It’s been three years since my last POP experience, so I headed down to the Rialto Theatre last night without knowing what to expect. As soon as I entered the POP Montreal opening party, I immediately felt at ease. The vibe was inviting, intimate, and full of that specific kind of excitement that fills the air at the beginning of any festival: you can’t wait to discover the next great thing.

After looking through our press swag bags, dancing to the DJ, and absorbing the atmosphere, Joe and I left the opening party. We headed down Parc, making a stop at the Crying-Laughing show at Espace Pop. In the old days I never used to see anything but music shows, so this year I’m trying to expand my horizons and see more of what the festival has to offer.

Joe and I eventually made our way to Sala Rossa, where our first music show of the night was Dany Laj & The Looks. While not groundbreaking by any means, they are a very fun rock n’ roll band that got our show watching off to a great start.

Then we were meeting a friend for a drink across the street at Casa Del Popolo, so Joe and I decided to check out the music there. Honestly I wish we hadn’t. Raf Wilcot seemed to try a little too hard to come off as the brilliant tortured artist, when in fact his music was tame and uninspired.

What changed my mood was heading to La Vitrola to catch their last two shows of the night. I was immediately charmed by Moscow Apartment, a teenage girl band from Toronto. They were just so sweet and had such great stage banter you couldn’t help but fall a little bit in love with them. They reminded me a bit of First Aid Kit, and I wish them all the success!

We ended off the night by going from one extreme to the other. After the sweet folk-pop of Moscow Apartment, Laura Sauvage came swagerring onto the stage, demanding that we get the hell off our seats and come rock out. They played a shorter set then scheduled because their drummer had to run off to another show, but what they did play was full of punk rock energy that got everyone at the small venue dancing. It definitely inspired me for all the rocking that’s still to come!

* Featured image of Laura Sauvage by Stephanie Laughlin

** POP Montreal 2018 runs until Sunday. Full schedule at POPMontreal.com

Rejoice indie music fans for today marks the beginning of this year’s installment of Pop Montreal! For those of you who suffer from option paralysis I give you my deepest sympathies because, as usual, there’s just so many shows to choose from.

Even just looking at their schedule can send shivers down the spine of someone who wants to see and do it all. Last week Stephanie Laughlin gave you her picks for what to see and this week it’s my turn.

In order to streamline my choices and prevent my head from exploding, I’ve narrowed it down to these four categories: The Hidden Gem, The Top Venue, The Top Headliner, Best Overall Show.

Keep in mind that this list is far from extensive, completely biased to my musical tastes and prepared without any thought for the logistics of how someone would attend shows that overlap with each other time-wise. This is just a jumping off point for five days of hipster heaven.

POSTDATA

One of the many (many, many) hidden gems of Pop is POSTDATA, the solo project of East Coast indie rocker Paul Murphy more commonly known for his work in Wintersleep. They’ll be at O’ Patro Vys on Thursday to headline a show featuring Caveboy, Art D’Ecco and Strangerfamiliar.

This part-time project might not get big time attention but after listening to a few tracks I’m baffled as to why. The songs are well crafted, the lyrics are interesting and there’s an accessibility to the music that should interest people with different musical tastes.

POSTDATA perform with Art d’Ecco and Strangerfamiliar Thursday, September 27, 8:30pm at O Patro Vys, 356 Mont-Royal Est. Tickets are $13

Barfly

With so many bands to choose from I knew I had to cheat and pick a whole venue. One of my highlights every year is heading over to my favorite dive Barfly to check out a bunch of bands that you probably don’t know and normally wouldn’t find there outside of POP.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday night they’ll be running shows there with packed lineups for only ten bucks. It’s a sma… urrr I mean “intimate” venue that always has a rock and roll vibe. I once saw a guy on stage there playing the cello and it still felt rock and roll for some reason.

To go with the low ticket price, it’s also got the most affordable drink prices of any of the venues in the fest. Add all that up and there’s a good chance it will be packed on all three nights so get there early if you can.

Usually the bands aren’t as well known but if you’re feeling adventurous and want to explore some new music this is the best place to be. This year I’m looking forward to getting to know Toronto based indie rockers Goodbye Honolulu who are headlining on Thursday.

