DeAnne Smith is a Montreal favourite. Born in the US, they lived in Mexico for a while, and then moved to and got their start in comedy in Montreal.

I remember seeing Smith at Stand Up Strip Down in my twenties, and now they perform and do TV appearances all over the world and have their own Netflix special. I recently saw Smith at the Unknown Comedy Club’s ComedyWorks Tribute Show this past May.

At this year’s Just for Laughs Festival they will be filming their own standup special. I had a chance to speak with DeAnne as they and their partner were road tripping from visiting family on the East Coast to Los Angeles. Though I could hear the road in the background and our connection was iffy, the interview felt less like a formal exchange and more like a chat between old friends.

I asked them, as I do every standup comedian I interview, what they’ve been doing during the pandemic, given the limits on live performance due public health measures.

“Everyone says I’ve been losing my mind. Please put that on the record. It took me a couple of months to embrace my comedy, but in September 2020 I started doing my own monthly show on Zoom that I call DeAnne Smith and Acquaintances and I ran that from September until June and we’re taking a break for the summer but honestly, I think I’m going to bring it back in the fall even though there are live shows because we built such a nice, fun, supportive little community every month…I was doing my time with online shows.”

DeAnne Smith admits that, like many other comedians, it took them a while to learn the tech but they had a tech from their monthly show to help. Regarding how COVID has affected their comedy and career, they said their career halted overnight.

“Even before the pandemic, I think, a lot of what I’m trying to do in comedy… I’ve always been aware of how special it is to be in a room with people and just be creating a moment that’s not going to be repeated, that’s just for the people there. I’ve always done comedy from the point of view of real connection and I think that’s only deepened for me in pandemic. It’s like really the only thing I’m interested in is connection and making a moment where we can all feel joy together and feel good together.”

Smith acknowledges that shared joy is the goal of comedy, but feels that some people approach the art as having funny ideas they want others to hear, and while that is part of their comedy, for them it’s as much about connection and shared experience. They point out that the shared experience they seek with their comedy has deepened due to the pandemic.

“I don’t remember a moment in my lifetime where I’ve felt such a collective consciousness where we’re all experiencing some pretty similar things together.”

DeAnne is openly non-binary and has been using the pronouns they/them for many years and they made many jokes about it in their 2018 Netflix special. Though their gender identity is nothing new, they are more open about their preferred pronouns and insisting on their use.

“It feels really good to me and I’m finally in a place where I’m willing to inconvenience people a tiny bit to feel seen and referred to correctly.”

Smith says there hasn’t been any pushback regarding their gender identity and they never thought much of it until the Netflix special came out in 2019.

“I have gotten a lot of emails from people of all ages, but especially [from] teenagers and young adults saying that it was really important for them to see someone like them in a public role talking about gender issues and I forget about that a lot but I think it does help people realize that there’s a lot of ways to identify and there’s a wide spectrum of how to be a human being.”

Smith’s comedy generally has a very openly feminist slant though they admit that they aren’t discussing issues exacerbated by the pandemic like domestic violence as much in their online shows.

“One thing that’s happened with the pandemic, at least with the online shows, is that I’m not speaking to as generalized an audience as I am in the real world in the comedy clubs. By that I mean it seems the online crowds are kind of self-selected to have a similar political sensibility, so I don’t know that I’ve been pushing an agenda as much as I do in the comedy clubs because there’s not as much to push against.”

People who come to Smith’s online shows know exactly what they’re getting, with Smith pointing that if anything their comedy has gotten more personal due to the pandemic, especially with the monthly show. Many people taking in online shows are often in their pajamas or not wearing pants, and that lends itself to a more personal experience, though Smith laughingly says they will be wearing pants during their Just for Laughs appearance.

DeAnne Smith, Chris Locke and Kyle Brownrigg will be recording CTV Comedy and Crave Stand-Up Specials Saturday, July 31 at 7 and 10 pm at L’Astral, 305 Ste-Catherine Ouest. Tickets available through HaHaHa.com

The Just for Laughs festival is upon us and with more and people vaccinated and the easing of restrictions, this year’s festival is a hybrid one, with some shows streaming for free online, and live, socially distanced in-person events with limited seating. Among this year’s virtual offerings is Just for Laughs Live in LA, featuring an all-star cast of comedians including my interviewee, Jeremy Hotz.

Hotz is a standup legend, having made his big debut at the Montreal Just for Laughs festival in the nineties. His unique brand of passive aggressive observational comedy is hilarious and, as it turns out, it’s not just an act.

When I phoned Hotz on a Friday afternoon, I had SO many questions! What was he doing during the pandemic? What does he think of it? Does he really talk like he does on stage? I wondered if that high pitched, passive aggressiveness was just a persona, and whether he’d be a completely different person on the phone.

I was in for a pleasant surprise.

“Yeah, people don’t understand with me that it’s not an act. Everyone says that about me, the miserable things that happen in my act happen in my life and if you spent a day with me you realize that I seem to be a magnet for it. It’s really bizarre.”

