When I first walked in to the International Wrestling Syndicate (IWS) event Praise the Violence the
night of Saturday, January 21, 2023, I was prepared for the worst. I imagined a den of toxic masculinity:
sexist dudebros who abuse women behind closed doors all gathered in one place to fuel their excessive
need for violence as muscle-bound costumed men pretended to beat each other bloody for their
delight.

What a found wasn’t that at all. The audience was as varied in gender as it was in age, and when the
fighters or performers- how they prefer to be known depends on the wrestler – gathered around the
merch table to schmooze with their fans they were friendly and congenial, eager to hear feedback about
their performances.

“The IWS tends to bring in all sorts of people,” says wrestler Sonny Solay, The Rockn’ Roll General, who
speaks on behalf of his own experience, not the IWS. “Wrestling was generally marketed towards young
men, and as they got older they have their families and it’s more of a family show. The best way to
understand professional wrestling is we are the three ring circus: if you’re there for the lion tamer, you’ll
like the lion tamer; if you don’t like the lion tamer, you’ll like the clowns, if you don’t like the clowns,
you’ll like the guy who gets shot out of a cannon…There’s somebody for everyone at our shows.”

As for the concerns of women regarding toxic masculinity and sexism, there was at least one women’s
wrestling match at the event. Solay encourages women to give IWS events a shot, saying that the
perception of professional wrestling as an area where women were objectified may have been justified
in past wrestling eras, but since the women’s revolution in wrestling, that’s all changed.

“There’s a lot more women-forward promotions and the work that they’ve been doing in Japan, women
have shown that they can hang with the men and even surpass a lot of us as far as skill and intensity
goes. So I say give it a chance and you’d be pleasantly surprised,”

The IWS –initially named the World Wrestling Syndicate – is the biggest wrestling promotion in Canada. It was founded in Montreal in 1998 by pro-wrestler SeXXXy Eddy, with Manny Elefthriou and Nic Paterson.

In the year 2000, the professional wrestling promotion was renamed the Internet Wrestling Syndicate when one of the founders partnered with Wild Rose Productions, an adult entertainment company.

In 2004, following tons of pro wrestling matches including tag-team bouts, No-Rope Barbed Wire matches, and Tag-Team Championships, the promotion was renamed the International Wrestling Syndicate or IWS.

The promotion group based out of Montreal has helped launch the careers of such World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE, formerly the WWF) stars as Sami Zayne and Kevin Owens, as well as IWS legends like The Green Phantom, who fought an intense table match last Saturday, wresting the belt from The Maniacal Maredes.

The IWS women’s championship match pitted Dani Leo, Melanie Havok, Jessika Black, and Katrina Creed against one another, with Havok emerging victorious.

Photo by Sebastien Jette

The matches were everything one could hope for from pro-wrestling: blaring high energy intros, breathtaking stunts, snazzy costumes, and performers with their ring personas on full display. As a martial artist and self-defense instructor, it was obvious to me when hits did not connect, and the faking of injuries rivaled what one would see in any FIFA match. The ring, according Sonny Solay, who spells his second name phonetically after the French spelling was butchered by one-too-many announcers outside of Quebec, is designed to maximize sound, thus giving the crowd a better show. As to whether fights are actually real, they are not, though whether the outcomes are set in advance varies.

“It’s not a matter of it being a real fight, but there are certain beats that need to be hit. I can’t really go into it too much without getting to specifics…It’s not a real fight, but the outcome is usually pre-determined. And when I say ‘usually pre-determined’ I mean sometimes things happen, sometimes there are surprises, that’s the magic of professional wrestling, that’s why people love going to the shows.”

In terms of the violence of the shows, Solay reminds me that shows are still a three-ring circus, and that sometimes things happen that wrestlers weren’t aware of beforehand. The show I saw involved a table match or two, in which an opponent could only be beaten when their bodies made contact with a wooden table hard enough for the table to break. Other times fluorescent light tubes are broken on the backs of wrestlers and both carry the risk of bloody but minor wounds. That said, Solay points out that any contact sport comes with risks, and more common injuries include cuts, bruises, and ankle and wrist injuries.

“Technically all injuries are possible, but we train to make sure that they happen as little as possible.”

Now let’s say someone wants to become a pro-wrestler. Solay says that every wrestler has a different road they travelled to get to the IWS.

He initially started as an athletic wrestler, only to stop due to injury. He got into the IWS via a friend, but ultimately joined the IWS Dojo which puts the emphasis on getting people in the ring, teaching them the basics and allowing them to explore the type of wrestler they want to be.

He recommends the IWS Dojo as a way of making sure someone can be the best wrestler they can, speaking highly of the mentoring and training offered by Super Star Shayne Hawke. Those 18 or over (or 16 and have parental consent) who are interested in becoming pro wrestlers are welcome to message the IWS Dojo’s Facebook page. They are more than willing to offer a one-time trial to see if it’s a good fit.

Featured image by Sebastien Jette

The IWS has monthly shows in Montreal that are entertaining and fun. Check em out and follow your
favorite wrestlers on social media.

The Bluest Day of the year is over. We’re cruising into February without once having scary windchill. The days really are getting longer. All the things we wished were open and available this time last year, are here and poppin’. It’s the small things, Montreal; don’t forget to count them.

Did you say intestine?

MAI (Montreal, Arts interculturel) always has interesting offerings, and Rock Bottom is no exception. The multidisciplinary piece explores what happens to the body when we hit our own rock bottom. It’s billed as “a movement performance that forms an intestine with the gut feelings of Emile Pineault (choreographer, performer) and (author) Gabriel Cholette”.

Teaser rock bottom – Emile Pineault & Gabriel Cholette from emilepineault on Vimeo.

