September winding down means it’s time for another edition of Pop Montreal. While I’m excited to take part in all the festival has to offer (art, film, discussion panels and a craft fair) today I’m going to focus on the top five musical acts I’ll be watching at this years festival.

It’s an eclectic bunch of artists from around the world whose online presence, at least, has piqued my interest. Will they deliver? I’ll find out September 25th-29th.

1. Basement Revolver

(Hamilton, Ontario)

With the lead singer’s dreamy vocals and the band’s self-confessed inspiration from 90s indie-rock, this trio from Hamilton was one of the first shows on my radar this year. Not only was I drawn in from discovering their single Wax and Digital on YouTube, but also learning about the ways successful bands have to hustle in the digital age.

2. Charlie Cunningham

(Bedfordshire, England)

With impressive guitar skills that are influenced by the Spanish flamenco tradition combined with intimate yet accessible lyrics, England’s Charlie Cunningham is another must-see show for me this year. On first listen, his music gives me a Jose Gonzalez kind of vibe.

While I’m looking forward to his show at Phi Center, I’m also eager to listen to this music more at home alone with a nice cup of tea on a rainy day.

3. NYSSA

(Toronto, Ontario)

Described as “Toronto’s answer to Robyn”, NYSSA is an electro-glam rocker who has been working the music scene since she was twelve. After being a part of numerous Toronto bands, these days she’s the kind of artist whose most comfortable on stage alone with a loop pedal and her iPod.

After listening to her single Champion of Love I’m confident I’m not going to be dancing on my own to her show at Casa Del Popolo.

4. Tiny Ruins

(Auckland, New Zealand)

Not since Flight of the Concords have I been this pumped about a band from New Zealand. Unlike the sarcastic comedy of Jermaine and Brent, Tiny Ruins are a very sincere folk group that has been around for almost a decade.

Even if their live show at The Rialto doesn’t end up living up to expectations, watching the hypnotic video for Olympic Girls has already made me a die-hard fan.

5. Daniel Norgren

(Boras, Sweden)

As a reclusive singer/songwriter from rural Sweden, a recent Pitchfork article describes Norgen as a man who “happily exists as an outsider among outsiders, and he weaves the joy he finds in isolation and in nature into his songs.”

Having released his first international record Wooh Dang it looks like this folk/blues artist is interested in stepping a toe at least into greater recognition. I’m looking forward to seeing his show at Cafe Campus to see how he fares with a North American audience.

Tickets available through popmontreal.com

How do you describe a show you can’t see? Do you go by the sounds? The scents? The sense of motion? Or do you pretend to be like the heroes in eighties and nineties martial arts films and try to “see without seeing”?

I was invited last Thursday to experience two scenes from the play Camille with other members of the local media. The brainchild of Concordia professor Audrey-Anne Bouchard, it’s a multi-disciplinary show specifically designed for those with visual impairments.

Bouchard lives with Stargardt’s disease, a rare macular disorder. After the media preview I had a chance to sit with Bouchard so I asked her about what it is and how it affects her, for when I first saw her, she seemed to have perfect sight.

“I don’t have the gene in my body that eliminates Vitamin A so Vitamin A accumulates itself on my retina and it blocks a part of my sight which is exactly at the center of both my eyes so I use my peripheral vision,” she explained. “I’m quite fortunate that I’m still very autonomous because my peripheral vision is good and I can see and I work with my sight a lot. The hardest is really to read, like to focus on the details. When I go see a show, for example, if I’m not in the first row I will most likely miss an actor’s head or a part of the image – I always miss a part of the image. The closer I am the easier for me it is to put all the pieces together.”

Unfortunately for Bouchard, there is no treatment for the disease yet. In order for Bouchard to see, she has to rely on her peripheral vision, explaining that if she wanted to see into my eyes, she will train her sight a little over my eyebrows because focusing on the center would make them fall into the dead spot of her vision.

Bouchard created the show after speaking with people who were completely blind as they confided in her that they were always feeling that they were missing part of the experience when they went to a dance or a theatre piece. She created the show with the goal of having an experience where people with no sight won’t miss anything and it will be interesting for them.

“Everything is conceived not to be seen. The language that we created is transmitted through the other senses.”

The project started three years ago when the team met with seven people who have different visual impairments and asked them if they would be interested in a show like this. For Bouchard, it was important to have this adventure but only if those for whom the show was created would want to experience it.

The show is multidisciplinary, meaning that it includes multiple forms of art such as dance, theatre, music, and they’re all intertwined. Instead of having one theatre scene, one dance scene, and so on, they are all one “in the language of the show”. The choreography, by Laurie-Anne Langis who is also a dancer and massage therapist, does not just involve dancing to music, it also involves how you approach someone to guide them. The interaction between spectator and performer is part of the choreography of this show.

In order to develop the choreography, the team worked with people with different kinds of visual impairments, some fully blind, some with partial sight. This was important for Bouchard, for despite her disorder, she relies on her sight and works with it a lot.

