m slowly working my way into a winter funk and I am sure I’m not alone in this.  Here’s what I’m betting on as the perfect remedy:

Rx –  One vigorous dose of Archery Guild’s launch of their sophomore album Manitòk  this Friday.

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For those of you unfamiliar with these Montreal music makers, Archery Guild is an experimental indie rock band. Their line up currently includes Michael Cota (vox, guitar, synth), Marshall Vaillancourt (drums), Tristan Giardini (Bass), Mariah Andrews (trumpet, synth, vibraphone), Ian Gibbons (cello), Huei Lin (sax) and Casimir Kaplan (guitar).

Archery Guild is known for their dynamic wall of sound and their joyful cacophonous melodies. I greatly anticipate experiencing their new tracks and haven’t looked forward to a show like this in quite some time.

This line up of local musicians is pretty sweet: I’ve seen experimental psychedelic pop act The Walls are Blonde and enjoyed their tunes and stage performance thoroughly. I’ve yet to see Montreal’s psychedelic prog surf rockers Snooker Emporium and noise pop duo Look Vibrant live.

See you there. I’ll be the head bobbing, feet swaying gal wearing wool socks. Don’t be shy, come say hi.

Get ready and have a listen:

This year, POP Montreal boasts over 300 bands covering the entire spectrum of musical genres. The heavier genres often get ignored and are usually vastly underrepresented at music festivals of this scale. But fans of metal, punk and other forms of heavy music can find plenty of acts to suit their tastes.

BEARMACE – BEARMACE + Koko + Petty Sweat + GODS + Caves
Sep. 27, 9 p.m. @ Barfly

Bearmace

This Montreal band’s sound is made up of drop-tuned, chunky bass riffs reminiscent of 90s punk. BEARMACE are thrashy but melodic enough to keep things interesting.

El Salvador – El Salvador + Kurvi Tasch + Girls In Uniform + No Magic + Charlotte Day Wilson
Sep. 25, 8 p.m. @ Casa del Popolo

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If you’re looking for some truly bizarre shit, this one’s for you. Lots of bands get labeled as experimental but these guys put most of them to shame. Like good drugs that sometimes turn on you, El Salvador’s music will take you for a ride. Good trip or bad, it’s the experience that matters in the end.

The BCASA – The BCASA + Loose Pistons + Adam Strangler + Wilderling
Sep. 25, 9:30 p.m. @ O Patro Vys

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If you like your punk rock obnoxious and slightly juvenile, this is great stuff. Twangy guitars and vocals reminiscent of early NOFX. Wondering about the weird abbreviated name? They used to be called The Bill Cosby Anarchist Society of America. But you know, legal stuff.

Portugal. The Man – Portugal. The Man + How Sad :: SOLD OUT ::
Sep. 26, 9 p.m. @ Theatre Corona Virgin Mobile

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This band doesn’t need any more attention than they already have (besides, the show is sold out) but this list would absolutely not be complete without them.

METZ – METZ + CRABE + Fist City + Evan Dubinsky (DJ set)
Sep. 29, 11 p.m. @ Église POP Little Burgundy :: Salle Little Burgundy

The best of the fests closes with an appropriately noisy punk rock party courtesy of these Toronto natives. Stop crying over Portugal. The Man being sold out and console yourself with METZ.

Honourable mentions: CRABE, Ponctuation, Crosss, Jesuslesfilles

ModernThunderHiresLife can be unpredictable. As much as we try to plan for every possibility, new curve balls are constantly being thrown at us. Perhaps we should simply embrace the uncertainty of it all and clutch every moment we experience. This is precisely what the Toronto/Winnipeg based Grand Analog does on their forthcoming album Modern Thunder, due out August 20.

There was no overarching plan for the album other than to musically capture different moments in time. As a result, we are treated to a glimpse into the lives of frontman Odario Williams and his comrades, all within the context of the band’s signature heavy dose of deep grooves, catchy hooks, and flowing, spunky rhymes.

