I am in the bowels of the Lucien L’Allier metro and commuter train hub.
Musicians who play in Montreal’s metro stations are usually students at McGill University’s Schulich School of Music or from any one of the other schools in the city’s downtown core, like the L’Academie or the Lambda.
If they have graduated, they could be aspirants to the Montreal Symphony – out of work musicians, doing what they love ta do and earning some pocket change at the same time (note the little black basket that the girl has laid out in front of her).
Montreal’s mass transport system, the STM, has earmarked over 50 locations in its metro system (usually at the bigger junction stations), available free of charge to musicians. These locations are identified by wall signs depicting a lyre. Musicians divide performance times among themselves by mutual consent.
If you’re interested in performing in a metro station, you just go over to one of the designated locations and if there’s someone already there playing, you fix it with him so you can come back when he’s done and take his place. It’s all peaceful and friendly like. Stoned folks are generally friendly folks. Get stoned on weed and you’ll go straight ta heaven, no sweat.
When I came upon her, Cecilia was replicating Mark Knopfler’s guitar work in ‘Once upon a time in the west’ from the Dire Straits 1982 album ‘Communique’, one of my favorites. So, I paused. She is Jamaican and has that typically Jamaican wicked grin. Bob Marley too is in her repertoire, she says.
Currently Cecilia is doing a ‘gig’ with two other Jamaicans at a downtown night club, three days a week. A gig is a stint – a short engagement, to perform a certain number of nights a week at an establishment such as a bar, night club, restaurant, strip joint, casino, festival or wedding. Waiting to be discovered performers are always looking for gigs. If you’re a pole dancer, you are doing a gig a Club Wanda.
Cecilia just got a gig, starting next week, at Club Soda, a venue for music concerts where bands that open for bigger bands or bands that are tribute bands (meaning bands who play a particular famous band’s music, eg: Elvis Tribute, Pink Floyd Tribute, etc) come ta play. Don’t get me wrong, they are awesome – they just didn’t get the breaks, that’s all. Club Soda has an adjoining bar and restaurant that is always overflowing with musicians and music aficionados.
Cecilia is excited and thrilled because Club Soda is a much sought-after gig. Notice the happy anticipation in her face. Meanwhile, the gig at the metro gives her the space and solitude to practice, she says.
I have gigs too – 128 gigs to be exact, but those are different – they are on my Iphone. Har Har Har.