Cowboy Junkies – Conquest of Quebec (Nov 18 – 27, 2009)
Montreal and Sherbrooke, QC (November 18 – 20, 2009)
I had my morning coffee in a small café off of Sherbrooke Street, serenaded by that penultimate Quebec songbird, Celine Dion. If it’s Celine this must be Montreal.
Technically, this is our hometown…at least it’s where we grew up. Once a Montrealer, always a Montrealer. Its part of our genetic code. The thing about Montreal is that it never seems to change. It’s an old city and set in its ways; sophisticated, urbane and confident. Sherbrooke Street always maintains its old-world class; Ste Catherine never rises above its slightly sleezy strip-club chique; Old Montreal is always the perfectly preserved glimpse into a very distant past; Crescent Street is always hopping come nightfall; tight jeans and bad ‘70s rock never goes out of style; the Decarie Expressway is always jammed.
Another thing about Montreal that never changes is that it is always a great city in which to perform; the audiences are always knowledgeable and enthusiastic. I don’t think we’ve ever had a truly bad show in this city. This time through we had two shows over two nights at a new club in town, The Astral, which is run by the Montreal Jazz Festival and part of their new headquarters. It’s not a bad little club, a bit sterile, but that might change with time. It’s got great production and is intelligently laid out. We had two pretty good shows, the second night was a notch better than the first, and we debuted three new songs, Stranger Here, Staring Man and Little Dark Heart. Overall it was a nice way to start our Conquest of Quebec Tour, in a familiar environment, before we head deeper into the unknown.
Sherbrooke isn’t exactly heart-of-darkness territory, but it’s an introductory taste to small town Quebec. We have never played here. The town is located about two hours east of Montreal in the Eastern Townships, which is an area of lakes and ski hills that was, at one time, the play-land for English Montreal. Our grandparents had a cottage in Magog, about 20 minutes from Sherbrooke, where we spent a lot of time in the summer and winter. There is still a healthy mix of English and French in these parts, but the sophistication that one finds in Montreal does not travel off of the island. Our lodgings tonight were at La Payesanne Motel. The rooms had that 70’s porn flic décor and they smelled like…well…they smelled like old motel rooms.
The gig tonight was at Centennial Hall, located on the campus of Bishops University. A little run down, but not a bad venue. It was an odd night on stage. The audience felt kind of distant, both physically and mentally. We did a kind of low-revving, heavy, kind of show. It was hard to tell what it sounded like in the audience or how it was received.
Quebec City, QC (Nov 21, 2009)
People in other parts of Canada tend to get pissed off at Quebec on a regular basis. It is such a different culture, a different attitude towards the way one lives a life, they are just so darn different from us: and people tend to get pissed off at things that are different from them. The thing about Quebec is that its mere presence, its simple confoundedness, is what makes Canada unique, different, special. It’s why we are who we are.
We are thinking about doing an album in French and touring though Quebec, exclusively, for the next couple of years. Leave North America without leaving the continent, come to Quebec.
Quebec City is such a beautiful and sophisticated place. If ever a city could be called “charming”, this is it. Even the overabundance of souvenir shops can’t take away from its charm. It’s the most unique city on this continent. If you are looking for a destination for that ever elusive romantic weekend getaway, look no further, you won’t be disappointed.
We had an amazing night. We played in a beautiful theater (La Palais Montcalm) and had a surprisingly large crowd (we’ve only played here once in the past twenty-five years and that was at a festival). The audience was not only large, but incredibly enthusiastic and attentive. We played two sets and they stuck with us through both.
Tomorrow we head back to Toronto for a couple of days before we climb on board a bus and head north into the real Quebec…north into the unknown…Rouyn-Noranda and Val D’Or, here we come.