Home Music There’s no place like home: Montreal’s music scene

There’s no place like home: Montreal’s music scene

by Victoria Kendrick March 18, 2014
There’s no place like home: Montreal’s music scene

Why we should choose local musicians and smaller venues

With the season of countless music festivals looming closer on the horizon, evidenced in the recent unveiling of the star-studded lineups for Osheaga, Rockfest, and HEAVY MONTREAL, it’s getting tough to ignore the big names that will shortly be gracing the province’s main stages.  It’s no secret, however, that Quebec is home to an impressive arsenal of local musicians. In fact, the flourishing local circuit offers an experience entirely unique from anything an international touring band at large venues can hope to accomplish.

Playing locally and regularly acts as a golden opportunity for lesser-known artists’ personalities to shine through, onstage and off. Although touring bands do often mingle with fans before and after shows, there’s a constant divide between being a ‘fan’ and being a ‘friend.’ Local bands have the ability to bridge that gap, reaching out to the audience on a level much more intimate than their out-of-town counterparts.

Montreal-based band Apache Kingdom boasts a killer indie sound backed by a sweeter-than-sorbet collective personality, engaging regularly with audience members on a familiar level.

“In an over-saturated market of artists, musicians and creators,” states guitarist and frontman Jesse Smith, “bonding with your audience on a personal level is one of the only ways to concretely make a connection with them that transcends your medium.”

Apache Kingdom’s flawless hospitality, paired with their charming versatility and bevy of earworm grooves, makes them easy to love and harder to forget.

In most business ventures, location plays an insurmountable role in the overall splendor of a local show, baiting music fans out of the Bell Center and into Montreal’s most cozy and charismatic venues.

Garage/soul sextet Killawail frequently haunt the well-hidden and expertly crafted M-Bar located in Montreal’s Latin Quarter, and bring down the roof with a larger-than-life horn section and some downright groovy beats, mimicked in the bar’s signature laid-back and classy, if somewhat unconventional, décor.

Those on the other side of the fourth wall, a.k.a bands that live and play in Montreal, such as brilliant rock’n’roll collective Café Racer, possess an unquestionable home advantage.

The band dishes out a wide variety of tracks, keeping the set list as vibrant as its style.  Frontman Myles Hildebrand, having performed a patchwork quilt of gigs away from home as well as on his own turf, acknowledges the allure of the local scene, “playing a local show is always the best, you just can’t match the energy your friends bring to a show.”

This vivacity never fails to manifest itself in Café Racer’s performances. After all, the band is notorious for putting on some pretty sanguine and spirited shows. “We certainly feed off a rambunctious crowd,” adds Hildebrand.

The home advantage of Montreal also translates into a larger selection of opportunities for up-and-comers. Homegrown pop-punkers Emborne Drive recently opened for YouTube darling Alex Goot, to the pleasure of their rapidly-expanding fan base.

“It means a lot to have people from Gatineau coming to Montreal for shows,” says singer and guitarist Cameron Ramsay. “It definitely offers some encouragement.”

With an EP in the works and a deal with Outbreak Management under their belts, members of Emborne Drive are poised for success, and are quickly becoming a permanent installment on the local circuit.

Of course, concerts always come at a price, literally, but it warrants mentioning that local shows are notoriously pocket friendly. Not only are the tickets themselves way cheaper than those of most big-time touring bands, booze and merchandise are actually affordable. For audiophiles everywhere, more pocket money translates into more outings, a huge plus for concert-goers.

To put it frankly, those who belong to the music-crazed fandemonium, those who are constantly on the lookout for the ‘next big thing’, need look no further. With a cultural scene as rich and abundant as Montreal’s, the greatest concert experiences are often right under our noses.

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Jack Bohica June 12, 2014 - 20:21

Saturday Night:

It was a huge, huge disappointment at Buonanotte that night. Our group books
their usual dinner there for the past 5 years and as usual the food was
garbage. I don’t think that Buona knows how to cook seafood because every year
it comes out of the kitchen raw and people get sick from it. That place is as
over-rated as Heikki Kovalainen. The even worse 20% / 80% girls-to-guys ratio
was truly pathetic and what seemed to be a common theme this year at these
trendy St. Laurent supperclubs – BooHogs, Whuures and Old Goats.

