There’s this thing I do the second I get in the door: as soon as I’ve removed my shoes, be they oiled leather boots or burnished tan calfskin wingtips, I pull out the large Moneysworth 100% horsehair shoe brush I keep by the door especially for these routine instances and I vigorously, smartly, swiftly give my shoes a no-nonsense brushing.

Now, this, to the connoisseur, is a matter of simple maintenance. A properly patina-ed dress shoe or boot will shine back to life as dust and pedestrian hazards are effortlessly swept off the upper; the general muck, calcium or unmentionable whatever will part with a well-oiled shit-kicker with miraculous ease under a brisk hand. Every proper clotheshorse will tell you this simple bit of care will add years to quality shoes, whether they be dainty or heavy duty.

But everyone else—and there’s a lot of everyone-elses—will first wonder if I’m endearingly fastidious, or just compulsively weird. Never, though, will they doubt I’m being peculiar. And with those for whom the sight of the brush in my hand has become an expected one, I am more than a little familiar with the recurring eye-roll or sigh, not to mention the not-too-occasional snigger or scoff.

I don’t mind, of course. This isn’t ninth grade; I have no desire to pretend I don’t know better. But I wonder how they don’t realize I’m just efficiently ruggedizing for the vortex. If maybe they don’t realize their own spirit animals could use a little winter shellac. This wind-chilled port city of ours is a case study in emotional and physical decay a full five months a year, and surely you’ve noticed the signs yourself. It runs deeper than potholes—marks every foot, colours every bit of skin.

You may, for instance, have a friend, as I do, who schedules morning baths of Vitamin D light in his kitchen. He’s got a lamp for that; they have a spiritual bond, he and it.

You may, say, have spent all of December wrapped in blankets bingeing on Frasier. I know I did, with all of House of Cards, and Arrow’s heavy-handedness, too, for good measure. Lots of peanut butter cookies, for shame, and lots of late-night squats to repent (my ass got to hurting from all the sitting).

Needless to say, we all fall into and try to strike out of all that—me included, thankfully. Now, I’m braving the slush and black ice and anti-freeze-laced salt the city sprinkles over everything. And you know what makes it easier on the soul? Footwear that doesn’t look like it belongs in second grade, and leather that doesn’t look like gluttonous deposits are trying to eat their way through to the toes.

And so, shoe care is the balm to the well-prepared wintering soul, keeping winter’s teeth out where possible. A step-by-step meditation, you might say, with clear results.

Take a cold solemn night, for one, where I can literally see the heavy cold ghosting off the school across the way. Then, there’s nothing like a good shoe-shining session to keep the lid on the old mind. Imagine a little Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee for warmth, a little Trophy Wife, guilt-free, in the background. Picture those formerly calcium-eaten boots then sheening like big Blistex-ed lips, or a fine pebble grain cap-toe resplendently reflecting your silhouette. Take it in. Keep it with you.

My back always hurts a tad by the time I’m done shining, but I’m always greatly relieved knowing my feet’ll be ready for the upswing, the storm, the mess. I look over at a healthy-looking pair or two and I know they’ll get me wherever. I know ecstasy could indeed swell from the ground up, even on the cold front. And the elements can go screw themselves.

And the brush is a big help.

Like most men of art in this au courant city, I feel an overwhelming urge to let my facial hair grow out as winter settles in. It’s a rather invigorating show of machismo, a throwback to the golden age of manhood, and a new dandy object to dote on—a velvety pet to stroke into regal submission. It keeps my face warm and it ensures brawn and I’m still keeping it brushed by New Year’s (I suggest a bore head brush, for best results).

But then, of course, the whole ordeal comes with a stack of pitiful worries as well. For one, soup will indeed be strained, as will my patience with every soup, coffee and over-easy egg sandwich gooping my mustachios in its ooze. Napkins are suddenly unrecognizable by the end of meals, and I’m catching myself licking hair, on my face, all the time.

What’s more, while some dames will go weak at the knees and pouty at the lips at the sight of a fine bristly face-scape (and some at the site of a not-so-fine one, too), quite a few more will wonder if a bearded man even has cheek bones and a jaw under there—or worse, they’ll assume he most obviously doesn’t. I do not like being thoughtlessly discarded, or ignored.

These (rather ridiculous) concerns—coupled with (even more ridiculous) the fact that I look like more and more of a shoo-in, with every quarter inch of dark growth, for some Homeland extra work—have me, almost every time, reaching vainly for the trimmer after a few months.

And so, this brave new year, newly single, dates scheduled, I most recently did just that. The beard will have me think myself into the dumbest of corners if I let it, and I’m most willing to buzz my way out of it if I do. I combed the cordless Philips through the shag and my face, chiseled real-life bones and all, emerged from under every stroke. And though I was a little sad about giving up (sadder about my reasons), and none too thrilled about the cold I’d be inflicting upon my cheeks, I was happy to retrieve the resplendence of that old visage of mine.

Then, I came to the moustache.

The moustache is a funny thing. As I trimmed away my best-to-date, sveltest Nation-of-Islam look, I narrowed in on the stache, and started to look more and more like a younger, fitter, fewer chinned, more dapper Juan Valdez, a Colombian bean wrangler for the new world. I looked like there are things I know—sensitive, mysterious, darkly things.

And so, as last year it was the Prince moustache, this year, wax out on a Thursday morning in January, I twisted at the very tips of my luxuriant manifest destiny. It twirled up and stayed, just so, on each side, and suddenly I looked like a million sleazy bucks, and felt like it.

In that moment, I wasn’t Tom Selleck, or even Roger Murtaugh; I was Dali, Bill the freakin’ Butcher—I was the goddamn Soup Nazi. By the time I left the house, I was a regular old first-grade hipster douche in my R.M. Williams Chelsea boots and selvedge jeans and 32 oz. dark navy pea coat, stache readied for any obscure reference, but I didn’t even give a care, because I felt and looked like greatness, and that fateful Thursday was the first day of the rest of my mustachioed life.

Everyone—on the bus, on the street, hustle to hustle—seemed to notice. A moustache that’s required some time and energy does not a frivolous gentleman make. I met smiles, I met wide eyes, I met nervous starers, and even the guy at Café Resonance was noticing.

For instance, I know that when he said “I really dig your half-sleeve, too” he was, beyond his control, referring by omission to my whiskers, who loomed boldly without needing a mention, friscalating face wings soaring right into the westerly sun-drenched glory of that afternoon. And it felt lovely on my face, that sun: bones rekindled in the luminous vitamin, upper lip refracting, a solar panel to the smithy of my soul. It was a mixed metaphor kind of ecstasy, and no one could take it away from me.

In that moment, I would be a man with a moustache forever—outside of race, beyond time, everlastingly beeswax-ed. It lasted straight through Saturday. And it was good.

Lioubov, mender of all coats, taperer of pants, hemmer of lock, seamstress of my heart—you are my one good reason for ever, ever stepping into NDG.

And today is no different. I carefully descend the neatly snow-swept steps into Elvis Shoe Repair and Valet Svc., your undisputed domain, and find you there as I left you—foot on Singer pedal, as warming as a hearth. I have come the long, winding road from St-Henri on the Canal for a bit of your needlework.

It’s been a fair five years now since you worked those first miracles on my new-old-stock JCPenney deer wool pea coat—a back stitch that got stuck and slit in a door I was holding open for some old spinster at Akhavan—still seamlessly mended and taken in for my slight frame, hanging now, worn out, in my closet.

