Literary Death Match: Less Slam and More Smack-Down

I shall be guest judging at Montreal’s upcoming Literary Death Match, where poets try to, uh, out-read each other. I like the competitive angle — there’s a lot of tongue-in-cheek here, too — poetry readings should be fun, less “slam” and more “smack-down.”

Anyway, I’m supposed to give hilarious and constructive criticism, which really makes me wish I could be a little drunk for this event. But, alas, I will be 8 months pregnant. Which (total change of subject) brings me to the internal chuckle I get out of the mileage I’ve gotten out of that portrait. In reality, I feel like an over-inflated balloon has been implanted under my skin, while I get my lungs and intestines repeatedly punched and kicked by the small person growing inside me. IRL, I look like this:

Still TOTALLY HOT, I know. I can’t help that….insert smiley face of your choice, most likely 😛 to denote deep sarcasm….

Montreal’s 3rd Literary Death Match will be held Sept 18th at La Sala Rossa. Show starts at 7PM. Click here for FB event info.

Pregnant Natalia photo by Murray.

What I Learned from Pop Montreal Bios

I think I just finished writing this year’s round of bios for the Pop Montreal programme. I always go into it with an open mind, and while this year I felt like I wasn’t seeing or hearing anything “new,” I realised that musically, we’re (the greater we, as in all of music) in a serious transition phase. The bands that I did like were ones that had good songs, but that also touched a chord, evoked something emotional, a memory, an intangible feeling. In essence, music and musicians that were inspired by something greater; not just the creation of music to satisfy some egotistical bullshit.

Of course, this is not 2004, and when writing a bio the goal is to represent the band or musician in an intriguing way. Not to be clever and smarmy – because we all know I am chock full of that – but to make people want to see the shows.

Sadly, for fellow haters, I won’t be taking this opportunity to trash the bands I thought sucked, or that were just good or even pleasantly great. This is about discovery and hope, about music that was new to me. So no offense to everyone else for my blog being so self-serving. I apologise for nothing.

I was going to print my bios, but then thought that would undercut the programme’s novelty. So instead I’ve made small comments, so you can just listen up, make your own assumptions, then read it for realz in print.

Villa Borghese (Montreal, QC) – There is something very session musician about this band, but I like the energy, the tipping of their caps to great music of the past like ELO and the new wave. There’s something very free and spirited in Villa Borghese that I find attractive.

Katie Stelmanis (Toronto, ON) – Speaking of free spirited, Katie’s music is just a giant fuck you to everything. I loved hearing her genre-mashing Kate Bush a la Trent Reznor vibes. I think part of the reason I liked this because there’s something in Katie that I see in myself…circa 15 years ago. If I actually went to shows I would go see this one.

Valleys (Montreal, QC) – I think I wrote their bio last year, too. I tried to avoid that completely but missed this one because they changed their name from something like We Are Valleys to just Valleys. Anyway, this is cool because it is really keeping the first-gen of the Montreal “scene” alive.

Josh Reichmann (Toronto, ON) – Whenever I have the knee-jerk reaction of being kind of repulsed by something, it usually means that it’s just far enough out there to feel unfamiliar. That’s what originality feels like, kids. Force yourself to get lost in Josh’s inspired, kitchen-sinky, spiritual journey.

Golden Isles (Montreal, QC) – And whilst on the subject of kids, here are some. While heavily Strokes-y, there’s nothing really wrong with that. The Strokes are so eight years ago that it’s still too soon – and, strangely, too late – to sound like them. So this is not “cool” or “indie” but simply totally fun. Burneth.

One thing I noticed was that most of the performers on the schedule this year are Canadian. There isn’t a lot of international stuff, and there is a huge amount of local bands. The best and brightest? Seriously, I wrote like 35 bios out of hundreds, so my list is just a strange and random sampling. Hardly a cultural statement.

I have not abandoned this blog. I’ve simply been extra lazy about it. No, really I’ve been wanting to write more but since I’ve been doing Pop Montreal bio writing and a bunch of grant paperwork, I rarely have brainpower left to write anything beyond a tweet. So, sorry for the links, the half-brained posts, but this can be included as one of them.

Something that is interesting, however, in the meanwhile (gadgetry): Apple Tablet. Not certain how I feel about a giant iPod en lieu of a laptop, but I am on the market in the next year or so for something smaller, lighter, faster, niftier…and that doesn’t run on Windows.

