Jason C. McLean and Special Guests Dawn McSweeney and Jerry Gabriel start with Quebec’s second curfew which begins on New Year’s Eve and then talk about some of the top news stories of 2021.

Follow Dawn McSweeney on Twitter and Instagram @mcmoxy

Follow Jerry Gabriel on Twitter (@depressingbear) and Instagram (@jerrygabrielrocks)

Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter and Instagram @jasoncmclean

Yes, there are some new restrictions coming in Quebec, but they come into effect on Monday, so you can still partake in the two in-person events listed here (and, of course, the one that’s online as well). Plus they would be within the rules after the new measures come into effect.

It’s the holiday season, but there are still plenty of local arts events happening. Let’s get started:

Elizabeth Anne Malatestinic’s The Monarch at L’Annexe Dépanneur Café

Elizabeth Anne Malatestinic was always drawn to art pieces that made her want to reach out and run her fingers across the canvas. With her new exhibit The Monarch, the Hampton, New Brunswick native currently based in Montreal hopes to offer just that experience.

“If that means that the paint and colour changes over time, all the better,” she says, “I want my paintings to develop and age as all living things do.”

Seven of her works will be displayed at L’Annexe Dépanneur Café in Mile-End for a month. It will include The March of the Monarch, a 47×31 mixed media piece comprising of 205 hand painted butterflies arranged on a canvas creating a commentary on climate change, and its detrimental impacts on women, girls, and monarch butterflies.

The Monarch by Elizabeth Anne Malatestinic – Vernissage featuring live music by Ocean Charter of Values on Friday, December 17, 6-9pm. Exhibit up until mid-January 2022 @ L’Annexe Dépanneur Café, 200 Rue Bernard Ouest. More info on the Facebook Event Page

Run Nawrocki Run! Escape from Banff Prison

In his latest play, available on YouTube until tomorrow evening, acclaimed Montreal playwright, actor and musician Norman Nawrocki tells the little-known story of the six year imprisonment of 8579 Ukranian-Canadians during World War 1.

“Nawrocki blends Canadian history, emigration, racism, war hysteria, Ukrainian folkloric medicinal rituals & legend with family memory in the 40-minute long production.”

Run Nawrocki Run! Escape from Banff Prison is available to watch until December 17th at 9pm Eastern on Norman Nawrocki’s YouTube Channel

Happy Holidaze Cabaret

The Candyass Cabaret is back, as it is the third Friday of every month. This time around, the mood will be festive and the theme is the holidays (or Holidaze).

MCs are Damiana Dolce and Monica Hamburg, the audience is encouraged to wear ugly x-mas sweaters and “win mediocre prizes in our contest.”

Candyass Cabaret presents Happy Holidaze, Friday, December 17, 9pm (Doors 8:30pm) @ Cafe Cleopatre, 1230 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, 2nd Floor. More info on the Facebook Event PageFeatured Image: The March of the Monarch by Elizabeth Anne Malatestiric

If you know of an event that you feel should be covered, please contact arts@forgetthebox.net or music@forgetthebox.net

No promises but we’ll do our best

It’s the winter, a time when indoor shows have traditionally been a refuge from Montreal winter. Unfortunately last year that wasn’t the case, for obvious reasons, but this year, we’re heading back to semi-normal. With that in mind, let’s get started:

Three More Weeks of #LECYPHER Thursdays

After five sellout shows, Urban Science are closing off 2021 with three more #LECYPHER Thursdays hip hop shows at Le Petit Campus. The concept is simple: Urban Science and their invited guests for the evening (local bands and DJs) perform and then it turns into a jam.

Tonight’s show features the Lotus Collective followed by Sonido Pesao on the 9th and Hawa B on the 16th.

#LECYPHER Thursdays run until December 16 (December 2 w/Lotus Collective) at 8pm at Le Petit Campus, 57 Rue Prince Arthur Ouest. Tickets available through LePointDeVente.com

Heather Mah’s Debut Solo Show Pomegranate Running at the MAI

Heather Mah has decades of experience in the dance world, but her first major solo show, Pomegranate, premiers this week at the MAI. The show pulls from Mah’s own family history and “draws a fragmented portrait of migration”.

The opening has already started at press time, but it runs three more times tomorrow and Saturday and the Saturday matinee is offered in audio description for the visually impaired audience, a first for a Montreal dance show and only the second time it is being offered in Canada.

Heather Mah – Pomegranate from Montréal, arts interculturels on Vimeo.

Pomegranate runs December 3 and 4 at 7:30pm (with a matinee on December 4 at 2pm) at MAI, 3680 rue Jeanne-Mance. Tickets available through the MAI Box Office

The Quintet L’Abîme Launch Their Debut Album with a Mini-Tour

L’Abîme is a relatively new Montreal-based quintet launching their eponymously-titled debut album on April 23rd. Before that, though, they will go on a three-stop tour of Quebec, starting next Tuesday, December 7th, in Montreal at L’Esco.

