Friday, January 19, 2007

Changing landscapes

Montreal seems to be going through a period of cultural upheaval. In the wake of the closing and re-opening of Cinéma du Parc (which may yet be transformed into Cinéma de Robert-Bourassa), word comes that the Spectrum will be no more. This venerable space is slated to be replaced by a Best Buy.

I'll go one better than Jamie O'Meara: Spectrum was one of the best venues in Montreal, bar none. The acoustics were always good - maybe not fantastic, but never mediocre, and any problems usually lay with the soundman - the ambience was beautiful, with surprisingly decent sightlines from anywhere in the room. Its ability to metamorphosize from charming cabaret to sweaty funkbucket was truly appreciated.

I've seen some wonderful shows at Spectrum, many affiliated with Jazz Fest but not all. Highlights that flashed through my memory as I read the announcement of its imminent closure:
- An off-season Brad Mehldau Trio appearance, touring the Anything Goes repertoire before it was released, was the first time Mehldau's music clicked with me. His solo piano encore, in tribute to the recently deceased Elliott Smith, rendered Spectrum completely silent.
- Seeing Joss Stone just as her wave of popularity was starting to pick up speed. We waited longer than usual after the opener for her to come on, but it was well worth it. Showtime was during a crucial Habs/Bruins playoff game; when Stone came out in Habs gear and announced we had won, the place erupted. It gave the scene a jolt of energy she couldn't have delivered on her own at the time.
- 2005's Metheny marathon concert with Scott Colley, Antonio Sanchez, David Sanchez, Enrico Rava, and Me'shell Ndegeocello's Spirit Music band, hanging out up in the balcony of Spectrum with members of the press.

Spectrum serves/d as the indoor heart of Jazz Fest, with many of the outdoor stages mere steps away and having the most indoor programming outside of the Place des Arts complex. As O'Meara notes, the Spectrum was supposed to have merged with the Parc des Festivals for a larger Complexe Spectrum. It's yet another blunder in the Charest Liberal books that the funding for such a project was denied. Luckily, the demolition is only slated for August, post Jazz Fest, so the havoc it's sure to wreak on programming and scheduling will be postponed until 2008. O'Meara writes:
Montreal has a long history of being a poor custodian of its arts and culture heritage, and the imminent destruction of one of the city's most prized performance venues is just another in a growing list of assaults on the arts community in the last week alone.
And as a Montreal-based artist, that's truly disconcerting to me. On the ground level, there's so many fantastic people working at and with their art here, and its got a cultural vibrancy which I haven't experienced anywhere else. I hate to see it sabotaged by lack of space or understanding.


CBC Radio 2 makes good on its restructuring. [via CleverLazy] I had heard the first rumours of this circulating, and now reading the details, I'm torn about it. I lament the loss of Brave New Waves, as a recent convert to the show, though it could (and should) continue as a podcast. (Hey Helen, any notion of that floating about?) I do applaud the notion of Katie Malloch having a daily slot, though I don't know what that will do to the features JazzBeat used to run. The increase of talk and lack of classical does bother me, but this restructuring doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing. Wait and hear, I suppose.

I must confess to not having listened to as much CBC Radio as I should have, being a good Canuck and all. I'm just not near a radio much these days, and when I am it's usually tuned to CKUT.


Last night, I attended the launch for Literacy Through Hip-Hop's Montreal chapter. The project will take place in Little Burgundy, a down-trodden neighbourhood in the city, and will engage kids in the social aspects of hip-hop and get them to record their own music. As I mentioned about Under Pressure in the summer, one of the most interesting aspects about hip-hop, to me, is the way it can involve community. Hip-hop now, especially in inner cities, is one of the first ways kids get exposed to music and the creative manipulation of language. As music programs get cut from school budgets, other groups need to pick up the slack. Kudos to everyone involved in LTHH.

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