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Le Festival Son et Image de Montréal 2001

Le Festival Son et Image de Montréal 2001

Fear and Loathing in La Belle Province
(with sincere apologies to Hunter S. Thompson…
on second thought, you owe me big for that lousy film!)

  We were somewhere around Brockville on the edge of the last bastion of United Empire Loyalists, when the combination of Viox, King Cobra, and Flintstone chewables began to take hold. I remember muttering something like "I feel a little light-headed; maybe you should stop playing with your secretary and drive…" And suddenly there was a terrible roar around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge flying audiophile-nerds, all swooping and screeching, diving around the car, which was going about a hundred and sixty kilometres an hour with the top frozen half-way all the way to Montreal. And a voice was screaming: "Holy Jesus! I thought Patricia Barber sounded bad!"

Then it was quiet again. My attorney, a one hundred and sixty pound Jewish kid named Les, had taken his shirt off and was pouring a bottle of kosher Passover wine on his chest and that of his secretary to facilitate some pre-Pesach ritual sacrifice of the first born male child. "What the hell are you yelling about?" he muttered, staring up at the grey sky with his eyes closed and covered with some cheap pair of wraparound Ray-Ban that he had lifted from a Lens Crafters somewhere outside of Kingston. "Never mind," I said. "It's your turn to drive and my turn to bathe with Ms. Jorgenson." I hit the brakes and aimed the nose of our rental toward the shoulder of the highway. No point in mentioning those audiophile-nerds, I thought. The poor bastard will see them soon enough.

For those who have never been to Hell (although I'd gladly hold the door open for the new Senator from New York), audio shows are a good place to start. One would think that listening to two hundred different systems would be fun, but "fun" is impossible for audiophiles. No, we would rather stand around like the techno-dorks that we are, moaning about the demise of the industry, the price of cables, the benefits of SACD over DVD-Audio, the lack of women at the show, etc…rather than really enjoying MUSIC on some very good equipment and figuring out a way to get new people involved in this rapidly shrinking industry.

Where Have You Gone Corey Greenberg…Our Industry Turns its Desperate Eyes to You…

No matter what any of the "old goats" have to say, Corey Greenberg (whom I hope is enjoying his stardom next to that annoying Katie Couric) is the #1 reason why there exists today an audiophile base under the age of forty. While many of us found his "arrogance" towards the end to be quite ridiculous, the fact remains that he was the catalyst to a new generation of audio reviewers who will ultimately decide if the audience grows or not. With the exception of Listener and Hi-Fi+, the high-end press has become boring once again, and as the Audio Police of the print world begin to get older and fade away (time to go folks), a new order of Audio Police have begun to emerge on the freeway of information…the Internet. After what looked like a very promising start, we've started mimicking our brothers in print and it is starting to get ugly. If we continue preaching to the converted with dull technology-filled prose, we are done like the Montreal Expos before Opening Day in April. Fine, so I was struggling for a neat sequay into our show report.


10 Best Things About Le Festival Being In Montreal

1. Schwartz's Deli…in case anyone wondered where a nice Jewish boy goes to eat on a Saturday night

2. Not in Toronto or Ottawa…should be obvious to anyone who has been or lived in either city

3. Montreal Bagels…if left out overnight are excellent substitute for Vibrapods or cones of any kind

4. Restaurants serve food after 11PM unlike in the rest of Canada

5. Not having to eat every meal at the Hard Rock Café like CES

6. Can schlep bags of vinyl (you mean they still sell that?) across provincial border without being subjected to Canada Customs body cavity search or punitive and criminal duties

7. Not in Toronto or Ottawa

8. Can make fun of locals about Canadians missing playoffs for third consecutive year

9. Not in Toronto or Ottawa

10. Nerd factor drops by thirty per cent… female attendance increases to 4


I always look forward to Le Festival for the simple reason that it is in Montreal. If you can look past the nazi-like language police in the province, the ridiculous and slowly dying separatist movement, the language barrier, and the world's most disgusting dish - poutine, Montreal is a wonderful place to both live and visit. The city exudes sophistication, culture, and a true appreciation of fine music, film, food and shopping. People who attend the show are "buyers" not deadbeats looking for free goodies from manufacturers (that title is reserved for us press folk) and a lot of non-audiophile music gets played. As a reviewer, you get used to that horrible "Spanish Harlem" song and learn to look away when the "Eagles" home theatre demonstration starts, but three days of the same music over and over again does make one a tad nuts. Fortunately, people in Montreal actually listen to some very good music…which makes sense as watching the Canadians play is rather painful most nights.

In recent years, the number of rooms using turntables has dropped dramatically, and I suspect that this year will not be any different. Manufacturers will point to exciting developments in SACD and DVD-Audio as an excuse to abandon vinyl altogether, but based on what I heard in London while vacationing last summer, the number of affordable table/arm combinations currently available is rather staggering. The current offerings from Clearaudio, Rega, Project, Audio Note, Michell, VPI, Basis under $2,500 make it a great time to get into vinyl. As our boss would say, the best way to enjoy the music...

Anyone see where my lawyer went?

-Ian White













































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