Their influences range from jazz to progressive rock to contemporary classical music. You can hear a sample below:

L’Abîme start their tour Tuesday, December 7 at L’Esco, 4461 rue St-Denis, info on the Facebook event page

Featured Image of Quintet L’Abîme by Ethel Laurendeau courtesy of Indie Montreal

If you know of an event that you feel should be covered, please contact arts@forgetthebox.net or music@forgetthebox.net

No promises but we’ll do our best

This week, we have a couple of groups that we have previously covered for their virtual performances that have switched back to in-person. Let’s get started:

Titelaine Launch On veut vivre notre vie en vacances

What a better time than fall to think about summer vacation, or vacations in general. That’s probably what Montreal duo Titelaine have in mind with the October release of their album On veut vivre notre vie en vacances, which they’re launching in-person tonight.

We’ve already covered this band playing a virtual show, back when in-person shows weren’t possible, but now that they are, they are. They have already released the single Paranoïa ahead of the launch. Give it a listen:

Titelaine launch On veut vivre notre vie en vacances at Ausgang Plaza, 6524 rue St-Hubert, Thursday, October 7 from 8-11pm. Tickets available through LePointDeVente.com

Ghost Stories in the Flesh Courtesy of Haunted Montreal

Around this time last year, Haunted Montreal was forced to cancel its in-person ghost walks due to everything being locked down just before the Halloween season. They scrambled and came up with a virtual alternative which we reviewed and later a Victorian-themed holiday virtual tour which we also reviewed.

Since restrictions eased earlier this year, they have been back doing what they do best, in person haunted experiences. For the Halloween Season, they are offering three ghost walks: Haunted Downtown, Haunted Mountain and Haunted Griffintown, as well as a paranormal investigation. Yes, you have to get to all those neighbourhoods, but that’s part of the fun,

Haunted Montreal’s experiences are offered in both English and French on various dates and times until early November, please visit HauntedMontreal.com for the schedule and tickets

Featured Image courtesy of Haunted Montreal

If you know of an event that you feel should be covered, please contact arts@forgetthebox.net or music@forgetthebox.net

No promises but we’ll do our best

This year’s POP Montreal (the 20th edition) was an entertaining distraction that was most definitely needed coming on the heels of a heavy lockdown in Montreal. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I for one was extremely happy to see live music flourish in Montreal and boy did POP not disappoint for the 20th time. 

As much as we would like to forget about what was still happening outside, the dancing masked people in the indoor events, the vaccine passport checks at the door and the liquid sanitizer reminded us all that this pandemic is not over yet. but POP did a great job making everyone feel safe and secure.

Onto the music!

While there were a great many artists playing, two shows in particular really stood out for me.

One was an afternoon show that displayed the raw strength and ability of Gus Englehorn songs to stay in my head and  play over and over again long after his show. 

His performance was probably under the the worse conditions: an afternoon show on the Friday. Still, he managed to get a packed house and he still brought it!

His songs are so catchy. I just wanted to bounce around, but of course i was stuck in a seat a couple of feet away from someone else. It was a great set with his drummer Estée Preda playing as hard as Gus, creating a lot positive vibes for me  and really setting the tone for Friday at POP this year.

It definitely got me out of my COVID rut. I really appreciated the fact that they were able to put on such a great show under these conditions.

Next up, was a much bigger show by far: Suuns at Rialto. 

I guess my expectations were way to high for the show, Suuns being one of my favorite bands to come out of the local music scene, and while the show was pretty entertaining, it didn’t feel like this was their best performance. It was still highly enjoyable and really reached it’s peak towards the end. The background visuals also really enhanced the experience.

The best part of the show was definitely leading up to and the encore. In particular, it was when they played fan favorite Arena.

The audience was definitely enjoying it, dancing towards the end, especially around the final encore. It almost felt like the good old days, well if it wasn’t for the masks.

Although it wasn’t completely back to normal at this year’s POP, it was definitely great to see people listening to live music together again.

As we begin this journey back to normalcy. POP Montreal definitely helped us along the way. Thanks again for 20 years of music!

All photos courtesy of Phil Shearing

It may be fall, but this weekend is Osheaga Weekend in Montreal! More specifically, it’s the Osheaga Get Together this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Parc Jean-Drapeau.

Sure, the three days in early August chock full of both international, Canadian and local musical talent and tons of audience members (aka Osheaga Proper) skipped this year and will return in 2022, but this weekend’s event promises the same level of excitement with some key differences.

Osheaga Get Together will exclusively feature Canadian talent. We’re talking some of the biggest Canadian music stars as well as up-and-coming acts to look out for. Plus many of the performers are also local.

