FringeBlog

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

  • The Socio-Political Analysis of a SUUNS Concert

    • Photo Shaun Michaud

    • Photo Shaun Michaud

    Seeing SUUNS live is akin to transforming the entirety of the socialist bureaucracy into an anthropomorphic, conceptual interpretation of Kafka’s The Trial, giving it acid and charging intoxicated 18-year-olds $10 to watch.

    The winding, drawn out rhythms and subtle percussion take their time, leaving the listener contemplative. The songs are in no hurry to get to their apex, the delayed catharsis intensifying their culmination.

    “I think when we’re at our best, [the music is] hopefully a kind of meditative stasis,” said drummer Liam O’Neil.

    The Link ran across O’Neil while lurking backstage sans backstage pass. Amidst piles of cheese plates and empty beer bottles, he swished by in a rush, raincoat streaming behind him as he carried out musical equipment.

    When asked to describe his personal style, Liam painstakingly characterized himself as a “suave cowboy.”

    Cowboys aside, SUUNS had a hard act to follow. During the opening set, a persistent high-pitched whine pervaded the theatre. What on first impression seemed no more than an ordinary fire alarm was revealed by indie rock group Miracle Fortress to be anything but.

    “That was a conceptual art piece, called Evacuation,” songwriter Graham Van Pelt explained to the audience. “[It] was installation art.”

    Not everyone was quite as keen on the conceptual side of music performance as its orchestrators.

    “It just really sucks [there’s an] interruption,” said Jessica, a hostess at restaurant Limon next to Corona Theatre, of the firetrucks pulling up outside the venue.

    One member of the crowd mulling around outside was Chad Katsenhake:ron Diablo. Diablo is a volunteer at Missing Justice, a grassroots movement which calls for “justice for missing and murdered indigenous women.”

    Diablo explained his intention to announce the campaign’s annual march for murdered and missing native women to the crowd.

    “People [should] open their eyes, open their ears, open their hearts and really listen to what the problems are out there. Violence against native women is one of the biggest problems that we’re facing nowadays,” he explained.

    Other attendees focused on different issues.

    video by Shaun Michaud.

    Isaac MacDougal, a Montreal-based chef, said his attendance was due to knowing people at Concordia and “[being] inducted into their little circle.”

    “How can you extrapolate your experience as a chef onto this concert in a socio-economic context?” The Link asked him.

    “I’m working class, and I know that Tribe Called Red has some message behind it, but […] I’m curious about what they actually have to say, and to find out whether [it applies] to a working stiff like myself,” MacDougal replied.

    A Concordia urban planning student, working as a bouncer at the theatre, explained his own reason for attendance.

    “Being a bouncer is just a way to make money to pay for school,” he explained to The Link.

    After the firefighters brought the conceptual art piece to its end, the theatre slowly filled up with screaming, intoxicated froshers.

    A few members of this fascinating demographic had booed the aforementioned groups, disoriented and en guarde when confronted by music they couldn’t grind to. Diablo walked on stage in advance of the headline band.

    “Are you going to march for missing and murdered native women?” he asked the crowd. “Whooooooooooooo!” they responded.

  • Electronic Pow Wow Group Electrifies CSU Orientation Concert

    Fans thronged the stage, screaming when the Ottawa-based Aboriginal trio came on, hoping to catch a good glimpse of DJs NDN, Bear Witness and Shub. Their sound is a blend of hip hop, dancehall and electronica steeped in First Nations music, which they dub “electronic pow wow.”

    “This is, like, my fifth time seeing Tribe,” said Egan, a tall woman sporting red lipstick, curly locks and a contagious laugh. “And every time I’m just so happy that, like, they are successful and are bringing indigenous music to the forefront.”

    The Concordia Student Union organized the orientation concert to help undergraduates let off some steam after the semester’s first two weeks.

    The show almost didn’t take place. During the set of the first opening act, Miracle Fortress, a fire alarm went off, forcing the crowd—beer cups in hand—into the streets.

    But firefighters soon showed up to investigate and, shortly thereafter, the concert resumed.

