Faraone in Montreal: The Final Dispatch

At the end of festival road trips, I often wind up with a file full of random notes and observations that didn’t fit into my dispatches; and, if I’m not too exhausted on the trip home, I compile them into lists. If you read the last four posts, I know what you're thinking: “A lot of your tangents didn’t fit, but you forced them on us anyway.” I know – but this right here is the real Montreal dumpster. Some of it is obvious junk that can be applied to any non-U.S. city, and other items are just useless or irrelevant. But if you put those rubber gloves on and dive in to your elbows, you might just find some tasty kernels.       

  • There was a hotel worker strike while I was in Montreal, which basically meant that management was responsible for mixing my drinks. I think the purpose was to get the employees some attention from the visiting media, so there you go.
  • Montreal is either the land of no ATM surcharges, or the land where they charge you and don’t tell you. I’ll let you know when my next bank statement comes. 
  • Either they don’t have fire codes in Montreal, or nobody cares about them. Every show I hit at Metropolis was packed to the rafters, yet none were officially sold out.   
  • I’m also fairly certain that there are no regulations on scalpers, who stand outside venues slinging fistfuls of tickets inches away from bouncers. 
  • Montreal is the stripper capital of the world, but the smallest bills are $5. Which begs the constant question: Should I stick these $2 coins in strippers’ g-string?   
  • They have a Labatt Blue up here with 10.1 percent alcohol. I bought one and could barely stomach three sips; stuff tastes like a rusty boot. 
  • My phone didn’t work at all in Canada, which brings me to two points. One: Fuck T-Mobile. And two: Man are concerts fun when your cell phone doesn’t vibrate every 10 minutes. 
  • Everyone I see and think I know in Montreal turns out to be the evil French twin of someone I know at home. By the way – in case you didn’t know – we all have evil French twins. 
  • The hipsters in Montreal don’t look like they’re trying too hard; that ragged hand-me-down vagabond look is really quite natural, which I think can be attributed to how much less materialistic folks are. 
  • It says “poussez” on a lot of doors in Montreal. I think that means “push” in French, but it’s especially funny when it’s on the front door of strip clubs.
  • You have to wonder if the movie Desperado screwed everything up for Mexican musicians trying to bring guitar cases across the border.
  • Celine Dion is from Canada. Even worse – food workers in Montreal don’t wear gloves.
  • When you walk into a strip club or even some restaurants in Montreal, the doorman informs that you have to tip him. That’s not really a tip. That's a shakedown.
  • I ordered a small iced cappuccino at a coffee shop, and was surprised to see just how small it was. Not to get all Morgan Spurlock on you, but we Americans are wicked gluttonous.
  • Quote of the week, courtesy of Brooklyn-based jazz critic Bob Margolis: “To be a jazz publicist, you might as well be a shepherd.”
  • My favorite jazz number is still the “Law & Order” theme song.

. . . .

I hope you didn’t think I’d bounce without an epilogue. I’m sure the hawks at Columbia Journalism Review are about to expose me anyway, but since I’m heading home I might as well reveal that the Montreal Jazz Fest paid for my hotel room. We’re not exactly living in times when news organizations are bubbling with dough, so I’m not ashamed to let festivals grease me if it means courtesy amenities, but I figured that my readers might be interested in how it compromised my coverage.

It didn’t. In case you didn’t notice, I covered the Montreal Jazz Fest without really hitting any jazz shows. You could argue that I fulfilled my purpose by telling readers how fun the city is at this time of year, but there are definitely no jazz fans sitting at home reading this and saying, “Oh – yeah – we have got to be there next summer.”

I felt it was important to illustrate the scene beyond Jazz Fest; not simply the lawless status quo around Montreal, but the other shit that pops off when the festival consumes downtown. On my final night, I hit a party billed as the “Anti-Jazz Fest” at Saint; and while at first I felt badly for betraying the Jazz Fest folks who had been so hospitable, I realized how necessary it was to paint the bigger picture, as no 10-day party happens in a vacuum. 

Furthermore, if organizers plan on having more and more hip-hop every year, they must expect to deal with an increased number of people wearing baggy pants and fitted hats. They should embrace this; more than one jazz critic told me that there’s not much exciting new blood pumping through his genre, and that Public Enemy trumped many of the aging legends they had to cover. 

Looking back, I hope that everyone enjoyed having me, because I most definitely enjoyed sort of being there. And despite the moral dilemmas that doing so might pose, I’ll be putting in for my complimentary room again next summer. 

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