Taking Care of Our Own
Ghislain Poirier believes that Montreal should do more to support the headliners it breeds
Ghislain Poirier - March 05, 2012
At the dawn of the 2000s, Montreal definitively re-emerged on the global stage. The city had finally regained its former lustre, because one couldn’t deny that its star appeal – and international standing – had faded after giving rise to one of the liveliest disco scenes, one that had nourished and even influenced New York’s. The city had also bred its fair share of international Anglo pop stars in the 80s, namely Men Without Hats, Corey Hart, and Gino Vanelli.
Montreal’s comeback on the international stage was made possible thanks to a tidal wave of support stemming from two powerful fronts. Broadly defined, there was the indie-rock wave rising on one end, the electronic wave on the other, creating this creative and media-driven momentum no one could ignore.
The groundwork for the infrastructures of the electronic scene as we know it today was laid in the early days of the rave, electroacoustic and media arts movements. Over time, the ravers, dancers and partygoers of yesteryear became pillars and powerful players operating platforms such as MUTEK, Piknic Électronik, Elektra, MEG. We could even include the Jazz Festival on this list.
Most of these festivals (with the exception of the Jazz Fest) came into being at the dawn of the 2000s, and ten years later, we can attest to the fact that they’ve certainly hit their stride. I’m not saying that everything in the garden is rosy, but simply that before the early 2000s, there were no such events, and the electronic scene had closer ties to raves, afterhours, and lofts. It wouldn’t be exaggerated to say that these events democratized electronic music by making it accessible to a wider spectrum of the population, setting aside its nocturnal ties to resonate in broad daylight.
Now that Montreal’s electronic music scene has built up a reputation that isn’t about to dissipate anytime soon (at least, one would hope not), the time is ripe to proceed with the next key step in ensuring its lasting future and international standing: to develop local headliners that’ll breathe new life into the scene.
I would like to see our city’s big-ticket events and festivals showcase a greater number of local talents. Some may counter right off the bat that these local talents wouldn’t draw a big enough audience and that it would be an altogether risky move. That’s perhaps true on the short term. But maybe not on the medium and long term, and that’s precisely how we must take up the challenge. To borrow an analogy from the world of ice hockey, how can you develop someone to be a center on your first line if you only play him on right wing on the fourth line for just a couple of minutes a game?
Homegrown talents should not be confined to playing small venues or as opening acts, when the venue's still empty. They need to play in front of massive crowds at the peak of the night. The communication strategy as a whole must follow the same logic and send a clear message to the public: that their names be written out in large print, that we secure the best time slots for them, that we give them the opportunities to shine, and ultimately, that we pay them better fees, so that everything may fall into place.
Little by little, local artists will gain confidence and develop lots of precious, exportable know-how, thus ensuring they have the needed backbone and poise to take their work abroad – without necessarily having to rely directly on the system of grants that’s been set up.
Granted, this kind of development work isn’t easy. But I think Montreal’s electronic music scene has reached a critical crossroads, and that it’s by taking such actions that the city will retain its significant musical footprint on the global stage. By developing, cherishing and showcasing local talents, the city will undoubtedly propel new faces and stars into the limelight. The best part of it all? It’s Montreal that will reap the biggest rewards.
photo by Philippe Sawicki