Nuit Blanche 2017: when downtown Montreal became Antarctica

If any city in the world truly knows how to put on a great party in the middle of winter, it’s Montreal, and the proof is in the city’s yearly Nuit Blanche event. 2017’s edition – its 14th annual – was yet another fun evening of shows, activities, art installations, food tastings and more that kept rolling on until the wee hours of the morning. The only problem? Mother Nature was in no mood to party with us. The weather outside felt like -20 with the windchill – and if you’re like me and you tried jumping from venue to venue to see how different places celebrated despite having to walk for 10-20 minutes at a time, it got to you. Here are my biggest takeaways from a night I’ll unfortunately remember more for the frigid cold than for its otherwise solid events.

This year’s Nuit Blanche celebrated the 50th anniversary of Expo 67, and milked it for all its worth.

Musical references to the era – such as DJs playing songs like “Twist and Shout” as well as Quebecois songs from that time – in addition to artsy projections of photos from the expo were only a couple of references made to the 20th century’s biggest World’s Fair that night. At the dome upstairs at S.A.T, 3D graphics of “LOVE” and the Beatles’ yellow submarines would occasionally pop up. The overall ‘60s vibe many events tried putting on – including the very ‘60s-themed record sale at S.A.T.’s main floor that night – went off nicely.


Despite the weather, a lot of Montrealers still came out to party in the cold.

With fire pits, marshmallow roasting, deep house DJs – and of course, the freezing weather – defining the activities around the Quartier des spectacles while I was in that area, this year’s Nuit Blanche felt a bit more like your average night at Igloofest than any other year I’d gone. To those of you who likely queued for an eternity to ride on the zip line on Saturday night: I envy your patience and cool (pun intended) under pressure.

Thankfully, it seemed as if enough people stayed home so that walking through the crowd on Ste. Catherine actually made me feel like I wasn’t packed like sardines amongst everyone else – probably the first Nuit Blanche I’ve been to where I felt that way. The same cannot be said for when I headed home for the night, however: the crowd waiting on the metro platform heading north on the Orange Line at Berri-UQAM at 2:45 a.m. rivalled that of Tokyo at rush hour.

The dab is still alive and well.

As much as some people might hate to admit it, dabbing doesn’t look like it’s going out of fashion just yet. I saw several instances of people dancing like they were about to sneeze, the most notable example of which coming through a little boy – probably no older than five – enthusiastically doing so at one of the exhibitions at the Belgo building downtown, to much applause from his mother and the volunteers watching him. Eat your hearts out, Cam Newton and Migos.

You never know what you’ll stumble into sometimes.

While being armed with a media pass obviously helps for getting into places without a hitch, I didn’t expect to suddenly stumble into a Mother Mother concert whilst casually checking out what was happening at L’Astral. However, the biggest surprise of the night came at Old Montreal’s Phi Centre. At the venue’s third annual Nuit Tribe event, I arrived to DJs largely playing afrohouse to a packed crowd, some rather provocative art installations (mainly ones that took children’s TV shows and made them very adult), and even a virtual reality gaming station upstairs.


As awesome as all of that is, it pales in comparison to what happened as I was ending my night: while I’m heading toward the back to leave, I spot none other than Kaytranada chatting with his pals near the exits. Clearly, even local celebrities will brave the elements for a fun night at Nuit Blanche. (And no, I did not try and get a selfie with him, though the temptation was obviously strong.)

And lastly…

Cronuts and Nutella are among the most heavenly food combinations you can think of.


You’re welcome.

(This article originally appeared on Shoeclack. All photos taken by me.)


Governors Ball announces 2017 lineup

A day after Coachella dropped its 2017 lineup, New York’s Governors Ball has followed suit, and it looks like yet another solid one.

Headlining this year’s bill will be Phoenix, Chance the Rapper, and reclusive prog metal veterans Tool, with Childish Gambino, Wu-Tang Clan, Flume, Wiz Khalifa, Cage the Elephant, the Avalanches and Air also among those making their way to the Big Apple in June.

Notably, the bill also features a performance from Mark Ronson and Kevin Parker (Tame Impala), as well as Lorde in what will be one of the first shows she’s played since 2014. Other highlights include Danny Brown, Mac DeMarco, Warpaint, Car Seat Headrest, Phantogram, and Skepta.

Governors Ball 2017 will take place at Randall’s Island Park in New York City from June 2 to 4. Three-day wristbands will go at an early bird price of $275 before jumping to $290 and then again to $305 after the first two tiers have sold out. Wristbands will be on sale Friday, January 6 at 12 p.m. EST. Stay tuned to Shoeclack for further Gov Ball coverage!


(This article originally appeared on Shoeclack.)

Shoeclack’s recap of M For Montreal 2016: chill electro-pop dreams and primal screams

M For Montreal may have a reputation for being an industry-driven festival, but the musical aspect is just as important as anything else – and everything about this year’s edition of the festival, music or otherwise, was even crazier and more exciting than last year’s. While it was a bit cumbersome trying to get from venue to venue with Bixis being taken off the racks in anticipation of winter – it started snowing the night after the festival ended, so it was probably for the best – the experiences shared and eclectic music seen across the festival’s four days were worth any minor annoyance, not only for myself but surely for all the delegates from all over the world, industry folks and everyday fans who got to be a part of it. Here are five moments that defined my M experience this year.

The first night at the Rialto was truly a special one.

The opening night probably holds a place in my heart mostly for personal reasons – for example, I bumped into many people I knew who I didn’t expect to see at all. Of course, such pleasant surprises were matched by the quality of the music: Joe Grass – a bandmate of Patrick Watson’s – kicked the night off with a versatile range of atmospheric and bluesy indie rock tunes, and local indie pop group Groenland brought some energetic, Ellie Goulding-meets-Of Monsters and Men vibes to the sold-out theatre. That said, the evening belonged to headliner Martha Wainwright, who enthralled the crowd with a set full of elegance, pure emotion and an appreciation for Montreal and Quebec culture in a show that doubled as the launch for her new album Goodnight City. Playing in a city still hurting from his recent passing, her cover of “Chelsea Hotel No. 2” was a fitting tribute to one of our homegrown legends.

Martha Wrainwright
Martha Wrainwright

Frigs frontwoman Bria Salmena can scream like there’s no tomorrow.

Despite being a strip club, the upstairs level of Montreal’s notorious Café Cléôpâtre masquerades pretty well as a divey, intimate venue whenever M for Montreal turns it into one. One band in particular that owned this setting had to be Toronto’s Frigs. Stealing the show in a night that also featured Tasseomancy, Michael Rault and Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning on the bill, these recent Arts & Crafts signees cemented themselves as a band worth seeking out for fans of more grungy fare, with frontwoman Bria Salmena carrying both an absolute howitzer of a scream and a cooler low voice akin to that of PJ Harvey and Savages.


Busty and the Bass belong in front of big crowds.

Although I interviewed bass player Milo Johnson about the band’s particularly memorable festival experiences – for good and bad reasons – back in the summer, this was my first taste of the group’s live show. If there’s anything this band lacks as a live unit, energy is most certainly not part of that equation. Playing before a packed crowd of largely young people at Club Soda right across the street from the aforementioned Café Cléôpâtre show, the crowd played along with their every command – clapping and jumping around enthusiastically at various points during the set, sometimes in unison. Even if the rapping doesn’t always make sense in tandem with velvet-voiced frontman Nick Ferraro, these McGill graduates have serious chops as an engaging and fun live act.

Busty And The Bass
Busty And The Bass

The shows at Casa on the third night were downright weird.

There will be shows at any festival that leave you gobsmackingly impressed, and others that just throw you for a loop without truly knowing what to make of them. The latter effect was largely the case at Casa del Popolo on the Friday night. Despite the show being kicked off by some sleepy, Mazzy Star-esque indie rock via Helena Deland, it was then followed by frantic art punks New Fries, experimental artist Cindy Lee, and avant-garde disco crooner Bernardino Femminielli. Lee, for example, wasn’t bad on a musical level, but the aesthetic of that particular set made me feel like I was watching that scene in Eraserhead with the Lady in the Radiator – in other words, almost a bit too surreal.

The Saturday night showcase at Divan Orange was a rousing success.