Over the three years developing the show they had thirty different people come into rehearsal – whom Bouchard refers to as their ‘experts’ – to tell the cast how they would like to be guided. The team also underwent training in partnership with the RAM – the Regroupement des Aveugles et Amblyopes du Montreal metropolitain and they gave the team training on how you guide someone who cannot see, as there are certain specific techniques involved. They even organized activities for the team including a dinner in the dark with other blind people so they got to experience what it was like and get their feedback.

To experience the show, those with sight have to wear a blindfold. Given how much visual impairments can vary, I asked Bouchard how severe would they have to be to wear the blindfold for the show.

“If you can see anything – light, movement, color – you have to wear the blindfold. It’s only if you can see nothing that you won’t wear a blindfold.”

I got to experience two scenes from Camille as part of this media preview. They taught me two things: the first is that we take our sight for granted when humans have so many other senses by which we can process information. The second is that you can still experience theatre without sight.

Prospective audiences should know that there are parts of the show that might make you a little dizzy, and that in order to guide you, the cast will touch you a little during performances, but nothing inappropriate or weird.

If the snippet I experienced is any indication, Camille is going to be a great show. It’s running from September 4th to 22nd at the Montréal, arts interculturels (MAI) and tickets are available through the MAI website.

Pride has become many things over the years. For some it’s a great party – a chance for peoa ple of all genders and sexual orientations and identities to bust out the rainbows and costumes and dance in the street. For others, Pride celebrations are political acts – assertions that people of all genders and identities have a right to live their best lives.

For many others, mainstream Pride celebrations have become too corporate and too much of an opportunity for cis straight white people, particularly politicians and major corporations, to solicit LGBTQI votes and business while doing nothing to help them. Some people have fought this by organizing resistance movements within Pride, while others have opted to stage their own separate protests.

I had the privilege of speaking with those who attended the parade and those who organized counter protests within and without.

Before I go into that, we need to discuss the history of Montreal Pride as there are still some (idiots) who wonder why the LGBTQI community needs a celebration at all.

The gay pride movement as we know it began with the 1969 Stonewall riots. True to the assertion that Pride started as a protest against police brutality, the riots were in direct response to police raids of establishments catering to the gay community.

The Stonewall Inn was a mob-owned bar that primarily served gay men in Greenwich village in New York. In June of that year police conducted a raid and in response to it and years of persecution, a riot erupted. It was this riot, led by black transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson and others that sparked Pride marches and the mobilization of LGBTQI rights around the world.

The first Pride parade in Montreal happened in 1979 on the tenth anniversary of Stonewall. What started as a fifty-two-person march has now become an eleven-day festival with over two million participants.

Our local gay rights movement really got off the ground following the Sex Garage raid of 1990, which you could call our Stonewall. This led to the formation of Divers/Cité, the group that ran Pride until 2006.

This year the festival was marked by scandal. This is partly due to the announcement that Quebec Premier and critic of minority rights Francois Legault would be marching in the parade, as well as a recent CBC news story about how Sophia Sahrane, a black woman, was fired from Montreal Pride within an hour of submitting a report to them saying that they had not done enough to include visible minorities.

Many people objected to Francois Legault’s participation in Pride. At the head of this movement was Sam Kaizer, an activist behind the “Let go of Legault” petition calling on Montreal Pride to rescind its invitation to allow the Premier to march in the parade.

“When I started the petition, I was mostly concerned about the rights of our religious minorities, especially Muslim women,” he said. “But I was informed that the CAQ has done nothing towards the recognition of trans identities (and) the CAQ has not contributed anything to the advancement of LGBT+ rights.”

Unfortunately, though Kaizer’s petition got over three hundred signatures, Legault marched in the parade anyway. For Kaizer, this was not a total loss because Legault was booed almost the entire time and Kaizer’s petition helped spark important discussions about Pride. His hope was to raise standards for participants in the parade.

“I think only members of the community and allies should be permitted to march, not people who just want to look good in the media,” he said.

One person who marched in the parade was Jodi Kazenel. She was invited to march with her mentor, Dr. Laurie Betito, a phycologist with a specialty in sexuality and radio personality for CJAD. For Kazenel, the parade is about being part of a celebration of love and diversity and bringing awareness to how much more must be done for 2SLGBTQIA+ rights around the world and across Canada.

As for the criticisms of Pride Montreal as being increasingly corporate, racist and transphobic, she feels that if Pride helps raise awareness of these issues, then it’s a good thing. That said, she does have reservations about corporate participation in the parade:

“Corporations must ensure that their outward portrayals of inclusion and acceptance are reflected inside their workplaces, policies, medical allowances, and the like. Transphobia and racism have no place in Pride. Pride Montreal, all organisations, all corporations, all individuals must do their part to be inclusive of the entire 2SLGBTQIA+ community, which includes trans folks and POC.”

