Friday, March 28, 2014

Tough kids don't stop trying to kick me to the ground

After twelve years in a city, it's normal to fall in and out of love with it. Every city seems to have a threshold where the magic wears off and its residents are forced to decide whether to forge on through the obstacles or relocate to where the grass is greener. I've had colleagues and friends leave Montreal for other, bigger cities - Toronto, New York, Berlin - but I've always been of the mind that if Montreal is ever going to improve, someone has to stay in town to expand its creative horizons. The early aughts were a bastion of creativity and collectivity - I can't imagine this city without Casa del Popolo and its tentacles, nor the vast net of talent that the Kalmunity Vibe Collective casts over the city. When I was a more active blogger, I was intent on injecting a dose of local content into a very New York-centric jazz blogosphere. Montreal is where I've made the biggest strides in my career, the home to the majority of my intensely prolific colleagues, and it's a scene I've done my best to represent abroad, to promote within and without, and to grow.

However, the past couple of years have made it extremely difficult to continue as a creative artist and musician here in Montreal. From noise complaints and the resulting venue shutdowns to the death of renowned alt-weeklies and other media outlets, artists are competing for ever-dwindling space to perform and promote. It's not entirely doom-and-gloom - CultMTL has risen gracefully out of the ashes of the Mirror (let's remember all of Quebecor's sins on Election Day) and new ventures like Resonance Café, Hip-Hop Café and Bleury continue to develop Montreal's culture, even if it seems foolhardy to do so.

Yesterday brought the news of a huge change to Montreal's media landscape - CISM, the campus/community station tied to Université de Montréal, is "repositioning itself" to be "less alternative and more accessible." Montreal's airwaves are pretty dismal, I must say - the only reliable stations for my tastes are CBC/Radio-Canada, CKUT (but I'm biased), CISM and other campus/community stations. Their jazz programming was adventurous, their hip-hop and groove programming run by true crate-diggers and champions of the scene.

Some are positing that the announcement is an April fool a few days early. I certainly hope that's the case - and if so, it's pretty elaborate, with various hosts on the station announcing that next week will hold their last shows. The fact that the announcement reads as truth more than satire or ridiculous hyperbole is damning evidence of the fickle nature of Montreal's cultural media landscape. If WKCR announced it would cease all of its marathon programming, we'd all understand it to be a farce. The same can't, unfortunately, be said for CISM. Their slogan used to be "la marge" - the margin or the fringe. Where does the fringe go now?