I’ll admit I’m just a touch biased here, since this particular showcase on the closing night of the festival was one that us folks here at Shoeclack helped put on. That said, the show comprised largely of Quebec City-based acts went off swimmingly, with a packed crowd watching interconnected acts from the capital like Ghostly Kisses and Men I Trust alongside La Voix alumni Liana and Gabrielle Shonk. With most of the night’s acts playing relaxed, makeout-worthy electronic pop music – Shonk was the exception, as her style is decidedly more alt-country and folk – another trend showed itself at the gig, as Liana and Shonk decided to put their spin on two Drake songs, “Hold On, We’re Going Home” and “One Dance” respectively. If Drizzy’s own lovesick and heavily introspective kind of hip hop and R&B is influencing Quebec City’s music scene as a whole, somebody’s gonna have to photoshop him sitting on top of the Château Frontenac pretty soon.



(This post originally appeared on Shoeclack. All photos are credit to Alexandre Couture.)

POP Montreal 2016 superlatives

So yet another year of POP Montreal is in the books, ladies and gents, and the atmosphere and experience of the festival is still as cool and rewarding as ever. In fact, my experience was such that I feel like giving out some “awards”, if you will, to many different areas of this year’s five-day venue-hopping marathon. Without further ado, here they are:

Most impressive solo artist: Wally Badarou

Playing his first ever solo show at the ripe age of 61, Wally Badarou – the French musician known for performing with Talking Heads, Fela Kuti, Grace Jones and Robert Palmer among others – brought an old school approach with a new school setup to Sala Rossa on the first night of the festival. Although his solo material isn’t nearly as recognized as that of the artists he’s played with over the years, it was still eaten up lovingly by the crowd, even if the sweltering hot temperatures inside the venue caused some people to head for the exits a bit early. Fellow influential old-timer John Cale – performing at the Rialto the following night – was also a big highlight for me this year.

Most impressive local band: Caveboy

After sadly arriving too late for Angel Olsen at the Rialto – more on that later – I instead biked up north to Bar Le Ritz PDB to watch Montreal trio Caveboy (opening for the brilliantly-named U.K. duo Let’s Eat Grandma), and my dismay over missing Olsen would be short-lived. Mixing ‘80s-indebted new wave tunes with a sprinkle of dance-punk, as well as melodies appealing to fans of artists as classic as Bruce Springsteen and as modern as HAIM, their catchy repertoire of material – plus a brief cover of Justin Timberlake’s “What Goes Around… Comes Around” – made for a rightfully well-received set. Side note: Bar Le Ritz, which I’d surprisingly never been to before this show, wins my vote for coolest and most laid back venue of this year’s festival.


Hottest venues (literally): TIED – Sala Rossa and La Vitrola

As great as the venues in Montreal are – particularly those in the Plateau/Mile End area – and as much as the temperature outside is definitely dropping to mark the beginning of autumn, some of those venues tried a bit too hard to compensate for it; prime examples being Sala Rossa (where I saw Wally Badarou) and La Vitrola (where I saw Solids). While both shows were great, I became increasingly drenched in sweat to the point where I could barely handle being inside anymore. Needless to say, stepping outside afterward felt like discovering heaven.

Biggest inconvenience for getting to shows: Uber

The fact that Uber surge prices were anywhere between 1.7x to twice the regular fare while trying to get to POP shows – even on weeknights – is proof that not only are taxis still able to compete with them, but those surges are just another reason for cab companies to make a stink about Uber’s mere existence.

Biggest mistake you could make ahead of bigger shows: Getting there too close to the start

I pled guilty to this twice: first for the Kills and secondly for Angel Olsen, as I arrived at both shows roughly 15 to 20 minutes before their sets were due to start. This isn’t Osheaga where you can flip between stages fairly easily; the venues in this town are spread too far apart for that. Your best strategy is always to get there as early as possible – case in point: the round-the-block lineup outside the Rialto for Olsen, more than an hour before her first opening act.

Best non-musical activity: The Pop vs. Jock game

Making its return after last being played in 2014, Win Butler’s Pop vs. Jock basketball game was as entertaining and flat-out fun as ever, with Nikolai Fraiture (the Strokes), Chris Thomson (Vampire Weekend) and Martin Starr (actor on Silicon Valley) hitting the court as well. Although lacking the memorable half-time show and near-full crowd of two years ago, it was still a highly enjoyable ball game – not to mention Régine Chassagne returning on the organ, highlighted by her playing along to Skepta’s “Shutdown” during the pre-game warmups.


