Thursday, October 4, 2007
Pop Goes Montreal
Yesterday, for the first time, I got lost. Walking down Rue Sherbrook in the wrong direction for miles.
Imagine a compass on a piece of paper pointing in four directions, Right. OK, now lay a map of a city right on top of it. Now, tilt the map clockwise about 40 degrees. Thats' Montreal. North is still north, but only if you are going to the North Pole, which I am not planning at this time.
So it was not until I was at the Ukranian Federation Hall last night to see Patti Smith with the Silver Mount Zion Orchestra Thing that this drunk guy explained it to me, along with anything else that popped into his head, from daily life in Verdun to corruption in Quebec to the state of liberal politics. His t-shirt smelled like it was dipped in sweat and whiskey, then worn, then wrung out, then dipped in sweat and whiskey.
Anyway, he said, "If you're on Sherbrooke and you are walking east, the river is on your right; if you're walking west, the river is on your left." Where was this guy when I was lost?
We were both sitting in the balcony waiting for Mademoiselle Smith on the opening night of the Montreal Pop Festival. She was doing an "improv" jam with this respected chamber orchestra, and it was as scary as you might imagine.
Here is the thing about Patti Smith: Her poet laureate/rock and roll priestess credentials aside, she kinda has no talent, really. Her poetry is only OK, and she really does not sing well. She has achieved what she has achieved through the force of her personality and sheer will. And she would probably agree.
Le example: In the second tune, a roadie helps her on with her guitar, and she has to look down at the neck to carefully form the one D chord she will be performing. As the tune begins, she begins to lose the tempo, unable to hold it steady. I'm wondering. "is it just me or is she laming out right now?"
Just before she begins to sing, she stops the band. "Maybe its better without me playing," she offers. It was, really. Seriously.
So it was her poetry, some beautiful orchestral passages, more poetry, some dissonant passages, more beautiful orchestral passages, and then a cardinal sin: as the penultimate song builds to a climax in the chorus, she leads the audience in clapping along. On the wrong beat.
(OK, do this. Count 1-2-3-4 and sing your favorite song in your head. Keeping that count in mind, CLAP on 2 and 4. If you're at work, just do it a little louder. They already think you're nuts. Okay, now start over, and do the same thing, but clap on 1 and 3. That doesnt sound jarring to you? THAT's what YOU do everytime you go see a show! And you always sit near me, so knock it off! This little tip will make you infinitely more attractive to the opposite sex. On the 2 and the 4, is that so difficult?)
So Patti Smith gleefully leads the audience on the wrong beat, the orchestra doesnt seem to mind, the drunk guy near me has already left, and the Montreal Pop Festival is off on the left foot.
Let's review: The river on your left means you are headed WEST, and you clap on the 2 and the 4.
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