    Still, the fans grew impatient. Most lurked around the bar during the rest of Miracle Fortress’ performance while others downright clamored for second act Suuns to pack up their instruments.

    However, when the headliners took the stage, Corona Theatre was jam-packed with a fresh wave of youths, heads cocked towards the main event.

    Tribe played their most popular tracks including “Electric Pow Wow Drum,” “Indians From All Directions” and “Look At This.”

    “A Tribe Called Red gig is my happy place,” said Michaela Black, a short girl who shook her mane of blond and purple streaks to a trance for most of the show. “I love being here. The crowd had so much energy that you don’t see anywhere else.”

    Their show included a breakdancing, hoop-twirling native tribal performer. Scratching their turntables, the DJs faced the whooping crowd while a video ran in a loop, displaying pop images of Aboriginal people in the psychedelic colors of an acid trip.

    CSU President Benjamin Prunty was in attendance.

    “I thought it was a good turnout,” he said. “The hands were really flying in the air.”

    Socio-political activism imbues Tribe’s music. They interlace their sound with cultural references to the plight of the Aboriginal peoples of Turtle Island. This included an excerpt from native comic stand-up Ryan McMahon’s show.

    Meanwhile, the crowd grooved to a rhythmic hypnosis.

    Tribe played a quick encore at the end of the orientation concert. And when the lights went up, the fans clapped and sighed all at once.

  • Bees: They’re Just Like Us

    • photo by Laura Lalonde.

    The LSCA workshop was buzzing at Thursday’s Sustainability Street Fest, where beekeepers from Alvéole taught students the ins and outs of a newer, trendier form of activism: Urban Beekeeping.

    Jars of honey cluttered the table as they handed out generous, goopy samples of their golden syrup on sticks. Alvéole partners Declan Rankin Jardin and Alex McLean were manning the booth with Emilie Usher, a Concordia fine arts student minoring in sustainability.

    “The honey is from here,” Emilie explained, pointing to the label that read “Plateau”.
    Urban hives are popping up everywhere from private residences to companies like Birks and Cirque du Soleil. In fact, Declan and Alex have gone from 30 to 130 hives in three years. But as the three good-looking, well-spoken young entrepreneurs fed me honey from their sleek, minimalist jars, I couldn’t help but ask: Why bees?

    Declan Rankin Jardin (once a McGill student studying English Lit and Physics) grew up in Montreal, and took up beekeeping at Alex’s uncle’s farm in Manitoba one summer.

    “It was strict,” he says, leaning casually on Reggie’s terrasse in a beige crew neck and shorts. “We had to wear those big white vests.” But it was the tiny networks of bees that fascinated Declan, as he began to draw interesting parallels. “You could say that city life, and the lives of bees are… Symbiotic?” he says, in a barely-noticeable French Canadian accent. And as I turn to watch Concordia students buzz from table to table on Mackay, I get what he means.
    But Alvéole wanted to be different- bringing bee farming to a more sustainable, accessible level.

    “Large-scale bee farming isn’t healthy,” says Emilie. “There are a lot of chemicals involved and the bees are poorly treated.” And so, with improvement in mind and a lot of passion, you could say the idea was pollinated. It only took a couple of pints, and Alvéole was born.

    With an office in the Plateau and a booming business, these 23-year-olds have it made. And they’d love to have you, too. “Come pop by, we can have some beers, and we’ll show you how a hive works,” Declan laughs.

    Watch the tens of thousands of bees work together, and, as Emilie so gracefully put it, “become part of the hive, within a hive.”

  • A Permanent Work of Art

    • photo by Michele Pucci.

    • photo by Michele Pucci.

    It’s a typical afternoon at TattooMania: a tattoo gun is buzzing away at the back of the room, a couple is flipping through binders of designs for inspiration and Valerie Emond is talking about the final details of this weekend’s tattoo convention.

    “I always have this dream a few days before the convention, I go inside the room and it’s empty,” she said laughing.

    It’s been twelve years since the city’s first Art Tattoo Show, but it’s the first year Emond and her husband are working on it without an event promoter.