Since then, it’s been many seasons of trousers entrusted. Anything from trusty 501s and occasional chinos—and ill-advised 532s and canvas work pants, both Swayze-inspired, and high-waisted—to be tapered dramatically and hemmed neatly.

And though I recall your professional skepticism those first few pairs—“you will not be able to take them off!”—I mostly sojourn in those memories mirthfully, all those times I made you take the measuring tape out, snickering all the while, showing me the extra half inch you had tacked on at the leg opening. You always abided and redid the work when I pointed it out—smiling, a clothier before a coxcomb—and finally learned I meant it soon enough.

I daresay you’ve since come to accept and cherish the fruits of my dandyism, though you’ve still got some kick and hijinks in you. Your snark, like your red-dyed bob, is a reassuring constant.

Today, for instance, is a mere hem job, but here you are again, rifling through the pockets of what I’ve brought you, tssk-tssking and snorting, pulling euros and loonies out of change pocket, bills and raffle tickets out of others: “You need a woman for such things! Like that pretty Ukrainian-looking girl with you once.”

Your recollections are always a bit of flattery, no doubt, and while I think the matter over as you’re clothes-pinning me into privacy in the change room, I don’t think I’ve met a woman I’d trust with my trousers quite as well.

I mean, would she stand me up on a sturdy wooden pro-grade thingy and dutifully tuck four months of creased double cuff inside my left leg, tugging at it like so, testing for leg clearance? Would she giggle and ask:

“You gonna make these tighter, like the other ones?”

Would she call me a “stilyaga” when I told her:

“Well these are my loosest jeans! But no, not this time around.”

How we laugh and laugh. How you kindly repeat it—Stilyaga—for mental note.

I mean no woman I meet will tell me she was a pharmacist in the empire. Hardly any other woman will make such buttery smooth work of 19oz selvedge—so tightly, solidly sewed, perfectly hemmed. No young, plush, daring partner will ensnare me in talk of those two X Masses on the horizon: Coca-Cola Xmas around the corner and Orthodox Christmas two weeks down the road. They have plenty else to wonder at, but they aren’t even of your world.

I mean, yeah, this single thing, new as it is, wouldn’t mind a little bit of that Ukrainian-looking friend, that part-time lover, or another. But my hems and tapers will likely be yours as long as you’ll have me. My altered heart is plucked with your Singer, Lioubov. And that’s that.

So now that you’re telling me you’re thinking of reverting to a home-based operation, chopping out a box for your productivity with your arms, explaining about all that time one can waste—time I’ve all too well laid as such—I’m not thinking of those women, or a woman, or the woman. The only thought on my mind is how to not lose you. My gams and clotheshorse tucks would never forgive if I did.

Leaving NDG with the finished work, I’m already longing for the next bit I’ll entrust you with. Maybe those black boot-cut relics I could resurrect for those many stilyaga days ahead. Maybe a German army parka to streamline. Or something new. Whatever it may be, I know you won’t disappoint. And that’s means a helluva lot, right now.

“In the regular world, Halloween is when children dress up in costumes and beg for candy. In Girl World, Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.”

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, I’m sure this Mean Girls quote is of the most recognized in our modern culture. When I first watched this movie almost ten years ago at the ripe age of 15, I laughed hysterically and was like “OMG SO TRUE!” and sure enough, the following Halloween, I’d donned my shortest skirt, tightest top, and a pair of improvised cat ears for some lame high school party. Done. I don’t even think my face was made up to look like a cat- but I was a sexy kitty with pretty hair so what did it matter?

kidstowomenLadies, haven’t you ever noticed how strange it is that as children we were encouraged to dress up elaborately for Halloween, yet as soon as we hit puberty, we start taking advantage of the holiday as a time to reveal our tatas and what not? The other day, the well known PolicyMic social justice writer and a dear personal friend of mine, Elizabeth Plank, pointed this out when she uploaded a picture of kids costumes and sexy costumes side by side in a store. The caption of her photo read: “This #halloween shop wants to make sure little girls know exactly what’s expected of them later. #NotBuyingIt”. My favourite feminist makes a point: In the past, I myself along with plenty of other women in my age group (and beyond) went from dressing up in our childhoods as innocent cats, witches, and princesses to sexy cats, sexy cops, sexy nurses… Dorothy becomes sexy Dorothy- thank you for ruining my childhood. A bee becomes.. a sexy bee? How the hell does that work? What’s so sexy about pollination!?

I’m not bashing the desire to look hot on Halloween, ladies and gentlemen. This holiday is a day of release, and in our culture, it is a day where most rules should be forgotten. However, we have the right to look hot every day, not exclusively on a holiday. Really, a woman should be able to dress like a “total slut” if she wants to every single day of her life, and no one should say anything about it because it’s HER choice at the end of the day. But we should take a minute to think that for the most part, women are being encouraged to strip down for Halloween, and this should be a choice, not an expectation… and frankly, the whole lingerie+bunny ears thing is getting kind of boring.

So as long as you’re still procrastinating your costume… why don’t you keep these tips in mind.

My List of Commandments for creating your Halloween costume:

-Thou Shalt Not Buy Into Media Induced Expectations (We’re living in the 21st century, after all.)
See rant above. If you want to look like a “slut”, do it, but know that you don’t HAVE to. Lingerie+animal ears aren’t the only option you have. College freshmen/women under 20, I’m looking at you.

-Thou Shalt Not Dress Offensively: sure, you have the right express your inner self (blah blah blah) on Halloween, but come on. Don’t blackface yourself. Don’t add detail to your eyes to turn Asian. A race is not a costume. And please, for the love of God, and this is coming from an Arab: PLEASE. Don’t dress as a terrorist. It’s not funny, it’s rude. Be considerate of who you might offend.


-Thou Shalt Not be Wasteful: If you must purchase something for your costume, choose wisely and welcome it into your wardrobe. We all know the drill: you buy one of those shitty packaged Halloween costumes that you wear once, spill beer on, never wash, and never wear again. That’s totally wasteful. You would be surprised with the treasures you could keep from Halloween costumes past! One year I was.. well, something that involved a leather skirt, Doc Martins, a short black wig, and a whip. I’d purchased a pleather corset top from Cruella especially for the occasion. Three years later, I’m pairing that top with high waisted, long billowy skirts and calling it my “Carrie Bradshaw”outfit. It has gone from costume to respected staple.

-Thou shalt raid thine closet: You’ll be surprised with what you can come up with, especially if channeling an iconic figure like John Lennon, Marilyn Monroe, Janis Joplin, or Bob Dylan.

1374950_658002757552380_1661427143_n-Thou shalt respect the classics: Whatever happened to being a witch, a ghost, a pumpkin, or a ghoul on Halloween!! Did we throw all those costumes away to become nurses and pop stars? I’m personally bringing the witch back this year, and I’m so excited. I haven’t been a witch since I was 8 years old!

-Thou Shalt Own It: Own what you wear, honey. Strut your stuff, and be creative. Halloween is the funniest night of the year, after all.

And the final commandment: Thou Shalt attend the Glam Gam production, Tales from the Crotch on October 31st at 10pm!! I’ll see you all there, and if you’re wearing a costume, it’s 10 bucks admission. If you’re being boring, the price to pay is 15. nyahahahahahahahaha!!

Alright my pretties, have yourselves a wonderful Halloweek, and don’t forget to enter Forget the Box’s costume contest. See the link below for more details!!!!

Halloween Costume Contest: Disguise for Prize 2013

If asked which waterway marked Montreal’s early history the most, I would bet that a majority if not all would answer either the Saint-Lawrence River or the Lachine Rapids. A little known fact is that this city was founded at the confluence of two rivers: the Saint-Lawrence of course but also the Petite Rivière Saint-Pierre.