Throughout our conversation, my best attempts at professional composure were useless in the face of his answers to my questions. When I asked him, for example, what was his biggest challenge during the pandemic, he spoke of problems getting his large nose in the mask. Given how many people wear their masks incorrectly, I asked if he only wore his mask over his mouth or covered “the whole shebang”.

“Well, you know, they got to make the mask big enough to get over the whole shebang, that’s the problem. I have the same problem with condoms.”

You’d have to be dead not to laugh.

On Just for Laughs’ website he’s identified as a Canadian American comedian. Born in South Africa, he spent much of his life in Ottawa, but moved to the United States in the nineties. In spite of this, he still considers himself a Canadian comic.

“I’m the most passive aggressive human being on the planet!” Hotz said, describing how for the past three years he’s been calling a yellow cab company once a month and sending them to a bogus address because they stood him up once, resulting in him nearly missing his flight. He considers passive aggressiveness to be a very Canadian trait.

“Canadians, they won’t say you’re an asshole but they think it all day long.”

Standup comedians, like other artists, could not perform in front of live audiences, so I wondered how he’d spent the pandemic.

“I’ve just been standing there waiting for this thing to end, like most people. And now that it is, I seem to have to go back to work which is, you know, shit…”,

When he could no longer perform in front of live audiences, he began live streaming on his Facebook page and it just exploded. Hotz says he loves the format, though, like many comedians, he had to learn the technology to give his fans the best possible experience, and that came with time and doing the show regularly. Now that they’ve mastered the tech, Hotz says they have a good little show.

“Through the pandemic when you couldn’t do standup and I could do the live show once a week, I put a lot of fucking work into it and I really enjoyed it and it became something that I actually looked forward to doing and I’m Jeremy Hotz. I look forward to sex!”

He said there are some anti vaxx trolls and conspiracy theorists that he occasionally responds to in the comments sections of his live streams, and while his responses get hundreds of likes, he can’t respond to them all.

For his upcoming appearance at Live in Los Angeles, he plans to touch on his pandemic experiences a little but feels that by the time of the show in the last week of July, the topic will be dated, opting instead to tell jokes that make people happy.

He describes the setup as a comedy club, pointing out that in Los Angeles so many people are vaccinated that COVID restrictions and mask mandates have eased almost entirely. It promises to be a good show and it’s absolutely free online!

Check it out.

Just for Laughs Live in LA will be available to watch for free online as of July 29th on HaHaHa.com

Jason C. McLean speaks with veteran comedian and Just for Laughs mainstay Andy Kindler about hosting this year’s JFL Alternative Show from L.A., the state of comedy, his affection for Montreal and more.

Follow Andy Kindler on Twitter @AndyKindler and his podcast @thought_spiral

For the complete Just for Laughs schedule: HaHaHa.com

Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter @jasoncmclean

Summer is heating up both literally and figuratively in Montreal and we’ve got some outdoors and in-person events this week. Let’s get started:

ShazamFest is Back This Weekend

ShazamFest is truly one of Quebec’s most unique festivals. It’s eco-friendly, happens in the Easten Townships and offers a mix of music, circus, burlesque, dance, wrestling and more.

Last year’s event was also unique in that it was scaled back (as were so many of our cultural events). This year, they’re offering a “nearly-normal, safe-but-just-as-quirky 15.5th edition” done in collaboration with the Estrie Public Health Department.

The talent roster is full of acts from across Quebec.

Politically-charged rap artist Sarahmée, Montreal’s neo-disco glam squad Barry Paquin Roberg and pioneering rocker Frank Custeau all headline, DJ Tony Montreal (accompanied by the legendary Alain Vinet of Cirque du Soleil fame) joins the lineup for the first time this year and the Canadian Redneck Beard, Moustache & Mullet Contest and Clowns Without Borders are back by popular demand.

ShazamFest XV.V runs July 9–11 at 2722 Way’s Mills, Barnston West, QC J0B 1C0. Tickets, info and full lineup at ShazamFest.com

Piknic Électronik is Back at Parc Jean-Drapeau

While large events like Osheaga won’t return this year, Parc Jean-Drapeau will see quite a bit of music and dancing this summer. Piknic Électronik returned last Saturday and will run on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the summer.

Last year, the event was only online and called Piknic at Home, this year’s event is in-person, though will follow Public Health guidelines, meaning audiences are limited and see performances on multiple stages. Each day, they will also be admitted in two groups: one can enjoy shows in the afternoon sun from noon-5pm and the other can Piknic in the evening from 6-10pm.

Tickets are sold in pairs, with each given a designated spot. Masks are required elsewhere on the site.

It’s also chock-full of local, Canadian and Quebec talent. This weekend features Paolo Rocco, Syla, Laced and more.

For tickets and the (still developing) Piknic Électronik schedule, please visit PikNicElectronik.com

The Liquor Store Play Cabaret Lion D’Or…For Real This Time

It was only a few months ago that Montreal-based seven-piece The Liquor Store were playing a virtual show at Cabaret Lion d’Or (virtual for the audience, that is, the band was actually there). Now, with Quebec Public Health restrictions loosened, they will be playing the venue again, this time with an in-person audience.

