Categories
Music

R&B 200’s success story

Apt. 200’s R&B nights are drawing hundreds of people to the club—on a Wednesday.

There is an element of unpredictability that comes with getting people to go out on a Wednesday night. With its latest series of R&B nights titled “R&B 200,” Apt. 200 Montreal has accomplished exactly that, offering a unique setting that draws hundreds to the club in the middle of the week. 

Lou Celestino, a local artist and bartender at the club, first came up with the idea as a solution to existing problems: “Wednesdays were very inconsistent, without branding. People were simply trying to mosh and we’d get noise complaints.” He noted the overall lack of a strict R&B focus in other clubs on St. Laurent Boulevard, which made way for R&B 200’s differentiation. Starting from simply hosting and bartending, he now manages the event.

The format has essentially turned Apt. 200’s usual hip-hop banger formula on its head. It opts instead for a relaxed, lounge-like environment that focuses on mellow, emotional cuts and classic 2000’s R&B. With a DJ roster composed of Miggy, Nino, Arsy, and Spinelli, clubbers are treated to a seamless mix of modern R&B, vintage classics, and incorporations of adjacent styles like late ‘90s-2000s pop and hip-hop.

The event is powered by Diff Minds, a local content-creation trio. Diff Minds includes two Concordia alumni, Kyle “Dolla” Martel and Karim “Dream” Fall. Celestino called upon them personally, given his genuine friendship with Dream and positive experiences with having the duo host at Apt. 200. Through their video recaps, Diff Minds showcase a different side to clubbing, one that is atypical to the scene’s usual portrayal. Their visual style is simultaneously professional, stunning, and intimate, between Dolla’s warm, vivid photography and Dream’s crystal-clear videography. The inclusion of retro technology (polaroids and camcorder) gives their clips a homey feel, one that perfectly suits R&B 200’s throwback essence.

Above all, the intent behind R&B 200 is to bring people together, be it the team or the crowd. “We want to bring a vibe to the club that allows people to have fun, enjoy themselves, and be safe while doing it. We encourage creatives, entrepreneurs, artists, and more to come together and network while vibing to some good, nostalgic music,” Dolla explained.  

“It allows people to have a conversation. Most importantly, the vibes are immaculate; barely any fights or trouble, that’s what separates us from other places,” Celestino added.

This is exactly what you get from a Wednesday at Apt. 200: the bar fully lined up with people talking, a crowded dance floor before midnight, dance circles, attendees singing along to ballads in unison while waving their flashlights; be it a social gathering or a collective celebration of music, the heartwarming feeling of community truly fills the room and defines each Wednesday night. DJ Spinelli notes that it has become a sanctum for creative expression. “We’ve transformed R&B Wednesdays into a space where everybody can express themselves fully, through outlets like fashion & dance. Everyone is there to support each other and have a ball! It gives you the confidence to fully lean into your passion,” she explains.

Celestino prides himself on gathering a team built upon diversity. “When you look at the lineup of hosts and DJs it’s multicultural; I am absolutely proud of representation,” he said. “One thing that motivates me is opening doors for the next wave of talent. With every name on the flyer, I see the qualities that are important for hospitality and that make people feel welcomed. I’m proud that I got a group of hosts to become friends.”

R&B 200 continues to see increasing popularity and a steady turnout, both of which are impressive given the unlikely circumstances. Fall is glad to bear witness to this success and remains surprised by it. “I’m a very observant guy. I catch myself looking around the club and being like, ‘Wow, why are so many people showing up on a Wednesday?’ It’s a hard sell. Overall, I see the same familiar faces coming through and making the appointment to come every Wednesday.”

The success of R&B 200 is now driven by the name it has made for itself. “People know that Wednesdays are for R&B nights at Apartment,” Dolla said. “It’s something you have to see for yourself.”

Categories
Interview Music

PermaCulture: Diversifying the City’s Nightlife

PermaCulture founder discusses rave and nightlife in Montreal.

Montreal is a city that prides itself on its nightlife. Adrien Orlowski has been an organizer of the nightlife scene for the past ten years. He has watched the scene change and evolve and has worked to cultivate a more diverse environment in Montreal’s underground.

“For so long, the rave scene has been considered a juvenile activity, something that is not serious, that doesn’t bring anything to society,” he explained in an interview with The Concordian. Orlowski founded PermaCulture, a non-profit that organizes events and conferences geared towards fostering a more diverse and inclusive environment. Orlowski and his organization want rave to be taken more seriously—he sees it as an escape from the pressures of life.

“We live in a world today that is not easy at all. There’s war everywhere, there’s famine, there are so many issues,” he said. “I think rave can be a solution to that, people get on well. People are at peace, everyone is chill.”

Orlowski talked about how the scene had all these communities that would run their own events, but they were segmented. The afro, arab, and queer scenes all stuck to themselves, and PermaCulture was created to combine the communities under one roof. “I felt like it’s been the same for decades where we only had the same type of DJs, promoters, and people coming to our events. I think in the past years, we’ve started to see a change,” Orlowski said. 

Orlowski and PermaCulture are deeply passionate about the nightlife in Montreal, but of course, there are hurdles to organizing a festival like theirs. Orlowski says the main factor is funding—before you can do anything, you need money. They look for grants mostly through the city and some sponsorships from the private sector for things like alcohol sales. However, the relationship can be adversarial at times, according to Orlowski.

