For two and a half weeks, Consequence of Sound’s Sasha Geffen will be exploring Montreal and its music scene, attending the mammoth three-day music festival Osheaga (featuring The Cure, Beck, New Order, Vampire Weekend and many more), and taking in the local culture. Follow her adventures here, or through the hashtag #MTLMoments on Instagram and Twitter, and visit Tourisme Montreal’s website to learn more about the city.
On Sundays, Montreal’s Mount Royal Park fills up with drummers, dancers, LARPers, and anyone who wants to watch. A statue of an angel reaches into the sky at the edge of the drum circle known as the Tam-Tams, which has been congregating every summer since 1978.
While most of the events we’ve attended so far have drawn out the young, white demographic, at Tam-Tams we see all sorts. Older hippies dance and smoke. Young parents lead their toddlers around to the vendors who sell trinkets from the grass. One impressively muscular man keeps balancing an empty oil barrel on his shoulders. Some of the drummers might well be professional musicians, while others are just there to hit things.
I feel a rawness up in this park on the hill that’s groomed out of the clubs we’ve been to. No one really sizes anyone else up and everyone’s free to be weird. Role-players in full leather body armor walk casually from the bus stop to a field a little deeper into the trees that’s been scuffed bare by fake sword fights. Casual tightrope walkers straddle strips of nylon strung taut between trees.
That night, we head to a venue in Little Italy called Il Motore to see a couple of rock bands transplanted, like me, into Canada. Wampire apologizes at the start of their set; their keyboard player was held up at the border, so they’re one man short. They still nail a set of clean, nostalgic guitar songs, complete with a confident take on Kraftwerk’s “Das Modell”.
Chicago locals Smith Westerns headline, and I notice how the crowd here dresses and moves a lot like the crowds at Schubas or Metro. The Quebecois accents are almost the only thing reminding me I’m not still home. Do rock fans in every city fall into a similar groove? How does culture settle into the holes we make for it?
Mikala and I and our new friend Adam all finish a round of apricot ales before journeying out to grab the dinner we skipped. As we take a shortcut through an empty playground with a broken fence, I notice an essay-length text posted on a wall. I take a closer look to see that it’s an artist’s manifesto, an exploration of the question “what if art ruled the world?” I’m reading someone else’s blog, only they’ve glued it to the material space of their city. They’ve published it without anticipation of the interaction that places like Tumblr or Facebook offer. I can’t respond, so I take photos to read it later, warmed a little by the thought that someone in Montreal’s recent past is working on the same problems that fascinate me. What if art ruled the world?
Previously on #MTLMoments: Sasha and electro-pop duo Blue Hawaii talk about Montreal’s fertile artistic environment.