Montreal, Canada’s party town, is an hour’s drive north of the New York/ Vermont border, five hours east of Toronto. While Toronto is all business, Montreal exists for pure pleasure. You can get anything here cheap: sex, booze, drugs, great music, food and accommodations.
Prices reflect the nervous economy. Every time The Province of Quebec threatens to leave The Rest of Canada over historical language/cultural indignities, investors get nervous and the money heads to Toronto. Less than a percentage point divided the “Should we stay?” or “Should we go?” camps on the last vote. Get here before the army does – again.
What does all this numb nuttery mean for visitors? Nada. Almost everyone speaks the unofficial language with a cute ‘n sexy accent. If you can’t say, “Une biere s’il vous plait,” order in English. In the rare event you’re treated to a cold stare say, “Sorry, I’m from 1) New York 2) Boston 3) Any large US city.” Under no circumstances do you want to be mistaken for Toronto pond scum.
Getting here: Hate Flying? There’s a cheap and scenic train service from New York’s Penn station while MegaBus and Greyhound run several times daily from major points.
Getting around: Everything you want is centrally located on the Plateau, Mile End, Latin Quartier, Gay Village or Downtown. Walk, cycle or take the metro.
- “ ’ashish”, stage whispered along Ste. Catharine and St Laurent streets
- “tabernac” – sometimes softened to “tabernouche” – good example of French Canadian curses employing Catholic icons.
Famous for: William Shatner, Leonard Cohen, Celine Dion, Arcade Fire, A Simple Plan, setting of C.R.A.Z.Y, best movie use of classic and glam rock that can’t be seen south of the border unless someone pays David Bowie and Mick Jagger for US music rights.
Music scene: Forget Flock of Seagulls mutants Arcade Fire or poppy teen girl fav, Simple Plan whose lead singer sounds like Randy Travis on helium. Check out seriously fucked up sounds like Launie Anderssohn rapping on barnyard sex at Barfly on St. Laurent. Further north at La Sala Rossa catch industrial/lounge /rock /bluegrass/R&B and hip hop fusion acts that never sound the same twice. Across the street, Casa Del Popolo’s offerings vary widely. The worst you’ll get is spoken word or a girl on guitar who can’t sing – popular with the neo-hippie set. For artier stuff, try and find Friendship Cove – used to be Electric Tracter – home of Chewy, the senile half-husky who’d defecate on stage. Venue keeps changing…
Other Venues: Bars, especially on the French side of town, roughly St Laurent and points east are designed for human interaction. The asshole factor is lower in this population too. Happy hour goes all day until 8 or 9 when beer and shots can be had for $3. If you don’t see a sign, ask. Quebec laws prohibit certain establishments from advertising specials. For an extra kick, try local strong beers Fin du Monde or Maudit. If it’s before 11 and you haven’t got the $5-$15 cover plead poverty to the door person. Failing this, try standing at the bar.
On St Laurent: Check out Le Divan Orange, Swimming, El Salon, Lounge 11 and Green Room.
St. Denis: L’Hémisphère Gauche, l’Escogriffe, Quai Des Brumes, Bistro à Jojo, Medley and Cafe Chaos.
Others: Any cramped space with worn wooden floors, tin ceilings and a variety of ages: Missy Bar, Baloos, Bar Cherrier, L’assommier, and Bar Ste. Elizabeth across from the trashy cowboy karaoke at Bar Sherbrooke on Ste Catharine East near Fou Founes Electriques.
Scoring: Talk to the guy with the long gray hair – the pot cafe owner gone bust at Weedstock, across from Cafe Chaos. See if you can find out where he’s opening next.