Rock Bottom @ MAI 3680 rue Jeanne-Mance, January 25-28, Showtime is 7:30 p.m.. Tickets availabe through the MAI website

Jazz exists all year round, you know…

Double bass player Ira Coleman interprets jazz compositions and traditional Mandinka (Senegalese, Gambian, and Sierra Leonean) themes supported by flute, piano, and balafon, exploring where they overlap.

It’s in connection with the MMFA exhibition Seeing Loud: Basquiat and Music (which you should also see, and I’ll keep saying so through February 19).

Ticket prices vary, but if you’re under 34 or under, it’s 18 bucks, so do something classy on the cheap.

Jazz and Mandinka Music @ Bourgie Hall, 1339 Sherbrooke Street West, on Thursday, January 26, Show at 6pm. Tickets and info on the MMFA website

Pretty sure I saw him live in the 90s?!

Jon Spencer & the HITmakers are in town this weekend, and if you’re old enough to ask if I mean that Jon Spencer, then yes. Jon Spencer & the Blues Explosion broke up in 2016, but the beat goes on, and Jon Spencer & the HITmakers put out their first album in 2022. His Spotify bio calls him “an elder statesman of noise rock and punk blues”, and while that’s niche af, he might be right.

Jon Spencer & the HITmakers @ Bar Le Ritz PBD, 179 Jean-Talon Ouest, Friday, January 27, Doors at 7:30, Show at 8:30. Info & Tix

Dinner and a show!

Catch me putting on a summer dress and having foodgasms at Molotov Cuisine owner Fiona Genevieve (aka Chef Molotov)’s Jardin d’Hiver this Sunday. She’s a fab chick with wholesome, delicious food, and she’ll be bringing summer vibes right when we need them.

Darragh Mondoux will be Mistress of Ceremonies, Mina Minou will be shaking what God gave her, and there will be musical performances by Lea Keeley, and KOLA.

Oh, look! I met with Fiona and sampled some tastiest! Tickets are flying, so grab ’em while you can.

Chef Molotov’s Jardin d’Hiver takes place Saturday, January 29th at Turbo Haüs, 2040 Saint Denis St. Cocktails at 6:30pm, Tasting & Performances at 7pm. Tickets and more info via Eventbrite


Featured image of Rock Bottom © Gabriel Cholette, courtesy of MAI


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

January 19, 2023

My darling,

We’re in the thick of this winter thing. Both burnout and the blues are tearing through workplaces and social circles. We’re all pale and grumpy. We know it will pass, but all too slowly. Without the artists and performers, we would have nothing but malls, and binge watching to get us through this hard time. Thanks to them, we have reasons to put on outfits and brave the weather. Thank God for the artists, the arts, the events. May Spring speed itself to us.

Have some laughs and call me in the morning

I knew we had comedy clubs, but as someone who usually only gets live laughs at JFL, I never realized how many stand up shows there are the rest of the year.

We all need laughs desperately right now, so pick a day, grab a friend, or straight up leave your loved ones for an evening and get the giggles the doctor ordered. (Note that while I’m listing the downtown location, there are also locations in Vaudreuil, Laval, and the South Shore.)

The Montreal Comedy Club is at 895 Rue De La Gauchetière Ouest. Multiple dates and showtimes. Check MtlComedyClub.com for details

Blues rock right in yer face

Midnight Miles is releasing their first single of 2023, so it’s time for a concert!

Ryan Bradley Setton (formerly of The Holds) describes the style as “in your face blues rock”. They’re promising a whimsical journey of a show, from tender to reckless, inspired by classic rock, blues, and RnB.

Special guests ~ Matt Enos and the River Men

You can listen to some of their tracks on MidnightMilesBand.com or this brief sample below before heading out:

Midnight Miles + Matt Enos and the River Men @ Petit Campus, 57 Prince Arthur Est, on Thursday, January 19, Doors at 8 p.m., Show at 9 p.m. Info on the Facebook Event Page, tickets available through ThePointOfSale.com

Why is there a “W” in playwright?!

As part of the Wildside Festival in partnership with Centaur Theatre and La Chapelle Scènes Contemporaines, Wildfire is on now and playing through the 28th. Tragic, funny, surprising; I’ve seen it and written about it, and would be hard pressed to do it justice in a snippet. Read my review, or skip it entirely and just go see the show.

Wildfire runs January 16-28 at La Chapelle Theatre, 3700 Saint Dominique St. For info and tickets, please visit the Talisman Theatre website

Who wants to party till breakfast?

It seems the all night party trials last summer went well, because Club Soda got itself a special liquor license to keep the drinks pouring and music pumping through Saturday night until 8 a m. Sunday. DJs, effects, light shows, party people, it’ll all be there.

It’s a team effort with MAPP_MTL and SHIFT RADIO, Homegrown Harvest, Transmission MTL and MUTEK promising not just a party, but “a new chapter for Montreal nightlife. A space to dance, converse, and set the foundation for a sustainable nightlife.”

AEX @ Club Soda, 1225 St Laurent Blvd., Saturday, January 21, 10 p.m. to 8 a.m., Sunday, January 22. Info on the Facebook Event Page and tickets available through LePointDeVente.com

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

Talisman Theatre’s Wildfire is currently playing at La Chapelle, and I took the opportunity to peep the play.

The credits and awards that this group has attained in their various endeavours already gave a clue about the calibre I could expect.

For example, this is the English version (translated by Leanna Brodie) of David Paquet’s Le Brasier, which itself received both the BMO Award, and the Sony Labou Tansi International Francophone Theatre Award, and it’s been placed in the internally renown directorial hands of Jon Lachlan Stewart.

At its core the story is one of generational trauma haunting a bloodline beyond household walls. It deals with loneliness, longing, the potential fatality that stems from a lack of joy. To me, it was also about what we mean to say versus what words actually come out, as the characters share their deepest truths with the audience while cherry picking their words to one anothers.