Biggest bummer about POP Montreal 2016: Missing out on certain acts

Though I was disappointed to miss out on the Kills and Angel Olsen like I mentioned earlier, those instances were completely my fault. What was more disappointing was having to miss out on performances due to where they were placed, and when. Due to unfortunate scheduling, I had to skip acts I otherwise would have checked out like Groenland, Cold Specks, Diet Cig and Sebastien Grainger. Luckily, I would catch one fairly hyped up show in Holy Fuck at the Fairmount Theatre, and they unquestionably delivered the goods.

Best thing about POP Montreal 2016: The sense of community

Even if I didn’t get to check out as many shows as I wanted or experience the festival to its fullest this year – having a full-time job throughout the week will do that to you – I’m always reminded of why I love POP to begin with: how small it feels, even if it’s spread all around different areas of a place as big as Montreal. The bands may not be household names, but the feeling of being able to congratulate bands at their merch table after their set and have friendly conversations with them – as well as potentially make new friends in the crowd and discover some amazing new music together – is always a great one, and one that big-time festivals in this city like Osheaga sorely lack by comparison.


(This post originally appeared on Shoeclack. All photos taken by me.)

POP Montreal 2016 profile: Will McClelland’s “The Minted”

Imagine Toronto being destroyed by a horde of 300,000 raccoons. If that’s not enough, throw in some demons and muzzled members of Canada’s Parliament for good measure. Those are just some of the crazy ideas brought forth by Canadian novelist Will McClelland in his new book The Minted – and the backstory of its creation is just as intriguing.


Having started the book at age 23 – first by working on it for 10 years before spending the next four trying to get it published, and throwing out hundreds of pages in the process – the now-38-year-old author conceived the idea for the novel in part through the band he’s opening for tonight at the Fairmount Theatre with a book reading at POP: the Sadies.

“If the Sadies were American, they would have been on the cover of Rolling Stone five times already,” he says. “I know this will sound like boosterism of friends, but I’ve been saying for a long time that they’re the best rock n’ roll band in the world.”

Having seen the band open for Neil Young back in 1993 in his early teens with his younger brother Andy – a musician known as Li’l Andy who’s also playing tonight’s event, and who we interviewed for POP last year – and thinking their set was “more intense” and “more rock n’ roll” than Young’s was, the brothers would eventually get connected with the Sadies personally.

In Andy’s case, it was through playing shows with them; in Will’s, it was through a four-month solo hitchhiking trip he took across Canada where he bumped into the band in Canmore, AB whilst on tour – an experience which would serve as a major source of inspiration for the novel. More specifically, it was from watching them play a show – and show up fashionably late beforehand – at the Canmore Hotel, leading to him eventually selling merchandise for them.

“They’ve been my favourite band for over 10 years, and I’m very lucky and honoured that I get to hang out and work for and be friends with my absolute favourite band,” he says.

“There are certain characters [in the book] that are such a psychotic mania unto themselves that they were created just listening to the Sadies driving around late at night on country roads, riding in front of the headlights of my truck, with the Sadies blaring on logging roads that are closed. That’s how I wrote my Gules character – he’s like a demon made out of moose blood.”

Focusing on the character of The Moose, the anthropomorphic leader of an animal rebellion in Canada, the book’s story is told through multiple footnotes and journal entries. It tells the story of animals going through the process of minting – in other words, having their souls captured and turned into money – and responding by causing a mass uprising against urban Canada in the year 2030. It’s a compelling – yet dark and sometimes terrifying – ride through a dystopian, sci-fi version of our country, but also one seemingly defined by how Will views the way we are right now.

“I’d been fascinated by both Canada and the idea of Canada for a long, long time, and had always studied Canadian literature; Canadian music; Canadian film,” Will says. “When I set out on that trip originally, I don’t know what I thought I would discover or experience, but… we’re real hypocrites in this country in terms of who we think we are, and who we actually are.”