The program is diverse by design. Unlike their previous efforts Calligraffiti (2007) and Metropolis is Burning (2009) which had preconceived lyrical themes before the songs were written, for this project Williams had his crew create assorted instrumental soundscapes and based his lyrics on what he heard.

“I wanted to see the song,” he states. “I let the music decide what the song is going to be about.”

The record reflects this organic writing process that Williams describes as “effortless.”

The fact that Grand Analog is a live hip hop band, and one of Canada’s finest at that, plays a large role in the group’s identity. The relationships between Williams and his DJ brother Ofield, bass player Warren Bray, keyboardist Alister Johnson aka Catalist, and drummer TJ Garcia are the foundation that drive the group’s creativity. Williams relies heavily on the varied influences of his band mates who come from very different musical backgrounds.

“If you put all those ingredients in one pot,” he says, “you’ll understand why you have Grand Analog.”

Modern Thunder opens with the triumphant, afrobeat-infused “Lion Head” which is an apt opening and reintroduction to the band after a four year break from recording. Williams jubilantly raps, “It’s been a long time / a toast to a new beginning / I feel good ‘bout the skin I’m in.” The song features punchy horn and vocal lines à la Fela Kuti on top of unrelenting hip hop drums and percussion.

“Modern Day Fool” reveals the precarious nature of every day life in contrast with the opening track. Williams explains that during the production of the album, “any given day could have been any given thing.” On that day, it appears that Williams was feeling a bit more introspective. In the song, he raps, “I’m just a modern day fool, cool, social recluse / just a walkin’ contradiction / mother nature on the loose.” His rhymes float over a syncopated riff played on the guitar and bass and is broken up by Andrina Turenne’s bluesy, soulful hook. Williams’ carefully crafted lines throughout the album demonstrate the complexity and emotional depth of life ranging from total self confidence to self reassurance to loneliness.

Upon hearing the music for “The Great Rhyme Dropper,” Williams envisioned a superhero rapper.

“There’s only one person I had in mind to do that with me,” he said.

That person is Canadian rapper Shad, who trades boastful, effortless verses with Williams on the track. The chemistry between the two is palpable as they organically flow over the propulsive, driving funk beat and afrobeat-style horns.

 

Never to rest on their laurels musically, the band ventures into more somber territory with “Heart The Lonely Hunter” which features a thumping quarter note beat in the bass and drums and a Joni Mitchell-style vocal hook from Amanda Balsys of The Wilderness of Manitoba. Williams describes the song as representing “city life and relationships,” and his verses strike a noticeably different tone from the other songs. He raps about the challenges of finding love, saying, “Decisions are rash when you’re fearin’ attachment / I’m always on the hunt, kinda like an assassin.”

In what is perhaps a coincidence, the following song is a bouncy, trance-inducing club jam “Wild Animal Print” that describes weekend hookups with a woman who is “lookin’ for adventure.” The song is driven by a four-on-the-floor bass drum beat and a relentless syncopated synth bass line. Whether purposely juxtaposed with “Heart The Lonely Hunter” or not, each describe different aspects of love, lust, and relationships.

All the guests on Modern Thunder – and there are many – fit in with ease and contribute to the Grand Analog sound. The guests work so seamlessly because they are all friends of Williams and the band.

“Because they are also friends of mine, I knew what they were capable of and I knew that I can hear having them on this,” he explains.

Additional guests on the album include Saukrates, Len Bowen, Maylee Todd, Saidah Baba Talibah, Dennis Passley (Bedouin Soundclash), Bahia Watson, Mike Olsen (Hidden Cameras), Peter Katz, TALWST, and long time collaborators Damon Mitchell and Oliver Johnson.

tumblr_inline_mqf7qyZwoj1rpmgfuAlthough many would put them somewhere under the umbrella of hip hop, Grand Analog has many sounds and cannot be pigeonholed into any one category. Williams urges people to try to let the music speak for itself.

“People should be open to music in the first place and not judge before listening,” he says.