There are three players (Julie Tamiko Manning, Kathleen Stavert, and Davide Chiazzese), six characters, and one set. Each actor plays two parts, and without costume or set changes, the task falls solely on them to distinguish themselves.

They not only pull it off, they ace the assignment. And these aren’t easy characters: they are flawed, pained, desperate people.

It seems improbable to portray murder, sex, death, and passion, with such minimal design, but it’s all alive and bubbling with no need for accoutrements.

When your BeReal goes off at the perfect time

They were not joking when they billed this as a dark comedy. In fact, they could ‘ve capitalised the Dark, or even DARK.

There are jokes, and it is funny. I wondered, though, if some of the many laughs were out of discomfort: the kind of laugh you try so hard to suppress when someone says something too personal, too true, let alone when they say it to a whole room.

In fact, one of Kathleen Stavert’s characters compares the audience to her cookies: she talks to them, but they never respond, which liberates her to tell them all her secrets. And she doesn’t once hold back, delivering with a vulnerable honesty that makes you want to look away, but you can’t: she’s begging you not to, pleading with you to listen to these things she can’t share elsewhere.

There are long pauses here; measured words, awkward silences, cringeworthy revelations. The tension is intentional, and doesn’t let up. Lots of folks aim for this vibe, but this strikes the chord.

While the playwright, translator, and director obviously deserve kudos, it would’ve all been for naught had it not been for the top tier performances of all three players. The actors were harmonious together, their characters whole and complete, as though once the script ran out they could still exist beyond the stage.

At the end of the show, there’s a moment of silence; breaths are held for a second before we realize it’s over, and then in the rush of our exhale, we leap to our feet for a standing ovation.

Afterwards, walking home, the image that sticks with me is about the taste of homemade cookies cooked without a home. It may sound like nothing, but I turn it over in my mind, and find it precise and profound, speaking directly to the heart of isolation.

I don’t often go to plays, but when I do, I want them to be this good.

Wildfire runs January 16-28 at La Chapelle Theatre, 3700 Saint Dominique St. For info and tickets, please visit the Talisman Theatre website

When I was asked to review Holly Rhiannon’s witchy YA book, A Time When Demons, it sounded like just what the doctor ordered.

Fiction is important. When studies cite the importance of reading (which include, but are not limited to, stress relief, along with improved concentration and memory), it’s based on fiction (this is your brain, this is your brain on fiction).

Now think about what you’re usually reading: probably mostly comments and texts, atrociously written at that. Next in line is most likely articles, be them summaries or editorials, skillfully written (sometimes), but still non-fiction. In fact, even though I’m a fiction writer by preference, I’ve noticed that for the past few years I’ve been reading more non-fiction than anything else, stuffing my head with facts rather than reaping any of those fabulous fiction benefits.

Firstly, I dunno how or why things get classified as YA. I know some wonderful children’s books that are arguably even better as an adult (Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth, and Lewis Carroll’s Alice for instance). Secondly, I wouldn’t say this book is appropriate for under 16s for some of the same reasons some adults will really dig this. While the writing is accessible, it’s got all the thrilling stuff: lust, puppy love, murder, and magick (plus one scene that merits the book a suicide trigger warning).

I don’t read romance novels. Now, this isn’t a romance novel, but it has more infatuation and longing than I’m used to, which was fun. There really was a time when every crush became the centre of the world, and you could love someone you’d never spoken to so much that it hurt.

It’s intense, and a nice place to visit, but man, I’m glad I don’t live there anymore (how did any of use survive the beautiful heartache?!). These characters are about 18, so they’re in the thick of it.

I appreciated the way the magick was handled here. Powers were clear and limited, and the parameters followed the whole way through, thus preventing any of the characters from becoming invincible. That might sound like a low bar, but it’s all I ask of stories with superpowers. Superman used to just “leap” over tall buildings, you know, but I digress.

I can’t tell you too much about the murder bit, as I’m trying hard to avoid spoilers. What I can say is that I believe there are mysteries where the astute reader can pick up clues throughout the narrative and make an educated guess (albeit probably a wrong one that you’ve intentionally been led to), and there are the kind where at the end of the story we’re all equally surprised together, and probably couldn’t have seen that coming. This falls into the category of the latter, with the wrap up bringing the murderer, means, and motive together and putting a bow on it.

It’s probably fair for me to say that I’m not a fan of “pop” literature. If it’s “this season’s hottest novel” or “flying off the shelves”, it’s probably not my bag. Love stories make me roll my eyes, murder mysteries rarely catch my attention, and I’m certainly no youth (as much as that pains me to admit). If we’re talking bookstore categories, I’ve been a consistent “lit fic” chick since puberty.

With A Time When Demons, I enjoyed the magick, and the sense of emotional chaos created by a character trying to be true to themselves while also being aware of the expectations pressing in on them.

This might work for the youth / magick / murder lover in your life, or someone looking to give those genres a try. It’s available in hard copy and ebook formats, and written by a Montreal based author, so support your local artists.

Johnny Legdick is an atypical stage musical. The show’s style is childish, complete with rhyming lines, a Snidely Whiplash-esque villain, and toys that serve as props and henchmen.

The music and the show itself is far from it, with adult dialogue and costumes and the kind of true-blue guttural rock music die-hard fans have been starved for since the spread of the falling-asleep-at-the-mic sound popularized by bands like Coldplay. It’s campy and cheesy and raunchy – an adult fairy tale reminiscent of Dr. Seuss – and I loved every minute of it.

The show’s premise is simple: Johnny Legdick is a man with a birth defect – he has a leg where his penis is supposed to be. The tale is a story of triumph as Johnny vanquishes the villain, gets the girl, and finds his place in the world. The tale is told by Grandpa (Tom Carson) to his grandson Billy (Tyler Miller), who sits on his lap as he’s read a bedtime story.

