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

Get your recommended dose of laughter with bonus Canadian Content!

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

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

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

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

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

Book people love brunch and a spot of tea…

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

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

media

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

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

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

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

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

Featured Image of Paul Rabliauskas courtesy of Just for Laughs

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

No promises but we’ll do our best

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

Basquiat’s Back with Music

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a sample:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No promises but we’ll do our best

The snow is back, and so is Shows This Week! That’s coincidence and not causality, please don’t @ us about the weather (unless you’ve got great pics of something cool).

Montreal’s never let a little weather get in the way of our perpetual festival season, and this week’s no different!

We’ve got a film fest, an international conference (with concerts!) a skatepark party, and a Saturday night punk show.

image+nation35 Starts Tonight

Dedicated to diverse lived experiences with perspectives that respond and contribute to wider conversations around cultural, sexual, and gender identit(ies), image+nation Canada’s first LGBT2SQ+ film festival and pioneering platform of queer stories is marking an impressive milestone, celebrating its 35th anniversary edition this month.

November 17 through 27, image+nation35 will be showcasing both in-cinema (Cinéma Impérial, Cinéma Moderne, De Sève Cinema, PHI Centre) and virtual screenings, bringing audiences the best in contemporary queer cinema. This year’s festival offers over 40 narrative and documentary features, 13 short film programs from 28 countries, and two sections highlighting LGBT2SQ+ cinema specifically from Ukraine and Iran.

The festival is also proud to bring Voix autochtones / Indigiqueer to the people, and perennials including Queerment Québec, and Made au Canada.

The Canada Media Fund returns as Festival Presenting Partner, and will act as presenting collaborator of the inaugural I+N@PHI x FMC/CMF SERIES.

image+nation35 runs November 17-27. Tickets and full schedule available through image-nation.org

M for Montreal’s M Pour Marathon

This is the 17th edition of M For Montreal, and unless you’re an indie artist or industry type, you’ve probably never heard of it. It’s a showcase and international conference that puts musicians and proverbial suits from both the local and international scene in the same place at the same time. It’s a big deal, and it’s sweet to imagine how stoked the performers are for this opportunity.  

While networking and showcases are still reserved for music industry pros, conferences will be open to the public, as well as the new concert component, M Pour Marathon

You can buy tickets per concert, but if you’re looking to do it up, get yourself a “Mélomane” pass for $100 which gets you into all the M Pour Marathon concerts, the conferences, workshops, and showcases (according to availability; priority will be given to Pro Pass holders).

Part of M Pour Marathon (but with a different vibe) is the Show Frette. Billed as the last outdoor party of the year, it’s totally free!

With support from the borough of Plateau-Mont-Royal, the party has a pretty cool location: the Van Horne Skatepark, under Viaduc Van Horne (5855 St. Laurent, to be technical).

Here’s who’s bringing what to the party:

Quebecois artist Virginie B is bringing a funky danceable beat paired with her dreamy, sultry voice.

From Little Saskatchewan First Nation, located in the heart of the Interlake of Manitoba, Leonard Sumner is bringing his unique mix of country, folk and hip hop.

Montrealer Lydia Képinski released her sophomore album Depuis this year, and was longlisted for the Polaris Music Prize. She’s bringing pop goodness that’ll get stuck in your head.

Jesse Mac Cormack also put out his second album this year, and while there are a few songs you can dance to, the lyrics are filled with longing and hindsight. He’s bringing those open heart vibes, and you might wanna kiss someone.

Barry Paquin Roberge is a band, not a dude, and they’re bringing disco back. You’ll be jelly of the flashy outfits, and your toes will be tapping. For all intents and purposes, they’re bringing the party game you rolled your eyes at and then loved.

Kiwi Jr. have a wonderful Spotify write-up, including the line: “Turning nocturnal with necks mock turtle, Kiwi Jr. takes neon flight off the digital cliff — like the Monkees starring in Blade Runner”, which is exactly what I was going to say, but they got there first. 

Of course Montrealers don’t party without a nosh (and a drink), so there will be food, booze, and a warming tent.

Fugazzi Pizza, ramen from Tsukuyomi, AliceÔChoux for your sweet tooth, Quebec spirits from Fou Gin, beer from Shawinigan’s Trou du Diable and a variety of ready-to-drink products from Oshlag.

The 17th edition of M for Montreal runs November 17-19, tickets and info available through MPourMontreal.com

Old School Punk @ MTELUS

Presented by ’77 & 123 PUNK, Anti-Flag‘s punking up the place along with Canadian punkers and Granby natives Vulgaires Machins. Combined, the bands have over 50 years on the scene, so you’ll know the sound even if you can’t quite name a song. If you need a place to mosh, lace ’em up and get your tickets

Anti-Flag & Vulgaires Machines play MTELUS, 59 Ste-Catherine Est, Saturday, November 19, 7pm. Tickets available through MTELUS

Featured Image from Amazones d’Hier, Lesbiennes d’Aujourd’hui. 40 ans plus tard (2022) by Dominique Bourque, Julie Vaillancourt, Johanne Coulombe, courtesy of image+nation

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 Dawn McSweeney welcome Special Guest Holly Rhiannon and discuss all things Halloween: the paranormal and the commercial, for the kids or for everyone, how to celebrate in Montreal and more! Plus we’re in costumes.