Sadly, there are many in Montreal who feel that Pride Montreal does not represent them. Among them are Adrienne Moohk, co-founder of GRIND’HER – a group that seeks to create pro trans, pro sex, pro sex worker lesbian cruising spaces, and Naomi Champagne. They are the organizers of the Pride is a Protest March which took place on the same day as and followed the Montreal Pride parade.

For them a major problem with Montreal Pride is the lack of black transgender women, ironic given that one of the leaders of Stonewall was a black trans woman. For them the firing of Sophia Sahrane was proof of the organization’s refusal to include or represent people of colour.

“Now, pride is centred around mostly white drag queens… Pride does not include black transwomen, nevermind does not centre them – and in fact, doesn’t seem to have much room for black people at all. or trans people!” Adrienne said, adding that many black and transgender people have walked away from Montreal Pride feeling traumatized.

In their eyes, Pride owes black, brown, and transgender communities representation and the fact that the event has become so corporate is also a problem.

“Pride started as a protest, but now is a corporate institution, that is actually quite dangerous to the lives of the most marginalized and while they def 100 should figure out better representation, all they do is appropriate people and their movements, instead of bring about real positive change which is quite dangerous,” Adrienne added.

For artist and transgender woman Candi Krol, attending the march over the parade was about feeling represented:

“(Montreal) Pride doesn’t speak for me or many others from marginalized communities under the LGBTQ+ banner, queer, trans, POC… pride has become an overly corporate white cis gay male thing that actively excludes us. Banks, politicians, corporations etc. pretend to care, but they are clueless. The gay rights movement was started by mostly drag queens, trans and queer POCs who lived on the fringes of the gay culture. They not only seem to forget this, but actively try to erase our history. I haven’t felt like pride supported or represented me in years.”

As to what Montreal Pride can do to better include people of colour and transgender people, Adrienne and Naomi feel that financially supporting marginalized groups would help. Pride in their eyes has so much money they could be handing out to community organizations to better support transgender people and people of colour.

They also feel that Montreal Pride doesn’t hire enough black, brown, and transgender people when Pride should be made up of a majority of them. Despite demands for inclusion, the organization doesn’t listen.

“There is an organization in Montreal called Taking What We Need, who fundraise for broke ass trans women who need it. They should have given them serious money, maybe room on the program.”

That said, the rights of LGBTQI people have a long way to go before equality is achieved. This is not just about homophobia or transphobia, but about racism, sexism, trans misogyny, police brutality, and corporate greed.

We owe it to ourselves as a society to actively scrutinize people who claim to support human rights, but actively undermine them when in a position to help. In the meantime, Montreal Pride will continue and so will all the other protests and rightful demands for change.

Images courtesy of Candi Krol

I saw Lesbian Speed Date from Hell this past Sunday and having experienced the emotional rollercoaster of the piece, I was curious as to how it all came about. I had the opportunity to email back and forth with the show’s producer Christina Saliba and she gave me some fascinating insights.

The show was originally submitted to be part of Festival De La Bête Noire, Montreal’s first ever horror-themed festival. One of their writers had an idea for a piece about speed dating.

Saliba’s own experiences with lesbian speed dating events at the popular queer hangout Notre Dame des Quilles and the interesting date encounters she had at them really helped the story come together.

Saliba explains that when she saw the call for submissions for Festival De La Bête Noire, she jumped at the opportunity not only to present something queer-centric, as many working on the production identify as queer, but also to present horror comedy.

“Horror-comedy is a genre that is not commonly seen on stage. The horror aspects of the show are boundary pushing, not only for the audience but for the artists involved. Horror allows you to sit within your fears and anxieties and face them in a safe and controlled environment. There certainly may be some triggering moments for some audience goers as it is a show that tests limitations. However, the comedy aspect to it provides that relief and comfort. It’s a fantastic juxtaposition of genres and a fun medium to work in.”

Many people primarily associate horror comedy with The Evil Dead movies starring Bruce Campbell, so I was intrigued as to what it meant to someone putting on a show of that genre.

“I would say it is more outlandish, over the top, and hysterical rather than gore, terror, and horror. The comedy takes you out of the horror fantasy.”

The cast of Lesbian Speed Dating came from diverse backgrounds including comedy, sketch, improv, TV, and film. For Saliba, this diversity of perspectives elevates the show. While auditions were held, some of the show’s talent were deliberately sought out because of their unique talents.

“The structure and the script are there, but they are all so talented that they bring in the occasional ad-libbing and improv. Half of the team falls under the queer umbrella, as authenticity, particularly with our leads, was essential for me.”

Though the show only ran for two nights during Festival De La Bête Noire, Saliba couldn’t let it die. She had her sights set on it being part of Just for Laughs and a cast member suggested it be part of Pride’s programming. Saliba hopes to eventually take the show on tour internationally.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day one of Île Soniq  had some rainy moments, but even the turbulent weather wasn’t enough to keep anyone from enjoying the festival!