“An easy example [would be] in terms of how we think that in some way we’re rugged or of the natural world, or the North is pristine, when in fact we’re one of the most urbanized populations in the world… All the different ways in which we take the North for granted and have turned our back on the North, turned our back on First Nations, you get beyond a certain point in this country and you realize government’s not even really there – it’s just corporations that are there.”

Although the book was still in its infancy, Andy – who also uses animals as a literary device in his lyrics – would get one hell of a taste of what was to come, having been sent initial ideas about it via email from Will during his hitchhiking trip.

“Will started talking in these emails in the voice of this character [The Moose], and it was a really destabilizing, weird experience,” he laughs. “I’d be getting these emails that would start pretty normally and then go off on these strange, metaphysical, angry, polemic rants about Canada. I would think, ‘This kind of sounds like Will, but it kind of sounds like someone has invaded his email account or taken over his voice.’ It was fun to see that develop.”

As far as what one can take away from the experience of reading the book, Will hopes readers will feel more comfortable to face Canada’s dark history after finishing it, even though the country is seen as “the source of ultimate evil” by many of its characters.

“There’s many, many different veins and branches of dark, genuine ongoing shame in this country,” he says. “But there’s also a very unique experiment. Canada’s a country that does not work in theory, but somehow does work in practice – you sense that in Toronto, you sense that in Montreal, you sense that in Vancouver, and not just those multicultural superstar metropolises of Canada [either]… There is a lot to be proud of here.”

Will McClelland will do a reading from his new book The Minted – which is available now – tonight at the Fairmount Theatre, alongside The Sadies, Li’l Andy, and Charlotte Cornfield, with the show due to start at 9:30 p.m. Tickets for the event are $18 apiece plus service charges. If you’ve got an hour to spare, you can listen to our full interview with Will and Andy below.

Five of the craziest things about Nuit Blanche 2016

Well, another year of the entire city partying it up in the snow, ice and cold weather has gone into the history books, and by all accounts, it was a success for Montréal en Lumière’s trademark event yet again. Of course, an event that attracts so many people at once – and with most of the events being free, who can blame them? – can bring with it both upsides and downsides, but that’s precisely why Nuit Blanche is such a special event in this city. Here are the five craziest things we saw during our experience this year.

The hordes of people.

If there’s anything to be gleaned from the moment you start walking around Place des Arts during Nuit Blanche, it’s that it’s a struggle and a half to get from point A to B in a timely fashion. The hordes of people around the festival’s outdoor site isn’t surprising, but nevertheless claustrophobia-inducing. Not only that, but to ride on the zipline, you’d probably have to wait in line until 2028 – even if you were wearing an outrageous outfit/horse head mask and tried convincing them to let you skip the line for the sake of them having a hilarious photo op.


The fireplaces.

I mean, it was +2 outside, but the festival decided to have huge fireplaces out there anyway. All in the spirit of the season, right?


The Gaslamp Killer.

This year’s Nuit Tribe might not have been headlined by A Tribe Called Red, but this was probably the next best thing. Equipped with huge, frizzy hair and glitchy hip hop beats, the producer born William Bensussen did a great job reeling in a crowd at the Centre Phi by dropping tracks that were as off-kilter as his label founder Flying Lotus’ musical output, whilst also spinning stuff that was recognizable (Kendrick Lamar’s “King Kunta”) and trippy (Tame Impala’s “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control”) early on in the set.


The lack of movement during the Dilla tribute.


Although I wasn’t at Astral for very long, it didn’t take much to notice how J Dilla’s smooth beats and legacy live on far beyond his death in 2006, and this newest edition of Montreal Loves Dilla on Nuit Blanche was proof of that. Sadly, although it was still relatively early in the event (around midnight), the lack of movement in the crowd while the DJs were spinning tracks from his vast musical catalogue was disconcerting to say the least. Considering his music is incredibly easy to bounce and sway around to, much of the crowd at that time seemed to stand around like statues.

The upstairs of SAT.

While the downstairs of the Société des arts technologiques (SAT) next to Club Soda had a nice – albeit rather dark – party atmosphere with deep house dominating the DJ’s soundtrack, the upstairs was a whole other level: a huge sphere with crazy patterns and visual effects engulfing the DJ and the crowd, as well as an open patio despite obviously less-than-ideal weather conditions. The chill but very lively atmosphere was like little else you could find at shows during Nuit Blanche, and was arguably the highlight of the night.

