Night protesters are back

Photo by writer

Students took to the streets of downtown Montreal last Tuesday in the first night protest since last spring to denounce a planned indexation of tuition fees by the provincial government.

According to the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal, 72 people were detained during the course of the night. The SPVM ticketed 62 protesters for unlawful assembly while the remaining 10 were arrested during clashes police officers.

Several thousand students were protesting increases that will see tuition rise by three per cent a year. The proposal was brought forth during the summit on higher education hosted by the provincial government in late February. As part of their election platform, the Parti Québécois were adamant on addressing unresolved issues from last year’s tumultuous spring where students condemned former Premier Jean Charest’s tuition increase of $1,625 spread out over five years.

In a statement on Wednesday, Premier Pauline Marois urged people to stay calm.

“I believe what we proposed is reasonable and I hope it will be seen that way,” she said. “In the meantime, I’m inviting everyone to remain calm.”

The protest kicked off from Place Émilie-Gamelin around 8 p.m. and was declared illegal as soon as demonstrators started marching. The SPVM agreed to allow the protest to continue if it remained peaceful but intervened just over two hours later.

Cries of “À qui la rue? À nous la rue!” echoed through downtown alongside the occasional blast of fireworks as protesters followed a banner bearing the words “social peace is behind us,” while helicopters followed overhead.

At around 10:15 p.m., windows of the Sheraton Centre on de Maisonneuve Blvd. and glass at several banks were smashed with pieces of concrete. Protesters ran as police officers split the group in two on Viger St. just outside the Palais des Congrès. Police charged the large crowd and used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse protesters.

Several hundred protesters made their way back to Place Émilie-Gamelin where clashes with police continued. After 45 minutes of a cat-and-mouse game, the SPVM detained the remaining 62 protesters who refused to leave the corner of Beaudry and Ste-Catherine Sts.

One student was hospitalized after being injured by a stun grenade and one officer was also treated for minor injuries to his eye after a firework reportedly hit him in the face.

Some are arguing that Montreal police targeted people indiscriminately.

Frederic Bourgault, 24, was detained by police after he went to retrieve his bicycle on his way home after the protest was over and received a $625 fine.

“What they did was unjustifiable as none of us were dangerous,” said Bourgault. “Everyone I was with was going home.”
Bourgault claims that officers threw his bike on the ground before handcuffing him.

“I didn’t do anything wrong but I was treated terribly.”

A similar protest in Quebec City last Thursday lasted just several minutes and resulted in three arrests. More night demonstrations are planned throughout the month of March in Montreal, including a protest this Tuesday at 8 p.m. at Place Émilie-Gamelin.


A band that loves to play together, stays together

Good Old War – Press photo

Founded in 2008 in Philadelphia, Good Old War members Keith Goodwin, Daniel Schwartz and Tim Arnold have already released three albums of very listenable indie-folk.

The term ‘listenable’ is often associated with the latest top 40 hits, but in this case it is a positive thing. Lead vocalist Schwartz’s clear, clean voice combined with a soft blend of guitar, accordion and keys produces the kind of music you can listen to anywhere, anytime.

It is hard to pinpoint what secret ingredient gives their music this kind of feel because there isn’t one instrument or sound that stands out. Their music is more of an amalgamation of sounds that work together to create a warm and consistently pleasant feeling.

“The kind of music we play doesn’t really have a genre,” said Schwartz. “We came from a desire to have a kind of positivity and enjoyment in our playing.”

And if you needed anything else to complete their resemblance to some of the great folk trios, Good Old War uses three-part harmonies in almost all their songs.

“When we started, we based ourselves off of mostly vocal bands like Crosby, Stills & Nash, The Kinks and the Zombies,” said Schwartz.

Good Old War has been on tour since the March 2012 release of their third album, Come Back As Rain.

“We’ve already played over 200 shows this year,” said Schwartz. “Sometimes it’s a little tiring because you don’t get any personal time whatsoever, but even when it’s at its worst, we’re happy to be here playing music.”

Before flying to Vancouver at the end of October, Good Old War was on tour with American rock band NEEDTOBREATHE.

“Every tour has it’s own feel because the fans are all different,” said Schwartz. “So far it’s been a totally different vibe with Xavier [Rudd]. The venues are a little smaller, but we like playing in giant places and tiny places. That and Canadian audiences are so much more polite.” Good Old War became good friends with Rudd when they played together in 2010.

And what should you expect if you choose to buy tickets to their Dec. 7 show at Metropolis? You can expect three very talented musicians who will play their hearts out.

“One thing people say all the time is that they can see how much fun we have on stage,” said Schwartz. “It’s not about, ‘Hey watch us,’ when we’re on stage. It’s about being together, singing together and being happy together. We always hope that the crowd will join in and sing along.”

It is the first time Good Old War will be performing in Montreal. It also happens to be the last city on this Canadian tour and potentially the last show for a while.

“We’re taking time off after this tour to work on the next album,” said Schwartz. So, if you need some encouragement for exams or just feel like absorbing some good vibes, give Good Old War a proper Montreal welcome when they come to Metropolis.


Good Old War plays Metropolis with Xavier Rudd on Friday, Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $37 to $41.70.


Ooh La L.A.! All-French music fest makes its way to Montreal

Oh La L.A festival in Montreal on Oct. 16. Photo by writer.

Synthesizer, reverb and electronic pop rocked the Ooh La L.A. festival’s first ever Montreal appearance on Oct. 16. The audience at La Société des arts technologiques was treated to the newest up-and-coming French label pop bands in a fun-filled evening. A unique aspect of Montreal’s first Ooh La L.A. was the relative lack of notoriety amongst the bands. Only Housse de Racket, the closing band, had released an album before October, while Tomorrow’s Child has yet to release their first album. It was certainly an unusual vibe with the audience never quite certain what they might hear next.

French artist LESCOP opened the night with tracks from his newly released debut album Lescop. The best word to describe this young Frenchman would be ‘smooth.’ Everything from his voice to his seamless beats and stage presence set the tone for the evening. That said, he had heads bobbing from the get-go with tracks like “La Forêt” and “Tokyo, La Nuit.”

Following LESCOP was the newly formed band Citizens! Members Tom Burke, Lawrence Diamond, Mike Evans, Martyn Richmond and Thom Rhoades hail from London and were arguably the most fun to watch that evening. Signed to the French label Kitsuné, the five-piece band provided an upbeat, captivating and danceable performance.

Burke, the frontman, has a falsetto that was offset nicely by heavy reverb guitar and cracking baselines. There wasn’t a single person in the room who wasn’t dancing by the end of their set. Formed in 2011, Citizens! released their debut album ‘Here We Are’ on Oct. 3.

Photo by writer.

Tomorrow’s Child were third on the line up. Although the duo haven’t yet released an album, they were easily the most well-renowned band of the evening because of member Jean-Benoit Dunckel. Dunckel is also a member of the hit French pop band Air. While Dunckel took over the beats, keyboard and backup vocals, a glitter-adorned Lou Hayter took charge of the lead vocals. Hayter’s ethereal voice paired with Dunckel’s synthesizer produced a dark but beautiful sound. Smoke machines and a constantly changing colourful light display aided in developing the trance-like feel that descended over SAT throughout their set.

If Tomorrow’s Child put the audience into a trance, Housse de Racket woke everyone up. Lead singer Pierre Leroux opened up their set by hailing the Montreal crowd: “We’re very tired because we’ve been on tour for two years but we’re happy to be here!” Drummer Victor Le Manse then set about pounding his extensive drum kit while Leroux hopped around the stage bringing a whole new level of energy to the packed venue.

Although each of the bands had their own distinct sound, the predominant vibe of Ooh La L.A. was an electronic one. Each artist brought energy in the form of synth or electronic beats, but tempo and style varied from band to band. In between artists a masked DJ laid down house beats as the stage was reset for the next performer.

In essence, the festival devoted a night to French labels. Founded in 2009 by Sylvain Taillet, artistic director of French label Barclay/Universal Music France, the festival aims to bring French bands and bands signed to French labels to North American audiences. Originally, Ooh La L.A. was held exclusively in Los Angeles, but it has since expanded. After a three-day stint in Los Angeles this October, Ooh La L.A. moved to San Francisco, Montreal and finally New York City. Ooh La L.A.’s coordinator, Marion Chapdelaine, was pleased with the first Montreal version of the festival: “It was a big success given that it is the first time we have come to Montreal,” she said. “We’re definitely coming back next year!”

To echo Ms. Chapdelaine’s words, Ooh La L.A. was an eventful and well-planned evening. It is well worth a look when the festival revisits Montreal next year.


The Zolas are back with fun, bouncy, progressive pop

With their new record, Ancient Mars, The Zolas are set to bring an energy-packed show to audiences across Canada. British Columbia natives Zach Gray and Tom Dobrzanski have been making music together since they joined the same choir as children. The two friends started their first band, Lotus Child, while studying at UBC. Although the band released two albums and garnered a strong following in Vancouver, they broke up in 2006.

