When crowds number in the tens of thousands, people wedge themselves onto the four lanes wide Rue Ste. Catherine and the adjoining sidewalks to get a good view of the GM main stage.
This key Montreal Jazz Festival site is lorded over by the immovable concrete and glass of a 30-storey hotel, government offices and the Place des Arts.
Folks manage, though, to occupy every available step, wall or roof that offers any vantage at all of the performers.
The density of the crowd demands a sideways sliding walk if you plan to move through it. Hold on tight to any loved one’s hands or separation is guaranteed.
Little rivulets of humanity wend their way through the crush. Eventually they join into streams walking towards the back of the assembled mass.
The Montreal Jazz Festival has free main-stage concerts, which feature some incredible talent. These guarantee crowds of a 100,000 plus.
On July 4th they put a Paul Simon tribute show together with the likes of Holly Cole singing Mrs. Robinson, Colin James performing Cecilia and the Bedouin Soundclash doing Mother and Child Reunion.
The crowd was not disappointed.
However, the performance did not include Slip Slidin’ Away, a Paul Simon’s solo hit from the late 1970s. Remember the last verse?
“Whoah God only knows, God makes his plan / The information’s unavailable to the mortal man/ We’re workin’ our jobs, collect our pay/Believe were gliding down the highway, when in fact were slip sliding away”
The last note from Jazz Festival had barely sounded last Sunday night when workers turned their focus towards putting the finishing touches on the Just for Laughs Festival’s new main stretch along de Maisonneuve Boulevard.
Layering over those two mega festivals this week you also have the Nuits d’Afrique festival plus International Tango Festival.
And tomorrow Ky-Mani Marley, one of Bob Marley’s sons, holds down the main stage at the Montreal International Reggae Festival. And so on and on it goes.
It wouldn’t be hard to slip slide the Quebec summer away just heading from festival to festival.
On a given visit here I can count on making it to five or six events.
Shying away from the costly indoor shows I head for the free outside venues. I heard Zaki Ibrahim who performed with Tumi and the Volume, a South African group at an Apathy is Boring event prior to their jazz festival debut.
Surprises and talent abounds if you just take the time to look and have a listen whether at a Montreal festival, on Main Street for Whitehorse’s Longest Days Street Fair or next weekend at the Dawson City Music Festival.
However there aren’t likely to be many surprises at the G-8 meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, beginning tomorrow.
This meeting of leaders of the world’s main industrialized countries plus invitees such as the heads of China, India, Brazil and South Africa will take on some key topics, like global energy security and the fight against infectious diseases.
However, will they purpose changes that will address the gross and growing inequalities on our planet today?
Will the systemic injustices that inflame terrorism and condemn billions to the meanest level of survival be dealt with?
Or will they only be capable of measures further defending their own privileges?
The Russian host of the G-8 meeting in St. Petersburg, President Vladimir Putin, has been candid in response to the criticism coming his way from some other G-8 leaders of a Russia first energy policy and their version of democracy.
An International Herald Tribune article reported yesterday that Putin remarked to a French television channel, TF1, interviewer: “If we go back 100 years and look through the newspapers, we see what arguments the colonial powers of that time advanced to justify their expansion into Africa and Asia.”
If you “replace the term ‘civilizing role’ with ‘democratization’,” it still masks the same “misguided colonial-era arrogance.”
If we could just stop the rhetoric and lift our ideological blinders we might hear voices that really do offer humanity a chance or we could just continue, “Slip sliding away, slip sliding away — You know the nearer your destination, the more you slip sliding away.”
Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse.