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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)

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

The weather outside is spring-like, but we’re still under a curfew. Fret not as there is plenty of great arts and music to enjoy from home.

This week, it’s all music, though one entry is a film. Let’s get started:

Eve Egoyan in Duet for Solo Piano

When you see the name Egoyan and the word film appear in the same sentence (as they did in this post’s title), it’s only logical to assume that celebrated stage and screen director Atom Egoyan has a new flick. In this case, though, you’d be wrong, we’re talking about his sister Eve.

Eve Egoyan isn’t a filmmaker, rather she is recognized as one of the 25 greatest Canadian classical pianists of all time. And she is the subject of the documentary Duet for Solo Piano directed by Su Rynard currently playing (online, of course) as part of the 39th edition of the International Festival of Films on Art.

The film delves into the events that have shaped Eve and left a mark on who she is today. It sets out to offer “rare insight into the creative process and the complexity of developing new work that pushes the boundaries of art, instrument and self.”

Here is the trailer:

Duet for Solo Piano is available across Canada for online viewing until Sunday, March 28 as part of the 39th Edition of the International Festival of Films on Art. Get your tickets through LeFIFA.com

Titelaine Perform at Le Ministère Virtually

Indie Montreal’s Sunday virtual concert series from real venues, Les dimanches couvre-fun, continues. So far the likes of Elephant Stone, Millimetrik and The Liquor Store have performed at different venues around town and now, this week, Titelaine will perform at Le Ministère.

This Montreal duo offers nostalgic downtempo songs that you can dance to. Their scenography was specifically designed for this show and this venue.

While you wait, here is some of their music:

Titelaine perform at Le Ministère as part of Les dimanches couvre-fun, Sunday, March 28th, 8pm. Tickets available through LePointDeVente.com

Gayance Launches Fruta Gogoia

Montreal/Hatian DJ Gayance has spent the past few years opening for acts like Princess Nokia and Kaytranada, playing events such as POP Montreal and Osheaga and directing documentaries on the Piu Piu movement and the Montreal beat scene. She also had a winter arts residency in Salvador, Bahia (Brazil) for the past seven years.

She will be releasing her first EP Not Toning Down For Sh*T in the fall and the first track is a Bahia folk song called Fruta Gogoia. For Gayance, “it’s a mantra that calls women, especially Black women & queers, to take all the space they need to take without compromise.”

Fruta Gogoia will be available March 26th. You can pre-save or pre-add the track or check back tomorrow when we’ll update this post with it. In the meantime, enjoy some of Gayance’s DJ work:

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

We seem to be getting more live art and music (virtually, of course) as the weeks go by and the weather gets nicer. This week we’ve got a couple of live events and a band formed during the pandemic’s first single release.

Let’s get started:

BIG BANG & The Aussenwelt Collective Stream Virtual Nuit Blanche Performances as Part of Art Souterrain

This Saturday night is Nuit Blanche, the showcase event of the annual Montréal en lumière Festival. Unlike every other year, though, the Metro won’t be open all night, museums and galleries won’t be receiving throngs of people in the wee hours of the morning and crowds of people won’t be packing the Quartier des Spectacles to enjoy tir sur glace or a ride on the winter Ferris wheel…because of, well, the cufrew.

Nuit Blanche will still be happening virtually and one of its most popular attractions is back: Art Souterrain. The installation part, featuring art in Montreal’s underground city, will still be happening as of April 10th, but tomorrow night, they will be streaming performances from the Aussenwelt Collective and Stéphanie Décourteille’s BIG BANG dance formation live.

Violet Hébert and Joseph Blais will provide the musical accompanyment for these three performances. Here’s a promo video to give you an idea of what it might look like:

Art Souterrain, the Aussenwelt Collective and BIG BANG will stream an evening of multidisciplinary performances Saturday, March 13, beginning at 8pm, on the Art Souterrain YouTube Channel

The Liquor Store Play Cabaret Lion d’Or Virtually

If you thought to yourself “Wouldn’t it be nice to catch a Big Band playing Cabaret Lion d’Or again?” well, this Sunday you can, virtually, of course.

The Big Band in question is The Liquor Store and they will be performing at the aforementioned very stylish venue on Ontario East as part of Indie Montreal’s Les dimanches couvre-fun series. It’s a chance to catch not only the music part of going to a show, but the venue part as well, without leaving home or watching an old video.

Speaking of an old video, for now, here is the same band playing in a different venue before all the lockdowns:

Indie Montreal presents The Liquor Store Live from Cabaret Lion d’Or as part of Les dimanches couvre-fun, Sunday, March 14th at 8pm. Tickets available through ThePointOfSale.com

Scarlet Wives Debut Single Dream Funeral

When two musicians have their tour plans scrapped due to a pandemic and then have their rhythm guitarist and drummer drop out, they could just sit at home and wait or form a new band with a new drummer and write and record music. Alice (vocals, guitar) and Mike (bass) chose the latter when they formed Scarlet Wives with Zenab (drums).

They also joined up with three other musicians and sound engineers to form Lack Haüs records. Scarlet Wives’ first single is also the label’s first. Called Dream Funeral, it was released March 5th and the next one is due out in April.

They describe the song as “a heavy-hitting dose of fairy grunge” but you really should just give it a listen at one of the links below or check out this teaser video (*** WARNING: Video may trigger seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy):

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Scarlet Wives (@scarletwives)

Scarlet Wives’ first track Dream Funeral is available on (and subsequent tracks will be available on) Amazon Music, Bandcamp and most major platforms

Featured Image: Scarlet Wives

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

February is almost over, nicer spring-like temperature is around the corner and a vaccine is on its way, and with it, the possibility we all may be able to be out past 8pm once again. For now, though, there is plenty of Montreal arts and music we can enjoy online.

Let’s get started:

Black History Month Wraps Up

February is also Black History Month and in Montreal that always means plenty of music, film and other artistic performances as well as conferences and panel discussions. The 30th official edition hasn’t let the pandemic slow it down by going virtual and surely won’t be slowing down in its closing weekend.

There is a Nuits d’Afrique concert tonight, there’s a Black Utopia panel discussion tomorrow courtesy of the Massimadi Afro LGBTQ+ Film and Arts Festival and much more.

For details and schedule, please visit MoisHistoireDesNoirs.com

Wake Island Release Nouvelle Vague

Wake Island, the duo composed of producers Philippe Manasseh and Nadim Maghzal, are no strangers to Montreal music fans, ditto for those in New York and Beirut. They offer an “80/90’s electronic esthetic with melodies drawing from their Middle Eastern roots.”

With Nouvelle Vague, the latest single from their album Born to Leave, they are doing something so very Montreal. They are releasing the French version today and plan to release an English version in exactly one month, March 26th.

Here is the tune in French:

Firas Nassiri Releases Music Video for Taksim Featuring Christina Enigma

Montreal electro music fans may know Firas Nassri from the the 2020 GAMIQ ectro EP of the Year winners Beige-à-Coeur. Last January, he released his first solo album La Levantine.

With it, he hopes to “explore the bridges between electronic music and his oriental influences” in a style heavily influenced by his Syrian origins.

Nassiri’s latest single, released today along with a music video, is called Taksim. The lyrics are taken directly from the poem On Death by Lebanese-American poet Kahlil Gibran and recited by Canadian vocalist Christina Enigma.

Here is the video:

Featured Image of Firas Nassiri and Christina Enigma courtesy of Indie Montreal

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

No promises but we’ll do our best

Jason C. McLean and Special Guest Dawn McSweeney go through the week’s big news stories:

Quebec Premier François Legault injects himself into the campus “free speech” debate and considers restricting English school enrollment.

What Montreal events and festivals will go online in 2021 and which will happen in person?

Ted Cruz leaves Texas freezing.

Justin Trudeau’s new gun control measures.

Dawn Mc Sweeney is an author and FTB contributor, follow her on Twitter @mcmoxy

Jason C. McLean is the Editor-in-Chief of ForgetTheBox.net, follow him on Twitter @jasoncmclean

Since both of this week’s entries relate, either directly or indirectly, to Nuit Blanche, it’s probably a good idea to start by briefly explaining what Nuit Blance is, for those who don’t know.

In a nutshell, one night a year, most museums and galleries, some other businesses and the Montreal Metro stay open all night. There are parties, events in Quartier des Spectacles and the Old Port and even the Biodome gets involved.

This year, it’s not possible for most people to be out of their homes after 8pm due to the curfew, let alone on the metro at 3am, but some of the key Nuit Blanche events have found their way online.

Let’s get started:

Art Souterrain Festival is Back Online and in Physical Space

Every year, the Art Souterrain Festival is the highlight of many Montrealers’ Nuit Blanche. This event normally sees several artists fill Montreal’s Underground City with installations and perform live art shows.

This year, of course, will be different. Roughly 30 artists will take part in the festival’s two parts:

From tomorrow (Friday) until April 30th, you can take in free online activities such as recordings of performances, podcasts, round table discussions and artist portraits (with quite a few of them happening next Saturday, aka Nuit Blanche 2021). Then, from April 10th to 30th, the regular public installation part of the festival will take over the Underground City.

The 13th Edition of Art Souterrain begins online Friday, February 19th on the Art Souterrain website

Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything from the MAC is Now Online

Speaking of Nuit Blanche, Back in 2017, that’s when we covered (and very much enjoyed) the Leonard Cohen exhibit A Crack in Everything at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC). It was an immersive and impressive multimedia experience and a fitting local tribute to our legend who had passed away the year before.

Now, while the MAC is open once again to the general public for in-person visits, they have decided to bring back the Cohen exhibit for anyone (in Canada, that is) at any time with a free virtual version of it. It obviously won’t be the same as exploring the exhibit in person, but given the amount of recorded video and audio content in it, it should transition well to this format.

Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything Virtual Exhibit is available online for free until February 22, 2024. You can explore it on the MAC website