The day started out with its usual Montréal-style festival festivities: a full metro car echoing with excited singing and chanting from eager festival goers, almost like an energy pre if you will.

When we arrived at Parc Jean-Drapeau we were greeted by the warm sun and I got my first look at the newly renovated festival grounds, that have recently been relocated to its previous spot on île Sainte-Hélène. The layout of the festival is spacious, even for vast crowd of festival goers and the view of the city and the glistening water just makes the experience all the more ethereal. 

The first show I catch is Sydanie, a Toronto-based rapper (and self-described “bad rap mom” on her Soundcloud). She’s glimmering angelically in a sparkling jumpsuit and doesn’t hesitate to bust a move in it as she raps some realness.

We definitely felt her energy when she performed her newest song I want u 2 see this and even debuted an unreleased track Abby. Sydanie doesn’t just speak truth in her music though, and midway through her performance she reminds us of the sadly minimal effort by Île-Soniq to hire any female performers by shouting out to “the fact that I’m the only live performing female for the day.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/B0_SwSPnNrh/?utm_source=ig_web_options_share_sheet

While I wait to catch MurdaBeatz’ show, I head over to the superman ride that île-Soniq has set up for its festival goers. As I’m strapped into the ride I hear the crowd screaming as he hits the stage, but by the time it’s over the rain has taken over the festival and stopped the show. At first the crowd screams for MurdaBeatz, but as it starts to get pretty wet it begins to dissipate in large pieces as everyone seeks out shelter. 

By the time it stops I’m just in time to catch Nora En Pure, a South African-Swiss DJ known for her deep house and indie dance music. Her music is light and euphoric even amidst all the clouds and intermittent rain, an almost perfect foil for the next show I saw: 1000volts. 

South African-Swiss DJ, Nora En Pure

The story of 1000volts’ conception reads like a love story to me, and I can’t unsee it. Hip-hop ace Redman and trap and bass producer Jayceeoh joined forces after working together on a song in 2015, and have been bridging the gap between hip hop and electronic music ever since. Their name didn’t disappoint either with the electrifying performance they gave, perfectly set under an actual stormy sky.

While I was waiting to catch Lil Pump on his first trip to Quebec, I also managed to catch Oliver Helden’s performance — a sea of beautiful people swaying back and forth to the uplifting but poppy sound — as well as the end of Smokepurpp’s show from afar which had perhaps one of the most energetic crowds I saw, singing along to all of his songs and bouncing rhythmically together with shots of the mosh pit hitting the big screen every few minutes.

Festival-goers enjoying Sheck Wes’ performance

I made sure to catch Mo Bamba at Sheck Wes’ show, took a few minutes to get some poutine in me and then trekked back to the Mirage Stage with the masses to catch a glimpse of Soundcloud sensation Lil Pump, who was unsurprisingly 20 minutes late to his own show. Though I do enjoy a few of his most popular songs, (Gucci Gang will always be a bop), his overall performance felt to be a bit of a disappointment, but that can probably be blamed more on his tech guys as the cameraman was visibly struggling to follow him across the stage and his DJ/hype-man’s mic seemed to be louder than his own, obscuring the sound of his voice and lyrics punctuating everything Pump said with the perhaps overly frequent and loud “yuh”s and “okay”s. Once it started to rain, it was a sign for me to leave. 

Overall the first day was absolutely jam-packed with exciting and energetic performances for every sub-category of electronic music, even including a metal EDM performance by Sullivan King, as well as the various hiphop/electronic music fusions, (although almost completely lacking in female performers). See you all at Day two for what will hopefully be better weather! 

Photos courtesy of the lovely Celeste Bonnier (featured image of Sydanie and her backup dancers)

Île Soniq concludes today, tickets available through IleSoniq.com

Friday and Saturday this upcoming weekend (August 9th & 10th) will mark the sixth annual Île Soniq festival, which will be returning to its original site at Parc Jean-Drapeau. So grab your sunscreen, don’t forget to #stayhydrated, and get ready to dance like its your last chance, because this one might just knock you into September.

Now, if you’re anything like me, the hardest part of almost any festival is simply figuring out how to divvy up your precious time. But fret not, because I’m gonna fill you in on all the shows you’re not gonna want to miss this year (and you can find the full lineup below)!

Montreal’s Own

This year’s Île Soniq lineup is choc-full international talent, sure, but for those of you that are interested in finding out what Montreal–a city that has been home to some of the world’s most promising artists–is bringing to the table this year (besides the festival itself, of course), look no further.

Adventure Club

If you don’t know them already, Christian Srigley and Leighton James started off as a pop-punk band and are now an electronic dance music duo based out of Montreal.

Playing Saturday, August 10th from 7:05PM-8:05PM

Relaxjosh

Relaxjosh is a local Montreal DJ with a unique but evolving sound. Though he’s been DJing since 11, he released his first single, Famous, only last year.

Playing Saturday, August 10th from 1:00PM-1:45PM

Underher

Underher is a sensual electronica/techno act created by Kalden Bess. Genre? Music to have sex to.