While it will be the usual three days, there will only be two stages, which, of course, gives you a chance to catch more of the acts. The event is limited capacity (so get those tickets while you still can) and will be implementing all current Public Health protocols.

Normally when we cover Osheaga, we focus on the local and Canadian acts instead of the headliners. This year, though, the Canadian and local acts ARE the headliners, so I’ll just talk about some of them.

Here is some of what you can look forward to:

Friday

Montrealer and pop-electro-jazz singer songwriter Charlotte Cardin is the big name capping off Friday night. She is currently on tour supporting her Canadian chart-topping studio album Phoenix.

Friday will also feature Toronto-based R&B duo DVSN (signed to Drake’s label), Montreal band The Franklin Electric’s first show at home in a few years and much more.

Saturday

Saturday boasts a hip hop and RnB-heavy lineup. Toronto-born and Juno Award-winning singer/songwriter Jessie Reyez makes her Osheaga debut in the headlining spot.

Majid Jordan, the Toronto-based RnB duo also signed to Drake’s OVO Sound label will perform as will rapper Roy Wood$ and many more.

Sunday

On Sunday, it’s largely an all-out rockfest, featuring Montreal-based headliners Half Moon Run, Montreal-based festival favourites The Damn Truth, and Montreal punk rockers Les Shirley all play. Come to think of it, Sunday is largely an all-out Montreal rockfest (well, there is some Toronto, Quebec City and New Brunswick thrown into the mix, but I did say “largely”).

Osheaga Get Together is October 1, 2 and 3 at Parc Jean-Drapeau. For the complete lineup and tickets, please visit Osheaga.com

Featured Image from Osheaga 2018 by Joe McLean

We may be in the midst of POP Montreal, but that’s not all that’s happening in our fair city culturally this weekend and week. So, with that in mind, please allow us to take a little break from our POP coverage and present some other options:

The 17th Montreal International Black Film Festival is Up and Running

The 2021 edition of the Montreal International Black Film Festival, Canada’s largest Black Film Festival, started yesterday and runs until October 3rd. This year, the 17th consecutive event, will be a hybrid festival, with a promise to “inspire through bold programming – online and in person.”

The festival will feature films from over 30 countries and include a nod to the Francophonie, the work of local filmmakers and films featuring well-known international figures such as Colin Kaepernick, Quincy Jones and more. The Black Market will return as an online event featuring intimate discussions with some film luminaries as well as industry panels. The free and in-person MIBFF in the Neighborhoods also returns in both Montréal-Nord and Côtes-de-Neiges.

MIBFF21 runs September 22 – October 3. For the complete schedule and tickets, please visit MontrealBlackFilm.com

The Lef7overs Return!

No that’s not a typo. Montreal-based The Lef7overs are most definitely inspired the 90s Riot Grrrl movement and bands like L7 in particular.

We’ve mentioned them here a few times as they used to play around town quite a bit, before all the venues shut down, that is. Now they’re back tomorrow performing as part of Vernissage LIPSTICK RIOT at Gallerie DBC in the Village and it’s a free show.

Give them a listen:

The Lef7overs perform as part of Vernissage LIPSTICK RIOT at Gallerie DBC, 1387 Ste-Catherine Est, Friday, September 24, doors open at 5pm

Montreal’s Shira Choir Featured in New Documentary Just As I Am

By the time you read this, it will already be too late to attend the World Premier of the new documentary Just As I Am, but there is still plenty of time to catch it on CBC Gem and CBC TV.

Filmmaker Evan Beloff and producer Marvin Rosenblatt chronicle the lives of several members of Montreal’s Shira Choir, an all special needs choir as they live and perform through a global pandemic.

Just As I Am streams on CBC Gem starting Friday, September 24th and airs on CBC TV Saturday, September 25th at 7pm

If you know of an event that you feel should be covered, please contact arts@forgetthebox.net or music@forgetthebox.net

No promises but we’ll do our best

Just because we’ve stuck inside for a year and a half doesn’t mean we can’t have fun…right?

With this years POP Montreal taking place in the midst of COVID-19 restrictions, it will be a bit of a leaner festival. It will, however, be a much more local presentation with some major acts coming out of the woodwork to make an appearance. 

This might be the Montreal artists’ year to shine at POP.

I don’t know about you but I’m ready to go out and check out music and finally and try to feel normal again. I don’t know what to expect with the restrictions, but I do know one thing: I will hear some great music!

Here’s my list of pics at this years POP:

The Besnard Lakes

The Besnard Lakes are one of my old faithful bands that I’ve seen at many festivals and their shows have never let me down, always giving a great performance. This legendary local six-piece really takes rock to the next level and I really dig their bass heavy, minimalist sound.

