Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Stories of Love and Sex

My favorite podcast, without a doubt, is the Moth -- real stories, told live, without notes. To my chagrin, the Moth is recorded in New York and L.A., with Chicago and Detroit as new locations. How tragic and sad for me. My love for stories is as boundless as the infinite universe (or as unbounded as the expanding universe before it decides to collapse should that be the case). When I caught wind of the annual International Storyteller's Festival in Qubec, I had to attend. And what better night to catch these word weavers than the night entitled Stories of Love and Sex?

The night brought four enchanters, wizards of words. I don't have enough praise for the experience. I sat in the back, expecting to bolt at any moment, only to find myself drunk with delight. Kicking things off was Quebec storyteller Stepahnie Beneteau. Her small frame and firey hair caught my attention before she spoke. Then, she launched into a story of an ancient Chinese man who coaxes his frigid wife into trying out some new positions. The audience roared with laughter at the euphemistic names for sexual positions.

She was followed by Alan Shain, a man whose obvious disability was first shocking and then forgotten as his story about how a Native American man uses the help of the village shaman to fashion a mighty, detachable penis in hopes of seducing the disinterested Pawamis.

After Alan was Yukon storyteller Ivan E. Coyote. She told a story that certainly sounded autobiographical, though one can never be certain with stories. Fiction and non-fiction weave together, and a good story-teller can tell a story that sounds autobiographical, but is not. The story was about finding love with a much younger, newly gay woman.

Last but not least was Jan Blake, of the UK and Jamaica. She was the "headliner" I suppose, but all four storytellers were amazing in their own way. Jan Blake was best at holding the audience under her spell. She told three stories (I think there were three!) that were drawn from Jamaican folk culture. Each was funny, somewhat erotic, and certainly ripe with humanity.

As the festival continues, I will hopefully be able to report back on some of the other delightful theme evenings that occur.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Share at the Green Room

My all time favorite place to hang out in Montreal is back in business. Huzzah. Green Room has returned. Hopefully its upstairs compliment, the Mile End Cultural Centre, will also find its feet again. All the same, the Green Room manages to combine great vibe, good dj nights, excellent art exhibits, and, of course, fantastic live music at better hours than some places that shall remain nameless.

Indie Montreal, the promoters/booking agents for this event, also deserve a quick nod for bringing lesser known music to this city and promoting lesser known local acts. I enjoy my concerts best when I don't have to wear earplugs and the audience has no idea what to expect. Hence, my seemingly psychic ability amongst friends to know what bands are worth listening to. They regularly consult me with the question, "Anything hot in Montreal these days?" And then I prattle off the list. Really, I just like small shows best and make a mental note of the ones that impress me. It's all the work of small promoters like Indie Montreal that make the $5-12 shows possible. Blue Skies Turn Black just brings in bigger much loved acts that have regular airplay on XMRadio. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but my budget does not allow me to see these acts. In better days, better times, perhaps some money will plunk down in my lap or I'll get a new radio show at one of the local stations and take advantage of free concert tickets or something along those lines.

Alright, enough props to the people who make things happen. Now, some props to the very excellent show I caught at the Green Room last night, promoted/booked by Indie Montreal. Owing to a lame ass friend, I missed the opening act, but I did catch the Maritime goodness of Share and Montreal local folk-popster Laurent Bourque last night. So happy to make it out to this show.

While Maritime music often tiptoes through folk and fiddling, it tends to feature a diversity of styles that make it hard to classify. From the first few songs, I thought Share was going to be a pleasant, folk-laced pop with a bit of melancholy to round out the upbeat strumming. There was a double bass, after all, a euphonium, and almost everyone was supporting the hipster-facial hair style of the moment (that would be something like a handlebar). I knew I'd like them, but it wouldn't grab me by the cahonas (if I had cahonas to grab). Au contraire, mes amis. Without warning, about four songs into the set, things got wilder and wilder. With three guitars going simultaneously, I'm talking huge wall of sound here. Nothing was as it seemed, I guess. Where I expected a jam, things ended abruptly, as if to tantalize me with an opportunity to dance that just was yanked away. I loved it, teased and delighted at the same time. I think this is the real feature of Maritime artists -- they're incredibly diverse and hard to slot in a single genre. Share is a band I'd like to share will everyone (I'm sure they hear that ALL THE TIME). Nuff said.

I missed the openers, as I mentioned, but holding the middle slot for the night was Montreal based Laurent Bourque and his lovely band. Bourque was more folk-pop, more singer-songwriterish than Share. What I liked most about him was that he really gave it his heart when he performed. He sang big, played big, and just exuded the love. He's a young sprout which means he'll probably be around the local scene for a good long time.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

braids, bent by elephants, and pick a piper

I went because of my incredible fondness for Pick a Piper. It was Pop Montreal, one of my favorite festivals in the city. However, recent financial cash flow situations prevented me from partaking in this weekend of music goodness. I only caught a single show. Lucky for me it was AMAZING. Yes, totally and completely amazing. I didn't even see all four acts (curse you Pop Montreal for ridiculously late shows), but the three I saw were just ear candy to the max.

Let me start with Bent by Elephants. This unpretentious jazzy-folk-rock group is fronted by the endearing Chesley Walsh who is backed by musicians of the highest calibre. Walsh is strong as the soulful, full throated helmswoman, and she exudes warmth and charm. There's something about this band that melded hot apple pie with Dizzy Gillespie.

Next up, from a totally different music genre, was Braids. The two bands could not be more different, and yet, Braids was equally a mind blower for me. Think electronica and anime cuteness. A little more frenetic than Bent by Elephants, this band had me riveted as song flowed into song and the entire set folded back on itself in a symmetrical way.

Last but not least, Pick a Piper is what happens when drummers go wild. Two drum kits, lots of electronica, and a psychedellic guitarist. I've been loving this band since their last show at Trois MInots. This performance was a little less jungle beat and a lot more psychedellic-electronic tinged. Highly recommended.

All in all, two new bands to adore and an old new one that continues to develop and grow in good ways. Thank you Pop Montreal, thank you.