The band also recently released a music video for the song MOPHO, the first single from their upcoming second album Colossus. Give it a look and listen below before catching this band live:

Indie Montréal presents The Liquor Store @ Cabaret Lion d’Or, 1676 rue Ontario Est, Saturday, July 10, 8-10pm (doors 7:30pm). Tickets available through ThePointOfSale.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

After offering a scaled back all-online version in 2020, Just for Laughs is back in person this summer…with a twist. What is arguably the world’s biggest comedy festival and one of the major tentpoles of the Montreal festival season will run in 2021 from July 26-31 and offer in-person standup shows in Montreal, New York and Los Angeles.

This difference is undoubtedly due to JFL’s hefty international comedic talent component mixed with the uncertainty surrounding international travel restrictions. There isn’t presently a border exemption for comedians, no matter how funny they are.

Montrealers who want to watch the out-of-town shows can do so online. They can also enjoy all the local shows that way, too.

All in-person standup shows will be available online for free. This includes the Just for Laughs Awards Show, which will feature recipients Dave Chappelle (Comedy Person of the Year), Kristen Wiig & Annie Mumolo (Comedy Writers of the Year), Jason Sudeikis and Bill Lawrence (Comedy Series of the Year for Ted Lasso) and SNL’s Bowen Yang (Breakout Comedy Star of the Year) with more to be announced.

Other big names and returning favourites this year include Kevin Hart, Patton Oswalt, Gina Yashere, Andy Kindler, Dave Merheje and The Daily Show‘s Dulcé Sloan. The Nasty Show and the newly re-branded The Alternative Show are back and so are more recent creations New Faces and Comedy Night in Canada.

Just For Laughs 2021 runs July 26-31. For ticket info and to watch shows online: hahaha.com

June is traditionally the beginning of Festival Season here in Montreal. Of course, with things not back to normal yet, it looks like this June will be…the beginning of Festival Season here in Montreal. Wait, what? Yes, there will be festivals this year. Maybe not exactly like before, but in person. This week it’s the Fringe, plus we’ve got a new single and music video from local band Titelaine and POP Montreal is doing a rooftop concert.

Let’s get started:

Montreal Fringe Returns with a Scaled Back In-Person Roster of Shows

The Montreal Fringe was one of the first festivals that had to shut its doors to in-person performance in 2020, so many were hoping it would be one of the first festivals back this year, and it is! 2021 will be the festival’s 30th Anniversary and a hybrid version of the event running the whole month of June, with in-person performances running from June 10-20.

This real-world component will feature 154 performances by 30 companies spread out over five venues. Yes, that is not the usual amount of shows Fringe-goers may be accustomed to, but it is bolstered by a large online component.

It’s also predominantly local. With the border to the south still closed and inter-provincial travel limited, there is a required but also welcome focus on local talent this year.

While there won’t be a FringePark (aka the Beer Tent) this year, the festival will be offering guided outdoor experiences including an hour-long tour of the night sky in Jeanne-Mance Park hosted by Trevor from Plateau Astro. 10 patrons max.

And while we usually take press releases that say things like “Tickets are going fast!” with a grain of salt, in this case, we believe it. This is a popular event with limited capacity and people are just itching to do something outside. Some shows have already sold out, so you’d wise to act quickly.

The 2021 Montreal Fringe Festival runs June 1-30, with in-person shows running from June 10-20. Tickets and schedule available at MontrealFringe.ca

Montreal’s Titelaine Release Photo souvenir Single and Video

We last saw Titelaine when they were performing at Le Ministère as part of Indie Montreal’s Sunday virtual concert series Les dimanches couvre-fun. Tomorrow, the Montreal-based electro-pop duo will release their latest single and video for the song Photo souvenir.

The song “deals with the tug of war between enjoying the present moment and nostalgia for past ones”. The video was filmed on the shores of Rivière des Prairies by Anne-Sophie Coiteux and intercut with footage from the duo’s cellphones.

We’ll update this post tomorrow (Friday) with the video, but, for now, enjoy another one of their tunes:

Photo souvenir will be released on Titelaine’s YouTube and SoundCloud on Friday, June 11

POP Montreal’s SOLD OUT Rooftop Concert with TIKA and Hanorah

So, just why are we plugging a show that has already sold out? Because only the in-person version has a full house, or rather full rooftop, the rooftop of the Rialto to be specific.

That’s where TIKA and Hanorah will perform this Saturday evening as part of the Kinaxis InConcert Series. There will be social distancing protocols in effect at this event, but since all the in-person tickets have been sold, it would be kinda pointless to go through them here.

Instead, anyone who didn’t already buy tickets can experience the show virtually (maybe even on your own rooftop if the WIFI is good enough and you have a rooftop you can go to). It will be streamed live on Facebook.