Another Montreal staple at this years festival that you have just need to check out.

Besnard Lakes are playing at the Theatre Rialto @ 9:30 on Wednesday September 22nd

Islands

I really like Nicholas Thorburn’s work and it’s fair to say that there will be a lot less confrontation than at a Unicorns show. So expect a good performance!

I’ve always had a little soft spot for this band and for the most part really enjoyed Return to Sea and Vapors thoroughly. I thought were very good albums even if the latter wasn’t critically received. Definitely recommend checking these guys out.

Islands are playing at Theatre Rialto @ 9:00 on Friday September 24th

Paul Jacobs

Expect good things from the Paul Jacobs as this local musician brings back that sweet lo-fi 90s psychedelic sound that was emerging kind of on the lines of Mac Demarco’s Salad Days, but uniquely capturing a lot more substance and details.

Paul Jacobs is also an artist of some note, even making the flyer for Basinfest a few years ago. Expect to see him incorporate a lot of his art into his show.

Paul Jacobs is playing at ausgang plaza @ 8:00 Friday the 24th

the Kommenden

Power-pop band the Kommenden  looks like it would be a fun riot to check out. Really enjoyed listening to their album idle years which is a fun adventure through poppy ditties that have a distinct modern feel but also draw upon early 80s new wave and 70s pshyche.

the Kommenden will be performing at Clubhouse rialto @3;30 pm on the Thursday the 23rd of September

Gus Englehorn

Gus Englehorn’s punky vocals go great with his music. If you can check him out I recommended it. You’ll get some very interesting vocal performances ala Johanathan Richmond or Steve Malcamusreally  in songs like Patty Sees Her Soul or Stay Little.

Gus Englehorm will be performing  at Clubhouse Rialto @ 3:30Pm on the Thursday the 24th of September

Suuns

Coming off there last masterpiece album Images du Futur Montreal band Suuns have really established themselves among Canada’s premiere Avant Garde rock bands 

Listening to them is like taking an oral cruise to what awaits us in the future, musically. It’s great to see such a talented local band make it internationally.

Suuns have managed to tap into a desire for great electroacoustic experience by experimenting with electronic and experimental guitar. They are definitely one of my favorite local bands.

Give a listen to one of my favorite tracks, 2020:

Suuns will be preforming at Theatre Rialto @ 9:30 on Saturday the 25th of September

Interested in seeing any of these shows? Check out the POP Montreal website for the complete schedule and to purchase tickets

Follow @forgetthebox on Twitter and Instagram for live coverage from Jerry Gabriel and Joe McLean

I’d like to start by acknowledging the elephant in the room: writing a preview for a live music festival feels a little strange considering we’ve all been avoiding large public gatherings in enclosed spaces for the last year and a half. It’s probably going to feel even more weird being back at a live rock show.

I get that some people might be hesitant about resuming these types of events so if you are planning on making it out please do your best to keep yourself and everyone around you as safe as possible. Current government guidelines will be in full effect at all Pop Montreal shows, no exceptions, no whining about it.

Usually POP is torture for anyone with option paralysis but this time around the paired down all-Canadian schedule will make picking what to see much easier. I strongly suggest you get your tickets in advance though as seating is limited.

Myself and fellow intrepid reporter Jerry Gabriel will be checking out shows throughout the fest so look for more content throughout the week on FTB’s main site and all our Social media channels.

If you’re not sure what to see here’s my list of artists to check out: it’s completely biased, totally random and only meant to be a jumping off point for ideas.

Literally Anything!

My first pick for what to see this year is “Literally Anything!”. No, that’s not the name of the newest Indie sensation (although that would be a pretty cool band name).

It’s been a while buddy, just go out and see something will ya? The pandemic has been tough on artists, especially the smaller ones, showing your support for any of them would be much appreciated. Just pick a show and go!

The Besnard Lakes

It’s hard to believe but the Montreal based psych rockers have been around for almost 20 years! Their latest album The Besnard Lakes Are the Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings was released in January of this year and I’m betting you haven’t heard any of the tracks live.

Catch them this Wednesday or you’ll have to wait till 2022, tour dates are a little sparse right now.

El Coyote

Missing the Folk Fest for a second year in a row folking sucked so I went looking for a show that could fill the void. What I found was alt country/folk band El Coyote at Théâtre Rialto on Friday Sept 24th with Sin & Swoon, Katie Moore, Li’l Andy and The Firemen.

That’ll do quite nicely, love the vocal harmonies ladies!

Bad Skin

Proving there’s a complete lack of coherence to this list up next we have punk rockers Bad Skin who are playing at Clubhouse Rialto on Wednesday September 22nd at 6 pm. I just love the idea of a punk rock show that starts at 6pm so you can stick it to the man and also get to bed at a reasonable hour!

