Thursday, March 27, 2008

Montreal Music Week of March 27

March is all in like a lion, out like a lamb. I think for the music scene, its just the opposite. March starts off sleepy and then roars to life as people start dropping in on our fair city from places afar and near.

I suppose I should begin with a plug for a friend – only once I say that, there’s an assumption that I’m simply praising the band because of our friendship. That’s a bad assumption. This is a crazy, mad, insane, guitar smashing band and the spectacle created will be take second fiddle to the wild music. Devil Eyes will be playing at the Black Dot with Swamp Sex Robots and Soki Soki at the Wrong Wave festival tonight. HELL YEAH! Okay, so if you’re into something a little more mellow, well, Luc Doucet and Angela Desveaux are at Sala Rossa. Rob Lutes and Scott MacLeod are at the Centre St. Ambroise. And, I suppose this definitely merits a nod – Crystal Castles and Heath are at the Juste Pour Rire theatre. Crystal Castles is sort of like thinned out disco electronica, so expect a dance party.

Friday, March 28, is like the day of funk and swing. At La Tulipe, the best swingy jazzy dance party, C’est Extra is totally and completely free (seriously?) I’ve been to C’est Extra and its fun – also weird – but fun. But, the nu-funk is at the Jello Bar with God Made Me Funky on their CD Release tour. The Montreal funk is at the House of Reggae with one of my favourite local rasta bands, Inword. So if funk and dance aren’t your thing, well, Die Die Die is at Zoobizzare. I have no idea what that is, but I don’t suspect that dancing is part of it.

On March 30, there’s something kind of cool to do at OFF Interarts. Get ready to suck sugar at’s Sugar Shack Mess featuring a host of cool folks performing. Lil’ Andy, Brie Neilson, Bad Uncle, No Barbers Required and Deep River Decoy.

Finally, on April 2, I’ll just name a few of the fun things going down: Kathleen Edwards, Justine Rutledge at the Juste Pour Rire. Mahogany Frog and Wax Mannequin at the Casa del Popolo. Pas Chic Chic at the Lion d'or. And last but not least, Wolf Eyes and Ghost Limbs Divan Orange

Monday, March 24, 2008

Caribou Concert Review La Tulipe

I have two favourite bands. One is the Jimmy Swift Band of Halifax Nova Scotia, a band that has defined a new genre called rocktronica. Well, actually, Pink Floyd is rocktronica too – a melding of good old solid rock and electronica. To me, the sound is transcendent.

The same can be said of my second favourite band, Caribou, fronted by David Snaith of Dundas, Ontario. Formerly, the band was called Manitoba (even the term “band” is a bit of a misnomer, since it seems to have been simply Snaith). Snaith’s music is electronic psychedellia – a little kraut rock added, perhaps. His soft pitched voice is simply one more instrument among the others he combines to create music that is both intricate and addictive. However, backed with a full band, Caribou sounds heavier, funkier, a little bit earthier than Snaith alone. Which is not to say that any of the psychedelic dreaminess is lost by the inclusions of others. This band is an acid trip, a chance to connect with the divinity of all men, a oneness in the universe. In other words, this band is my other favourite band.

Carbiou’s show at La Tulipe was riveting. How could it not be? Any time you put two drummers head to head and have them play complicated rhythms in sync, it’s going to be impressive. The bigness of the drum sound together and its execution is just… special. Worthy of praise beyond praise. Snaith and his band switch off to pull in a melodica, a recorder, a xylophone, and a few ambient noises like dog barks to add complexity. Songs played came from across most of the records released, each delivered with flawless awe. Personal favourites are Bees, Melody Day, and well… all of them really. The rapport among the band members is evident and their joy is visible.

The band was bathed in a changing pattern of geometrics and colors flashed behind them on a screen. This light show, which I believe is a computer projection off the balcony, compensates for the one thing the band doesn’t have – audience rapport. While playing, the band is completely engrossed in the music (with good reason – this is complicated stuff). One song quickly switches to the next, with no introduction or context. Snaith mumbles a word of thanks and waves his appreciation; one senses his gratitude, but also his timidity. Caribou’s performance is a spectacle of light and sound and the excellence of these two things it what causes the transcendent feeling. It is not an active seduction the audience. I do not feel enticed or personally connected with the performers. I am rather just meant to absorb their excellence. Not that I am complaining.

Best touring to you, Caribou, my second favourite band. May you return quickly.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Montreal Music Week of March 21, 2008

Ah, I thought this week was going to suck. I was proven so wrong. Seems like our local booking agents are bringing in stuff well worth hauling one's butt out to see. There was no particular theme, and the good stuff seems to fall in all genres. Starting with today, Friday, the 21. There is, believe it or not, a Festival of the Accordian, taking place at the Tehatre de la Ville. I mean, how cool is that? An accordian festival? Alright, if that sounds like something your grandfather or weird cousin would like better than you, People for Audio and the Unsettlers are at the Bread Factory. I think this must be a new venue, as I've never heard of it before.

Saturday is a matter of being pulled in many directions at once. First off, Cuff the Duke, Montreal's oh-so-cool United Steel Workers of Montreal, and Vincent are the Juste Pour Rire (Cabaret du Musee). That's a great line up. But wait, the heaviest of the heavies, metals own IRON GIANT and electik bones are at Les Katacombes. I used to hang out with the guys from Iron Giant and I swear they get as naked as often as possible. Alright, indie hipsters will no doubt be at Les Saints to see The Raveonettes. Finally, MSTRKRFT will be fulfilling the dreams of all electronica folk at the Metropolis. Man, Saturday is just overwhelming.

And then, the crowning glory of all, one of my absolute favourite artists is performing: Caribou. This PhD transplant from Canada to England and who knows where he lives now has blown me away with his CDs and with his live performances that make me cry with joy. That's taking place at La Tulipe. Oh, I'm so glad I'm off Monday.

Now usually Monday is the end of all things interesting, but this week, Monday continues to sizzle with BC's Wassabi Collective, noted stars of the Evolve Festival out east in some little town in Nova Scotia. These guys don't come through often, so don't miss them at Divan Orange.

Tuesday brings old timers LIfehouse (zzz) at Club Soda and more interestingly, Kalumnity at Sablo Kafe.

Wednesday. WHOA. Back to too many choices. First off, there's some Bach fugue thing going on with the OSM. I completely am enamoured of the OSM and think Kent Nagano is very sexy to boot. But that is beside the point. Bach's fugues? Is that like manna from heaven or what? Alright, alright, maybe it's all sold out or something. OK Giraffe (a duo I believe I've mentioned here before) along with Millie Croche and Cahrlotte Cornfield are at rickety little shack Cafe Chaos. And, ah, the icing of the week, Why? -- Ohio's own weirdest, nerdiest, and coolest export that combines confessional and dark lyrics with sparse electronic melodies. Why? is playing with Cryptacize and SisterSuvi at Sala Rossa.

It's a good week, hey?

Art Opening at the SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art OIkos/Habitacles

These scenes are typical of Couturier's work on San Diego (these are not the ones in the exhibit). These are from the lawrence miller gallery.

SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art in the Bellgo building is hosting the first of a two part show entitled OIKOS/Habitacles curated by Sylvain Campeau. This outstanding exhibit focuses on the subject of landscape. Traditionally, the landscape is treated as a subject of contemplation, where the artist is separate and removed. The landscape does not change by the artist’s presence, and his (or her) presence is transient. The artwork is a transient view of an eternal object.

OIKOS/Habitcules is interested in the intrusion of the artist on landscape, as well as the melding of nature with manmade constructions. These photographs, some digitally altered, present three different approaches to the subject of landscape and do so with challenging and exciting results.

Isabelle Hayeur’s (Canada) three pieces are digital photographs, enlarged and altered to create “new and improbable” landscapes. Jour/Nuit seems a subtle nod to Magritte’s L’Empire des Lumieres, a surreal image of a house at night, with a blue sky beyond. In Hayeur’s image, a winter stand of trees, just at the end of fall, obscures the view of a row of houses still lit from the previous night along a lake. The colorless, bright sky, is touched with the reddish colors of the sun’s arrival (or perhaps departure). Cathedrale and Complicite are equally fascinating. In Cathedrale, a forest grove of trees on an irregular landscape is melded with metal poles that are camouflaged by the tree trunks. Complicite contrasts a spiral, metal stairway with a tall young tree. The juxtaposition of the natural and the manmade allows the viewer to contemplate the timelessness of the living wood and metal. Both rot and decay eventually, yet both seem to exist beyond our own lives.

Stephane Coutourier’s (France) Diptych on San Diego resemble photos of gigantic dioramas, though in fact the viewer is looking at photographs of new suburban developments with the lifeless, but ever changing, desert in the background. The imposition of man on his landscape, his need to live at a frontier and ever extend it, is implicit in the photos. Coutourier captures how the suburban structures force a generic, American life upon the barrenness and pristine vigor of the desert as well. These exciting photos demand one contemplate how man dominates and changes his landscape.

