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Wednesday, Dec 3, 2008
In which PopMatters' photographer sees some of the festival's best and worst acts and ruminates, ever so briefly, on the topic of festival beer.

After a short walk in the brisk cold, we found ourselves at the Cabaret & Studio Juste Pour Rire (“Just For Laughs”), where the night’s showcase would unfold. Sets alternated between two stages in the complex, separated by interludes of five minutes. Much like South by Southwest, which has often been described as a musical version of speed dating, M For Montréal can feel like an event geared toward the attention span impaired. A band performs a handful of songs, you walk a few feet and five minutes later, another band is set in front of you. As you might imagine, this approach has its upsides as well as its drawbacks. If you’re stuck watching an act that doesn’t particularly move you, you’ve usually only got a few more songs to sit through. However, if you really like a band, you’ve got to deal with the fact that you’ll only get to see them play for a few more minutes at most.


First up was Chinatown, a five-piece from the French-speaking side of town. While it’s said that their music combines the French pop of the ‘60s with the indie pop of today, to my ears, Chinatown just sounded like a sub par, Francophone bar band. If I was forced to tell you two interesting things about this band I would mention that:


1.) That singer kind of looks like Ewan McGregor, doesn’t he?


2.) Their guitarist looks, dresses and acts a bit like Joe Perry from Aerosmith. Can’t say he solos like him, though.


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Monday, Dec 1, 2008
PopMatters' intrepid photographer arrives on the scene in time for day two of the M For Montréal festival and takes in the town as well as the first two of Friday's acts.

Due to scheduling conflicts, I arrived in Montréal late on a Thursday night, a full day after events editor Kevin Pearson had touched down. As such, I missed the first day of the festival, not to mention a few swanky dinners, courtesy of the festival’s organizers.  Luckily, there was still plenty left to be seen, heard and tasted in Montréal and I was determined to make the most of my weekend in the world’s second largest French speaking city.


Coincidentally enough, I was born in Montréal, though my family left Canada when I was just a few months old. Though I had made a few trips back as a child, this would mark the first chance I would have as an adult to explore the city in earnest. As such, my trip was filled with a peculiar sense of nostalgia; fleeting moments of recognition in a city that I knew almost nothing about.


Our home base, the fashionably minimalist Opus Hotel, was located at the intersection of two of Montréal’s great thoroughfares, the Boulevard Saint Laurent and rue Sherbrooke. Boulevard Saint Laurent is apparently referred to as “the Main” by locals, as the street serves as the dividing line between the Anglophone and Francophone parts of town. Leonard Cohen owns a nondescript grey stone house about a mile from the Opus, not far from the corner of Boulevard Saint Laurent and rue Marie Anne (the latter street, apparently, serving as the inspiration for the song that bears its name).


Even though I arrived after midnight on Thursday, Kevin managed to coax me into going out to a bar (okay, I admit, it didn’t take much coaxing) with him and a few folks he had met at the festival. We ended up at Korova, an upstairs hipster dive on the main drag that somehow felt both authentically divey and authentically Canadian. The DJ spun great tunes (‘50s and ‘60s pop 45s, mostly), the bartenders poured St. Ambroise brews from Montréal’s own McAuslan brewery and practically everyone danced themselves into a sweat as the moose heads mounted on the wall silently observed the proceedings.


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Sunday, Nov 23, 2008
Smashing Pumpkins Fans Speak Their Minds.

It hasn’t been a good week for Billy Corgan and the Smashing Pumpkins, or the hometown fans. And the emotional train wreck that I feared I was walking into on Saturday night never happened. I never even got in the door.  Instead, as I approached the Auditorium Theatre, I discovered a twist in the Corgan drama that I didn’t expect. I encountered a venue posting that every concertgoer fears.


Like the other fans who stood starring at the posted note, I didn’t have the luxury of learning via the web or my complementary email Ticketmaster alert that the sold out show was postponed until December 8th “due to illness.”


Since I wasn’t going to be able to do the review, and neither Corgan nor his music was going to be doing the talking, I decided to let the fans have a voice tonight and let them express their momentary melancholy and unfortunate sadness.


It was sad to watch fans as they approached the venue door and see their faces switch instantly from hopeful bliss to anger and disappointment. I felt the same disappointment, but I really wanted to know how other fans felt and have them tell me exactly how they felt when they read that note.


Standing out in the freezing cold, I commiserated with fans, as they willingly expressed how they felt about the postponed concert. I was even more disappointed when they told me their stories and dashed expectations of far travels (Indiana and Kentucky) and wasted hotel room costs and vacation time.


Representing the general consensus of all the fans I spoke with, here’s what a few fans had to say.


Where are you from Donald?


Lexington, KY.


How do you feel about that note on the door?


It fucking sucks. We came all the way from Lexington, KY. We drove six hours! How can they play last night but they can’t play tonight? How sick was he? You’ve got to be kidding me! I always thought [Corgan] thought he was way bigger than he really was. He thought he was Eddie Vedder and he wasn’t.