The bad night continued to go downhill rapidly when a Buona waiter got stabbed
with a knife and taken to the hospital, (maybe the customer didn’t like their
seafood) and another patron setting off a toxic pepper gas bomb and clearing
everyone out of the place early. Hence, no customer had the ability to finish
their bottle service, receive their bill, and pay their tab because the
incompetent doormen couldn’t understand this simple equation which is probably
why they are only capable of being a doorman in the first place. lol

To add even more salt-to-the-wound, the next day Buonanotte management thought
it was a good idea to call up and insult and berate all the people whom
couldn’t possibly pay their tab. Wouldn’t any “smart” restauranteur
realize that many, (if not all) of the clients were forced to leave with open
tabs when the restaurant’s own security didn’t let the people back in to settle
up based on the fact that their security team couldn’t do their jobs correctly
by detecting nor preventing a toxic gas bomb from going off in a crowded place.
Not only that, but insult clients such as us whom have done their stupid
dinners and bottle service every year for the past 5 Grands Prix. Do they need
to be reminded that the total tab was over $3,000.oo or do they not care about
that either? It was a grandiose display of the “Typically Terrible
Canadian Customer Service” which is so predominant in this city. By far
Montreal consistently has the worst customer service that I’ve seen in any of the
countries I’ve been in, and this is the consensus view by many others I’ve

We spent some time at Wood 35 which was okay, a few cute Rabbits and Piglets
bouncing around, but still a debilitating 30% / 70% girls-to-guys crowd and the
terrasse was half-full yet the small bar on it had like no stock of booze and
no one recognized that poor preparation so nothing was done about it. We then
went to the old Koko Lounge, (now Jargo) which was pretty good actually, lots
of people, an okay 40% / 60% ratio, good music and a late close, probably 3:45
am by the time they really kicked everyone out of there. But now I think we
should have just went to Rouge instead, its usually a guaranteed good Saturday

Jack Bohica June 12, 2014 - 20:22

Grand Prix Sunday Night:

After our group of 10 each pre-paid the $50.00 Momentum ticket for Velvet in
Old Port, we thought that it would be a guaranteed entrance without any hassle.
We couldn’t believe how much L’Auberge screwed up on this one. Luckily 6
party-goers out of our group decided to eat dinner there and just stayed in
there with bottle service despite having bought the $50.00 ticket which may or
may not have been needed at that point I don’t know. But I do know that even if
you bought that ticket that it was worthless as they didn’t even let you in
anyways! With 3 of us skipping dinner and showing up at 11:30 pm there was 2
short lines (only 30 people in each) on both sides of the entrance one for the
guestlist and the other for ticket holders.

We thought that all ticket holders would be let in because if a business is
providing a product or service and sells you a ticket to it, it becomes a
legal-binding contract for both parties. But for no good reason at all the
ticket holders line and the guestlist line were not moving whatsoever and for
the rest of the night! Various groups of people known by some of the bar’s
management were immediately let in as the appeared. Yet there were long periods
of 10 to 15 minutes of waiting when no one was being let in at all until those
friend groups showed up. The guy in front of me whom was the first guy in line
because I literally cut the whole queue told me that he has been standing there
for 40 minutes. The first ticket holder there, he didn’t get in.

The 2 door girls with guestlist clipboards were totally lost and absolutely
useless. Meanwhile they had a pocket full of maybe 100 purple and white
wristbands hanging out of their skirt pockets and didn’t hand out 1 of them to
anyone. So after waiting 1 full hour with say only 30 people of their closest friends
being let in, all of the bouncers closed down the entrance and told everyone to
go home. After many ticket holders complained one of the bouncers announced to
the crowd to come back tomorrow afternoon to get their $50.00 reimbursed. How
can someone bother with that when they have their flight back to Europe or

The persistent person that I am, I wasn’t taking ‘no’ for an answer as usual
and had to talk to whatever level necessary to get us inside which eventually
worked only because our group already had dinner in there. The doorguy didn’t
even ask me for a ticket but I blurted it out too soon that we had them just to
get us in, which he took them, so I still don’t even know if they were a
necessary purchase, and probably not if you have dinner in there beforehand. I
feel angry and sorry for all the ticket holders whom were turned away.

So…we get inside, finally made it through that ridiculous battle. And I
couldn’t believe my eyes…half of the bar was completely empty…empty! What
the freakin’ hell did 100 people out there wait for when it was totally
unnecessary? That massive room at the left with a huge bar at the back was
completely set up with bartenders and some breads or cheese snacks whatever
against the entrance wall. But there were no patrons in it at all. You could
have easily put 100 people in that room alone, the entire amount of people
outside waiting without packing it in beyond capacity, and that doesn’t include
the whole front terrasse (on both sides) nor the front lounge area in the foyer
which also had nobody in it…zero. I just can’t believe it!

I do not see nor understand the absolutely poor reasoning behind these very
poor management decisions besides the local police forcing a very strict person
count which was far, far under the overall capacity and fire code of the
building. Every waiting patron outside could have been very happy in spending
$1,000’s of dollars in bottle services if the bar’s management and/or the
police were more accommodating. This has undoubtedly ruined some people’s Grand
Prix weekend, and probably some very important people in the Grand Prix
fraternity or local community, but thankfully not mine, but only because I
lucked out that night.

Unnecessary tight security was as prevalent inside as it was outside. You had
to get a tiny triangular stamp to go downstairs into the dungeon dance floor
which I had to fight for but got my stamp in the end. And then once down in
there, there was another bouncer and rope quartering off the Mercedes party in
the corner. I wonder how the Code 20 party at Cavalli was Sunday. I would
imagine all F1 personnel upstairs and all locals downstairs with bouncer / rope


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