A night with Taylor Janzen, Quinn Christopherson, and Lucy Dacus

Lucy Dacus and her tour company took on L’Astral this past Monday

On Sept. 16, Lucy Dacus and her tour company drew quite a crowd at L’Astral. This was all to be expected having run off the momentum of her critically-acclaimed 2018 sophomore album Historian, and joined by stellar openers Quinn Christopherson and Taylor Janzen. It made sense that dozens showed up to the venue ready for a night of cold beer, warm synths, and some soft indie-alternative.

Winnipeg-native Janzen began the night at 8 p.m. with a short but sweet piano performance, singing the sad, reflective songs she has become known for across Canada and beyond. After a brief intermission half an hour later, Christopherson took the stage with friend Nick Carpenter by his side on keyboards and guitar.

Being the winners of the 2019 Tiny Desk Contest, it immediately made sense why NPR described Christopherson and Carpenter as “performers loaded with unfettered confidence,” as they sang their emotionally-candid ballads about vulnerability and the struggles of self-acceptance. However, the sadness in their music felt nonexistent when the duo stopped strumming between songs, taking a few seconds to crack jokes with the audience.

“This next song is untitled,” Christopherson said to the crowd midway through his set. “So if anybody has name ideas, feel free to add me on MSN.” The crowd burst out laughing. Carpenter chuckled too, looking over at his friend.

As the headliner and final act of the night, Lucy Dacus and bandmates started off at 9:30 p.m., performing hits from Historian along with recent singles, such as her cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark.” Despite an oft-present lyrical theme of facing uncertainty, Dacus had full crowd control throughout her set, transitioning from ambient, meditative songs about death and heartbreak, to getting everyone jumping with the more upbeat rock-inspired songs.

Passion could be felt both inside and outside the performance; when Dacus was not playing a song, she was providing a short backstory for the following one.

Lucy Dacus sings and plays guitar in front of an awestruck crowd. Photo by Spencer Nafekh

“This next song I wrote for my mom,” she said before playing “My Mother & I,” a single released in April. “It still makes me nervous to perform it sometimes. But, preemptively, she [my mom] likes it,” Dacus joked.

By the end of the night, Dacus appeared fully at home in Montreal.

“I’m not usually one for encores and happen to think they’re kind of corny,” she said, returning to the mic. “But I really feel comfortable here right now, so why not?” Dacus went on to play “Historians,” the languid final track off her 2018 album, which turned out to be the perfect slow song to wrap up the night on a peaceful note.

All in all, L’Astral had a Monday evening filled with passionate artists doing what they love and know best. The performances felt refreshingly honest. Taylor Janzen, Quinn Christopherson, and Lucy Dacus provided voracious listeners their indie-fix and gave everybody in the crowd a night to remember.


Feature photo by Spencer Nafekh


Jordan Solomon loves Montreal

Last week, rapper Jordan Solomon (also known as J Solo) uploaded a video to Youtube titled, in all caps, “PERFORMING IN MONTREAL.” In the two-minute clip of him driving in his car, Solomon said, “I’m letting any subscribers I have in Montreal know that I’m doing a show there, so I just wanted to put it on all platforms in case you wanted to come see me live.” The crowd responded, and on Friday night, rap fans across the city poured into Bar le Ritz, excited for the performance-packed night ahead of them.

Solomon’s career began when he posted his first song, “Lie For Me,” on Soundcloud in 2015, although it wasn’t until the release of his single, “Lil Lil,” in 2016 that his catalogue made its debut on streaming platforms. Today, his music is available on iTunes and Spotify with over 100,000 listeners on each platform. He is half-Trinidadian, and his background is reflected in the unique tropical-sounding instrumentals featured on his tracks, all of which are produced by his good friend and producer, Phantum. These two, along with his senior agent and creative director form a musical movement known as Karma Club.

The event was organized by young Montreal videographer Olly Evergreen, who discovered Solomon’s music online and loved it so much that he arranged for him to come to the city. At 9:30 p.m., Solomon and the rest of Karma Club took the stage to headline for a crowd that was already heated up after special guest DJ Savi J, as well as opening sets by local up-and-coming rappers Dev, Gxlden Child, Seven LC and Rome.

