Sunday, June 06, 2010

Señor Coconut at Place des Festivals

It seems like all the various festivals and traditional events in Montreal just keep growing. This year, Mutek, which was once limited to hardcore electronic music nerds, is having its first ever free, outdoor concert in the brand new Place des Festivals, a centerpiece of the Quartier des Spectacles. This latter, if you don't know, is new name for the downtown part of Montreal dedicated to festivals. Not without some controversy and negative collateral damage (a few classic music venues forced out of business, a whole shitload of trees needlessly cut down), a wave of construction and development took over the part of downtown where the Jazzfest is held. The end result is pretty nice so far, including the Place des Festivals, which is a wide strip that can have a stage on either side, has some cool lights and fountains that spout out of the ground that you can play in when it's hot.

What's cool about this free show is that because of its size and location and volune, it can attract pedestrians and tourists who just happen to be near the area when it gets started. Hey, what's that throbbing beat? Why it's a free concert with tons of happy people! Why not?

Classic Montreal moment: I walk towards the main crowd and suddenly realize there is a gateway with security on either side. I look up at one of the guards (whom I later saw to be a volunteer with an extremely unthreatening shoulder bag) expecting to have to be mildly searched or something. He looked right through me and I realized that I could pass right by. Just at this very moment, when I am looking at him expectantly and he is looking blankly through me, a big waft of pot smoke hits us both. He didn't blink. I went through. Montreal rules.

When we got there, the warm-up band, Le Golden, was playing to a pretty good sized crowd, but with only a few at the front actually dancing

The University of Quebec à Montreal (UQAM) has a lot of property just up the hill from the Quartier and they had this cool projection on their building that you could see to the right of the stage.

I think you could go to the website and request music and maybe change the colours. There was another projection on the south side of the Place. It all added to the festive feeling in the air.

However, it rained a lot today and the evening was chilly. Montreal felt a bit apprehensive and not yet ready to rock out. Señor Coconut does latin covers of classic tunes, most notably Kraftwerk. They came on pretty quickly and people were psyched, but their music was quite mellow. Some people were dancing, but sort of inwardly and there wasn't a whole swaying crowd. The lead singer, who, according to my wife, wasn't actually Señor Coconut (Behind him, was a small, teutonic dude working a laptop. He was the real Señor Coconut.), implored us to give more energy, to sing, to clap.

The crowd got more and more lively, but never as much as the guy wanted. He had a Ricky Ricardo/band leader thing going on that was quite entertaining and the band itself was excellent. Two awesome xylophone players and a tight, exuberant horn section. The visuals were also really fantastic, getting bigger and bigger as the show went on.

During an extended bridge (of Showroom Dummies, I think), the band slowly went off the stage until the guy with the laptop was left. The music changed from the mellow latin rhythm to a rich, driving techno. The lights lost their colour and became a menacing white on black.

The crowd really got into it and you totally felt that suddenly the mask was revealed and we were seeing the musical mastermind behind the entire show. This went on for about 5 minutes and then the band came back and the music subtly shifted back to the latin rhythm.

It ended up being a rich and satisfying show. Quite entertaining. At the end, there was an official announcement that we should all go to the Metropolis to continue the party. I guess that's where the Mutek shows were continuing. I bet there was some great stuff there, but that was enough excitement for us middle-aged folks. We did have a nightcap though!

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