Recently, the city cut funding to the nightlife advocacy group MTL 24/24, which has led to the organization having to lay off staff and cancel its annual Montreal Night Summit.

“This is a lack of consideration for all the work we have accomplished over the past three years,” said Mathieu Grondin, director of MTL 24/24, in an interview with Resident Advisor. Members of the nightlife scene view the funding cut as a way to silence the organization, which has historically been critical of the city and the Plante administration. 

A Facebook post by rave organization Homegrown Harvest reads: “They’ve completely gutted the funding of MTL 24/24, an amazing night culture advocacy group that has been publicly critical of the city’s approach (coincidence??), and are attacking the funding of great institutions like the SAT—all while juicing up the police budget yet again.” 

The Plante administration said that MTL 24/24 can refile its application. Luc Rabouin, executive committee chair for the city, added that Montreal doesn’t fund organizations, it funds events—MTL 24/24 simply didn’t meet the requirements.

The city proposed two large pieces of legislation on Dec. 19, 2023. The first is the creation of 24-hour zones, which would enable businesses within the zone to sell alcohol and stay open throughout the night, whereas previously alcohol sales would end at 3:00 a.m. The other piece is an investment package of $1 billion that is dedicated to revitalize downtown Montreal over the next 10 years. 

All of this should make it easier for organizations like PermaCulture to host events, but there is still no news on an updated nightlife policy. Organizations like Homegrown Harvest ask why the Plante administration doesn’t simply make it easier to get 24-hour licenses, as many of the venues the nightlife relies on are outside of this crucial zone.

Categories
Music

City on fire: Boiler Room returns to Montreal

The hottest club culture event took place in the city for the first time in over a decade.

On Nov. 10-11, Montreal hosted a Boiler Room event for the first time in over a decade. Succeeding the last edition from 2013, which included KAYTRANADA’s now-legendary DJ set, this year’s edition brought forward six local collectives across two nights to highlight three of the city’s key music scenes: Afrobeats, queer club music and techno/house.

The event was held at Hall Ste-Catherine, which used to be Montreal’s Circus Afterhours nightclub. The venue contains three rooms, each of which was designated to a different group each night. They were connected by hallways which facilitated navigation between them. There was easy access to bars and benches in every room, which allowed attendees to grab either a drink or a seat whenever they pleased.

Mansa kicked off Afrotonik’s party in one room, raising the energy bar to a high that was maintained for the hours that followed. This medium-sized room was complete with several screens behind the DJ setup and a bar in the center. Her set was a blend of traditional Afrobeats songs and amapiano (a South African afro-house subgenre) with hints of contemporary music. A DJ of Malian origins, she also highlighted the most prominent Black women in music (such as Beyoncé and Rihanna) by fusing their modern hits with African music styles. Her song selection garnered excited reactions from the crowd, especially with her fast-paced mix of Sexyy Red’s “SkeeYee,” which ended her set. Her performance also emphasized the venue’s immaculate sound quality, as the trademark stabs of bass in amapiano music sounded perfectly full and heavy. 

Later in the lineup, DJ Karaba would bring a house flavour, energizing the crowd with afro-house spins on popular tracks like Modjo’s “Lady (Hear Me Tonight)” and Nelly Furtado’s “Say It Right.” Fusing Afrobeats with hit songs proved to be an effective formula throughout the night. 

Mootanda followed up with a rap spin, providing combinations of hip-hop and afro-house. I found myself going lyric for lyric and dancing with others as renditions of various hit songs like “Dior” (Pop Smoke), “fukumean” (Gunna) and “The Box” (Roddy Ricch) rang out through the speakers. Afrotonik entertained a crowd that sang, danced and grew increasingly throughout the night, arguably becoming the most crowded room by the end of the event.

Homegrown Harvest was simultaneously playing in the biggest room which featured a trademark Boiler Room setup: the DJ decks in the middle, with the crowd surrounding it. A stage also elevated the crowd behind the booth, accentuating the audience’s presence and role in the event. One of its DJs was Lia Plutonic, whose set was full of infectious house tracks with bouncy drum patterns and even some Jersey Club music sprinkled in. These songs featured different buildups, pauses and even jazz breaks that triggered crescendos in the crowd’s excitement, allowing the excitement to relax, rise, release and then rebuild. Lis Dalton followed up with an even more addictive set which blended house and UK garage drums with swirling, hypnotic loops. It’s the type of trance any clubgoer would want to fall into during a Boiler Room set.

The inclusion of traditional elements into the different sets was noteworthy, with analog practices serving as extensions of the musical experience. Afrotonik had a live drum player on the first night who was mic’d up in a way that allowed the drums to be perfectly audible and seamlessly included in the mix. Meanwhile, Lia Plutonic bridged traditional and modern DJ practices together by mixing with vinyl records in addition to the digital, Pioneer CDJ player and mixer setup.

Boiler Room lived up to the hype. It gave attendees the chance to cut loose and engage in the music individually, as well as to connect with friends and strangers alike. The musical showcase resonated with the crowd and effectively highlighted the mix of cultures and musical styles that define Montreal. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait ten years for the next one.

Categories
Community

Snowbird Tiki Bar review

“Get here fast. Take it slow.”

Walking up St. Hubert Street, you wouldn’t expect to come across this bar. In comparison to the grey cold winter we are currently experiencing, it really stands out. 