This much smaller river (now D’Youville Street) served as a natural northern barrier of the first fortified settlement as well as providing an inland route that helped navigators bypass the treacherous rapids. Fast forward to when the Marché Saint-Anne was built and the same river was used to cool meat and produce. Eventually the river was buried completely and incorporated in the city’s sewer system.

In fact, there were little waterways all over the island: along Landsdowne/de Courcelle in Westmount ran the Glen creek, Saint-Antoine used to be the Rivière Saint-Martin, a small burn (the Scottish word for stream as James McGill would have called it) ran near the Milton gates and was a favorite make-out spot for students. Westmount Park, Lafontaine Park and Beaver Lake’s cement ponds are all built upon previously natural waterways.

Montreal underground river map
From the Montreal Archives: a map of the city showing our former rivers

Though rarely used as a means of obtaining clean incoming water in pre-industrial Montreal, houses and businesses could channel their dirty outgoing water into these natural sewers. Yet as Montreal’s population increased the creeks became a convenient (though unlawful) outlet for unwanted rubbish and human and animal waste. The rivers’ reputation was sullied even more during the nineteenth century cholera epidemics when ideas of contagious miasmas originating in the now dirty and stagnant waters were blamed by some for the spread of the deadly disease.

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, entire neighborhoods were established because of their proximity to these smaller waterways. Côte-de-Neiges and Saint-Henri (formerly Saint-Henri-des-Tanneries) were settled by those who used water for commercial purposes; tanning animal skins was a water-intensive process. The physical layout of these places still bare witness to their original purpose and design.

Today, we can still see a few above-ground remnants of these rivers: the image at the top of this post shows a brook that runs through the Mount-Royal Cemetery and which flows down into Outremont’s Springgrove Park; the other is in the Meadowbrook golf course. Plans for a residential development on that site is pitting a relatively “green” project that incorporates the Saint-Pierre into its landscape design against Les Amis de Meadowbrook who would rather see the site become a publicly accessible park.

There are in fact many local movements around the world now pushing to “daylight” the rivers that used to flow through their metropolitan centers. First prize might go to Seoul’s Cheonggyecheon as the most successful restoration project, though it seems the the original stream remains hidden from view. And while this and other projects are focused on the greeening benefits accrued by urban waterways, other cities such as Cincinnati look at daylighting as the solution to more technical sewer problems.

Here in Montreal, archeologists working at Pointe-à-Callière have uncovered Native tools and pottery near where the Petite-Saint-Pierre used to flow while in England, Roman-period skulls have been unearthed by those working near the “lost” Walbrook. And while there are no projects yet to daylight any of Montreal’s streams, Concordia’s Mobile Media Lab has paired up with a local production company to produce an interactive smartphone application that allows users to voyage back in time and learn more about our city’s “lost” waterways.

This post was originally published a couple of years ago, but it’s all too relevant today. Hope the tips help…

It’s hot. I love it. But I could do without my sauna of an apartment. Maybe this is what my rent increase is paying for, a built-in summer sauna. I can just hear my delusive landlord pitching the benefits to me now: “maintain a constant dewy complexion, sweat away those extra pounds and enjoy a higher power bill due to electric fans!”

Ah yes, electric fan. It’s a love hate relationship, isn’t it? If your pay checks are as piddly as mine are, and the idea of using a precious hundred bucks of it on an air conditioner gives you the cold (refreshing) sweats, then you’ve probably got at least two fans in your stifling hot abode. But let’s face it, all they really do is blow around hot air and give the illusion of a cooler temperature which lasts for about 3 minutes, and only if you’re sprawled out on the floor with both fans on either side of you. So basically, the only thing to do is pack a bag, pack a lunch, and get the hell out of your apartment.

The last few days have seen me wandering around, trying to get my air conditioned fix where I can. My empty wallet and dollar-less pockets have forced me to come up with creative ways of keeping cool. Maybe they’re not all ideal, but hey, it’s 30 degrees and only the most innovative survive!

1. Head to the grocery store.

No, no, you don’t actually have to grocery shop, you just need to grab a cart and pretend like you are! It’s like loitering…but you can justify it by calling it pre-grocery shopping, or grocery window-shopping. Grocery stores are always superiorly air conditioned, and they’re big enough to conceal you for a little while. But when a staff member halts you in Aisle 3 to see if they can help you find something (since your cart looks suspiciously empty), whatever you do, don’t tell them you’re browsing. This will certainly lead to your removal.

2. Go for a walk beside a high rise apartment.

I can see the questioning looks on your faces now. Understandable. So the other day, I found myself walking beside a towering high rise apartment building. Suddenly, droplets of cool water where gently falling on my sun-scorched arms and shoulders. I looked up to see what bird was pissing on me and realized that, instead, it was droplets of scuzzy humidity dripping from those lucky tenant’s air conditioners. But did I keep walking, out of the line of dirty droplets? Oh hell no, I’ve no shame. If I can’t afford an air conditioner, I’m going to damn well utilize everyone else’s!

3. Put a towel in the freezer.

This is the only legit method on the list for keeping cool, and it’s not even my idea. One of my awesome friends showed it to me, so all the credit goes to him. All you need is a face towel and a freezer and you are good to go! Ahem. Take the towel. Place it in your freezer. Wait. Wait. Wait. Remove the towel and place it on your shoulders, or your legs, or your face, or wherever. Your body will instantly feel ten degrees cooler, as if ice-cold ocean waves are lapping against your ankles, or like the time you got super drunk on New Year’s Eve and found yourself semi-naked outside in the snow as part of the Polar Bear Dip.

Well, these suggestions may or may not prove helpful, but they saw me through this week’s inhumane temperatures and a stifling hot apartment. As for keeping yourself hydrated, may I suggest popsicles and brewed ice tea (or sangria, it looks and tastes like juice, no one will know the difference!)

Good luck!



As of Thursday night, Citizen Vintage, (5330 St-Laurent) will be hosting the vernissage of the Snapshot Project for a few days.

The Snapshot Project was thought of last September by Cleo and Christyna, both new to Montreal. The girls figured this would be a great way to get acquainted with the city and to understand it better through the eyes of strangers with a disposable camera.

The girls applied for a grant with FASA (Fine Arts Student Association), bought 40 disposable cameras and dropped them off with instructions in over 25 locations around the Plateau, Outremont, Rosemont Petite-Patrie and Ville-Marie. Among the places hosting the cameras were Pikolo Espresso Bar, Lapin Presse, Flocon Espresso and many more. The instructions were very simple, pick up the camera, take a photo of whatever and wherever and then bring back the camera.

A month later, Christyna and Cleo picked up the cameras, they collected 31 cameras, very impressive number!

The result is 463 pictures which took 6 hours to install in the shop. The photos are displayed in a way to look like a constellation. The only editing that was done was removing the photos which were too dark or were double. Apart from that all the photos made the cut!

What a clever and simple idea! The result is very cool, the photos are very interesting, some are beautiful shots. Some people took the camera up the mountain or on top of buildings with awesome views of the city.

Disposable cameras are rarer and rarer these days, there were two at the vernissage for people to enjoy. I took a few shots and enjoyed turning the little wheel to be able to take the next shot. It was also refreshing not to be able to see my shot!

The photos will be taken down on Monday so go in this weekend and take a look!

If you miss out on the exhibition, don’t despair as the photos will soon be online, , so keep an eye out for them in the future.

If you don’t already know what Hip-Hop Karaoke is then you should check out the feature we did on them a little while ago. Basically Hip-Hop Karaoke invites performers to prove what they’ve got on stage while the crowd enjoys the party.