Halfway through his performance, Solomon showed that he loves getting the crowd hyped-up just as much as he loves performing. “Stop it for a sec,” he told Phantum before the next track was about to begin. “I just wanted to say that I love Montreal. It might even be the best city in Canada, but I’ll need proof.” After the words left his mouth, Phantum blared hits “SICKO MODE” and “Mo Bamba,” while Solomon turned up with the bobbing crowd. “It’s official,” he said afterwards. “Montreal is the best city in Canada.”

To end the night, Solomon brought his entire crew on stage while he sang the lyrics to one of his more recent popular tracks, “Oh Me Oh My.” “I need everyone bumping for this one,” he said. The moment that followed was a perfect encapsulation of the energy that fuelled the evening: a stage packed with people danced along to the lyrics, overlooking a crowd of fans jumping to the beat with their hands high in the air.

Before heading backstage, Solomon thanked the crowd, told those who were interested to meet up at Apt. 200 for an afterparty, and promised to meet and chat with any fans who stuck around afterward. The 17-year-old rapper’s music is fun and catchy, but proving his dedication to his listeners and ability to put on a great show exemplifies what looks like a promising career ahead of him, while also leaving his fan base wanting more.


The fine line between entertainment and reality

Florida rapper XXXTentacion had just left a motorcycle dealership on June 18 and was about to drive off when two masked men approached his car, robbing and fatally shooting him, according to CBC News. It was an incident as tragic and heart-wrenching as it was controversial.

While devoted fans mourned the loss of their favourite artist, others showed no sympathy, largely due to the rapper’s cumbersome heap of criminal charges which range from harassment to domestic violence. But this isn’t the first time a rapper has been in hot water in the eyes of the law. According to Complex Magazine, in 2016 Famous Dex was sent to jail after hotel footage was released showing him beating his girlfriend; something similar happened in a case earlier this year when NBAYoungboy was indicted on assault and kidnapping after a haunting video of him with his partner at the time surfaced on the web, according to TMZ. TMZ also revealed that rapper Tekashi69 currently faces up to three years of jail time due to sexual misconduct—and these are among the most celebrated voices in today’s rap scene. Many of these rappers came up from nothing and are riding off a wave of instant success, which is great. But this also means the spotlight can be placed on people who don’t realize the power they hold, or simply take advantage of it.

I believe the escalation of violence in the lives of rap artists is a result of the genre being too aggressive in its present state. This might seem like an absurd claim—after all, isn’t rap music supposed to be hostile from time to time? But I believe that, nowadays, rap music and culture condones (or perhaps even encourages) toxic behaviour, resulting in an escalation of violence, exposing both the artists and their listeners to danger.

I believe that in the age of social media, an artist’s music and their personality are more prevalent in a holistic sense; rappers need to market themselves on platforms like SnapChat and Instagram as much as they need to advertise their actual tracks to gain traction.

It is a time when anybody with a laptop, a mic and a SoundCloud account has the potential to turn heads, and rappers often take a multitude of measures to ensure the spotlight stays on them. This includes changing their appearance with dyed hair or face tattoos, flexing new purchases (designer clothes, jewelry and cars, to name a few) or, of course, getting caught up in a public beef with another artist.

The latter I’ve noticed much too often in recent memory. With each new day, more rappers are livestreaming themselves and talking one another down in what feels more like a desperate publicity stunt than anything else. In a lot of cases, the talk is, well, just that: talk. But other times it gets physical, with one recent example taking place in our very own Montreal, between rappers Killy and Lil Xan after a storm of malicious tweets. Fights and in-person showdowns between rap artists are about as frequent as they are unsurprising; footage of these tussles go viral.

What scares me is that we live in a world where the fine line between entertainment and reality is becoming harder for people to distinguish. Violent behaviour makes the growing popularity of rap even more complex, as this genre has increased by 72 per cent in on-demand audio streaming in the last year, according to global information and measurement company Nielsen. This same company noted that, for the first time, rap surpassed rock as the most popular genre in the United States last year, with the vast majority of its listeners being young adults and teens.

I’m not trying to demonize rap—on the contrary, I’m trying to protect the music I love. Whether it’s the effortless tongue-in-cheek way Lil Pump approaches his bars or Kanye’s hilariously egotistical one-liners, I believe rap is an unfailing method of getting people to vibe together and providing something to talk about. But rappers should be viewed as entertainers, not idols. They have stories and motives that are unknown to us, and it is of vital importance that any rap listener, seasoned or novice, take this into consideration before putting on their headphones.

Graphic by Wednesday Laplante


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