There’s something intensely chaotic and extroverted about Montreal in the summer. There are events in every venue and attractive, tipsy strangers on every corner. If you have enough cash and energy, you never have to go home.
Thanks to this attitude and to the good people here at Forget The Box, I managed a bit of a marathon this past Friday night, the 29th of June.
First stop was the Unsettlers putting on two free live shows for the Jazzfest. I love the free, outdoor sets that the ‘fest is kind enough to offer, and I love the Unsettlers, so this was an obvious place for me to start my evening. They played in the Heineken “Pub”, a big white and green tent on the corner of Ste-Catherine and Bleury. It was packed, with the crowd spilling out of the tent and into the street.
The Unsettlers are a dark and playful ten-piece made up of talented, mysterious, beautiful people. Their music is folksy, bluesy, and old-timey, full of minor chords, overblown brass, and clarinet solos. Often dealing with death and pain, their lyrics are never overwrought and tend to come at these subjects sideways, with intriguing images and well-turned phrases. The vocalists hold haunting harmonies over the complex and beautifully-timed music. A powerhouse of local talent!
At the “Pub”, their performance was more subdued than I’m used to—though, admittedly, I’m used to seeing them perform late at night to drunken, disorderly crowds. This free Jazzfest set was a sit-down affair, though the sheer force of their talent had people doing simple little chair-dances to the beat. It was nice to see everyone toe-tapping, heads of curly gray hair bobbing alongside scruffy heads of dreads.
The Unsettlers have a double album out that perfectly showcases their talent and aesthetic. “Oil and Blood” is available online, or you could head to Grumpy’s to have Ram hand it over in person!
Diplo’s baby, Major Lazer has a rotating door of talent, and on Friday night managed to draw in a tightly-packed, lively crowd, many of whom weren’t afraid to take off their shirts when the MC demanded it. The newer stuff, from what I’ve heard, has a distinct dancehall flavour, and while there was a lot of that at this live show, they made sure to treat us to some straight-up solid beats, too. Playing a good mix of old school and new, they even spun almost the entirety of “Intergalactic” as a tribute to the recently-departed and much-loved MC A.
Dancers were brought onstage to wiggle, bounce, and shoulder roll, and many in the crowd could match them. I appreciate that about these fusion styles like ragga and moombahton: they tend to bring in people who can actually dance, who have been trained in salsa steps, for example. It makes for one sexy crowd.
My only complaint about this show is that Major Lazer seemed to have a hard time just letting a beat ride. Their grooves were sweet and easy to move to, but were constantly switched and straight-up stopped cold, just when you started to get down. Groovus interruptus.
All in all, though, it was an awesome show with powerful MCs, lots of booty-shaking, and many happy fans.
After Major Lazer let out, we headed back to the heart of town for more dancing: the Speakeasy Electroswing night at Sala Rossa. This is a monthly night hosted by three talented DJs and filled with fascinating special guests. On the night of the 29th, we were treated to just enough wobble and step paired with live trumpet and clarinet, as well as a bit of breaking and an engaging hula dancer.
Electroswing has become a favourite of mine, a mashup of beautiful, lively swing with the heavy bass electronic producers—and fans–love. The result is a joy to dance to, and the crowd at Sala on these nights is always a sea of swinging arms and smiling faces. It also draws in a diverse crowd—from actual trained swing dancers dressed in full ‘20s regalia to happy hippies just hopping along to the beat. There are usually excellent visuals projected behind the DJs, too, bits of old film reels remastered and remixed. There’s something inherently joyous in these nights that ensures I always strut home afterwards with a smile on my face.
Which is exactly what I did once 3am finally rolled around. The night had been long, my legs were tired, and I wandered home grateful to be in this city at this time. Vive l’été à Montréal!
For all the photos from the evening check out ForgetTheBox on Facebook!