Montréal’s annual comedy festival is back and flashbracket was there too to soak up the summer laughs. Every year, we try to see one or two shows, and this year we opted for The Ethnic Show hosted by Maz Jobrani and Date Night: The Relationship Show hosted by Godfrey. But you don’t need to buy tickets to partake in this summer festival favourite — head to Montréal’s Quartier des Spectacles at Place-des-arts metro and see the free outdoor stage events, spontaneous on-the-road magic and comedy acts, and a funk-playing bank dressed up as aliens (see picture below).
The last night of Montréal Jazz Festival, officially known as Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, closed on Sunday after eleven days of free and outdoor concert events, ticketed attractions, and lots and lots (and lots) of roaming spectators across the grounds at Place des Arts in Montréal.
The 35th edition of this annual summer festival did not disappoint. The lineup of free and outdoor, or ticketed (with fees) events included a range of artists that were not only rooted in jazz but meandered into the other usual genres such as pop, hip hop and rock. This year’s participants had heavy hitters such as Cassandra Wilson, Angélique Kidjo, Keith Jarrett, married couple Elvis Costello and Diana Krall (who performed individual events), Tony Bennett, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, and Mulatu Astatke; Canadians Rufus Wainwright, Nikki Yanovsky, Coeur de Pirate, Barenaked Ladies, and Michael Bublé; and contemporaries represented by Snoop Dogg, Of Montreal, St. Vincent, frequent participant Ben Harper, Bonobo, and Deltron 3030 who closed the festival with a free outdoor concert.
What does your Valentine’s Day sound like?
Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays rife with confusion and controversy. Some of us like to call it “Another Hallmark Holiday” (said with a sigh), or Singles Awareness Day (accompanied by rolling eyes), and for others it is the day to take out all your cheese (fromage) reserves and lay it all down for your partner. Others shrug “meh” and I definitely fit into this category year after year, whether or not I have a date once the 14th of February rolls around.
Sometimes I miss living in Toronto. But this is not one of those times. In the past two days all my friends have been bombarding me with messages of the likes of, “Look what’s happening in your home town!” or “What on earth is going on with your city?” or “Oh dear, Rob Ford.”
I agree, but I’m more concerned for the city: Oh dear, Toronto.
I left Toronto for Montréal before Rob Ford, current mayor of Toronto, was voted in 2010. Ford’s popularity is mainly backed by the support from the city’s suburban ridings which contrasts sharply with the votes from the downtown sectors. Suburban Toronto’s unwavering support for the fumbling, erratic mayor is named Ford Nation, and this enduring love was clearly demonstrated after the Toronto Police confirmed the existence of the video “consistent with what had been previously described in various media reports.” Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair was referring to Gawker.com and The Toronto Star’s assertion that their editor and journalists, respectively, viewed a video of mayor Ford smoking a crack pipe in May. And how did Toronto react to the news on Hallowe’en? Rob Ford’s approval went up by five percent.
October means many things for different people: school has started to settle for parents and students, others are excited by Hallowe’en candy, and winter is at the doorstep as per the current weather here in Montréal. For me, I also note that the month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I feel grateful for my health and think about the many families that are impacted by diseases such as breast cancer. As I young child, I knew how the diagnosis of breast cancer can shake a family as my mother was diagnosed with the disease at a young age. After battling cancer for eleven years she succumbed to the illness more than a decade ago.
This morning was the 23rd Rock ‘n’ Roll Oasis Montreal Marathon, which started at 8:30 am at Jacques-Cartier Bridge for the half-marathon and full marathon races. I took part in the half-marathon (21 kilometres or 13 miles), and the event drew a record number of runners — 32,000 in total for all races, with 14,000 registered in the half-marathon, and 7,000 for the full-marathon. When we waited in our corrals on the bridge, the runners were getting excited and jumping up and down, and we could feel the bridge shake from the weight of participants! A tad scary, if you ask me. Like other races, the run had staggered starts so by the time our corral was brought to the starting line it was about 8:50 am. The morning called for a 40% chance of precipitation and it was spitting by the time we started the race, but it ended up raining heavily for the first seven kilometres. Rain doesn’t faze me so much as the huge puddles and overflowing streets, but most of the run ended up dry but very cloudy.
