A Day Late, A Dollar Short, The Montreal Fringe Festival And Gonzo Journalism
I have never been so happy to show up a day late or a dollar short, as when I showed up to cover the St Ambroise Fringe Festival. When I left my house I had every intention of covering the first day of the show as a Gonzo journalist, I never knew how Gonzo it would get until after all was said and done.
At about seven o’clock I was already slightly inebriated as I had decided I had been working far too hard lately and need a night out. Unfortunately I had also been putting my money to more “responsible” things as of late after giving my life a total overhaul. I found myself leaving for the night with a grand total of ten dollars in my pocket with the intent of covering the “opening night of Fringe festival”. I also had 1/3rd of a Mickey of gin which had sat in my house for close to a year, and a beer a neighbor had given me when he moved. I figured I would stop by one of my regular haunts and see who was around before I took care of this assignment. When I got there, noone was around so I quickly recalculated my plans and decided I would head out earlier to catch more live acts. As I headed towards my destination I cut across a field and much to my chagrin I found two empty cases of beer. As I knew I would cross multiple Depanneurs(what we call corner stores in Montreal) before I got to where I was headed I picked them up and figured I would trade them for some mix for my gin or another beer. I traded them for an energy drink and mixed my gin. I do not know at this point what happened to the beer, but by the time I got the venue, an outdoor park on the corner of Rachel and Saint Laurent both drinks were gone.
As I walked into the park/beer tent where they have had live music habitually for years, it occurred to me; in ALL MY YEARS OF ATTENDANCE, I had never ONCE escaped the beer tent and actually seen a play at the Fringe. Not because I am a heavy drinker, mostly because the entertainment is pay what you can and always pretty solid. This year was no different as I was treated to a band I had never heard before, Courtney Wing and the Lieder Wolf. These guys where the cats meow or the wolfs howl, I only managed to catch the last song, what I heard spoke volumes though.
Courtney Wing and crew managed to pull off in one song what most bands can not accomplish in an entire show. For this particular show this nine piece “ orchestra” consisted of a five piece choir, a stand up bass(played with a bow), a violin, a key board and the man himself Courtney Wing on guitar and vocals. Just through that description alone you should know you are in for something different. This was the most intellectual rock music I heard in fifteen years. Reminiscent of Camper Van Beethoven (for those of you old enough to remember) or Husker Du, and not because they sound like either of the afore mentioned bands, just because they were that smart. They work together to compose a melodic, heavy, intense composition, rather than songs. The stops where sudden and tight and the “licks” were non-traditional as when you expected a song to go one way it took you on another musical journey and then they were finished. I was unaware that they were the last band of the night, and went on a beer run as the beer at the tent was too expensive (really it was only four or five dollars, that was half of what I had), I knew that there had to be a Dep. around some where that would sell beer at one third the price.
And after a little bit of searching, I found one, I bought big can of Grolsch beer for fewer than three bucks, I then proceeded back to the festivities ducking into back alley ways to drink. I felt like I was nineteen again, and it felt great. After finishing my beer and getting back to the venue I asked when the next band was on, I was told there would be no more bands. How appropriate I thought, I had wanted to cover this Hunter S. Thompson style, the fact that I caught the last song of the last band on opening night was the only way he’ld have it. Then suddenly I sobered with the realization that actually it was the second night of the show and opening night had been yesterday. Now I truly had the blood of Hunter S. running through my veins.
Nothing to fear though as although I had missed all the bands there was one last performance tonight, a fire dancer. A Fire dancer I thought Hell, all is not lost what can be better than a fire dancer? As I found out, not a lot.
HOT was the name of the performance group, It consisted of a woman I had met before Rebecca Halls and Stuart McIntyre. Rebecca has a dance background and has done extensive work with Hula Hoops, her performances are pretty incredible, so when I found out she was involved in this endeavor I was pretty excited. She didn’t let me down and neither did her partner Stuart.
This was the first time I had ever seen fire dance and it was not what I expected. It was far more modern than I expected, they danced to songs like “Galvanized” by the CHemical Brothers. As they danced they did all sorts of stunts involving fire. Stuart started dancing with two ropes with balls of fire on the end. His mouvement was contemporary with lots of circularity, the tracers were intense. Rebecca then did a similar piece with the fire balls. As Rebecca danced Stuart blew fire balls so huge it singed my eye brow hair, the heat was intense. After this part of the performance Stuart did a staff dance, the staff was lit on both ends. He did things like balance a lit staff on himself and spin the staff around his neck, the piece du résistance though was yet to come, sorry Stuart like said though I think Rebecca rocks, as Rebecca pulled out a hula hop and lit some batons on fire. She then proceeded to put on a wonderful dance piece where she even went so far as to do such stunts as stepping through the ring of fire multiple times. It was impressive and great. After the show talking to them for a moment I realized how HOT they must be as sweat literally flowed like rivers. And that was that for the Fringe.
I realized that it was well before 11:30 and it was far too early to call it a night and as one of my friends was managing a place up the street and it was free cover before then I thought I would stop in. As Always I was greeted with open arms and a friendly smile. It was a quite night, I was in the mood to dance and music was good so I got my groove on. Nadege was kind enough to take care of me all night and I tipped her my last dollar thirty, I had given the performers most of my change, now that’s a true friend. I got to pay her back though as the busboy never showed and as is common in the restaurant or bar business just before close the place gets packed. So with a man down I throw in to help my friend, it wasn’t much work really I just bused some stuff and wiped some tables and for that she paid me Twenty Buck , some free drinks, and an invite too an after hours club. The club was jam packed and drinks were being served, we had snuck in our own though. It was two packed to dance, at that club though we ran into one of her customers who owns a restaurant and he invited us for one last beer there.
So at six fifteen I found myself in a restaurant with two guys I didn’t know Nadege and a glass of beer, it was now time to go home, I still had work to do. Nadege and I said our farewells and I started the long way back to the other side of town. I stopped for a quick bite to eat and caught the first bus home.
It is now fourteen and a half hours after I started conceiving this piece and it is now done. I will proof read this and post it when I awake. Really though I could have gone to sleep at any point that was not the point of this piece though. The point of this piece was to show how the Montreal fringe festival was to be enjoyed. A show, some drinks, some dance and an all NIGHT BENDER. Hell I had such a beautiful night I even came home with money in my pocket. HAPPY FRINGE!!!!!!!