Follow Holly Rhiannon @stygianpen on most social platforms and on YouTube @Haunted Montreal | Montréal Hanté & @Holly Rhiannon (writer channel)

Follow Dawn McSweeney @mcmoxy on Twitter and Instagram

Follow Jason C. McLean @jasoncmclean on Twitter and Instagram

I should say right off the bat that when it comes to portrayals of The Rocky Horror Show, I have extremely high standards. I’ve been a devotee of Montreal’s Rocky Horror tradition since I was first allowed into screenings of the film adaptation, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, at sixteen.

I attended the Halloween Ball at the Imperial, the Medley, and The Rialto until disability and a few bad experiences since they permitted the sale of alcohol at the ball. I switched to the annual musical show at the MainLine Theatre.

I know every single callback, am quick to come up with original heckles, and even had the soundtrack to the original London stage musical on CD until time destroyed it.

That said, in the spirit of fairness, this review of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show will be split into two parts: the first will be for people who have never experienced it and want to know what to expect, the second will be for the massive cult of Rocky Horror fans with specific expectations.

For Rocky Virgins

If you love camp, don’t hate musicals, and are a fan of fluid portrayals of gender and sexuality, Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show is for you. Dr. Frank n’ Furter, played Stephanie McKenna, is your sassy highly sexed mad scientist, who has been in the role for years and plays the part well. Aly Slominsky as Janet is the textbook prissy virgin all but begging to be initiated sexually by a skilled partner, and Cat Preston nails the sultry maid, Magenta. Craig Dalley as Eddie is every bit as sexy as a leather vest and jeans wearing biker can be, though when he plays Dr Scott, his German accent falters on occasion.

Do not expect anything remarkable or understandable about the plot, that’s the nature of the play: more style than substance, so allow yourself to shut your brain off and enjoy it. If you can’t, this might not be the show for you.

If you appreciate good music, then stick around, the band and musical direction, by Émilie Versailles and Katharine Paradis do an amazing job bringing Richard O’Brien’s timeless catchy tunes to life. If you love to heckle, you’ll love this show, as heckling is encouraged, but do not throw anything on stage or you will be ejected.

Though the actors’ mics were glitchy, and drunken rowdy audience members – most likely planning to go to the postponed Halloween Ball – often attempted to derail the performance, the cast took it all with grace.

If you want diversity in your shows, you will be happy to know that the cast includes people of all different sizes and genders, but those preferring visible diversity will be gravely disappointed, with this reviewer noting only one actress of colour among the entire cast, and they were not in a major role. Whether this will change in future runs remains to be seen.

If you’re a little curious and looking for the fun and escapism director Amy Blackmore promised, check out Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show at MainLine. It’s adult Halloween entertainment at its finest.

For Rocky Horror Devotees

This year’s show is a remount of MainLine’s Theatre’s last run in 2019 before COVID-19 health restrictions and that needs to be taken into account when watching it. They didn’t bother holding auditions this year, asking much of the previous cast to come back and sadly production quality suffered for it.

Zachary Sykes played Brad far too manly, giving us not the dorky sexually confused Brad we all expect, but your stereotypical cis man. His singing was fine, but his portrayal desperately needed hamming up.

Stephanie McKenna’s Frank n’ Furter was excellent as always, but I was hoping she would sex it up a little more than she has in the past, though the physicality she brings to the part is always breathtaking.

Megan Vera Starling’s Riff Raff is fine but the moment the actress breaks into song, she also breaks character, turning from the creepy Igor-inspired butler to sultry diva and it is completely inappropriate for the role.

Columbia, played by Genevieve Pertugia, tap danced well and had all the cuteness her part required, but she seemed to lose her voice on several occasions and might have been better rapping her lyrics instead of singing them.

This year’s Rocky, played by Vin Barbisan is, as Amy Blackmore promised, a completely different take on the character in terms of gender, which is good. However, Rocky is the one character in the show that has clear physical requirements, and Barbisan was clearly struggling through the three pushups they did on stage. Future casting choices should be able to do press-ups well and with confidence or be encouraged to train until they can.

Sarah Kulaga-Yoscovitz was excellent as the Usherette, as was Aly Slominsky’s Janet, Cat Preston’s Magenta, Kenny Streule’s narrator, and Craig Dalley’s Eddie, though his Dr. Scott could use a bit more silliness.

The real stars of the show for me were the band, the choreographer, the floor show dancers, and whoever was responsible for making Riff Raff’s weapon at the end. As an occasional prop designer, I marveled at the beauty of it, a far cry from the recycled plastic pitchfork Richard O’Brien’s Riff Raff wields in the movie.

This year’s The Rocky Horror Show at MainLine wasn’t a bad show, but die-hard fans will find it lacking. It satisfied my need for a Rocky Horror fix, but just barely.

The show is starved for new blood, better casting, and more ethnic diversity. Here’s hoping next year’s is better.

When it comes to Halloween for adults in Montreal, there is no tradition more sacred than Rocky Horror. For over twenty years, the city has featured two ways to get one’s Rocky Horror fix every October: The Halloween Ball at the Imperial, and Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show at the Mainline Theatre.

The Halloween Ball usually featured a costume contest, followed by an interactive screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show with actors pantomiming on stage at the same time. The Rocky Horror Show at the Mainline is quite a different beast, with actors acting, singing, and dancing the musical play that lead to the movie.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2019 and both events were cancelled, with the Mainline’s show going on hiatus for nearly three years. The organizers of the Halloween Ball tried to make up for public health measures with an online screening, but their charging full price admission kept people away.

