CJLO: Revamping and ready for more

Josh Spencer is a long-time concert booker in Montreal’s local music scene

These days, students aren’t listening to the radio like they used to. It makes sense, of course. With platforms like Spotify and SoundCloud offering music fans access to almost any track in modern recording history, the old-school radio model doesn’t match up with university students’ lifestyles.

“‘If I can access every single song ever created on my phone, at any time, why the hell would I tune in?’” asked Josh Spencer, CJLO’s director of sponsorship, promotion and fundraising.

“Radio can be cool,” Spencer insisted. But he’s not blind to how many see the medium these days. “It can also be super lame.”

So how does CJLO plan to avoid the lameness of radio?

The man tasked with giving the station’s identity a makeover said he believes the answer is twofold.

“I really want to brand the station around discovery and local music,” Spencer said. “When I tune in to CJLO, I’m going to hear music coming from my community, bands that I can check out live for like five bucks.”

Spencer joined CJLO in February, bringing several years of experience in local music management and promotion to the organization. His involvement in the Montreal music scene began when he graduated from McGill in 2015.

“I started managing three bands and one solo artist, booking house concert tours across Canada, and started putting on festivals, the KickDrum Winter Marathon and Summer Marathon,” Spencer recalled. “Over two years, I put on over 150 shows with over 200 artists.”

The connections he built with artists, promoters and venues are helping CJLO become the destination on the dial for Montreal’s local music.

“I’ve had a lot of those artists approach me and say, ‘Hey I heard you’re at CJLO now. Can I come in for an interview? Can I come in for a live session?’” Spencer said. “So we’ve already increased the amount of local artists [on the station].”

Spencer knows the importance of live shows to local artists and said he thinks that, by organizing them through the radio station, CJLO can stay relevant in the age of music streaming.

“Artists don’t sell CDs, they don’t sell music,” Spencer acknowledged. “[Concerts are] how [artists] connect, and how [musicians] make some money. The magical moments of music happen live.”

Spencer has used his old connections as a promoter to book CJLO-branded live shows around the city.

Every month until March, CJLO will host music department showcases, featuring genres such as hip hop, alt-rock, metal, world and electronic. Each showcase will be held at Casa del Popolo and will  highlight a different genre each month.

Spencer has big plans on the horizon for CJLO, starting with the launch of their new website in January. But it doesn’t end there.

“We want to move to FM, but the problem is that the dial’s full. We’re waiting for space to open up so we can bid on an FM signal,” Spencer said. “We also want to move downtown. We want to be at Sir George Williams, but we’re not going to move unless we can get the same quality of space [as our offices on the Loyola campus].”

Spencer grinned with anticipation.

“We’re poised to pounce.”

Photo by Adrian Knowler

Student Life

Riverside St-Henri a community hub for Montrealers

DJ and club owner Nicolas Hamel has a unique vision for this new venue

Riverside St-Henri isn’t Nicolas Hamel’s first bar in Montreal, but he’s doing things a little bit differently this time. The 30-year-old owner of Mme Lee has been in the bar industry since he was 16. He also used to own Newspeak, Ping Pong Club and Studio 270, a recording studio in the Plateau. But he doesn’t see Riverside as just another bar.

“I don’t want Riverside St-Henri to be seen only as a bar; it’s a community hub,” Hamel said. “We’re not another business that’s just there for the trend. We’re trying to help and get involved in the community long-term.”

Hamel has big plans for Riverside—as big as the property’s 10,000 square foot grounds. Work is in progress to add a community garden for families, a café and restaurant to go with the multitude of night-life options already offered in the city. He has a three-year roadmap for integrating new features into the venue, like free Wi-Fi throughout the property and seminars hosted in the building or the venue’s garden space. Riverside is also the home to experimental events, such as a live 3D virtual reality (VR) broadcast organized by a crew from Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) in September.

