Sunday, 25 December 2016

My not so objective (and not so accurate) best of 2016

I like lists. I like best of’s. But I feel extremely uncomfortable making lists myself. Simply because I haven’t listened to many of the albums out there. And I do not enjoy all types of music. I know Solange is at the top of many lists and I’ll listen to the album from start to finish at some point. In the meantime, here is my very subjective list in no particular order (and with no detailed explanation).

“Highway Winds”
Wesley Randolph Eader

English speaking country/folk music is not as appreciated as I would like it to be in Montreal. So it’s hard to get to know any new material from friends. But I had a boss who was into country/folk. And thanks to him, I am now aware of mister Eader. He’s from Portland, Oregon, and this is his second full length album.



“Get Away with Gauche!”
Gauche

Saw them live at La Casa del Popolo in Montreal. What a great band. Great performance. (I just realized it was released in 2015. I’ll still put it on the list. It’s just that good). From Washington D.C. Punk.



“The Party”
Andy Shauf

What a great idea to write an album about a party! From Saskatchewan, Andy Shauf is now hugely appreciated in Montreal. In December, he was set to play at the Ritz but the event was quickly moved to a larger venue (Le National). I didn’t get to buy the ticket in time though. I’ve been told by my friend Émilie who attended the event that Andy Shauf has a good sense of humour.



“Singing Saw”
Kevin Morby

Wow oh wow! Great album. Seems every sound is important in order to get the message delivered.  I’ve never seen him live. I’m crossing my fingers he’ll stop by soon.



“Light Upon the Lake”
Whitney

They played the Ritz on October 14th. I didn’t go, Nots was playing La Casa del Popolo the same evening. Nots gives a great performance while I wasn’t sure about Whitney’s live act. My friend Véronique was at the sold out Ritz show though. Apparently, I missed something good. Listened to “Light Upon the Lake” all summer. It’s going to be one of those albums which will bring back memories ten years from now.



“Masterpiece”
Big Thief

Love them. At first listen, I didn’t appreciate the album as much as I should have. But after watching their NPR Tiny Desk Concert performance, everything changed. I had a better understanding of where they were coming from. I couldn’t attend their live performance at the Ritz. Used to be I worked for a newspaper, which meant I also sometimes had to work the night shift. I quit that job but that evening was my last night shift there. Sadly, I couldn’t skip work. I had friends at the event. They told me the Ritz booked a Lady Gaga Special night after Big Thief’s concert. Which resulted in people attending the concert with no interest in the band. A friend had to yell at the crowd to shut up. Hopefully they’ll be back in Montreal and I’ll be there.



“Deluxe”
Omni

This is the type of music I would qualify as weird. But still they make it sound good. Post-punk music from Atlanta.



"Drive Your Car"
L.A. Witch

Ok. I only have two songs from them. They haven’t released a LP yet. But I’m still including them in the list. I’m allowed to. Never heard of them until I saw them play at L’Escogriffe in Montreal. I love that bar. If you’re from out of town and you want a Montreal experience, go to L’Escogriffe. They were playing with great Montreal bands, Femme Accident and Nancy Pants. But I just felt L.A. Witch stole the show. It’s dark and it’s beautiful.



“When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired”
Mothers

An alluring album with a touching voice. Not everybody likes this album though, the reason none of my friends joined me to their Ritz performance. I can’t explain why I like this album so much. Maybe because lead singer Kristine Leschper’s voice has both emotion and control.



“Mowing”
Michael Nau

This album is easy listening. It’s written in a style that has been popular maybe a few years back. I don’t care. The guy is talented and he creates beautiful melodies.



“Gymnastics”
Sneaks

Got to know Sneaks from a friend at my old workplace with a great eye/ear for new music (new music to me). Punk with great rhythm and a minimalist sound. Again from Washington D.C. Check it out.



“More”
New Fries

Wrote about them a while back, a live show at the Ritz. From Toronto, the band’s latest album is juicy with odd sounds. I like being unaccustomed. This is what it is.



“Love & Hate”
Michael Kiwanuka

I almost forgot “Love & Hate”. The reason I’m making this list is that I’m frustrated he’s not in any the year end list (any that I know of). Meaningful songs with a beautiful voice. A great soul album.



“We got it from Here... Thank You 4 Your service”
A Tribe Called Quest

Last but not least. Need I explain more?



Other albums I know should be on the list but that I haven’t listened to enough.

“Thought Rock Fish Scale”
Nap Eyes



“The Intricate Maps”
The Multiple Cat



Ok bye!

China

Monday, 5 September 2016

Welcome to the FME

The Emerging Music Festival  (FME for short in French) takes place on a long weekend in the copper mining town of Rouyn-Noranda. Rouyn and Noranda were previously two distinctive towns but merged in 1986. It’s about a 7h north/west drive from Montreal.

We arrive Thursday afternoon. Our stay in town starts with a show at Cabaret de la dernière chance for a midnight concert. Partner, a band from Sackville (New Brunswick), is playing. We’re by the bar at the back of the venue next to festival-goers with little respect for the four playing on stage. Being loud throughout the whole performance. This doesn’t bother the musicians though. Many among the crowd are having a good time. Perhaps not my type of music (am reminded of 90’s skate punk and teen years full of angst), Partner gives a good show and Josée Caron’s guitar solos are impressive.



Friday. Walking around Noranda in the afternoon, we end up breathing some polluted air from the foundry. Our mouth suddenly tastes weird and I can’t control my coughing. JF, who grew up in Rouyn, tells me it used to be much worse. This sounds awful.

We drive back to downtown Rouyn, around lake Osisko. There’s a big gathering. It’s La Colonie de Vacances. I thought it was meant for kids. I was wrong and the performance is awesome. It consists of a quadrophonic show forming a square with the crowd in the middle. Four bands (Papier Tigre, Electric Electric, Pneu, Marvin – 11 musicians) playing ping pong with music.



Afterwards it’s Ludo Pin at the Café-bar l’Abstracto (Rouyn). A good performance and enjoyable music.

Ludo Pin




I especially appreciate the drummer’s, Mat Vezio, guitar playing on one of the songs. It rocks. The only problem is he continues making odd sounds with his guitar even though the song had ended.

Later, in downtown Noranda, we decide to watch Half Moon Run perform instead of Avec pas d’casque*. It’s a questionable decision, I agree. Not that Half Moon Run isn’t good, only Avec pas d’casque just released the album Effets spéciaux, their first full length in four years. JF had a good point though; the chances of us catching Avec Pas d’casque in concert in Montreal are greater than those of catching Half Moon Run.

It’s a double bill with Yann Perreau playing at 8pm and Half Moon Run playing at 9:30pm. They play some good songs but also play quite a few ballads. I’m not a fan of their ballads. All in all, for fans, it’s a good performance and I unfortunately miss an Avec pas d’casque event.

Next. Co/ntry at 11pm. An outside event, as with both performances before. I truly appreciate this Montreal duo. Playing a kind of Synth Pop 80’s music. Saw them perform three times before. Not always good. Beaver Sheppard sometimes sings off key and it feels like it’s done on purpose (I might be wrong though). Anyhow, none of that at the FME, the show is splendid, Beaver Sheppard is very theatrical (in a good way) with his large Hawaiian shirt. Would have stayed until the end had I not had freezing toes.



At midnight, U.K. Subs are set to play in the downtown Noranda bar Diable Rond. I soon realize a dram of whisky (Glenfiddich) costs the same as a Boréale beer at the bar. My stomach gives me a hard time when drinking that beer and it’s the only beer sold during all festival events. I love the Diable Rond all of a sudden with my glass of whisky in hand. U.K. Subs turned out to be, in my FME experience, the event of the weekend.

They are an English punk band from the mid-seventies with singer Charlie Harper as the only original member. Bassist Alvin Gibbs, present that evening, joined the band in the 80’s.



Not only is the crowd into it, U.K. Subs is having a blast. Fans step on stage, sing with M. Harper, give him hugs (it’s ok, he tells us, it’s Rob) and of course the usual moshing and crowd surfing (the bar’s ceiling is quite low I might add). I loved it.

Charlie Harper holding the mic for a fan

U.K. Subs at Le Diable Rond

After the encore we head home with some difficulty. No taxis available. Finally cornered one by walking in the middle of the busy street and telling the driver it was only a five-minute drive. Turned out I was wrong.

Saturday is our last day at the FME. JF is scheduled to work on Monday; we have no choice but to leave Sunday morning.

GaBlé, a trio from Normandie (France) is at L’Abstracto for a 5pm to 7pm set. We head there early to get a good spot in the bar. The only table available as we arrive is next to the speaker. They start playing and it sounds good but unfortunately loud. It’s happy music with some experimentation.

GaBLé

All is well until one band member asks us to sing along by doing the sound of a First Nation, placing your hand repeatedly on your mouth and chanting. This act makes me feel real uneasy. Not many among the crowd follow suit on the musician’s proposal. I start to feel the urge to go to the washrooms. I leave and never come back to my seat. The place is crowded and I’m thinking it’s not worth it. JF joins me five minutes later.