Though public health restrictions have mostly been lifted, the Halloween Ball has been postponed until September 2023, so people will have to go to the show at the Mainline to get their Rocky Horror fix. Regarding demand, the ticket sales are proof enough, for the Mainline run sold out before its premier on October 20, 2022.

I’ve been a Rocky Horror devotee since my mid-teens. For me, a social outcast, the events signified freedom from alienation where no matter how you presented yourself the cast and crowd were there to welcome you.

For the director of Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show at Mainline, Amy Blackmore, Rocky Horror represents home, nostalgia, and escapism:

“I think folks love that when you walk in and sit down you can forget everything else…I think that in our case we have fun with it, it’s campy, and above all, it’s the callbacks.”

For those who have never seen the show or attended the Halloween Ball aka “Rocky Virgins”, the callbacks are heckles in response to the actors. While throwing things is not permitted at the Mainline show, audiences are encouraged to use common callbacks you can find easily online, or invent your own. Blackmore encourages fans of the Halloween Ball and movie to see the live musical.

The Rocky Horror Show came first. They’re two different experiences but they’re familiar nonetheless….For anyone who’s never seen the live version, I highly recommend it because it can just augment your love and appreciation for Richard O’Brien’s work.”

Though public health restrictions have been largely lifted, COVID-19 is still very much part of life so I was curious as to how Amy Blackmore ensured the safety of cast and crew during the production. Blackmore welcomed the question, talking about the show’s regular hand washing and use of masks, only going without them during the week of the premier.

She spoke also of how health concerns affected the intimacy direction of the show, and how the floor show performers were reduced from the fifteen of past shows to seven, and their physical interaction with the audience was more limited. While audience members are encouraged to wear masks, the Mainline isn’t making it mandatory.

For regular attendees of The Rocky Horror Show at Mainline, myself included, I was dying to know what else had changed from past runs. Blackmore was coyly evasive.

“There’s definitely some fun new little secrets that’ll be revealed. What’s exciting is that we have decided to bring back most of the cast that we all love, Steph (Stephanie McKenna) as Frank, Megan Vera Starling who won the META Award for Outstanding Supporting Role in our production of 2018, and of course Kenny (Streule) as the narrator…We have a new Rocky this year, which I’m pretty thrilled about. It’s a different take! You’re gonna have to come and check it out! We can’t reveal all of our secrets!”

Though my love of Rocky Horror is unconditional, it saddened me to hear that the mostly white cast of past runs was coming back, especially given the ever present need for more diversity in all areas of life. Blackmore admits that because this year was a remount of the pre-pandemic show, they didn’t bother to hold auditions. She encourages people of all backgrounds to come out and audition for future runs.

Mainline presents Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show at Mainline Theatre from October 27 to October 31, 2022. Though the show is sold out, be sure to check out future runs!

In my POP Montreal preview, I went deep with the all-you-can-eat buffet imagery: such variety, copious quantities. In hindsight, the metaphor holds: I worked up an appetite, planned some faves, and went home feeling sleepy with gravy on my shirt. Or, something like that.

The short story is that I discovered a couple of acts I wasn’t likely to come across elsewhere, and now I intend to follow them as they grow to the heights they rightly deserve. I only saw one show that I’d planned on seeing, and had to leave early because it went later than expected on a school night, and made a bad call when I decided that the Bran Van 3000 show was too obvious a choice, and opted for a whole genre I’d never heard of in the name of experimentation. Suffice to say I should’ve seen Bran Van.

While I feel like I failed at covering the artistic spectrum that is Pop Montreal, I did learn a lot about how to do it better next time.

Take the time off

I’ve been holding a few PTO days close, and next year I plan to take the days off. There were so many daytime events, I shot myself in the foot by limiting my options and sacrificing too much sleep.

Plan, But Stay Flexible

I had grand plans, and thought I would get to more places than I did. It seems Montreal is back to its standard showtimes, which is to say later than anticipated.

Additionally, being a truly indie festival, tear down between bands was done by the performers themselves and only a couple of extra helpers, meaning the shows went long too. All that to say, it’s tricky to attend shows timed closely together, so be like water and let the flow take you.

It’s So Much More Than Music

While it’s billed as an International Music Festival, there’s so much more than that. There are talks, films, performance art, visual art, even artisanal goodies to buy. Next year I plan on going to more than just concerts.

Get The Hardcopy

I only got my hands on the hardcopy program late Sunday afternoon. I didn’t realize it was a thing, and I’d been leaning on the website. While the net is perfect for navigating to venues, the program has a great calendar to visualize what’s going on any given day, and a map that shows the venues in relation to one another for all your multi-event needs.

And the hardcopy led me to the app! I’d found a POP Montreal app, but it was from a previous season, and didn’t seem updated. Seems I missed the memo, because there’s a full page QR code in the program that I wish I’d seen sooner.

Study the Playlist

POP planned ahead with a wonderfully curated playlist that I’d been listening to for a bit, just trying to catch flavors and vibes and see what stuck. I should’ve reversed this process, and started with the calendar: it would have been wiser to cut out the bands I knew I couldn’t see due to scheduling, and used the playlist to decide between bands that had conflicting time slots. That would’ve also saved some heartache, as I got hyped for a few artists on the playlist before realizing I couldn’t make their shows.

If all this sounds like a lot of nerdy work, I assure you that it’s my favorite form of overthinking, but you don’t have to be so weird about it. The POP Montreal playlist is still right here so the exploration continues. And, as promised in the headline, here are some of the photos I took:

The events page for Pop Montreal 2022 reads like the menu of a pre-pandemic buffet. With over 200 shows, many of which are showcasing up and coming artists, it’s a veritable smorgasbord, and I’m eager to dive in. Before I’ve gotten halfway through the calendar, I break out a pen and paper, making lists, organizing blocks of time like Tetris pieces.

I’ve got a shiny press pass, so I’m free but not unfettered: Wednesday is a weird day to start a festival, and I’ve got a desk job. There’s some comfort in knowing that even if I had the days off, I wouldn’t actually be able to see everything, and isn’t that the secret tragedy hidden at the bottom of every all-you-can-eat outing?

The Pop people made a fab Spotify playlist so we can sample everything and plan accordingly. Here are a few of my takeaways:

We’ve got the Born Ruffians (I think I’ve heard that name? They have a strong Spotify following, at just over half a million). The tunes are spacey and dreamy.

The Linda Lindas broke out during the pandemic when a video of the teens punking out in a library with their original song Racist Sexist Boy. It gave me full L7 / ’90s Hole vibes, and I promised myself I’d see them live. It’s an all ages show, and fun moms are bringing their wee punks. I’ll be there.

I’m struggling to describe Thanya Iyer’s surreal tunes, but thankfully her Spotify bio is perfect: “Thanya Iyer’s experimental movements radiate an effervescence of twinkling rock filled nights, clubs of electronic intensity, and church-like hyms”. I couldn’t have said it better myself; I tried. You can catch her for free, Thursday at noon at Jardins Gamelin.

With Wayne Snow’s loungey dance tunes, it’s no surprise he’s already got a strong following. Shuffling through his repertoire gave me disco glitter makeout vibes, which is perfect as both dancing and kissing are wonderful sweater weather activities.

Sisi Superstar will be bringing candy pink pop vibes when she opens for Canada’s Drag Race winner Priyanka, who will of course be serving up a show to dance to.

JayWood’s coming to us from Winnipeg, and bringing his unique, self taught talents. His tunes are groovy with some rock, beautiful acoustic bits — it’s the fusion you didn’t know you needed. His Spotify bio uses words like “psych funk” and “electronic groove”, but you should probably give it a quick listen and then go see him live.

My dudes, I could go on and on, but honestly, this all starts tonight, so less reading, more listening. Get them tix, and get your POP on!

POP Montreal 2022 runs September 28-October 2. Full schedule and tickets at popmontreal.com

Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss Premier Legault shooting down a $10 Billion climate fund hours before Montreal is hit with a major downpour, the Quebec Election Debate, QS Rail and Bus proposal and concerts this weekend.

Follow Dawn McSweeney @mcmoxy on Twitter and Instagram

Follow Jason C. McLean @jasoncmclean on Twitter and Instagram

Though it may seem like festival season is winding down, film buffs have something very special to look forward to this weekend. The 14th edition of the Montreal Stop Motion Film Festival is back for three days of astonishing artistry and sensational storytelling.

Founded by Concordia Film Animation professor Erik Goulet, this homegrown festival was the first of its kind to focus purely on stop motion when it debuted back in 2009. Ever since, it has played host to both celebrated professionals and up-and-coming indie filmmakers from around the world. Their dedication to an art form equally painstaking and breathtaking has kept audiences coming back for more, even as Hollywood seemingly overlooks the medium.

The sad fact remains, precious few stop motion features are produced by major studios, in spite of movies like The Nightmare Before Christmas, ParaNorman, Coraline, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Chicken Run and The Little Prince earning widespread acclaim. Even if the bigwigs are determined to overlook it, this annual gathering is a reminder of the astonishing versatility of stop motion, especially when utilized by bold storytellers.

This year’s program covers a wide variety of subjects, from the whimsical to the thought-provoking. Sitting somewhere comfortably in the middle is Bear Hug, a deceptively simple short about a young bear’s quest for companionship on his birthday.

Director Margrethe Danielsen gives her adorable lead character a beautifully detailed forest to explore as he finds himself torn between the ways of his fellow bears and the local bird brigade, neither of whom are especially welcoming. The results are utterly charming, thanks in no small part to the tactile appeal of the medium, which she takes full advantage of.

The Annie Award-winning and Oscar-nominated Bestia

While Danielsen’s furry outcast is appealing, the lead in Bestia is the stuff of nightmares. Director Hugo Covarrubias’ chilling portrait of Ingrid Olderöck – a real-life agent of the Chilean Secret Police who tortured and raped political opponents with the assistance of her dog – is a sobering reminder that not all animation is intended for children.

Meditating on how systems can dehumanize and displace, Bestia manages to be as tense as any live action psychological thriller and especially clever in its choice of materials. The lead’s frozen, shiny, porcelain-like visage captures perfectly the terrifying artifice of her identity.

As she grapples with increasingly intense nightmares about her life’s work, her stone cold expression is changed ever so slightly to express fear, uncertainty and rage. It’s impressive in its subtlety and upsetting in its realism.

Other Half, meanwhile, goes a more surreal route in telling an almost mythological tale about trying to feel complete in a world where coupledom is king. Produced by an LGBTQ+ team during the first covid lockdown, this film’s colorful combination of Claymation and stop motion techniques brings the lead character’s journey of self-discovery to vivid life.

