FringeBlog

What’s your scene? Lit, food, arts, music, theatre, find out what’s happening in the city of churches.

  • For Better Or For Music

    A classically trained singer from Montreal, Jon Davis decided to incorporate his traumatic past as a positive fuel to his new musical endeavours. Suffering from a brain injury in 2006, Davis recollects the challenges of his recovery in his debut album Golden Hue released in 2009.

    “When I was recovering I wrote most of the songs of my first album. I was very depressed, anxious and scared that I wouldn’t fully recover. Prior to that I had a lead role in a professional musical theater production but I was forced to reconsider everything. I have that injury to thank in a way for making me a singer-songwriter and decide to go and write the album.” recalled Davis.

    Although his first creation mainly focused on his personal adventures, he bounced back in 2013 with Open Shore, an altruistic album sharing his recovery as an advice to mental freedom; ultimately a remedy to get better and positively enjoy the open world.

    “This album’s really been about overcoming obstacles, and making a decision to be happy. You are living in some sort of crazy sinking ship, but somehow you break free and you’re going towards this huge wide open shore of possibilities. It’s kind of an inspiration album trying to help people in some way, but also helping myself.” explained Davis.

    The songwriter had always wanted to be a musician from his early ages. He draws his inspirations from multiple musical genres ranging from Classic Rock, Blues, Folk, Jazz to even Classical. Some of his most praised artists include legendary Rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix, Folk singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell and Pop giants the Beatles.

    “I really got into blues and classic rock. My idol was Jimi Hendrix. I was also a really big fan of Led Zeppelin and covered their songs live. I used to do a lot of guitar solos, and wanted to be a guitarist not a singer. After my set, I was going up to my guitarist friends saying ‘What did you think of my guitar solo?’” admitted Davis.

    Even though he used to dream of becoming a guitar hero in his teens, his peers would exclusively compliment his singing everytime. He eventually became self-aware of his singing talent and decided to take his chance in music as a singer for good.

    “Every time I played live, people would always comment about my singing, and naturally people were pushing me towards that direction because I was better at that.” revealed Davis.

    Indeed, his vocal talents have been doubtlessly showcased during his last performance at La Sala Rossa. The show underwent in an intimate yet cozy atmosphere with Davis backed up by his bandmates on guitar, bass and drums. His compositions meshed a good variety of moods and instrumentation along with occasional surprises in the course of the act.

    On top of Davis switching effortlessly between piano, acoustic and electric guitars, he engaged the audience by inviting a dancer onto the stage to perform over an upbeat tune. The show followed by a duet with a cellist for one of his folk songs. He consequently embodied a multi-faceted character comparable to a Sir Elton John burst out singing on the piano just as an alternative rock band frontman rocking out.

    Jon Davis’ new music video “Better” features the same female dancer as in the show, who serves as a metaphor for change. Additionally, an interesting gradation from black and white to color graphically depicts a better growing and evolving state of mind.

    The difficulties of a musician trying to pierce its way through the crowd may be a common stereotype nowadays among the music industry. However, Jon Davis points out the importance of surrounding support and one’s love for music as a means of personal fulfillment.

    “If I can say one thing, whatever you do, just go out there with guns blazing and kick ass as hard as you can in every way. We all know hundreds of unbelievable unknown artists, but they don’t have a team. Get a team. Otherwise, you end up being a beautiful flower way out in the forest that no one is ever going to see. No one goes out to that part of the forest. You need somebody saying ‘You gotta see this, over here, yeah, no, left, next to the tree there.’”

  • Spontaneity Brings Creativity

    • photo courtesy by Moss Lime.

    A lot of great work is credited to seemingly random acts of fate. Keith Richards suddenly waking up in the middle of the night with a riff in his head that would later turn into “Satisfaction.” Sam Cooke turning on the radio to hear “Blowin’ In The Wind”, which inspired him to write “A Change is Gonna Come.” Neil Diamond reading a magazine and seeing a picture of a young girl that moved him to write “Sweet Caroline.” All pretty well arbitrary occurrences.

    Moss Lime, a Montreal pop-surf trio comprised of Charlotte Bonamour, Hélène Barbier, and Caitlin Pinder-Doede, attribute the same kind of unplanned circumstance to their formation.

    “We [Hélène and Caitlin] were playing bass a bit together and her roommate had some drums, so I started playing them,” Barbier explained. “Then Charlotte happened to come over one day and started playing with us. Once we started playing together a bit we decided that we really wanted to start something.”

    “It was pretty random. We all knew we wanted to start something, but we never talked about it. We spent a lot of time together, every day the three of us would hang out,” Barbier continued. “It was just really simple.”

    What began as jamming and writing sessions in the park quickly turned into something serious for the three women when they unexpectedly got asked to play a show that their friend was coordinating. From there they had the opportunity to play shows with other Montreal bands such as Gashrat and The Marlees.

    The band has received a great deal of success even at this early point in their career. They’ve played various shows throughout the city including POP Montreal and created a five-track cassette titled July First that comes out this week.