Is Legdick’s birth defect based on any real-life biological deformity? Not at all! The show’s co-author and director Jimmy Karamanis sheepishly admits that the idea came from a song the show’s star and co-author Jonah Carson (son of Tom) made up and used to sing in high school.

The show, which premiered in 2015 to critical acclaim, was built around that song. Johnny Legdick has just completed its fourth run this month at Théatre Sainte Catherine, with Karamanis assuring us that it will be back. He says this run was a way of assuring the cast and crew that they could still work together after a long hiatus due to life and the COVID-19 pandemic. If what I saw was any indication, they definitely can.

Johnny Legdick is low budget, campy, and raunchy in all the right ways. The pants used to create the title character’s birth defect were made during the first run and it shows. A lot of the other costumes look cheap and hastily put together.

It’s the music and the cast and band’s unbelievable chemistry that make this show special. The band, led by musical director Macleod Truesdale, pumps out the guttural rock sounds die-hard fans of the genre have been craving in an age of cookie-cutter pop tunes.

Johnny Legdick is not for kids. There are men in lingerie and genital and sex jokes galore. Even the music played in the theatre before the show consists of covers of popular tunes like Tracy Chapman’s Fastest Car and Wang Chung’s Everybody Have Fun Tonight, with the lyrics changed to include the word “d*ck” in strategic places. Unless you want your kids to go home with a much broader, raunchier vocabulary, do not bring them.

If you love camp and are not scared of musicals, you need to see Johnny Legdick. As for those who don’t like musicals, the show is only forty-five minutes, give it a chance. It’s worth it.

Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney are joined by Special Guest Andrew Jamieson to talk about the recent behind-the-scenes drama at WWE – Stephanie McMahon resigning, Vince McMahon forcing his way back into power and a potential sale – ahead of the company’s three shows in Montreal.

Follow Andrew Jamieson at WhoTheFuckIsAndrewJamieson.com or @fakejamieson on Instagram

Follow Dawn McSweeney @mcmoxy on Twitter and Instagram

Follow Jason C. McLean @jasoncmclean on Twitter and Instagram

It may seem strange that a musical about the events of 911 would make North American audiences grin and cheer, but according to the star of Come From Away’s touring production, that is exactly what has been happening.

“People always leave the auditorium tapping their feet and laughing. It’s not a downer or a hefty drama at all,” Marika Aubrey says of the feel-good show, which has returned to Montreal for a one-week-only engagement at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier. “It’s really about community and kindness,” the Australian-born actress explains. “It reminds us that what unites us is far greater than what divides us.”

Come From Away recounts how nearly 7,000 displaced and terrified travelers were warmly welcomed by the citizens of modest Gander, Newfoundland when 38 planes were diverted there during the chaos of September 11th 2001. Aubrey stars as Beverley Bass, the real-life pilot who had to take charge of the unprecedented and stressful situation.

Created by the husband/wife duo of David Hein and Irene Sankoff, the piece was workshopped in 2012 and staged in Oakville, Ontario before enjoying successful runs in San Diego, Seattle, Washington and Toronto. It finally opened on Broadway to standing-room-only crowds in 2017 and was nominated for seven Tony Awards, winning for Best Direction.

Though the Broadway production closed in October, Come From Away holds the record as the longest-running Canadian musical to ever land on the Great White Way. That would be reason enough for Canadian audiences to embrace it enthusiastically, but in truth, they are apparently more tickled by the references it makes to a certain iconic coffee chain.

Come From Away star Marika Aubrey

“Some Americans don’t even know what Tim Hortons is…but in Canada? That is an immediate giggle,” Aubrey shares.

“Canadians recognize everything. So I’d say our Canadian audiences are really proud and celebratory.”

For her part, Aubrey is thrilled to have brought the story to so many different communities over the course of the tour. “We play houses that are twice the size of the Broadway house and we sell out pretty much everywhere we go. Our audiences are, on average, around the 3,000 mark,” she notes. “That beautiful Broadway house is something like 1200 seats. You know, it’s really an intimate show, not an arena spectacular, and yet it still works, thankfully, in these bigger spaces. I’m grateful that audiences have really embraced us.”

Aubrey has a long history with the show, dating back to 2018. “I’d immigrated from Australia prior to getting the audition brief and I’d never seen it, so I took myself to the theatre and bought a ticket at like, two minutes to curtain,” she recalls.

After familiarizing herself with the material, she auditioned and was cast as a standby performer in the tour, a position she held for 10 months, until the creative team summoned her back to New York.

“They were having trouble finding a replacement Bev for the company and wanted to see what I did with it. The next day, I got a phone call to say I’d be stepping into the track, so it’s spanned a huge amount of my life.”

“I think all shows tend to walk you through significant life changes,” she reflects, “but this one? I can speak for everyone in the company when I say that this one has really earmarked a lot of good stuff and bad stuff over the past few years. It’s been six calendar years, even though we did have that big 18-month enforced holiday,” she quips of touring during a pandemic. “Still, this is the kind of show that only comes along once in a lifetime, so it’s worth the sacrifice.”

During Christmas 2021, Aubrey found herself having to emulate her character by making an emergency stopover to the Broadway production, as COVID spread through the cast.

Pilot Beverley Bass and Aubrey

“It was Christmas Day and I was at home with family when I got the call saying Rachel Tucker and quite a few other people in the company had come down with the Omicron strand,” she recounts. “The show was going to be cancelled if I couldn’t play Bev the next day. So, I woke up the next morning, went to midtown, tested negative and went on.”

“I made my Broadway debut with 11 actors I’d never worked with before, with costumes that weren’t fitted to me, with makeup I found at the back of my toiletry bag and with my own hair, because normally I wear a wig,” she chuckles. “I was even singing in a different key because Rachel sang it slightly lower than me, so it was wackadoo…but the best kind of wackadoo. I think because I’d done the role hundreds of times by that point, I could just relax and enjoy it. I didn’t have a single person in the audience (to mark the occasion) and there was no champagne, but it just felt like this really cool opportunity to serve and allow our holiday audiences to see the show they’d booked tickets for, so I’m glad it happened the way it did.”

That can-do spirit seems to channel the very essence of Beverley Bass herself, who not only paved the way for women in her field by becoming the first female captain of an American Airlines commercial flight in 1986, but also cofounded the International Society of Women Airline Pilots.

“Originally, (the creative team) thought they might make the show mainly about Beverley because she has a really cool life story,” Aubrey explains. “When they went to Gander and started talking to people, they realized the story was so much bigger than just this one woman.” The resulting character seen on stage became a composite of the various pilots interviewed and their accounts of what happened, save for one particular song, entitled ‘Me And The Sky’, which is devoted entirely to Bass’ experiences.

“It’s this big four-minute number that spans Bev’s life story and I think the reason it resonates is because it speaks to huge changes in male dominated industries. I get a lot of women and young girls either writing to me on social media or coming to see me at the stage door and telling me that they listen to this song because it galvanizes their spirits to know they can do anything that boys can do. I think that’s why it’s become such an anthem.”

When asked if the real Beverley Bass has proven a personal inspiration, the actress is pleased to report they’ve become good friends over the last few years, even if neither is interested in pursuing the other’s occupation. “She says to me all the time, ‘I don’t know how you do it! I don’t understand how you get up and sing in front of all those people!’ and I’m always like, ‘Bev, you fly planes! Like…jets! Are you kidding me?’ What I do is, to me, not nearly as scary as taking an enormous plane up in the air.”

“Having said that, I have a very sassy 5-year-old girl who has been really inspired by Bev and her story,” she laughs, “and I wouldn’t be surprised if I have to bring her to the airport to take some flying lessons at some point. It would be a nice turn of events, wouldn’t it?”

Come From Away runs from Tuesday, January 10th through Sunday January 15th. For ticket information, please visit the Place des Arts website

Featured Image: The North American Tour of Come From Away Photo Credit Matthew Murphy

It’s been a year, y’all. We shook off the collective nightmare of lockdown, put on our dancing shoes, and partied. Bars, theatre, concerts, comedy, art, all the stuff that keeps the lights on in our city and our souls returned from the forced hiatus.

It didn’t take long for us to get used to it, and every now and again I stop myself while doing some mundane thing like walking through the Eaton Centre and remember how much I craved the basics.

As some of you may know, I have a lot of well thought out complaints about the ways of the world (catch me on FTB Weekends with Jason C. McLean), but provincial elections and healthcare crisis aside, the gratitude was especially delicious this 2022.

January

It’s a mind bender to recall that we came into 2022 under curfew, and in lockdown, but at the time it was hard to think of much else. Instead of show announcements, we kept our ears to the ground for cancellations, wondering how far ahead they were planning.

It was miserable. Igloofest was canceled. Online shows offered some reprieve, but meh. If we were in a tumbleweed climate, they would be rolling through this month.

The whole thing was gloomy.

February

February is often called the most depressing month, and in the COVID time it was at least doubly so. We were still under partial lockdown, but hope was on the horizon!

Nuit Blanche was finally coming back and Osheaga announced its lineup, signaling that normalcy was within reach. Some performers would change before the show, but all we heard is that there would be shows.

In fact, some local shows started to pop up and bars were scheduled to reopen February 28. Is dancing allowed? Is singing allowed? No one’s sure, but we’re stoked to get out there and find out.

March

The show is finally going on, which is really saying something considering the curtain on CATS was originally supposed to go up in March of 2020.. Just For Laughs announced its lineup and things to look forward to were starting to pop up everywhere.

This is when Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was doing what it could with limited capacity: starting at the end of February, you could get in if you booked your time slot (in 15 minute increments) online, masking and distancing are mandatory, giving the security staff the new task of keeping people from moving through the rooms too quickly or getting too close to one another. Only the major exhibit was open, and I learned that I don’t like Riopelle, but being back feels momentous.

Concerts have begun, but safety measures are in place there too, making the whole thing seem weird. My bf goes to see Sepultura at a fully masked metal show, and it sounds dystopian to me.

April

The MMFA is actually factually all the way open, though you still need to book a time slot. I beeline for The Decorative Arts & Design Pavilion, which is open for the first time in ages, having been “closed due to reorganization” or some such even before the pandy. I am in my happy place.

The MMFA’s Decorative Arts and Design Pavilion (photo by Dawn McSweeney)

As part of an experiment on our party rules, the SAT serves up drinks and tunes for 24 hours straight which gives me some hope that maybe the “new normal” will allow for some reconfiguration of things we’ve taken for granted as status quo for too long (writing this at the end of December, that hope has long since crashed and burned, but it was lovely while it lasted).

I’m comforted knowing that while everything feels like it’s on the brink, Montrealers can unite against some showy corporate silliness as we all discuss the city’s new giant ring.

May

Spring is springing, and the good times are indeed rolling. I finally get out to my first post-COVID show. I’ve seen Symphony X before, and they put on a good show despite not being on my regular rotation. This is about getting out, and bring with people and not wearing a mask in a crowd.

We meet up with friends for drinks and food. No vax passes. No masks. We come and go from the show so much, it’s about the band the same way high school dances are about dancing. I’m jazzed.

I also leave town for the first time in years, and head to Halifax for the first time ever. We hit some familiar territory, and hug people we’ve missed.