POP Montreal presents TIKA and Hanorah live in concert Saturday, June 12, at 7:30pm on Facebook Live. Visit the FB Event Page for details

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

Jason C. McLean and Special Guest Samantha Gold discuss some of the top news stories of the day (local, national and international):

Quebec’s curfew lifting, Marjorie Taylor Greene stalking AOC, hidden systemic racism in the Federal Government, the Montreal Municipal Election & this summer’s hybrid festivals.

Follow Samantha Gold Artist on Facebook @samiamart and Instagram @samiamartistmtl

Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter @jasoncmclean

The Comedyworks was a Montreal institution. Not only did it launch the careers of so many standup comics, but it was my go-to place for a night out in my CEGEP and university days.

I therefore had very high standards when I set out to cover The Unknown Comedy Club’s virtual Comedyworks tribute show. The lineup consisted of Comedyworks veterans, including The Unknown Comedy Club’s founder and host, Rodney Ramsey, Eman El-Husseini, DeAnne Smith, Kwasi Thomas, and headliner, David Pryde.

I am happy to report that I had a blast!

The show was set up as a giant Zoom call, with audiences invited to ask the moderator of the event to unmute their mics since “laughter is crack for comedians”. Since I spoke to Rodney Ramsey a few days before the show, I knew to expect him in avatar form when hosting.

His avatar, I must say, was extremely creepy. Ramsey had told me it looked him in a suit, and while that was technically correct, it had some traits that were rather unnerving: the eyes are larger than the rest of the face, but the irises don’t move with him, giving a wide-eyed look, the hands were also disproportionately larger, and the jaw only moved up and down. The overall effect was similar to a ventriloquist dummy planning to kill you.

Handling the music before and during the show was DJ ‘Black Nick’, whose tunes had me bouncing in my seat on the couch. All the while the group chat was active, allowing for a more intimate experience where audience members can communicate with the performers. My big honor was when DeAnne Smith herself gave Forget The Box a shoutout in the chat.

When showtime arrived, I braced myself for the mixed bag that comes with every group standup comedy show, and I was pleasantly surprised. Every comedian killed, including headliner David Pryde, a Montreal comedian whom I’d seen fall flat a few times at the Comedyworks in my youth.

Host Rodney Ramsey in his intro invited all the performers to tell a joke from their days at the Comedyworks and they did not disappoint. Kwasi Thomas, whose standup is clearly quite physical, managed to deliver the physical aspects of his jokes while seated at his computer. Thomas also gets credit for having the best laugh, howling so much that David Pryde had to pause during his set to give him a chance to calm down.

Eman El-Husseini’s jokes were superbly topical. El-Huseini is Palestinian and made a lot of jokes about her life with her Jewish wife, all of which are sadly relevant given the ongoing fight between Israel and Hamas.

DeAnne Smith deserves credit for the best COVID joke, ranting about people wearing masks incorrectly and comparing mask wearing to making love to a woman:

“If you’re doing it right, it will fog up your glasses.”

Headliner David Pryde was the only performer who was standing and holding a microphone for his set. Dressed in the classic old-guy-trying-to-look-cool outfit of a T-shirt and blazer, he opened with a great line comparing his basement to the Comedyworks:

“I’m in a filthy room that’s a fire hazard.”

Pryde’s jokes were his classic mix of wordplay, snarky comments, and tongue-in-cheek remarks about his own life during the pandemic, not a single joke fell flat. This was a perfect performance by a seasoned standup veteran and very much worth the wait.

If you’re stuck at home due to COVID rules, you need to check out more of The Unknown Comedy Club’s shows. They feature standout lineups of supremely funny people, delivering standup comedy from the comfort of your own home.

Featured Image of Rodney Ramsey (without his avatar) courtesy of The Unknown Comedy Club

Wretch is a work of art. The show is the brainchild of The Malicious Basement’s artistic director Alexander Barth and director Marissa Blair after numerous discussions between them about theatre and philosophy.

“I thought he was working on a ‘Goldilocks-type’ story, and then he came back with Wretch,” Blair says in an email.

Wretch debuted at Festival de la Bête Noire’s virtual theatre festival in February 2021, and will be part of Montreal Fringe 2021. The theatre community has faced particular challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most have opted to go virtual or spend the time working on projects they’ve been neglecting. This created particular challenges with Wretch, with actors having to wear masks the whole time, and Blair and cast developing a culture and characters that fit CNESST safety guidelines and their personal comfort zones.

Festival de la Bête Noire had production rules that restricted any post production or cutting. In order to work around this, Blair created a fourth character, the Voyeur, who would act as the audience’s eyes, “able to roam around the stage space (in the round) deciding what was important to see – to work as an invisible entity, or a ghost-like figure walking amongst the other characters.”

Other challenges came with Quebec’s (soon to be lifted) curfew, as it created additional limitations regarding rehearsal times. As to what it was like filming a play as opposed to preparing something for the live stage, Blair says it’s completely different, “like asking a baseball player to join a cricket match. Not everyone can do it, or should do it.”