Hip-Hop Karaoke has been going strong for 15 months now and to celebrate they are hosting a special contest where you can win WeSC gear courtesy of Tiger Distribution, printed + signed artwork from Overthebreaks and BEST of all, you could win lifetime free entry to HHK MTL! To enter the contest check out their FB album with the last 15 HHK poster designs up and vote for your favorite by “liking” it!

This month we look at the artists behind the Hip-Hop Karaoke posters. The poster design for HHK helps showcase local artists and also helps allowing people to familiarize themselves with Hip Hop Karaoke; inspiring new performers to get involved and show support. Their designs are a perfect visual extension of their fun-loving approach to the event.

Originally the posters were designed by co-founder Patrick O’keefe, who has since moved on to San Francisco and other projects. He created the Portrait series posters in the series. Currently the Hip-Hop Karaoke posters (and logo) have been designed by local artist Nik Brovkin, aka Overthebreaks.

Hip-hop karaoke

If you wanna get up on stage and show em what you’ve got spots fill up quick, so pre-register your track at HHKMTL@GMAIL.COM for the next HHK.

Montreal was once the most bombed city in North America and by bombed I mean there was graffiti all over the place.

Next week will be the beginning of a 4 day festival dedicated to street art in Montreal, MURAL ART FESTIVAL organized in collaboration with LNDMRK.  From June 13th to the 16th, 35 local and international artists will be featured and paint close to 20 unique murals around the Main!

Montreal was once the most bombed city in North America and by bombed I mean there was graffiti all over the place.

muralist_cavoloAll the activities will be happening on St-Laurent boulevard between Sherbrooke and Mont-Royal, the street will be closed during the event which will give you a chance to wander the street freely.

The quality of the artists that are taking part in the Festival is quite mind-blowing! Montreal has its share of amazing artists such as Omen, Jason Botkin, Labrona, A’Shop, Paria Crew, WZRDS GNG, Stare, Chris Dyer and super crew En Masse, who will be covering up some 3 story walls! Other Canadian artists and some well known international artists will be joining the fun with names such as ROA from Belgium, ESCIF from Spain, Pixel Pancho from Italy, Phlegm from England and Reka One from Australia and many more.

During the festival, Omen and Reka One will be doing their biggest walls yet! It will also be ESCIF’s first wall in North America!

Twice a day at 2pm and 4pm on June 13th, 15th and 16th, you will have a chance to go on a guided walking or bike tour to discover the other urban art in the area! Every night will also offer some entertainment at different venues along the street.  

The official vernissage of the festival will be happening at Station 16 on June 14th from 7pm onwards. The closing of the MURAL festival will be curated by Alan Ganev at the Atrium of The Conseil des Arts de Montreal on Sunday June 16th.

Check out the many events that will be happening during the Festival and more about the featured artists at

Looking forward to seeing the murals that will make the city even more beautiful!

How do you review a group that has already impressed you three times? Do you talk about what’s new and then link to your old reviews? Kinda lame, and not something deserving of a highly original troupe like Glam Gam Productions.

Got it! Bring someone along who’s never seen them before, let them be the judge of what you’ve experienced before and then report on the new stuff. So, for the Little Beau Peep Show, I drafted my brother Joe.

Let’s start with the new stuff. Troupe founder Michael J. McCarthy kept his clothes on for the entire show! That may or may not have had something to do with his mother coming into town from New Newfoundland for the first time to see him perform.

I’m not joking. In fact, he wore more clothes than everyone else combined. Dressed as the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland, we didn’t even get a little leg or someone screaming “off with his clothes!”

That’s not the same with the rest of the cast…and what at cast it was. It seems like the Glamily grew over night. For what’s been said about inbreeding, maybe it’s not all that bad.

Seriously, though, it seems like the already ample Glam Gam cast from the last show is even bigger. Not only that, they’ve changed the dynamic, too.

This is a group known for a non-traditional, all shapes and sizes approach when it comes to what’s considered sexy for women. Now, it appears that they have extended that philosophy to men, too. Nice touch.

This cast spent their time on stage raunching up classic fairy tales, or moreover bringing those fairy tales back to their very sexualized and often quite violent roots. We get a male red riding hood and wolf tale, a carnivorous teddy bears’ picnic and the aforementioned and soon-to-be re-mentioned Alice among others.

What’s also new this time around is that instead of relying on just one emcee or pair of emcees as they have in the past, they rotated the characters doing the hosting duties throughout the show. And it made sense story-wise, too.

The first act was informally hosted by a brother and sister who can’t get to sleep after their babysitter Auntie Lipstick strips while singing, pretty much freaking them out.

Stripping while singing is an impressive feat on its own, it wasn’t the only live music in the show. There was an intimate choir, inspired by barbershop, comprised of Les Blow, Phoenix Wood, Rae Ocampo and Estelle de Pierre, that appeared throughout the show. Also, from my side-stage vantage point, I could see what looked like a small orchestra pit.

Anyways, when the brother gets taken away in the middle of the night, hosting duties switch to a witch played by Ellen Cherry Charles. She captures Eugene and, as she is preparing her brew, or rather preparing to add him to her brew, she starts telling stories.

These stories segway nicely into scenes like the comedy act of Blow’s Pinocchio (guess what grows when he lies) and McCarthy’s Gepetto (or GePedphile). We even get a puppet show. Yes, a puppet show telling the story of Rumplestiltskin performed by none other than Jizzika Unklein, Booze Crotch and Skyler Boushel.  Nice touch.

The third act saw brother and sister reunited and then some…more on that later.

Now, for the elements I’ve seen before, I turn to Joe. To sum up his experience, he was impressed.

He was amazed at the whole scene. I heard “bravo” and “yes” many times throughout the show. He told me that he was mostly impressed with how the narrative elements combined with the nudity and the way the whole cast seemed to be really enjoying performing the show.

After seeing some of the violence, namely in the red riding hood bit and the teddy bear’s picnic, he commented “they’re not fucking around!”

Indeed they weren’t. Joe noticed what I noticed the first time I saw this troupe: their no holds barred approach to performance and their outright love of what they were doing. A combination that is both rare these days and a hallmark of a Glam Gam show.

Unfortunately Joe had to leave before the last act, and what an act it was. Almost all of the cast were now playing cards. Their costumes were great, actually all of the costumes and sets in this show were professional and fantastic, with a real attention paid to detail.

These cards had one parody-tastic mission: “We’re painting the pussy red!” Seems the Queen’s spouse, facial hair-clad drag king Paquet , isn’t a real ginger. While that may have eluded McCarthy’s real redhead-obsessed Red Queen on their drunken wedding night, the cards weren’t taking any chances.

“Who’s been painting the royal bush red? Off with their head!” I’ll leave it at that.

This was a great Glam Gam show, and an amazing first-time encounter with the Glamily as it was for Joe. To be completely honest, though, my fave by them to date is still If Looks Could Kill, They Will. Guess there’s just something about a burlesque murder mystery that hits me the right way.

Good news is if you missed this show the last time around, they’re playing a few more dates at the Fringe Fest. Details and a few video trailers are on the Glam Gam website.

* Photos by Iana Kazakova. See all the photos on our Facebook Page


Subaru Forester Family Rally
Click to enter!

Subaru Canada and Forget The Box want to give you a brand new 2014 Subaru Forester. But it’s not quite that simple, to win the car you also have to win the race. Subaru Canada will fly five qualifying families to Mont-Tremblant, Québec for an all-expense-paid, action-packed, rally-themed competition. The families will collect points throughout the race by properly maneuvering through obstacles and using the Forester’s one-of-a-kind features to complete the course with the most accuracy. The winning family will be taking home a brand new 2014 Subaru Forester.

Does that sound like fun? Enter the Subaru Family Rally Contest HERE, but hurry contest closes June 9th at midnight.

This is a little example of what you can expect on the Rally Course:

A little more information about the 2014 Subaru Forester for those of you wondering how this baby’s gonna help get you through the mud.

Tech specs

2014 Subaru Forester

Engine: 2.5-litre normally aspirated and 2.0-litre turbocharged flat-four

Horsepower/torque: 170 hp/174 lb-ft normally aspirated; 250 hp/258 lb-ft turbo

Transmission: Six-speed manual/CVT

Drive: All-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 8.3 city/6.2 highway (2.5 litre with CVT)’ regular and premium gas

Price Range: $25,995-$37,995

Contest closes June 9, 2013 and winning families will be chosen June 17, 2013. Please find rules and regulations HERE.

Seb Black on Emery Street

We are on Emery Street. Seb Black is seated on an old, Victorian-style couch like a King on his throne. The walls are painted metallic purple. At his feet, a small, black pit-bull is gnawing on a raw, bloody piece of meat that’s almost as big as she is, getting blood all over the snow-white faux-fur carpet. Black looks on, completely unconcerned, a cigarette in one hand and a tall-can of Pabst in the other.

Emery Street studiosThe scene is completely bizarre and surreal but there is an unmistakable air of refinement and class to it. For Black, it’s just your average Tuesday night. This is a small slice of life on Emery Street, the headquarters for the appropriately named Emery Street Records.

Emery Street HQ is Black’s kingdom, a world so real and raw that it crosses the line into fantasy. This place has to be seen to be believed. It’s much more than your average record label headquarters. A completely organic DIY space, Emery Street features a high-quality recording studio, several jam spaces, and is also where most of the musicians on the label eat, sleep, work, and play.

So what exactly happens when you put a bunch of people who are all musicians, singers, songwriters, and friends into one space? The resulting energy is exciting, intoxicating, and a little bit frightening at the same time.

The purpose of all this, according to Black, is to create a world so unusual, so out of the ordinary, it becomes the stuff of legend.

“We’re trying to create an atmosphere, and that atmosphere will be legendary,” Black says.

Then there’s the music, which is almost just a by-product of the crazy world that Black and his fellow musicians have built for themselves.

“Anyone can make music,” Black said. “Anyone can learn an instrument and play songs. You have to have a style and you have to live that style.”

Seb Black on his throneFor Black, living this way comes naturally. His story has all the markings of a classic punk folk tale. A high-school dropout raised by a passionate, free-thinking single mother up north in the Laurentians, Black started making and producing music at a young age.

When he was 18 years old, he was living almost 100 km north of Montreal in Val-David, producing music for hip-hop artists.

“My manager said ‘I’ll introduce you to a big producer but you have to meet him on Wednesday at ten in the morning on the corner of St. Denis in Montreal.’” he said. “I didn’t have a ride so I hitchhiked here and met him.”

This attitude of going out and just doing something without having a backup plan is what led Black to where he is now.

“Most people have shit holding them back,” he said. “I’m just lucky that I had the life I had, which might have been really hard, but it gave me the chance to truly not give a fuck.”

The emphasis on this idea of having a style and living that style is what all the musicians at Emery Street seem to have in common. “Style is like a religious word around here,” said Eddie Paul Hodorek, whose band is signed to the label, along with Seb Black and a third band called Les Tavarneux.

Eddie Paul moved in around three years ago when Emery Street was starting to come together. He’s the first to say that this lifestyle isn’t for everyone. He had to adjust to the constant movement, chaos, and noise in the house, not to mention sleeping in a room with no windows.

“Everything you know, or you think you know, has to change,” he said. Is it working for him now? “I work for it now,” he replied.

His statement speaks volumes about the concept of Emery Street as its own entity. Every member seems to agree that the musical products created by all of these individuals would not be the same were it not for this environment.

Emery Street studios
Eddie Paul at Emery Street Studios/his bedroom

Contrary to what most people might think, the total absence of rules, schedules, and regimented work slots is incredibly conducive to inspiration and creativity. The proof is in the music. Seb Black’s album ‘On Emery Street’ will be officially launched on May 30 at Katacombes. Tickets are 10$ and you get a copy of the CD. Meanwhile, Eddie Paul and Les Tavarneux are looking to release their respective works sometime in the fall.

“There are bands out there with budgets from their record labels. They’re paying for studio time, they’re watching the clock,” Hodorek said. ”That’s the difference: we’re all friends and we’re all here for each other. We get the benefit of everyone caring about everyone else’s music. The whole process is more enjoyable ‘cause it’s not about money, it’s about each other’s thing.”

In honour of Montreal finally getting with the times and allowing some food trucks to roll out onto city streets this summer, we thought it was high time we share our food truck wish list with the rest of you. Here you go. You’re welcome.

The Brunch Truck

Yep, we want it. Forget waiting in line for an hour to sit at a teeny tiny table in a packed restaurant on a hot summer day. We want to get some delicious potatoes and a benny from a truck and then go sit in a nice park somewhere and eat it. An added bonus here is that no one will think it’s weird when we lie down and sleep our breakfasts (and the booze still lingering in our systems from last night), off.

The Meat on a Stick Truck

Anyone who’s ever been to an Asian country will agree; meat on a stick is THE BEST. Why? Fuck if we know, it just is.

The Soup Truck

So this is a bit of a tricky one because the food trucks won’t likely be  open year-round and soup is best when it’s cold out. However, soup is also less fattening than most other foods and often chock-full of veggies (kind of like liquid salad, but yummier), which is the kind of shit you want to eat in the summertime. Also, soup is delicious. Not grosspacho though, that shit is just wrong.

The Booze Truck

Yeah, yeah, we know, it’ll never happen. But so what? This is our wish list and we’ll put whatever the hell we want on it. Don’t like it? Go make your own goddam list asshole! Jeez.

Anyway, we’d like a booze food truck. One where you can get all kinds of bevvies to wet your parched liver, but where the food is also all boozy…think beer battered chicken with bourbon-gravied poutine and kahlua cheesecake for dessert.  Yum.

food truck montreal 3

The Bacon Truck

Obviously this truck will make so much money and everyone will love it. Bacon is good with everything. Seriously though, we dare you to think up one single thing that wouldn’t be good with bacon. Even if you can, you’re wrong.

The Tartare Truck

This one was editor Erin Hogg’s idea. Personally, I’m not sold on it. Basically, everything would be raw meat. The fun here is that it would kind of be like playing Rushian roulette…but with FOOD! Maybe you’ll be in agonizing pain for hours, shitting your brains out while puking in a garbage can at the same time, but also maybe not! We think this truck might appeal to really macho dudes and all those weirdos who only eat raw foods. Rawatarians? Rawdies? Rawstafarians? Rawnivores? Whatever.

The Non-Anonymous Meat truck

At this truck, your burger would come with a bio. You would know your dinner’s name, where it grew up, who its parents were, what kind of music it was into, the name of its first love and who it voted for in the last election. Personally, we’d have no problem chowing down on some stupid jerk chicken who voted for Harper. ‘Cause that guy sucks balls.

food truck montreal 2

Have your own food truck wish list? Tell us all about it in the comments section!

* photos by Chris Zacchia


 In the winter, I decided to (finally) commit to learning about urban homesteading and what some term radical home economics. Urban homesteading is a movement, a paradigm shift, that is based on principles of DIY, sustainability, environmental awareness, eating homegrown food and self-reliance within urban settings.

urban homesteadingIt was time for me to go beyond casual interest and the quick reading of blogs and start digging my hands into things. Literally. I began by gathering a few books considered essential reading on the homesteading blog circuit and got thinking about which projects I wanted to start with. Two of my favourite books are The Urban Homstead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City and Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World. In this preliminary phase it became quite clear to me that I was going to face one major problem in terms of my urban homesteading endeavors: I don’t have a backyard or a front yard. Most blogs and books seem to have access to some land as an a priori condition as well as living in an area where keeping chickens is possible (and/or ambiguously legal which is unfortunately, although perhaps understandably, not the case in Montreal).

Underlying the very principle of urban homesteading is the spirit of resourcefulness and looking for creative solutions: a development of self-sufficiency (although I like to think that this incorporates a community building/networking element). Therefore, here are some of the solutions I have turned to in the infant stages of my urban homesteading. I thought I would share them for those of you looking to build an infrastructure for your own homesteading endeavours.

homesteading Growing Plants in Different Spaces

If you have the room, you can set up an indoor greenhouse with growing lights and shelving units. This is part of my plan for later on, but I don’t currently have the space. I do have a few large windowsills and have grown seedlings there. I’ve included here a small photo of my terrarium or, as I like to call it, my mini greenhouse. These are practical for growing herb gardens indoors as well as keeping furry friends out of your seedlings. Also, balcony gardens are a fun project for landless folk. In her book Grow Great Grub, Gayla Trail blogger of discusses how to grow food in small spaces. Like balcony gardens, vertical gardens are also an innovative way to deal with the lack of space and can be made out of a variety of material including recycled pop bottles.

homesteadingCSA Basket + Food Coops

Lack of space undoubtedly results in limiting what a budding homesteader can produce for themselves. A couple solutions I have turned to to compliment my homegrown foods is to join a local food cooperative (photo is the Concordia students food cooperative). Food cooperatives operate slightly differently by coop, but they usually offer natural organic food and products, have ties with local farms and producers and are a great way to meet other (and potential) homesteaders and DIY-ers.

The other great way to supplement your food production and especially during the winter provide you with fresh tasty fruits and veggies is to sign up for Community Supported Agriculture baskets or CSA’s. CSA’s are a great way to get to know local food producers, growing seasons, and community ogranizations. The funnest part about CSAs is that they come in many varieties depending on the season and/or the producers. Some of the CSAs I have been trying out are: Lufa Farms, Santropol Roulant, and the McGill Farmers Market. Think about what you will be growing and look at what different baskets have to offer, their mandates and missions, their methods(hydroponic, rooftop, student-run, cooperative, family-owned, etc). There are CSA- like options that include exotic fruits as well like Bonne Boite Bonne Bouffe. There also exist CSAs for local organic meat products, but I have yet to try those out and have been relying on local markets like Jean-Talon and Atwater market to find those meats.

Having a CSA basket, as I have been learning, can mean having a shortage of a certain vegetable you might want and/or a surplus of veggies you have no idea what to do with. Take on the challenge and find new innovative ways to use your veggies and discover new dishes. Also, this is a good way to start experimenting with food storage methods and learn about how food reacts to its environment. My first adventure with my CSA basket led me to experiment with pickling, something I’d never done before. I found myself a pickling mentor and have since launched on a pickling journey, which is coming up in future posts.

Photo courtesy HowStuffWorks.comCompost

Urban homesteading is about sustainability and so now we gotta talk compost! Without any land, composting becomes somewhat of an issue. There are three solutions that I considered to solve this problem. Since food waste can easily be turned into fertilizer, this is an important element to consider for growing food. First, look into your eco-quartier and see if they have any composting locations and/or pick up. Second, consider vermicomposting, which can be real fun for kids and educational as well. Third, look into projects like Compost Montreal which offers a pick up service and redistributes the fertilizer to clients for a fee. Without land, consider giving extra fertilizer to friends and/or community gardens.

Sharing Green Spaces

Last but not least, look into joining a community garden and/or ask friends who do have land if you can share some of the space in return for providing them with fresh vegetables and good company. Making networks and connections, in my opinion, are great ways to begin an urban homesteading journey. Don’t be afraid to try different options and formats and don’t get discouraged if, at first, things aren’t exactly the way you want them to be.


Feature image courtesy of

Ethan Cox is the Quebec correspondent for where this post originally appeared

“This is approaching absurdist comedy,” tweeted Montreal Gazette reporter Christopher Curtis Friday night, trapped in a police kettle from which Montreal’s finest inexplicably refused to release him as his deadline approached.

“Did they really, actually arrest Anarchopanda????” replied well known Québécoise pundit Josée Legault.

Curtis never replied, no doubt caught up in extricating himself from police custody, so allow me to do so now: yes Josée, they really, actually did. Just call him Arrestopanda. At night’s end the tally ran something like this: one panda, several rabbits, a few dozen journos and almost three hundred dull normals cuffed, processed and slapped with $637 fines. This after being held for hours in the cold kettles Montreal police formed around them.

An obscene over-reaction regardless of circumstance, kettling has been ruled illegal by England’s High Court. In Toronto, the senior police commander who ordered protesters kettled at the 2010 G20 summit has been charged with discreditable conduct and unlawful use of authority. The Toronto Police Service have committed to never use the tactic again after an independent review found it to be unlawful. Kettling is a particularly disturbing tactic because it only works on peaceful protesters who offer little resistance, making it insidiously offensive to the concept of free speech and free assembly.

Protestors kettled Friday night photo Tim McSorley for Media Co-op
Protestors kettled Friday night in Montreal photo Tim McSorley for Media Co-op

But, some would argue, once those damn kids started with the breaking of the windows and the throwing of the snowballs, what choice did the police have?

Sorry Dorothy, but we’re not in Kansas anymore. The question of whether you can justify arresting hundreds of people because one or two did something objectionable is sooooo 2012.

Friday night, before the protest had even begun, and without so much as a hurtful word to serve as pretext, Montreal police descended on a crowd of protesters who were, without exception, peaceful and arrested the lot of them.

I don’t go in for a lot of the alarmist stuff you see on Twitter and Facebook. I think Stephen Harper sucks, and I hate what he’s done to our country, but I don’t think he’s a dictator or a fascist. I’ve always hated the SSPVM chant (the addition of an extra “s” to the name of Montreal’s police service alluding to the Nazi SS) and I think such hyperbole often obscures, rather than illuminates, important issues.

So it’s not for nothing that I tell you I woke this morning genuinely afraid. For the first time in my life I am afraid of what can happen to me, and to my friends and neighbors and strangers, if we exercise inalienable rights that we cannot, must not, forfeit. This is not hyperbole, it is fact, and the fact is that the world looks a great deal darker today.

How else to process the preventative arrest of 294 law abiding citizens for the sole crime of attempting to express their political views in a constitutionally guaranteed fashion? Worse, this is the third time Montreal police have moved in to preemptively arrest a protest in its entirety in the space of one week, this lovely new staple of police tactics having been trotted out at the annual anti-police brutality march on the 15th and again to pre-empt a student protest on Tuesday, when 45 people were arrested.

Last night’s shameful spectacle came courtesy of Municipal By-Law P-6, the little known municipal counterpart to the universally denounced, and now repealed, Bill 78/ Law 12. The municipal bylaw shares the requirement that protests must submit their route for approval by the police 24 hours in advance. Among other goodies, it also allows Montreal’s Executive Committee to prohibit any peaceful assembly indefinitely, at their discretion and without notice. It should be noted that this almost certainly unconstitutional bylaw was passed by a municipal government with all the credibility and moral authority of a turnip.

Anarchopanda surrounded photo Peter-Thomas Kennedy/

At last night’s demonstration the police declared the protest illegal before it began for failing to provide a route and ordered protesters to disperse. However, they waited only seconds between giving that order and kettling protesters, giving them no chance to comply.

But don’t worry, say the police, they aren’t infringing on anyone’s right to protest, because no such right exists.

“Starting with the last three demonstrations, we have been intervening faster,” Sergeant Jean-Bruno Latour, a spokesperson for the SPVM, told La Presse. “We do not want to hold citizens who wish to go to downtown Montreal hostage. The Charter [of rights and freedoms] protects the right to freedom of expression, but there is no right to protest.” [Translated from French]

This rather jaw-dropping statement raised the ire of Véronique Robert, a criminal lawyer in Montreal. Her scathing rebuttal on the website of weekly newspaper Voir titled “Fear the police, not the protests” is a delicious take down of this absurd position, and if you read French I recommend reading it in its entirety. Here’s a taste:

“This screwball assertion by an officer with the Montreal Police is scary, alarming and frightening, and leads to two conclusions: first, our police urgently need more law classes as part of their training. Second, things are not at all well in Quebec right now, and that frightens me.” [Translated]

Robert goes on to patiently explain that peaceful assembly and protest is an integral part of freedom of expression, without which the right cannot exist. She points out that not only is our right to protest clearly and explicitly protected by our Charter, it is also protected by every document dealing with the protection of fundamental rights in the world, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In 2005, the UN Human Rights Commission criticized, as it did again last year, mass arrests taking place in Montreal in the context of the last student strike, calling mass arrests by their very nature a violation of the right to freedom of expression. The commission called for a public inquiry into police actions, and questioned the article in the criminal code prohibiting illegal assembly.

cops sign
Peter-Thomas Kennedy/

“The state must ensure that the right to peacefully participate in a protest is respected, and that only those who have committed a criminal infraction during a protest are arrested.” [Translated]

Robert concludes as follows:

“When the young, and the even younger, receive $614 [sic] tickets for participating in a public assembly, be afraid. When protest movements are bullied from the moment they are formed, be afraid. When the police detain citizens en masse for no reason, be afraid. When police conflate interrogation with arbitrary arrest for exercising a constitutional right, be afraid.

What should actually scare us, in Montreal, is the police and their totalitarian declarations. What we should fear is the state and our mode of governance. Not protesters.” [Translated]

Strong words, but necessary ones. Robert is no wild-eyed radical, she’s a criminal defence attorney, and is articulating a position shared by the vast majority of her colleagues. P-6 has been denounced by the Quebec Bar Association, representing the province’s lawyers and prosecutors, and a march of lawyers against Law 12 last year drew over six hundred into the streets.

Right now, in Montreal, the very right to protest, that most fundamental right to freedom of expression, is under assault. If we give in, and stay home for fear of these preposterous tickets, we will have lost not just the battle but the war itself. Indeed, the worst part about these tactics is that they work. I know many friends who will no longer go to protests for fear of arrest and a ticket they cannot afford. What a sad state of affairs when the police bully and intimidate citizens out of exercising their right to criticize the government. So go to the demos, go to all the demos, and prove you will not let fear and intimidation win out. If you get a ticket, contest it. The legal resources to ensure you succeed are freely available. And no matter what you do, make sure to go to the demo on the 22nd of April, which I think should be branded as a manif in defence of our civil liberties. If there are enough people in the streets, the cops can’t do a thing. Small crowds are what allow these abuses.

When our police force denies that we have any right to peacefully express our dissent, there is no recourse but to fight tooth and nail to protect our rights. This is far too important an issue to let slide.

Robert and I both expect legal challenges to this law, which will hopefully be struck down, but in the meanwhile I think it’s time we made municipal bylaw P-6 an election issue.

Montreal has a municipal election coming up in November. With the implosion of the ruling Union Montreal party after revelations of widespread corruption, revelations which also tarnished the reputation of opposition party Vision Montreal, the election is more uncertain than any in my memory.

Over the next year any number of politicians will be asking for your vote. Any time they do, make a habit of telling them that you will only vote for a party which commits to repeal bylaw P-6. This is for all the marbles folks, our right to freedom of expression is not negotiable.

The PQ campaigned heavily on a promise to repeal the wildly unpopular Law 12, and now it’s time to finish what they started. The repeal of Law 12 is a Pyrrhic victory if bylaw P-6 remains in force.

I’ll close with an oldie but a goodie: If you’re not outraged, then you’re not paying attention.

If you are in Montreal, a major demonstration against bylaw P-6 has been organized for April 22 at 6PM, outside of City Hall. For more information or to confirm your attendance you can check out the Facebook event.

You can also sign the petition against bylaw P-6

Here follows a tale of honour and responsibility, of deceit and discourage, a true picaresque, and furthermore, an informative story about busking in the Montreal Metro.

My name’s Bashu. I’m a young British Columbian who played accordion for joy and money 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 2 1/2 months in Montreal. There are buskers throughout the metro system who have done it for longer. I asked them questions when I met them, and gathered a wealth of useful rules and stories.

Photos were taken by Joaquin Cabello Aguilar. More photos of metro musicians can be found at his site,

montreal metro musiciansI arrived in Montreal in October. The weather was pleasant and my head was light with the easy feeling of passing into a new town along a journey’s route. My brother had secured lodgings for us in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. I stopped there long enough for a glass of homebrew champagne, then took up my accordion and headed into the Metro.

So soon upon arrival? Maybe, but I was driven by a dream. People back in BC asked me “What will you do in Montreal?” and I said “Make 100 dollars a day playing accordion in the Metro.” It did sound grandiose to my quiet side. But a travelling poet in Santa Barbara once professed the value of “testing faith through action”, and I knew a song or two.

And besides, I like busking.

I headed to Berri-UQAM with my friend, K’esu, a Discordian. There by the St. Catherine exit, we met Carolina, an accordeoniste who would give us our first peek into the rules of busking in the Metro.

Montreal metro lyre
Lyre at busking station in Metro with schedule

1) There are 55 signs throughout Montreal’s Metro stations with a lyre on them. In the space in front of these signs, it is legal and encouraged to play music, without needing a license, following the regulations described here.

Carolina was in the middle of a set and ready to start playing again. I thanked her for stopping to talk and left wondering:

Who gets to play at a certain time? Is it won by argument? Does one approach them, claim they’ve been there too long and it’s your turn? Horror stories of territorialism passed through my imagination. Old buskers can be hard people. She was a member of an organization called MusiMetroMontreal. Was that a requirement?

What do I have to do to be able to play? I pondered.

With this in my head, I parted with K’esu, went up the stairs to Rue St-Catherine, opened my case and played and thought. After three songs in a spot, I usually know whether to stay or leave. The third song finished. No money in my case. Fingers were numb. I looked back up the street. The Metro station beckoned.

I found the space empty. Carolina was gone. I looked up and down the hallway, asked the busking Gods for no trouble, and set up.

2) If a performer is absent from their spot, and it’s been 30 minutes or longer since the time they signed up for, a new musician can take that spot. To secure it, they must write their name in place of the absent musician’s.

I sang my heart out, made 10 dollars, K’esu came by, and we agreed that this was something we could get into. Two Montreal girls, sweet as honeywater, came by just as we were going. Play us a song, they said. So we made time, of course.

Too many girls are attracted to musicians. I have gotten much attention and at least one number while playing accordion. They are obviously nuts and should be hooking up with accountants or somebody more financially stable. But, I like nuts.

The next day, I found the MusiMetroMontreal website. If you want to busk and do well, read it. It’s the complete rulebook, in French only. It also has a list of every single busking sign in the metro system, with notes. But I was still confused, because Carolina had mentioned needing to be a member of MMM for some spots. Asking around, somebody told me to go to Sherbrooke, so I did.

When I got to the sign, Maelstrom was chatting with a recorder player. I asked how I could busk here and what the rules were.

Busker Maelstrom

3) The signup sheet is a small piece of paper stuck behind the busking sign. It’s placed there by the first busker to arrive. It starts as a blank schedule with the date and station at the top. If you want to play at a spot, sign up on the schedule.
4)When you sign up, you write your name in the time slot you want. You can pick one time slot a day at each station. But when you do that, it’s reserved for you. Anybody who comes up to hassle you while you’re playing, you tell them “I’m signed up. It’s my spot.”
5) The schedules are filled quickly in busy stations, because the buskers arrive early (like 5:30 am) to get their spots. Buskers work hard. In slower stations, like Cremazie or St-Laurent, there may be no list because no buskers signed up. You can go there and play. Etiquette says to still stick to a two hour set if somebody else wants to play.
6) In busy stations there will be a main piece of paper and also a backup, and maybe a second backup. The backups are stuck behind poster cases and signs. Look around, and make sure you sign up on all of them. This helps in case of dispute, or stolen schedules.
7) The spots labelled Les Etoiles Du Metro are held for members of the MMM who have passed their audition, and time slots there are reserved another way.

Maelstrom and the recorderist told me all this. And then Maelstrom paused, aligned his conversational gunsights and talked for 20 minutes about busking and the MMM.

Who Makes The Busking Rules?

From their website: “The Coalition of Montreal Metro Musicians, also called MusiMétroMontréal is a non-profit organization whose main objective is to represent all the musicians of the Montreal metro and defend their interests.”

The MusiMétroMontréal was formed in 2009. Buskers who had been working before and after its formation will give you their opinions on it. Some think it’s a good thing and others… well. One story I’ve heard is that the STM, fed up with apparent chaos caused by buskers, were ready to close busking spots throughout the Metro, till the MMM stepped in. Other stories are more cynical.

Only ever having busked in unregulated places, I was overjoyed to find Montreal’s system. I am thrilled that I sax in the metrodon’t have to fight, argue, negotiate or scare people in order to work. But I have also met buskers who say that the pre-MMM scarcity of regulation made for a more diverse metro music scene, and the rules scare away good musicians who don’t know how to sign up. If you want to know the spectrum of views, talk to buskers- most I’ve met are happy to chat if their set is done.

The schedule was full for the day. I left Sherbrooke, Bach on recorder echoing in the corridor behind me.

St-Laurent was a busy street, I reasoned. Maybe I could find room on the schedule there, though it’d be cramped. I showed up there, accordion in hand, and found a lyre sign, with neither a busker nor a list. Surprised, I opened my case and began to play.

Which Station Should I Play At?

As a starter, I encourage you to play wherever looks the most fun to you. I recommend Mont-Royal station, just outside the doors. There is no sign, but it has immensely uplifting energy and the cops seem to be absolutely fine with unlicensed busking there.

If you want to make money easily, play at the busy stations. If you want to make money and not travel, play harder at the station closest to you. If you want to make money in a place you love, play harder at your favourite Metro station. For a while mine was St-Laurent. Then Cremazie. Then Square-Victoria. People ask me “What station do you play at?” Why would I play at the same place every night?

My friends would ask me how busking was going. My stock answers were “Well, it’s the only job I’ve found where the more fun you have, the better you do.” and “I’m going to learn the whole Amelie soundtrack.”

Strangers would ask what I was doing in Montreal. Every single time I would hesitate and say “I play accordion in the Metro”, and then watch them to see how they’d react. Most people were curious. Some were appreciative. None were ever as judgmental as I expected. Montreal seems to like its buskers.

As time went on, I learned, as you will, which busking stations I loved most.

I also learned the finer points of the rules.

montreal buskersAre Buskers Nice To Each Other?

Well, they’re coworkers.

One day I arrived at dependable Sherbrooke without a reservation and found the spot empty, half an hour past the starting time. I set up and played till Maelstrom came by and inspected the schedule.

“OK,” he said after the song. “OK, I am going to be the hard guy and go by the rulebook on this, and take this spot from you. The rules say that if you are taking an absent spot after 30 minutes, you must write your name in place of the absentee’s.” He looked me in the eye to make sure I understood, and wrote his name down. I nodded and started to pack up.

He said, quite simply, “I am only doing this so you’ll remember, and also because I want this spot to make some money because I got up late this morning. But listen, come back in half an hour and I’ll give it back to you, because I can see that you are very respectful.” He sat down and started to play. My admiration of him increased. I walked off to visit Square-Vic.

Respect between buskers takes this form for me: Go by the rules, and wait till they’ve finished the song.

What’s Busking Like?

If I hugged you, that would be the only way that I can really express how I feel about playing music for people. No, wait. Think about how you feel when someone is playing a song you love. Imagine being that person, seeing that someone loves your music. Imagine playing those songs for 4-6 hours a day. That’s what busking can be like.

And what can busking be like when I don’t enjoy it?

Sometime busking is like a weight. I know I’m signed up for 6 hours today, but I don’t want to play another song. The songs become automatic movements of the fingers while I blankly watch the crowd and am aware of my aching feet.

montreal buskerThankfully most of my days tended towards the positive. How? An accordionist from the Petrovjic Blasting Company once gave me advice that I use frequently while busking. He said “Playing with great technical skill is fun for you. But it won’t make you more money. Playing with heart will make you more money.”

If you can’t play with heart, then go home, put down your instrument and don’t play until you can make something that you love. When you know you’re playing with heart, go back into the Metro then. You will see the difference on people’s faces.

Busking 6 hours a day is like moving in with your girlfriend. It will test your relationship with your music. When I stopped, it was because I needed a break. I took a job baking bagels, and I’m very happy with it. The bagels don’t require me to bake with heart, though I am always happier when I do.

I told the truth to my friends. Busking is the only job I know where your pay depends on you having fun. I have not yet reached the goal I mentioned, but it would come from having fun if I did, I guarantee.

How much money will I make busking?

How much money is in your pocket right now, and how much attention are you paying to the world around you?

You’d probably say it depends. The wages of busking are calculated according to the following equation: a person feeling good about the music they hear as they walk past X how much money they have in their pocket X the number of people passing through the station you’re playing in.

If that sounds exciting, you should go busk right now, because frankly it is. You will never know how much you’ll make in an hour. Any busker will tell you stories of averages, or legendary days. None of them can tell you how much you can expect to make.

Though I should mention the regulars. These people will give you money just because you’re there, whether you’re playing Shostakovich or Wagon Wheel. They are often sweet old ladies and rushed businessmen. They make up my minimum wage, and I thank them for that. The real reason I busk, though, because I still do now and then, is because when somebody stops and gives me a dollar or just stops to say, “Thank you for playing, because I love that song.” That is when my heart melts and I remember why I am there.

Thanks for reading, because I love writing. Musicians, if you’re curious, go sign up for a spot in the morning. Everybody else, don’t be afraid to stop and listen to a song, tip if you desire.

As Maelstrom said once, “This job has other rewards.”