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  • “Pentagram of Sex”: Round Dance Play Review

    Round Dance, a play written in the late 18th century, came to life at the McGill Players’ Theatre on Feb. 18. “What initially attracted me to the play was the fact that it was relatable despite the fact that it was written almost 120 years ago,” said director Hannah Kirby.

    The play is a series of interlocking scenes, tied together by themes of persuasion, seduction and frustration. Originally written in German by Arthur Schnitzler, Round Dance easily transcends time and language with its depictions of love, sex and everything that is, or isn’t, in between. Schnitzler was interested in the build-up of sexual desire, as well as what happens afterwards, and how these interactions may not be as unique as they sometimes feel.

    “People haven’t really changed all that much,” reflected Kirby. “People still have sex. People will always play this game or dance in order to get what they want. There is something universal about human nature and sexuality in this play.”

    Although originally set in 1890s Vienna, the setting could really be anywhere and anytime. The visuals of the play represent this. Simple, yet evocative. Set designers Katey Wattam and Noush Kadian created a versatile wooden set that leaves itself open to the flexibility that Round Dance requires. Characters use it as beds, offices and docksides, and beds again. Lighting plays an important role in the production; often the sexual acts are suddenly illuminated, making the viewer aware, yet blind to exactly what is happening in the dark.

    Because Round Dance requires that actors play multiple roles, Kirby says she was “looking for actors who would be flexible in that way.” Her actors, four McGill students and one Concordian, definitely delivered on this. In particular, Connor Spencer’s transition from a nervous and uptight maid to a free spirited poet, “Maggie,” was compelling and hilarious to watch.

    Kirby made her own changes to the piece, depicting many of the relationships as same sex, and changing the number of actors from six to five. This reorganization meant that, for those who like symmetry, each of the actors is seduced by every other one, making what Kirby calls a “pentagram of sex.” The equality that comes with this is soothing in a way, and the play acknowledges this as well in its circularity. The play begins with the character of the “whore” and she is also the one who ends it in the final scene.

    On a cold winter night, this sexually charged play is a warming experience, topped off with wine and cheese at intermission. While it can be humbling to see that the private interactions we have may just be actions passed down through generations of lovers, it is refreshing to see that we are not alone in these feelings of adoration, desperation and all the things that wrap themselves in the blanket of sex.

  • Water Us & We Will Grow

    • Photo Mattha Busby

    • Photo Mattha Busby

    Good vibes permeated throughout the Belmont on this crisp February night. The Saint-Laurent boul. venue provided the backdrop for the 5th stop on genre-bending music artist Theophilus London’s Vibes tour, eponymously named after his second studio album.

    Interestingly enough, his project was executive-produced by Kanye West. Its association to Kanye explains, at least in part, the innovative and stylistically heterogeneous nature of the Vibes album. But more so, it is a testament to London’s refusal to conform to the norms of his genre of music and his desire to not limit the scope of what he can accomplish creatively as someone who is sometimes simply qualified as a rapper.

    His album succeeds in that regard, and the Theophilus London fans in attendance were hoping that vision would translate on stage. However, before they could watch London show off the results of the higher plane of consciousness he’s claimed to have reached through a drug-filled journey of artistic expression (something he alluded to during his performance), fans had to first take a moment to also appreciate a more quintessential (yet also different in its own right) approach to the genre that Theophilus technically inhabits. That came in the form of “Dad”.

    Rapper Father was tapped as the opening act for this tour. The Georgia artist is considered one of the hottest rappers representing the “New Atlanta” sound along with artists like ILoveMakonnen, Key!, Young Thug and the Migos.

    Joined on stage by a hype man that could pass for his doppelganger, he performed his most known songs such as “YoungHotEbony”, “Spoil You Rotten” (for which a video was released just a few days prior) and current street hit “Look At Wrist” (which features Makonnen and Key!), as well as some newer music from upcoming projects. Although his set was shortened due to having started significantly later than it was intended, Father made up for it with a charismatic performance throughout his time. The amuse-bouche was received very well by the crowd and after a brief intermission it was time for the main.

    With a cup of Tim Hortons tea in hand and equipped with, as he put it, “like 7 different shirts on because it’s so f****ng cold” he casually graced the stage to thunderous applause from the public. Once he and his live band got settled in and started performing “Water Me” (the opening track to Vibes), the atmosphere changed drastically. It became about grooving. It became about “vibing”.