    “We know what to do, how it goes,” she said. “But still it’s a lot of different things as far as technical things go.”

    The convention is open to all-ages and usually receives 8,000 to 10,000 viewers, including staff and entourage and a couple of hundred artists. The event, like most international tattoo conventions, is as much about tattoo customers and connoisseurs as it is about artists hanging out with overseas peers.

    “It’s a community that actually visits each other at conventions,” Emond said.

    Tattoo artists will attend the event to buy supplies and make connections, but you can often spot people who are avid collectors.

    “You’ll see a lot of people that have one, two, even three appointments during the weekend to get tattooed by different artists.”

    And it’s definitely the best time to do it. The point of an international tattoo convention is to bring international tattooists to town, some from as far as Korea or Greece.

    “Why would I go there, pay $20 and get tattooed by someone I can get tattooed by any day?” said Emond.

    No appointment? No problem.

    The convention is back at the beautiful and brightly lit Windsor hall, a historic architectural gem and reminder of Montreal’s rich history—but sound-wise the space is not the best for music. So you won’t be hearing any metal there this coming weekend.

    “Ça ne serait pas supportable,” Emond said, switching to French.

    But there will be music, with four local bands performing, a charity art expo and silent auction, a burlesque performance and a seminar by tattoo legend Chuck W. Eldridge.

    “Not everyone will get tattooed, you want it to be worth your $20,” said Emond.

    Burlesque performer Lavender May is set to perform with Speakeasy Burlesque at the convention Friday.

    “She’s really big in the burlesque movement, she’s classy, she knows a lot of good dancers, and she’s a customer of ours,” said Emond about May.

    Eldridge, one of the most well known tattoo historians in the industry, visits the convention every two years. His Montreal-native wife, the Book Mistress collects books on every aspect of the tattoo world.

    “He’s trusting the Montreal show as a legitimate quality event, because he doesn’t do a lot of talks and conventions,” said Emond about Eldridge’s appearance.

    “Anyone that’s trying to promote tattooing in a positive light should be supported,” said Eldridge about the event.

    Eldridge’s Tattoo Archive in North Carolina is a tattoo shop, a bookstore and a museum. This weekend he’ll be giving a free seminar on tattoo shop fronts.

    “We can’t move forward if we don’t understand what was done in the past,” he said. “I think that’s certainly true of tattooing.”

    While many of the artists at the convention have been there from the beginning, Emond says they’re making an effort to invite new artists.Quebec Tattoo Shop, a sort of Yellow Pages for tattoo shops and artists, is curating the convention’s art exhibit, inviting more than 40 artists from shops across Quebec.

    “It was way of giving artists that are not part of the convention the opportunity to showcase their art,” Emond said.

    For those who don’t make it into the convention, the 23rd installment of Beaux Dégâts is taking place this Saturday outside the Windsor station, so it’s accessible to everyone. Beaux Dégâts is the spontaneous graffiti battle where teams are given 30 minutes to brainstorm two themes and have two hours to turn those themes into an 8×8 mural. Spectators vote for teams with their beer cans.

    “This event is about discussing the ephemeral aspect of street art graffiti, once it’s on the street you control of the thing, anything can happen to it,” said Adrien Fumex, one of Fresh Paint’s founders.

    The event is born from Fresh Paint Gallery, which was founded by the annual graffiti convention Under Pressure. Previous Beaux Dégâts events have taken place at Foufounes Électriques.

    “Everyone wants to see the event evolve, it’s a way to have fun in a different environment and to present the concept to a different crowd,” said Fumex.

    Events like Beaux Dégâts and Under Pressure appeal to the city’s urban and hip-hop community, which doesn’t always include a lot of tattoo enthusiasts, Under Pressure and Art Tattoo have a 10-year-strong history of working together.

    “There’s a lot of people from graffiti that turn into tattoo artists, and a lot of people that do tattoos and also paint a lot,” said Emond.

    One of the teams for this edition will be made up of tattoo artists from the convention. Emond hopes to appeal to a different crowd, the urban art and urban youth, who are often tattoo customers, but may be unaware of the international event.

