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):

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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

This week we’ve got a film and arts festival dedicated to LGBTQ+ works that highlight members of Black communities, a music video premier from a local alternative folk rock group and a Valentine’s market from the people behind POP Montreal.

Let’s get started:

The Massimadi Afro LGBTQ+ Film and Arts Festival

We’re in the middle of Black History Month and the Massimadi Afro LGBTQ+ Film and Arts Festival is set to return for its 13th edition. This year, the theme is, appropriately, Resistance.

With all that is going on south of the border and around the world, resisting is key. The festival also plans to resist any negative effects COVID might have on their ability to reach audiences by making the entire event free and online.

With seven feature films 23 short films and representation from nine countries, the conversation is sure to continue. There will also be found tables, a comedy show and even speed dating.

The 13th Edition of the Massimadi Afro LGBTQ+ Film and Arts Festival runs February 12 – March 12. For the complete schedule and more info, please visit massimadi.ca

Aquarius Dreams Release Music Video for Flora’s Earthtones

Montreal-based alternative folk rock group Aquarius Dreams released their lastest EP Flora’s Earthtones way back in pre-COVID 2019. While they are planning to go on a “reformative hiatus” and then re-emerge when the pandemic is done, they are first releasing a video for the EP’s titular track this weekend.

Directed by Callum Sheedy, the video “alludes to the degradation of the relationship between humanity and nature, the dance between moral volition and action.” Part of it is also clearly shot on Mount Royal, which always leads to some spectacular visuals.

Puces POP is Back Online for Valentine’s Day

The annual POP Montreal music festival is all set for an in-person edition this fall, but while the curfew and other COVID restrictions are still in effect, their popular Puces POP market has reinvented itself, just in time for Valentine’s Day. They have an online catalogue available until March 1st.

You can buy products from over 70 local artisans. We’re talking body products, clothing, jewelry and much more.

You can find it all at PucesPop.com

Featured Image: Screenshot from Flora’s Earthtones by Aquarius Dreams

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

Mylène Chicoine is no stranger to horror. She founded Festival de la Bête Noire as a way to share what helps her to de-stress.

While some turn to comedy and laughter, for Chicoine and those like her, it’s horror and horror-themed art that allow them a form of catharsis, freeing themselves from their demons by confronting them head on.

Festival de la Bête Noire is a horror theatre festival that normally has hosted shows that audiences take in on site and in-person since 2018. But the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a great toll on the arts.

Theaters are closed, and gatherings that would allow for live shows are banned for now. For those needing to keep art and culture alive, the pandemic and the ensuing public health measures have presented a lot of challenges and the name of the game has been adapt or die.

Festival de la Bête Noire has decided to go online this year and I spoke with Mylène Chicoine about what that means.

“We’re not doing in it an actual physical space,” she said. “It’s a multimedia online event from people’s living rooms. We’ve removed the physical aspect completely.”

In order to keep the authenticity of live theater consistent with the spirit of past festivals, Chicoine and her team decided to have as little postproduction as possible, meaning that recorded shows should try to minimize editing and video effects after recording.

“We are NOT a movie festival, we are a THEATRE festival. We still want to see theatre, and performance, and live art even though it’s technically not live.”

When asked about the response to the change in format this year, she said most of the responses have been extremely positive, admitting that Bête Noire almost didn’t happen this year due to the pandemic. The festival happened because of the outpouring of support from the theatre community and its fans.

“We had a lot of demand from the community: Are we doing it this year? Are we doing it? Is it going to happen? We need it. The biggest motivation for the team was the community wants it so we’re going to give it to them.”

Festival de la Bête Noire has 16 shows this year. Two of the shows are mixed shows featuring separate performances within a single show.

The virtual festival has a few alumni, including the The Malicious Basement, Quagmire Productions, and Marissa Blair. In the name of transparency, I myself am acting and handling design for Quagmire’s Poe in the Snow.

Chicoine says that festival alumni were given an extra week to apply knowing that they are faithful participants who have provided good content in the past.

“We like to have repeat performers because it gives them a name and a platform that they need.”

The virtual format has not been without its challenges. Many artists expressed concerns about the ban on post-production, claiming that the festival was trying to restrict their art.

“We don’t want to restrict their art, we want to restrict their technology, that’s the big difference. If you’re in a venue, you’re not using a green screen, you wouldn’t use one in your living room either. We don’t want to make it look like a movie, but of course we’ve had to be a bit more flexible, especially with the new lockdown.”

Chicoine says the festival’s limits on technology this year were among some of the biggest challenges for performers. It forced performers to stretch their creative muscles and think outside the box.

Other challenges for the Festival de la Bête Noire were unfortunate realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. People involved with the companies and performers or their loved ones were exposed to the virus and either got sick and/or were forced to self-isolate. The pandemic itself resulted in some theatre companies dropping out of the festival entirely.

