FringeBlog

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

  • Randomness and Determination

    • Photo courtesy the Black Theatre Workshop.

    The lights go black; the room falls silent. Quiet sounds fade in, and white lights illuminate the actress sitting at centre stage on a wooden chair. The red lights behind her glisten, and the ambiance becomes somber. She begins her lines in a clear voice, heavy with a British-Jamaican accent.

    A young Black woman tells her story in the present tense, taking us through morning until afternoon. Her alarm clock goes off, and she unwillingly heads downstairs long after she finally feels awake.

    Her daily routine begins—breakfast, school, classroom casualties. But by afternoon, what seemed to be a normal day turns out to be anything but normal. She rushes home to find policemen in her home, speaking to her parents about her brother.

    One play—12 different characters—all played by one actor, Lucinda Davis.

    A case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Random is a story of frequent racist shootings that took place in London over several years roughly a decade ago. The script, written by Debbie Tucker Green in 2007, made its first stage appearance in London in 2008 at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre.

    The play was presented by Black Theatre Workshop, and ran from March 18 to April 4 at the MAI theatre in Montreal. The director, Micheline Chevrier, first heard of the play over a dinner conversation with a friend who resides in London, and found it to be impressionable.

    “You can’t follow through with a play like this without an actor already in mind,” said Chevrier during a question period.

    And it’s true. To be capable of playing 12 characters in one hour is impressive. The piece was highly focused on the performance aspect. Davis was able to seamlessly shift in and out of a diverse set of characters without confusing the audience.

    It became nearly impossible to not get hooked into the world of the play and follow each step of the story with her. The repeated mention of time was an element that helped, as well as the on-point sound effect cues throughout, suggesting different scenes or times of day.

    It was exciting to see Davis jump into different accents and drastically change her body language to portray each character. She went from sitting up straight with a young girl’s voice to slouching down in her chair with her legs apart joking like a cockamamie boy.

    Her accuracy was humorous at times and truly believable, especially when she played the mother. The mannerisms, accent and emotion of the character were brilliantly captured.

    The setting was intimate, with the audience sitting on stands surrounding the front of the stage. We were crammed in so tight that you felt bad for breathing on someone, let alone move. At about 20 minutes in, the room was a sauna. This was exactly what Chevrier wanted.

    “It’s really the storyteller that is showcased here and I never wanted to take anything away from that,” she said. She knew that people would be forced to listen and focus in on the acting.

    Although this play was well-performed, the story lacked originality. Perhaps the fact that it was about an abnormal situation rising out of a normal day was what did it. From the very beginning, the outcome of the story was predictable. It was so forcefully unexpected that it was expected. Nothing too outstanding set this story apart from others, and it seemed like it had been told too many times, whether in the news, in documentaries or in short stories.

    The sound effects, rhythmic pacing and script did help with comprehension of the story, but they also seemed to give away the essence of it. At 7:45 a.m. this happens and then at 10:15 a.m., this happens—something bad was bound to be in store.

    In the end, the single-actor factor is what set this play apart. The Black Theatre Workshop did a good job executing this project, spreading awareness of prejudice and the long-term impacts of acts of violence and racism, as they usually do quite well. However, the final resolution was predictable.

    Random rests on the laurels of a terrific performer. Davis shines bright in this piece, and she carried the story with success.

  • I Do Love This, I Will Not Go Outside

    I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, Earl’s third full-length to date, continues the upward swing the L.A. native has been cultivating since he and Odd Future first exploded on the scene in early 2010. His latest release is at once a fleshing out of the musical motifs and lyrical themes that make Earl so mesmerizing and accessible. Still representing a huge step forward, it is for certain the most intimate, personal piece he’s yet released.

    I Don’t Like Shit is tight, but more than being tight, it’s loose. Tight lyrics, tight beats, tight final product. The production, however, and the structure, are as loose as it gets — more jazz than R&B, though it’s very R&B, reminiscent of Shades of Blue and Madvilliany.

    Earl is almost scatting, giving us little in the way of concrete melody. Gone are the days of simplistic hooks or leaning on trapish simplism. Instead, what Sweatshirt offers is at once brutally honest, incredibly hard and flowing like butter— and at times enveloping and totally aural in its atmosphere, an amalgamation of the wavy, dreamy sense of a Flying Lotus track, with the mindful control of Sweatshirt through it all.

    You won’t find more interesting juxtaposition of jazz elements, R&B and trap offered in a more riveting way so far this year. Everything about this record causes obsession — Sweatshirt’s intonation, the math nature of the beats — everything. Odd time signatures abound, with never a predictable moment, Earl switching easily amongst several different analog and digital recording techniques.