Playing Saturday, August 10th from 2:30PM-3:30PM

Sam Lamar

Sam Lamar has been rapidly rising through the ranks of the bass music scene, and has shown no signs of stopping yet!

Playing on Friday, August 9th from 2:45PM-3:40PM

DJ Bolarinho

Image result for dj bolarinho

DJ and producer from the collective ‘Drôle d’oiseaux’, best known for his groovy funkytrap and of course his mystical beard!

Playing Friday, August 9th 1:00PM-1:45PM
#groovy🧔🤙

Bad-ass Babes

Île Soniq didn’t book many female performers this year 😒 … But here are a couple baddies you should check out.

Sydanie

Sydanie is a Jamaican-Trinidadian Toronto-based queer rapper and supermom and she’s changing the game in the Toronto hip-hop scene.

Playing Friday, August 9th from 1:15PM to 2:00PM

Whipped Cream

Whipped Cream, aka Caroline Cecil, goes hard with her limitless and versatile bad-ass bass sound.

Playing Saturday, August 10th from 4:05PM-5:05PM

Nicole Moudaber

Nicole Moudaber is a Lebanese/British radio personality and techno DJ and producer. She’s also behind MOOD, her own record label and global party brand. She gets pretty wild on the dance floor, and doesn’t hold back when she’s turning tunes either.

Playing Saturday, August 10th from 8:50PM-10:50PM

Nora en Pure

Nora en Pure is a South-African/Swiss DJ known for her deep house and indie dance music. She’s also a core member of the Helvetic Nerds.

Playing on August 9th from 2:55PM-3:55PM

Some other personal faves…

1000volts

Superduo Redman & Jayceeoh team up to zap you with 1000 volts of their own bass and hiphop fusion, bridging the gap between rap and electronic music.

Playing Friday, August 9th from 4:00PM-5:00PM

Lick (the DJ)

Lick the DJ (ha-ha) is from San Francisco, specialising in fine techno, deep house, and tech house. His music is vivid and electrifying.

Playing Friday, August 9th from 1:00PM-1:55PM

Ronin

Ronin is a DJ, producer, and avocado-enthusiast. If you’re somehow not already amped when you show up to Ile Soniq, you will be after his set.

Playing Saturday, August 10th from 2:00PM-3:00PM

Dabin

Dabin Lee grew up surrounded by music and it shows. The Toronto musician’s melodic electronic music will make you feel like you’re living the emotional climax of the movie of your life, wind in your hair and all.

Full Lineup & Tickets

2019 LINEIP

Check out the rest of the lineup.To get your tickets if you haven’t already, or for more information check out the Île Soniq website, and I’ll see you all there!

The third and last day of the festival started with the talented Toronto DJ Kirsten Azan, aka Bambii, at scène de I’île. Bambii is no stranger to the Montreal scene and gathered a decent crowd of fans who danced to the rhythms of dancehall and electronic music.

Bambii (photo ©2019 Benoit Rousseau, courtesy Osheaga)

For our second show, we saw Alex Anyaegbunam, better known by his stage name Rejjie Snow, Irish rapper. After a few technical issues on stage, Rejjie Snow started at 5:20 and put on a decent show. He also presented part of his new material which will be in his upcoming album: Baba Black Sheep which he recently finished and will be dropping soon.

Rejjie Snow (photo by Bianca Lecompte)

The number of attendees doubled and we headed to the main stage to see major acts such as Hozier, Team Impala and last but not least, our personal favourite Daniel Glover aka Childish Gambino to wrap up the festivities.

Childish Gambino (photo by lamyazpixels)

As people were chanting his name Gambino appeared on an elevated platform in the middle of the crowd and made his way to the blue stage to put on a show. He connected with the audience while taking selfies and high fiving as many as possible, the crowd sang along to his hits Summertime Magic, Sober and This is America.

Childish Gambino brought out a full band and chorus to the stage and it was a magical experience.

Featured image by Bianca Lecompte

On a sunny Sunday in downtown Montreal, a group gathered at Place de la Paix with a purpose. It’s Pride month and the trans and non-binary people and those who support them have come out to march.

Some people are rocking Trans Pride flags and rainbows others are rocking leather and lace, while others come as they’re most comfortable. Some have picket signs saying “Trans Rights”, “Begone TERFs” aka Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists, or proclaiming the rights of transgender sex workers, while others proclaim solidarity through chants and yells.

There were speeches before the march and a chance for the more obvious members of the press to snap a photo. The speeches began with an acknowledgement that everyone was standing on stolen Kanien’kehá:ka indigenous territory.

In the speeches the overall sentiment you get is one of frustration. Vincent, who uses the pronouns “they/them” expressed frustration at self-proclaimed allies in the federal and provincial government, who show up in queer spaces and Pride marches but won’t allow breast augmentation for trans women except in very specific circumstances. They expressed frustration at people who call themselves allies but follow up with no action to support transgender people and transgender people of colour.

