Visiting Montreal seems to be a natural extension of Toronto. This visit I take the train, which really just seems like a long subway ride.
9:30am at Union Station, the place is so beautiful but the existence of Harvey’s as the main restaurant seems less than perfect. There should be a restaurant in the main foyer that Toronto wants to hang out at even if they are not taking the train. This must be one of the most under realized places in North America. I love being here. Run into Dave Porter. Porter is an A&R man with Universal Records and is well known for his generosity and the time dropped his cell phone in a urinal at The Horseshoe. Dave and I share the ride to Montreal and end up spending almost 24 hours together. It seems like every cool music person in Toronto is making the trip up for “Pop Montreal”
I check into the recently created Hotel Godin at the best possible location Sherbrooke and St. Laurent. The hotel is a restoration of the Godin building, which has been sitting on this corner since 1915, as well as an addition. Dan S Hanganu as well as Yabu Pushelberg completed the transformation. The hotel is calm beautiful and has a wonderful staff. The first thing anyone in Montreal says about the place is that is does not have a license. Oddly I think that may be one of its best assets.
The festival is in full swing as I arrive on the second night Torontonians Shawn Hewitt, The Russian Futurists, Ninja High School, Alcona, The Old Soul and LAL are all playing but I get to see most of them at The Drake whenever I want. I came here to see the Montreal music scene and then bring it back to The Drake. The problem is I need a guide. Porter calls Jonathan Cummings (leader the of rock god’s Bionic). Jonathan also writes for The Mirror and seems to be the mayor of The Main. He demands that we see Et Sans first at Le Divan Orange. The clubs here, there are many, are not like the clubs in Toronto. They seem to be in found spaces. Nothing looks like it was intended for rock and roll. Et Sans make some noise and do not disappoint but we need to leave early to catch Camouflage Nights at Petit Campus. Newly renovated an actual space built for rock is running late, we miss the band but run into half of Ontario. We leave the club and head for the experience of the festival.
Already fueled with as much beer as an adult 200 lb body can hold we enter Quai Des Brumes. The place is full of francophone artists and students. We pass a giant velvet curtain and the entrance turns into side stage. The place is old and is wood paneled with a wonderful chrome bar at the back. We make our way there immediately. Three pints and we are ready for why we came. Jonathan insists we go back to front of stage, Porter remains at the bar to talk to girls. Once the band “Les Breastfeeders hit the stage I find myself in a writhing mosh pit of fun. Beer spills everywhere and I am taken by the best live band Montreal has to offer. When the band finishes I meet their manager/promoter and quickly make a deal to bring them to Toronto. We finish up with Billy Childish and Torontonians The Old Soul. The Old Soul is probably the best party band going. They fit right into Montreal.
I will return to Toronto on VIA Rail and I will love it as much as my trip here. The fact that this wonderful portal exists between my two favorite cities continues to blow my mind.
Toronto owes more than a thank-you to Broken Social Scene but BSS find it in their happy hearts to thank Toronto. All 17 of them plus a few special guests. This is a long awaited record here in town. One of them dropped the record off for me at the front desk of the Drake and I feel honoured. I have seen the army of men accompanied by women play many shows over the last three years but none of them prepare me for the opening of the new album “Windsurfing Nation” or is it just called “Broken Social Scene” I have not figured that out yet.
I just got home from the Drake - 12:56am and with headphones plugged into laptop I am listening and typing.
The last album “You Forgot It in People” and the subsequent live experiences have lasted, stood the test of time and created a massive shadow for the release of this one.
I like to say of BSS’ live shows that they are selling love to a post exctasy generation and I have been looking forward to see how three years of that would affect the next recording.
At this point I hit track 3 – “Shoreline” – I am sold. I was sold by the artwork too. Drawings by Christopher Mills – beautiful drawings – but with bits of sadness too. You can’t have these kind of highs without some lows. Reading the credits it seems that Brendan coloured the drawings in. I had no idea Brendan possessed such talent but I will be first in line at the Mills/Canning show so that I can buy every drawing offered.
It does occur to me that people will write reviews talking about this member or that member of this collective of distinct individuals but like a human can’t be reviewed without mentioning the heart as well as the lungs it seems silly to try and pinpoint why BSS or so f***ing great. “Fire Eye’d Boy” who the hell is that? - Another song that brings me closer to the same feeling I had when KISS released Love Gun and I bought it on the third day of release. I mean, I am not to the first to hear this record, I am not the first to review it and I will not be the last to love it. It is just that it is the first time I am listening to it. That is what makes my experience so fantastic. Clearly they are nothing like KISS but the special feeling is exactly the same. Holy Shit – wait until you get to track 7 “Windsurfing Nation” wow – what are these guys on. It seems stronger than love. Or maybe weaker than love, I am not sure. This album is going to turn Brian Eno on! This does not sound like anything else. When does that happen? It is usually The Sex Pistols meet the Spice Girls on mars or some sort of comparison thing with almost every record these days. I mean how many bands sound like Joy Division anyway. I have the Joy Division records and although it is cute to hear a new hit song that could have been recorded by them I really don’t need it. However, as I am discovering I need this record. I am not even finished listening to it and I already want to hear it again. Do you remember that feeling? Isn’t it the reason you love music?