At 8pm we’re back in Noranda at the Petit Théâtre du Vieux-Noranda for Royal Caniche, VioleTT Pi and Metz. I like Royal Caniche for the performance they give. They leave all pretentiousness behind. Next is VioleTT Pi. Good and a bit more accessible than Royal Caniche. But at this point, all I want is to listen to Metz. So my mind unfortunately wanders. Metz steps on stage and I’m really excited. They give a good show but the crowd doesn’t embark on the ride. I don’t listen to Metz at home but in concert they’re a whole lot of fun. I stop thinking and analyzing when I watch them play and maybe that’s what the crowd can’t do. They need to understand. I want to be carried away but sadly it doesn’t happen as the crowd starts thinning away.


Metz in Noranda

After Metz, we head to the basement of the same venue for Yonatan Gat (from Monotonix) and UUBBUURRUU. Yonatan Gat’s stage is at the same level as the floor in the middle of the room. We all know what to do; we circle the instruments and wait patiently for the musicians to arrive. The drummer amazes me. As he starts playing, he barely stops hitting those drums and with quite a fast pace.



The set ends and he smashes the drum kit with his stool. I’m naïve and really think he’s tired of playing the drums as the two other musicians stand there without knowing what to do. JF, who enjoyed the performance as much as I did, thinks it’s all for show. Their music is beautiful but the whole setting reminds me of a cult leader and his followers. The crowd is making a big thing out of a good show.

drummer Gal Lazer (Yonatan Gat)
Yonatan Gat

The last performance for us that evening is UUBBUURRUU. Unfortunately for this Montreal band, they are playing after Yonatan Gat. Not that they aren’t talented, only that it’s not the same. I’ve seen them perform before and I enjoy it. I’m drinking my second Boréale when my stomach feels weird (they don’t sell whisky in the basement). All I’m thinking about is how to digest it, therefore more or less paying attention to the band on stage.



The FME is a great festival. The setting is perfect. You feel welcomed by everybody in Rouyn-Noranda. I love it. I just wish there was more emerging music but I guess it’s a tough thing to get a festival going when the musicians aren’t known. Also, many of them, which I haven’t mentioned in this post, are from the Quebec province. Very talented, only we don’t need to go to Rouyn-Noranda to watch them perform. They often play in Montreal. Still, going to the FME was worth it.

a downtown Noranda alley

We leave the next morning with good memories and quite a few burps.


* KNLO, Brown and Dead Obies are also playing that evening. I’ve heard really good things about Dead Obies. Someday I will attend a performance of theirs. They live in Montreal. Maybe soon.




Monday, 9 May 2016

Protomartyr | Sonic Avenues | Fake Palms

Show: Protomartyr + Sonic Avenues + Fake Palms
Venue: La Vitrola, Montreal

Date: Thursday, May 5th, 2016



Tough week. Seems it never ends. Live acts are a good way of escaping. Protomartyr at La Vitrola on Thursday evening did just that.

Had originally planned to see DFA 1979 way back before Protomartyr was set to play. But the Torontonian band had been moved from The Corona to The Metropolis. Therefore I lose any desire to see them. V, who had already bought a ticket for DFA 1979, texted me that evening, “C’est crowdé en cibole ici”*. The same evening, No Negative is playing at L’Esco. JP’s there expecting to bump into me. I completely forget. Shouldn’t click attend to all those events on Facebook. Anyhow, I’m alone at La Vitrola but this is not a bad thing.

The first set, Fake Palms from Toronto. Enjoyed the instrumental sections. Somehow this reminds me of an evening spent at l’Esco where I chat with Corridor band members. I mention how the excellent guitar playing changes everything in the band. I get the impression the lead singer with whom I'm conversing is bothered by the comment. I don’t always say the right thing.



As the first set ends, all I am thinking of is does Milk Lines still exist. The ML bass player is playing with Fake Palms tonight. I approach him later. He tells me Milk Lines is on uncertain ground. Sad.

It's Sonic Avenues' turn to play. Before stepping on stage, lead singer Maxime Desharnais stretches his arms and legs as if to prepare for gruesome exercises. I laugh inside. Anyhow Sonic Avenues is good but not my type.



Protomartyr. Final set. On stage. Yay. They’ve been in Montreal twice before I believe. Seen all their performances. The first time, at the Il Motore (now the Ritz), is where I became aware of this Detroit band. First or second set on the bill, they asked the crowd for a place to sleep.