And there are a few good laughs sprinkled throughout, especially when Ren desperately utters that all-too-familiar refrain of “we can make it work!” as yet another relationship turns sour. Haven’t we all been there?

Other Half‘s Ren surrounded by besties

Upon further reflection, a unifying theme actually does seem to link this year’s slate of animated offerings: the frustrations of isolation and the importance of connecting with other (stable) people, which seems only fitting, given the two years we’ve just endured.

Best then to head on over to the de Sève cinema this weekend, where an animated crowd awaits, excited to encourage the efforts of filmmakers as eager as they are to reconnect.

Featured Image from Bear Hug, playing at the Montreal Stop Motion Film Festival

For ticket information and a full rundown of the remarkable films in competition, visit the Montreal Stop Motion Film Festival’s website. The festival concludes this Sunday the 18th.

This piece was created as part of a fundraising campaign for an ongoing multimedia project. This is not a fictional creation in and of itself, but rather an account of a real interview that took place with a fictional character. The people reported as being there, were actually there, in the actual places mentioned. The parameters of Conor Blaine’s character, from his accomplishments to his quirks, are already well established, but the dialogue here was improvised: while we each had time to prepare, we were unaware of each other’s preparations / questions, which created a unique authenticity in our interactions. And that’s how I spent a real afternoon with a fictional character…

It seemed appropriate that the night before my scheduled interview with Conor Blaine, I was up irresponsibly late drinking vodka Monsters and binge watching reality TV. While the magnitude of the event should’ve had me in bed early with outfit prepped and alarm set, it was the combination of nerves and excitement that kept me up. My better judgement warned that I would fundamentally regret my choices, but there was comfort to be found in knowing that Conor himself would approve of the use of time…and that he hates sleep.

I arrive at Else’s right on time, and even though it’s just opening, it appears Conor’s been there for a bit. He’s tucked away at a table in the back of the empty dining room, finishing up a phone call as I approach.

As much as I’m glad to see him in the flesh, he’s downright surprised to see me. I found out in short order that he wasn’t aware of our scheduled meeting, but he was a good sport about it.

I introduce myself, telling him I’m there for our interview.

“Aren’t you lucky?” he quips with a smile, and while it’s definitely arrogance, I find it rather charming coming from him.

We cover a few quick points on who I am, and how I got this meeting (his manager Margot set it up without consulting him, a fact that doesn’t appear to surprise him). He’s wearing black boots with black shorts, black heart shaped sunglasses (yes, inside), and a white tuque under his hood. His black hoodie is emblazoned with “Peg the Patriarchy” in pink, and I compliment it, which turns out to be a good opening.

“It’s a Luna Matatas design. Cara Delevigne swiped it for the Met Gala in 2021. Never gave her credit. But she knew who originally created it. It was with intention. Dumb broad. Luna is great, she’s a sex educator, primarily.”

And we’re off to the races.

Anyone who follows Conor on Twitter knows of his penchant for live tweeting 90 Day Fiance, but scattered amid those are gems that highlight his familiarity with the Real Housewives universe, where I’m hoping to connect with him.

“Fuck marry kill, all the Housewives.”

“Kill. Next question.”

Laughing, it takes me a moment to gather myself. I ask him what it is that keeps drawing him back to Montreal. He could be anywhere else, and yet he flies back here whenever he has a spare weekend.

“I love Montreal, truly. It’s a big city, but people don’t give a fuck about fame here. I can just live, you know? Whether it’s arrogance or respect, the Quebecois understand.”

I ask how long he and his husband Raphael have been together, hoping to skip some steps toward intimacy, and get closer to the subjects that matter most to his heart.

“Two years. Probably two years…I think it was two years. It was in the third season. Two years,” he says definitively. “Everybody always wants to know about Raph.”

“Well,” I say. “It’s kind of relationship goals, you know? You guys seem so happy.”

“Don’t we? Aren’t we?”

And that’s when things got interesting.

We were interrupted by local author and YouTuber Holly Rhiannon, ring light in hand, camera gals in tow, already filming.

It took a moment to straighten everything out; in the end we determined that Margot had double booked the time slot. Holly was the apparent winner of lunch with Conor thanks to an online contest.

“I’m sure you got a heads up about this,” she said.

“I’ve had no heads up about anything. I should be doing something much different than this right now.”

She seemed more curious content creator than enamoured fangirl, and it was clear that she’d entered the contest ironically. Still, neither one of us was going to get the exclusive one-on-one time with the star that we were promised, and we’d have to make do.

Once everyone settled in and drinks had been ordered (gin and tonic for Conor, of course), he asks us each what we thought about Margot. Unsure what he’s after, I tell him the truth, that she was nice enough, and Holly shrugs that she was “great”.

“I don’t think either of you have met her.”

Changing gears, he tells Holly that I’ve been asking some questions, and she says she has questions as well.

“You know how I love doing interviews!” he grins, and while Holly may not realize it, I know he’s being facetious: he likes few things less. “What kind of questions do you have? Are they personal?”

“Some of them might be. I actually don’t know too much about you.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard that in my life.”

“Well, I’m not big on celebrity,” she says.

“Not big on celebrity!” he parrots, incredulous.

Trying to get back on track, I ask him how he and Raph manage to keep things spicy considering how much time they spend apart.

