Live Art & Synthwave was perfect for socially awkward lo-fi and cookie fans

The Diving Bell Social Club hosted a night of pressure-free retro merriment

On Nov. 15, I got a free pass to Live Art & Synthwave in exchange for guarding the Nintendo. The mini classic Nintendo Entertainment System was set up in a nook with a projector, couches and all the old games on the drive. I had to make sure no one got into any fights or hogged the controllers.

Thankfully, the crowd didn’t need too much moderation. It was a wholesome group, everyone taking their turns to play and otherwise happy to sit down.

With everyone so well behaved, I could ignore my responsibilities for most of the evening. I proceeded to wander, admire the art, bask in an electronic music bath and eat cookies.

“I’m not a snitch.” — Bonnie Jean

The official line is that the event was produced and organized by Artwave MTL, a new “volunteer-run Montreal project aiming to get local musicians, artists and friends together through live performance events.”

The truth is that this whole affair was dictator-ed into being by an event planner and jam night aficionado who goes by the name Bonnie Jean.

“I actually had friends who tried to throw events and they sucked at it and they would never take my advice and it bothered me so I’m like f*ck you imma do it my way,” said Bonnie Jean in half the time it took you to read it.

“It’s going swimmingly.” — Mr. Mulgrave

There was a volunteer tasked with taking polaroids in exchange for Packman stickers that people purchased at the cookie and tortilla chips table. He introduced himself only as Mr. Mulgrave, though you can easily track his real identity down on the event page.

Other volunteers took pictures, filmed, checked the door and manned the coat check and ticket counter. It was a labour of love.

Maya Brobove, the official photographer, gave me one of the few unironic statements of the night. “I think it’s really interesting to see live painting happening in a space where live music is happening because it’s not an art form that we see the process of,” she said. “So it’s really nice to see different art forms being celebrated.”

DJs Tryptish and ELIAS kept the room cozy with warm lo-fi (low fidelity, if you didn’t know… I didn’t) lounge music throughout the evening.

This was intercut with moody and exciting synthwave acts by Bashu, NAHJI and M.M. Crone, all big deals and worth a trip across town.

While the three bands played, three artists painted away, though the symmetry was accidental. One of the acts had to cancel at the last minute.

Bonnie Jean took it in stride. “Adapt and overcome, I always say.”

The three artists chose acrylic as their medium, which doesn’t have to mean anything. Although, if I had to make something up, acrylic’s fast drying and permanency of colour, mixed with its crisp edge and flexibility could seem appropriate for an evening obsessed with an 80s aesthetic.

“I like to paint animals.” — Elizabeth Sorokina

Elizabeth Sorokina, a fashion designer, was painting a rhinoceros and her calf.

I was staring mesmerized at it, picking cookie dough from my teeth, when suddenly she stuck packing tape over the mother rhino. She explained to me that it created an effect when you took it off later and pointed to her other paintings hanging on the wall. I saw it. I thought it imbued them with a strange brightness.

“National Geographic does amazing images of these animals, of a really peaceful moment in the wild,” Sorokina said. “It’s always unpredictable, so it’s always a really rare moment.”

“I’m probably just going to smoke some weed and come back.” — Andres Granados

Yoga teacher and musician Andres Granados’s painting embraced the night’s theme. With his dreamy accent, he described it as a Roman statue in a synth-futuristic-neon-80s style. “I’m doing a paperweight-themed painting,” he said.

Andres’ other work was also quite funky, like the floating multicoloured elephant head and the surreal black and white ink giraffe/goat/fish.

“I seem to have a Montreal theme going on.” — Chris Roy

Beside finished pieces featuring construction cones and the Couche-Tard owl, Chris Roy was painting what I initially thought was a block of swiss cheese covered in red arrows. “Straight lines, no blending of colours, just very clean-cut,” is how he described his work with satisfaction. When I arrived he was adding clean black letters and numbers that referred to significant elements of his life growing up.

I dared to ask about the swiss cheese.

“Do you remember the old STM bus transfer?” was his answer.

Ohhhhh. The holes…That was way better than cheese, I thought.

“We take debit or credit.” — Elena Blanco Moleón 

The star of the evening, in my opinion, was Elena Blanco Moleón. The chocolate chip cookies she baked were both rich and sickening. I had four, which was no mean feat.

“They’re all coming back and saying, ‘Oh my god they’re awesome’,” Moleón said confidently. “So I’m really hopeful that the word will spread.”

While art and music were an excellent pretext to leave home, nostalgia, comfort and acceptance were the real themes of the evening. You could draw on the art wall, dance awkwardly to the synthwave, stuff your face or simply sit alone in a corner, absorbed by the rad sounds. It was an event/show/expo/bake sale that gave you permission to miss being a kid for a few hours and I’m looking forward to the next one (looks like it’ll be in early February).



Photos by Maya Brobove

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