Back in Montreal, masks were still in place at Mainline Theater where performers wore them throughout Carrie: The Musical rehearsals. As someone who’s still masked at work, let me say that phone calls are hard enough, kudos for pulling off a musical.

There were no masks on stage for Contact Theatre’s Next to Normal at Monument Nationale and Cirque du Soleil came back strong with Kooza.

June

At this point our regularly scheduled Montreal programming seems to be rolling right along, and Fringe is next! James Gartler checks out Tango to the Pointe along with Al Lafrance’s Is This Yours? and Josephine, a burlesque cabaret dream play, saying of Josephine that “it stands easily as one of the best shows to ever play at the Montreal Fringe Festival”.

I peep What About Albert? and enjoy the heck out of it.

Photo by Joseph Ste-Marie, courtesy of The Malicious Basement Theatre Company

July

I smiled through this whole month. There are events at every turn, and Montreal summer is thriving. At the beginning of the month, our Editor Extraordinaire says to me “hey, someone approached us with a creative thing that made me think of you”, which is how I met my creative soulmate, and that will come up later.

ComicCon is back, and the fits are fierce. Flipping through the cosplay pics, I get a little sentimental thinking about how long it’s been since we’ve all been able to let our freak flags fly in all their carefully crafted glory. Man, we’re beautiful.

James Gartler went to Malcolm McDowell’s talk and he learned that the only time in his 60 year career he was ever stiffed on gig was by a producer in Montreal, so we have that dubious distinction.

JFL is back for its 40th edition, and I’m desperate to laugh with strangers. From late July into early August, all my friends have to listen to me fangirling about who I’m interviewing. I loudly tell everyone I know that I can’t make their things ‘cuz I have media passes to comedy shows, and article deadlines. Everyone calmly assures me that I wasn’t invited to their things, and pats me on my head for being so cute and excitable.

Seriously though, when you look at it all in one place our FTB Team had JFL on lock. Samantha Gold spoke to Canadian comedy royalty Rick Mercer, comic, Hollywood and Bollywood actor Vir Das and even Randy Feltface, an actual puppet. Jason C. McLean spoke with Letterkenny star Mark Forward and caught Irish comic Tommy Tiernan’s new show. James Gartler took in Trixie Mattel’s free outdoor drag show and SNL and stand-up star John Mulaney’s latest one-man show.

I spoke to a bunch of folks I never thought I would such as Alonzo Bodden and Pete Holmes. Despite Big Jay Oakerson closing out our phone interview by saying I should come up and say hi at the show, I freeze and never say hi. I see him outside with Brendan Sagalow on another day, after a different show, and I stare like a weirdo, but keep my distance.

July/August

As Montrealers we’re confident in our summers, but painfully aware of their fleeting nature. By the end of July squeezing in all the summer activities becomes a full time job, and this year it’s coming to a head as Osheaga & JFL share a weekend.

Osheaga 2022 photo by Chris Zacchia

As one FTB team was all over JFL, another team covers Osheaga with Joe McLean and Jerry Gabriel‘s previews and coverage from Jerry Gabriel of the rock-oriented Day One and the mix of everything Days Two and Three, plus Chris Zacchia’s festival photos.

Meanwhile, my Maritimers BIL & SIL come to town for their first Osheaga, and they haven’t been here in years. We live it up, and I fall in love with MTL yet again as I experience it through tourist eyes. They had a blast at the show.

August

Oh, I remember August because before we’d even sent the Scotians home, my bf tested positive for COVID. Damn it. We lock ourselves in, and I catch it in short order.

Considering I’ve been working at an office this whole time and taking public transit throughout, it seems fair. We both feel like bags of poop, but we’re super glad it wasn’t worse.

Meanwhile, Samantha Gold was checking out Repercussion Theatre’s All Shall Be Well and the POP Montreal lineup is released giving us more to look forward to.

September

In September I interviewed a fictional character when I sat down with Andrew Jamieson as Conor Blaine, (the aforementioned creative thing and the aforementioned creative soulmate). It was like playing with someone else’s imaginary friend, and it tickled me.

Drinks with fictional character Conor Blaine (photo by Dawn McSweeney)

Montreal Stop Motion Film Festival returns for it’s 14th edition, and I didn’t know this existed until it was over, so as I write this I’m marking my calendar for next year.

At MMFA, Nicolas Party’s pastels surprised me as the colours spilled off the pages and onto the walls. The Decorative Arts & Design Pavilion is closed again as pieces from there are used as part of another exhibit.

POP Montreal started at the very end of the month which takes up right into…

October

POP Montreal taught me a lot about how to better cover a multimedia, multi location arts festival. There was so much to do and see, but for me the highlight was catching Sophia Bel, who I’d never heard of, and now I tell other people about.

Samantha Gold interviewed Rocky Horror Show director Amy Blackmore and the time warp was live for the first time in years. Me First & The Gimmie Gimmies come to town, and it’s a fun time.

November

In art news, MMFA puts on a fantastic Jean Michel Basquiat exhibit called Seeing Loud: Basquiat & Music. It features works by the artist, but is specifically designed to showcase the importance of music in both his career and life. The music plays throughout.

Big famous pieces aside, there are framed journal pages, concert posters, and a super cool map where you can track his path via concerts in NYC. This bad boy runs through February 19, 2023.

In other museum news, the Decorative Arts & Design Pavilion is back to being closed for reorganization or whatever. I sigh dramatically.

Anti-Flag brought old school punk to town, and image+nation celebrates 35 years.

December

The beginning of December already feels like a year ago. The Candyass Cabaret brought sexy back, the Stygian Caravan brought creatives together, and speaking of together, Glass Tiger still is.