All becomes perfection as my head’s bobbing to the beat of the music. I finish it with 1/2 dram of whisky. I walk back home with a stop by JJ’s. He works long hours but always there to give me a hug. My workday wasn’t great so I needed it.

Hugged and all, I head home. It's about 1:30am (I live a few blocks away from JJ’s), a stranger asks me would I smoke a joint with him. Nope. He then questions me about my calves: “Would the circumference be 16 inches, like those of a ballerina dancer?”. “Could I measure them with my hands?” he adds while showing me his fingers forming a circle. The moment is creepy. Told him I was going to bed and left.


* it’s crowded here, unbearable

Monday, 25 April 2016

Bloodshot Bill | The Hazytones

Show: Bloodshot Bill + The Hazytones
Venue: Beat & Betterave, in Frelighsburg
Date: Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

JJ couldn't help himself. He had to comment on the crowd's oddness at Beat & Betterave. "Le LSD a encore cours par ici"* he tells me. Among us, a lady in her 60's (or 70's) dancing with limbs flying around. The Hazytones were playing.

It's still early when we arrive. I have a fondness for this venue with all its windows and breathtaking view. The place is not yet packed. Nevertheless we stand by the washroom which results in people continuously asking me if am waiting in line to pee. This includes Bloodshot Bill who has failed twice to secure his spot.

As they step on stage, The Hazytones warn us "It's more heavy than Bloodshot Bill". Ok am warned. Am scared. Turns out it's not that heavy and I lose interest. I watch the odd crowd dance instead. Shouldn't judge though. Am strange too.

Bloodshot Bill is next and it's as good as it has ever been.



At some point a lady joins him on the platform. No idea what she's asking him to do but he replies with a "I'll try". "Maudite groupie" someone murmurs among the crowd.

Bloodshot Bill's performance is wild even as he is sitting on a chair. One song sang in French, couldn't understand much. The night ends and half the crowd by the stage is moshing (half of the crowd = 15 people. It's a small venue).

Bloodshot Bill
I purchase both of Bloodshot Bill's vinyl** and as we drive home I curse myself for not using the washroom one last time. The land and shack JJ owns has no running water. There's a limit to being hippie.


*LSD use is still frequent in the area
** Actually JJ is the one purchasing but he's too shy to approach BB so I do all the exchanging. 

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Bleached | No Parents | The Muscadettes

Show: Bleached + No Parents + The Muscadettes
Venue: Ritz PDB, Montreal
Date: Saturday, April 16th, 2016

Arrived at 9h30. No Parents had started. Two minutes later V joins me. We're at the back of the venue. Don't know what to think of the band playing. The lyrics are disturbing. Then again the music is quite catchy, good drumming, good everything. Screaming people on stage is great. You somehow think you are also yelling, it feels good.



Reasonably fun until some guy next to us starts screaming "shut up!" at the band. Continuously. Didn't hear any of this though 'cause both my ears were full of earwax. Just saw V in a heated discussion with the guy. Turns out she told him to quit it, he named her a cunt, she called him a dick, and so on. She seemed alright with the whole situation though, had a smile on her face and ended up chatting with his friend about Brit Pop.

The set is soon ending, the bass player removes his shirt to reveal the setlist on his chest (they didn't know what song they were playing next). V is still talking with the Brit Pop guy, I go get a beer.

As they leave the stage, the guy screams "fuck you" to the band. This is what V tells me (I still can't hear).

Last set, Bleached. They're great. Good vibes and flowers on stage.



No Parents band members join them for a few songs. Singer Jennifer Clavin explains how No Parents' van broke down in Boston leaving one member behind with the vehicle. Both bands end up sharing a van on the trip to Montreal. Good times, she tells us, despite the lack of space.

Bleached with a few No Parents

Micayla Grace on bass

There's something joyful about watching Bleached play on stage. One fan in the first row is uncommonly enjoying the night, singing along to every song on the setlist. Rather cute.

He brought a board.

The concert is coming to an end. Two girls from the crowd step on stage. Everybody is headbanging.

Bleached and crowd
We leave the Ritz. V has never been so alive. Am thinking she takes pleasure in arguing with people (or maybe it's just talking about Brit Pop). Whatever it is, am kinda happy she's my friend.

China

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Ought + Wreckage With Stick + Caro Diaro

Show: Ought | Wreckage With Stick | Caro Diaro
Venue: La Sala Rossa
Date: Friday, April 8th, 2016

I know I haven't written anything lately. I've been to a few shows in the past months. Some good, but sometimes life changes you and therefore you decide to sleep instead of exhausting all that energy. These days collages have been my means of expression.