Riverside, which opened in July, is a venue that doesn’t fall neatly into an existing category of business. It’s a wine bar, but it’s also a dance club. Inside, there are booths to sit at and a huge bar. Step outside and you’re in a casual outdoor beer garden-style terrasse with colourful picnic tables, a shipping container fashioned into a bar and young people chatting around oil drums painted à la Keith Haring. The soft lighting is provided by bare bulbs strung overhead. Walk a little further and you’ll wander out into the vast lawn that Hamel wants to convert into a community garden and gathering place.

Owner of Riverside St-Henri, Nicolas Hamel, talks about his plans for the new venue. Photo by Adrian Knowler

“It’s my first place that’s not just about business,” Hamel explained. “I want it be a place where people can eventually say, ‘Hey, I helped grow those vegetables.’ That’s part of the mentality that I’m trying to build, but it’s complicated and it takes time.”

Part of Hamel’s vision for the venue includes creating the most environmentally friendly business possible.

“Environmental sustainability is super important to me,” Hamel said. He is focused on using sustainable water and smart waste management programs to limit Riverside’s ecological footprint.

“The way the location is set up allows me to test stuff, like capturing rain water. I cannot do that in a downtown location, but I can try that [at Riverside],” Hamel said.

Even within Riverside’s existing functions as a bar and club, there’s a lot of flexibility. “To go from a chill beer garden to a nice wine bar to a good club, it’s all about timing and refinement,” Hamel said. “I have a clientele for every time of the night. Everybody from the youth of Westmount and N.D.G. to the moms and pops of St-Henri.”

However, Hamel acknowledged that the way the public perceives Riverside is out of his control. “People are very quick now to put something in a box.”

When it comes to delivering quality wine to his clientele, Hamel said he is trying to encourage younger people to enjoy high-end wines while keeping the price down. “We’re trying to push quality, niche wines to a more [accessible] market,” Hamel said. “We’re trying to elevate the willingness of people to discover more.”

The size of the venue gives Hamel some advantages such as partnering with local restaurants and food trucks that sell in front of Riverside every day. Hamel plans to add a full kitchen to Riverside as well. “I want to eventually have somebody come at eight in the morning for a coffee and stay until 3 a.m. at the club,” he said. “My goal is to have seven different businesses with seven different ambiances.”

Riverside St-Henri is located at 5020 St-Ambroise St. with a large outdoor garden and patio. Photo by Adrian Knowler

As well as being bar owner, Hamel is a 12-year veteran of the Montreal DJing scene and just released a techno project with his DJ partner under the name Anti Anti. He said he wants Riverside to become a “musical hub.”

He described the music the venue plays on its massive sound system as “more dance, boogie, disco-ish stuff.”

”We do have some hip hop playing, but it’s not a Top 40 place,” Hamel added. “It’s quality music but very accessible. I want people to feel somewhere else when they’re here.”

Hamel draws positive comparisons between outdoor music festivals like Osheaga and the atmosphere at Riverside. “When you go to a festival, everybody is smiling. When I created this place, that was the mentality I wanted to bring.”


Concordia spokesperson Chris Mota to retire

After more than 23 years at Concordia, the university’s first spokesperson says goodbye

After working at Concordia for more than 23 years, director of media relations and university spokesperson Christine Mota will retire on May 31.

The last time Mota left her job, it was under very different circumstances. After spending more than 15 years working in broadcast journalism as a producer and talk show host, Mota lost her job as part of a wave of layoffs at the radio station she was working at. However, she didn’t have to search for a new gig for very long.

Getting laid off was “actually the best thing that could have ever happened to me, timing-wise,” Mota said. “There was a replacement position available at Concordia, so I was unemployed for 36 hours… Which said to me, ‘This is where you’re supposed to be.’”

It seems her instinct was right. In 1993, Mota was hired as the university’s media advisor.

Concordia didn’t have a spokesperson until Mota took the job in 2006, when the position was created as part of the university’s move to centralize and modernize its communications work. Since then, Mota’s title has been director of media relations and university spokesperson. According to Mota, it is a process that has made Concordia’s public relations more efficient and effective.

“Concordia’s communications [services] is a leader,” Mota said. “Within the university sector, people try to emulate the way we function.”

