Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney talk about Ye (formerly Kanye West)’s recent anti-Semitic and other outbursts, the PQ being barred from the National Assembly for refusing to swear allegiance to King Charles III and Montreal settling a class action protest lawsuit for $3.1 Million.

Follow Dawn McSweeney @mcmoxy on Twitter and Instagram

Follow Jason C. McLean @jasoncmclean on Twitter and Instagram

Potentially hundreds of protesters detained and/or arrested by Montreal Police (SPVM) in violation of their rights at eight protests between 2012 and 2014 are entitled to a share of the $3.1 million settlement the City of Montreal reached with lawyers in a class action lawsuit. The city will also post an apology on their website.

The SPVM started kettling protesters (surrounding then detaining them) as a routine tactic in 2012 when the city added a clause demanding protesters provide a route to Municipal Bylaw P-6 under Gerald Tremblay’s administration at the height of the student protests. The clause was struck down by the courts in 2018 then taken off the books by Valérie Plante’s administration in 2019.

Protests covered by this settlement include anti-police brutality marches and the anniversary of the start of the student strike protest.

This agreement, which still needs to be approved by the Quebec Court of Appeals on December 21st, means that anyone who was detained and/or arrested by the SPVM at the following protests could be entitled to financial compensation:

  • June 7, 2012 at around 6 p.m., on Notre-Dame Street, between des Seigneurs and Richmond
  • March 15, 2013, on Sainte-Catherine Street, between Sainte-Élizabeth and Sanguinet Street, from around 5:45pm
  • March 15, 2013, on Sainte-Catherine Street, between Sanguinet and Saint- Denis Street, from around 6:30pm
  • March 22, 2013, on De Maisonneuve Boulevard, between Saint-André and Saint-Timothée Street, from around 6:20pm
  • March 22, 2013, on Saint-Timothée Street, near the intersection with De Maisonneuve Boulevard, from around 6:15pm
  • April 5, 2013, on De Maisonneuve boulevard, between Berri and St-Hubert Street around 6:35pm
  • May 1, 2013, on Place Royal, at the corner of de la Commune Ouest around 7:15pm
  • March 15, 2014, on Chateaubriand Street, between Jean- Talon and Bélanger Street around 3:20pm

Featured Image of a police kettle at the 2015 Anti-Police Brutality March by Cem Ertekin

Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney on Montreal seniors getting free public transit as of July 23, 2022, new child medicine and free flu shots coming to Canada and recent testimony at the Emergencies Act Inquiry. Plus comments on the two mass shootings in the US last week.

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!

It’s the aftermath of the 2022 Quebec Election and like many people of colour in Quebec, I am in mourning.

I am in mourning because the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) led by François Legault, whose administration over the past five years has been characterized by a rise in hate crimes, the passing of Bills 21 and 96, legislation meant to alienate hardworking Quebeckers for what they wear, how they live, and what language they speak, won a majority in the National Assembly. I am in mourning because a faulty riding system gave rural Quebeckers terrified of non-white, non-Christian, non-French-speaking Quebecois greater representation than the majority of the province’s population. I pity those same voters for failing to see Legault’s race baiting and the similarities between his administration and that of Quebec’s hated past Premier, Maurice Duplessis.

Like Duplessis, Legault repeatedly covers his mistakes and unfulfilled promises by making false claims that non-French speakers and visible minorities are the real threat to Quebec society. Like Duplessis, Legault’s actions are fervently anti-union, behavior that has driven thousands out of the healthcare and teaching professions. His anti-immigration rhetoric has exacerbated an ongoing labour shortage that has business owners in the service, manufacturing, and import-export industries begging the government to admit more people annually.

I grieve because Legault’s refusal to acknowledge systemic racism has been widely interpreted by the worst members of society as permission to discriminate and engage in acts of violence, and resulted in the deaths of people like Joyce Echequan.

As the hate crimes increase, Legault is actively engaging in indoctrination, forcing schools to teach values and history lessons that ignore the contributions of Jews and other groups that have been in Quebec just as long as the French have, if not longer. He changed the political culture by his blatant use of the Notwithstanding Clause in the Canadian Constitution, when it used to be considered a frowned upon last resort.

All the while, his government has been passively undermining the safety and voting power of people under the age of 60. During the pandemic he actively denied access to the vaccine to chronically ill people under 60 who were just as susceptible to COVID as perfectly healthy baby boomers, shifting gears only when public outrage forced his hand. During the election The Coalition Avenir du Québec made no attempt to court young voters because studies showed that those who vote don’t vote for them.

