The Feminists: Gobsmacked By The Beauty Of Montreal

We left Grant and Kathryn’s at noon and headed downtown to retrieve the Belland, who had been out rocking all night long. Onwards to Montreal…just in time for rush hour. We crawled through miles and miles of construction and terrible traffic jams.
We arrived in the city around 5 pm. This was the first time I’d seen it in daylight. We found Rue St. Denis, the street where the club was located, and had the pleasure of driving down one of the busiest, most vibrant streets in Montreal for hundreds of blocks.
The architecture and stunning heritage buildings knocked me right out. It looks like Montreal citizens take preservation of old buildings very seriously. First there was block after block of old, charming brownstone apartments and duplexes. Each building had a spiraling staircase of delicately wrought iron up to the second floor suite. Ground floor and second story apartments had window boxes stuffed with flowers and trailing ivy and narrow french doors opening onto tiny balconies.
The street was very narrow, curvy, and wound up and down many steep hills. Trees lined both sides, planted close together to create a canopy of windy, wavy green shot through with coy blushes of red. The sidewalks were jammed with beautiful stylish people of all colors conversing enthusiastically in French and English and many other languages. I swear everyone seemed to be holding hands and laughing. Cars, trucks, scooters, and motorbikes raced bumper to bumper around blind corners and sharp hills. Most drivers seemed intimately connected with their horns, which seemed to function as a substitute for signaling a desired lane change. It was a hot, humid afternoon and the sun was sinking. The blessed relief of the weekend was upon us and as it grew darker the street seemed to come alive even more.
Those charming brownstones eventually gave way to hip boutiques, restaurants and clubs. Everything was crammed cheek to jowl in 1 or 2 story old brick buildings. There was no towering downtown skyline where we were, and we saw very few corporate chain stores. Character, personality and a strong sense of joie de vivre issued forth from every direction – the stores, the clubs, the people, even the traffic. There’s something wonderful about being in a city that has deliberately preserved thousands of beautiful old buildings. I understood immediately that the citizens of Montreal value beauty, uniqueness, and respected the city’s past. I think, of all the Canadian cities I’ve seen, Montreal has the strongest presence and character. It was obvious to me that Montrealers take pride in their gorgeous city. I certainly would if I lived there.
We pulled up to the Cafe Chaos (still on Rue St. Denis) around 5:30. The street outside the club was pulsing with people and music. I heard at least 2 different jazz clubs on the block where we were. We loaded in the gear and met the promoter and sound tech. After sound check we had about 2 hours before the show started and I was delighted to have the chance to explore.
About 3 blocks further down St. Denis was the Montreal International Film Festival. I saw an honest-to-god red carpet. Periodically a limo disgorged a couple of very well-dressed people who sniffed haughtily in my direction as security escorted them past the barriers designed to keep people like me from breaching the have/have not illusion.
I saw a wide, low gray stone building complete with Grecian pillars and gargoyles. I think it was an art gallery. My French isn’t that great. It had tall, narrow stained glass windows that were illuminated with black lights mounted on the ground below. So, this enormous structure was cloaked in darkness except for detailed stained glass paintings that glowed brightly and were visible for some distance. Across the street was a Gothic cathedral with an intricately carved bell tower. The narrow wooden doors
were thrown open and inside banks of colored votive candles flickered at the feet of statues.
Everywhere I looked, the city was so vibrant…and everywhere, it seemed, my eye landed on a beautiful woman. Big thumbs up to the many colors, styles, and shapes of beautiful women striding the streets of Montreal. I saw many stunning women with glasses…being a self-conscious girl with glasses myself, it was good for me to see confident bespectacled females sashaying hither and yon.
I headed back to the club around 10:30 and it was full of people! Before the first band started! Cafe Chaos was packed with young shiny Montrealers yelling in French and English to each other over the pounding house music, a beer in one hand, a smoke in the other.
Moki Moki played and captures the crowd’s attention completely. Everyone crowded close to the stage and danced wildly in a sweaty, jumping mass. Then it was our turn. We played 14 songs. Keith and I managed to speak to the audience in French, probably to their great amusement as Montreal is completely bilingual, and there’s really no need to struggle in French. The sound onstage was really great. The instruments were well balanced, and we each had a monitor (!) that pumped out the vocals crystal clear.
The crowd stuck around for our whole set. They yelled after every song, and clapped for solos and transitions. That’s a total first for us. Even though they had never heard the songs before, they were knowledegable listeners who were right there with us for every note. They seemed like the most open-minded, accepting, enthusiastic we’ve ever played for. Maybe they were, or maybe I was still intoxicated by the sights, sounds, and aliveness of the city.
We sold some cd’s AND got paid. Enough to get us to our next show in Oshawa. The sound tech Rene said he couldn’t describe how we sounded, in a good way. Possibly the best compliment I’ve received about the band. It was a Good Show.
Just to make absolutely sure that any elation or satisfaction I was feeling about Montreal was kept firmly in perspective, after our kick-ass rock show we had a very uncomfortable sleep in a gas station parking lot whereupon we were awakened by the blazing sun, baking in our own sweat. Oh, rock and roll – why do you kick us in the nuts again and again and again, even after a moment of triumph? Why must you toy with us so? Why?
My clothes from the night before – not lookin so hot now, I might add – were stuck to me. I was stewing in a most unpleasant miasma of morning after rock and roll. With no prospect of a shower, or even a private washroom (or COFFEE)(Aiiiiiiiigh!) I was hoping against hope that the day we were about to spend exploring Montreal would make up for this dreadful morning. Maybe if we could find a Tim Horton’s things would start to look up.