Mota cited the recent bomb threat against the university as an example of how the media relations team is critical to the success of the school. After the threat was received, the group, led by Mota, was in charge of sending out the emergency messages to students and faculty and coordinating the university’s response in the media.

Over the course of Mota’s career, she has seen the communications services department grow in tandem with the university as a whole.

“As an institution, I don’t recognize the Concordia of today from the Concordia I arrived at in 1993. It’s just not the same place,” Mota said. “We have a very solid reputation.”

Mota is now in charge of the bragging. As director of media relations, Mota manages a team whose tasks include finding interesting events and impressive students for the media to cover, enhancing the university’s reputation in the process.

As the public face of the school, Mota’s quotes can often be found in local newspaper stories involving Concordia. Mota said she finds her mandate to protect and enhance the university’s reputation relatively easy these days, since there is so much to be proud of at Concordia. Mota pointed to Concordia’s student body and research profile as some of the university’s strengths.

“We have a lot to squawk about,” Mota said. “We can’t do our work [in communications services] unless people here are doing wonderful things. There’s so much neat stuff [at Concordia].”

Mota said she is looking forward to her retirement at the end of May, but knows the adjustment will be strange. She said she’s looking forward to spending time with her children—both of whom are Concordia graduates like Mota herself—and her grandson.

“My heart is here,” Mota said. “The day I walk out of that door, it’s not going to be easy. I’ll probably do some consulting. I’m not too eager to jump in [another job] yet, I’ll give myself a little breather, but I don’t think I’ll be bored.”


“Make Racists Afraid Again” protest

An SPVM window was smashed, anti-Trump protesters were cleared with tear gas

Approximately 300 demonstrators protesting the inauguration of President Donald Trump marched down Ste-Catherine Street West in downtown Montreal on Friday evening.

The protest, called “Make Racists Afraid Again,” started peacefully in Phillips Square, but as demonstrators marched against the flow of traffic on Ste-Catherine, windows of commercial stores were vandalized. Montreal police, dressed in riot gear, used tear gas and shields to disperse the protesters after several people started throwing stones, smashing a window at the SPVM station on the corner of Ste-Catherine and Bishop Street.

Protesters mobilize against Trump as he was sworn in as the new president of the United States. Photo by Ana Hernandez.

The protest was organized by the Anti-Racist Resistance Collective of Montreal (CRAM) and Resist Trump Montreal, in partnership with DisruptJ20—a group that organized many large protests throughout the United States on Friday.

Protesters held banners denouncing Trump, the United States and fascism. Organizers used megaphones to chant ‘No more Trump, no more hate, America was never great!,’ as the march moved along the downtown thoroughfare.

Activist and organizer Eamon Toohey said the protest—meant to be “a show of solidarity with protesters in Washington”—was a success.

“We wanted to show that the rise of the far-right as represented by Trump isn’t welcome in the States and it isn’t welcome in Canada,” said Toohey.

When asked about the vandalism that took place during the march, Toohey said he didn’t have sympathy for the SPVM or businesses like American Apparel, which were targeted during the protest.

“I’m not going to condemn protesters smashing the window of the police station,” said Toohey. “The police are the armed wing of the state and serve [to] enforce the policies that place people in jeopardy. No condemnation there.”

According to The Montreal Gazette, Montreal SPVM said they did not ticket or arrest anyone.

However, Concordia student Maidina Kadeer said she was arrested while waiting with her friends following the protests. “[The police] grabbed me and slammed me against the window and began handcuffing me,” Kadeer said.

Police officers are seen in front of the broken glass. Photo by Adrian Knowler

“They, at no point, told me if I was being arrested, for what—[they gave] no reason as to why I was being handcuffed and arrested,” said Kadeer. Her other friend began filming the scene, but the officers then pushed him, threw his phone out of his hands and stomped on it, she said. “They held me like that with no explanation.”

Student Stéphane Krims came directly from McGill’s music school to march, carrying his double bass the entire way. Krims said he is worried Trump’s election has made hate more widely tolerable in America, adding that he was alarmed by “the [racist] behaviour that some people exhibited when they found out that Trump was going to be president.”