Whatever one might call it, the sprawling music on Modern Thunder encapsulates the realities of life. In one of his more clever and representative rhymes on the dub-influenced “Unbearable Lightness,” Williams raps, “We get together like memorex and tape decks / we get together like safe sex and latex / we get together, it don’t matter what the weather / I get busy in the summer, I get busy on the syntax.”

Regardless of its genre label, Modern Thunder deserves to be listened to by anybody who can relate to individualism, introspection, partying, city life, midnight munchies, vinyl on the deck, sex for breakfast, relationships, heartbreak, hookups, and sunshine. Did I leave anyone out?

Modern Thunder will be released in stores and online on August 20, 2013. Grand Analog will be hosting album release parties on August 20 at the Drake Underground in Toronto, and on August 22 at Union Sound Hall in Winnipeg.

For me, the 2013 Montreal Infringement Festival’s opening weekend offered the familiar and fun, unexpected awe, a sense of longing for the show I missed and rainy artistic socializing.

grr en famille barfly infringement

Thursday

The fest kicked off with an air of familiarity. To clarify, when it comes to the Montreal Infringement, familiarity means good rockin’ tunes with a socially conscious vibe emanating from everyone’s favourite dive bar on St-Laurent: Barfly.

After Martin G played a solo set of acoustic tunes where he reflected on what makes his art critical or activist (one of the questions on the Infringement application form), Grr en Famille took the stage. This six piece band (complete with accordion and violin) rocked out with bilingual tunes that everyone could dance to.

That night in Barfly, many did, just as they had done at the Infringement preview show a few weeks ago at Le Bull. A great way to kick off the fest.

psynlangwage infringement

Friday

If Thursday was familiar, Friday night was anything but. First off, I’m not that familiar with hip hop and not at all familiar with skate culture (I had a board when I was a kid, but that really doesn’t count).

I may not be the ideal person to review the Infringement Hip Hop Show that took place at TRH Bar, a new venue on the Main with a skate ramp right in the middle of it. I can, though, look at it from a theatrical perspective.

The staging was a perfect infringement on the concept of separation between audience and performer. There was none and it was beautiful.

The rappers performed right next to the ramp as skaters did their tricks. In the case of Psynlangwage, they also mingled with the crowd around the pit and even on the terrasse.

Between that bustling terrasse and the skate ramp stage area sat Atlantic City native Lucas Simmons, who’s performing theatre this Thursday but is also in town for the entire festival. This night in particular, he was drawing portraits of anyone who wanted for free.

I didn’t expect this kind of evening, but it makes perfect sense. The Infringement is all about breaking boundaries and the show was called Smashing Through Walls and these performers did just that, both lyrically and conceptually.

Have a look at a bit of the scene and listen to some of the socially conscious lyrics of Jay Manafest:

Saturday

Sadly, I was all partied out and didn’t make it to the fest Saturday night. I heard from one of the organizers that Super Greek League (who had played NXNE in Toronto the night before) really tore down the house at Le Bull Pub and thought, well, that’s probably true but I can’t be sure ’cause I wasn’t there.

Turns out he was 100% correct, and here’s the video proof and incentive for me to not miss any more infringing this year:

Sunday

I headed back to the fest as therapeutic rain fell on the city and washed Infringement Therapy, an outdoor interactive theatre performance which was supposed to happen at 7pm, to next Sunday at 1pm. Mother Nature didn’t dampen the spirits of those attending the Dumpster Dive Art Drive, the vernissage for art made from stuff found in the trash went ahead as planned in the alleyway behind Bifteck.

There’s no better way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon than standing in an alleyway underneath a fire escape that protects you from the rain, sipping on wine, eating brie, looking at art made on the spot from what’s available and chatting with like-minded artists. The Infringement is almost as much social as it is performance-based and the DDAD is the perfect example of this dynamic.

This was my weekend at the Infringement, but I didn’t even mention all the fest offered these past few days. As the Infringement continues, so will our coverage.

The Montreal Infringement Festival runs until June 23rd. For the schedule, please visit infringemontreal.org

* Barfly photo by Iana Kazakova, TRH Bar & Le Bull photos by Alaya Martin