    The convention is continuously growing, which makes sense considering a rising interest in tattoo culture. Some visitors are intrigued by a culture they might have seen on TV and know Chris Núñez from Miami Ink or Ink Master.

    “The hype is there,” and as Emond says this, the phone rings about four times.

    The mainstreaming of tattoo also makes conventions like these all the more important for showing quality work. Ideally people considering getting one will learn to notice the difference between good artists and bad ones. Becoming a tattooist has never been easier, and amateurs have many willing canvases as tattoos become more common.

    “Nowadays artists with a little drawing skill—or not even—can go online, buy supplies and start tattooing,” she said. “If you go back 15 years, it was much harder to get into the craft and buy supplies.

    “Anyone with two hands can tattoo, it’s that easy.”

    Doing it well is not easy, and having a bad artist combined with lack of judgment can result in a whole lot of regret.

    “I call them artists but they aren’t, they have someone else’s life, in a way, in their hand,” she said. “They don’t have to live with a shitty tattoo.”

    The convention aims to give people a glimpse of what a good tattoo is and encourage people to do their research. Emond hopes to deter young people from getting neck and hand tattoos they’ll regret in a few years.

    “We’re going to have a lot of cover-ups soon, the more and more it continues.”

    << Art Tattoo Show // Sept. 5 to 7th // Windsor Station (1100 Rue de la Gauchetière West) // >>

  • Paint Turtle Island

    • photo by Michele Pucci.

    • Photo by Michele Pucci.

    • photo by Michele Pucci.

    One of Canada’s deepest, darkest secrets lies at the very root of its existence: the True North, Strong and Free is a former colony. It’s a discussion we sometimes forget about—especially whenever nationalism debates take centre stage—but with the help of QPIRQ Concordia and other political communities, two young street artists are trying to change that.

    “I think it’s necessary when you’re a settler on unceded territory to know about the colonialism history,” said “Zola. “It’s important to educate yourself or try to educate others around you about these issues.”

    Zola, who prefers to remain as anonymous as possible, shares a studio with Camille Larivée, who really got the idea for Decolonizing Street Art off the ground.

    Inspired and encouraged by Arizona-based Chip Thomas (a.k.a. “Jetsonorama) and his Painted Desert Project, Larivée reached out to street artists across North America to “re-appropriate” Montreal streets.

    Some walls in the downtown area present aboriginal imagery inaccurately, said Larivée, which falls under cultural appropriation. About a dozen artists are participating in the event, which runs from Aug. 22 to Sept. 3, most of whom have indigenous roots.

    By giving indigenous street artists wall space, especially women, the convergence hopes to counterbalance culturally skewed street art in Montreal.

    “I hope this event will change these things,” Larivée said. “I think it’s a good beginning.”

    Clifton Nicholas is a Mohawk political activist from Kanehsatake. He discussed cultural appropriation of indigenous images and dress at a workshop on Thursday.

    “I implore artists to educate themselves, investigate, research what these images are. I, for one, don’t want to be reduced to a caricature,” he said, comparing popularized icons and animations like the Cleveland Indians mascot to minstrel shows and blackface.Aboriginal icons or names have been used to market everything from “butter”.

    “We’re not a disappeared people, we’re not a romanticized people, we’re living, breathing human beings,” Nicholas said.

    Decolonizing Street Art is as grassroots as convergences come, and they’re still looking for “funding. Larivée, an art history student at the Université du Québec à Montréal, and Zola approached QPIRQ Concordia, the university’s very own anti-establishment community, for support.

    “We came to QPIRQ for organizing help because we knew they had resources,” said Zola.

    One of the main goals of the event was to bring politically active artists together. Street artists tend to be proficient at social networking, like most unprofessional work; street art thrives on Tumblr, but artists rarely meet.

    “People like each other’s things on networks but they don’t necessarily know each other,” said Zola. “One of the goals of the convergence was to create a community of people with shared political values or life experiences.”

    To admire the convergence’s artwork, walk around Park Ex, leaving De Castlenau metro station and then walking west to Marconi Street and south.