    An analog feel certainly wins out, though, with a tape hiss between most tracks, and the beats occasionally sounding as if underwater, juxtaposed with Earl’s signature keyboard melodies and modulated harmonies. The final product feels like it was made to played on vinyl, just like an MF Doom record.

    Despite all of that, though, what shines through the most on I Don’t Like Shit is the genuine honest nature of it all. The lyrics, the intonation, the passion — Earl is not fucking around on this record.

    Even for Earl, who is definitely known for his Real with a capital R lyricism, I Don’t Like Shit is on a new level; lyricism, delivery, mechanics, themes and all. A verse that stands out especially is from track 3, Faucet, which concerns Sweatshirt’s disassociation with his home, and his mother, before he left for Samoa:

    Fuck out my face while I’m thinking.
    Ain’t step foot up in my momma’s place for a minute.
    My days numbered.
    I’m focused heavy on making the most of ‘em.
    I feel like I’m the only one pressin’ to grow upwards.
    It’s still fuck you and whoever you showed up with.
    Just trying to see an end and some steadier hands.

    That kind of intimacy is maintained, expanded on, throughout the record. And what’s more, it’s fucking hard, and it stays fucking hard. So imagine that — an amalgamation of Madlib’s analog beat feels, with the atmosphere of darker wave-trap like Night Lovell, and the hard honesty and delivery Earl gives us so well.

    Holy shit, man. Honestly, this record is fantastic. Do yourself a favor: Buy this record and go see Earl.

    Make the right decision: Catch Earl Sweatshirt with Vince Staples and Remy Banks at Corona on April 15th, 8pm.

  • Changing Islands, Keeping the Roots

    • Reggae artist Face-T premiered his newest release EP1 this month.

    As uncommon as it may sound, Reggae artist Face-T, though raised in Jamaica, was actually born on Canadian soil and moved to Jamaica early on. He grew up on the west side of the Caribbean island in a small village of only 500 people. It was in Montreal, however, that Face-T started making music professionally.

    “I didn’t really need to in Jamaica”, he explained. “Music in Jamaica is everywhere 24/7; you’re just hanging around and there’s a beat, someone around the table starts with a verse and it just goes on.”

    Growing up, like most of us, he would listen to his parents’ music from the 1970s and ‘80s, but what really caught his attention was what played on the radio. “There would be different sounds and new types of music, amazing artists like U-Roy started appearing,” Face-T said. “U-Roy created a mix between rap and reggae and used very explicit lyrics, which was uncommon for Christian Jamaica, and as youngsters we were freaking out, we adored it”.

    The thing Face-T and his youngster friends were freaking out about was something that came to reggae at the end of the 1970s. It was digital rhythm, and it exploded onto the reggae scene, creating new possibilities and changing the genre forever.

    “Once you start getting into reggae music, the possibilities are endless,” said Face-T. “Jamaica produces the most music per capita; it’s incredible”.

    As the reggae/dancehall scene exploded around the world, Face-T credits its fast circulation and growth to the Internet, enabling people from all over the world to partake in the genre’s evolution.

    “Now you can go to a concert in France and they know all the lyrics, they know the artist and their history—it’s just crazy how many people find out,” he said.

    In a way, Face-T admits that this has also made it harder for him to keep in touch with the Jamaican local scene. There’s just so much going on and from all sorts of places. “Now there are amazing Reggae artists from Scotland, Poland, France, all over,” he said.

    For the Canadian-born star, this new diversity isn’t concerning. “My music is not for Reggae purists because the aim is not necessarily to create untainted Reggae but rather something I love that is original,” he said.

    Face-T has no need for the typical stereotypes or labels; he wants to embrace every musical genre. He believes it’s interesting to meet people from all backgrounds and finds it extremely encouraging to see how many of them are interested in collaborating with reggae artists.

    “Music should come naturally, but I think when you do music or paint or write, or any kind of artistic expression, to [be able to] keep on expressing yourself, you have to observe around you, take it in and put it back out,” Face-T said. He emphasized the need to keep ourselves aware of our surroundings; we shouldn’t watch TV, he said, but rather get out, travel and meet people.

    Face-T will be premiering his new record, EP1, at Le Belmont on Friday, March 27. His warm, fun dancehall sounds filled with Caribbean beats and catchy lyrics will have you hooked in little time.

    “My message often resonates within reggae’s main themes, such as love, unity and peace, but my aim is to get people in Canada to become more aware and open up to what’s going on in the rest of the world,” he said.

    Face-T’s music acknowledges the political, social and economic discrepancies that exist between Canada and Jamaica. “It’s important to be aware of all the privileges that come with being born in a rich country,” Face-T told The Link, “but usually it’s hard to get that right away.”