Barfly is at 4062A St-Laurent

Wolf Parade

While this is a highly unoriginal choice, I’ve decided to put Montreal indie rock royalty Wolf Parade on this list as the top act because of the sheer volume of shows they have in this year’s fest. They’ve taken up residence at Sala Rosa from Thursday to Sunday, so whichever night you plan on heading out, they’ll be waiting for you.

Sometimes picking between a bunch of bands you’re not super familiar with can be a bit tedious, if you just want to go out and be assured of a good time, this is the best option. They’re even hosting an after-party on Sunday the 30th at La Sottorenea for those of you who just don’t want the fest to end!

Wolf Parade perform with various opening acts September 27-30, 9pm at Sala Rossa, 4848 St-Laurent. Tickets are $30 (or $10 for the Basement After-Party)

Blitzen Trapper

Another of the more established acts in this year’s fest is Blitzen Trapper who have been combining indie rock with country and folk influences since 2000, often to critical acclaim. The Portland-based quintet will be supported by three great local acts John Jacob Magistery, El Coyote and Corey Gulkin on Saturday night at Le Ministère: Salle St-Ambroise.

This is my vote for the show with the most solid lineup top to bottom. Event hopping at POP can be fun, especially on a Saturday night, but if you’re not in the mood for that, give this show some serious consideration.

Blitzen Trapper, John Jacob Magistery, El Coyote and Corey Gulkin perform Saturday, September 29, 9pm at Le Ministère – Salle St-Ambroise, 4521 St-Laurent. Tickets are $15

* Featured image from Goodbye Honolulu’s Typical video, via YouTube

** POP Montreal runs September 26-30, full schedule at POPMontreal.com

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

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)

Summertime is peak festival season. This is supposed to be a fun, exciting time of year when you get to see some of your favourite artists or discover new ones. But for others, festival season can also mean an increased period of unwanted sexual advances.

Despite the heightened awareness surrounding these issues due to the #metoo movement, sexual harassment and assault is still prevalent at festivals all around the world. A quick google search reveals articles with disturbing titles like Sexual Harassment was Rampant at Coachella 2018. And in response to the high number of sexual assaults at festivals in Sweden, the first cis, non-binary, and trans women-only music festival, Statement Festival is scheduled to launch in late August.

In Montreal, a real conversation about sexual harassment and assault at festivals started in 2016. When Osheaga officials initially brushed off Melanie Doucet’s claims that her drink was spiked, she went to the media to share her story. Doucet’s story inspired The Montreal Women’s Council to survey women about their festival going experiences.

The results of the survey, which included women of colour, women with disabilities, and members of the lgbtq community, were both scary and unsurprising. 56% of women who attended festivals in Montreal reported being harrassed. 37% of women surveyed admitted to being sexually assaulted. And that’s only the women who were willing to come forward. Many victims, either out of shame or embarrassment, never speak up.

So how has Osheaga, which starts this year on August 3rd, responded to these issues? For the second year in a row, the festival has hired the Les Hirondelles intervention team to roam the grounds. In a press release for this year’s festival, executive vice president and chief operating officer of evenko Jacques Aubé stated that “The presence of the Hirondelles is perfectly in line with our primary objective, which is to allow all festival-goers to fully enjoy their entertainment experience in a safe environment.”

Recognizable by their armbands with a pair of swallows, The Hirondelles are specialized security squads designed to increase the safety of vulnerable people at the festival. They will also have booths on the grounds that act as safe spaces for people who feel threatened.

It’s commendable that Osheaga has started taking steps to ensure that everyone (we can’t forget that men are victims of sexual harassment and assault as well) can feel safe from these kinds of vulgar and inappropriate situations. If only we could live in a world where everyone could just keep their hands or comments to themselves, and enjoy the music.

On Friday Osheaga returns to Parc Jean Drapeau for three days of music, art and general fun in the sun. As a result, we at FTB have been putting together our lists of performances we’re most looking forward to see.

Yesterday Stephanie Laughlin put out her list of top choices, today it’s my turn. It’s a mix of bands I already know, ones I want to get to know and ones I want you to get to know. The list is completely personal, totally biased and omits any act that I deem “too big” to preview.

You might have bought a ticket because of the headliners, but there’s a whole day of stuff to do before that so let’s get started.

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