The anticipation: like when you were a kid waiting for Santa.
That’s how it feels heading up to Montreal for
Black and Blue. It’s that time of year again—and the airplane is
loaded with goodies. A plane full of circuit boyz—and Tracy Young,
in the nick of time, bearing her box of music. “I almost didn’t
make it,” she gasps. But now we’re locked and loaded and ready to
roll—like that brand-new pink airline from New Zealand: Circuit Jet
It’s a Power Trip this year. That’s BBCM’s theme for the
17th incarnation of the Black and Blue Festival. A power
trip: a moment in time when we hold the power to change—personally,
globally, within our community. Even Starbucks is in on the trip
with ads reading VOUS AVEZ LE POUVOIR. You have the
And it’s somehow appropriate that as we wait in the
endlessly snaking customs line, we overhear one boy to another,
“Gimme a hug. Gimme a hug.” That’s it then: our m.o. for the
week. Gimme a hug.
All over Montreal, as the
sun sets on Friday, the boyz keep arriving: Adam and Michael from
Boston, and Jake and Jesse from D.C. We get a tm from Joe Caro
who’s arrived on Wednesday, fresh from Folsom Street in San
Francisco. “Hos b4 pros,” he writes. Already he’s been the star of
a ménage à beaucoup at the W Montreal—which has earned him
enough power clout to shoot him from the Marriott all the way up
into the Presidential Suite at the Gouverneur. First time to Montreal,
first time to Black and Blue—and the man is a multi-culturalist
Meanwhile back in New York, one of
the Gotham boyz is standing outside the train station waiting for
the other to arrive for their six-hour drive northward. But that’s
okay—because they’re not doing any parties tonight. So they say.
Famous last words...
Onward we move, across borders, and into the streets,
parading down St. Catherine, into the boutiques and clubs—until
there we are again, arriving outside Stade Olympique for Main
Event. It’s Sunday, just after midnight. The
Stade’s tower hovers against the moonlit sky. Crowds of kids huddle
outside like cliques around a school on a Friday night. Cabs and
cars line the drive as the masses pour in—for the big game. Our
game. Our team.
The stade glowing white, it’s easy to see it as a giant
fantasy power station. Inside we go, red flashers illuminating our
path through the labyrinthine tunnels below center field. We run
into Michel Laprise, the artistic director of Black and Blue 14 (the
Louis XIV year, for those keeping track—with its beautiful evocation
Versailles et environs). He’s the kind of soul you want to
mark your entrance into Main Event—gentle and sincere—and it’s he
who reminds us of the very great symbolic value of partying in the
center field of the Stade Olympique—with its many memories—and the
opportunity to dance together, again, as a way of sending out a
message to the planet. See? This is how it can be. We can live in
And so we enter into more than 900,000 watts of sound and
light—as Stefane Lippé plays Deb Cox’s “Everybody Dance.” And in
keeping with global harmony, this is a Main Event more “green” than
others, using more environment-friendly power sources. There are
three independently-run lasers and three eight-story high light
riggings—with a center stage in the round, encircled by the massive
dance floor, and the deejay booth positioned at the midnight hour.
Already the floor is packed with territorial balloons floating
overhead and text messages flying back and forth. We get one that
says “Adam Tanner knows everyone”—and suddenly it seems everyone is
here. So many smiles, so much happiness. Main Event! At last!
We’re here. It’s now. A new power generation. Human voltage
working in harmony.
And there’s Jake and Jesse, their first time to Montreal for
Black and Blue, and they grab us in a hug, yelling, “We’re in awe.”
It’s inspiring, no doubt about it. So many people, something like
ten thousand, that’s the figure that comes out tomorrow—but for now,
it’s one big happy field of black and blue youth. And these people
can dress! No holds barred, they pull out the costume trunks and
drape their bodies in bits of black leather and blue lace, carrying
riding crops and fans, festooned in feathers and plumes, dripping
velvet and crepe. And these kids can dance! They’re soaking it up
and werqing it out. Surfing the beat.
Imagine—twelve hours of this bliss.
And then suddenly it’s one a.m. as a robotic basso profundo
voice welcomes us all to Black and Blue Power Trip—and into the
opening number as the lights (Oh, those lights, those lasers, those
scrims, those flashes!) dim momentarily—and we’re off. Opening
number: it’s “Be My Dog” with Montreal vedette
Vileda as Miss 220 Volt under the artistic direction of wunderkind
Jean-Pierre Perusse whose own m.o. is “Don’t be shy—be
radical,”—which is exactly what he delivers. Nothing less than a
jolt of megawatt human voltage as Vileda and the BBCM dancers
release it, literally shooting into the air in synchronized
movement. The crowd goes wild. Let’s get this party started. And
we grab hold of a euphoric Caroline Rousse, BBCM’s vox populi, and
she goes, “Did you like?”
Did we like?
It’s a true power trip now, with Antoine Clamaran at the
helm. Antoine from Paris, grooving
in the booth. A man who loves his music—and sends that love out to
the people. We’re in the thick of it, deciphering lyrics we think
we hear, like messy acid disco and feels like candy going
deeper. And meanwhile, all around us, thanks to Francois
Roupinian: those lights! Watercolor washes. Splashes of flash and
dust storms of color, all across the plains of Stade Olympique.
For a lark, we follow the sign CHILL OUT: LOW VOLTAGE—and
find ourselves in the chill out stands, where we have a panoramic
surround sound Technicolor vista of everything on da skate flo
below. And whom do we meet but Nurse Cracker’s Japanese sister,
asking us, “Got a light? Got a light? Got a light?”
From there, we head into the Alternator Room, from which
Gabriel & Dresden hold forth, and where members of the
Worship-the-DJ denomination gather. There’s a truly stellar
altar-like deejay booth. Whoa! Serious! And we hear about a
friend of a friend who idolizes G&D so much that he’s convinced one
of them has come down into the congregation to shake his hand—only
to find out later that it wasn’t G&D, but rather their lighting
Then again, it was dark in there…
Back out in the House Generator Room, on the main floor,
we’re happy again in the thick of Black and Blue—with Moody and Kat
Coric. And as we edge closer to the stage, it’s the second
production number: Patrick Guay’s choreographed Positronic
Nightlife, starring Kiki and the BBCM dancers. We’re in prime
position to witness the Janet and Madonna mash-up: in control—and
down with our peeps.
And then, and then, and then—it’s Peter Rauhofer. Nearly four
a.m.—and talk about control. The man takes over. Everything Peter
Rauhofer has learned, everything he’s practiced over the years—he
lets it all out so that it spreads across the stadium in one
enveloping sonic cloud and captures everyone in vicinity. “The
drama starts here,” says one lyric—but what’s happening on the floor
is drama only so far as it’s totally captivating. “Come on, work
your magic, baby.” And so he does. It’s incredible to feel it
pulsing through your body. How it’s impossible to tear yourself
away. You head toward the bathroom, the bar—but the music pulls you
back, keeps you on the floor. We’re watching a sweet young
volunteer—still with his shirt on—until he can’t resist any longer.
He peels off that shirt and sails it around his head. He’s energy
personified, unleashed by the power of Peter’s music.
It’s that kind of energy: completely encompassing. And
there’s Nurse Cracker’s lil bro—and also that adorable zebra cowboy
hat boytoy—and Joe Caro, of course, whose personal m.o. seems to be
“Appear everywhere always.” And David Morgan and his ebullient,
beatific friend Fernando. It’s Fernando’s first time: to Montreal, to
Black and Blue—and the man is positively glowing. Radiant.
Incandescent. To watch him, to see his face is a reminder to us
all—how we looked that first time. Our first Black and Blue. The
awe, the wonder. The sheer joy of being here now. Pull it close
and hold it tight. Save your place tonight.
And all along, it’s Peter’s infectious beat carrying us
through and over—and into the six a.m. hour—when it’s time for the
AIDS memorial show, this year titled Septem Continens Oratorium.
Seven of Montreal’s fiercest dq’s process across the stage in
elaborate gowns, each queen representing one of the planet’s
continents—and as the operatic soundtrack from the film The Fifth
Element rings Stade Olympique, the snow begins to fall. Down
from the heights of the stade’s roof—and onto the crowd below. And
meanwhile the Cirque Eos performer, Dominic Lacasse scales a
solitary pole—until he’s perfectly horizontal above the crowd—and
then still, he climbs heavenward, his feet appearing to skim the
skies—and still, the snow falls… Spirits above, dusting us with
How to go on—and yet, onward we roll through the morning as
Mark Anthony takes over. Is there any singular person more
representative of a warm happy soul? Mark Anthony with his zenlike
presence—and his ability to move a crowd. He asks, “Say, baby, what
you want?” “Say What You Want (From Me)”—and what we want, all of
us, is to keep on keeping on. Keep the joy, keep the love. Send it
out, send it home. Gimme a hug.
And see you
next year, for another dose of Black and Blue love. Mark the
calendar now: Black and Blue 18, 8th-14th
October 2008. Meetcha in Montreal.