    As the reggae artist explained, when he moved to Jamaica in 1979 there was an embargo on the country and a lot of internal rioting. “All there was on the shelves was sugar, flour, and rice,” he said. “People had nothing, no toys, no toothpaste, no nothing.”

    Moving back to Canada at the age of sixteen shocked Face-T. It felt like “another world.”

    Going from such poverty to a place like Montreal was very jarring, Face-T said, and it caused him to be acutely aware of the importance of balance between excess and scarcity—only if we realize that our society and our types of living are the root of this problem can we start to make the necessary changes.

    Face-T describes the Montreal Reggae scene as separated in two categories. The divide is mainly between anglophones from Côte-des-Neiges or Lasalle—who are mainly Jamaicans and Caribbeans—and guys from Montreal like RiddimWise who do productions and organize evenings in the Plateau that tend to be more open to a general public.

    The latter might not be “pure” reggae music, but it gives you a taste of today’s culture.
    “This scene has changed a lot with the increase of French immigration to the Plateau,” Face-T said. “It’s been growing and evolving; more and more French people come to the evening shows.”

    An increasing amount of small Montreal venues are closing down, causing greater synthesis of styles in the bigger venues around town. Face-T argued that this makes it harder and harder for small artists to perform since there’s no venue available to them.

    “I’m very lucky because I have no problem organizing a show, but it can be almost impossible for upcoming artists!” he said. “Venues cannot be confined to the Quartier des Spectacles – it needs to be around the whole city.”

    Face-T would love to see more support from different pillars of the government. Montreal’s culture is not confined, he said; it’s very open and therefore its music scene should be too.
    “That’s why we love Montreal: the mix of cultures—it shows up in the music and more generally in the music scene,” Face-T said. “People from all over the world can appreciate it.”

  • YES, I CAN TALK TO GHOSTS

    The rumours, though sometimes wildly overstated, are true: I can communicate with ghosts. No, they don’t want to hurt you. They don’t want to contact you. They don’t really care what the living do at all. Mostly, they just want to see you naked. They will not shut up about it.
    “Look’it the cans on her!”
    “What a bulge!”
    “I’d like to take a bite out of that white meat!”

    Really crude stuff. I have to hear about it all day long. I try to tell them, “You cannot talk about people like that. You must have some consideration for their humanity. You have the freedom to be anywhere and do anything now that you’ve exited the earthly plane but that doesn’t mean you can be shitty to everyone!”

    They beg to differ. They say no, compassion and sympathy matter less than ever. Humanity is a topic of great irrelevance.

    At least, I assume they would. Inquiries into their pasts or attempts to parse their reasoning are uniformly met with replies like, “Asses sure are rounder nowadays.”

    What can I say to that? Is it my responsibility to respond? Such questions haunt me as thoroughly as the ghosts themselves.

    Turns out death is not simply the end of your life and the release of your soul into the ether. It’s also an opportunity to loose an eternity of consequence-free rudeness on the world, which can be really stressful on my end. I’d say it’s “old-fashioned” of me to expect at least a little respect from those lacking corporeality, but the oldest ghosts are the worst. They’re positively obsessed with shorts. Something about exposed legs really brings out the lewdness in spectres of a certain vintage.
    Many walk around nude, fully exposed to the elements they can no longer feel (I understand the reasoning, though I wish I didn’t have to contend with the reality). Public masturbation is rampant among the deceased population. It’s harshly surreal to stumble upon some ancient Puritan grandma jacking it in a snowstorm. Surreal, and unfortunate.

    “That your sister? Do us a favour and get her out of that blouse?”

    I shout NO! and suddenly I’m that madman talking to the cutlery during a party.

    I can hardly stand it; be thankful you’re not afflicted by this “gift.” Those in the community who wish to make contact…invariably I will disappoint them. And it’s crushing me to have to tell people that their beloved grandparent or sibling or friend is strutting around the afterlife pointing at any and all genitalia crossing his or her path.

    “I’d kill to get ahol’ of that dick!”

    There is no pleasure here.

    When I awoke after my accident at the Bells County Community Centre Theatre, I spoke to these apparitions as if they were real. I soon realized, however, the truth about the nude muttering figure hovering around my hospital bed. While the months of rehabilitation dragged on, I thought I could squeeze some information from them. Why were they so sexually unhinged? Were they in heaven? Hell? Was there anything else beyond this perverse stage? I also wondered, selfishly, if I could ever see my parents again. This question was eventually answered, the illusion of the friendly ghost finally shattered by its weight.

    The days and weeks drag on. In one ear I hear pleas from fools who think their departed prison buddies or favourite teachers had final bits of wisdom to impart before they passed. In the other, Depression-era housewives and Civil War generals whisper “erect” this and “exposed” that, respectively (for example).