Sorry I had to stop and just listen to the record for a while. It is clearly a record of depth not just a one time thing something that could last three years at least maybe a lifetime. The record comes to an end with a hit song “It’s All Gonna Break”. It is a hit but not by todays radio standards – you see it is 10 minutes long!
This record is brave and good and makes me happy. I will listen again and again and again. Somehow the fact that they thank Toronto makes me proud. Not only of Toronto but of the band too.
Buy this record do not delay, type your credit card number into your favorite on line retailers web site and start listening now. If you don’t like it don’t blame me, it has something to do with your environment or more likely genetic - but it is not my fault.
Finished at 1:50am
It is nice when the soundtrack to next year is delivered right to your door.
Ok – your not going to believe this but - I just found the second disc. I don’t want to listen now but, of course, I have started already. I am not going to write anymore about this. Wow!
Pantages Hotel and Spa day:
Tony approaches the front desk and begins his story
Tony: Joe Kennedy duped my uncle and now I have no trust fund please help me
Attendant: (please go away) that is very interesting sir what can I help you
Tony hands the attendant his driver’s license
Attendant: your last name is Pantages!!!
Attendant: you should get a free room
Since a free room is not what we were after we were directed to the Spa on
the fifth floor of the Pantages building.
I must note that Tony Pantages is a bit reluctant to enter the hotel and spa
that have stolen his name. Tony’s wife Erica seems as intrigued as I am.
This newly created hotel has taken the name of Tony’s uncle who created the
Pantages theatre chain so many years ago. We enter the Spa and all
contribute to telling the story of Klondike Kate and Tony’s uncle’s rise to
fortune and fall to the seduction of a young girl.
Erica and I insist on buying a robe with the Pantages logo on it as evidence
in the fictitious lawsuit against the various owners of the hotel and spa.
Spadina mid afternoon sun shines but air is cold:
Jeff meets Mikhel for afternoon dim sum
Toronto has such a splendid selection of restaurants and neighborhoods that
it is impossible not to be happy here. After much discussion Mihkel and I
head to some old spot he knows on Spading. After easily finding parking we
settle into a wonderful meal full of ShuMai, Har Gow and more. Talk ensues
as to the state of the film business. We solve nothing but satisfy our
hunger and move on.
Monte Clark Gallery interior early evening:
Jeff walks into gallery sees George Whiteside but no one else looks
familiar. The walls are adorned with the paintings of Graham Gilmore.
Walls that describe the state of mind of one Mr. Gilmore with both candor
Interior car later evening Meghan and Jeff race toward Roy Thompson Hall
Meghan: I have to pee
Jeff: that is just normal for a pregnant person to have to pee; I think I
see a toilet outside Metro Hall.
Meghan: no women’s as far as I can see
Meghan and Jeff race through cold to the front doors of the Dulce Pontes
show. Using the washroom quickly they have only moments to spare. As they
sit down Dulce takes the stage. She is mind blowing but it is very hard to
pin her down. Is she the Celine Dion of Portugal or is she just a modern
girl. Dulce’ voice is second to none. Although I do not understand any
Portuguese I find the music to transport me to another place and time. This
is a good thing. Dulce is able to balance folkloric and modern to create
something very special.
Interior Drake Hotel Underground 10pm: Pete Best takes the stage
I am really left speechless at this moment. I am watching a Beatle go on to
the stage at The Drake and they start to play Love Me Do. Pete would have
played this song with the Beatles in Hamburg, Germany over 40 years ago and
somehow it makes my hair stand on end just thinking about it. Pete has a
band of delightful musicians and the gig is truly great. He plays only
songs that he and the Beatles played together back in those days. Those
were actually the days. Days before a bunch of guys would jump on stage
with electric guitars and rock. This is one of the guys who started that.
The reason we are even able to go down to the Underground to rock regularly.
That thought makes me start to cry a little.
Pete talks a bit rocks with the band some more and then suddenly an old
friend is introduced: Roy Young. Apparently Roy lives in Toronto or nearby
and hasn’t seen Pete in years. The crowd did not expect this treat and they
are going nuts. It is actually Beatle mania and history is being made once
again in a tiny Underground room but this time the magic is happening in