(This post originally appeared on Shoeclack. All photos taken by me.)

Thus Owls: making dark matter shine brightly

Chance meetings can lead to incredible results: for the two core members of Thus Owls, it has led not only to love, but also to almost a decade’s worth of music-making.

Comprised of husband and wife Erika and Simon Angell, Thus Owls have been performing since 2007 – initially as a quartet fronted by the Swedish-bred Erika before she had met Simon, who had been working as a guitarist for Patrick Watson and would eventually join the group after meeting Erika in Amsterdam while both were touring Europe – and have released three full-length LPs; the last of which was 2014’s Turning Rocks, which was long-listed for that year’s Polaris Music Prize.

This Thursday, the duo will be at the Gésu playing a show for Montréal en Lumière, which the duo are treating like a release show of sorts for their new EP Black Matter, released in November on Secret City Records. Both this show and their show in Toronto four days earlier will be their last for a while, as they are expecting their first child in early March.

“It’s the first big show we’ve done in a while in our hometown,” says Erika. “It’s also the first time that we’re able to play the music from that EP with strings and backup singers and everything that was arranged for the music, so it’s super exciting for us.”

Black Matter itself is a six-song mixture of very experimental, sometimes ominous-sounding indie pop with a visible influence of electronic music, with a heavy emphasis on synths this time around. Written largely over the course of two weeks while the duo had a residency in New York, influence for the EP came partially through experimental artists like Ben Frost and Daniel Bjarnason – the latter of whom collaborated on the EP – as well as shows and museums they went to during their stay. Musically, the EP came partially through the two wanting to get out the more avant-garde side of the music they’ve been listening to, in addition to being a sort of “offspring” of their previous bodies of work.

“There was a longing and a need enough to do something in a different kind of musical lane that is also who we are, but that we haven’t maybe expressed through Thus Owls before,” she says. “We just wanted to create a little collaborative album – ourselves and a few musicians that we really enjoy and we like to work with: Liam O’Neill from Suuns and Daniel Bjarnason from Iceland who worked on our string arrangements. It was so much fun; it was very spontaneous and super important for us, but a very natural process.”

The inspiration for certain songs also came through unconventional circumstances – for example, the title track was borne in part from an iPhone-recorded drum riff sent from drummer Stefan Schneider to Erika and Simon, which the two then wrote music over. Regardless of how each song came together, it’s an effort that may have been created with a more relaxed attitude this time around.

“I think [with] an EP, you don’t have the same heavy image of a whole record in front of you,” she adds. “When you create it, it’s more just for the fun of it or the inspiration. It’s different mentally somehow, and the whole process of it was very easy. It’s different than Thus Owls might have sounded before, but at the same time, it’s very much our songwriting that shines through.”

In terms of what Black Matter means to her from a personal standpoint, Erika says it’s a bit like a wrap-up of the experience she had moving to Canada from Sweden, and “coming out on the other side” after overcoming the phase of adapting to a new country and environment.

“It’s a little bit like starting high school, coming to a new country like ‘who am I here? Who will be?’, feeling insecure and all that,” she says. “I felt that I set my feet down properly around the time when these lyrics came together, and that I could be all of me here.”

5 reasons why Fun Fun Fun Fest deserves its name

It might not be the most original name for a festival ever, but boy does it ever live up to it. Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest goes down tomorrow, and it’s got a diverse lineup ranging from hot indie buzz bands, classic alternative and hip hop acts, comedians, and even skateboarders. In case that doesn’t convince you, Shoeclack has a list of five reasons why this festival is as fun fun fun as their name suggests.

1. It’s held in the heart of American live music culture.

Perhaps you’ve heard of two festivals that go by the name of SXSW or Austin City Limits. They’re both among the biggest music festivals in North America, and there’s a reason why they’re both in Austin: it’s one of the best music cities in the continent, if not the world. The so-called “Live Music Capital of the World” is always full of great music happening in venues all over the city, as well as one of the most unique nightlife scenes in America.