Though the aftermath has me fearing for my own safety, it is not for myself and other Quebec minorities that I grieve for most. It is for the white Francophone Quebecois who said they would not vote for Legault. The ones from Quebec City, Sherbrooke, Montreal, and small towns in Quebec who refused to buy into the Coalition Avenir du Quebec’s rhetoric, coming forward to say bigotry is not something to be proud of, and backed it up with their votes. Many of these voters have confided in me that they are quietly waiting for the baby boomers to die off, convinced that the electoral system that led to a CAQ majority will not accommodate and respect their needs.

I have always said that a revolution must begin inside and outside the political system. The time to try and make a difference inside the system passed with this election. It is time to fight back from outside of it.

It will not be easy, but there are ways around National Assembly seats and dictatorial leaders out of touch with reality. I’m not just talking about protests and marches. I encourage business leaders hurt by the government’s immigration policies to find a way to sue them for loss of profits.

Social media campaigns to dig up every little harm or illegal dealing by Legault and his government should start immediately so the world can see them for the xenophobes and crooks that they are. Young people should be writing letters, protesting, and demanding changes to a political system that is repeatedly leaving them behind.

Most importantly, we the people need to unite with our French Canadian allies and show the world that the CAQ does not represent the majority of Quebeckers. Diversity is strength, and bigotry brings only shame and economic adversity.

The fight is only over when WE say it is.

No more turning the other cheek.

Drawing by Samantha Gold @samiamart on Facebook & @samiamartistmtl on Instagram

With the Quebec Elections coming on October 3rd, this week’s Riding to Watch is one I’ve lived in more or less my whole life: Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (NDG).

NDG is one of the larger ridings in Montreal and has been a Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) stronghold for decades. However, as in many other ridings, the PLQ MNA, Kathleen Weil, has decided not to run again, creating an opening for new blood in the seat.

Why is NDG a riding to watch?

Here’s why:

Riding Breakdown

  • Location and Boundaries: Notre-Dame-de-Grace is comprised of Montreal West and part of the NDG/Côte-des-Neiges borough of Montreal.
  • Population: 72 520 with 46 268 electors
  • Language: 48.3% Anglophone, 24.2% Francophone, and 19.5% Allophone
  • Age: The two largest groups are the 30-39 (15.6%) and 20-29 (14.6%)
  • Average Income: With 17.7 % of the population in the >$9,999 and $19,999 annual household income range, NDG is one of the poorest districts on the Island of Montreal.

This is a borough to watch because it contains 34.2 percent visible minorities, compared to just 13 percent in all of Quebec. It is one to watch as the PLQ’s Kathleen Weil has been in power since 2008 and is choosing not to run again.

The PLQ’s replacement candidate, Désirée McGraw, was former Federal Prime Minister Paul Martin’s senior policy advisor from 2003 to 2006. She also has lots of experience fighting for environmental causes and is clearly one of the more experienced candidates.

In the 2018 provincial election, Québec solidaire (QS) came in second in NDG. While much of Québec solidaire’s platform, such as opposition to Bill 21 and fighting climate change, is ideologically in line with the values of the people of Notre-Dame-de-Grace, their refusal to oppose the aggressive language law, Bill 96, has left a sour note in the mouths of the district’s majority Anglophone population. It is no help to their cause that their candidate, Élisabeth Labelle is fresh out of university and has little to no political experience.

Photo by Samantha Gold

The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) candidate is Geneviève Lemay, who has a certificate in Diversity and Inclusion from Cornell University. The party clearly chose her for her bilingualism and education in an attempt to mollify the riding’s Anglophone and ethnically diverse population. She unlikely to win because despite the deep-seated cynicism of much of the riding’s population, Notre-Dame-de-Grace embraces ethnic and linguistic diversity and social justice in a way wholly incompatible with CAQ’s assimilationist xenophobic rhetoric.

The Conservative Party of Quebec (CPQ) candidate is Dr. Roy Eappen, an endocrinologist. Much like his party, he believes the solution to Quebec’s ailing public healthcare system is to lean more heavily on privatization, a solution that would likely create two-tier system in which the super-rich get better quality healthcare than most Quebeckers. Though Eappen himself immigrated to Canada from Kerala, India, he seems to take no issue with his party’s determination to slash immigration to Quebec.

There are two party leaders running for a seat in Notre-Dame-de-Grace. The first is the Green Party of Quebec (PVQ) Leader Alex Tyrrell, who has led the party since 2013. In the 2018 elections Green Party candidate Chad Walcott came in fourth after the Coalition Avenir Québec candidate in the riding. As it stands, the Green Party has yet to win a seat in the National Assembly and is unlikely to do so this time around.

Former Canadian Football League player Balarama Holness is the other party leader running in Notre-Dame-de-Grace. His party is one of his own creation, called Bloc Montreal. His party is all about ensuring that Montreal’s interests are properly represented in the National Assembly and their platforms begin with a recognition that Montreal represents fifty percent of the Quebec population and fifty percent of the province’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The party opposes Bills 21 (the secularism law) and 96 as being harmful to Montrealers. Though much of the party’s platform is meant for all of Quebec, the perception that they stand for Montreal and only Montreal will likely cost the party in this election.

No word on how this could play out locally for Holness, so NDG remains a riding to watch.

Map and stats from Elections Quebec

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

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:

The final two days of Osheaga seemed promising. The lIne-up looked intriguing but would the performances be any good?

We started out day two still getting over last night’s epic Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Arcade Fire closing performances wondering if it could be topped. To answer that question: yes, yes it can be!

Mitski

I started off checking out Mitski who is known for her gyrating performances with a full 80s synth pop sound. I saw her at the smaller stage a few years ago and she was very impressive.

Now at the main stage, I realized I enjoyed her performance better last time. Maybe it was her being on the main stage that threw me off, or maybe it was the fact that I was surrounded by so many people who seem utterly distracted or detached from her music.

I wish more people at the main stages were more interested in seeing Mitski, but I guess they must have been waiting for some other performer. 

Photo by Chris Zacchia

Polo and Pan

How weird can French disco/techno can get? Well, if you let Polo and Pan show you the way, you’ll understand how much. I know the weird DJ man wearing a house coat showed me. It was a surprising to the end of the performance. Definitely something you should check out.

Photo by Chris Zacchia

Caribou

What can you say except Caribou may have stole the show at this years Osheaga, especially Saturday. They were one of my top highlights,

Caribou was everything I hoped they would be. I was looking forward to them playing Odessa but then I remembered how many other songs I loved and wanted to hear them play. I danced late into the evening with thousands of other people dancing around me. It was pretty crazy,

Khruangbin

Khruangbin were one of those surprising bands that sounded better than even their recordings. With elements of seventies funk, blue grass and country, Khruangbin is one eclectic romp through American music.

Blood Royal

How much noise could two people make. Well Royal Blood proved that two grown men could make a pretty impressive racket.

Great songs, powerful bass and the crowd went pretty crazy. This included an impressive mosh pit swarm, which I haven’t seen at Osheaga in quite a while.

Wet Leg

The highlight of my festival was seeing Wet Leg. They just plain rock. I had so much fun jibing to this 5-piece that still played to perfection with only four.

Cheers to the ladies that rock this good, great riffs and catchy tunes. They definitely put a smile on my face.

Idles

While most normal people were ending the night at Dua Lipa, people who like hearing British people swear were busy at the Idles show.

And boy did that man ever curse! But they put on one hell of a show.

Photo by Chris Zacchia

Dua Lipa

I don’t know much about Dua Lipa except that she is extremely popular, her stage was dangerously packed and, well, she ended the festival. It was most definitely one night to remember. 

Photo by Chris Zacchia

Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney take a break from talking Montreal festival season to go over some recent news:

  • Ongoing war in Ukraine and war games near Taiwan
  • Pierre Poilievre poised to win Federal Conservative Party leadership
  • Quebec pharmacist refuses to sell woman morning-after pill

Follow Dawn McSweeney @mcmoxy on Twitter and Instagram

Follow Jason C. McLean @jasoncmclean on Twitter and Instagram

After speaking with Rick Mercer the week before the Just for Laughs festival hit Montreal, I had high hopes for the show he was hosting. Comedy Night in Canada was unfortunately a disappointing mishmash of ethnic clichés and other safe topics that left me starving for the edginess that so beautifully defined the other shows I’d seen at Just for Laughs this year.

The roster of Comedy Night in Canada consisted of Mercer, Salma Hindy, Sophie Buddle, Ivan Decker, Dave Merheje, and Eman El-Husseini, whom I remember back when she was waitressing at the now defunct (due to a fire) Comedyworks club in Downtown Montreal. I must applaud the producers of this show for sticking with Canadian comedians, while not shying away from ethnic diversity, making the show reflective of the Canadian Mosaic. That said, I desperately wanted to love this show and I couldn’t.

The material most of the comedians stuck with was brutally safe, and often repetitive. Dave Merheje, whom I’ve interviewed in the past, stuck with family anecdotes and jokes about his own ethnicity, as did Salma Hindy. Ivan Decker and Eman El-Husseini’s stuff was about relationships and mundane activities. Sophie Buddle mainly rehashed the jokes she’d used in The Nasty Show.

Only Mercer and El-Husseini were about to add some edge to their comedy. El-Husseini’s joke about having a boy means having a child “that will masturbate all over your house” was funny, but it came too little too late in her set. Mercer’s material on conversion therapy, naming public property, and the dullness of space were by far the edgiest and funniest the show got.

It must be said that the quality of the comedy cannot be blamed entirely on the cast of Comedy Night in Montreal. As me and my plus one settled in our seats, we saw a sea of Baby Boomer and elderly mainly white faces.

When I saw the cost of the tickets, I understood that the audience was indicative of the generational and racial wealth gaps. The comedians who performed that night were clearly pandering to this audience, and the quality of the jokes suffered for it.

If Comedy Night in Canada comes back, I want the roster to unleash their inner beasts and come out with material that’s actually funny and not just comfortable for white Boomers who love ethnic clichés and bashing young people. I’ve seen these comedians do better and I want them to.

They say that tragedy plus time equals comedy. This Thursday, SNL alum and beloved funnyman John Mulaney put that theory to the test with his one-man show, From Scratch, which detailed his recent recovery from drug addiction. The question some JFL attendees were left asking, however, was…too soon?

“Hi – it’s me. The comedian from a couple of years ago…” he cautiously began, addressing the enthusiastic audience at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier, which was packed to the rafters. Clad in one of his trademark dapper suits, the likable comedian touched briefly on the news cycle in America – “CNN does breaking news the way a breathless kid runs up to tell you a pointless story,” he quipped – before getting straight to the meat and potatoes of the evening: the addictions that nearly ruined his life.

“I’m here to be vulnerable for money,” he admitted as he launched into the details, date by date, of how he lost his way. The seemingly-straightlaced 39-year-old admitted frankly to having used cocaine, Adderall, Xanax, Percocet, Seroquel and other drugs in the lead-up to December 2020, when his celebrity friends staged a 12 person-strong intervention under the guise of a dinner party.

“It was a star-studded intervention,” he remarked. “A ‘We Are The World’ of alternative comedians over the age of 40. The funniest people in the world…and they promised each other that they wouldn’t do bits,” he added. “Fred Armisen was serious. Do you know how off-putting that is?”

Mulaney recounted how Nick Kroll and Seth Meyers each expressed their concerns, though it was ultimately actress Natasha Lyonne who got through to him, prompting him to immediately enter a rehab facility where – to his disappointment – no one seemed aware of his celebrity status.

Seeking to connect with the audience during the show, Mulaney engaged in an impromptu interview with a former addict seated up in the balcony, asking her to detail her history of substance abuse for the crowd. While probably a genuine attempt on his part to discuss the subject of recovery candidly, it also came across as exploitative.

Once the woman finished answering his questions – no doubt excited to have connected with him – he rebuffed her request for better seats, leaving the crowd to laugh at her for expecting a celeb to value her honesty or participation. Apparently, the rest of us must content ourselves with being vulnerable for free.

Even with his flawless comedic timing and witty observations, the evening sometimes had the uncomfortable tone of a confessional. An amusing one, mind you, but at the same time, a troubling one as well.

Mulaney’s talents as a writer/performer helped him rise up in the world of entertainment, but it’s his complex personal struggles that have been the subject of headlines for years now, particularly his sudden divorce from first wife Anna Marie Tendler in the spring of 2021 and subsequent involvement with Olivia Munn, who bore his first child soon after. The comedian briefly mentioned his girlfriend and the birth of his son during From Scratch, but sidestepped the subject of his marriage altogether.

If some matters were still too personal to share with the world, others were described in full, such as his relationship with “Dr. Michael” – no last name – who worked from home and provided Mulaney with whatever prescriptions he wanted. The comedian even gave the JFL audience a verbal “how to” guide for finding sketchy doctors online, just in case anyone wanted to get their hands on some drugs. Not that he was endorsing the idea, he clarified. It was, for all these reasons, a bit of an odd evening of comedy.

One can only applaud a newly sober person who is willing to come clean about their mistakes. Mulaney would hardly be the first comedian to know these kinds of struggles, and turning his painful experiences into punchlines must feel both cathartic and like something of a professional reset. How else to move beyond the story of his relapse if not to address it head-on?

Yet, beyond the witticisms, a rather bleak picture is painted here of someone still in recovery who is returning to the same industry whose excesses fueled his addictions. A man who, judging by the name-dropping scattered throughout his show and his frustration over not being recognized while in rehab, seems a tad too focused on finding success of a very particular sort instead of sorting himself out.

Make no mistake: Mulaney successfully mined tragedy for laughter with his one-man show. Was that the best way to go about reintroducing himself to his fans? That may be up for debate.

Perhaps less addiction-related humor would have lightened the evening up. Or, alternatively, embracing the confessional nature of the piece and bravely examining the factors that lead to his addictions and divorce, which could have made for a more intimate and impactful set.

Looking at his current situation, one can’t help but think back to other entertainment legends who feared losing their moment in the limelight more than losing their lives. It might be wise for Mulaney to take a little more time to restabilize and find his footing without the pressures of showbiz complicating matters. His comedic chops, as evidenced on Thursday night, are obviously in no danger of disappearing and neither are his fans, who root passionately for his future to be a brighter one.

For more details about Mulaney’s From Scratch tour, visit his website