The whole entrance is made out of long stalks of bamboo, and upon walking into the bar you are transported into this island-themed paradise right here in Montreal.

AMBIANCE:

When my group arrived at the bar, there was already a long lineup. Fortunately one of the people running the bar said they were about to open the flamingo room so we didn’t have to wait much longer.

The main area of the bar is all island themed, with bartenders dressed in Hawaiian shirts. The decor is the best part, it really makes you ask yourself, “Where did they get all this stuff?” From the fish decorations hanging from the ceiling to Elvis playing throughout the bar, Snowbird definitely passed the vibe check.

Once we finally got seated, I was so mesmerized by all the decorations and the seating itself. We got a booth but there was also a swing seat that my friend Giulia happily took. 

DRINKS:

For the first round of drinks, I ordered the Pink Flamingo. My boyfriend Anthony ordered the Cobra’s Fang and my friend Giulia ordered a Piña Colada.

Something that’s super interesting when you first order the drinks is the alcohol levels indicated at the top of the menu, from one to four. The drink that I ordered had an alcohol level of three, and it said I’ll be “texting my ex” with that level. 

Anthony’s drink was a level four, and it said at that level he’d be “losing his phone.” For my friend Giulia, she got the Piña Colada. I think we all know Piña Coladas are pretty tame and it was a level two on the alcohol scale, and said at that level she’d be “calling in sick.”

Not only were the drinks amazing but they were so fun to look at. Giulia’s Piña Colada was served in a coconut water can that you’d see walking down your grocery aisle. Anthony’s Cobra’s Fang was served in a tall glass with leaves bent over to mimic a cobra’s fangs. Finally, my Pink Flamingo was served in a mason jar glass with a pineapple as garnish. 

Once we finished the first round of drinks, we really wanted to try one of the shareable punches. From the three options on the menu, we went with the Garden Party. 

The Garden Party punch was served in a rock bowl and was garnished with flowers and a shot of gin in the actual drink. It was so much fun to share this drink, the blue colour of the punch really transports you to the island vibe that Snowbird touts.

IS IT WORTH IT?

I feel in a nutshell, Snowbird Tiki Bar is one of the most creative themed bars I’ve ever seen. However, it’s not exactly cheap. 

For the first round of drinks, the price range was in between $15-17 for each one. The shareable punch was $40, but split between three people it isn’t that bad. 

If you want to try something different for a celebration, I’d definitely recommend this bar. You’ll be whisked away from the snow and into some good vibes.

Photographs by Dalia Nardolillo/THE CONCORDIAN

Categories
Community

15 things to do in December

End the year off with one (or more!) of these fun events.

Luminothérapie 

What: The thirteenth edition of an interactive installation designed to get you moving and enjoying the fresh air through its use of lights and sound.  

When: Dec. 1 – March 5

Where: Quartier des Spectacles 

Montreal Brazilian Film Festival 

What: A film festival showcasing some of the best work from Brazil. The event features movies of all genres. 

When: Dec 2 – 8 

Where: Cinema du Parc

Noël dans le parc 

What: A festival that features up-and-coming artists from all art forms. They also offer a chance to buy cultivated Christmas trees and wreaths.

When: Dec. 3 – 31

Where: Various places around downtown Montreal 

Place Émilie-Gamelin 1500 Rue Berri, Montreal, Quebec

Parc des Compagnons-de-Saint-Laurent, 1W5, 4365-4375 R. Cartier, Montreal, Quebec

Parc Lahaie, Montreal,Quebec H2T 1R7

The world’s smallest comedy night 

What: Head on down to Hurley’s Irish Pub for an open mic stand-up comedy show, featuring new and established comedians. 

When: Dec. 5 

Where: 1225 Crescent St, Montreal, H3G 2B1

Indigenous Holiday Market 

What: A chance to pick up some early Holiday presents and support Indigenous communities. 

When: Dec. 6

Where: Hall building, Concordia  

Riverside Bar 

What: Riverside bar gets turned into an igloo for the holiday season, with themed drinks and a chilly vibe. 

When: Wednesday – Sunday, starting Dec. 8

Where: 5020 rue St-Ambroise, Montréal, QC H4C 2G1 

COVEN Drag Show 

What: A bilingual show hosted by some of Montreal’s prominent drag figures.

When: Dec. 16 

Where: The Diving Bell Social Club / Club Social Le Scaphandre, 3956 St Laurent Blvd Étage 3, Montreal, Quebec H2W 1Y3

Dupatta & Voile 

What: An immersive dance show that takes a look at Bollywood and different aspects of Indian culture.

When: Dec. 17

Where: Hindu Mandir, 50 Kesmark St, Dollard-Des Ormeaux, Quebec H9B 3K4 

New Years Eve party – Aurora Halal + softcoresoft + Maara

What: With the help of DJ’s, bring your partying spirit under a 360-degree dome of visuals. 

When: Dec. 31

Where: Société des arts technologiques [SAT], 1201, Boul. Saint-Laurent Montreal, QC, Canada H2X 2S6

Montreal Christmas Markets 

What: Multiple markets situated in prime locations around the city. Activities range from food tastings to shopping to arts and crafts. There’s something for everyone! 

When: All of December 

Where: Atwater Market, Jean Talon, and Quartier des Spectacles.