Finally, the more subtle series of untitled bunkers by Mark Ruwedel (US) brings together a series of black and white photos of cement structures set into various landscapes around the world. Much like Coutourier, Ruwedel captures the interplay between the manmade and the natural. Though, unlike Coutourier, the vigor and dominance of man is decreased. The crumbling, empty bunkers that seem defined as much by their empty interiors as by their long lasting cement are hardly an example of man’s triumph. Rather, the impression is of long, gradual decay in a landscape that changes seasonally, but lasts eternally. Furthermore, the wide varieties of locations where the bunkers come form imply that the desire of man to build himself into nature, as well as his inability to sustain his creations, is universal. Among the photos, the bunkers of the Mojave Desert, Devil’s Side, and Halifax stand out.for their unique shapes and particular solitude.

I eagerly await the second part of this exhibit, which brings together the work of three more artists who address landscape in innovative ways as well.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Jose Gonzalez Concert Review Juste pour Rire Theatre

Alright, I am going to tangent about concert T-shirts before I say a few words about Jose's panty removing performance at the Just for Laughs Theatre last night.
I admit that I lately have a thing where I want to buy concert T-shirts lately. Why? I have this obsession with wearing concert T-shirts to the gym. Other people sweat away in their spandex and sport specific apparel, ATHLETE stuff. I suppose it is some kind of psychological boost, since I question the necessity of $150 spandex shorts for bench pressing for 2 minutes followed by a very strenusous sittitng around for 15 minutes while watching everyone else. I suppose owning $150 spandex shorts means that you need to get your butt to the gym so you can use them or else the guilt alone will kill you. Notably, some of the most serious athletes at the gym wear the same dingy but comfortable outfit each time. So, I wanted to meld the two --a psychological boost with something I like wearing. What could be more perfect than my Do Make Say Think T-shirt? However, it's starting to smell and I need some other concert T-shirts so I can throw it in the wash. Fortunately, Jose Gonzalez offered me the perfect opportunity to pick up a fresh T-shirt to add to my rotating cast of gym clothes.

Back to the concert. Jose Gonzalez. Wow. I mean, what else can I say but wow? The guy oozed on the sensuality through his vulnerability and his talent. This is the kind of music that makes women peel off their panties. Like John Mayer or Elliot Smith. I suppose I can make endless references to the limited cannon of guitair playing soloists I know... he makes me think of early Martin Sexon... but that sounds sort of pretentious and makes it sound as though I have a huge repetoire to draw upon. But, I see the same use of picking out a bass line with one's thumb, something that Marty made into his trademark.

Gonzalez started with a series of solo songs, just him on a chair and his guitair. The theatre was so packed that it was impossible to see him, except for the top of his afro. I found a perch on the steps at the back of the theatre, which I held faithfully through the entire show. After his solo act, he was joined by two band members, who gave body and range to the mournful sensitivity. I would never call it "lush." This was stripped down music, left at its most basic -- angelic vocals, talented guitair playing, simple instrumental backing (not even a full drum kit!). From alpha to omega, and probably beyond, I could stay the course with this cat.

Any complaints? Well, after the show he didn't come up to me and say, "Hey, baby, nice boots. I've got this great bus, if you want to check it out."

For his website:

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cuba! Art and History from 1868 to Today

If a fascination with the Otherness of the East is Orientalism, is a fascination with the Otherness of Cuba called Meridianism? Cubanism? Carribeanism? Certainly not Castroism. At any rate, Cuba is a mysterious country that seems to exist more in the mythic imagination with figures and concepts that loom larger than life: monsterized dictatorial communist leader Castro; folklorish revolutionary hero Che Guevara; the poor, proud, and very literate populace; baseball players and artists who build rafts made of sticks and prayers to float across the Caribbean in hopes of reaching Miami; pork sandwiches and siestas; hot sweaty sensual Cubano rhythms. What is Cuba to those of us who see it only from afar, knowing it through sound bites, CDs, and independent films like Strawberry and Chocolate? Cuba is a place that exists in my imagination, a Caribbean Island I may never see, but one whose politics seem to make the news weekly.
The realization that the Cuba I think I know exists only in my mind is precisely why the Cuba! Art and History from 1868 to Today exhibit at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is so striking. It brings over 450 works from this mysterious country to the public, most on loan from Havana’s Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. The rest of the work is drawn from the Fototeca de Cuba, the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum and many private collections. The works cover a range of media, though photography and painting predominate.
The exhibit is organized into five sections, and the visitor travels through time, passing from room to room. The first sets of rooms show Cuba’s earliest interaction with various western powers of the day -- the ousting of the Spanish and the sugar plantation overlords, the US arrival on the scene, and subsequent periods of interference. Then, it moves onto Cuba’s romance with revolution, a celebration of Communism and an embrace of Socialist spirit. An especially interesting room of propagandistic posters and photos relate to Cuba’s revolution and the arrival of Castro on the scene. Then, the exhibit turns to the present, where more modern influences are visible. The embargo by the US and the collapse of the USSR are evident more in a mood shift, rather than overt criticism.
For a country that sees so inaccessible and unfamiliar today, the artists show considerable familiarity with the global art world. For example, Wilfredo Lam (1902-82) paints surreal and cubist figures in the style of Picasso. The interwar futurist avant-garde drawings and paintings of Marcelo Pogolotti celebrate the unity of workers as one mass. There are numerous other artists to celebrate here. Furthermore, the exhibition demonstrates an incredible tolerance towards art styles and innovation.
Of course, it is difficult to recognize Cuba’s artistic achievements without noting that exiled artists or reference to them is notably absent. There is almost no suggestion of dissatisfaction with Castro or the present state of affairs. The absence of such works makes a loud statement.

Monday, March 10, 2008

FIFA -- Festival of International Films on Art

Every year, Montreal's horrible winter is broken up by a film festival that is certain to awaken and delight the senses. The FIFA, the Festival of International Films on Art, showcases films about... well... ART. The films cover topics such as the lives of artists and famous works, as well as museums and nearly anything else you could possibly think of, so long as it relates to art.

The FIFA is particularly cool because its the only festival of its kind in the world. This year, the festival, running from March 6-16 showcases 290 films from 30 countries on 27 different disciplines including architecture, theatre, video art, dance, art history, painting, and photography.

Tickets are just $12 a film ($10 if you count as a youth). For more info, including the programming, check out the website at:

Sunday, March 9, 2008


Is it too arrogant to include some of my own work here? I hope not. I'm taking a poetry class with the Quebec Writer's' Foundation and our first assignment is to write some haiku of our own. I started with gusto, preparing poems whose verses fit the 5-7-5 syllabic beat. Apparently, the assignment was rather different (see below for the haiku guidelines of Robyn Sarah). Anyway, here is one of my poems that will probably not make it to class for not fulfilling the assignment's requirements. Hope you enjoy...


At Decarie and
Cote St. Luc, CBC warns
Of a house-fire.

A house-fire is
Not just a report between
Traffic and weather.

Flames in a window
Fourth story, graffiti on
The fire escape.

I see from my car
Ambulance, flames, fire trucks
from the Decarie.

No one cares about
this Cote St. Luc apartment
Graffiti strewn walls.

Bernard St. Laurent
Says the fire is spreading
I am in traffic.

Someone’s house burning
Bed, plant, pillow, blanket and
Cereal boxes.

She could have two young
Children or smoke crack and hash
Or work at a Dep.

The paper does not
Say whose apartment burned down.
Today or the next.

Robyn Sarah's assignment (please try if you wish)
For a Haiku:
1. A composite image is simply presented, not described or commented on. Adjectives are used sparingly. (image: something perceptible to the senses)
2. Simultaneity: quality of happening right now, present tense--a moment frozen. A haiku does not narrate.
3. A haiku always contains some reference to nature, and/or a seasonal reference.
4. No abstraction; a haiku presents things, not concepts.5. No figures of speech (nothing is compared to anything--no similes, metaphors, personification or attribution

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Art Matters

Yes, the annual Concordia art matters festival is back and now is the chance to SOAK IT UP. Although I missed the first week of the festival, including the much beloved Nuit Blanche (an all night party), things are still on-going.

Here are a few happenings...

March 7 * A Place to Bloom at The Long Hall (450 Beaumont): 11 artists responding to the question: how does connection to place influence community. This exhibit includes paintings, performances, video installations. eeee.

March 9 * Truces and Tract: The Staged Interaction Series at Studio 303 (372 Ste-Catherine W., suite 303). Dance of all sorts, including Fringe Fest favourite Amy Blackmore. This lady sure gets around the arts scene!

March 10 * In Details at the FOFA (1515 St. Catherine). I like this theme already. Attention to detail gives purpose. This is a multimedia assemblage of five artists. Also V is for Wideo at the Vav Gallery (1395 Rene Levesque O.) showcases video technology. Their Vernissage is on March 11,th.

March 11 * Hot Dog Cart at Théâtre Ste-Catherine (264 Ste-Catherine E.). This is the description "imagine that the show is a hot dog and the performers are the condiments." It also includes something called swamp sex. What is that?

March 13 * On Line at the Visual Voice Gallery (372 St. catherine O.). Drawings, sculptures, and installations involving lines. Also, A Rested Art is at Sala Rossa (4848 St-Laurent) including bands such as the Dukes Of The Archipelago and Boys Who Say No.

March 15 * the Grand Finale. The closing party. Details TBA (always a mystery). :(

Film Review of The Counterfeiters

Since the film Die Fälscher, the Counterfeiters (dir. Stephen Rutowitsky), involves Jews, concentration camps, and Nazi Germany, it is difficult to recognize both its excellences and its failings. It is almost as though any story couched within the context of that time period, especially one based on an autobiographical account, is beyond reproach. Yet, I question if the film deserved to win Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards.

The film follows Salomon “Sally” Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics), a Jewish master forger, who is put in charge of the Nazi operation to counterfeit the British pound and the American dollar at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Although given preferential treatment in comparison with the other Jews of the camp, Sorowitsch and his team are dispensible. Protecting the lives of his team, especially young Russian Kolya who has tuberculousis, becomes Sally’s focus. However, one of the printers, the idealistic Adolf Burger (August Diehl), sabotauges the production of the dollar because the operation sustains the Nazi war efforts.

Everything about the film’s production, acting, and pace is beyond reproach. Markovics plays Sally with the unreadable face of a man whose criminality requires a dose of anonymitiy and a hunger for survival, a perfect match against the obvious resolution of Diehl’s Burger. But Sally is by no means a flat character and his own surival is one of several competing concerns. His appreciation and admiration for Burger is as evident as his love for being an artist and his taste for women, wine, and gambling.

The problem with this film is that the essence of the story – the transformation of a self-interested man – has been done very well in this context several times over. One need only think of Schindler’s List, in which a businessman changes from profiteer to humanitarian. Other recent films have attempted to move away from the black and white treatment of the Nazis by painting both Nazis and Jews in shades of gray as well, such as Black Book and Bent. The conflict that Sally faces, is it better to preserve one’s “species” or oneself, is one non-criminals faced, as written mastefully in the works of Primo Levi, Eli Weisel, and Viktor Frankl.

I do not mean to denigrate the film – it is an excellent film that proposes difficult questions. I think its weakness is that it purports to answer the questions, rather than leaving them ambiguous. Last year’s Acadamy winner, the Lives of Others, grappled with a similar moral dilemma, and did so in a more satisfying and less certain way. Both films studied a character who came to a gradual realization that “the bigger picture” conflicted with his absolute beliefs (in the Lives of Others, it was a belief in Communism, while Sally’s was “adapt” and survive).

This Week in Montreal Music Friday March 7 2008

Back in the old days, I made a list of what was worth catching around town, particularly concerning music. And so, I thought I’d start off with a list of what is good and gooder in the city. Sadly, I’m doing this on Saturday, so I’m not going to bother with Friday.

Firstly, there’s the ongoing Under the Snow Festival ( which features some mightly unique sounds from Montreal’s electronic, postrock, and experimental scene. I’ve seen a few of these bands before, like Panopticon Eyelids (Sunday night at La Sala). If this stuff turns your crank, well… you can enjoi the noi(se).

On more mundane notes, well, tonight, yeah, tonight, there are choices. Let me rephrase that. There are Choices, with a capital C. The soulful crooning of Katie Moore and the Angela Deveaux Band is pulling into the Divan Orange, while countrified fun with the Corb Lund Band is at Les Saints. I’m torn, tbqh (to be quite honest). I like both. It’s also snowing and may not stop until Sunday. I might just listen to cds and swill diet coke and pine for what I can not do. Such is winter. I gotta love it.

Tuesday, a little known band I adore, OKgiraffe is playing at Divan Orange. This cool little boy-girl duo trades off a bass (the double kind) and a guitar. They occasionally play full band, backed up with drums and various varia. I find them kind of rootsy, jazz blues specialist types. They seem to be the choice openers for many bands, and once you hear them, you’ll see why. I don’t think they’ll be little-known for long.

Wednesday. Holy shit. I nearly spilled my coffee when I sawDown with the Butterfly is back in town, playing the L’Esco. This east coast (Halifax?) outfit has wowed me previously. But, I dig those east coast long jams and I know some folks like a more minimalist approach to music. Pas moi. If you’re not into that, Snailhouse (woo) is playing as well at Divan Orange with Mia Verko, and that will probably pretty good stuff too.

And Friday, well, Coco Rosie at le Nationale.

This week is smoking. No, correct that… this week is SmokinG.