Harley, another of the organizers who is non-binary and goes by “they/them” spoke in their speech of the alarming suicide rates among transgender youth and how denying access to transgender medicine keeps people within the transgender community from realizing their full potential. When I spoke with Harley during the march, they told me of the insane hoops transgender people must go through in order to transition.

As it stands, in order receive government funded bottom surgery – meaning surgery to transform the genitalia you had at birth into the genitalia that matches your gender identity – you need confirmation from a doctor that you’ve received hormone therapy for at least twelve months and letters from two psychologists confirming you are transgender. As psychologists generally will not provide a diagnosis of gender dysphoria – the medical term for being transgender – with a single visit and most psychotherapy is not covered under medicare, the costs can be exorbitant.

Activists like Harley would like to see the right to transition as a simple matter of informed consent between doctor and patient, a pact they make to undertake the journey together. Under the current rules the right to transition puts doctors and transgender people at odds.

Despite increasing recognition from the medical and psychiatric community that being transgender is not a mental illness, transgender people are still encountering resistance from the government and medical community who are making decisions for them without consulting them, and who have clearly not absorbed or accepted the growing medical consensus.

With the march underway moving east towards Montreal’s gay village, the air was filled with chants of “Trans Rights Are Human Rights” and “This is a march, not a parade!” – the latter showing that this was not about pretty costumes and corporate sponsorships but a call to action and a proclamation of rights.

The march is not just for transgender and non-binary people. It’s for transgender people of colour who are murdered at alarming rates. It’s for transgender and non-binary youth who face high rates of suicide. It’s for transgender sex workers who are often the victims of violence and have no protection from law enforcement.

The march came to a close at Charles S. Campbell Park where a massive picnic was set up. Food consisting of hot dogs, salads, and tofu dogs was free for guests, but donations were welcome. A stage was set up for trans artists like Candice Mitchell Krol to perform. With the chanting over, people were welcome to chill and hang out in the name of equality and the right to exist.

What was most impressive about the Trans Pride march is the efforts organizers went to make sure people felt safe and welcome. Information was provided to help disabled marchers navigate the march’s route. Smoking was prohibited within the march itself, but there were instructions and accommodations made for people who had to leave the march to do so.

That said, these kinds of events are safe spaces for marginalized groups, so for those who are cisgender and want to show their support, be on your best behavior. If you want to call yourself an ally, prove yourself with actions not proclamations and public appearances.

Osheaga was a great three days of hardy drinking and music and all I can say about this year’s festival is that there were so many pleasant surprises.

Let’s get right to it: Sunday night was the big night because of its two headliners: Tame Impala and Childish Gambino.

Tame Impala put on a near perfect show. The crowd was transfixed with the neat light beams coming from the stage that seemed to put everyone in a trance. They played most of their songs from their latest LP but did a few good oldies like Feels Like We Only Go Backwards and Elephant.

Childish Gambino then brought the crowd to complete ecstasy by hitting it home and closed out the night with some spectacular fireworks right after the crowd sang along to This is America.

Photo by lamyazpixels

Earlier in the day Metric got the crowd going. At times Hains started speaking what seemed to be poetry about getting shit done in your life.

Mac DeMarco was acting all goofy all day. It culminated in him doing a funny cover of Metallica’s enter Sandman.

Saturday night’s romp with chemical Brothers was one for the bucket list. These superstar DJs were definitely one of the highlights of my festival experience.

Honourable Mentions:

Teke:: Teke, Fisher and Vladamir Cauchmar to name drop a few, were as entertaining as ever. And Kurt VIle put on one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen him do.

Strangest Act:

Black Tiger Sex Magic was definitely the strangest act of the festival with helmets that light up and the oddest crowd mix of electronic dance music bros, pretty ladies and weirdos.

Coolest Performance:

The coolest performance trophy goes to Reignwolf to for their use of the space to play their guitars and bass and the final meshing of the guitar and bass together to end the set.

Side note: As for the venue the park new old location was definitely noticed by people for being more spacious and with a lot more amenities.

The only one negative thing I noticed with the amount of dust I was at this year’s festival maybe it was caused by the amount of construction in Montreal or on site or perhaps it was the sand that was laid out at the base of the mountain but whatever reason a lot of people were covering their face as because of it. Hopefully next year it won’t be as dusty.

Featured image by lamyazpixels

Day Two is now in the books, let’s try to recap the blur that just happened, shall we. Like with any festival you’re always experiencing something while missing out on something else. It’s the nature of events like this so someone else’s snapshot of the day might be completely different.

Vladamir Cachmar (photo Jerry Gabriel)

We at FTB went into the Saturday with a plan that we wouldn’t at any point make a plan. Just follow a friend to what they’re going to, ask a stranger for a suggestion or wander aimlessly. Here’s a few of the places our wanderings took us to.

Photo by Jerry Gabriel

We happened in on King Princess who a friend told us was the next big thing waiting to blow up. She didn’t disappoint, we’ll have to remember to check her out again.