Ogilvy’s window displays 

What: Oglivy’s has displayed magical winter scenes through their storefronts for over the past 70 years. Though recently coming to an end, the window displays were donated to the McCord Stewart museum where they will continue presenting the spirit of the holidays!

When: All of December 

Where: The McCord Stewart Museum, 690 Sherbrooke St W, Montreal, Quebec H3A 1E9

Soundbox by Hennessy 

What: A pop-up cocktail bar that explores the connection between Hennessy and hip hop. A small group can enjoy the themed room while listening to a record of some classic hip-hop. 

When: Running until March 31

Where: W Montreal, 901 Rue du Square-Victoria, Montréal, QC H2Z 1R1

Visit Mount Royal 

What: Get some fresh air and partake in one of Mount Royal’s many outdoor activities, from skating on beaver lake to cross-country skiing and sledding

When: Any day

Where: Mont Royal Park 

Museum of Jewish Montreal virtual exhibit

What: The Museum of Jewish Montreal offers lots of exhibits you can see from your own home. 

When: Any day 

Where: On their website ( see title) 

Drink and draw 

What: Pack up your art supplies and head over for a live drawing session

When: Every Wednesday 

Where: Bar le Cocktail, 1669 St Catherine St E, Montreal, Quebec H2L 2J5

Categories
Arts

Optimista kicks off

An exhibition about having courage against all odds

Saturday, Oct. 15. marked the launch of the Optimista Conferences organized by Yellow Pad sessions. Each conference has a specific theme: courage, compassion, love, and community.

The Concordian had the chance to speak with Grace Sebeh Byrne, one of the co-founders of the series of cine conferences, to get a better understanding of the idea behind the event.

“Optimista is a response to what happened during the pandemic. Before Optimista we used to put on more traditional film festivals. But then we have kids in our twenties, we mentor a lot of young people and it’s very clear that there is a sense of hopelessness and despair and mostly isolation. That’s a big horrible thing, to experience isolation,” Byrne explained.

During a time when we all felt isolated during the pandemic, Byrne wanted to come up with something that would bring back hope into the community. 

“We are very passionate about the arts. Art we know is a powerful tool for social change. We asked ourselves, what are we going to create, a nice and safe and welcoming immersive experience. People can come in and enjoy the arts and at the same time explore themes,” Byrne said.

Over the course of four cine conferences, art lovers can gather and experience various keynote speakers, performers, and photo galleries grouped together for every themed night.

On the opening night of Optimista, there was the visual artist Augustina Pedrocca exhibited her photographs entitled, Happy and Beautiful out of Spite.

 

Pedrocca presented an evocative series of portraits that clearly documented the loves, pleasures, hardships, and heartaches of Montreal’s Queer Community.

During the main portion of the night Diana León, a performing artist,  put on a beautiful choreographed performance. The main idea behind her performance was to put forth the idea of self-love despite the times that we live in. 

Two documentaries were shown during the inaugural night. The first was a short film entitled The Black Cop by Gamal “G” Tuwara.

Tuwara flew all the way from England just to be a part of the conference and give a talk about his documentary. 

The Black Cop follows Tuwara’s journey in the British police force. He explored his earliest memories of racial profiling and harassment in the force, as well as the homophobia he endured.

The second film of the night featured a longer documentary entitled Writing with Fire which followed the story of India’s only women-run newspaper. It was directed by Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh.

The Concordian had the honour of getting to chat with Tuwara right after the screening of the film. Tuwara, or G as he prefers to be called, gave The Concordian truly inspiring advice for individuals that face adversity in their chosen career field. 

“First of all, I would say to build up your network around you and find people that you can talk to and trust. Talking and sharing the story is what makes it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I know it could be scary asking for help because in your head you think that you might be failing. It’s quite the contrary, asking for help makes you stronger,” G explained.

If you can take anything away from the inaugural event, it is the following; don’t be afraid to be yourself in dark times and pursue what you believe in.

Photographs by Dalia Nardolillo/The Concordian

Categories
News

Montreal’s nightlife returns, high schools inch closer to normalcy

Following a 19-month shutdown, karaoke bars and nightclubs reopen in all of Quebec

On Nov. 15, dancing and karaoke singing became part of Montreal’s nightlife once again as Santé Québec continues to ease COVID-19 restrictions. Meanwhile, high school students in the city are no longer required to wear a face mask while seated in a classroom.

Karaoke bars and dance floors were forced to close in March 2020 and experienced a longer shutdown across Quebec than in most Canadian provinces and U.S. states. 19 months later, the long-awaited reopening has brought mixed results for Montreal’s nightlife.

La Muse karaoke bar, located near Concordia’s SGW campus, has yet to witness its usual, pre-pandemic volume of customers. Having worked at the establishment for nearly five years, Jack Yu said the reopening did not result in a full house of excited singers.

“It’s hard for us. We were the first ones ordered to be closed, and now we’re the last ones who are able to reopen — it’s been financially challenging all along,” said Yu in an interview with The Concordian. “We had a lot of Asian customers for karaoke, and many of these [international] students went back home, got locked down in Asia and just couldn’t come back,” he explained.

Yu also suggested that some may still be hesitant to attend such venues as the pandemic continues, adding that “the business is still taking a big hit despite being reopened.”

However, nightclubs witnessed a vibrant scene on St. Laurent Blvd. and downtown on Friday night, with hundreds of university students eager to step on the dance floor. While physical dystancing is not required inside the venues because of the vaccine passport system, Health Minister Christian Dubé made it clear that face coverings must still be worn while dancing.