Tickets are only 5 bucks so you could also combine this one with another show later in the evening and it wouldn’t break the bank.

POP Montreal 2021 runs September 22-26 at various venues. For complete schedule and tickets, please visit POPMontreal.com

Featured Image: The Besnard Lakes via POPMontreal.com

It’s mid-September and POP Montreal is almost upon us. Next week, much of our coverage will be of that festival, so now let’s look at a few events taking place in the days before:

Candyass Returns to Café Cléopatra

Back in the before times (aka the years leading up to and including 2019), you could count on the Candyass Cabaret to rock, sometimes shock and always entertain the second floor performance space of Café Cléopatra on the third Friday of any particular month.

Now, after a long but unavoidable break (save for the odd virtual show), they’re back. Well, it’s not the full cabaret, instead it’s called the Candyass Cocktail, and it’s tonight, the third Friday of this particular month.

According to the Facebook Event Page: “It still may be the pandemic but the performers miss the audience so come and enjoy a little soiree of performances and seeing the artists”. Those artists include MC Jimmy Phule, Classy Clare, Diane Labelle Baladi, Salty Margarita, Martin le strecheur and more!

Candyass Cocktail is Friday, September 17th at 8:30pm at Café Cléopatra, 1230 Boul St-Laurent, 2nd Floor. Tickets are Suggested Donation $10

Tony Rust and the Mudhorses Album Launch

Montreal-based Tony Rust and the Mudhorses is a relatively new rock project from Rouen-Noranda-born Anthony Monderie Larouche (aka Tony Rust). They have been touring around Quebec and will be launching their debut album not once, but twice (due to COVID capacity restrictions) this coming Saturday in Montreal.

Their sound is largely influenced by the rock of the 60s and 70s. Give them a listen before heading out:

Tony Rust and the Mudhorses launch their debut album at L’Esco, 4461 Saint-Denis, Saturday, September 18 at 7pm and 9pm. Tickets available through Le Point de Vente

Haiti Betrayed and Invasion

This Saturday, the long-running Cinema Politica series of documentary film screenings presents two films: Haiti Betrayed (presented in the original French version with English subtitles) and Invasion. The first chronicles Canadian and US imperial intervention in Haiti both before the 2010 earthquake and following it. The second tells the story of the Unist’ot’en Camp standing up to the Canadian Government and corporations.

Haiti Traihi and Invasion screen at La perle retrouvée, 7655, 20e avenue, 6pm, FREE with a fundraiser on site for earthquake victims

If you know of an event that you feel should be covered, please contact arts@forgetthebox.net or music@forgetthebox.net

No promises but we’ll do our best

Sand sculptor Jonathan Bouchard aka Jobi is trying to make the best of pandemic life. With CBC’s reality competition show Race Against the Tide having wrapped last summer and many travel restrictions still in effect, the Saint Calixte QC native is trying to branch out into other artistic mediums.

I had a chance to sit down with Jobi about his experiences on the show. Being a visual artist, myself, I had so many questions about sand sculpting and what it’s like to be on TV.

One thing I was dying to know was how he got into sand sculpting because after all, Quebec isn’t known for its beaches. Jobi explained that he was originally doing snow carving but got into sand sculpture because it generally allows him to work in nicer weather with fewer tools.

“Carving sand is really delicate. You have to really be smooth and I like these feeling of scratching the surface and making details. To me it’s like meditation.”

Jobi’s has been on the Sand Sculpting circuit for fifteen years, and while he mostly enjoys it, the travel restrictions have made him consider other, more permanent mediums. He told me that he recently completed an outdoor concrete sculpture in a neighboring town. He is trying to do less and less sand sculpture now but would still like to do a couple of competitions every year.

All artists have a preferred subject they enjoy featuring in their work, such as trees, portraits, and so on. Jobi especially enjoys sculpting animals with robotic elements.

“I like bio mechanic stuff… I like to do a lot of small details.”

As a fellow Quebecois, I felt obligated to ask him about whether he experienced any difficulties with language and culture while working on the show in the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick. His fellow sculptor, New Jersey native Dan Belcher, seemed like an unlikely partner for the young Quebecois.

“I get more and more comfortable with English, but especially at the beginning when I started to travel to do sand carving, it was a big challenge. I’m a different person in English than I am in French, I’m less natural, so for me it’s a little bit difficult.”

With regards to Dan Belcher, Jobi sheepishly admits he initially tried to get a fellow Quebecois sand sculptor to be his partner in the competition, but when that didn’t work out he reached out to Belcher, whom he knows from the sand carving competition circuit.

“I know he knows what he’s doing. I can trust him as a good sand carver. He’s a nice guy and a nice carver. For me that was enough to make him a good partner. Of course the language made it difficult for me to have discussions all the time. My English is ok but still it was difficult.”

