The Weinblog goes north

I had previously been in Canada two times in my life.

The first was to Montreal, Quebec in 2011 for bachelor party. But given that I was one of 17 people on that trip, all of whom had to juggle our work schedules just to make it work, it was a short stay.

We were in and out in just over 36 hours, and were only concerned with doing bachelor party things rather than actually exploring the city and sightseeing. I was also 24 at the time and didn’t really care about that stuff.

The second time was even shorter. It was Labor Day weekend 2014 during a trip to Buffalo. Upon visiting Niagara Falls, we hopped over the border (not literally — we went through Customs) to get to the Ontario side. We only stayed for a couple of hours.

So I was due to return. For one, given the mass shootings, police mistrust and chaotic elections in the U.S. and the endless drug and gang wars in Mexico, Canada has pretty much become the Shangri-La of North America.

Downtown Montreal

The Vieux-Port de Montreal.

It was also a sensible time to make the trip given the political landscape down here, in case I needed to scout out a place to live in preparation for a Trump presidency.

Thus, return to Montreal I did. The motivation for the trip was to attend the Osheaga Music Festival, one of the country’s premier musical events. I went with three friends because we all universally liked the festival’s three headliners: the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lana Del Rey and Radiohead.

It’s pretty impossible not to like Montreal. The city is large but extremely clean and navigable, with a fairly simple subway system and very nice people. It has a very modern look but also its fair share of ancient architecture.

More than half of its citizens are bilingual — speaking both French and English — and I can’t emphasize this enough: the women are beautiful.

If you do visit Montreal anytime soon, prepare for three things — you will be drinking Tim Hortons coffee instead of Dunkin’ Donuts, you will probably be thrown off by the country’s absence of the penny, and the default beer is not a Budweiser, but a Molson.

Osheaga

Yours truly.

And the only French you really need to know is bonjour (hello) and merci (thank you).

And as a well-documented festival goer, I could not have been more impressed with Osheaga. Like the city, it was vast but accessible. With several stages peppered around the spacious festival grounds, not too many people were in the same place at once (with the exception of the headliners).

There was plenty of interesting activities, artsy structures, scenic views, food trucks and other forms of entertainment to keep you occupied if you felt like taking a break from the music, which also featured some great undercard acts like the Lumineers, Haim, Silversun Pickups and the Wombats. Disclosure did not make it, which meant absolutely nothing to me.

And did I mention?

The women were gorgeous.

God bless the north.

Canadian flag

What the folk? (part IV)

I have traveled across the country to attend music festivals. From Massachusetts to New York to Delaware to Tennessee to Alabama.

This weekend I will even travel internationally to Montreal for another festival.

But if I were to only attend one festival per year, my choice would be easy — the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island.

This past weekend marked my fourth time heading to this most unique of festivals. And if you read my musings on previous years inĀ 2012, 2014 and 2015, then you would understand why I love it so much.

The Newport Folk Festival provides an opportunity for people to unite and relax all in the name of quality music. And I know all festivals accomplish that. But Newport is different.

For one, it’s a different vibe. There’s no EDM, no hip-hop, no hard rock. It’s just people and their guitars, playing stripped down music the way it was meant to be. No gimmicks.

That type of environment appeals to a certain crowd. Rather than the 18- to 25 year-olds one typically sees at some festivals, Newport draws an older crowd. The fact that they also cap the crowd at 10,000 each day prevents overcrowding — one of the worst side effects of the typical festival.

But what makes Newport so endearing — and such a favorite among artists — is not only its rich history, nor its serene setting being in a state park surrounded by water, but the respect that is given by everyone involved.

No one talks during the music. No one is on their phones. They sit and listen. They hug their loved ones. They emphatically cheer when a song ends, and they don’t cat call or heckle. It’s as obedient and polite of an atmosphere one will find.

It was even more enjoyable given the times. It certainly wasn’t lost on many of the artists that we are currently living in a chaotic world. I say that because many of them brought it up themselves. Even during an age when we hear reports of mass shootings and suicide bombings, it’s extremely comforting to know that people could still gather for a weekend to lie in the grass, enjoy one another’s company and revel in the sweet sound of music.

The Newport Folk Festival is no stranger to political activism. Bob Dylan used to play there during his heyday. It’s a place of peace and love, and this weekend was no different.

 

Anyway, here are some artists I’d strongly recommend checking out:

Those were some of the many talented performers I saw.

After spending a weekend at the Newport Folk Festival, it’s hard to wonder why we all can’t just along.

Hard to wonder, indeed.