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June 2012

May 2012

Montreal Chamber Music Festival 2012

st. george's church montreal chamber music festivalMontreal - Summer has come to Montreal, and this excitable francophone city is exploding with life: street fairs choke the Vieux-Ville, outdoor art and music abounds in the Latin Quartier, bars spill out onto the sidewalk all along Boulevard Saint-Laurent. 

But when the weather gets warm, Montreal is known above all else for its festivals. (See here for highlights from my first visit in 2009.) According to the city's official website, there are over 100 festivals each year held in Montreal, with the majority happening from May-September. Some, such as the Montreal Jazz Festival and MUTEK (which goes off this week) have worldwide reputations that draw thousands of tourists to town. Others, such as the avant-jazz/experimental fest Suoni Per Il Popolo, are more homegrown, programming a mix of local and international performers over several weeks to give locals a sense of the larger musical world outside this medium-sized city.

Such is the raison d'etre of the Montreal Chamber Music Festival, now in it's 17th year. (The festival, which began with a series of free outdoor performances on May 10, continues through June 2.) As with other events in a town known for it's fluid festival programming, the MCMF takes a broad view of "chamber music," incorporating not just classical music but jazz, world music, even dance into it's programming.

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Surprise Attack! Music Festival at Cameo Gallery

by Laura Wasson  New York Rivals at Cameo Gallery 5:27

You would think that when opening a new music venue, you’d consider location; not so with Cameo Gallery. The cool—but entirely too hard to find—space puts the “ironically clandestine” in Williamsburg, because it’s behind a nice little cafe. Or apartment building. I can’t tell, I think it depends what door you use. Once I finally made my way inside for the Surprise Attack! Music Festival, I noticed a.) the venue looked a bit like a spooky, overly artistic high school gym (with bourbon punch!) and b.) there were about 10 people there. Granted, it was 4PM on a Sunday afternoon, but the mini-festival had started at two. Couldn’t anyone be bothered to show up?

It was oh so cool Brooklyn’s loss though, because it really was a fantastic lineup that put The Deli Magazine’s B.E.A.F. Alt-Rock stage at Spike Hill to serious shame. The first band I caught was new-favorite New York Rivals. A lesser band may not have worked as hard for such a sad excuse for an audience, but these lads are true professionals, and every minute of their performance was exciting to watch. Blasting through an all-too-short set of some of their best songs, including “Black and Blue” and “Revenge,” Josh Moran and Co. make hard rocking look easy. For all the hipsters out there who were busy basking in the lazy glory of a post-brunch nap: You missed out.

Beast Make Bomb was up next and surprisingly good. Combining the best aspects of Hole, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and even The Slits, this group is truly solid in the best fuzzy, ear-blasting way possible. From Ceci Gomez's alternately growling and sweet vocals to Hartley Lewis' blaring drums, each song felt vital and exciting. Those in attendance took notice—this band is crafting a summer-ready sound that might be all dirty fun on the surface, but ultimately belies a deep understanding of the weird intricacies of modern life.

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The Deli Magazine Best of Emerging Artists Fest - Alt Rock Stage at Spike Hill

by Laura Wasson Brothers at Spike Hill May 26

Chalk it up to Venus being in retrograde, but there was something off about The Deli Magazine’s recent Best of Emerging Artists Festival (or, cleverly, B.E.A.F.). Admittedly, I’ve been very lucky to have seen a number of really talented and exciting “emerging” bands recently from NYC or otherwise. My expectations were high for the Alt Rock Stage at Spike Hill this past Saturday. While they weren't exactly met, it was still an interesting evening and proved a point that I'd been pondering for a while: much like a great recipe, no amount of talent will make up for the lack of that indefinable, alchemic "it". 

When I arrived bluesy grunge throwback The Nico Blues was playing. All baggy ripped jeans and dirty hair, these boys were channeling the nineties in a very serious way. A little angsty Gin Blossoms here, a dash of The Spin Doctors there and a hefty dose of Oasis and Blur for good measure; the band's sound is immediately likable because it is so familiar. The eighties might be hot in Brooklyn right now, but I have a hunch this nouveau pop grunge might catch on considering the hipster contingent's love of nostalgia. Too bad more of them weren't around to hear the band in action.

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