Rocco Balboni, manager of the Jet Nightclub on Crescent St., said the first dancing night since the COVID-19 lockdown was largely successful for both the clients and the business.

“It was a full house and the experience has been the same as during pre-COVID days. Of course we try to enforce the mask rule, but other than that, it’s back to normal,” he said.

When asked about the unpredictability of COVID-19 and pandemic-related restrictions, Balboni noted, “We’ll take it one day at a time and thrive to push forward. That’s been our philosophy since day one, and we’ll keep going in that direction.”

High school students have also been included in the latest wave of easing restrictions, since wearing a face mask in classrooms is no longer mandatory while seated. Ora Bar, a Concordia University journalism student, has a sister who witnessed the rule changes first-hand as a Secondary 5 student at Chateauguay’s Louis-Philippe-Paré school.

“My younger sister feels quite comfortable with the new rules, and she knows that pretty much everyone is vaccinated. Her classmates already took off masks for eating in classrooms before, so she believes the risk has almost remained the same,” said Bar.

Around 85 per cent of her sister’s classmates now attend classes without a face mask. “She said the remaining students who aren’t yet comfortable with taking off their mask aren’t obliged to do so, but those who make this choice — like herself — now have a chance to live normally again,” Bar explained.

Masks still remain mandatory in elementary schools, as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged five to 11 was only approved by Health Canada on Nov. 19. Dubé announced that Quebec aims to administer one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to every child in this age category by Christmas. 

Meanwhile, Quebec Premier François Legault suggested that “most [public health] measures will disappear” for everyone in the province by early 2022, if the children’s vaccination rate reaches 80 per cent.

 

Photograph by Catherine Reynolds

Categories
News

Thousands Dance Together in Protest of Legault’s COVID-19 Nightlife Restrictions

Employees of Montreal’s nightlife scene gathered at Mount Royal to protest the Quebec government’s continuing tight grip on the industry

On Saturday, Oct. 23, thousands of Montrealers danced the day away to protest Quebec Premier François Legault’s handling of the city’s nightclubs. The event was hosted by The Social Dance Coalition, welcoming frustrated nightlife employees and local party lovers alike.

As stadiums, restaurants, and bars see their restrictions loosened by the government, employees of Montreal’s famous nightlife scene are not seeing the same prosperity. On Nov. 1, bars and restaurants will have their capacity restrictions lifted, and alcohol will be sold until 3:00 a.m. The Bell Centre has also been permitted to reopen at full capacity. However, nightclubs have not been given the same grace, leading workers to take to the streets.

The Social Dance Coalition had originally planned the event to span from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., but Montreal police made the group shorten it by two hours. The protest took place in Jeanne-Mance Park, right by the Monument to Sir George-Étienne Cartier, where the primary objective was to dance free of any restrictions.

Several DJ booths were set up, swarmed by crowds of sweaty dancers looking to have the time of their lives. Out of hundreds of protesters, only a few wore masks. While there were barely any surgical-style masks visible, several protesters dawned Guy Fawkes masks instead; they are popular symbols of anarchism and government defiance. Signs saying “Laissez-Moi Danser (Let Me Dance)” were all over the park, and some dancers brought a selection of raised fist and anarchist flags. The protesters were crammed into mosh pits like sardines, chanting to the beat of early 2010s electronic dance music. The smell of sickeningly sweet liquor and cannabis filled the air as partygoers blew smoke into each others’ faces, while the temperature stood at around 9 C.

“Before the pandemic, I worked in a couple clubs downtown,” said protester Sara, who requested to not disclose her last name. “Now they really suck! If you can even get in, you’re forced to stick to your table. It’s like we can’t have fun anymore. I feel like we’re in Footloose.”

Another protester, Karl, who refused to share his last name as well, had some more colourful words for the premier: “You know what? F*ck Legault. All we want to do is go out and party like normal people, but he won’t let us. We’re vaccinated, just let us in the f*cking clubs already, my God.”

A fully masked SPVM Officer, who remained anonymous, was one of many police officers surveilling the event:

“We’re about twenty officers patrolling the protest. The party is supposed to end soon, but the park officially closes at 11:00 p.m. A lot of these guys are out of the job, so they might stay. We’ll make sure that they won’t be here past closing.”

When asked whether or not they thought this protest would affect policy decisions in Quebec City, about five officers began chuckling.

As of late October, the fourth wave of coronavirus continues to make its way across Quebec. Although it may be less dire than in other provinces, numbers are swiftly on the rise. The number of hospitalizations is increasing ever so slowly as well. The provincial government’s explanation for its hesitancy surrounding reopening the nightclubs and karaoke bars is that it is waiting for COVID-19 numbers to drop significantly. Many of the protesters who have worked in the nightlife industry remain unemployed, seeing as the industry’s drastic reduction resulted in an equally reduced workforce. The economic factors pushing many workers to take to the streets and dance in defiance of restrictions are hitting them hard.

While the debate still rages regarding the balance between a return to nightlife normalcy and security concerns, the rager in the park went on for hours —  with dancing protesters having the time of their lives.

