Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Montreal Jazz Festival

Last week, I jaunted over the northern border, into Quebec, for the opening weekend of the International Jazz Festival in Montreal. My younger brother is about to move across the country, to Texas, for his first real job; we traveled together, our first trip as adult siblings. Air hot and heavy, a fierce but pleasant sun, in a city renowned for its abominable ice, snow, and sleet, its underground commercial fortresses designed to help citizens avoid the biting winds, the people were out and scattered like an army of foraging ants, bustling, energized by the heat.  After a much too hurried June, I easily fell in love with the hybrid city, a beautiful cross between North American familiarity, in a known climate and terrain, and French romanticism and languish. That European pace, nonchalant and dismissive, with the pretension stripped, a sort of lazy friendliness permeating. Setting up base in hip but understated Mile End, we discovered the ideal local brewery beer hole, some delicious food and coffee, and a ton of envy-inducing art deco furniture window shopping. Everywhere we strolled, street art murals appeared along the crevices of alleys, on large swaths of building, intricate and bold and beautiful, obviously commissioned or at least condoned by the city. Joined by throngs of locals and tourists alike, we crowded into neighborhood cafes to watch the top World Cup games. Barely breathing, Adam and I took anxious sips of beer on an outdoor patio for the Brazil-Chile shoot out; we crashed the area, already crowded, just sidled up and saw the big screen. Thankfully, the waiter forgave our trespassing and served us, rather than pushing us to move along the walk way. 

Along with an epic portion of poutine and the unique brews of Dieu Du Ciel, seeing Diana Krall perform live, the evening clear and bright, was a trip highlight. She played many songs from her latest tour, but also covered three of my absolute favorite musicians: Fats Waller, Tom Waits, and Neil Young. For her encore, she was joined by husband Elvis Costello and they performed a couple of songs from The Band. Classical cool.

It was my first time to Montreal, and the temperatures startled me a bit. Initially, I felt a bit ill prepared, but my suitcase of slowing maxi dresses and my trusted leather booties proved to be perfection, especially when garnished generously with various necklaces and large earrings. To battle with the setting sun at the outdoor music stages, I wore some of my favorite vintage sunglasses, a subdued cat-eye shape of blonde tortoise shell, snagged from a small outdoor market in east London. While enjoying tunes led by trumpeter Alexis Baro, I snapped an off-kilter portrait, adorned with some coral lipstick and some cascading turquoise beads, despite the waning oppressive heat. I love throwing on some simple pharmacy lipstick to add some flair, but sometimes, in practice, it becomes cumbersome, namely while trying to eat ice cream cones and sweating from cheap beer and the sun. The contrast between the sharp coral and the milky turquoise made the hassle mostly worthwhile. My black sleeveless maxi was plain and comfortable; the gold, turquoise, and coral accents sent it into a higher echelon of sleek.

I hope to return to this so close, but just far away enough city soon; next time, provided I am not in a group of Anglophiles, I can dust off my French.

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