Love this blog though. I won't quit.

JJ and I bought tickets for this event quite in advance. I've never seen Ought in concert because, well, I haven't payed attention to them until a few months ago when I purchased More Than Any Other Day. Which I love.



The first set. Caro Diaro. Watched her perform before at the Ritz. The reason we arrived early really. Didn't want to miss this set. I know she's alone on stage with only voice and guitar. She could use some extra instruments. But what she gives is good. Manages to play different musical styles without losing herself. The crowd may say, not paying attention to her subtleties, it all sounds the same. It doesn't. There's anger and there's country music. Loved her country song. The evening might have begun with the crowd conversing instead of listening but as the set ended the floor was quiet.

Caro Diaro




Second act. Wreckage With Stick. Punk. Loved it at first but had to leave before the end. Couldn't take it anymore. Walked to the bar and bought us some beers. The singer, Matthew D. Reading, reminds me of a character in a Daniel Clowes graphic novel with lyrics such as "I tried, I tried and I failed" repeated over and over. Only this guy is very theatrical and puts on quite a show (until you're too depressed to keep on watching). At the far right of the stage you have someone eating pasta with a glass of wine. A guy in a alien mask had served him the chicken. This caused JJ to react. Asked me if I thought we had aliens with us here at the venue. JJ is weird sometimes. Talked to him about prostate cancer and he starts singing "avec mes grosses couilles" from Philippe Katherine's "Efféminé".

Wreckage With Stick




Main act. Ought. By this time my eyes are small. Have small eyes because either I drink too much or my body needs a bed. Had only two beers that evening. The singer Tim Darcy is captivating. Like with the other two performers that evening, the emotions vocally are palpable. There's so much going out of that thin frame.

Ought

We left the venue for the cold air (we're in April damn it) thinking of my bed. I'll be slowly resurfacing though. We all will. Summer is on its way.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The Sadies | Li'l Andy | Bar le Ritz PDB

Show: The Sadies + Li'l Andy
Venue: Ritz PDB, Montreal
Date: Saturday, January 30th, 2016


Heading to the Ritz on Jean-Talon street, it's a relatively warm winter evening. Am meeting my usual concert partner, V, although am a bit late due to falling asleep in bed. V's been different these days. She's lost patience with foolishness at some times. The crowd gets on her nerves. Comprehensible though. We have a hard time moving from one point to other without having to excuse ourselves for pushing someone aside. No budging that evening. 

 photo Johann Schlager

The first set is Li’l Andy with band. They don't disappoint. 



Have seen them perform twice already. First at the Petit Campus with someone wanting to steal the guitars (“it’s a joke” he kept assuring me). Second time at the 2015 FME where I fell on the sidewalk in front of band and attending crowd. This performance: everything is perfect. Li’l Andy and his band are on fire throughout the whole set. I particularly enjoyed the violinist’s, Joshua Zubot, solo on "See the Train Arrive".



The Sadies. I might’ve been the only one in the crowd that hadn’t seen them perform before. 

Dallas Good
photo Véronique Côté
Travis Good
photo Johann Schlager

Great music without a doubt. A generous band, playing a long set. Dallas Good’s voice is a beauty. (Having said that I’ll add, with embarrassment, they are on automatic pilot. Completely normal though. Right? When you do so many shows in a year? The roaring crowd did motivate them however. It includes my work colleague by the bar jumping up and down like a kid in front of a candy store.) The thing is the music is so grand, any other bumps are unimportant. For fans that is.



A wonderful evening all in all.

On the way back home, I notice a blind man (sunglasses and stick) walking in the middle of the street. We’re on the corner of Clark and Jean-Talon. Cars are swerving by. “Do you know where you’re walking?” I scream. Of course I say the wrong thing. He’s insulted. He advances towards me and tells me he doesn’t know since he’s blind (duh, China). By being next to me he’s now, thank goodness, off the street. The bus driver dropped him off on the corner of Saint-Laurent and Jean-Talon, one street away from where he actually asked to descend. Clark street et Saint-Laurent blvd aren’t the same in width which explains why he was in the middle of the street. I walk with him to Saint-Laurent blvd. Once there he asks me to continue with him South on Saint-Laurent until Saint-Zotique. I tell him I can’t (I feel bad), because I don’t want to miss the last train. Luckily, I spot someone else heading home from The Sadies’ performance and plead with my eyes (so my pleads can't be heard) to help the blind guy out. 



Living in Montreal is inexpensive. The nightlife and music scene are incomparable. Public transport is shitty. 

xx China