I turn to Donald’s friend Larry.


You all came together?


Yes, I’m here to see it for her. [pointing to his girlfriend Stephanie] She’s been waiting to see them for fifteen years.


What do you think about that sign over there Stephanie?


[sighs]I’m just devastated. I’ve been waiting to see them since I was fifteen.  I’ve been waiting my whole life to see the Smashing Pumpkins. We paid a hundred ten dollars a seat. [she looks back at the note on the door and her drops head into her mittens].


Are you guys going to come back on the 8th?


Hell no! We all took off work to come here and now it’s a complete waste. We want a refund!


I turn and ask another fan.


Hi Brad, Kirsten; where are you guys from?


We’re from Bartlett. We got a hotel room for tonight at the Fairmont for $200.00. We’ve never seen [the Smashing Pumpkins] before and always wanted to. It’s pretty disappointing to spend money on a hotel room and $65 on both tickets all for nothing. I guess we’re going to go hang out with the tourists for the night at the bars on Rush and Division St.


Are you going to come back on the 8th?


Yeah, we’re forced to. They were great back in the day and it seems like [Corgan] is full of himself right now. My wife had read a blog this week about some fans shouting at him during one of the other shows so I wasn’t quite sure what was going on with him. We would have gone and watched the Christmas lights on Michigan Ave if I knew about this shit.


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Thursday, Nov 20, 2008
by Christian John Wikane and Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo
Words by Christian John Wikane and Pictures by Craig Bailey

Thirty-five years ago, the Pointer Sisters debuted with one of the most musically eclectic albums ever to grace the pop and R&B charts. From Allen Toussaint (“Yes We Can Can”) to Lambert, Hendricks and Ross (“Cloudburst”) to Willie Dixon (“Wang Dang Doodle”) to their own jazz-inflected compositions (“Jada”, “Sugar”), Ruth, Anita, Bonnie, and June Pointer effortlessly navigated a range of musical and vocal styles. The Pointer Sisters (1973) marked their first of five albums for Blue Thumb Records with producer David Rubinson before Bonnie Pointer ventured solo on Motown and the remaining trio teamed with Richard Perry for a string of memorable pop and R&B classics on Planet/RCA. Then and now, their versatility remains unparalleled.


PopMatters recently sat down with Ruth Pointer at her home in Massachusetts to discuss the incredible legacy of the Pointer Sisters. She also gave us a peek into her “trophy” room! Look for the complete interview in early 2009!



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Monday, Nov 17, 2008
Words and Pictures by Thomas Hauner

I’ve come to terms with the fact that middle-aged, middle-class white people love the blues. Be it festivals, buskers or your straight-up concert, no one else flocks to the sounds of alcohol-soaked despair quite like Jane the Soccer-Mom and Joe the Plumber. So finding the Fillmore packed with coupling chaperones, wildly cheering on Susan Tedeschi was not at all surprising, it was expected.


Tedeschi, herself alluring in a Sparta-like shimmery dress and heels, was at ease, her voice equally dripping with her signature soul and fireworks. Though touring in support of her latest album Back to the River, she was still apologetic about playing so much new material to an audience continually clamoring for old hits. The crowd did, however, quickly open up to the familiar themes and sounds emanating from her latest compositions.


The redemptive “700 Houses”, which she referred to as her “disaster song”, was written in response to Katrina, yet applies to tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes too she quipped. “People”, a communal anthem for civic action and voting that she penned with Sonya Kitchell, was harmonious in both message and her effortless delivery. Awkwardly enough the audience was listless when Tedeschi congratulated them on making the right choice November 4th. Despite being the average audience member’s contemporary, Tedeschi’s glittery peace-sign button on her guitar strap and world views reverberated best with younger concertgoers.


Politics aside, Tedeschi and her five-piece backing band charged through a tenacious “Little by Little”. The ensemble especially came alive when they tip-toed through one verse before thundering into the next, allowing Tedeschi’s gospel-raised vocals to both coax and dominate the crowd. She also showed some serious guitar chops. Doubling lead guitar on the song’s final turnaround with Dave Yoke, Tedeschi borrowed a page from her husband Derek Trucks’ Allman Brothers playbook.


Prominent throughout the night was tenor-saxophonist Ron Holloway, frequently matching the late LeRoi Moore’s pointed and flowing style. Holloway was a key component while the band traded solos, like on jazz-inspired “Love is Black”. Vocally, one could practically feel the velvet drapes as Tedeschi diffused into sultry lounge singer mode.


Already thinking ahead to their dreaded late-night commute home, the crowd was more excited about Tedeschi singing “It Hurt So Bad” to finish her set than any of the four songs she played for an encore. That’s probably because they never stuck around to hear them.



Tagged as: susan tedeschi
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