Blake Hawley, an American citizen at the Montreal protest, said he was embarrassed by the message Trump’s election sent to the rest of the world.

“[The United States] already didn’t have a great image, but it’s definitely worse now for sure,” said Hawley. He said he’s afraid American-Canadian relations may suffer during the Trump years.

“The whole idea of the American government isn’t taken seriously anymore,” said Hawley. “The U.S. is going to lose allies as we go into this administration. [Trump] might be as bad as everyone thinks. If he is, the U.S. will lose a lot more respect than it already has.”

Toohey said he is concerned that Canadians are not taking the election of Donald Trump seriously enough. “There’s a sense here in Canada of, ‘Oh, we’re not America,’” Toohey said. “But injustices and abuse of police power are happening in Canada too.”

“Things are going to get as bad [here in Canada] unless they’re challenged,” he added. “It’s not just the United States, it’s not just Trump. It’s what he represents and what he was elected on.”

Be sure to check out an audio piece on this protest on The Concordian Radio Show on CJLO 1690 AM on Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.


From Loyola to SGW for 40 years

Looking back at the Concordia shuttle since its debut in 1976

Concordia’s shuttle has changed a lot since its inception 40 years ago. Originally proposed in the 1960s as part of the merger between Loyola College and Sir George Williams University, the shuttle was a critical part of the formation of what is now Concordia University.

Administrators at both schools agreed during their negotiations that students needed a way to get to and from classes at the picturesque Loyola campus in the sleepy west-end NDG neighbourhood and the SGW campus on De Maisonneuve in downtown Montreal.

According to Desmond O’Neill, longtime manager of Concordia’s shuttle system, the first recorded evidence of the shuttle in action is a photo from 1976 which shows the lone Dodge panel van that would make the journey only a few times per day. Students had to make reservations in advance to make sure they had a seat.

Since those humble beginnings, the shuttle has grown to match the development of the university. The school now runs four buses simultaneously from Monday to Friday, with 94 departures per day from both the SGW and Loyola campus, according to Concordia’s office of property management. Driver-reported passenger data shows that the shuttle system moved 80,000 passengers in September 2016, at an average of over 4,000 riders per day.

During the 2015-2016 school year, over 700,000 Concordia students and faculty members took advantage of the free system, according to O’Neill.

The system isn’t without issues. If you’ve taken the shuttle recently, you may have noticed the bus taking a different route every time to bypass construction and traffic. In some cases, this has made the travel time longer.

O’Neill said while he understands riders’ confusion, the the current state of road work in Montreal makes shuttle consistency more difficult than ever. According to O’Neill, drivers often do not know about road closures ahead of time and are forced to adjust their routes on the fly. He said he wishes the city would alert him about construction so that he could warn drivers in advance.

In September 2016 the shuttle was responsible for the commute of 80,000 passengers. Photo by Adrian Knowler.

“We do have some contact with city government but it’s not the best,” said O’Neill. “When the city does road work, they may not know the 100 people or businesses it affects.”

According to O’Neill, ideally there would only be a couple of routes that drivers would take but, because of constant construction and changing traffic patterns, bus drivers have to utilize up to five alternate routes. Drivers talk to each other via wireless headsets while en route, updating their colleagues about traffic and construction situations.

O’Neill said he is pleased with how the shuttle service generally meets the needs of its users, but that he’s always open to suggestions from students.

Concordia student and cyclist Ayrton Wakfer wants to see bike racks added to the buses.

“When I bike to Loyola and it starts raining, I know that I’ll have to ride home in the rain,” said Wakfer. “It would be great if I could put my bike on the front of shuttle.”

According to O’Neill, the shuttle system plans to install a screen on the Hall building that will indicate the location of all the buses via GPS, and there is talk of adding WiFi capability to the shuttles so students can study during their commute.

When Montreal road work calms down in 18 months and these new features are implemented, the Loyola-SGW shuttle is poised to continue its impressive run, now 40 years in the making.

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