This was not the first time Bouchard has been on TV, having done some small interviews and children’s shows in the past. This was, however, the biggest show he’s ever done.

“It was really intense. The concept was already something really intense to manage the tide and all the production (crew) always on our back always asking, doing some little interview, especially with the timing. But still it was a very interesting experience,”

As to whether the pandemic affected the production of the show, Jobi said there wasn’t much. They were required to quarantine at first, and take their temperature every morning, but that’s about it. Now that the show has wrapped, he’s trying to make the best of things.

Race Against the Tide premiers Thursday, September 9 at 9pm Eastern on CBC

You can see more of Jobi’s work on his Facebook page

Featured Image of host Shaun Majumder looking at Jobi work via CBC

It’s POP Montréal‘s 20th Anniversary this year! The recent (well, the two decades-long) Montreal fall music tradition will be back to celebrate with a hybrid event running September 22nd through the 26th.

This year’s lineup, which understandably boasts a hefty local and Canadian contingent, will feature headliners Cakes da Killa, Backxwash and SUUNS as well as festival veterans The Dears and The Besnard Lakes. Favourites Art POP and Film POP will also return this year.

There will be virtual shows and in-person performances. For in-person concerts, you’ll need to get your tickets online first and have a health pass to get into the venue. All current public health protocols will be observed.

“Yes it’s still a pandemic so we have to remain safe and careful but we can celebrate and be thankful that we can still go to shows and see amazing live music,” Creative Director Daniel Seligman said in a press release, adding: “What a gift!”

We’ll have some of our picks for the festival in the weeks to come, but you can already get your tickets.

POP Montreal’s 20th Anniversary runs Septemer 22-26 2021 at various venues and online. For schedule and tickets, please visit POPMontreal.com

Now that the hybrid Just for Laughs is over, festival season continues. This week, we’ve got two Montreal summer mainstays back in different forms and a Rouyn-Noranda-based festival running a mini-fest in our city for the first time.

Let’s get started:

Osheaga Through the Ages

While it’s sadly true that Osheaga won’t be returning to Parc Jean-Drapeau with its 15th full event until summer 2022, the people behind one of Canada’s most popular music festivals have found a way nonetheless to be a part of Montreal’s 2021 festival season. Three ways, that is.

Osheaga Through the Ages will run in the Quartier des Spectacles during the month of August. The first part of this, Music on Paper, starts this Friday at l’Astral and runs until August 21st.

It’s an art and photo exhibit featuring the “most jawdropping and eye-popping photos from years past featuring images courtesy of acclaimed photographers like Susan Moss, Patrick Beaudry, Tim Snow, and others.” The exhibit will also showcase silkscreen posters created for the festival over its previous 14 incarnations.

The second part is a series of concerts at MTELUS and l’Astral featuring local acts that have performed at Osheaga in the past. The third part is a fashion show in collaboration with the Fashion and Design Festival on August 21st featuring over 50 artists, dancers, musicians and models

Music on Paper runs August 6-21 at l’Astral, 305 Ste-Catherine Ouest. For details on this event and the emerging schedules of the other Osheaga Through the Ages events, please visit Osheaga.com

FME de l’Avent Mini-Fest on the Banks of the Lachine Canal

The FME Festival (or the Festival de Musique Émergente en Abitibi-Témiscamingue) has been welcoming up-and-coming and top-name Canadian talent as well as audiences to its idyllic Rouyn-Noranda setting for close to two decades. This year, for its 19th Edition (September 2-5), capacity at the site will be limited and some might forego the nine hour drive from Montreal to avoid travelling far when the pandemic situation isn’t completely resolved.

With that in mind, organizers are bringing a mini-version of the fest to Montreal this weekend. Called FME de l’Avent, it runs this Friday, Saturday and Sunday on the banks of the Lachine Canal (Parc Riverain de Lachine, specifically) and features local talent performing in the genres of folk, rock, hip hop, funk and electro. Featured performers include Gab Paquet, Paul Jacobs, Mort Rose and more.

FME de l’Avent runs August 6, 7 and 8 at Parc Riverain de Lachine. Admission is FREE but limited to 500 people. For the complete lineup and tickets, please visit fmeat.org

Under Pressure is Back Online

The Under Pressure International Graffiti Festival is back for its 26th Edition. Last week, it held a street exhibit and dance party, but the official battles and DJ sets are this Saturday and Sunday. The big difference this year of course being that they will be streamed online.

The DJ lineup for Saturday from noon to 8pm is Killa Jewel, Manzo, Noyl, Eazy El Dee, Overflow and Ashl$n. There will also be an after-party from 8 to late, guided walks of the site and more DJs and MCs added for both days.

