J’aime Montreal. Beaucoup.

This weekend we crossed the Canadian border for the first time! Which by the way, is rather much easier than I thought. It took a whole of 2 seconds–we showed border patrol our passports, they asked us about 3 questions (where are you coming from, how long are you staying, are you bringing in any firearms or controlled substances?), and then we were pushed on through. Whoopee!

We stayed in Montreal for a night to go to the 2007 Osheaga Music Festival at a national park there. The hotel we stayed at was very decently priced (Hotel St. Denis), and actually a close walk to the Metro Station, which we found out the festival was only one metro stop away from!

Montreal was pretty sweet. Nearly everyone is bi-lingual, French is commonly the first language used but most people can easily switch to English. I tried to use my minimal French as much as possible. Nearly everyone was very friendly and helpful, which was a relief to see. We stayed in the Latin Quarter which is part of Vieux Montreal (“Old Montreal”). It was a very artistic quarter with a few concert venues, a univeristy and some great street cafes. Being there definitely brought back memories of France, there is certainly a European vibe. (Sans any snootiness).

The Osheaga festival was absolutely amazing. The park itself lays aside a canal and has beautiful open spaces. There are several works of outside art which are monuments there, such as Buckminster Fuller’s giant Geodesic Dome. For the festival, several artists made cute little cutouts of woodland characters to stick all around the woods nearby.

There were 4 stages of music for this weekend long event (we only went for a day), plus a large indoor tent in which local artists showed videos and displayed paintings and photographs. 2 artists worked on a mural throughout the festival which was to be completed when the festival finished. There was a “maze” of art and several booths in which local crafters sold their wares.

We lucked out in the food department as there was a vegetarian/vegan stand! Other stands sold more than just your standard veggie burgers, including an African food stand which looked and smelled oh-so tempting. (We didn’t end up eating there but judging by the LONG lines, it was popular). They served beer and wine there and suprisingly, though there was no alcohol limit, out of the thousands (and we mean THOUSANDS!) of people at the festival, no one was rip-roaring drunk or obnoxious. However, the stench of weed was everywhere, and it seemed like security looked the other way. That’s Canada for ya!

There were a lot of very cool, very nice people are age, I’d say a real “indie” crowd was there. By the end of the night, there was an enormous bunch of people! Everyone seemed to be having fun and for the amount of people there, there was little hint of any bad goings-on. We wonder if the festival represented what most of Canada is like- relaxed and friendly, and focusing on more important things than caring about people smoking pot (like recycling (which there was a whole “recycling team” at Osheaga which picked up everything), and Fair Trade (there was a big fair trade booth there). It was a welcome sight to be part of such a laissez-faire atmosphere…

The music was outstanding! There was not a single band who disappointed, everyone put on a GREAT live show. It would take forever to post about everyone , but I’ll just list who we saw playing there (we only saw 2 out of the 4 stages as some bands where playing at the same time on the other side of the park). Apostle of Hustle, Rahzel (considered the “Godfather of beatboxing”), Jamie T (who sounded like the Streets mixed with the Clash), Editors (who definitely had a cool Interpol vibe), Xavier Cafeine (a Montreal born punk singer who was crazy!), Blonde Redhead (whom we love love love!), Patrick Watson (he had a unique sound all of his own), Stars (another Montreal-based band who had great stage presence and were friends of Feist), Feist herself (she rules!!!), Dumas (who is very popular in Canada; we were laughing at this because one of our good friends, Andy Dumas, always goes by “Dumas”), Damien Rice (we saw him before and were concerned about him performing solo w/out Lisa Hannigan, but he blew us away! The most surprising hit of the fest!), and….the headliners….Smashing Pumpkins!

Blonde Redhead were great, the lead singer wore a funky dress and danced around like a hippy in an LSD forest (it was quite cute, actually.). Where she sat to play the keyboard was made to look like a giant black horse.

Feist was amazing as usual but, since she hails from Canada, she had an extra special connection with the crowd!

Damien Rice was a total knockout, rocking out guitar solos like a bad mutha! You’d forget he was known for mostly “folk ballad” type music…

Pumpkins were great! It was exciting to see them live after being fans since Siamese Dream! We tried to stay awake as they were the last show of the day and we had been standing in the hot sun since 1pm (it was going until 11). But we stayed awake and it was worth it. They played a handful of older songs like “Tonight”, and “Bullet w/ Butterfly wings”, but most of their material was from their newest album, Zeitgeist. All the same it was pretty darn good.

There was so much dirt in the open fields that when we got to our hotel our shoes looked like we had been in a mine–there was an inch thick of dust covering them. When I washed my face the white face towel was nearly black-ugh! But we slept VERY well after that busy day.

The next morning after we checked out, we were so pleased to find a little bakery that specialized in delicacies from Lyon. We had a nice little breakfast of croissants au beurre, baguette toast and frothy coffee that brought back sweet memories.

It was time to say “Au Revoir” to Canada after that, but we’ve officially fallen in love with the place and feel very lucky to have been able to have such a fine visit. We hope we’ll visit again sometime soon!

Addendum 9/11/07–I forgot to add a couple of interesting tidbits from our trip:

1. The Cafe in Lyon was called “La Brioche Lyonnais”

2. Chris did a good job speaking a little bit of French

3. There was a band called Thunderheist that we caught the tail end of their performance. We were totally intrigued then, and now after checking them on myspace, we love them! (Thunderheist, come perform your booty-shakin beats in the U.S. Soon!)

4. At the festival we spotted some unusual dressers, including a guy who wore and Indian headdress and whose friend dressed up as a cow. (We now have strong suspicious as to where all that weed came from….)

5. The most unusual perfomance by far must’ve been a duo called Hank Pine and Lily Fawn. Lily Fawn wears fawn ears, tap dances, sings vaudeville ditties and plays the saw. Hank Pine is dressed like a chemical warmonger mixed with the hamburglar, plays electric guitar, screams like a banshee, and carries around a garbage bag which he claims to be his dead girlfriend.

One thought on “J’aime Montreal. Beaucoup.

  1. The festival was soooooo darn good. I had a great time with my amazing wife and can’t wait to go again. The amount of great performers was amazing,
    Go CANADA for being great,

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