“It just wasn’t fun,” said Gray. “We weren’t having a good time and we didn’t think we were good enough.”

Press photo.

Soon after Lotus Child’s breakup, Gray and Dobrzanski started playing together again.

“[Dobrzanski] and I had given up on being in a band,” said Gray. “We just hung out as we used to, played music, drank beer around the piano and wrote a few songs.”

It seems that The Zolas was really born out of a desire to have fun. “The only reason that we exist is out of the spirit of asking ourselves what is going to be fun to do right now,” explained Gray. “We just use The Zolas as an excuse to get our best friends and favourite musicians in the room and just write music together.”

The Zolas’s debut, Tic Toc Tic, was released in 2009. Blending an upbeat pop and rock feel, tracks like “You’re Too Cool” and “The Great Collapse” featured heavily on the XM satellite radio station The Verge.

The Zolas released Ancient Mars on Oct. 2 and while the record reaffirms The Zolas’ ability to write poetic lyrics, it has a very different musical feel. The bouncy piano riffs and crisp notes are replaced with heavier beats, synthesizer reverb and dreamy, smooth vocals. In short, The Zolas are moving towards progressive pop.

“The music that we’d found ourselves listening to lately was the kind of music that makes your head bob on a subliminal level,” said Gray. “You don’t even realize that you’re listening to the song and then suddenly you realize that everyone in the room is nodding in time. We wanted to make music like that.”

The Zolas hired producer Chuck Brody, a veteran of the pop and hip-hop scenes, to bring a different feel to Ancient Mars.

“The way that people listen to music on headphones so much these days gives you an opportunity to really get into their brains,” explained Gray. The hefty beats in the album’s title track, “Ancient Mars,” are almost guaranteed to set your head bobbing and your feet tapping.

“This album is a lot more personal,” Gray continued. “It’s about how you can be so insanely in love with somebody and one day that will end as well.”


While this may seem like a cynical concept to construct an album around, The Zolas are convinced otherwise.

“I don’t want to say that it’s bleak or not-bleak; it’s not about that,” said Gray. “I’d rather look at it this way: some people stay together, most people don’t, but both are pretty much equally beautiful.”

The Zolas are greatly anticipating their cross-Canada tour that sees them bring their five-piece touring band to 25 cities in just over 30 days.

“Every time we play together it’s been so easy,” said Gray. “I’ve had really draining live shows where I felt like I was working so hard but with this group I feel like I’m watching a band and singing along.”

With the release of such a progressive, forward-looking album, The Zolas have cemented their place as a band to watch out for.


Trial Track: “Cold Moon”


The Zolas play La Sala Rossa (4848 St. Laurent) with Hey Ocean! on Wednesday, Oct. 17. 




Fink wows fans at La Sala Rossa

Like a good glass of scotch or the ideal piece of chocolate cake, Fink’s voice is smoky, rich and capable of sending any audience to a

Photo by Tommy N. Lance

relaxed but grooving place. Live, his deep melodies and slow rhythms have a greater impact and a very different feel from his studio albums. The notes seem to permeate the very air: a hum that settles deep within your bones as you rock in time to the music.

Accompanied on the drums and guitar by Tim Thornton, Fink played most of the songs off his newest album, Perfect Darkness. The hit single “Yesterday Was Hard On All Of Us” and the album’s final track, “Berlin Sunrise”, received particularly rousing applause from the mostly older crowd.

To spice it up, the duo played the bluesy number “Hush Now” from Fink’s breakout album Biscuits for Breakfast. While changing to his blues guitar, Fink explained, “Every tour I tell myself, ‘This guitar isn’t coming on tour anymore’ and every tour it manages to sneak on board anyway.” Let us hope that it does keep ‘sneaking’ aboard because the slight change in pace and rhythm brought a whole new dimension to the show.

All of this combined with the intimate feel of La Sala Rossa made for a memorable night. After the show a smiling Fink said, “We love playing in Montreal!” However, he confessed that the last time they were here “it was bloody freezing and only twenty people showed up.” Fink’s popularity has been on the rise since the release of Biscuits for Breakfast in 2006. Perfect Darkness reached number 32 on the Dutch charts in 2011 and remains Fink’s biggest claim to fame.

The group are on tour around the Northeastern U.S. and Canada but will be performing at several music festivals in India come December. Whenever they do return to Montreal they are well worth a look-in.


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