    My days gel together, blurry and washed out. By the time I get home from my day job and switch into my soft corduroy housepants, I’m entirely drained, no energy left for my own work. I was a promising young playwright before all this. My thrilling dark comic fable about de Sade’s scurrilous, disgusting final days, nearly ready for rehearsals at the time of my misfortune, remains unproduced.

    I’d be glad to swap stories and discuss this ability with another paranormal interloper, if any are out there. Have you found it to be a gift or a curse? About what percentage of the time do you encounter pantsless ghosts? Do you feel inspired by it, or has it forced the discovery and exploration of a dark, maddening maze at the core of your being? Do you suspect that this maze has an exit? I’ve never been especially good at mazes. Could it be that I’m alone at this new frontier of human evolution? Alone, yet so very surrounded…

  • ~*~Tips for Cam Girllzzz~*~

    “Send me a picture of your tits,” is not something many girls want to hear from a stranger over social media. The degradation and the multitude of dangers are usually enough for young women to know better than to send nude photos into the black hole and onto the international platform that is the Internet. But when money comes into the picture, the exchange becomes less a cry for attention and more of a business transaction.

    23-year-old Ashleigh, or “warriorqueenn” online, began webcam modeling for the business. “It started with someone [from Instagram] asking to buy pictures of me naked. I was like, ‘Hmm…Why not?’” she said.

    Ashleigh’s income comes almost solely from her interactive webcam masturbation. Apart from her job, she leads a normal, happy life—she has a boyfriend, a dedicated Internet following on Instagram, she loves to sing and is an up-and-coming “real” model in Toronto. Her high-pitched voice and tiny frame scream adorable.

    Choosing to masturbate on camera as a profession was a no-brainer for Ashleigh—to her, everyone masturbates, so she may as well make money doing it. But there are dangers involved. “People know where I’m from. Cam models get stalked. I don’t want anyone [watching] to know where I’m from or who I am,” she says.

    It may seem like easy money, but there are challenges and strategies involved in doing webcam porn. What follows is a list of do’s and don’ts for the prospective webcam models and curious cats among you.

    DON’T Lose Sleep
    Since most webcam porn site users go online late at night, you will be up with them. Make sure to get enough sleep. “I usually wake up around 2 p.m.,” says Ashleigh. “So I sleep a lot. Around 9:30 p.m. I get ready for cam. I’m usually on till 1 or 2 a.m.” Sleep is the key to surviving being on camera for three to five hours at a time.

    DO Get Familiar With Social Media
    In order to make money doing webcam porn, you need to get viewers. What better way to do this than with the ever-convenient world of social media? Ashleigh has over 22 thousand followers on Instagram, where she advertises her solo porn videos by posting sexy photos to Instagram and SnapChat. “Once someone adds me to SnapChat, I post things like, ‘Ask me for the link to my videos!’ and when they ask me, I send them the link, and I make easy money like that!”says Ashleigh. Her solo videos are posted to a commercial website where prices range from $2.99 to $99.99 per video.

    DON’T Cam With People Close By
    According to Ashleigh, it’s common cam girl knowledge that girls in porn get stalked. “The guys on these sites are obsessive … I mean they’re basically funding [our lives],” she says. “Most of them seem to [think they are] entitled to our information and stuff. I even have Ontario region blocked from my cam shows so no one from my area can see.” This strategy eliminates the possibility of superiors, family or friends close by to see Ashleigh’s face in her videos. “I keep my webcam modeling completely separate from my real life because it’s not something that everyone will accept,” she adds. Ashleigh has a strong sense of identity and knows that she is not the same girl these men on the Internet perceive as an object.

    DO Create Strong, Trusting Relationships
    Ashleigh has been in a relationship with her boyfriend Ryan for over a year. He is supportive of her career and “is happy that I’m happy,” says Ashleigh. “I mean … there aren’t very many guys out there who would be okay with their girlfriends having sex with themselves on cam for the world to see for money. Ryan loves that I’ve found my ‘thing.’” If webcam modeling is going to be your profession, it’s important that the people around you will not judge you for doing it. Surrounding yourself with strong, accepting people is crucial to maintaining self-worth in a taboo industry.

    DO Acknowledge That This Is Temporary
    Not many older women are webcam models. This offers motivation to find something more fulfilling and permanent for work. For Ashleigh, webcam modeling is very profitable, as shown by the weekly photos of her shopping sprees. But she knows she will have to move on eventually. “My goals are just to make as much money as I possibly can for now and move forward where life takes me. I’ll probably go back to school one day. Maybe when I’m like 30,” she laughs. “I won’t be able to do this forever, but for now, it’s what I have.”