Photos courtesy of Robyn Bell

Where to go out this fall

A few nightlife recommendations for lost students

For new Concordia students, especially those living in Montreal for the first time, navigating the city’s extensive nightlife scene can seem like a daunting, nearly impossible task. For many non-local first-year students, getting sucked into a night full of hopping from overpriced bar to sleazy nightclub around the downtown campus/Crescent Street area is almost a rite of passage. But, I don’t think it has to be. With a metro pass and a willingness to explore, you can escape the leering old men and shady promoters waving flyers on street corners for a much better experience.

Rockette Bar

Rockette Bar has what Café Campus Retro Tuesdays wishes it had. Located near Mont-Royal metro station, this bar and nightclub spins a mix of rock, funk, punk, and leans heavily into new wave. The bar has a back section of long tables as well as a space to play pool, and a dancefloor (well, pre-COVID at least). If you’re sick of hearing the same music every time you go out, whether it’s top 40 or the same tired “throwback” songs, this is the place to be. In my experience, Rockette plays the sort of music that will actually make you want to dance — but we’ll leave that for when it’s allowed again, I guess. For now, it’s still a great atmosphere.

Resonance Café

For a more chill night out, Café Résonance, located in the Mile End, is always a good choice. Not only do they have great inexpensive vegan food, but they recently brought back their live music. During the day, Résonance is a cafe that’s easy to bunker down and study in, especially because their drip coffee has free refills. But at night, the cafe turns into a live music venue with moderately priced beer, wine, and cocktails. They continue their food service in the night though, so you can enjoy some jazz and some vegan nachos at the same time.

Bar le Ritz PDB

Bar le Ritz is pretty well known by Concordia students, and for good reason. This Little Italy bar/venue puts on some of the most fun dance nights in town. In the past, they’ve thrown parties in honour of certain pop divas, like nights dedicated to Britney Spears or Céline Dion, but they’ve also thrown ones centering around a certain genre or era like their “World of Post-Punk” or “2009-2019” dance parties. Once regulations ease up, they have a “Dark Eighties” party in the works.

Bar de Courcelle

This Saint-Henri bar has been connecting with its patrons in creative ways throughout the pandemic. On top of indoor seating and a terrace, since the summer, Bar de Courcelle has been hosting outdoor concerts in Sir George-Étienne Cartier Square every Sunday evening. So, there’s something for every COVID comfort level. Bar de Courcelle has a neighbourly, inviting vibe, as is evident from even just their meme-filled Facebook page. With reasonably priced drinks and a decent-sized bar snack list, this spot, whether indoor or outdoor, is a solid bet.

 

Feature graphic by James Fay

Categories
Student Life

Dive into an 1830s opium bar

Bar Datcha switches vibes with jazz and tarot every Thursday

Walking through the doors of Bar Kabinet on Laurier Ave. W., adjacent is Bar Datcha. The warm yellow light in the entrance dances off the walls and drink glasses at the bar, creating a magical atmosphere. Patrons sit drinking and chatting with the bartenders, while a low hum of jazz music emanates from within the walls.

To the right of the bar, black curtains lead the way to the main event: a jazz band performance, and tarot card reading. Opposite to the entrance, the room has pitch-black walls with dim lighting and cloud-like smoke, setting an “1830s Parisian opium bar” vibe.
At the table across from the band sits Samuel Bonneau Varfalvy, organizer and tarot reader, waiting for his next client. He’s lively and interactive, making it feel like those who speak with him already know him. Varfalvy is an artist, manager and musician, who also teaches music. With his partner, Isaac Larose, a nightclub promoter, he brought to life the idea of jazz and tarot in a nightclub. “This whole [tarot reading] thing started a couple of years ago,” said Varfalvy. “I became a little obsessed with tarot after reading about it and learning.”

“He went crazy and started bringing his taxi drivers in the apartment for readings,” Larose said with a laugh. “We’re roommates and I was just like ‘that’s not okay.’ My girlfriend then suggested we look for somewhere to do this in.”

The duo started the concept of jazz and tarot last year, at The Emerald on Park Ave. That only lasted about five months partly due to, according to Valvarfy, misconceptions about the nature of tarot. “There’s a very strong Jewish community [there], and a lot of Hasidic people associate tarot with dark magic and witchcraft,” Valfarvy said. “They thought I was a sorcerer or something.” He shrugged his shoulders and smiled.

After the Emerald, the pair found Bar Datcha and thought it was the exact embodiment of their vision. “I think a lot of people would not necessarily go see a tarot reader,” said Larose. “If you put it in a different context where it’s really easy to just try it, people might end up liking it.” The aim of this unusual pairing was also to encourage people who would perhaps not go on their own to have a fun and unorthodox experience.

As for choosing Datcha, Larose, who has worked with other clubs such as Tokyo Bar, wanted to take the already popular vibe and see what else could be added to it. “We wanted this little bar where there’s tarot, and we feel like we’re in an opium bar in 1830s Paris,” said Varfalvy. “And Isaac said, ‘Oh we should add in some jazz,’ and we were like ‘Let’s call it Jazz and Tarot.’”

Varfalvy’s main influence in the world of tarot reading is Alejandro Jodorowsky, a mystic, healer and cult filmmaker who has studied tarot reading in depth. “He’s a psychedelic movie director,” Varfalvy said with a smile. “[Jodorowsky] found the old Tarot de Marseilles from the 16th century, technically the original cards, and he reprinted [them] using this old tarot card printer in France.”