2. Bill Nye the frigging Science Guy is their spokesperson.

If this doesn’t convince you that this festival is one of the coolest out there, there’s nothing more we can do. You no doubt remember him from watching his show on TV as a kid – or from your science classes growing up – and he’s still a figure in the science world today. Not surprising, then, that this festival would recruit him as their spokesperson, and his announcing of this year’s lineup was nothing short of epic.

3. Wu-Tang are headlining.

While it’s not yet known how many of the Wu will actually show up to this gig – it’s quite rare for all living members to get together for the same show these days – their shows are regardless a nice trip through memory lane for those who actually lived to see them come up in their prime, as well as just a fun night of hard-hitting hip hop with some of the most dynamic rappers of all time.

4. Jane’s Addiction are playing one of their classic albums – and there’s plenty more nostalgia from there.

Perry Farrell and co. will be playing their second album Ritual de lo Habitual in its entirety at the festival, but that’s only a part of Fun Fun Fun Fest’s emphasis on nostalgia. Lauryn Hill (filling in for D’Angelo), Cheap Trick, Drive Like Jehu, L7 and American Football are some of the bigger names on the bill whose heydays may be behind them, but who still draw big crowds of dedicated fans to their shows – and will no doubt do so here, too.

5. It also includes two artists that improve any festival exponentially: Doug Benson and Andrew W.K.

Whether your favourite activity is intense weed smoking or intense partying, the festival has you covered in the best kind of way. For the former, comedian Doug Benson (known in part for his “Getting Doug with High” podcast) will mix satire and sarcastic humour with 420 friendliness. For the latter, party god Andrew W.K. will surely give you a night full of debauchery, fun, hard rock, and perhaps a bit of blood too.

A holy union of art and music: Our conversation with the co-creators of Up Fest

Sudbury, Ontario’s inaugural Up Fest starts from tomorrow until Saturday August 15, and Shoeclack will be coming to you with coverage directly from the festival, which unites great art with fantastic up-and-coming music in a town with a growing festival reputation. We spoke with the festival’s artistic director Andrew Knapp and general director Christian Pelletier over the phone to get a taste of how the festival got its footing and what they’re looking forward to over the next three days.


Andrew Knapp


Christian Pelletier

Shoeclack: How did the idea for this festival come about?

Christian Pelletier: It came from a few different places. We’ve travelled a lot and seen a bunch of really cool festivals and originally Up Fest is organized by We Live Up Here, it’s an art collective that Andrew and I founded back in 2012. We published a few photography books about Sudbury, trying to shake up the way the people saw their city, and then delved into public art headfirst back in 2013-2014 and did a bunch of new murals downtown. That’s when we kind of knew we were on to something, because people [in Sudbury] were hungry for public art and hungry for city celebrations.

When we did our second photography book launch, we rented the Grand Theatre in Sudbury, which is this huge, beautiful, century-old theatre. It was really [a] community celebration; it was a “test fest”, we called it, where we brought a bunch of people together, a bunch of bands, a bunch of DJs… an explosion of art! There was this roller derby team on roller skates serving gourmet grilled cheese to people and then [we had] a bunch of bands doing little surprise shows all over the place. It’s a beautiful little theatre, and that night we actually had this video prepared where we were announcing that [we were] working on our next big project, which was Up Fest – which was always kind of part of our plan. In the past couple years, we were kind of working towards it. We announced it in December and we’ve hit the ground running since.

Shoeclack: This festival is both about music and about public art; there are muralists and an all-night art crawl. How much do you think the art and music components of this festival go hand in hand with each other?

Andrew Knapp: I think it’s all marrying together quite nicely. I think it’s a culmination of everything we’ve been working on in the past and learning about how we like to celebrate and what we think is important in community growth and what we feel like we have to offer… We worked on a few murals in the past and said “this is good. This starts conversations. This brings people together.” The music obviously is the heartbeat of the festival; it’s what really brings people out. And then the art installations: I’ve always felt like the best parties are the ones with weird, interactive art installations that make people talk to each other and start those conversations, and inspire [others] a lot because you really get to see what people do and they create something that you can interact with and it’s open for everyone. I think they marry together very well in creating this atmosphere of epic party that’ll happen all weekend. The murals will always be this reminder and this gift that the festival leaves behind for the festival for years to come.

