Saul Williams wants you to start dancing

Saul Williams appeared on stage at La Tulipe and spoke into the microphone with authority. After rifling off the names of 50 or so prominent musicians, activists and poets from his song Coded Language, he grabbed his makeshift drum and started wailing away with all his might.

With Bob Marley’s face brimming from his chest, Williams pounded the same eight-note sequence over and over: his three-piece band quickly joined suit and they eased into Volcanic Sunlight’s first high-tempo song, “Patience.”

With this raucous entrance, Williams had signalled his arrival. Most artists would be sapped of energy on the last night of a North American tour, but Williams clearly had something left in the tank and wanted to share it with his audience.

It was in stark contrast to the conversation I had with him last week where he sounded relaxed, almost zen-like, in preparation for that evening’s show in Salt Lake City.

The musician, poet, actor and activist from Newburgh, New York turned 40 last month; I took the opportunity to wish him a happy belated birthday, especially because mine’s a day after his.

“Actually I turned 10,” he said, reminding me that his birthdate, Feb. 29, only comes around every four years. “It’s a great way of keeping me young at heart.”

Williams’ fourth album was released in May last year. The title and album cover, which shows him outstretched in front of a glowing sun, signify a new beginning. If The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust! was the album in which his message of change and empowerment was most evident, his latest release overflows with optimism and rebirth with song titles such as “New Day” and “Triumph.”

“I had nothing to prove on this album, it was just a matter of being myself,” he said.

He made a point of stopping between songs during his show to encourage the audience to dance, and pretend like we were alone in our bedrooms. The songs off Volcanic Sunlight resonate with the same appeal.

“The last album was a statement,” he said. “This is the sequel, in a way, to Niggy Tardust. He is a character who has evolved—it’s the idea of him coming through a door so everybody could see him. Now that he’s through, this is what he sounds like. It was a natural progression,” he said.

His influences resonate in both his lyrics and sound. You’ll hear the social consciousness of Public Enemy and Run-D.M.C., the jazz-rap of De La Soul and the rhythm and beats of African music.

Williams’ talents as poet and musician have never been more evident than on Volcanic Sunlight. The hip-hop/rock interchange combined with poetry that examines religion, spirituality and the existential puts him in a category of his own, far away from the superficial candy-pop you can easily find on today’s most popular radio stations.

When Williams’ show neared its end, he approached a woman on the side of the stage and spoke to her for a minute. He re-emerged with a familiar red square pinned to his shirt, the emblem of the student fight against the rise in tuition fees in Quebec. The fact that it appeared next to Bob Marley’s face didn’t go unnoticed and the audience let out a powerful roar when they saw it.

“It’s important to fight for what you believe in,” he said. “I commend you for that.”


Music in the News

Because Deamau5+1 sounds stupid

In a post on his Tumblr account, dance music artist Deadmau5 revealed he’s not too keen on collaborations with other artists, and that he has refused many requests from big artists in the past. “All too often, there’s an influx of ‘big names’ that would get thrown around the label from time to time and of course, they fly off the table and out the fuckin’ door faster than they hit my desk,” wrote Deadmau5. “Do you want to do a track with big name X, remix huge pop act Y, etc. etc. No. I fucking don’t. I really REALLY don’t.”
He says his biggest problem with these artists is that, more often than not, the lyrics are too vapid for his taste and that he has no interest in songs that “have some fucking dipshit blab about lookin’ sexy, poppin’ bottles, ‘dropping bass,’ or ANYTHING club related.” The electronic music star did mention that his previous collaborations with bands like Cypress Hill and the Foo Fighters were “the results of stuff [I’m] totally into” and were not the target of his rant.

Black Keys sorry for shooting fish in a barrel

Those of you with long memories may recall the tiff between The Black Keys and Nickelback that occurred a while back. For those who don’t, the Keys’ Patrick Carney trashed Nickelback saying that rock music was dying because “people became OK with Nickelback being the biggest band in the world, so they became OK with the idea that the biggest rock band in the world is always going to be shit.” Now he’s recanted his previous statement, sort of: “I didn’t mean to single them out,” the drummer said in an interview with MTV News Canada. “It just came out. There are much worse bands than Nickelback, maybe.”

Don’t send in the clowns

This year’s inductees to the rock and roll hall of fame include Guns N’ Roses, the Beastie Boys and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It does not, however, include KISS, and they’re not happy about the snub. “It’s become a joke,” said bassist Gene Simmons of the Hall of Fame. “We’ve been thinking about it and the answer is simply ‘We’ll just buy it and fire everybody’.” Simmons said the fact that Madonna and Blondie were inductees showed how far off the mark of ‘Rock and Roll’ the institution had gone. “They’re legitimate dance, disco artists. They don’t belong in rock and roll.” Simmons’ bandmate, Paul Stanley, added that “The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has reached a point where they’re really scrounging and scratching to find someone left that they consider viable. With all due respect, when you get to Patti Smith you’re about two steps away from Pete Seeger.” KISS have been eligible for induction since 1999.

What will Meg do now?

Jack White has come out and said there is “absolutely no chance” that he will ever bring back The White Stripes. “I’m not the kind of person that would retire from baseball and come out of retirement the next year,” said White in an interview with NME magazine. “I mean, if we went to all the trouble of telling people we’re done, we meant it, you know?” He says the only reason he could possibly foresee a reunion would be if he “went bankrupt or really needed the cash, which would be a really sad thing.”


Hundreds of thousands flood the streets

Check out a photo slide show from the march here.

Over 200,000 people took to the streets March 22 to protest tuition increases, many of whom were students from universities across Quebec.

The Concordia delegation, which led the way for the better part of the three-hour event, congregated near the Hall building around 12 p.m. Over 500 students then began to proceed down Ste-Catherine Street lead by Concordia Student Union VP external Chad Walcott, and President Lex Gill.

The scene at Berri and Ontario at Thursday’s tuition hike protest where an estimated 200,000 people took to Montreal’s streets.

The march began officially at Canada Place, where buses full of students from outside the city started arriving earlier in the day. The approximate length of the route was 5 km, with protesters marching down both Sherbrooke and Ste-Catherine Streets to their ultimate destination, Jacques-Cartier Place in the Old Port.

Protesters held signs denouncing Premier Jean Charest’s Liberal government, the leadership of Education Minister Line Beauchamp, and the idea that accessible education is not a priority.

The historic nature of the march had some people in the Twittersphere saying that a “Printemps erable” (Maple Spring) — clearly a play on Arab Spring — had arrived in Quebec.

Despite the massive turnout, the protest was extremely peaceful and the SPVM reported no major incidents during or after the march. Police presence was very light in comparison with other demonstrations that have taken place over the past few weeks.

“This sends an incredibly strong message to the government,” said Gill of the protest. “If anything else, the Liberal party has lost 200,000 voters for life.”

She went on to say that the march was the “largest mass demonstration over a public issue […] in years. It’s twice what they had in 2005,” she said of the last major student strike in Quebec.

The participation far exceeded the predictions made earlier in the day, proving that there is more public support for the student movement than estimated. Despite the success of the demonstration, Gill explained that protesters still have much work to do.

“The fight is not over,” she said. “There will be massive actions in the coming weeks until the government backs down.”

Walcott agreed with her saying that “it’s not a done deal,” and student groups need to “keep the pressure on. He said that the organizers’ willingness to communicate with the SPVM really made a significant difference in the tone of the day’s activities.

Participants in the March 22 demonstration represented every age demographic, from toddlers with their parents to cheering grandparents. Grade 10 student Terra Leger-Goodes of Paul-Gerin-Lajoie School in Outremont was at the march with a large group of students from her class.

“We heard that the cost of going to university is going up by a large amount, so we’re here to protest that. Society can only advance if people can go to school and gain knowledge,” she said, mentioning that by the time she enters university four to five years from now, the government’s tuition hikes will have almost reached their maximum. The Charest Liberals are planning to increase tuition by $325 a year between 2012 and 2017.

For grandmother Danielle Genereux, accessible education is an issue that affects everyone in Quebec, and should be at the top of the government’s priority list.

“Major investments in education should be an absolute priority. There should be no further discussion on that,” said Genereux, a grandmother of seven. “[The government] says opposition against tuition increases is not representative of the whole population. But today, they will see that it is representative.”

At the end of the march, Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarite syndicale etudiante spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois told students to return to their schools and to keep the student movement going. By 6 p.m., most of the protesters had dispersed, crowding into the nearest metro stations.

CLASSE, one of the main organizers of the day’s march, is planning a series of protests next week in an effort to cause an “economic disturbance” in the city, which they say will only end when the government retracts its decision to up tuition. The first “manif-action” takes place Monday, March 26 at 11 a.m. at Henri-Julien Park.