To Varfalvy, tarot is a performance art in a way. “There’s nothing magical or mystical about tarot to me,” said Varfalvy. “It was a sort of card game, and for some reason, people started using them for like 16th century psychology.”

Varfalvy has a methodology he follows when reading cards. His technique revolves around two foundations. The first is accepting that it is not magic, but psychology. The second is accepting that the future cannot be known, simply anticipated. “The cards point to a relationship with the future that you have,” said Varfalvy. “It’s one of two things: you either desire it or fear it.”

Varfalvy gives the deck of cards to his client and asks them to think of a question while shuffling it—for orientation and direction. He then takes the cards and spreads them in a semicircle on the table, and asks the client to pick three cards out of the pool. According to him, the first one to his right is past, the middle is present, and the last one is future.

“I’ve never done tarot reading before, so there was some apprehension and skepticism going in,” said Cameron Begin, an event attendee. “My friend told me to try it for experience, and often there are people who are good at connecting. Immediately, I felt that I connected to Sam, and kind of surrendered to him and what he had to say. As the cards began to fall and he read them, it felt like he did have a strong intuition. It gave me food for thought.”

At 11:30 p.m., Datcha switches to techno and becomes a full-blown nightclub. In the meantime, Varfalvy continues doing readings for those Larose brings him.

“Bring me my next victim,” Varfalvy said with a laugh, welcoming the next person to the chair across from him.

Bar Datcha (98 Laurier Ave. W.) hosts Jazz and Tarot nights every Thursday.

Feature image by Fatima Dia.

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Student Life

Dancing our way to safety with PLURI

Nightclubs are beginning to address the sexual harassment marginalized groups experience

Suppose you want to have a fun night out with a group of friends, but you’re not a cisgender, heterosexual male. Of course, bartenders are usually apt to thwarting suspicious behaviour, and venues often have bouncers or security for when dodgy situations escalate. Nonetheless, for marginalized groups—namely the LGBTQ+ community, women of colour (WoC) and cisgender women—a night out typically entails a mixture of catcalling, verbal harassment, non-consensual physical interactions, and, in too many cases, sexual assault.

In 2017, just under 30,000 sexual assault cases in Canada were reported to the police, according to a StatsCan report released in July. Of those cases, almost 4,000 were deemed unfounded, meaning “police determined that no crime had taken place,” reads the same report. The Conseil des Montréalaises released an opinion paper titled “Montreal, a Festive City for all Women: Security of Trans Women and Girls at Outdoor Events in Montreal.” It cites studies indicating that, in 2011, 47 per cent of women felt twice as nervous as men walking through their neighbourhoods at night, and 45 per cent of women avoid certain areas at night. These, and many other reports, cannot even begin to quantify the degree of sexualized violence marginalized communities experience and the number of unreported sexual assault cases.

Christopher Roberts, a Concordia student who enjoys Montreal’s nightlife, said they spent a lot of time at Bar Datcha, a popular cocktail nightclub on Avenue Laurier W., one block west of St-Laurent Blvd., one of Montreal’s popular nightlife strips. Datcha is a nightclub that recently partnered with PLURI, a non-profit organization aiming to reduce harassment on dance floors. Through integrated safety monitors visible by the yellow ‘Party Support’ label on their backs, or staff shirts from respective venues, PLURI volunteers are trying to make dance floors more enjoyable for everyone by intervening in harassment situations before they escalate.

PLURI, which stands for Peace Love Unity Respect Initiative, was co-founded by Éliane Thivierge and Celeste Pimm, alongside a small team of other volunteers, in August 2016. The non-profit offers a range of workshops for event organizers, bar staff, and aspiring volunteers that provide “training on how to recognize harassment, how certain systemic oppressions interact with party spaces and bystander intervention,” according to an interview with PLURI.

Party Support volunteers have been present at music festivals such as MUTEK, POP Montreal, Red Bull Music Festival, and Slut Island. PLURI explained that Party Support volunteers are the “middle [ground] between the event patron and security… They are points of contact that are more accessible and less intimidating than security.”

Bar Datcha, a popular cocktail nightclub on Avenue Laurier W., one block west of St-Laurent Blvd., one of Montreal’s popular nightlife strips. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

Patrick Gregoire has been the manager of Datcha for the past four years. He said the venue has been working with PLURI’s dance floor safety monitors for over six months, despite only announcing their partnership just over a month ago. Gregoire explained that, at first, the Party Support volunteers were inconspicuous, and didn’t wear any labels that indicated their position. “But we felt that their work is best when people see someone on the dance floor with authority that isn’t security,” said Gregoire.

Roberts explained two instances, both occurring the same night at Datcha, which involved their friends experiencing sexual harassment to the point where bar staff and security intervened. “The wrong people found [their] way to [some] queer people […] and one was grabbing people, including my friend,” said Roberts. “I found a bartender to let them know the situation and, immediately, a bouncer kicked the guy out.” Roberts said the second incident involved a cis male harassing two of their queer friends and, when the situation escalated, Roberts “made eye contact with a bouncer who immediately dissolved the situation.”

Carla, a bartender at Datcha, said she’s very happy about the bar’s collaboration with PLURI. “It’s a plus having that extra team around,” she said. “And the fact that they’re all women—I love.”