Shoeclack: You have Tanya Tagaq, A Tribe Called Red, Suuns and Rich Aucoin among others playing this year. What’s the booking process like for this festival? Why did you choose these artists?

CP: For A Tribe Called Red and Tanya Tagaq, for us, it was kind of a given. In my opinion, [they’re] the two most awesome up-and-coming artists in Canada right now… But we also [wanted an emphasis on] emerging music. We wanted people to come to Up Fest to discover new things, to see a band they don’t know and be completely blown away by them. There’s something really cool about that: for me, as a festival-goer, when I don’t know a band and I step into a venue and I’m blown away, that feeling is incredible. If we can put that in a jar and sell it at the merch table, that would be fantastic! *laughs* A big part of it was trying to sell that experience of discovery and coming in with an open mind and being super curious and discovering a bunch of new things.

(This post originally appeared on Shoeclack.)

Making a scene

This story was originally published for now-defunct Calgary alternative weekly newspaper FFWD Weekly.

Studio Social helps Calgary electronic producers show off their block rockin’ beats

by David MacIntyre November 20, 2014

In an industry like electronic music production where it’s just as much about who you know as it is what you know, it’s important to strike a balance between networking like a pro and letting your tracks speak for themselves.

Enter Studio Social: a club night at Habitat Living Sound that gives local producers the chance not only to create relationships with each other, but also to learn their craft and improve their skills.

The night allows upcoming producers to submit their tracks to be heard in a live setting as well as through workshops on using different DAWs (digital audio workstations) like Ableton Live and Logic Pro.

The event has also been inviting guest speakers since its inception almost a year ago. In April, representatives of various Calgary-based electronic record labels gave advice on marketing, understanding how record labels work and getting tracks released.

According to longtime Calgary producer and Studio Social co-founder Isis Graham, the idea came from the fact that she and co-founders Cary Chang and Matt Caine wanted to start a producer night focusing on the DAW Cubase, since a school in Calgary for Ableton users already existed.

“From that, the discussion broadened out on ‘Well, maybe it could be not just for Cubase, maybe it could be for everything,’” she says. The conversations snowballed from there, and eventually Studio Social was conceived. Held on the last Wednesday of most months at Habitat Living Sound, the club night welcomes producers of all genres, production styles and skill sets. Graham says at first it was mostly beginners showing up, but “middle-range experience producers” are coming through more often now.

Local electronic producer John Arum has been an active member of the Studio Social team, as well as submitting a track every month. He says he’s always wanted to be involved in a producer night, and once Studio Social came along, he jumped on it immediately.

“I hope that it actually gets people more interested in the music side of things, like I was as just a DJ actually going to clubs for the music and not for the girls,” he says. “It’s really hard dragging out your friends that are there for the girls, even though they’re DJs just like you…. If this ever ends, I just hope the message is [that] we should go to clubs for the music.”

According to Graham, a “healthy rotation” of 150 people attend each month, whereas there are more than 200 people in Studio Social’s online community. While Calgary might not have a huge global reputation for electronic music, both she and Arum are amazed by the quality of what’s  coming out of the city.

“You hear something and you’re just like ‘There’s no way this is coming from Calgary. This sounds like it’s coming from Berlin, and how are they even getting these ideas?’” she says.

In addition to the label forum and DAW workshops, Studio Social recently hosted a remix contest.

This winter, they will have a new project called “Unlikely Connections,” where producers will be paired at random to collaborate on a track. They’re also working on presentations about SOCAN and FACTOR grants, and on January 2, CJSW will feature two hours of programming dedicated to tracks submitted to Studio Social.

“I like to sit in Studio Social in the back room and look through the little window hole and feel some sort of pride and happiness,” says Graham. “I can look out and see 50 to 100 people standing around, being together, conversing, talking, sharing their music and hearing their music and being stoked on the community. I look at that, and from the outside, I feel content. I feel like we’ve accomplished something that did not exist before.”

STUDIO SOCIAL typically takes place on the last Wednesday of every month at Habitat Living Sound. The next event is on Wednesday, November 26.

(Photo credit: Michael Benz)