If you’re looking for a play that follows a straightforward format with an introduction, denouement, and conclusion this is not the show for you. If you are uncomfortable witnessing physical and emotional abuse, this is definitely not the show for you. An abuse survivor myself, the show made me squirm in a lot of ways and I was grateful that a friend agreed to watch it with me – socially distanced and masked.

The best way to describe Wretch is as a study, an insight into the kinds of abuse that typically happens behind closed doors. There is blood, one of Marissa Blair’s signatures, and there is some other liquid my friend and I thought was either bile or feces, all fake, of course.

There is also emotional abuse, bondage, pain and mutilation. What makes this piece a standout is how accurately it portrays how an abuser can go from mundane affection to brutal physical and emotional abuse. More importantly, the gender dynamic is flipped, with Lila Bata-Walsh as the abuser and Jordan Prentice the abusee.

The tale of a woman being abused is a tale we’re all familiar with, but situations where a man is abused by a woman are still taboo. Wretch forces this dynamic out into the open, with Jordan Prentice’s riveting portrayal of a man trying to navigate his partner’s abusive, violent mood swings and actions, and yet so accustomed to both that he cannot bring himself to leave despite being given every opportunity.

Playing off of him, Lila Bata-Walsh is scary, portraying the shifts between childlike anger and romantic yet maternal love, perfectly playing the violent aggression and mood swings that so many abuse survivors are all-too familiar with. The third player in Wretch is the one whom I sadly had the greatest issues with. Jacqueline Van De Geer plays Mother Bliss, a dominatrix “topping” both Bata-Walsh and Prentice, and while she did hit all the marks one would expect of a domme, her movements and delivery were too stylized, rendering them insincere.

Van De Geer’s Mother Bliss doesn’t seem like an actual dominatrix at work, but rather an actor playing a dominatrix at work. I would have liked to see a Mother Moon that was more relaxed, with a quieter kind of intensity than what I saw in Wretch.

If you want a true insight into domestic abuse, with a little BDSM thrown in, you need to see Wretch. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s also captivating.

Wretch is playing online June 1st to 20th as part of the hybrid 2021 Montreal Fringe Festival. Tickets available through MontrealFringe.ca (currently only the 20th is displayed)

The Comedyworks was a Montreal institution. Like the Just for Laughs festival, it was a club that many big name comedians got their start at. I used to go during my CEGEP days to see the On The Spot Improv troupe and the occasional headliners.

Then one day, in 2014, it closed. It re-opened under new management a year later. But then, shortly after St-Patrick’s Day 2018, a fire in an apartment above the neighboring Irish Embassy Pub consumed it and spread to the Comedyworks. There were plans to re-build and re-open, but then COVID hit.

There hasn’t been a comedy club quite like it since, and to this day so many local comedians treat their memories there with reverence. Rodney Ramsey is no exception.

Ramsey is one of the many Montreal comedians who got his start at the Comedyworks when he was still working as a telemarketer. Now he’s a full-time comedian and the co-founder of the Unknown Comedy Club, a Canadian black-owned online comedy club presenting live stream standup comedy performances each week.

Tonight, the Unknown Comedy Club is virtually reviving The Comedyworks with a show featuring Comedyworks veterans including David Pryde, Kwasi Thomas, Eman El Husseini, and DeAnne Smith.

I asked Ramsey what he meant by the notion that the Unknown Comedy Club would recreate the Comedyworks for one night. He spoke of recreating that warm atmosphere in which so many like him got their start in standup.

The audience isn’t muted. Both they and the performers are invited to appear as themselves or as an avatar. Ramsey chooses to perform as the latter.

One of the major questions is how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting standup comedy. Ramsey replied that while comedy clubs were closed due to public health restrictions, corporate jobs performing for company events were still available at the beginning. Like other entertainers, he’s had to adapt to a world without live on-site audiences.

“We had to open a virtual club,” he says, adding that all the technology to deal with issues arising due to the pandemic already existed, if you have the money for them. “We have all the tools to replicate the standup live experience we just needed to learn how to use those tools to do it,”

Given the uptick in racial tensions in the past year with the murder of George Floyd and the suspicious death of Joyce Echequan, I couldn’t help but wonder the Black Lives Matter movement impacted the establishment of the Unknown Comedy Club. Ramsey said not really.

“I think this thing was born out of necessity. I don’t think this Club would ever have happened if it wasn’t for COVID, I think the global pandemic had the most effect on it.”

He mentions that he and his co-founder were producers of Canada’s first and longest running all-black comedy tour and are always mindful of bookings for The Unknown Comedy Club.

“A lot of the shows that are being booked are mostly white men. We’re booking diversity.”

He mentions that the Comedyworks tribute will feature Eman El-Husseini, one of the biggest acts in Canada who is also Palestinian, and that the Unknown Comedy Club has an upcoming show called I Heart Asians which will tackle anti-Asian hate head-on by featuring all Asian comedians.

“We do not book like everyone else. We’re booking for everyone.”

