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Arts, Books, Music

Patrick Watson and Friends

Posted by Olivier / January 21, 2008

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The surprisingly elegant Theatre Corona in St. Henri played host to a unique event on Friday and Saturday night. Designed as a benefit show for Julie Hetu and her upcoming project Baie Deception, the two evening concerts were musical collaborations high-lighted by Patrick Watson and a whole cast of Montreal music makers. If Hetu’s project bears any parallel to the quality of the music on Saturday night, then Baie Deception is going to be pretty damned good.

Baie Deception is a simultaneous novel/audio CD project revolving around the cultural assimilation of Inuit in Nunavik, and an exploration of the importance of culture to a people’s survival. Hetu’s project lost its government funding, and the two evenings this weekend at Theatre Corona were meant as a benefit for Baie Deception, though whether the goal was to raise funds or awareness is a little more ambiguous.

Not knowing quite what to expect from the slightly-mysterious evening, the initial screening of a black-and-white government documentary on the Inuit was suitably retro-bizarre to assure me that the night would at least be as entertaining as it was educational. Accompanied by haunting instrumentals from the musicians on stage, the video was so overly-patronizing that the audience could comfortably laugh at it’s ridiculousness without having to uncomfortably question current relations with the Inuit. But from then on, the screen was gone, and Patrick Watson opened what would be an almost three-hour long musical performance featuring such local artists as Brad Barr, Simon Angell, Marie-Pierre Fournier, and others I wish I could identify. In fact, the amount of incredible music that was played on stage from musicians I had never heard of only confirmed that this city has an embarrassingly rich stock of talent.

Brad Barr in particular is a talent to look out for, his stripped down vocals a nice counter-balance to Patrick Watson’s heartwrenchingly melodic Ooohing and Aaahing. Playing with his brother Andrew Barr, they form the band The Slip, which has been gaining a lot of attention lately. Marie-Pierre Fournier, who apparently is famous enough to be referred to as simply “Marie-Pierre”, provided infectious musical energy, limbs flailing in her skirt and leggings like a schoolgirl blissfully unaware of how a "lady" is expected to carry herself in such attire.

As for Patrick Watson’s four songs to open the show, they were simply beautiful. Saturday night at Corona reminded me why two years ago a friend and I desperately hung on to our consciousness after a night of excess, solely in order to witness the intimate collaboration Patrick Watson and other Pop Montreal performers were putting on in a Montreal apartment turned concert lounge. I am not sure how many other artists of his caliber are capable of checking their ego at the door to consistently engage with other musicians. And I’m not sure how many artists can single-handedly keep me from passing out like he did that night.

Judging by the support she received from Montreal’s musical community, Julie Hetu’s Baie Deception could be a an excellent, multi-disciplinary project, shedding light on the ways in which we’ve contributed to the demise of Inuit culture. At the very least, she puts on one hell of a benefit concert.

Discussion

22 Comments

Banjo Crush / January 21, 2008 at 01:29 pm
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Since I shared a table with Olivier, I can second his notion that it was a night to realize how "embarassingly rich" in musical talent this city is. I just thought I'd add that one of the acts he "wishes [he] could identify" are "Ladies of the Canyon" - an up-and-coming acoustic folk quartet of lovely Montreal ladies. Check them out at Grumpys, Brutopia, or wherever they happen to be (I hear they have a regular night in NDG somewhere).
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