Under Pressure 26 runs on Twitch August 7 and 8. For schedule updates please visit their Facebook page

Featured Image: Beach House performing at Osheaga by Pierre Bourgault from the Music on Paper exhibit

If you know of an event that you feel should be covered, please contact arts@forgetthebox.net or music@forgetthebox.net

No promises but we’ll do our best

Sophie Buddle isn’t a huge fan of the Zoom comedy show, the go-to performance option for many standups during the pandemic.

“Yes, I was doing Zoom shows,” she said in a phone interview, “but I will say that doing Zoom shows is almost worse than doing no shows at all for me because, number one, I have very bad WIFI, but as a standup, if you boil down what we do, we create a vibe in a room and in order to do that, you have to be in the same room with everyone you’re creating said vibe with.”

Buddle feels that with Zoom, you miss the smaller laughs which allow the comic to really connect with their audience.

“In my set, I have more fun with the little laughs in between the big punchline laughs,” Buddle observed, “that’s really where I think all the personality is. It’s the little in-betweenies. In Zoom shows, the big pops still come in, but all the little ones that really bring the flow along don’t get anything.”

This Sunday, she will once again be performing in front of a live, in-person audience at Just for Laughs. Of course, this is a hybrid version of the festival, meaning, among other things, that capacity will be limited and social distancing and health measures will be in effect.

Buddle knows that it will be different. She has been performing socially distanced shows in Vancouver, a comedy scene she loves, for about a month now, since venues re-opened, and sees the advantage to this new type of performance.

“Comedy audiences are as desperate for standup as the comedians are to do it,” she said, “it’s kind of good that everyone who is there is really keen to be there. There’s no filler audience members anymore.”

This year, she won’t just be performing for the audience in the room, Buddle will be recording her first comedy special for Crave and the CTV Comedy Channel. She is thankful for this opportunity and sees it as her career regaining momentum.

“I was waiting in line to board the plane to go to the Junos (she won Best Comedy Album for 2019’s Lil bit of Buddle) and I got a text that the Junos were going to be cancelled,” Buddle remembered, “I’m sure for every industry, you work your entire career to get some momentum, and I felt like winning the Juno was definitely the biggest thing and finally things were starting to roll for me and then that happened and I just had to sit in my apartment all year and I felt like I’m not going to get anything big like that again…and now that things are opening back up again and I’m getting a special on Crave, it’s just such a relief. The momentum is starting up again!”

Buddle plans to spend a few days in Montreal after the festival, as this was where she was born and spent a few years of her childhood and she still holds a fondness for this city. In the fall, though, she plans to move down to the US, California most likely, and look for comedy writing work.

Her previous TV writing gig was for This Hour Has 22 Minutes, but was cut short due to the pandemic. In particular because it was remote work, the show operates on Halifax time and Buddle lives in BC and keeps “stand-up comedian hours”, aka she’s not an early riser.

And you can catch her during standup hours twice this Sunday.

Sophie Buddle and Chris Robinson will be recording CTV Comedy and Crave Stand-Up Specials Sunday, August 1 at 7 and 10 pm at L’Astral, 305 Ste-Catherine Ouest. Tickets available through HaHaHa.com

Comedian Arthur Simeon is the kind of voice we need more of. Born and raised in Uganda but now based out of Toronto, he brings his life experience as an immigrant and a black man in Canada to his comedy, while still managing to keep such a heavy topic light and funny.

His comedy album, The Blackest Panther, is a riff on the fact that Wakanda from the Black Panther film and comic book series is allegedly located in Uganda. I had the privilege of seeing him perform at Rick Mercer’s Gala in 2017 where he was one of the highlight performances of the evening, so I was eager to speak to him before his appearance at Just for Laughs’ 2021 hybrid festival.

Like most entertainers, Simeon’s ability to perform was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic. He admits that he’s done everything but standup since it started.

“It’s been a lot of downtime, I guess. I mean I worked a little bit; I did some writing for myself and for others. I grow plants, or tried to, just to keep my mind off of things, I read a lot, caught up on a lot of reading that over that over the years I’ve sort of let slip, but I’d run out of excuses. I was reading fiction for a long time but I was convinced try non-fiction. I went back to a book I read as a teenager called The River Between which is a classic African novel that I hadn’t read in a very long time and it still holds up, is still wonderful… A bit of fiction, a bit of non-fiction.”

With the rise in awareness of racism in Canada during the pandemic, I wanted to know about Simeon’s experiences with racism as a black man and a Ugandan immigrant with an accent. Segwaying into the subject, I mentioned that Canadians like to think they’re immune to the racism problem. Simeon immediately shut that notion down.

“Obviously, being a performer and an entertainer and traveling in so many different places I have first-hand experience with racists.”

In terms of whether racism is more of a rural thing, Simeon feels that it’s a problem no matter where he is.