Chris, another bartender at Datcha, said he’s been fortunate enough to “work [at] places where [they’ve] always had someone to deal with those issues.” Carla added that the Party Support volunteers try to educate people and deconstruct instances of harassment. “At the end of the night, the girls all sit down with security and the bouncers and go over what happened that night,” said Carla. “It’s really cool.”

Gregoire, as well as PLURI, emphasized the benefit of having initiatives like Party Support. “Before, these things wouldn’t get flagged until it was a problem,” said Gregoire. “[Volunteers] often end up checking in with people who are being harassed before they decide to reach out for help,” explained PLURI. The non-profit organization added that most patrons facing harassment will accept the support offered instead of tolerating these behaviours or removing themselves from the space.

Concordia journalism student and techno music enthusiast Erika Morris said that an initiative like PLURI “makes [her] feel better about these places recognizing an issue and trying to do something about it.” Security has been helpful at times by keeping their eyes on men who harass her, explained Morris. “Sure, it made me feel a bit safer that night, but the next time I went out, I had just as many chances of being harassed again,” she said. Marginalized communities—particularly queer folk—who experience harassment in public spaces, thus creating the need for these programs, “just reflects a higher societal problem,” added Morris.

“I think it’s cool that these people who are volunteers stay sober to try and help people,” said Morris. Roberts agreed that they feel PLURI and the Party Support initiative is an important step towards helping marginalized communities feel safe when they go out at night. “But in the end,” said Roberts, “there’s an overwash of sorrow that reminds our communities that we are being pushed into corners of spaces […]. [We] need more help than ever just to feel comfortable being with each other and ourselves for a night.”

Feature image by Alex Hutchins.

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Student Life

The name behind your Montreal nights out

Zach Macklovitch talks Saintwoods and his rise up the nightlife ladder

If you live in Montreal and enjoy all the city’s nightlife scene has to offer, the name Zach Macklovitch undoubtedly rings a bell. At 27, he and his partner, Nathan Gannage, have successfully made St-Laurent Street the go-to place for the best parties.

Their promotional brand, Saintwoods, takes on an array of roles including event curation, artist management, design and branding for bars and clubs around the city.

The duo also co-owns Suwu, Apt. 200 and École Privée, all hot-spot bars in the Plateau.

Walking into the interview, I expected to meet a young, successful guy with a big ego and the words “big shot” written across his forehead. To the contrary, I was faced with an extremely gracious entrepreneur.

“I’m blessed,” Macklovitch said. “I don’t think about my failures or successes very often because until you’re at your peak, it doesn’t make a difference.” This humble tone carried throughout the interview, perhaps one of the crucial reasons for his rapid success.

Photo by Philip Tabah

“I started working in clubs at around 16 years old. Montreal was different back then—it was easy to get into trouble and I did,” he said.  Despite his “bad boy” side, Macklovitch is also a self-proclaimed nerd—a participant of Model UN— an academic competition where students learn about diplomacy and international relations—and a graduate from Concordia University on the honour roll with a BA in political science and philosophy.

“I got to university thinking I didn’t want to be a club promoter forever. Fast-forward, and I have ended up in the same industry. But I like to think I took the critical thinking I learned and applied it to what I do,” Macklovitch said.

By 21, the entrepreneur held the title of marketing director at TIME nightclub, and had just met Gannage, who started the Saintwoods brand straight out of McGill University.

Over the next few years, the venues grew and evolved.  “We [organized] deep house shows at Velvet, and rap concerts at TELUS Theatre and Belmont,” Macklovitch said.

Their names were now on club promoters’ radars. The popular dance club New City Gas approached the team with the following task: to get Anglophones under 27 excited about the venue. Thanks to their promotional abilities and entrepreneurial mindset, they succeeded.

By 23, Macklovitch had already opened Suwu, and was onto his next venture: Apt. 200.

Today, both bars are known for their unique atmosphere. Macklovitch said he pulls inspiration from the places he’s travelled, such as New York, parts of Europe and Toronto, for the look and vibe of his bars.

Macklovitch said Suwu aims to create a friendly neighbourhood vibe for the lower Plateau. Apt. 200, on the other hand, focuses on a house party vibe.

“People wanted a higher-energy place but they didn’t want to be at a nightclub,” Macklovitch said.

Success often comes with challenges. But for Macklovitch, these challenges only fuel him. Initially, École Privée drew inspiration from the underground scene Macklovitch experienced in Berlin and Paris. He wanted to bring this scene’s vibe to the mainstream.

“I think we understood our level of success when we started getting international attention,” he said. Macklovitch attributes a great deal of his accomplishments to his tight-knit team. Part of that circle includes Alex Mactavish, Saintwoods’ director of operations. Mactavish attributes Macklovitch’s rise to success to both his work ethic and personality.

“He’s always working, even when it looks like he’s not. That kind of hustle always pays off in the long-run,” Mactavish said.

But the nightlife industry isn’t easy.  While a club might be all the rage one day, it is likely to be beaten out the next. Trends change and people follow—begging the question: will the brand Zach has created be able to survive?

Mactavish said it’s all about “staying ahead of the curve.” He believes Saintwoods’ “ability to identify and react to cultural trends is crucial.”

Macklovitch confirmed Saintwoods is always looking to expand. With a lifestyle merchandise brand recently released and an upcoming branded vodka, it is clear Macklovitch is planning for the future.

Perhaps he has found the key to longevity in this fast-moving industry—going against traditional business structures and reinventing Montreal nightlife.

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