The Plateau still isn’t safe for musicians

Kalmunity got shut down again.

shine“In the Quebec Civil Code, it says everyone is entitled to ‘peace’,” observes Vincent Stephen-Ong, local musician and founding voice of nascent grassroots concern Save the Plateau/Sauvons le Plateau.

“And of course ‘peace’ isn’t well defined at all. What is ‘peace’?”

Philosophical as the question may be, multi-instrumentalist Stephen-Ong, a familiar face on the local live circuit, is working towards establishing a reasonably sincere definition of the term that everyone on the Plateau and neighbourhood beyond — from residents old to new, from club owners and staff to hired entertainers, from clientele to law enforcement, most desirably all coming full circle — can agree on.

When les Bobards, a St-Lo venue hosting live music nightly, was abruptly levied with a $1,250 noise fine 10 minutes shy of midnight at the end of Kalmunity Vibe Collective’s longstanding weekly Tuesday residency two weeks back, Stephen-Ong took to YouTube, placing in perspective the parameters for what has now begun to spark a long-overdue discussion about Montreal as a cultural centre vs. residential habitat. But to Stephen-Ong, the issue is actually as simple as night and day.

“Never mind musicians or whatever, but just think simply in terms of people who primarily make their living during the day — which is most people — and those who primarily make their living during the night,” he reasons.

“If I make my living at night and move across the street from, you know, a church or an elementary school, I can’t complain about the bells going off. It’s just about being reasonable and saying ‘this is the life I have and these are the noises that are normal in my neighbourhood.’”

So then what is normal?

“At the crux of it, what I’d like to have is a decibel level limit, and level has to be one for inside the club so people are not made deaf, one for on the street outside and a third for adjoining buildings. If you share a wall with someone, there’s gotta be a decibel level that the people there can survive.”

“Then (the question) is less arbitrary, allowing police to go to the source of the complaint,” he surmises, suggesting that sound barometers in venues and a portable decibel gauge device for the police would eliminate a lotta they-said-we-said grey zones.

Soundproofing, Stephen-Ong further stresses, is the cost of doing business if you’re cranking up the speakers. He does not try to gloss over the fact that some clubs are failing their neighbours by not taking the measures to keep sound well-buffered.

That Stephen-Ong’s initiative began at the height of a municipal election campaign is incidental. Projet Montréal may or may not be responding for timely political purposes, but they are responding, Stephen-Ong says, noting that they and Melanie Joly’s camps have already made non-descript commitments to a “nightlife charter.”

And to be fair, two Projet candidates actually showed up to Kalmunity the week after the debacle. Far, far from the most pressing issue at hand in this year’s municipal election, it is nonetheless a bureaucratic clusterfuck of a situation with a shelf life lasting well past Nov. 3.

“What I’d really like at this point is to just speak more to people that live in the neighbourhood. To me, this has always just been about solving a problem. It’s not about saying, ‘Okay, the police suck’ or ‘ The people that live there are all douchebags that live in condos’. It’s never been about that.

“It’s about resolving the fact that we have musicians and venues that want to contribute to this vibrant nightlife, and make a living through this vibrant nightlife. And you also have people that live in this area that wanna sleep at night, which is not a ridiculous proposition at all!”

Following our conversation last weekend, Kalmunity was shut down again on Tuesday, this time at 11:40 p.m. While les Bobards got away with a warning rather than a fine, obviously this problem isn’t going away for them any more than any other community at odds with day and night.

Here’s to odd days and nights this week.

Friday: And hopefully, here’s a good start. Hope we don’t get shut down at Bleury bar à Vinyle for CJLO’s weekly Friday 5 à 7, where host/organizer MNJVR  has invited my radio alum homie Ruhk-One and I to dust off the ol’ cufflinks and get in the booth. I’m going all-local. See ya after work.

Later, Knife & Fork blow the fuck outta Dia de Los Muertos with Bowly, River Lance, Skinny Bones, Shah and Bron deadin’ it at la Sala Rossa.

Saturday: Voodoo Jazz and the Morph-Tet mean business at 9 p.m. sharp with the Tet on deck. A casual 10 notes provides far rides to bizarre sides for hours thereafter.

And in the thereafter, Please Me at Salon Officiel saves daylight righteously with a ‘weened out Mayday going back to the future for six hours of power.

Tuesday: Kalmunity Vibe Collective at les Bobards? Make some noise. 4328 St-Laurent, p.m., $5/$8 after 9 p.m.

Wednesday: Don’t even try to shut down Shad at Théâtre Corona, ‘cause it ain’t happenin’, kid. Check back Monday to pick up where Shad and Cult MTL left off last May in a new interview on Flying Colours, hittin’ 30 and what it might mean to  go on, on an’ on. ■



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