Back to school with OUMF

Behind the scenes of OUMF’s music festival with Mikey Rishwain Bernard

One of Montreal’s biggest back-to-school festivals is back for another year. Think old school hip-hop bloc party with DJs, live bands and loud crowds—this is OUMF.

From Wednesday Sept. 7 to 10, OUMF will present free performances from local and international artists outdoors on Saint-Denis Street at Quartier des spectacles. The festival is celebrating its 6th year and the lineup is one to look forward to. Renowned DJs such as DJ Jazzy Jeff and Skratch Bastid will be taking the stage.

This year’s great lineup of artists would not be possible without festival and program director of ‘M pour Montreal’ Mikey Rishwain Bernard. ‘M Pour Montreal’ plans a multitude of music showcases at festivals around the world. They are in charge of the musical program for OUMF. Rishwain has been handling all the music aspects of the festival. “My specific mandate is music programming and I also go on stage to host and say jokes that some people laugh at and some don’t,” said Rishwain.

The festival will be focusing on hip-hop, everything from old school to new school. DJ Jazzy Jeff used to kick it with Will Smith in their duo group “DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.” “He’s considered a catalyst to Will Smith,” said Rishwain. “He is a music pioneer to DJs. It’s good to see a guy still keeping it old school. It’s an honour to have him perform for us this year.” He added that there will also be indie bands and many female acts.

“I’m looking forward to Hein Cooper. He is a beautiful Australian man that looks like Justin Bieber and he has great songs. It’s great to bring that Australian vibe to the show,” Rishwain said. He said he’s also excited for the “Word Up Battles.” It’s a rap battle between two rappers, all in French. The rappers go on stage and compete live.“It could be edgy, but it’s very entertaining,” said Rishwain.

Another major highlight is Canadian DJ Skratch Bastid. He’s the first Canadian DJ to ever be nominated for a Juno Award and he will be performing at OUMF this coming Friday at 9 p.m.

The event is free and geared for all age groups. For Rishwain, OUMF signifies a boost before the school season. “A lot of young students from everywhere that are new to the city, they need their melting pot,” he said. “They seem to communicate through music and partying. This festival kicks off the school year.”

Interview with music programmer Mikey Rishwain Bernard. Photo by Bruno D. Capture.

Rishwain is well-known in the Montreal music scene. He plans a multitude of music festivals throughout North America and has brought many talented local artists closer to stardom. As festival and program director of ‘M pour Montreal’, his goal is to help artists develop outside of Canada.“We are here to put a system in place for artists to play for a lot of influential people in different countries,” he said, adding that he’s always been really big on bringing people together. “We are ‘M’ for middle guy, bringing musicians together to create success and showcase opportunities on an international scale.”

Mac DeMarco and Half Moon Run are great examples of artists that gained success through ‘M Pour Montreal.’ They first played in front of ‘M pour Montreal’ audiences. “We do music industry conferences by showcasing these bands and artists,” said Rishwain, adding that that was how these groups started their careers.  He said he remembers booking Grimes and Half Moon Run in England when no one knew who they were and now they can sell out a whole show by themselves.

Last year, he saw Mac DeMarco and Half Moon Run play all around Europe. Rishwain said their crowds were even bigger in Ireland and Germany than in Montreal. “Knowing that they played together at ‘M pour Montreal’ and seeing them play in Europe gave me goosebumps. It shows how fast things can evolve and it happened in a matter of years for these bands,” he said.

Milk & Bone is another example of local success for Rishwain. “It was an honour to be part of their early success. These girls were always practicing. I heard a song and took a chance before ever hearing them perform live,” he said. “My feeling was booking them right away and it became a dream come true on both ends,” said Rishwain.

“I enjoy putting a breath of my own spirit in what I do,” he said. What he loves most about his job is to represent artists from Montreal. “I help pimp lots of bands and artists.”

Make sure to come and party at the OUMF music festival and laugh at Mikey Rishwain’s jokes. For more information regarding the event, visit their website.


The Box rocks for the young and old

Photo: Andrew McNeill

An impromptu snowstorm certainly didn’t scare The Box junkies away from Montréal en Lumière’s downtown festival site Friday night.
At long last, a festival experience where cigarette toting twenty somethings are outnumbered by miniature humans dressed in technicolor Ewok snowsuits.
Quebecois baby boomers wrapped up their wee ones, lugged them up on their shoulders, and marched through clumping snowflakes to Place des Arts to rock out to the ‘80s New Wave band that once topped the charts and dominated the airwaves.
The Box assembled in 1981 at the hands of Jean-Marc Pisapia, one of the first members of Men Without Hats. The band hit mainstream success in 1987 with their album Closer Together, disbanded in 1992, but reassembled in 2002 to spin out a few new tunes and reunion concerts.
The Box is mom and dad pop-rock in its most uncomplicated format. Its sound is stereotypically New Wave, and dependant on upbeat yet playful male-female vocal harmonies and catchy choruses. Despite its harmless and agreeable disposition, The Box’s sound didn’t survive the turn of the ‘90s, as listeners looked for something darker—and found it in grunge.
But while The Box’s denim cut offs, hairspray, and Jheri curl days are over, they still know how to get the crowd shaking. Friday’s show was for older fans and their obligatory offspring.
The Box knows they won’t be reigning any new converts, but their live show keeps all the energy of late-’80s Canadian New Wave intact. Dragging toddlers out in the snow past bed time isn’t easy, but this was clearly a show families didn’t want to miss.

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