“We understand completely that these things are going to happen and we have had production meetings with every company that has required one to formulate a different kind of plan, whether it’s an extension, being more flexible on technology, but unfortunately we did lose a couple of companies to COVID.”

Most of the companies that dropped out were outside of Montreal and could not participate due to the pandemic, while some participants even got sick and died. It has been really upsetting for everyone involved with Bête Noire, but Chicoine and her team anticipated this happening.

Festival de la Bête Noire 2021 is fulfilling its mandate by giving artists and performers a platform to explore the horror genre by performing, creating and watching, and being a part of something, bringing people together in a socially distant way.

When I asked Chicoine if there were any advantages to going virtual, she pointed to fact that it allowed for more international entries, speaking of participating companies in the US and as far away as Japan. Chicoine mentioned The Peony Lantern by The Yokohama Group, a multimedia performance that takes place in the World Peace Theatre in Kawasaki, Japan.

Given the unpredictability of the pandemic, Mylène Chicoine is preparing for disaster, but it has not dampened her excitement for the shows on offer this year. When asked if there were any shows she was particularly excited about, she mentioned Pento by Mad Paradox, a show about mental health issues.

As for the technicalities regarding the accessing the shows, Chicoine and her team demurred from using sites like YouTube and TikTok because they’re too restrictive. In order to avoid the censorship that comes with those sites, all ticket holders will be sent a Google Drive link to their show which gives them one week to watch it at their convenience. Viewers don’t need a Gmail account to access the link.

Festival de la Bête Noire is running virtually from February 17, 2021 to March 15, 2021. For more info check out LaBeteNoirFest.com

Igloofest, literally Montreal’s coolest festival (temperature-wise) is back this winter, running every Saturday from February 13th to March 13th. They just announced a partial lineup, and it promises to still be a huge dance party.

Of course, Montreal is still very much in the COVID Red Zone and there’s a very real chance Quebec’s 8pm to 5am curfew will be extended beyond February 10th. So this year, the festival will be streaming on Facebook, Twitch and YouTube, meaning the party will be at home for festivalgoers.

The performers, though, will be all across the city, at iconic spots that we will hopefully all be able to visit again in person soon. So far:

  • CRi, Jesse Mac Cormack and Sophia Bel will kick things off February 13th at La Ronde
  • Jacques Greene will be in the Old Port February 20th
  • Young rapper Lou Phelps will be part of a lineup at the Stewart Museum on February 27th
  • March 6th will see Mistress Barbara on the roof of Videotron headquarters
  • On March 13th, the S.A.T. will host a noon to midnight marathon with various artists

The rest of these lineups will, of course, be announced soon. The 15th anniversary of the fest, though, has been pushed to 2022, when we can all, once again, party together in person.

As for keeping it cool, or cold, well, organizers do suggest your backyard or balcony. If you don’t have one of those, though, you could always open a window, but you might want to check with your roommates first.

Featured image from Igloofest 2012 by Chris Zacchia

Igloofest 2021 runs February 13 – March 13. For details and the full lineup (when it is available), check out igloofest.ca

While our Shows This Week column, both for music and arts, is clearly on hiatus until we can, you know, go to shows again, we thought we’d highlight some of the Montreal and Montreal-friendly music, art, theatre, comedy, film etc. that you can partake in.

Let’s get started…

The image + nation Launches Canada’s First-Ever Queer Short Film Festival

image + nation, Canada’s first LGBTQ+ film festival just concluded its 33rd edition, albeit in a totally online form. While you can still see the films that won awards at the festival until December 12th, image+nation has something else to offer.

From December 9th until the 31st they are running the first-ever pan-Canadian Queer Short Film Festival. This new event is focusing on a few key areas including growing up and growing older as an LGBTQ person, films from countries and perspectives that see little representation in the queer cinema canon and outreach to Francophone communities outside of Quebec.

I+N Courts Queer Short Film Fest runs December 9-31. The full program is available in an online catalogue and you can watch the short films until the end of 2020

Wooden Drone’s Never Ending Loops

Montrealer Emmanuel Lauzon, aka electronic music producer Wooden Drone released his debut album this past November 14th. Titled Never Ending Loops, it is a 14-tracks of electronic ambient music meticulously produced over a decade.

That’s right, this is the product of ten years’ worth of work. During that time, Lauzon was also developing the video game We Happy Few as a senior 3D artist. Both projects were released simultaneously.

Wooden Drone will be releasing a single in the new year, but for now (in addition to the full album) we have this teaser video:

Never Ending Loops by Wooden Drone is available for download on Bandcamp

Igloofest Will Return and Has An Online Shop for a Good Cause

Igloofest, the annual outdoor-in-winter music fest has the distinction of being literally the coolest festival in Montreal, but also, due to its timing, one of the few big annual events that actually got to hold an in-person 2020 edition.

This year, with a COVID vaccine’s potential widespread distribution still months away, there won’t be an in-person Igloofest this winter. Organizers are working on a digital version in its place and promise surprises and video capsules starting in January and leading up to the 15th edition scheduled for 2022.

Right now, though, you can buy festival merch. Their online shop, the Iglooboutique, launched this past Thursday, offers items like the classic toque sold at the event each year, hockey jerseys and socks.

If you buy a pair of socks, another pair will be donated to people suffering from homelessness. This is due to Igloofest‘s partnership with Montreal-based Robin des Bas.

You can find updates on the online festival at igloofest.ca and shop at boutique.igloofest.ca

Featured Image from Mother Bunker (2020) playing at the I+N Queer Short Film Festival

If you’re involved in a project or know of one that you think should get coverage here, please let us know at arts@forgetthebox.net or music@forgetthebox.net We’ll do our best, but no promises

In what has got to be their earliest partial lineup announcement ever, or at least in a while, Osheaga has given us the headliners for its 15th Edition. It will be Foo Fighters on Friday, Cardi B on Saturday and Post Malone on Sunday.

The event is scheduled to take place July 30, 31 and August 1 in Parc Jean-Drapeau, so it might still be a bit of time before we get the full lineup. Those are usually released in March, anyways.

This early announcement, while sparse, is quite welcome. After a summer devoid of in-person festivals and a spring and fall devoid of live in-person shows of any kind, it’s good to know that what is arguably Montreal’s largest music festival will be roaring back next year, and with some huge names, no less.

It’s also a reminder that while Montreal is pretty much locked down now, there are some things on the horizon like a vaccine, a return to semi-normal and, by the end of the summer, Osheaga.

If you are a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race, then Just for Laughs had show for you! As part of the Just for Laughs 2020 free virtual festival, they presented Canada’s Drag Race panel, a Crave original, moderated by Sabrina Jalees.

In the wake of the finale of Canada’s Drag Race, the Canadian version of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the panel consisted of the four finalists, Rita Baga, Jimbo, Scarlett Bobo, and the winner, Priyanka. Also on the panel was Canada’s Drag Race judge, Stacey McKenzie, who was streaming from her home in Jamaica.

I love Canada’s Drag Race and I saw every single episode. It’s one of the many shows that has helped keep me sane through the stay at home recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic. That said, this panel did not disappoint, and I was riveted from start to finish.

The show was moderated by stand-up comedian, producer, and host Sabrina Jalees, who was a guest judge on Canada’s Drag Race. She was a competent moderator who clearly has a lot of affection for the queens.

The queens, for their part, did not disappoint. They appeared on screen in full drag.

Montreal’s Rita Baga was resplendent in a red wig, sharp nails, and a pleather outfit reminiscent of a vampy superhero. Jimbo wore a black wig and enormous fake boobs — which he routinely played with during the show — and had makeup more elegant and beautiful than I had ever seen on him during Canada’s Drag Race.

Scarlett Bobo was dressed in a lovely dress made up of black straps, with hair and makeup reminiscent of glam rockers like Debbie Harry and Courtney Love. Priyanka was in full glam makeup and hair, with a leopard print outfit.

While Baga and Jimbo were perfectly poised throughout the show, Priyanka and Scarlett Bobo’s excitement and enthusiasm were infectious.

The panel discussed everything from the popularity of Canada’s Drag Race, to individual challenges both on and off the show, to how everyone’s lives have changed since the show ended. There was some cattiness, mostly from Priyanka, who, despite winning the show, regularly interrupted people to scream and throw shade.

In spite of this, you can tell there is genuine affection between the queens and Stacey McKenzie, who shied away from being brutally honest about some of the queens’ poorer performances.

One of the highlights of the panel was Stacie McKenzie’s impression of the late fortune teller Ms. Cleo, an impression which Priyanka bombed during the show’s Snatch Game.

If the show had one flaw, it’s that there were moments where Jalees or McKenzie disappeared, and you could not tell if they were still in the panel participating. My guess is this was due to a tech issue.

If you’re a fan of Canada’s Drag Race, you would have loved this show. It had all the glitz, glam, lipstick, and witty repartee one would expect from a panel of drag queens. Here’s hoping Just for Laughs does this again.

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge effect on the arts. The Montreal Fringe Festival was postponed, the Jazz Festival was cancelled, and theatre productions everywhere have been put on hold. The name of the game seems to be “Adapt or Die,” and while Just for Laughs could not have in-person shows, they had something else to offer in its stead.

The 2020 Just for Laughs Festival was a scaled down digital event that took place from October 9 to 11, 2020. While there were fewer offerings, the shows streamed free of charge on the Just for Laughs website, and were available until midnight the day after the performances. Among the offerings was Conversations with Funny People featuring Amber Ruffin and Jenny Hagel.

For those of you unfamiliar with the pair, Amber Ruffin is a comedian and writer for Late Night with Seth Meyers. She also has a new eponymous show on NBC’s free streaming service, Peacock. Jenny Hagel is also a comedian and writer for Late Night with Seth Meyers, and she is the executive producer and head writer for The Amber Ruffin Show.

This show was not for everyone. If you were expecting straight-up comedy, you will have been disappointed. There were laughs, as the show was unscripted and the chemistry and shared past between Hagel and Ruffin was adorable.

However, if you’re not a fan of Hagel or Ruffin, the show was not for you. The talk focused the technicalities of performance, of writing, of comedy, and of the general creative process.

While I am a huge fan of both Jenny Hagel and Amber Ruffin and I did laugh myself silly on a few occasions, I generally felt the show in its format needed tweaking. I am interested in performance, writing, and the creative process and I love comedy, but I felt the show dragged a bit about two-thirds of the way in.

Perhaps this format of show works better in person, but watching in the comfort of my own home, I felt it would have been better had the show packed a bit more punch — a few more clips of past shows they could tease other about, or even an exchange of embarrassing stories just to keep up the enthusiasm when another show is just a click away.

Conversations with Funny People with Amber Ruffin and Jenny Hagel had a lot of potential, but I feel the format needs more fine tuning for a digital audience. It’s a decent start, but it could have been a lot better.

Standup comedy is an art form that particularly relies on live audience interaction. Comics frequently tour the world and perform in front of as many crowds as possible. That’s exactly what DeAnne Smith was doing until COVID-19 hit.

“I had just moved to LA in January,” Smith told me in a phone interview, “and spent the first few months travelling back and forth to Canada and around the US as per usual. Luckily I had already decided I wouldn’t go back to Australia this year in 2020 and that is part of my usual routine as well.

Everything halted for me in March and my whole touring calendar just got completely cleared out. I’ve been stationary in LA since March, which is truly the first time in about 14 years of doing comedy that I’ve been in the same place for so long. So it’s really different.”

After a few months of appearing in other comedians’ remote shows, Smith decided to try something new: hosting a monthly comedy shows on Zoom. It’s called DeAnne Smith and Acquaintances and you can access it through Smith’s Instagram or Twitter (which are also worth following in general).

“It’s at least a way to feel connected to people,” Smith said, “and to feel a little bit of a sense of community like it would have been if we were all in person.”

While still missing the large in-person group experience, Smith is able to re-create the live show feeling somewhat by performing to a visible audience that have the option of unmuting themselves and laughing and interacting for all to hear.

“In some ways it’s more intimate because I’m literally seeing people’s names on the screen and their faces and they’re all very well lit up,” Smith observed, “in a comedy room a lot of times you can see the first one or two rows and that’s it, but you don’t know people’s name or see their living room or their cat. I’m trying to focus on the ways in which online performances can be more intimate and more interesting than the live performances we’re all used to.”

At Just for Laughs this year, Smith will be part of a different type of live online performance with Hannah Gadsby. The pair will appear as part of the festival’s Conversations with Funny People series.

While they were initially offered a moderator, the two comics who have been friends for well over a decade (Gadsby even sublets her place in LA to Smith when she’s in Australia) opted for a different approach to the show.

Smith gave me the scoop:

“I had this goofy idea that I’m really surprised she went for. I have these little cards that I picked up at a sex shop once and they’re called Speed Dating Questions and they’re just like little get-to-know-you questions. We’ve been friends for so long and there’s still a lot of stuff we don’t know about each other, so we’re going to be reading these goofy speed-dating questions back and forth and answering them for each other.

I think it will be a really fun thing for us to do as friends and she has such a huge fanbase that I don’t think has probably seen her in this way before, so I think it will be really interesting for people.”

Smith lived in Montreal before moving to LA and hasn’t ruled out returning for more than a JFL visit:

“There is a chance I might come and live there. Everything is very uncertain at the moment, so I don’t really know where I’m going to land.

What I miss about Montreal is really hard to articulate. There’s a special quality to the city…Let me try and explain it through an anecdote:

When I lived in Montreal, I had these two friends who knew each other through me and they had known each other for at least five years. They had Thanksgiving dinners together. I mean they knew each other. About five years into them knowing each other, one of them flipped and said something about their career and the other one said ‘Oh, I never knew what you did!’

And I thought that is so special that in Montreal, it’s just not so career driven. It’s focused on everything else. These people who had known each other for five years never once started a conversation with ‘What do you do?'”

Conversations with Funny People Featuring Hannah Gadsby and DeAnne Smith streams live on Saturday, October 10th at 10pm for FREE and will be available through Video on Demand through October 11th at midnight