The Unknown Comedy Club presents Comedyworks Revival hosted by Rodney Ramsey and featuring David Pryde, Kwasi Thomas, Eman El Husseini and DeAnne Smith takes place Saturday, May 22, 9pm. Tickets for this show and any other Unknown Comedy Club shows (Wednesdays to Sundays) are available through UnknownComedyClub.com

It’s starting to really feel like summer, as it usually does in the mid to late spring, so people will be going out more in the days and evenings and, due to the continuing curfew, staying home at night. With that in mind, we’ve got an in-person artistic residency, a new album and stuff from local artists you can order online.

Let’s get started:

PC the Infamous Releases the Visionary Wonderland Album

Montreal-based rapper, producer, singer, songwriter (and also actor) PC the Infamous has done quite a bit since hitting the local music scene seven years ago. He has produced and performed eight albums and now his ninth, Visionary Wonderland, was just released, following two singles and two music videos.

PC the Infamous performs in both English and French and his style incorporates everything from classic rap to trap to indie rock, techno pop, synth wave and emo rap. Here is the latest video that premiered along with the release of the album:

Visionary Wonderland by PC the Infamous is available on multiple platforms

The MAI’s Et si on réimaginait le monde II Continues

The MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels) has always had a strong commitment to sharing and facilitating access to its resources and it’s in the middle of doing just that. Et si on réimaginait le monde II is a paid residency series focused on artists with visible or invisible disabilities, deaf, hard of hearing, neurodiverse, living with a mental illness, or with different abilities or physiques which began April 26 and runs until June 4.

Two of the four shows, Le magasin ferme and Fragments have already concluded, but you can still catch Troubleshoot by Mathieu and Simon Renaud and then Cartographie : Les eaux intimes, a dance show guided by Georges-Nicolas Tremblay with Marie-Hélène Bellavance, Ariane Boulet, Anthony Dolbec, Simon Renaud and Alexandra Templier from Corpuscule Danse.

Troubleshoot runs May 17-21. Cartographie : Les eaux intimes runs May 24-28 and May 31 – June 4 at MAI, 3680 rue Jeanne-Mance. Info available on the MAI website

Puces POP is Back Online for Spring

While things are still looking up for a full-on (or as full-on as possible) in-person POP Montreal this September, Puces POP, the quarterly local market, will once again be an online affair this spring. The changing rules on venue capacity made an in-person market difficult, so they decided to try and repeat the success they had in the winter with a virtual version.

The catalogue launched today. It features arts and prints, clothing, jewelry, treats and more, all from local artists and companies, just like the regular Puces POP.

The Puces POP Spring 2021 Catalogue is now available at PucesPOP.com

Featured Image from Le magasin ferme, 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

The weather is most definitely getting nicer and while we won’t have Osheaga this summer, we do have plenty of local arts and music to keep you busy. This week we have two new music video releases and a Mother’s Day burlesque show (tonight).

Let’s get started:

Po Lazarus Launch Despair, Too EP and Video

Shortly before the pandemic hit, Montreal rockers Po Lazarus recorded twelve new songs with veteran Canadian producer Mark Vreeken at The Tragically Hip’s Bathouse Studio in Bath, Ontario. On April 30th, they released a three song EP from this session called Despair, Too and today they released the music video for the title track.

When in-person shows resume, we’ll surely get to see Po Lazarus’ live show once again, but for now, we can enjoy them in recorded form. Here’s the video:

Po Lazarus’ Despair, Too EP is available on Spotify

Hot Mamas Burlesque Mother’s Day Fundraiser is Tonight

This Sunday is Mother’s Day, and in anticipation, Salty Margarita Burlesque has put together a virtual show streaming tonight called Hot Mamas Burlesque. It’s an event designed to show all the women in your life “how special they are, but in a unique way”.

The event features local burlesque stars Lou Lou La duchesse de Rière and Foxy Lexxi as well as a slew of other local performers and burlesque talent from out of town and is hosted by Jimmy Phule. It is also a by-donation fundraiser for the Native Women’s shelter of Montreal.

Here’s a trailer:

Hot Mamas Burlesque takes place online Friday, May 7 at 8:30pm. Tickets are by donation and available through viewstub.com A fundraiser for the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal

FRASE Set To Release Fanny Pack Music Video on Wednesday

You might know Montreal-based singer, producer and multi-instrumentalist FRASE from performances at Jazz festivals such as Kaslo Jazz and FIJM, or maybe from EDM raves like Bass Coast and Shambala. This coming Wednesday, though, we’re getting his latest music video Fanny Pack (featuring Lexodus).

This will be followed on June 17th with the release of his EP We’ve got time. For now, though, please enjoy a previous video:

Fanny Pack (featuring Lexodus) will be release on FRASE’s YouTube Channel Wednesday, May 12th

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

Montreal museums are finally opened, though at limited capacity, and who’s to say for how long. Still, I’m glad to be back at the MBAM, watching the sunlight filter in, gazing at Leo’s mural, hand over his heart, warm smile in his eyes as he stares back. Not all the pavillions are open, and I’m not a Riopelle fan, but I’m here to see everything I can.