He hesitates, looking for the first time at a loss for words, and just as he begins to speak, Holly interjects, saying that she’s more interested in his new Twitter account.

“One thing that I knew about you before is that you weren’t into social media, and then I saw this Twitter account pop up, and you don’t stop tweeting.”

“I was told that it was time to finally get Twitter and the only reason I’ve never had a Twitter account is because I didn’t want to get canceled.”

I ask who it was who did the telling.

“Margot; the one who tells me everything. But I decided I would do it my way. I’ve been trying a few things out; there was that whole issue with Garcelle Beauvais.”

Holly wonders out loud which reality show she’s from before starting that she’s never seen someone so into reality TV.

“Let me be clear to all the cameras involved. I do not like reality television. But I do enjoy 90 Day Fiance. It’s a brilliant socio-anthropological study on the desperation of ugly people, specifically Americans.” He pauses here and looks my way. “Your turn.”

I’m ill prepared for a tag team interview. It’s obvious that we’re coming at this from very different directions, which is a shame because I imagine that had we conspired, we might’ve been a force to be reckoned with.

I try to get back to him and Raph, and how they manage to keep things fresh from a distance.

“I mean, I guess we don’t.”

Which makes me wonder if they have an open relationship…

“No. No, not that I’m aware of.”

Holly asks about his high school experience, and if he had a nemesis.

“My mother [Lilith Blaine]. I was homeschooled, so she was probably — definitely my biggest bully. Like I’ve said, there was nothing about growing up in my house that was normal.”

Asked what would happen if he forgot Mother’s Day, Conor answers with stark honesty.

“I don’t think anyone would’ve noticed. I mean, in the age range when it was apropos to give my mother a card for instance, she was drinking heavily then. You know, she doesn’t like Sundays; or brunch. You know, we share that.”

Now that Lilith has been mentioned, it’s as if a curse has been broken, and I feel free to tell him that I’ve read all her books. As he nods deadpan, I realize how often he must hear it, and regret mentioning it.

“It’s about time I write one of my own,” he says, and I ask what it would be called. “Valuable and Vulnerable.” He has it on the tip of his tongue, and maybe he really has been giving this some thought.

While it’s hard to imagine being as famous as Conor Blaine, it’s also hard to imagine the fact that he’s never known another life. His lineage made him famous before his mother ever began to play stage mom. As much as it might appear enviable from the outside, I wonder if he ever wishes he could give it up and be someone else for a while.

“Absolutely. I’m always looking for a little bit of anonymity. It’s what I was saying about Montreal; a little bit of that anonymity is refreshing.”

At this point, Holly and her team make some adjustments to the lighting, tinkering with the angles. One of the crew says she’s read up on him, and asks about his friendship with Lindsey Lohan. I hold my breath: she is one of the subjects on the list I received of things not to discuss.

“Lindsay and I are not friends. She knows why. And she still owes me 20 bucks.”

In an attempt to get things back on my agenda, I ask about the much awaited film version of Son of Mine. It feels like it’s been in the works forever, and he tells me that they are finally in post production, with a trailer expected in November. While much of the cast has been released, we still don’t know who’s playing Conor, and I tried to get it out of him.

“We’ve got a bunch of children that play me through the years.”

While he’s a producer, he downplays his involvement with the project.

“I just paid for it. I knew it’d be a hit. It will be a hit. There’s not much I could do to improve upon it. I mean, you read the book; it’s fantastic. I’m on every page.”

In a flash, Conor deflates. He looks out the window and rolls his eyes.

“You know, I’m done here. If you guys want to ask more questions, you’re going to have to come with me.”

Holly says that she’ll definitely go along, as she was told she’d have four hours with him. Conor’s eyebrows raise at the time allotted, shooting above the frames of his glasses. Personally, there’s no way I would miss out on the opportunity, so I pack up my notebook and follow.

Conor Blaine’s a fast walker. I get the impression he’s trying to create distance, that this is the unseen interlude between cut scenes and he’s just trying to get it over with. He chain smokes and talks on his phone. The only thing he says to us, is that “it’s not far”.

We arrive at Bifteck just before 2pm. The back of the bar is in dusky shadows, the pool tables spotlighted; we wouldn’t notice the sunset if we stayed there all night. We have the place to ourselves, and Conor moves around comfortably. He tells us he used to spend a lot of time here, right around this time of day, and then into the wee hours. Again, it provided anonymity, privacy, a shelter of sorts. One can imagine that as the night goes on and people first trickle, then crowd into the popular St. Laurent dive, that the regulars would take his presence for granted, and those caught off guard would talk amongst themselves. Still, it would be hard to speak to him directly without at least trying to best him at the pool table.

Today is no different; he tells us we can only ask questions while we shoot. He lists off a bunch of rules before noticing Holly and I staring at him blankly, and then tells us to just give it a go.

I’m immediately aware of how much better I was at this game an undisclosed number of years ago, but thankfully Holly’s on par with me and we team up.

I figure it’s now or never, so I delve into the more sensitive questions. Margot had sent me a list of things not to mention, and I ask him why she didn’t just send over a typical list of talking points instead. I’ve personally never received a list of topics not to touch upon.