We decided to hang in the back for Janelle Monáe, see the big picture of the festival.

It can’t all be high energy, met up with some old friends and made some new ones hanging out on the hammocks

The crowd for Black Tiger Sex Machine was a drum of gasoline waiting to go up and the Montreal based trio didn’t waste any time lighting the match that set the whole thing off.

The best hidden gem for the day (and strong candidate for highlight of the festival) were garage rockers Reignwolf who used every possible inch of the stage and every ounce of energy they had during their performance.

Frontman Jordan Cook seemd hell bent on climbing to the top of every structure he could find while playing his guitar solos. Amps were swaying, patch cords were being pulled tight around beams, security was having a panic attack. You know, standard rock and roll stuff.

He even jumped into the crowd for a little bit one on one time with everyone. All this while singing the chorus “Are you Satisfied?” Yes Jared, very much so.

The Chemical Brothers capped the day off with an immersive performance combining their music with a multimedia light and video show complete with confetti, giant robots and beach balls. Probably the most complete top to bottom performance we’ve ever seen and a masterclass on how to combine music with other medium.

Featured image courtesy of lamyazpixels

Osheaga 2019 finishes today (Sunday). Tickets at the gate or through Osheaga.com

Day one of Osheaga 2019 is now in the books and it set a pretty high bar for the rest of the weekend. Here’s a quick recap of some of the highlights, awards ceremony style.

The best improvement award goes to the venue itself. Last year renovations pushed Osheaga out of its normal spot on Île Sainte-Hélène and most, myself included found it to be a bit of a headache. This time around they’re back in their usual spot and it seems to have been very well received by most concertgoers.

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Checking out this ferris wheel #osheaga fun

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The best stage presence award goes to Mitski who brought a table and chair on stage with her and played lovingly with them all set. What at first looked like a one or two song gimmick turned into a set long love affair with inanimate objects.

Interpol

The coolest dude at the party award goes to Interpol’s Daniel Kessler who decided to attire himself in suit and shades. Despite temperatures soaring in the afternoon he kept the full coat and tie on the whole time! That’s some serious commitment to looking like a rockstar there Daniel.

The best surf rock goes to Teke Teke, because we love them and love surf rock and we wanted to give them a shout out.

The most touching moment award goes to the Lumineers for deciding to ignore standard procedure by reserving the encore for one of their big hits and instead chose to pay homage to Montreal legend Leonard Cohen by covering has classic Democracy.

The Lumineers

Their low key version, dropping the classic drum beat and musical hook till the very end, made the song something a little bit Cohen and a little bit themselves while still capturing the important part of all Cohen songs, the lyrics. Maybe the crowd didn’t know all the words to this one but the overall message, which like most Cohen songs is still relevant today, was quite clear.

Kurt Vile and the Violators

Photos by Jerry Gabriel (except featured image by Joseph McLean)

Osheaga continues through Sunday, tickets at Osheaga.com

Osheaga‘s back this weekend for 3 full days of music, art, food and fun in what is likely to be very hot sun. The lineup this year is as impressive as ever with some very big names sure to draw big crowds.

Here at FTB though we try not to focus on any of those big names. It just seems a little silly to preview what you already know.

Instead we’ll be talking about the hidden gems playing earlier in the day when you might be more inclined to wander aimlessly and get to know a new artist. Here’s who I’m most looking forward to getting to know, feel free to check out their full lineup and form your own opinion.

Stay hydrated my friends!

Disclaimer: This list is totally biased to what I’m into at the moment so don’t tell me I missed someone or it’s in some way wrong.

Teke::Teke

I’ve always had a soft spot for surf rock bands, especially when they list Takeshi Terauchi as their biggest influence. If you don’t know who he is I advise you to do a quick little google search.

It also doesn’t hurt that Teke::Teke are from good ol’Montreal and what would Osheaga be like without a little hometown bias in the preview.

Give them a listen and you’ll see they’ve got the old surf rock vibe but with some twists. There’s a lot of modern elements as well as some traditional Japanese instruments mixed in for good measure.

grandson

While I’m not super familiar with grandson, his track Apologize keeps showing up everywhere and I’m curious to get to know a little more about him. He’s a relatively young artist and starting to get chart-level success so this might be a “I remember when” situation where you get to catch someone before they really blow up.

Mallrat

I’ve always found it funny that “fashionably late” even applies to concerts in Montreal. If you’re like me and actually make it to places at the correct time you can check out Mallrat bright and early at the crack of 1 pm on Sunday.

I know, what an ungodly hour to be awake, and on a Sunday no less! But it will be well worth it. At just 20 years old, this Australia singer/rapper is already starting to make waves, best to get on the boat early.

St. Paul & The Broken Bones

The elevator pitch for why St.Paul & The Broken Bones is on this list, the dude can sing like it’s nobody’s business. A whole lot of soul, a little bit of funk and a superb horn section have me curious to see what the live version of the tracks I’ve heard will sound like.