The pandemic has provided laser focus of what’s important to me via the things I missed, as well as the creature comforts I found a way maintain (the espresso machine was a great choice, and if you need to know where to buy incense when you can barely buy basics, I know that too). Museums are one of my happy places, and while I took a pop art MOOC, and AR’d countless artworks into my living room (thanks, Google Arts & Culture), none of it was the same as being there.

Based on the response to this round of reopenings, I wasn’t the only one who missed in person visits. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has been selling out weekends since reopening (albeit at 25% capacity), and they’ve even added extra weekday hours. The Musée d’Art Contemporare has sold over 500 memberships since restrictions eased, but it isn’t likely to be enough in the grand scheme.

A May 2020 survey by the International Council of Museums found 13% of global museums, including 10% of North American museums, were forecasted to close.

“Museums are in crisis, and that was before the pandemic. There were issues at some of these major museums with the heads of various organizations […] for various reasons, being unceremoniously let go, and so there’s something systemic there. And in my mind, and I as an individual, I’m always looking for change. If it’s not broke, break it, and maybe put it back together the way it was, but you should always be looking at, is there a better way of doing things.”

I’m on the phone with David Marskell, and as CEO of Kitchener’s THEMUSEUM, he has some experience with reimagining and reinventing. The space itself has gone through its own transformations to become what it is today. Originally a department store, it became the Waterloo Regional Children’s Museum in 2003, which didn’t meet expectations. David was brought in to fix what was broken, and instead built a new vision, opening THEMUSEUM in 2010.

” We had the opportunity to be whatever we wanted to be, but we didn’t have a collection. So we realized […] we didn’t want to be pigeonholed, and we could be very quick to move to something that was topical of the day and so on. So, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, we called ourselves THEMUSEUM. One word uppercase without even the collection.”

With interactive art, an all ages MakerSpace, and audio experiences, THEMUSEUM isn’t interested in whispering corridors or pretension, but rather the hands on immersive experience of Arts. David tells me that there’s nothing comparable in North America right now, and I’m jealous, because I want one in Montreal.

Much like THEMUSEUM itself, The MakerSpace is a dynamic and organic creation; an idea and space that grew to fill the needs of the community, proving that despite the distractions of the digital age, necessity remains the mother of invention.

“We began creating it with younger people in mind, but very quickly, seniors came and said ‘hey, I want to know about 3D printing, […] and by the way, I can be a mentor and help volunteers show other people how to solder, or use the sewing machine’. And then we’d get the millennials who would show up with their doorknob, trying to put it together and they don’t know how to use a screwdriver, simple little things like that.”

The MakerSpace even hosts a beer night, an inadvertent reminder that intergenerational skill sharing is also a social interaction we’ve been neglecting for too long. You can learn an awful lot over a beer with the right company.

The future is in progress, and art — both how we do it, and view it — is evolving. All this makes it the perfect time for the inaugural Museums/Musées Canada Conference, and THEMUSEUM the perfect collaborator.

In the context of the conference, the umbrella term “museum” is a broad one, and rightly so. The conference will include leaders and workers from galleries, science and technology centers, aquariums, zoos, and traditional museums from across Canada. With an eye toward networking, honest dialogue, and learning from one another, the conference aims to reimagine the concept of such gatherings before they even discover what they can envision as a group.

This year’s AltCon, the Alternative Conference for Emerging Professionals, will be a part of the 2022 Museums/Musées Canada Conference. AltCon started four years ago as a way to bring together up-and-coming industry professionals who are all too often shut out of prohibitively expensive and intentionally exclusive conferences.

Part of The Rolling Stones UNZIPPED

THEMUSEUM is also hosting the only Canadian date for The Rolling Stones UNZIPPED, the first international exhibition by and about the band and their nearly six decades of rockin’n’rollin.

The timing provides an opportunity for the exhibit itself to become part of the conference, an ideal learning tool to explore how it was curated, and the intricacies that go into hosting a travelling, multi-media exhibition.

What happens after the conference, and what will it mean for the future of the industry? David wisely, and humbly doesn’t know.

“I’m trying to stop everybody else telling me the outcome. I don’t know it, and nobody should know it. […] As a white male of a certain age, I don’t want to be the head of whatever ends up if something more formal comes of this. I shouldn’t be the head of this, somebody else should be the head of this. I’m happy to be the catalyst, and use the Rolling Stones exhibition and AltCon to host this national dialogue, but if there is a board, if there is a new entity, it needs to reflect Canada and it shouldn’t be people that look like me.”

Expanding on that point, he says:

“If you put 10 people under 35 (and I’m just picking that number) to come up with programs for diversity, equity and inclusion, the output would be much different than if you put 10 people that look like me in a room and came up with that.”

Speculating on the future of art itself might be easier. When pandemic restrictions forced every industry and individual to reimagine how they do the things they once took for granted, and while the process has been disorienting, there are bright spots where the results have proven innovative.

(When asked about the MAC’s virtual Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything exhibit, David said he thought they did a marvelous job with terrific execution, and I felt unduly proud as a Montrealer who had nothing to do with it.)