    London led the audience through an extended repetition of the song’s simple yet abstract chorus “Water me and I will grow”, while repeatedly encouraging more energy from them. It was as if he refused to carry on until the crowd showed him a level of enthusiasm and participation that would justify the level of energy he promised to deliver throughout his 90-minute set.

    It eventually was to his satisfaction, and all of a sudden something happened. He started to deliver on that promise, giving the energy he received back. His renditions of even his tamest songs were so eclectic that it invigorated the crowd.

    Although he did take the time to perform “Rio” and “Flying Overseas”, the large majority of the songs played were off of the Vibes album, with the more notable ones being his performances of “Neu Law”, “Heartbreaker”, “Do Girls”, the album’s lead single “Tribe” and the Kanye-assisted “Can’t Stop” (much to the delight of all in attendance).

    The album played very well live and that was, in part, due to the live instrumentation. There was a sensuality to the rhythms that the band were playing, a notion that was there from the beginning of the set as “Water Me” speaks about how happiness comes from the power of love (and to a certain degree, women). That idea is reinforced throughout a good portion of his songs, which might also explain why he chose to start his tour so close to the “Lovers’ Holiday” (pun intended, referencing the title of his mixtape series).

    The overall show wasn’t without its flaws, however. Theophilus seemed to have very specific and publicly vocalized lighting requests for each song and he never seemed to be satisfied by what he got. He also missed the presence of a DJ, which resulted in him having to make his way to the MacBook in the corner every time he was going to start a new song.

    That detracted from the overall feel of the set, especially when he was visibly struggling to find a specific song on his list of tracks, but he made up for it with his Kanye West stories (whom he is actual friends with) and his slander of rapper Tyga.

    “I date girls that are 19 and I date girls that are 36 because I’m free”, he said. “But not 17. I ain’t on no Tyga s**t. You’re a b***h n***a for that.” That line drew raucous laughter from the crowd.

    London ended the show in full circle. He brought out Father for two encores of “Look at Wrist”. The first incited a crowd surf from London and it showed that even though he is very “out there” musically, that he still has a love for rap music. For him, it isn’t about the genres. It’s about the vibes, and they were definitely good vibes.

  • CORE CHRONICLES: Coming Down with The Amity Affliction In a Converted Cathedral

    • photo from Creative Commons.

    • photo from Creative Commons.

    • photo from Creative Commons.

    Jake is our resident aficionado of all music under the diverse umbrella of –core: from deathcore to Nintendocore, metalcore to mathcore. Born and bred in the moshpits of New England, he has to ventured north to document the metal underbelly of MTL.

    It was a typical blisteringly cold February night when The Amity Affliction came to Montreal, and the howling gales were relentless during the journey out west of Verdun to the Paradox Theatre. While the weather was brutal, it was only half as brutal as the show to come—I looked forward to getting toasty in the human furnace of the moshpit.

    Two out of five bands on the show’s bill hailed from the land down under: The Amity Affliction and In Heart’s Wake. Aussie bands just keep popping up in the metalcore scene, such as Northlane, Parkway Drive, House Vs. Hurricane and countless more. Just like Finland is correlated with black metal and Boston with straight edge hardcore, it seems Australia is becoming the new hub for metalcore and post-hardcore.

    Hurrying down Monk Boulevard with my breath smoking the air, I saw the bands’ jumbo idling tour buses and I kept my eyes peeled for what I was sure would be a dank, hole-in-the-wall venue. Not finding it, my eyes roamed over a massive stone church, similar in design to the revered Notre Dame Basilica—and that’s when I heard the muffled music coming from within.

    To my surprise, the Paradox Theatre is not just another packed, sweaty club, but a modern reimagining of the historical church Notre-Dame-du-Perpétuel-Secours. Any inconvenience caused by its out-of-the-way location is immediately neutralized when you see its stone façade, ornate stained glass and magnificent open space within.

    I caught the end of Being As An Ocean’s set as I walked through the towering wooden doors. They brought the full emotional power of their melodic hardcore anthems to bear: their finisher was “This Loneliness Won’t Be the Death of Me,” which began with a mesmerizing, reverberating post-rock guitar riff as vocalist Joel Quartuccio addressed the crowd. The song crescendoed when Quartuccio waded into the crowd for the inspirational spoken word section of the song, a circle 100-people deep surrounding him.

    Before Amity came on, the venue’s DJ made some interesting filler song choices: “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” “Party In the USA,” “Tik Tok” and more sugary-sweet pop hits stirred the crowd into a few goofy sing-alongs. It also highlighted how many girls were at the show—at least half the crowd.

    Amity came on like a storm with one of their heavy new hits: “Pittsburgh,” off their latest album Let the Ocean Take Me. “Pittsburgh” has a rousing chorus that’s engineered to be screamed until hoarse alongside hundreds of other people: “It’s like there’s cancer in my blood, it’s like there’s water in my lungs,” we yelled with fury. Other noteworthy songs of the night were the triplet chug-fest “Death’s Hand,” the poignant anthems “The Weigh Down” and “Never Alone,” and songs off their previous record like “Chasing Ghosts” and “Greens Avenue.”

    Singer/bassist Ahren Stringer, who I was lucky enough to interview prior to the show, had his vocals on point the whole night, falling into the coveted category of singers whose pipes are as good live as they are in the studio with electronic handicaps. His ultra-catchy choruses are one of the major draws of The Amity Affliction—in fact, he’s the only reason my acoustic/pop-loving girlfriend agreed to come to her first hardcore show (and she ended up loving it!).

    Screamer Joel Birch was totally invested in connecting with the crowd, constantly sharing the mic with all those pressed into the meat grinder of the front lines at the stage. At one point he extended his arm out to his side for a whole verse, and a dozen sweaty hands grabbed at it and perched on him like a row of metalhead pigeons. Birch also surprised me by yelling for a “circle pit” during one of the songs, a type of old school whirlwind mosh pit that I haven’t seen since the late 2000s.

    Squashed between the pit and the front lines, under the squirming and kicking legs of the waves of crowdsurfers, I saw some classic hardcore show marvels. A showgoer inexplicably bleeding from the mouth, only to plug it with his shirt and take another stagedive, a crowdsurfer being tossed into an involuntary backflip to the ground and out of sight, and security motioning someone to dismount off their roost on someone else’s shoulders, only to have Birch demand to see more shoulder-surfers for the next song and see a dozen heads pop up like a whack-a-moles instantly.

    Amity finished off their set with “Don’t Lean On Me,” another powerful ballad off their new record. As they left the stage, I cried out for “one more song,” but alas, my vocal cords were shot. Soaked in sweat and effectively a mute at that point, my body made it clear that the show was a massive success. I admired the Paradox Theatre once more as I made my way to the merch table—I’ll be looking forward to worshipping the gods of hardcore at that venue again real soon.

    Find more hardcore shows in the Montreal area by Extensive Enterprise here.

  • Love in a Cold Climate : the Rebranding of Space

    How often do public areas fulfill their designed purpose? In our concrete jungles, most open areas are vacant spaces occupied only by the occasional cigarette smoker. The designed institutional use for these spaces happens to be bringing people together, but how frequently does that actually happen? How often are Place des Arts and the Ville Marie plaza used for social gatherings?

    This is exactly the sad fate of the Henry F. Hall Building terrace, a modernist plaza designed to bring people together but which ultimately fails to do so.

    When Cynthia Hammond, an art history department chair, and Michael Montanaro, associate director of the Topological Media Lab, heard about the ongoing campaign to create “Quartier Concordia”—possibly linking the new Montreal Museum of Fine Arts pavilion with the University through this Terrace—they felt it was important that the Concordia community be consulted in the rebranding of this space.

    In doing so, they asked a group of students to participate in a performance-based social gathering they called, Love in a Cold Climate.

    The Topological Media Lab describes itself as a trans-disciplinary, atelier-laboratory for collaborative research creation, founded at Concordia University. This lab creates a site within the university for creative dialogue between arts and media, with a special interest in space and place. Naturally, Montanaro was immediately interested in thinking about what they could bring to this unused space.

    In collaboration with Shauna Janssen, the two decided to organize the event, Love in a Cold Climate. Janssen created Urban Occupations Urbaines in 2010, a curatorial platform concerned with the rapid urban change in Griffintown, Montréal.

    As Hammond explained, the name of the event comes from the title of a book by Nancy Mitford, published in England in 1930. It plays with the idea that love takes unexpected turns, and we end up in places with people we never expected.

    For Hammond, the aim was to “create a short event that would, in its gravity, show that you don’t need a lot of resources to make a place special.” Participants were invited to download a free flashlight app on their mobile device to be able to illuminate the space as they wished. Slowly, an unscripted choreography started taking place between the lights, the participants, the dancers and musicians.

    Provocative music, played by Computation Arts student Nima Navab and trombone-player Felix del Tredici, invited the contributors to move around the space in ways in which they would not usually do. As the musicians interspersed amongst the group, fifteen dancers made their way around the Terrace in non-traditional ways to recapture the space. There were hot drinks given out to the participants for free, so they could have something warm and delicious.

    “It was beautiful to see how people embraced what this project offered: a chance to be in space differently,” Hammond added. “We really wanted this to be unscripted [it was great because] everyone intuitively knew what to do.”

    The event was held in solidarity with #ShutDownCanada, a social movement that aimed to create a boycott of all of Canadian government services on Friday Feb. 13. This was done in order to pressure the government to reconsider its policies concerning First Nations land rights and the drastic need to launch an inquiry into missing and murderer indigenous women.

    When Hammond, Janssen and Montanaro heard about this movement they had already planned the event, but immediately decided that they should stand in solidarity with this cause. As Hammond explained, “Friday was a day to work against institutional norms [and we’re going] to use the space in a completely different way, more creative than usual.”

    Before the performance started, Hammond made a speech explaining that it was important to dedicate the event to this cause, as it is imperative to acknowledge the fact that Concordia, and the Terrace itself, are built on stolen aboriginal land.

    The organizers hope that this event will have shown how easily we can bring into play this underutilized space and that the university will continue to lead projects of the sort around campus. The project was meant, in part, to show the University that there is already interest on our part in rebranding this space, and to encourage others to make their own projects in the space.

    This well planned event to support a social cause in a short but sweet and joyous way, is a reminder for all of us of how simple and inspiring it can be to put in question conventional uses for space.

  • Gritty Love Street Wars

    • Courtesy of F3M

    Sensitive people beware, the film does not spare you anything from Alex’s gloomy daily life. His days are scheduled around finding drugs. In his quest for dope, he meets lots of lost souls like him, but remains definitely alone. His addiction is the only constant in his life. Without money, the only pleasure he can afford is sex.

    This Friday, Love in Time of Civil War , a powerful, raw drama and fifth movie of director Rodrigue Jean will be released in Quebec. Over the course of two hours, viewers follow the crazy life of Alex Landry, a young heroin addict from the South Shore of Montreal, who despite all these issues, tries to laugh and enjoy himself.

    Shaping his aesthetic with closeup shots of the actors’ bodies, Jean follows Landry as he walks down the streets or puts on his big black leisure coat.

    During sex scenes the camera stays fixated on him and the texture of his skin becomes almost palpable. When he shoots-up, the viewer senses the dizziness altogether. The staging is pure and naturalistic.

    Discovered in the movie Gabrielle by Louise Archambault, Landry was chosen by the director for his athletic qualities—visible in both his body and his heart.

    Both professional and nonprofessional actors were assembled for this movie. Some of the non-professionals were former heroin addicts. It’s not the first time that Jean builds a story around people in the street. In the documentary Men for Sale released in 2009, the filmmaker followed the life of 11 male prostitutes year-round, and created a musical adventure of two unemployed characters for his first movie Full Blast (1999).

    Later in his career, in 2002, Jean directed Yellowknife and Lost Song in 2008 for which he won the prize of Best Canadian Picture at the Toronto Film Festival.

    For once, it feels good to see people like Landry and his entourage prevail on the big screen. By telling the story of the addict, the prostitute or the beggar, Jean gives a voice to a different kind of hero: one that is unloved and simply ignored in the streets of the city.

    Forcing the viewer to confront some of the most difficult realities of drug addiction, the narrative does not fall into the clichés of redemption and happy Hollywood ending. Nonetheless, after spending two hours in the life of the characters, one cannot help but be subjugated by the raw beauty of this intense life.

    Love in the Time of Civil War (L’amour au temps de la guerre civile) // Feb. 6 // Cinema Excentris (3536 Saint Laurent Blvd.)