Mitski

Ok so Mitski is definitely not a lesser known artist but she’s on in the afternoon so it might still count. Besides, this is my list and I’ll do what I want!

She’s the winner of the “Osheaga Artist I’ve Been Listening to Most Lately Award” and as the winner of this completely arbitrary prize she wins a spot on this list.

Mac DeMarco

In this case I have no excuse, it’s super duper duper breaking the rules to put Mac DeMarco on the list. So he’ll go at the bottom and I won’t dwell on it for long but I had to since the “hipster Jimmy Buffet” is absolutely nuts live, don’t forget to go see him, who knows what craziness he’ll get up to.

You might even get to hear his tone deaf drummer sing classic rock songs like he did last summer at Lollapalooza. Like who does that?!?

Following my interview with Shaun Majumder, I had the chance to see HATE. The almost sold-out audience happily shared in Majumder’s frustration and confusion to the continued hate that surrounds the Trump presidency, and its effect even up in the Great White North.

Majumder opened with the acknowledgment that yes, it has been a year since he left This Hour has 22 Minutes, and no, he is not bitter about it. In fact, so much so, that he seamlessly features a one-on-one interview mano-a-mano with himself. Incredibly, he makes no mistake, and has the audience alive with his self-inflicted argument.

The Majumder v. Majumder Skype call set the tone for the rest of the show, exploring how hate can grow inside of us, and covers his departure from CBC quickly, not deviating from the jokes.

The multimedia aspects were flawless and really complemented his comedy, seeing as it revolved around bigoted tweets, racially charged videos and a sprinkling of memes. When he broke into his self-written song Rainbow Infection near the end of his set, it was perfectly lit in bright green.

The show centered around the reaction he received when he wrote a satirical song for This Hour has 22 Minutes in 2016. Beige Power approaches the idea of blending cultures through “genetic criss-crossin'”which was taken much too seriously by a few alt-right twitter users, who took to the platform to berate Majumder to such an extent that the best ones made their way into his comedy special.

The racist tweets are a treat to behold and are featured in their full glory on a giant screen behind him. Some are difficult to fathom, but Majumder takes the piss out of them, breaking them down, joking about nonsensical concepts like “racist brown mother fucker”, which Majumder says is just a bigot’s oxymoron.

Majumder included some of his well-known impersonations: the charming, rural newfie accent, his east Indian father, and a pretty good aloof Trudeau. These were crowd-favourites, and anytime a Canadian-ism made its way into a joke, it left many of us in stiches. In the end, we all just enjoy laughing at ourselves.

His attempt to not just attack the white supremacy and the inevitable connection to Trump but to bring it back home was better than expected. With a show titled HATE, there is an expectation that it will be dark, mean or angry, but Majumder kept it light, yet uncharacteristically unapologetic.

“This hour has 60 minutes,” he joked, harkening back to his 15 years with CBC, “but if you came here looking for Rick Mercer, you’re in the wrong fucking place.”

Majumder continues his HATE tour in November in Alberta and Saskatchewan

Michael Che is the first Just for Laughs Gala host, or at least the first host I’ve seen, to fully embrace all aspects of the job.

It’s not just having a solid standup set for the beginning, which he did. It’s also not just having the ability to riff on and with the audience, which he clearly did as well.

Introducing the other comics performing is something other hosts I’ve seen have treated as almost a throwaway emcee duty. Che, on the other hand, made his intros a solid part of the show.

Of course he did. Reading dry, witty one-liners off a teleprompter comfortably into the camera is pretty much his day job, or rather his close to midnight on Saturday job as a co-host of SNL’s Weekend Update.

My favorite joke of the night came during one of his intros:

“Our next comic comes from England, which is known for its alcoholism and Islamophobia. He should do great in Quebec.”

– Michael Che

There were other edgy gems in his intros and throughout his set There were also some solidly funny sets from the other comics performing last night.

Jessica Kirson was the standout for me. I’ve seen her perform before, but her inner monologue bits, seemingly a new edition to her act, narrating both what she and the audience were thinking of her set in real time, was some fourth-wall breaking hilarity.

Jay Pharoah, who closed out the evening, had the large audience laughing the whole time he was on stage. His bit about escaping unwanted advances in Greece was particularly good.

Fellow SNL alumn Fred Armisen was, um, interesting. A couple of short songs, a singalong, and that was it.

Fin Taylor, the aforementioned Brit, made some good points, and one really solid one, but, for the most part, I wasn’t really sure where he was coming from and where he would land and I’m still not sure.

Pete Holmes and Sam Jay delivered solid sets, as did fellow Canuncks Matt O’Brien and Phil Hanley. It was a night jam-packed with talent, as Che remarked at the beginning.

Also kudos to the warm up act/hype man whose name I don’t know. He started dancing in our row and decided to let his energy get everyone ready instead of jokes, as those would be forthcoming.