THEMUSEUM also tried some new tricks, and maybe even surprised itself.

“We did drive thrus with dinosaurs, robotic dinosaurs back around Thanksgiving for three weeks, And we attracted, you know, pandemic stressed families in the safety of their cars, and we drove half of our annual attendance in three weeks. Why didn’t, we think of that? Why did we have to wait for pandemic to think of that?”

While he doesn’t want to lead whatever comes next, David does have some predictions: the future of art will be immersive, interactive, and yes, like it or not, Instagrammable.

“I think that with all respect to, you know, art that hangs on a wall and you know the traditional types of things that you would see in a museum and symphony and things like that. I think young people are gravitating and showing that you have to be emotional, you have to be Instagrammable.”

Whatever it becomes, I can’t wait to see it.

Featured Image: The Markerspace (part of THEMUSEUM)

Museums/Musées Canada Leadership Conference is January 16 & 17, 2022

AltCon is January 16 – 18, 2022

Travelling Exhibition Summit January 17 – 19, 2022

Rolling Stones Unzipped arrives at THEMUSEUM on November 30, tickets on sale now

Host Jason C. McLean is joined by Stephanie Laughlin and Jerry Gabriel of the Professors of Pop Podcast to talk about this year’s Academy Awards: predictions for the major categories, what the event might be like and controversies or lack thereof.

Follow Professors of Pop on Instagram @41productionsfilms

Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter @jasoncmclean

Osheaga and Île Soniq, two huge music festivals run by Evenko that have become summer staples, won’t happen in 2021 as planned. Instead, the 15th anniversary of Osheaga will take place July 29th-31st, 2022 and Île Soniq will happen August 5th and 6th, both at Parc Jean-Drapeau.

This is “due to an ever-evolving COVID-19 situation and our commitment to the safety and health of festival attendees,” according to organizers in social media posts announcing the postponement.

With hopes that the COVID-19 situation would improve and everything would be back to normal or at least semi-normal by late July, Evenko scheduled these events and even announced the Osheaga headliners late last year. Unfortunately, there is still much uncertainty over where we will be pandemic-wise by then, and festivals like this can’t be planned on short notice.

Osheaga founder and Evenko Senior Vice-President Nick Farkas explained in the same Facebook and Instagram posts sent out this morning:

“We’ve been working since last summer to try to deliver the full festival experience to fans. We are keenly aware of how important live music is to our fans and our city, and how much everyone misses it. We want to be back there in the midst of it too, but the truth is it takes several months to line up the various elements to create a festival, and with the current uncertainty, we don’t have that luxury. We remain hopeful that the situation will improve enough.”

– Nick Farkas

Evenko’s other summer events, such as Heavy Montreal, hadn’t already been scheduled for 2021. Those who purchased tickets for the 2020 or 2021 events can have those tickets honoured at the 2022 events or get a full refund.

Featured image from Osheaga 2018 by Joe McLean

This week, we may not have the nice temperatures we enjoyed last weekend, but we do have a virtual transdisciplinary exhibition, a live virtual concert and a movie about the making of the 2009 POP Montreal music festival.

Let’s get started:

Van Grimde Corps Secrets’ Virtual Exhibition Embodiment 2

Dance company Van Grimde Corps Secrets has been all about collaborating with other artists from different milieus since the early 2000s. Their latest project, a virtual exhibition called Embodiment 2, is no different.

In 2015, the group founded by Isabelle Van Grimde began sharing its research into the EVE 2050 triptych with other artists to foster collaboration and discussion. The result was the EVE 2050 web series.

Now, they have combined that series with Brad Necyk and Gary James Joynes’ film The Birth of the World to create this virtual exhibition.

Embodiment 2 is available as a virtual exhibition from April 8-May 8 on the Van Grimde Corps Secrets website

Sean Kosa Plays Ctrllab’s Esc Series

Ctrllab is an art gallery and performance space, though during the pandemic, the venue on St-Laurent has been functioning mainly as a media production company. This Saturday, they welcome back one of their favourite in-person guests for a virtual performance.

Electro Minimal Tech artist Sean Kosa has been part of the music scene since he was 14 in Toronto. Over the years, he moved to Montreal, then to Asia and now back home to our city where he has performed in various venues all across town.

Here’s some of Kosa’s music:

Ctrllab Esc Series 008 with Sean Kosa streams Saturday, April 17 at 7pm on Twitch, Facebook Live (on the Ctrllab page), Mixcloud and YouTube 360. This is a FREE performance

The POP Movie Now Streaming

In 2009, Andi Slate had just completed a feature film and decided to go back to basics. The filmmaker shot over 55 hours worth of footage of her POP Montreal colleagues putting on the festival as well as shows during said fest.

11 years and at least two projects later, Slate returned to that footage and put together The POP Movie, which first screened at the 2020 Edition of POP Montreal. Now, it’s available for all to stream!

The POP Movie by Andi State is now streaming for FREE on YouTube

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