    “All the things were in place for us to start something,” Barbier said. “We didn’t plan so much, we were really just jamming, it was spontaneous. But it quickly went from jamming to, ‘we need to write songs.’”

    The band has also been the beneficiary of a great deal of support from fans and other artists. Having emerged onto the scene so quickly the musicians were hesitant about their work at first, but are now very enthusiastic about the future of the band.

    “It is just the nature of our personalities. We felt shy, it was weird that people wanted us to play. At first we were just like ‘is this for real?’ We’re lucky, the people we’ve met were really supportive. There is so much love, and everyone really wants to have fun together. There is a lot of bridging of different musical scenes.”

    Many musicians sample music and draw inspiration from one another—it’s a practice that’s created some amazing songs. Moss Lime was inspired by other local Montreal punk bands and Pinder-Doede in particular spoke about constantly looking up and listening to their friends’ music.

    Having never recorded before, the band took a cue from friends about where to record their debut album and were extremely pleased with the results. July First was recorded at The Bottle Garden Studio with Peter Woodford, who the band considers a mentor. The album was quickly recorded on tape, using no digital editing software.

    “Recording on tape was like a dream,” said Pinder-Doede. “It’s super warm, and we loved the bass sound.”

    The band is so appreciative to everyone who has helped them along the way and feels no sense of competition between artists—just outstanding encouragement.

    “We’re so grateful people have been so amazing to us,” Pinder-Doede said.

    Moss Lime’s music is very playful, with mellow but very quirky vocals. The band wrote the majority of their songs during their first month together and aimed for their music to have a minimalist bent. As a trio, Moss Lime’s sound is indeed very stripped down and raw, similar to bands like Violent Femmes.

    The same simplicity extends to the band’s feelings about their music, in that they just want listeners to enjoy their music and just have fun.

    “It’s fun, we would hope you would want to dance to it,” said Pinder-Doede.

    Moss Lime will be playing tunes from July First on Oct. 29 at Drones Club. Other bands on the bill are Hand Cream, Gashrat and loosestrife. If you want to hear more from the band you can check them out on Facebook and Bandcamp as well as through Fixture Records.

    Moss Lime // Wednesday Oct. 29. // Drones Club (6502 Park Ave.) // 8.30pm

  • Celebrating Montreal’s English Theatre Community

    • photo courtesy by METAS.

    The English-speaking Montreal theatre community poured into the Rialto Theatre on Monday night for the second annual Montreal English Theatre Awards. This ceremony was created by a group of avid theatre-mongers hoping to elevate and celebrate the work produced within Montreal’s growing English theatre scene.

    In a city filled with different languages the METAs stand as a testament to the dedication of Anglophone artists.

    The awards are peer-juried, meaning the awarding body is made up of prominent Montreal theatre figures and managed by a volunteer committee. The award itself is a gold, heavy-looking cylinder with “META” carved into the side.

    The night was glamorous and elegant. The Rialto’s classical ornaments and decadence felt somehow overly opulent for artists working mostly in small black box theatres, but filled with impeccably dressed attendees the setting only served to heighten the magic of the evening.

    The ceremony was hosted by the ever-talented Marcel Jeannin and Holly Gauthier-Frankel, who kicked everything off with a hysterical song and dance number. The hosts came back throughout the night with several other numbers, one of which included a humorous flute battle. There was a moment of sombre silence to remember those the community has lost this year, but for the most part the organizers tried to keep everything upbeat and silly.

    A few new awards were added to the roster this year, including the Unsung Hero Of The Theatre awarded to Melanie St-Jacques for her stage managing prowess, the Norma Springford Founder Award (given to Elsa Bolam of Geordie Theatre) and the Inclusive Vision Award, which was not given out but announced as new for next year.

    Among it all were the artist themselves, humble, dressed to the nines and for the most part speechless. Leni Parker walked on stage to accept her award for Best Actress, only to read out an email she received from another nominee.

    Parker wasn’t the only one to be unprepared for the win—many of the artists came up just to say thank you, shake their heads in disbelief and walk away stunned that they won anything. For the most part these acts of shock were charming, but one can’t help but wonder what it says about the state of English theatre in Montreal.

    When approached for a quick interview, an artist’s friends would often nudge them and say, “Oh, look who’s famous now,” but the organizers and patrons of art in this city were more than happy to answer questions and provide insights.

    When asked about the specific challenges English theatre-makers face Donald Rees, creative director of Brave New Productions, said that venues are limited and that “no English venue is turning away French money.” When asked the same question Roy Surette, artistic director of the Centaur Theatre, lamented the loss of English alt-news publications like the Mirror, saying it has become increasingly hard to reach the English audience.