Now that we’re done playing shows for a little while, I promise to write more in August (after grant deadlines, essentially).

Three Down…

…hundreds to go. Last week was like a dream. Our first three shows were great. I mean, personally not my most perfect performances, but also not total major mess ups (like the time I forgot how “We Can Have It” starts when we were opening for Morrissey). Anyhow, I don’t even know where to start or what to say. It’s too early for that: I still need you to decide for yourselves. I need to read what you – and by “you” I mean the audience, the listeners, the bloggers, the readers – have to say. So far, I’ve assembled this:

The Dears at Hamilton, ON (by rafapf) – Photos
Imprint Online – Review of show at Waterloo, ON
Montreal Gazette Words & Music Blog – Review of show at Montreal, QC

There’s probably more stuff; about to be written, not yet written, not ever to be written, things people are saying, or not saying. Can’t wait to read it, hear about it, learn as we go along. Krief and George came out to see the Montreal show which was really awesome…spoke to them both a bit afterwards and they were very supportive. That was great. Apparently the Toronto shows are both sold out so more to come…

Only Interesting to Canadians: Federal Election Blog

This headline warranted a double eye roll: Pro-soverignty Protesters Target Justin Trudeau. Why the double eye roll, you ask? Because that’s the proper way a Canadian is to react to political activism. Papineau is our riding, so I met the young Trudeau at a neighbourhood picnic a few months ago. Well, I kind of just shook his hand since it caught me a little off guard. I was thinking about how many chips Neptune was eating and the suddenly I’m shaking hands with Canada’s “rock star” candidate. Most Americans know very, very little about Canada, let alone Canada’s politicians. But they know about Pierre Trudeau. I grew up with Chretien in office, and even though his spoken English was thickly accented, he still owned it. Fierce. Charming. Laughable. Quintessentially Canadian.

We can only hope that Stephane Dion gets drunk in public sometime soon, or, as I heard Grant Lawrence note on the CBC radio today, “gets contact lenses.” Anything to spice things up. Canadian politics is just so boring. Stephen Harper is Mr. Snoozeville himself. He also hates the environment AND loathes the arts. It’s embarrassing.

So only a few days after turning down playing at an NDP rally (because why should non-political music be aligned politically?), Dan Seligman of Pop Montreal fame emails us the following poster for our show:

I rolled my eyes (appropriately) but was perplexed: what should I think of this? The irony works on so many levels, and the posters would go up near the venue which falls in Stephane Dion’s home riding. Dan’s logic was: “Maybe we’ll get sued.” Classically hilarious.

So let’s bring it down a little, and close it out with a something educational: Oldest Rocks in the World are in Quebec. ‘Nuff said.

Pop Montreal Bio Writing 2008

The time of year I look forward to most, Pop Montreal Bio Writing Season, is open. This is the second week now that I have been randomly assigned a bunch of bands to write bios for the Pop Montreal program/schedule book thing. As I troll the MySpaces and Wikis, I have a few returning thoughts:

1) How do people listen to and discover new music themselves? I mean I guess this is why bloggers, tastemakers and pitchforkers have become so relevant. In a time so saturated with recorded music and emerging bands, it is impossible to single-handedly refine an independent opinion. It would be a life’s work, which is I suppose why people entering their late-twenties/early-thirties get so bitter: their musical knowledge is crystallizing and the energetic scope of their youth is slowly trickling away (along with the tolerance for all-day-all-night partying). For example, say you ask a 22-year-old who they’re voting for in the election, you are likely to get the response: “Um, I don’t know. I don’t vote. Uh, the Communist Party? There’s an election?” (unless, of course, their father previously forced them to volunteer for the Liberal party or something). Anyhow, a decade later, they will probably reply: “I cancel my ballot,” or “The lesser of two evils,” or “NDP.” At least this example works for people who read. People who don’t read won’t ever get to that point. They swirl in social oblivion forever.

Wow. That was a really long aside. Anyhow, bio writing observation 2): What the frig is up with every second band literally being an electro-pop band? Out of the 15 bands I was randomly assigned, eight of them were dance pop. Still, I am enjoying this process. And while I make my own, feeble attempts to stay current, I find the listening and discovery of music from emerging bands wholly educational and entertaining. Edutaining, if you will.