Andrew Jamieson’s Sleazy Christmas introduced me to comedian Morgan O’Shea who I thought was just some friend of a friend, and next thing you know, he’s going up on stage, and I’m laughing till it hurts. Turns out he’s profesh. I’ll be intentionally seeking out his comedy in the future.

As is always the case, this year isn’t over yet, and we’re already looking to the next.

Osheaga 2023 headliners have been announced, and I already have Lizzo tickets for May.

Entertainment this week? Personally? So much chilling.

All the best to you, yours, and the dreams you’re chasing. Blessed be & haribol.

Featured Image of Sophia Bel @ POP Montreal by Dawn McSweeney

Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney are joined by Special Guest Samantha Gold to discuss the top stories of 2022: Quebec Election, Elon Musk and Twitter, Quebec Healthcare & the return of shows.

Follow Samantha Gold @samiamart on Facebook & @samiamartistmtl on Instagram

Follow Dawn McSweeney @mcmoxy on Twitter and Instagram

Follow Jason C. McLean @jasoncmclean on Twitter and Instagram

I’m currently procrastinating most things into 2023, but there’s always space in the calendar for parties, burlesque, self care, and documentaries!

It’s pretty cool (and scary) stuff

Worlds of Ice is a film by Philippe Baylaucq, produced by the National Film Board of Canada in collaboration with the Planétarium Rio Tinto Alcan. It’s a 360°, 35 minute immersion into exactly what it says it is: the power and fragility of ice. It was created with the intention of putting ice at the forefront of our environmental thoughts, and is intentionally being run at the same time as COP15.

Worlds of Ice runs until February 27 at Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, 4801 Pierre-de Coubertin Ave. For showtimes and tickets, please visit the planetarium’s website

Curves & Comedic Timing

While you stuff those stockings and fa all your las, Candyass Cabaret presents A(nother) Covid Christmas Special Xmas Show to really jingle your bells.

With the MC stylings of Monica Hamburg and Jimmy Phule, plus a lineup of talent including Velma Candyass herself, it’s the perfect salve for the seasonal blues. They’re promising “wacky contests with mediocre prizes”, which I love. Bet you end up horny and laughing at the same time.

MCs Monica Hamburg and Jimmy Phule (via Candyass Cabaret on Facebook)

Xmas Show Candyass Cabaret is at Café Cleopatra, 1230 boul Saint-Laurent, 2nd floor, on Friday, December 16, 9 pm all the deets are on the Facebook Event Page

‘Cuz classy’s overrated

This Wednesday Andrew Jamieson presents A Sleazy Christmas. It’s a multidisciplinary performance event, and a fundraiser for Ever After: The Revival!, but mostly it’ll be a helluva good time. The line-up’s got comedy, spoken word, burlesque, and music.

The party’s got a cash raffle with multiple prizes, plus karaoke after the show! I’ll be schmoozing and hawking raffle tickets for the aforementioned artsy cause and fab winnings, so blow off your office party and come say hi.

A Sleazy Christmas Party is at Le Basement, 3716 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest in the basement on Wednesday, December 21, 9pm. Info and tickets available through Eventbrite

We’re all broke & stressed, happy effin holidays

At a time when debt is soaring, the gifts aren’t even all bought yet, and you’re about to sit down with the family you intentionally avoid for 364 days a year, stress is high. Therapy’s too expensive and spa days are way out of the question, but I came across this free meditation class so maybe we can all chillax.

I’ve never heard of Sahaja Yoga, but they offer free events both locally and on zoom. There are loads of times and dates, and they have a sizable online community, though their online presence is a bit scattered. I haven’t tried it yet, but this is now on my to do list. Namaste.

Find out about and book the free online and in-person meditation


Featured Image from Worlds of Ice (NFB)


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

Osheaga will return to Parc Jean-Drapeau next summer, running August 4ht, 5th and 6th. Organizers announced the three headliners today:

The big name on Friday will be Australian alternative-dance group Rüfüs Du Sol:

Then, Saturday night will culminate with a performance by multiple Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Billie Eilish:

And the festival will wrap up on Sunday with scoailly conscious hip hop star and Osheaga veteran Kendrick Lamar:

The rest of the lineup, featuring established and up-and-coming local, national and international acts, will be announced in the future (probably early next year). For now, tickets go on sale this Friday, December 16th at 10am.

Featured Image from Osheaga 2022 by Chris Zacchia

Please visit Osheaga.com for tickets and more

Anyone else doing their Christmas shopping like one for them, two for me? It makes it much more fun.

Clears throat, shuffles papers this week: mingle with artists, dance all night,catch some tunes, and if you’re gonna shop, shop local.

Dance, Plants and Real-Time Collaboration @ MAI

MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels) is presenting two pieces by artist Sasha Kleinplatz.

We Move Together or Not at All has “five soloists each perform an improvised solo dedicated to the plants in a greenhouse”. It’s dance, installation, and performance art in one.

Miracle’ing/Close to Me/Close to You is an improvised performance piece with twelve artists from across Canada collaborating in real time. While this is dance, it’s also far more than that: the performers will also have control over the music, sounds, lights and projector.

We Move Together or Not at All & Miracle’ing/Close to Me/Close to You by Sasha Kleinplatz both run at the MAI, 3680 Jeanne Mance, each with multiple showtimes until December 11. For showtimes, info and tickets, please visit the MAI website

Pass me my poodle skirt!

This Friday Westie Swing is hosting a West Coast Swing class and social. Bring a partner, find a partner, learn a thing. The tunes are catchy, and the moves are slick. First timers welcome, so don’t be shy!

Westie Swing Night hosted by Westie Montreal @ Studio Tango Montreal, 7755 boul St. Laurent, #200-A&B on Friday, December 9 from 9:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Tickets available through WestieMontreal.com

I play favorites

Oki, so I caught Sophia Bel by fluke at POP Montreal this year, and she was my favorite act. Sure she’s got a great voice, but she also knows how to command a stage, and punk up Neil Young songs, I bet this show’ll be good too (prob has some Christmas in it..?).