“I don’t like the rural idea of people because it feels like it’s a lot of white people trying to distance themselves from their own actions. When they say ‘oh it’s the country bumpkins’ it’s like no, it’s not. I’ve been threatened, and slurs have been used in the middle of two major cities in Canada, that being Toronto and Montreal, right in the middle of the city. I’ve also been threatened in rural Canada, so it’s both. I don’t think it’s a geographical thing, I think it’s a mentality thing, it’s an ideology thing. I feel like it’s something everyone has to reckon with and everyone has to wrestle with whatever bias they have especially if it manifests itself in hateful language or action that affects other people.”

Though Montreal has been the location of a lot of Simeon’s professional success, his favorite part of Canada is the Maritimes. He finds it picturesque and loves St. John’s Newfoundland, but quips that perhaps it’s because he doesn’t live there.

While I feel that stories and comedy like Simeon’s are especially important in this social environment of heightened racial tensions and the Black Lives Matter Movement, he doesn’t necessarily see it that way.

“I think it’s being received a little more openly because the conclusions we’ve had about racism have opened up from just the hate. I think everyone focuses on just the hate and rightfully so because as we’ve seen, a man can just plow through a family just going for a walk and purely just based on hate, so I like that we address the hate a little bit, but the hate is sort of just the culmination of a lot of other things that we’re doing: the lack of education, the lack of empathy, the lack of real understanding between people who are not the same as you, and so the conclusion we’ve had in the last few months have opened up about everyone’s individual responsibility.”

He calls on everyone to stop throwing blame around, the way some claim racism is just a problem among the ignorant or rural populations. He feels that every single person contributes to that hate that culminates in violence that kills people.

In terms of his plans for his Just for Laughs appearance this year, he plans to be more purposeful in his comedy with a focus on entertaining rather than sounding preachy.

“I think after this year and after all the stress, I think there will be genuine purpose to reach out to as many people as I can and try to entertain.”

Arthur Simeon will be appearing as Just for Laughs 2021 as part of an all-star lineup for Comedy Night In Canada which takes place tonight, July 28th, at 10pm at Club Soda, 1225 Boul. St-Laurent, and will be available free online as of July 30 at HaHaHa.com

Cassie Cao is no stranger to Montreal. She lived here for four years while studying Economics at McGill and has returned on more than one occasion to perform at Just for Laughs, but she hasn’t been here since the last pre-pandemic JFL in 2019.

“I’m genuinely thrilled to be coming to the festival,” Cao said in a phone interview, “I didn’t know if it was going to happen this year.”

While Cao will be performing “Live in Montreal” to both an in-person and online audience, some of the comedians playing this year’s hybrid festival will do so from either Los Angeles or New York City while others will take part in local Crave and CTV Comedy tapings.

“I’m excited to see what’s going to happen,” Cao said of the potentially unique experience this year, “I suspect that people will make it fun. We’re all getting double vaxxed. Comics are always fun people, we’ll find a way to make it fun.”

Cao did keep busy during the pandemic, mostly by booking TV roles and doing some TV writing, but also by turning to a medium many other comics have found: the Zoom comedy show:

“I did do some Zoom shows. I liked the Zoom shows a lot…as a comedian, you are mostly bound by geography and that’s why you have to tour…and that’s the hardest part of the job, but with the Zoom shows I was doing shows in New York and LA and meeting American comics and seeing what other people are working on and happy to be invited onto their shows.”

She also considers herself lucky for getting to do some TV tapings in front of live audiences mid-pandemic, including one for the Winnipeg Comedy Festival.

“It was wild,” Cao remembers, “I was travelling by air during the second wave and everyone was like ‘it’s fine, doing live comedy’.”

Currently based in Toronto, Cao sees it as a great town to do comedy in, during normal times, of course. She hopes that when the scene returns, it will do so full-force.

“I don’t know what the landscape will look like when everything comes back up,” she notes, “but I’m confident that people want to see live comedy, so the demand will make things happen.”

As for her former home of pre-pandemic Montreal, she remembers ordering St-Viateur bagels for McGill Economics events, but mainly the nightlife:

“Honestly, I’m not going to lie, I love that everything’s open 24 hours in Montreal. In Toronto, you’d think that it is, but it’s not. Toronto shuts down at midnight. In Montreal, I lived there for four years and I just didn’t sleep for four years, there’s just always stuff going on…All the best stuff in Montreal happens after 2am.”

Most of the best stuff, that is. There will definitely be quite a bit of fun had before midnight with Cao and others at JFL Live in Montreal.

Cassie Cao will perform as part of JFL Live in Montreal, hosted by Jon Dore and featuring Dino Archie, Jen Grant, Nigel Grinstead, Marito Lopez and Rodney Ramsey. Wednesday, July 28, 7pm, Club Soda and available online as of July 30 at HaHaHa.com