Sunday, November 30, 2008

Plants and Animals at Divan Orange

I don't think I can rave about this band enough. They get better n' better n' better every time. Spicer was singing to the edge of his pipes and it still got me deep inside and made me want to dance and never stop. I love how they come together with so much energy and bacchanalian fun.

For the sake of filling space, let me at least note the following. The night prior, P&A played a sold out show at La Tulipe. I've been to La Tulipe and though its a nice place to see a show, its a big, crowded venue. Divan Orange, home base, is small, intimate, and has pretty mediocre acoustics. It doesn't matter. It felt like a privilege to be there, mere feet away from these soulful, spritely merry-makers.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Dears at the Apple Store on St. Catherine

These are the new Dears. Murray Lightburn and his partner, Natalia Yanchak, have recruited a new band of not-so-merry men and women. Although this was not their first performance in Montreal in their new incarnation, it was the first time for me to see the newest version of these masters of mope.

I’m not entirely sure what to make of the experience. I think I expected something more transcendent. The venue of the Apple store is small. The crowd was small (!) It was a perfect set up for an intimate, soul gripping performance. I’d seen Lighburn do as much when he played solo at a Christmas show in the Ukranian Federation in Mile End and talked about being in the Gaz-ette. He can be personable, funny, charming, endearing. But this short set was very remote, very cool, and very introverted. It was as if they were concentrating on each other, more than on performing. Granted, the Dears are an introverted band, but they’ve managed to bring togetherness to aloneness. At this show, I didn’t feel part of the collective journey.

There are a few problems inherent in these Apple Store performance. First of all, I think bands and audiences have a sell-out phobia and are probably uneasy to play for the Man or attend concerts thrown by the Man respectively. The Apple Store is a pretty slick place that clearly has corporate vibes. But, COME ON, it’s Apple! It’s the high priced underdog of the computer world. Most people in the art and music professions use Apple computers (or want to use Apple computers) to make all that great stuff they do. So, it isn’t like Apple is helping kill whales, coral reefs, and baby seals. Anyway, the whole corporate phobia is a bit silly since once a band graduates from the bar and college cafeteria circuit, they’re helping someone make money off something.

Second of all, the Apple store has not yet figured out the meaning of good sound. I am no expert on acoustics, but the speakers are turned up so loud, my ears hurt if I stand within 20 feet of them – and the room is probably only a little bit larger than that. The people at the Apple store have to create a sound appropriate for the audience and the room size. Once this sound issue is settled, I think that concerts at the Apple Store will live up to the bands that play there.

So, I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t connect with the Dears on this one. It could be the new band/new sound thing. It could be the shortness of the set. It could be the ambiance and environment of the Apple Store. Or, it could just be my own expectations. Ultimately, I’ve had better Dears experiences, but I suspect that this one had nothing to do with them.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Actions : What You Can Do With the City at the CCA

The Canadian Centre for Architecture generally impresses with its innovative, thought provoking exhibits. Most of the time, the exhibits remain true to the spirit of the museum: architecture in its many guises. Unfortunately, not a lot of people can relate to architecture, and barely notice it unless they happen to be surrounded by crumbling infrastructure. Yet, the museum manages to sneak a few in that are easily accessible and interesting to almost everyone. The latest exhibit, Actions: What You Can Do With the City is certain to have popular appeal for its radical, wide-reaching theme of activism.

The exhibit presents short vignettes about individuals and artists who have transformed their urban space through action. Guerilla gardeners are there, but so are sheep that mow lawns, cows that occupy a vacant lot, claiming parking spots to lay down grass (while continuing to feed the meter so as to rent the space), and other such radical acts. Some are comic, some are eye opening, some are the fundamentalist side of eco-consciousness, such as the freegans. No matter, one leaves the exhibit with a burning desire to make the world a better place to live.

The exhibit is laid out in the Main Gallery of the museum over several rooms. Typical of the CCA, tables sit at the center, containing models and objects, while videos project on the walls. Each table also contains several oversized books that outline various transformation projects, complete with photos.

The different radical, transformative acts take place globally, from Brazil to Switzerland. While San Francisco, New York, and London have multiple coverage, I was heartened to see how many people care about their environment world wide.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Latest Creations by 8 Men and a Dame

8 Men and a Dame? What's that? Well, that's my fake company that does all my art work designs. It works in conjunction with the RJL inc. Anyway, in order to help secure some funds for my upcoming transition into being a home-owner, I'm selling my work on cafe press. I should be putting up about 50-60 designs (for real) in the next few weeks. I'll see how that goes...

But, in the meantime, if you're curious what it's all about, check it out...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Stinger Editions Master Printers at the FOFA (Concordia University)

Betty Goodwin A Burst of Bloody Air 2003 printed by Christopher Armijo

Concordia University's various galleries are always a treat to visit. They feature thought-provoking artists, both cutting edge famous and unknown students. The fofa, in particular, run by the faculty of the Concordia's Fine Art program, curates worthy exhibits. In conjunction with Stinger Editions, the print center of Concordia, curators Judy Garfin and Cheryl Kolak Dudek, are featuring the work of master printers Christopher Armijo, Matthew Letzelter, and Cheryl Kolak Dudek printing works for David Elliott, Janet Werner, Naomi London, Robert Racine, Pierre Doiron, Francois Morelli, Ed Pein, Betty Goodwin, Roland Poulin, Barbara Steinman, and even Anne Carson. Tying together these works is the theme Concerning Sisyphus.