Sophia Bel as Part of Christmas in the Park at Parc Emilie-Gamelin, 1500 Rue Berri, Montréal, Friday, December 9, 8pm. Details through QuartierDesSpectacles.com

“Philosophy is a walk on the slippery rocks…”

The Stygian Caravan is offering up an author-led creative exploration with “Writing! Art! Music! Philosophical discussion!” Creative chat, and connect with creative humans. It’s a two parter, so jump in on one or both (it moves…’cuz caravan)

The Stygian Caravan starts at Encore Books, 5670 Sherbrooke Street West, Sunday, December 11 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., moving to Notre Boeuf de Grace, 5732 Sherbrooke Street West. Info on Stygian and the Facebook Event Page

Gifts for you! And I suppose other people too…

For this winter edition of Puces POP, it’s 2 times the weekends and double the artisans! The goodies are local, handmade, and wide ranging. While you’re checking gifts off the list don’t forget to spoil yourself too, Boo.

The Holiday Puces POP at Église Saint Denis, 5075 rue Rivard (in front of Laurier Metro) December 9 through 11 and December 16 through 18. Info on the Facebook Event Page

Featured Image of Sophia Bel performing at POP Montreal 2022 by Dawn McSweeney

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

As always, shows in Montreal are more consistent than the weather. Whether it calls for parkas or ponchos, we’ve got some reasons for you to head out this week! Read on for the funny, the abstract, a writers’ brunch, and our editor making music.

Get your recommended dose of laughter with bonus Canadian Content!

From Manitoba’s Poplar River First Nation, Paul Rabliauskas is at The Comedy Nest this weekend. I caught his set at JFL’s For the Culture show this year, and thoroughly enjoyed it. His jokes are funny, and his smile is contagious.

Paul Rabliauskas performs at Comedy Nest, 2313 Saint-Catherine St W 3rd Floor, December 2 and 3 at 8 and 10pm. Tickets available through Eventbrite

Ask your parents who they are…maybe grandparents. Oy.

Formed in 1983, Glass Tiger were rocking Much Music before the whippersnappers were born. Everything old is super new again though, so this sounds like the realest retro you can get your hands on.

This post was published late, the show was on Thursday night

Book people love brunch and a spot of tea…

If you took part in National Novel Writing Month, Kudos! You deserve a celebration brunch!

Come out and share a tea, a snack, and your fave segment of the writing from this month with other NaNoWriMo’ers. Sharing your writing isn’t required, but maybe bring a little in case you change your mind.

media

NaNoWriMo Windup Brunch takes place at Thesaurus Therrarium 383 rue de l’Église, Saturday, December 3 from 1-3pm. Info available on the Facebook Event Page

Hey! I know more than one of these people, tbh

Come out for an intimate acoustic concert featuring local singer songwriters. Local talents (including our own Editor Extraordinaire). No cover, fabulous dive bar vibes and drink specials too! Get the party started.

The lineup, from start to finish, is Jason C. McLean, Tanu Oberoi, John Galambos and Mars Trinity and then maybe another guest or two.

Welcome To London’s Fog happens at Bar Le Bièvre, 5018 Decarie, Friday, December 2 from 8 to 10:30pm. Info on the Facebook Event Page

Featured Image of Paul Rabliauskas courtesy of Just for Laughs

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

Multidisciplinary is the word of the week. From a music focused museum show to a concert in the dark, Montreal is offering up some layered treats (which conveniently matches my outfit).

Basquiat’s Back with Music

Seeing Loud: Basquiat and Music is a multidisciplinary exhibition focused on the role music played in the life and work of Jean Michel Basquiat. Organized in collaboration with the Musée de la musique – Philharmonie de Paris, when they call it large scale, they mean it: there are rooms of Basquiats, from concert posters and meticulously written journal pages, to giant paintings and pieces of tagged walls brought inside.

You’ll want to see it again before you’re even done. Bonus: the people watching is particularly good, and if you want an excuse to wear your fiercest fit, this is it.

The playlist is on Spotify, so get into the mood:

Seeing Loud: Basquiat and Music runs at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1380 Sherbrooke Ouest, until February 19, 2023. Info and tickets on the MMFA website

Ben Caplan & Terra Spencer’s New Collab for Old News

Award winning talents Ben Caplan and Terra Spencer have teamed up for the first time creating the album Old News (released last month).

Terra’s a storytelling songwriter, and while Ben is known for his folk music roots, this marks his first foray into music production. Tha album has duets and solo performances, and I bet the show will too.

Here’s a sample:

Ben Caplan & Terra Spencer perform at Ursa, 5589 Ave du Parc, Saturday, November 26, 8pm (doors 6pm). Tickets available through ThePointOfSale.com

Concerts in the Dark: Because When Did You Last Really Pay Attention?

No screens or distractions, and with “an immersive listening device”, Les Yeux Fermer: Concerts Dans le Noir / Eyes Closed: Concerts in the Dark is creating a sensory experience for the distracted age.

Musical pieces have been created with “spatialized sound”, and the architecture of the SAT in mind. I imagine it’ll be super trippy.

On the lineup: Nova Materia, Lyonnaise Flore and Nantes-based Simo Cell, boss of the TEMƎT Music label.

Before you go, here’s Nova Materia – with the lights on:

Les Yeux Fermés runs November 25th and 26th at 8pm at S.A.T., 1201 Boul. Saint-Laurent. Tickets available through my.weezevent.com

Featured Image from Seeing Loud: Basquiat and Music by Dawn McSweeney @mcmoxy on Twitter

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