Concordia’s next general assembly where students will vote whether or not to remain on strike is scheduled for Monday, March 26 at 2 p.m. on the Reggie’s terrace. The university has already made clear that as of Monday, students who continue to block access to classrooms or buildings will face charges.

Opposition parties join students

Earlier in the morning, a press conference was held at Palais des Congres by the Federation etudiante universitaire du Quebec and the Federation etudiante collegiale du Quebec, and included representatives from groups such as the Centrale des syndicats du Quebec and the Confederation des syndicats nationaux, as well as opposition political parties, the Parti Quebecois, Quebec Solidaire and Option Nationale.

At the conference, PQ leader Pauline Marois reiterated that a PQ-elected government would not proceed with the tuition hikes, and would call for a provincial summit on post-secondary education. “The Charest government must stop considering students as enemies of the state,” she said.

QS spokesperson Francoise David, for her part, emphasized that the government could increase taxes on larger corporations in order to bring in more revenue, rather than asking for more money from students.

After the conference, PQ post-secondary education critic Marie Malavoy spoke to The Concordian about the issue of mismanagement of public funds in Quebec universities that has often been brought up in the debate on tuition increases.

Speaking on Education Minister Line Beauchamp’s recent decision to impose a $2 million fine on Concordia for handing out severance packages totalling $3.1 million, Malavoy said “there is no reason to have targeted one university. We must look at the salaries, the benefits and the severance packages at all universities. It’s foolish to think it’s just Concordia,” she said.

Malavoy mentioned that an idea has been floating among PQ ranks to institute a “commission” to look more closely at the management of public funds in Quebec universities.

Reaction from the government to the March 22 protest became more severe as the days passed. On the morning of March 22, Charest told reporters at the National Assembly in Quebec City that his government would “never stop listening to students.”

By Friday, his education minister was telling the Canadian Press that students needed to get back to class, or else they would face consequences. Line Beauchamp reiterated that the government would not back down from its decision, and said that should students continue to boycott classes, they risk having their semesters extended or classes scheduled at night. Concordia already indicated in a previous statement that it has no intention of prolonging the winter term.


Police officers on horses were at the tail end of the march.



Mixtape : Under the Snow Festival preview

Under the Snow Festival is an indie records and arts fair that aims to shake the dust off of you that may have been accumulating over the course of the winter season. Now in its eighth year, Under the Snow brings to the forefront 30-odd independent, up-and-coming and innovative musicians from all over Canada to showcase and celebrate their art at four downtown venues: La Sala Rossa, Casa Del Popolo, Divan Orange, and Église St-Denis.
This year’s honourable mentions include Maritimer Julie Doiron, Montreal art band Elfin Saddle and fellow Montrealers Pat Jordache, along with other indie artistes such as Huddle, In Days of Yore, Le Husky and Maxime Robin. On top of all of the great emerging musicians you can check out, the festival also features an arts show where you can buy sweet swag like silk screens, comic books, crafts, food, fashion and of course, records!

Listen to the mixtape here:

SIDE A: Sous la neige
1. “Jacques-Cartier” – Lila dit ça – Jacques-Cartier / Tokyo Man
2. “Salt On The Fields” – Pat Jordache – Future Songs
3. “All There Is” – Fire/Works – All There Is
4. “A Decade Wide” – Give Me Something Beautiful – You’ve Got a Hole In Your Heart a Decade Wide
5. “Djosé” – Maxime Robin – Mondrian Owns Geometry
6. “No One Gets Lost” – Elika – Always the Light

7. “Veste antiballes” – Eugène et le Cheval – Plantes carnivores et autres mécanismes de défense

8. “Sub Rosa” – In Days Of Yore – Sub Rosa
9. “The Dead Man Dance” – Jimmy Target And The Triggers – The Reverb Outlaws
10. “L’uniforme” – Antoine Corriveau – St-Maurice/Logan

SIDE B: Under the snow
11. “L’oubli” – Jeanphillip –  Le bout du monde
12. “Cook You Breakfast” – Pif Paf Hangover – Cook You Breakfast
13. “Les téléphones” – Le Husky – La fuite
14. “Sweeter” – Julie Doiron – Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars
15. “The Wind Come Carry” – Elfin Saddle – Devastates
16. “Black Waves” – The Loodies – The Loodies
17. “So Fast” – Julie Doiron – Loneliest in the Morning
18. “Quoi faire” – Bisko – Ricochet
19. “Barcelone” – Antoine Corriveau – St-Maurice/Logan
20. “Travellers” – AUN – Phantom G

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