    Yet despite these challenges, everyone interviewed had encouraging advice for emerging artists. Leni Parker, Eo Sharp, Donald Rees, and Roy Surette all had similar words of inspiration, advice and wisdom to share with the next generation: “love what you do,” “make your process enjoyable,” “know that what you do is important for storytelling modes around the world,” “start big,” “trust your instincts—you will be the same inside at 20 as you are at 40,” and “if you can get through the bullshit in the middle you will succeed.”

  • Bustin’ Open The Piñata

    • Photo WIUX Pure Student Radio

    Gibbs will begin in Montreal with a show at Cabaret Underworld on Oct. 24, and play two more shows in Ottawa and Toronto, before returning to the United States for several more dates.

    Earlier in 2014, Gibbs dropped Piñata with the help of super producer Madlib, an album that has garnered positive responses from publications such as Pitchfork, NME, and Rolling Stone.

    After teasing the collaborative project with singles such as “Thuggin’”, “Shame”, and “Deeper”, the rest of Piñata is definitely worth consuming, as Gibbs delivers beat after beat, whether solo (“Harold’s”, “Knicks”, “Uno”), or on head-bopping collaborations including Raekwon, Scarface, Earl Sweatshirt and Domo Genesis, Ab-Soul, BJ The Chicago Kid, and Danny Brown.

    Recently, Gibbs announced that he will releasing an EP on November 18th, titled the “Knicks Remix EP”. The EP will feature instrumentals, a track called “Home”, featuring BJ the Chicago Kid, and a remix to “Knicks”, a cut from Piñata, with guest verses from Action Bronson, Joey Bada$$, and Ransom, and its instrumental.

    You can check out the remix to Knicks with Action Bronson, Joey Bada$$, and Ransom, below:

    You can also read our review on Piñata on our FringeBlog post here.

  • An Overview of Le Festival Du Nouveau Cinéma

    • photo courtesy by The Festival Du nouveau cinéma

    Le Festival Du nouveau cinéma has been over the past decade, the best film fest in Montreal. Year after year, the organizers have practically outdone themselves in concocting a program that would satisfy the most fervent of cinema fans.

    Over the next 14 days, I will be cramming into my schedule close to 40 movies from more than 20 countries. You can call it a film geek’s wet dream or you can call it movie overload. If you are a fan of cinema and always think outside the box, Le Festival Du nouveau cinéma is for you with its eclectic selection and all around satisfying vibe.

    A Selection a Movies to catch at this year’s FDNC

    David Cronenberg’s Map to the Stars got pushed back to 2015, in spite of the probability that Julianne Moore’s performance could have easily nabbed a best actress nod. She plays a down-and-out actress, desperate for her next big shot. In fact, every time she’s on screen the film ignites with excitement. Moore hasn’t been this fascinating in years and fully deserved her Best Actress prize at Cannes earlier in May. In Map to the Stars she plays a down and out actress desperate for her comeback role, suffice to say, it never comes. Cronenberg pushes every character in his movie to the furthest edge possible, no one leaves unscathed and the results –however over the top they may be-are pure Cronenberg: served black. It’s a Hollywood satire that pokes fun at the elite, the characters remind you of stars like Lindsay Lohan and Justin Bieber among others. The darts are toxic and the end result is disturbing.

    In Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhaal lost close to thirty pounds to give his creepiest performance ever as Lou Bloom. With shades of Travis Bickle, this astoundingly intense movie has Gyllenhaal chasing down murder scenes and videotaping them for L.A news outlets in exchange for cash. It’s a shady business and Gyllenhaal’s character is a dirtbag trying to make it to the big time, even if it means having to blackmail, lie or murder his way through fame and fortune. Bloom is a driven man, reminiscent of a sociopath, whose motivation and seeming lack of empathy make him successful at what he does. As a character, he grows more and more “motivated” and seems to learn his business in such a way to bring him amazing success, but to the determinant, perhaps, of his assistant and the victims of these crimes. This was the best acting performance I saw at TIFF and at festival’s end everybody was still talking about Gyllenhaal. It’s the kind of performance that can’t be forgotten—and the best of his exceptional but young career.

    Jean-Marc Vallée struck gold last year for Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club and this year he might do the same magic for Reese Witherspoon’s passionate performance in “Wild” as a grief-stricken woman who decides to go through a gruelling 1000 mile hike through the pacific crest trail all by herself. The highly talented actress has never been better than in this movie, and the film itself is bravely directed and shot by Vallée. The film recalls Sean Penn’s Into the Wild and Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours in its main characters’ brave and isolated searches for their own identities and self worth.

    Belgian Director Fabrice Du Welz doesn’t make safe, comforting movies. His movies are raw, edgy and tremendously provoking to the senses. His newest film is called Allelujah and is his twist on the Honeymoon Killers. Starring Lola Duenas and Laurent Lucas in memorably twisted performances, it’s the kind of movie that it’s better to know nothing of before immersing yourself into its no-rule world. I can say this: A man and a woman fall in love and decide to go on a Bonnie and Clyde-like killing spree filled with jealousy, violence and lustful vengeance. The result is unshakeable and the kind of film with the potential to achieve cult status.