First you see this.
Then you don't see anything at all.
Mother nature's been crazy stupid lately. Thankfully, Montreal isn't short of entertaining during the summer. The last couple of weeks, the Just for Laughs festival has kicked off along with the Fantasia festival. (My favourite!)
Fantasia is a movie festival where for a couple of weeks, repertoire and obscure movies. Most of them are foreign, from Asia, but a lot are from many other countries from Europe, South America, even the U.S. as well as local movies. It's an amazing time to watch old Shaw Brothers Kung Fu movies from the 70's on the big screen along with great Japanese animation movies and of course a ton of horror and really weird shit along with total crap B-movies. Last week, my friend which I always went to concerts with, invited me to see a Japanese movie called Shield of Straw. It was really bad. I was sad because I recognized one of the actors right away. He was the main character in one of my favourite Japanese movies called Tampopo. Anyway, Shield of Straw was about this man who is released from prison and who's a child molster murderer psychopath. He kills a girl a soon as he gets out of prison and the girl's father happens to be a gazillionaire and puts a price on his head. Anyone who kills him gets a billion yen. The guy turns himself in and the cops have to bring him to a large courthouse in another city and everyone is out the get the murderer, yet they have to protect him to try him in court. The movie could've been good, but some parts were just taking way too long and they totally blew the ending even though they had a chance for it to finish really well.
Anyway, one thing that was cool though is that the movie was presented in the Théatre Impérial. It's a beautiful theatre and I absolutely love it there. That's where the festival started originally, but because the theatre fell into disrepair and was eventually revamped and cost way to much to rent afterwards, the festival continued at the Concordia university theatre. This year they were able to go back to the old one and it's fantastic. We had to sit on the second floor balcony though because my friends were late getting there and it got packed pretty quick. Here are a few shots of the place.
Just for Laughs is the largest comedy festival in the world. It's really a big variety show festival focused mostly on comedy. So you have stand up comics from all over the world coming over to do shows such as Dave Chappelle and Russel Peters, some others from France as well, you have tons of live shows, acrobats, street performers, it's a really fun festival. Oh and while walking through the crowd one day I bumped into the super fabulous Spandy Andy! I got to say hello, but he was in a hurry so I couldn't take a picture with him. Boo!
Recently, there's another one that was started in parallel called Zoofest which also focuses on comedy, but for discovering emerging talent. I prefer Zoofest over Just for Laughs because there's a batch of fresh comedians with new ideas. The humour is also aimed towards a younger crowd than Just for Laughs where the comedians seem to target the baby boomers a bit more. The festival is located pretty much at the same place as any other festival, Place des Arts. Here's what they did with the place.
This is Victor, the mascot of the Just for Laughs festival since 1983.
I think he's ugly as hell and the festival is due for a new mascot.
The crowds just sit in the stairs while watching
free comedy shows on outdoor stages.
A restaurant/bar was set up next to the fountains at the top of Place des Arts.
Some activities and shows were held in tents.
A maze. Scared the shit out of me. Stupid green goblin.
An area was set up where people could play board games.
On the largest stage, there are a lot of bigger shows.
The night I was passing through, they happened to have a drag queen music show.
During the festival, a friend of mine was a special guest as a part of a burlesque show organized by the Sublimes Rondeurs. I discovered them last March at the Café Cléopatre. I also went to see their amazing sold-out geek themed event called Burlesgeek in April at the Katacombes. They were able to get a special tent with adult-only shows during the festival and did a bunch of gigs. I really like them because they have a very good imagination for their gigs and are very entertaining and funny. During the show, cameras are forbidden, but they let us take a few pictures of one of the girls for Facebook posting purposes. So there, it should give you an idea of what it looked like.
Another group I got to discover were the Five Foot Fingers. They are a bunch of dude from France with an amazing talent for comedy, entertainment and acrobatics. I guess these guys use to be circus acrobats? I saw one of their shows on the big outdoor stage where they did some stunts with ropes and giant ribbons and did a few silly acts. They were hilarious and I had a great time watching their show.
Also present at this Just For Laughs festival, was a food truck area. This year there has been a big boom in food trucks. Mostly because the city's administration has decided to finally permit food trucks in Montreal. Within certain limits, of course, such as you can't park your Chinese food truck next to a Chinese restaurant for example. Still, it's already an improvement and the food truck market is really booming thanks to this. Also, check out this website, StreetFoodMontreal.com. It's a blog about Montreal's street food!
I went around the area with some cash in my pockets and decided to try some of them out. For the most part, it was great. The first one I tried was a food truck called Au Pied de Cochon. That one is affiliated with the restaurant of the same name. The owner and head chef of that restaurant is crazy, but really amazing. He's all about cooking duck and foie gras. Anthony Bourdain loves this place and their chef, Martin Picard, is one of his personal idols. When I saw they had a food truck I had to try something just for the sake of it.
When I was around I only had a few bucks in my pocket so I settled for the manchon de canard. This could be grossly translated to a "small duck handle". It's basically like a chicken thigh cooked like chicken wing and it came with a sticky maple sauce. It was amazingly delicious.
I came back a few days later with some more cash and went around most of the food trucks. Some of them I recognized from last year. For example, Death Grill.
Les Brigands, who seem to be selling pies and pastries and other things.
Perogies, hot dogs and burgers! I love perogies!
Le cheese. They sold grilled cheeses. I had one just to see how good they were. I wasn't disappointed. The bread seemed like it was fresh bakery bread an toasted to perfection. The cheese was real orange cheddar cheese. It was rich and it was delicious.
More food tucks.
Eventually I spotted one of my favourites from last year, the Japanese squid balls food truck. They make little balls out of squid meat and dough and they fry those up in little round molds. They serve that with a drizzle of sauce, green onions and what looks like paper-thin strips of bacon, but it's actually smoked fish.
Then I saw Diner Express who had their menu in front of their truck. They had an interesting menu with a bit of variety. I mean it went from mac and cheese to wild game shepherd's pie, chili con carne to Thai curry and even braised beef with bacon and maple syrup. Yum!
Since I got there at the end of my round of food trucks I had just enough for the mac and cheese. So I got myself a small cup. The mac n cheese was very special. The cheese sauce was all at the bottom of the cup, I guess you were supposed to mix it? The presentation was so great that I didn't even dare. It was served with a slice of hot pepperoni sausage, a piece of shrimp, a leaf of basil and fish eggs! It was quite the mix and I must say that it was delish!
This was a very fun festival this year compared to other years. It just seemed like it was organized a little differently, and better! Though I haven't really seen many shows, other than the Five Foot Fingers and Sublimes Rondeurs, I really enjoyed myself this time. It felt more open and more accessible. I hope they keep this same formula next year.