He’s caught off guard, and asks me what I’m talking about, which flusters me, and before I can muster anything, Holly pulls a printed page from her notebook, unfolds it, and hands it to Conor. He looks over the list, half a smile, the mischievous sparkle in his eye reminiscent of his younger self. He points to things at random:

“Well, this makes sense…I don’t know why she thought this was off limits…Lindsay Lohan does know why, I already said that, so it’s a direct quote.”

Blaine Defense Systems, funny enough, is not on the list. So taboo that it was omitted, Conor’s consistently maintained that he didn’t own the military weapons manufacturer that is the other part of his family legacy, and the media has treated the matter as settled, preferring not to rock the boat by pressing the matter. Recently however, the company was sold to Russian investors for a whopping $900 000 000. Sold in whole by none other than Conor Blaine.

“I don’t judge people like that,” is all he says on the subject of the buyers. “I inherited it when my grandfather died. It skipped my mother for obvious reasons.” He doesn’t have to specify that it’s because she’s a woman; the older generations of his prominent ancestry are notoriously old school conservative, to put it kindly.

As to where these new found profits might go, he says he’s passionate about food security. “I believe that everybody should have access to good, healthy food. I don’t think it’s right that we as a society lock food up. There are even food deserts in Montreal.”

He asks for more questions as he clears the table. Holly and I are not improving at the game, but we are getting better at working together, and we confer with each other, notebooks in hand.

I reluctantly admit we’re out; he nods, and finishes his drink.

As her team packs up, Holly and I debate another round, and another game too as we obviously need the practice. I turn to see if Conor will give us some pointers, and he’s nowhere to be found. He’d made a quiet escape, slipping out of the bar and into the comforting anonymity of a mid afternoon Montreal main street. An awkward ending, but a graceful one too; certainly an unforgettable way to end my already memorable afternoon with Conor Blaine.

Pre-Launch Peaks & Perks

Fundraiser!

This week, we’re chock full of festivals, three of them running simultaneously and one of them running two shows at the same time in different locations. This is going to be a busy weekend, so let’s get started:

MEG is Back at Parc Jean Drapeau & the SAT

MEG Montréal is celebrating its 23rd edition with two four-day parties in two locations: the Piknic Électronik site at Parc Jean Drapeau and the Société des arts technologiques (SAT) on the lower Main. They’re bringing in legends like Fatboy Slim, Hugo TSR, Misstress Barbara and Dillon Francis and also have a panel to discussn “Hip-hop culture in all its states, between France and Quebec.”

MEG’s plan has always been to set “the stage for up-and-coming electro hip-hop artists, with a mission of bringing curious, open-minded night owls together for an unforgettable experience.” This year’s “back to school” edition promises to be no different.

Have a look at a video of MEG 2019:

MEG Festival runs September 2-5 with shows running simultaneously at Parc Jean Drapeau (Piknic Électronik site) and at SAT (Société des arts technologiques), 1201 Boul. Saint-Laurent. For tickets and schedule, please visit MEGMontreal.com

Estival du nouveau cinéma Gets the Ball Rolling

Nope, that’s not a typo and nope, we’re not early. 51st Festival du nouveau cinéma still takes place from October 5 to 16, however this weekend, for the second time, they’re getting the ball rolling early with Estival du nouveau cinéma, a mini-fest made up of four nights of screenings at the Esplanade Tranquille in Quartier des spectacles.

It kicks off tonight with L’Infonie Inachevée, the landmark 1973 Quebec documentary by Roger Frappier, then tomorrow Oscar-winning director and screenwriter Paolo Sorrentino revisits his youth in late 80s Naples in The Hand of God. On Saturday, Montreal and global icon Leonard Cohen is front and centre in the new documentary Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song. The mini-fest concludes Sunday with a presentation of Dune (the recent Denis Villeneuve version, not the David Lynch one from decades ago).

Estival du nouveau cinéma runs September 1-4 with 8pm showtimes at the Esplanade Tranquille in Quartier des spectacles. FREE. Info at NouveauCinema.ca

FME in Abitibi

Okay, admittedly, this one isn’t exactly a Montreal show this week, or even a Montreal region show this week, but it is in Quebec, Rouyn-Noranda in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region specifically. And it is quite the show.

Festival de Musique Émergente en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (FME) features over 90 acts from all genres on nine stages over four days. Hubert Lenoir, Animal Collective, Lisa Leblanc, Rich Aucoin and many many more performers will be there.

FME’s 20th Anniversary runs September 1-4. For the lineup and more info, please visit fmeat.org

Featured Image from The Hand of God, courtesy of Festival du nouveau cinéma

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

No promises but we’ll do our best

As we approach the end of summer and beginning of fall, we’re heading into the part of year where regular shows start mixing with the remaining events of Montreal’s festival season. Since this year, so far, regular shows seem to be returning in full force, we’re bringing back Shows This Week (as opposed to Montreal Arts & Music This Week, which includes releases not tied to an event).

So without any more hesitation, let’s get started:

Andrew Searles’ LA Chocolat! @ Café Cléopatra

Andrew Searles has been a comedian for 20 years (professionally, that is) and a Montrealer for longer. For the past six years, though, his base of operations has been sunny LA.

He still returns to his hometown, though it’s usually part of a tour, and his shows here generally sell out. His latest show LA Chocolat! seems to be following that trend, with the 8pm Friday night show at Café Cléopatra already full.

