Tuesday, November 22, 2011

M for Montreal ... M for Music ... M for Memorable

Montreal is renowned for its festivals. The biggest being the Jazz Festival and the Just for Laughs comedy festival. A new festival is picking up steam. M For Montreal had its 6th edition this year. For those who don’t know, M is focused on local talent. But not just putting them on a stage to play, they have a goal of promoting local acts internationally to help opens doors. They invite music industry delegates from around the world to come to Montreal for the 4 day festival and watch the bands put on a showcase of what they do. In the past, this has led to some breakthroughs for great local bands, US tours, European tours, Asian tours, and help in promoting new albums... You can check out M’s website http://www.mpourmontreal.com/

How did I get involved in M this year? It was semi last minute. I had planned on watching Hollerado, one of the bands that are getting regular play in my headphones, who was headlining a showcase at Sala Rosa. One of the shooters who was scheduled to do the bigger shows was no longer available, so I decided to step in and shoot the shows he was scheduled to do.... which unfortunately meant that I did not get a chance to see Hollerado live.

My first gig was the M For Midnight show at Club Soda. Plaster, making their return to stage, Misteur Valaire, who are on a really quick rise, and Montreal’s darlings Bran Van 3000 were on stage for this late show. And was it ever packed. And when I mean packed, I mean PACKED. The show was actually oversold, which meant that we media had to wait outside until they could determine how much room was left in the venue. Yes, there is a disclaimer on the back of the media pass that says “if there is room”.

We weren’t the only ones waiting outside. Some fans had bought a 4 day pass that grants them access to all shows, and they were waiting outside. With the show starting at midnight, and myself and a journalist getting there around 11pm, we finally got inside around 12:30am and unfortunately only caught the tail end of Plaster’s set.

Disappointed, yes, but we were rewarded with an awesome show from Misteur Valaire and Bran Van 3000. Shooting wise, I decided to stay on the 2nd floor balcony which was initially reserved for the delegates (but they were nice enough to let me squat there). I was able to move up and down the balcony area giving me some fun angles, instead of being down on the floor with no photo pit in the middle of the chaos.

Being perched up top allows you to get some pretty fun shots of bands, like the ones below. Not traditional angles, but they can work. The problem with being more stationary is that you need to be aware and ready to shoot when the artists turn around or give a look, as this is how you will get your variety.

You can see the Mister Valaire image gallery here

You can see the Bran Van image gallery here

After a few hours of sleep and image processing, it was back out for the closing show on Saturday. I was psyched for this show as the promoter managed to put together an awesome line-up. Some artists such as Ariane Moffatt and Marie-Pierre Arthur, who are currently in studio, were convinced to come out and play on stage. Other artists such as Karkwa, Galaxie, Random Recipe and The Barr Brothers all have their stars rising and this was a great way for them to get more exposure. It was great to see Random Recipe so excited to be on the stage of the Metropolis for the first time (and definitely not the last!)

Again, no photo pit for this show, so I decided to arrive early (that being 7pm for a show that starts at 8pm) and wiggle into the front row and stay there for the evening. I’m stuck in a static position again, but I tried to use the lights to create variety in my shots. Doing this can sometimes backfire, as it did for Galaxie, as they set the backup singers right in front of me, severely limiting the shooting angles. But life gives you lemons, you make lemon vodka shooters!

The lights were all over the place. They had these tiny yellow spots down below that cast some really odd and eerie light on the artists from down below, and were often the only lights on. When the spots weren’t on, the stage was blasted from either side with these giant white lights. While I always love white light, the intensity of these lights meant quick finger dialing of new settings but gave many of the images an “I used onboard flash” look where the artist is bright and white and the rest of the scene is total black.

Using the light for a more dramatic effect during Marie-Pierre Arthur

See the full MP Arthur gallery here

See the full The Barr Brothers gallery here

See the full Ariane Moffatt gallery here

See the full Random Recipe gallery here

Small yellow spot lights gave an eerie “ghost story around the camp fire” feel to many images.

See the full Galaxie gallery here

You sometimes get interesting angles on drummers and percussionists

See the full Karkwa gallery here

It was a long and intense 2 days of shooting. Technically, as the Club Soda show started at 12:30, it was all on the same day. ;)

Thanks for reading!

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