Sisyphus is an interesting choice, since he was a bit of a wild man prior to his afterlife. The gods punished him with eternally pushing a rock up a hill, at which point it rolls back down and he must start again. The boredom and monotony of Sisyphus' life became the subject of an existential essay by Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus) that celebrates the mundane of life. The final words are, "One must imagine Sisyphus happy."

While I do not easily connect the works on display to the theme, I can certainly relate to the joy found in the tedium of printmaking. For the same result (or at least, the possibility of approximating the same result), one must repeat the process of re-inking each time. And printmakers, though no less talented or creative than artists in any other media, are often forgotten or treated as hick second cousins to oil painters and bronze sculptors. Hmmm... I find this curious since Andy Warhol, Picasso, and Rembrandt all produced prints, just to name a few. Perhaps this is because print work is a collaboration between the artist who creates the work and its design and the master printer who gives that work physical body through the press. Nonetheless, these less familiar artists of the print world produce works of great beauty and timelessness.

In terms of a collection, the works are extremely diverse and represent a range of printing techniques (monoprint, lithograph, screenprint). I am more drawn to the figurative work of Betty Goodwin and recognizable objects of Pierre Doiron, in contrast with the abstractions of Roland Poulin and the erotic playfulness of Ed Pien. But this is a matter of taste, rather than quality. Hopefully this show will put this art form with its wide range of applications more readily in the public eye.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sadies and Bloodshot Bill at Sala Rossa

The Sadies are a band that changed my life.

Many years ago, while collecting boxes for packing from Kinkos for my upcoming move to New Brunswick, I overheard a girl on the phone telling her friend that she "had sex with the singer from the Sadies" and "he was in her bed now." I'd seen the Sadies several times in Toronto at that point and I had friends who swooned over Dallas Good and practically pinned me to a table at the Horseshoe when I said I'd introduce them to him (not that I knew him, but I was drunk and life was good so why not...). Keep in mind that there are two singers in the Sadies and seriously, the girl could have been BSing. But that doesn't matter. What does matter is this: upon overhearing this important phonecall, I turned around, expecting to see some kind of supermodel. In my mind, only the hottest of the hot hooked up with people in bands. Instead, I saw a girl who couldn't have been taller than me (I'm short), who looked a little unkempt but kind of cool at the same time, and just... well... regular... like me. My entire worldview shifted. I realized that I could change my life at that moment and I was going to become the kind of person who could hook up with the boys in the band (not the Sadies, of course, but any band). Perhaps not a lofty high minded goal, but a goal that fit my mental state at the time, which was... very, very, very low following a very, very, very sad separation from my husband. It was the first goal I had in a very long time and for that reason, monumental.

And so, my life changed. I went to New Brunswick and did things I never thought I would do. I extended myself. I became friendly with bands and artists, had a radio show (which this very blog is named for), and found my way back to true self.

For this, I thank the Sadies.

The reason for this lengthy, and quite personal, preamble is this. A Sadies show is a religious experience for me. I get to worship at the temple of music. The Sadies can do no wrong in my eyes. So, all I can do is gush. The audience was electric. The dancing was aces up. The Sadies play long, kick ass sets and never seem to miss a favorite. They even threw in a few by the Unintended. What else can I say? These guys are the cat's ass and every time I see them, the magic of possibility is renewed. 30 songs of main set, 10 in an encore, and then three more in a second encore. Greg Keillor (I was asked by the boy next to me who he was. It made me want to cry. I am that old that people who dance around me no longer know Greg Keillor) played a few. Now, with smashed toes, sore muscles, and sweat on very part of my body, I think I can say, this was (as expected) an excellent show.

A few words about Bloodshot Bill... I love that guy. He's so... weird. He'll never get mistaken for a Canadian Idol contestant with his yodels, moans, shrieks, and piercing holler. But, he's got so much heart that I swear he's got some piece of the Elvis spirit in his pocket. He warmed things up nicely at the start of the set, with a one man performance with energy that could only be matched by a Freshman on his fourth Redbull.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sink, Swim, and Kick. Crépuscule des Océans at Agora de la Danse

This is the second time I have seen this piece performed at the Agora de la Danse in Montreal. For those of you who don’t know French, it means, “Twilight in the Ocean.” In every way imaginable, the seven performers who make up this piece capture the movements and struggle of sea creatures as they either awaken, settle, mate, and die.
To begin, the piece combines both nude and clothed dancers. The erotic effect of this quickly wears off and instead, the bodies of the dancers become the costumes. Watching every muscle tighten and release, and every breath gulped into their rib cages causes their bodies to become animalistic. The effect is captivating, and the lighting of the entire piece causes the surface lines of the body to look sculptural.