There are still three shows (as of publishing time) that you can buy tickets for and Searles will also be recording an album on the Saturday shows. Here’s some standup from before Searles left for LA:

LA Chocolat! by Andrew Searles runs August 26th and 27th, 8pm and 10:30pm, at Café Cléopatra, 1230 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, 2nd Floor. Tickets available through Eventbrite

Festival FAR in Montreal’s Alleyways

Festival FAR, which beings its sixth edition this Monday, is a multidisciplinary arts festival that takes place exclusively in alleyways. This means mostly smaller, intimate shows, but also a few events with stages in larger alleys.

This year’s event begins in Parc-Ex and culminates in Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie with stops in Ahuntsic, Côte-des-Neiges, Downtown (the Ville-Marie Borough), the Sud-Ouest (Pointe-Saint-Charles specifically) and Ville St-Laurent.

Festival FAR 2022 runs August 29 – September 11 in various Montreal neighbourhoods. For schedule and info, please visit festivalfar.com

Marché des Possibles Every Weekend Until September 25th

Last week we announced that POP Montreal is returning with a full lineup. Today, we’d like to announce that the POP and Plateau Mont-Royal Borough co-production Marché des Possibles is also back, well, back again this weekend.

The weekend event has been running since May, featuring a variety of local performers playing L’Entrepôt 77, a makeshift outdoor performance space in the park under the overpass at the very top edge of Mile-End.

This weekend’s lineup features Thanya Iyer launching the Rest EP with Cedric Noel and Ambroise, Ukulélé Club de Montréal, Blood and Dust, amarior, Girl Circles and Lyndsie Alguire.

Marché des Possibles runs at L’Entrepôt 77, 77 Bernard Est, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until September 25. Lineups available through their Facebook page


Featured Image from last weekend’s Marché des Possibles via MDP on Facebook

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

POP Montreal is back!

Well, come to think of it, they were already back in 2020 with a virtual version and last year with a smaller socially-distanced version, but this fall, they’re offering over 200 concerts in close to 20 venues in the Plateau and Mile-End. You could say that they’re back to full-force, but don’t say they’re back to normal.

According to festival Creative Director Daniel Seligman in a press release:

“The notion of ‘going back to normal’ isn’t really POP Montreal’s jam. We will forever be moving forward, doing our best to care of our community and create spaces that allow for all kinds of voices to come together. One of the lessons we’ve learned over the ‘panini’ is that being in relation with each other is the essential ingredient of culture. So let’s come together and experience the most delicious musical sandwich the city can offer.”

This year’s sandwich, or lineup, includes headliners like Allison Russell, Tortoise, The Linda Lindas and POP veteran Martha Wainwright as well as way more than two handfuls of up-and-coming and already established acts representing a variety of musical genres. from the eclectic punk pop of Sophia Bel to Indigenous futurists Ombiigizi, to maverick Toronto rapper Witch Prophet, you’re sure to find something you’ll enjoy checking out.

POP Montreal runs from September 28-October 2, 2022. For the complete schedule and tickets, please visit POPMontreal.com

The lineup is listed in the poster below:

Summer in Montreal means many things for many people. Dirty old men trolling for much younger partners at Grand Prix weekend, The International Jazz Festival, Francofolies, Just for Laughs, and the torrent of construction that torments pedestrians and motorists alike.

For me one of the highlights is Shakespeare in the Park, a chance to take in some fresh air and culture, courtesy of Montreal’s own Repercussion Theatre. After a nearly three year hiatus due to the COVID19 pandemic, they were back with a vengeance, resuming a tour of that went to parks across Montreal and as far outside the city as Morin Heights from July 14 to August 6, 2022.

The play on offer this year was part original play, part medley. Titled All Shall Be Well, the show was a discussion of the Plague in England and Europe during Elizabethan times and how it may or may not have affected Shakespeare’s writing.

There were history lessons and science lessons, all helped by a cast as easy on the eyes as it was diverse, with the actors slipping into simple but effective costumes for when they acted out scenes from Shakespeare’s various works that may have contained subtle references to outbreaks of the bubonic plague.

All Shall Be Well was a fine play, but in many respects it was a disjointed one.

The first half of the show focused heavily on the science and history of the pandemics during Shakespeare’s time, acted with a child-like enthusiasm that felt very much like an after school special. Most notable in this part was Samantha Bitonti who played adorable and excitable in a way that would easily fit among the cast of The Wiggles or any other children’s program.

The second half of All Shall Be Well was closer to what I expected of Shakespeare in the park: passionate lovers, lyrical language, some bawdiness, and portrayals of authority and grief and despair, masterfully played by Tiernan Cornford, Anton May, Andrew Joseph Richardson, and Thomas Vallières. The second half focused more on scenes from Shakespeare’s works and less on the historical context.

It’s as if the play was written knowing full well that most attendees who had brought their kids were going to leave at intermission, leaving the real Shakespeare fans behind to watch the rest. Had I known this in advance and were not there to review it, I probably would have only come for the second half of All Shall Be Well. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the first part of the show; it’s that I was acutely aware of the fact that I was not its target audience.

Though All Shall Be Well was fun, I do hope that next summer Repercussion Theatre will stick to more traditional material like Shakespeare and Molière and employ theatrical tricks within them to keep young kids interested, as they have in the past. In the meantime, this would be a fitting piece to tour schools with during the colder months.

For now, I can’t wait to see what they’ll put on next summer.

Osheaga returned to full-force last weekend and FTB was there. Here is a gallery of photos from all three days by Chris Zacchia: