FringeBlog

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

  • 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.”

  • “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.