Set the Beethoven, each “movement” involves pairs or trios of dancers that repeat the same, or similar movements, sometimes synchronosly, and sometimes in a more rhythmic pattern. This mimics ocean waves, as well as the way animals tend to mirror one another. Periodically, the choreographer throws in something humorous that prevents these movements from becoming too stiff an distant from the audience. Inbetween are narrative type duet-dances that show the creatures interacting with one another, generally in a way that implies a mating ritual. The nudity of the dancers during these movements further suggests this. One small mall asks another to spin him around. A female tries to grab the ankle of a swimmer, only to find that she is left behind. These moments turn the dancers into characters, and each character is endearing and unique. When one of them goes belly up, it is a sad moment.

Most striking of all is the difficulty of this dance. Daniel Léveillé does this intentionally, stressing not gracefulness but impossible challenges. The moves are taken from a variety of styles, though yoga poses and a kind of kick boxing is evident. The dancers hurl themselves from one pose into the next, with beautiful wildness and violence. Their bodies slam against the stage with incredible toe-breaking force. It is impossible to maintain accuracy and this is part of the beauty of the whole piece. Life is a struggle in the wild. Only the strongest survive. Yet, even the strongest do not always finish in the same state in which they began. That is evidenced here, where the dance wears down each dancer. Imperfection is made beautiful here. The choreography is designed to be impossible and to push the limits of stamina.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Not Much Compassion for Sympathy for the Devil at the Musee d'Art contemporain

Slater Bradley
The Year of the Doppelganger, 2004
Courtesy of the artist and Team Gallery

In conjunction with the Warhol exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, the Montreal Contemporary Art Museum is running an exhibit on the relationship between art and rock music today. With mixed media presentations, including a working recording studio, the exhibit takes the visitor on a tour through various countries that dominated the music scene since the 1967.

I’ll begin with the recording studio, since it is a somewhat of a treat to see a performance art piece that sustains for such a long period of time. Rirkrit Tiravanija created a “silent” recording studio, where the instruments are fed into a recording consul rather than an amp. This keeps the room quiet, though it is possible to listen with headphones that surround the studio. Musicians are allowed to book one hour of time during the museum opening hours, so visitors see whoever happens to have booked the time slot. This is, in many ways, a taste of not just the experience of seeing an aquarium-like perspective of how a recording studio works, but also, what the studio itself experiences as different groups of musicians work within its confines.

The rest of the exhibit is hit or miss. Most pieces are concept pieces, and without an explanation remain mysterious and somewhat uninspired. The hits include three gigantic pieces by Robert Longo who depicted dancers of the 1980s club scene in New York in graphite (pencil) and charcoal. These iconic writhing bodies are a dynamic study of the experience of movement and its contrast with one’s profession (he depicts “the suits”). Richard Prince’s portrait photos of an assemblage of artists such as David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, Laurie Anderson, and Dee Dee Ramone seem less impressive in the day of the cell phone camera, where candid shots of celebrities are commonplace. Andy Warhol’s screen tests of Lou Reed, John Cale, and Maureen Tucker, though, are a good compliment to the exhibit down the street at the Museum of Fine Arts.

Moving through pieces from artists of continental Europe and the UK, the art is less interesting and the musicians less familiar. From World works, Yoshimoto Nara’s drawings are quick splash of the familiar amidst a largely unaccessablem, if not just boring, exhibit.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Warhol Live Music and Dance in Andy Warhol’s Work at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

I remember Andy Warhol’s white hair first and foremost. He had a show in 1986 on MTV back when cable was young and MTV played music. It’s too bad that my sense of history was so brief since I could not appreciate the long relationship Warhol had with music. It is no surprise that towards the end of his life, he got involved with music’s latest incarnation: the music video. And, as the song goes, video killed the radio star. Well, not exactly, but Warhol managed to keep up with every shift in music’s sharp edge through his entire life.

The MFA exhibition examines the relationship between Warhol and music, starting with his earliest love of movie musicals with Shirley Temple and opera, progressing through his Stuido 54 days (to quote Warhol, “It was a dictatorship at the door, a democracy on the floor.”) While most people know Warhol produced the Velvet Underground, which practiced in his studio, I was surprised to learn that Warhol was even part of a band, in which Jasper Johns sang lead.

The 640 works on view for this exhibit include some Warhol pieces that don’t relate to music – but these are far and few between. On the whole, Warhol’s record covers, Interview magazine, and portraits of singers and musicians dominate. The major pieces, Elvis, Marilyn, Liza Minnelli, Grace Jones, Mick Jagger, and Debbie Harry are well known and presented in a way that they seem part of Warhol’s interest of the moment. Interestingly enough, his record covers are as symbolic of his greatest desire – to mass produce art – and in some ways are even more representative than what one thinks of as Warhol’s emblematic pieces.

The exhibit draws on the collection of one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, the Andy Warhol Museum, which supplements the holdings of the MMFA and private collectors. On the whole, the amount of material is simply overwhelming. Warhol touched every single medium imaginable, from screen printing to video to cinematic shorts to sketches and it seems he was interested in every single variant of music as well: dance, opera (he was an opera fiend), disco, rock, vocalists, punk, and experimental.