I started off great and felt good about the pace I was initially keeping, which was about three minutes slower than my 10K time. However, by the 14th kilometre I slowed down severely — at snail’s pace or about 10% of my previous running speed. I injured my right knee, a new injury, and though I don’t remember what exactly happened and how, I could no longer bend the knee anymore or put much weight on it. It felt sort of like a very old affliction I had in my teens when my right hip became slightly dislocated; my knee was making a similar popping sound as that hip injury, but the pain wasn’t too bad — it just made me slow. So I kept this awfully slow pace for the last 7 kilometres through a very awkward limp-run and by placing most of my weight on my left leg. While the race for me was definitely doable on a cardiovascular and leg work level, I couldn’t run at my limits due to this annoying grievance. At the end it was all about mental gymnastics as I had to talk myself into continuing on with the race and getting through the last third of the run on a limp. Disappointingly but as expected, my race time was actually slower than last year’s run by four minutes. Whatever, I have next year to look forward to!
After crossing the finish line, my friend and I grabbed our checked-in bag and walked home and we passed through the full marathon race continuing through the neighbourhood. When we came home we could actually hear the cheers from the spectators. Because we live in the Plateau we were lucky that we could stagger back home without a car which would have been a nightmare as many of the roads were closed around the city. We showered, replenished ourselves with food and fluids, and were surprised that we weren’t as wiped out as I was last year. I definitely trained better this time around and I’m used to the long distance runs and hill work, but I guess I’ll have to look into what caused my knee injury and probably do some strength work in that area once I give it time to heal.
I guess I made some mistakes with this second half-marathon that resulted in my injury, but I also made a lot of good choices in preparing for this race.
Here’s what I did right this time around:
Flame-haired American songstress Tori Amos turned 50 this month. Fifty years old! Above is her video from her first solo album, 1992’s Little Earthquakes, for the single Silent All These Years. The simple piano accompaniment throughout most of the song is very characteristic of Amos’ early works, and I actually really enjoy the vintage feel of the music video. When I think about Tori Amos entering her fifth decade, I think about the talented female musicians today, and the debates about feminism in pop culture. And there sure are a lot of talk about the feminism label amongst female musicians these days.
Beaudry metro station in The Village
Montréal Pride week, or the LGBT festival, is in full force this week. Recently, I took a mid-week and mid-day walk through The Village in downtown Montréal along rue Ste-Catherine. During the summer the portion of this main street is closed for pedestrian use only, which becomes lively during the evenings and weekends. As expected, Montréal’s LGBT community is brightly decorated with equally vivid storefronts. The Montréal LGBTA Parade took place on Sunday August 18, 2013. Click here for more information.
Another year, another 10 days of Montréal Jazz Festival (Festival International de Jazz de Montréal). Tonight was hot, humid, and slightly cooled down after a short stint of rain but the weather did not deter the bustle of people at the festival. Per usual, the grounds around Place des Arts were swamped with families, young people, dating couples, and curious visitors of all ages to watch buskers perform circus acts and the many free outdoor concerts held each day.
The festival is the largest jazz festival in the world, boasting 3,000 artists from 30 countries with more than 1,000 concerts, most of which are free. I was lucky to catch The Dynamites & Charles Walker at the Scène TD de la place des Festivals stage on the west side of Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal along rue Jeanne-Mance and Avenue du Président-Kennedy. Watching the numerous band members supporting the charismatic Walker was simply fantastic. What a voice Walker has — he reminds me very much of the classic soul-blues singers such as Bobby “Blue” Bland (R.I.P.) as he swaggered in his full suit, sweat beads accumulating on his forehead. The jacket soon came off, however, with the crowds roaring in approval in the hot summer heat.
Happy Birthday, Miles Davis!
The notable jazz musician died in 1991 but if he were alive today he would have turned 87 years old. The song in the video, Jeru, appears in Davis’ classic album, Birth of Cool. Birth of Cool, first issued in 1957, was one of the first jazz albums that I purchased and listened to in its entirety, introducing me beyond vocal jazz masters such as Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, whom I already loved.
The trumpet player and composer was prolific during the fifty or so years he was active and continues to influence musicians today. Click on the above video for a mellow and easy going tune for a Sunday afternoon.