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Expwy – Dance Maul

Expwy’s last album, Dance Maul has received a great review over at the wonderful Canadian music blog Quick Before it Melts.  We’re thrilled that the album, released independently last spring, is finally starting to get some press.

So, tell everyone you know about it!

And don’t forget that you can listen to and download the album on our Bandcamp page.  You can expect a new Expwy album before the new year and you can preview rough mixes on our SoundCloud page.

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My “off the cuff” tour company, Matt’s Montreal Tours, was today featured in a BBC Travel Article.  I’m very proud of myself because I managed to get Paul Patate into a travel article about Montreal.  If you’ve ever read these things you know that they always harp on the tourist traps and famous spots.  Finally, a little known outside of Montreal poutine place will get it’s due.  Their Bertrand spruce beer is reason enough alone  to go there and the fact that they make a really fine poutine should make it a no brainer.  Score one for the little guy!

Don’t forget that you can “like” Matt’s Montreal Tours on Facebook.

Here are the parts I was interviewed for:

Poutine
Merely mention poutine to Montrealers, and the inflection in their voices changes to adoration and awe for this ultimate Quebecois comfort food. The combination of French fries, cheese curds and gravy is eaten day or night and is served everywhere — from fast food joints like McDonald’s, Burger King (and local equivalents like La Belle Province or Valentine) to high-end establishments. The exact origins of poutine are unknown, though it is generally thought to be unique to Quebec, entering the dining scene in the late 1950s. One popular outpost is La Banquise, open 24 hours a day, every day, where more than two dozen varieties of the dish are served. Matt LeGroulx, a musician and amateur historian who gives off-the-cuff food and urban history tours that include Montreal’s lesser known eating establishments, has his own favourite: Paul Patates (760 Rue Charlevoix; 514-937-2751). “Their poutine is amazing,” he said, focusing less on exotic toppings and more on “the holy trinity” of ingredients. They also serve a great Spruce Beer, he said.

The blog Poutine Pundit reviews and ranks Montreal’s poutine restaurants, some of which serve high-end versions of the familiar comfort food. At the newly opened Poutineville, “the owners have let their imagination run wild”, and guests can design their own. Garde-Manger makes a lobster-based one which helped Chef Chuck Hughes win an Iron Chef battle recently. At Restaurant Au Pied de Cochon, fries are cooked in duck fat and guests can order regular poutine or with foie gras chunks and sauce. “The first time I tried it I almost cried because it was so beautiful,” LeGroulx said.

Smoked meat
Schwartz’s Deli, established in 1928 by Reuben Schwartz, a Jewish immigrant from Romania, is considered by many to be the the best spot for smoked meat, a Montreal tradition. Frank Silva, the general manager makes the meat just as the deli did in 1928, hand rubbed with herbs and spices, marinated, smoked steamed and hand sliced. “Nowadays, people take shortcuts,” Silva said, but “we still do it the old-fashioned way”. The meat is typically served in sandwiches on rye bread, similar to corned beef and pastrami in the United States, but the spices and processing are quite different, Silva said. The Montreal variety is so revered it has inspired books, documentaries and the recent Schwartz’s: The Musical, about to begin its second run at the Centaur Theatre in Montreal from 20 July to 7 August. To try other places that serve good smoked meat, but without the lines, LeGroulx recommends the Main Deli (3864 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, Montréal; 514-843-8126 () ‎)and the Snowdon Deli.

Pâté Chinois
This Quebecois version of shepherd’s pie is made with layers of ground beef, mashed potatoes and a can of creamed corn in the middle. It started out as a working class food but today everybody eats it. Urban myth holds that it was first made by Chinese cooks during the building of the railroad, but Poiré said it has never been proven. The dish “is almost too rustic” to find in restaurants, LeGroulx said. “It’s even below hot dogs.” But once a year, in early autumn, Au Pied de Cochon makes a sophisticated version: potato purée with roasted garlic and cheese curds on top, creamed corn in the middle and braised pork and buffalo at the bottom, cooked in a wood oven.

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The New York Times has an article about our very own Architecture in Uniform exhibit over at the Canadian Centre for Architecture.  Julia and I checked it out on free museum day and it was quite good.  The thing I found most upsetting was a lady with a bike helmet who kept following me around muttering and staring at me.

I’m flattered?

Go!

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So, remember how Expwy scored 96th best album of last year?  Well, this year we’re gunning for #1.

Watch:

Listen!

Download!

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Expwy - Border Vacuums

That’s right, you heard right, Expwy’s Border Vacuums was voted the 96th best album of 2010 by GoUT120 at rateyourmusic.com!  Thanks GoUT120!  And Jordeh, in addition to rating it a 3.5 out of 5 said “The final track prevents this release reaching 4 stars. Shame. Friday Was All About is one of my favourite songs of 2010.”  Favourite songs of 2010!  Hot damn!

That wasn’t all the attention Expwy got last year. We were also featured in the Swedish music blog The Goodbye Look’s Gratismusik column. Nice review, too.  Here’s a translation:

“Not to mention the “chill wave”. Not to mention the “chill wave”. Do NOT mention the “chill wave” …

THIS IS CHILL WAVE!

I’m sorry. Call me a hipster, indiekid, weak trends in music or whatever you want. But I love both (from the beginning hipsterironiska) the name and chill wave genre / style dubbed this. I am sold, sold and sold on the concept. It’s lo-fi, it’s tropical, it’s drum machines, it is 80 and it’s chill as hell. Expwy has in any case created a bunch of songs that are clearly moving in this genre. If he / she / they agree with me I do not know, otherwise I hope they forgive me.

The song is the one that catches my attention most. “All Is Just Umbrage” name it and have something as wonderful as a bossa nova rate, something I do not think we heard in the chill wave yet. Right away, I feel nostalgic memories of those beach holidays, those in which I have never experienced, but only seen on film.
Vaccums Border may be chill wave, but have a nice breadth of style. “Friday Was All About ‘is not as easygoing as the previous track. Dark synths. It feels both cozy and a bit uncomfortable, but in a good way. The same applies småkaotiska “Consequently”. But the dark easier and “Around the Corner” takes on a guitar Expwy. Already at the next track, “Walk Home”, we take with us the guitar in the suitcase and suddenly find ourselves in. .. Latin America? Here do I stop. Now tell me no more, but the rest you will discover on your own.”

Man about town finbarrrr also made up this alternate cover in proper album dimensions:

Alt. Border Vacuums

Don’t forget that Border Vacuums, as with all Expwy releases, is a digital only free release.  Get it here.

Thanks to everyone who supported us last year and keep your eyes peeled for a new record early this year.

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The title is in reference to this article in the West Island Gazette calling for a new major artery west of St-Charles Boulevard to ease traffic that is caused by people heading to the 40.  Now, I commented on this article, it was linked to from the front page of The Gazette web site, to the effect that the only way they’ll relieve traffic is by tearing down the highway.  Either they didn’t agree with my opinion or felt that since I wasn’t a resident of the West Island (I included the URL to this site) I don’t get to voice my opinion.  At any rate some of the comments not to mention the article itself got me kind of worked up so I just wanted to lay out some basic congestion principles.

First of all, I’d like to preface this by saying that I’m no expert but these are well documented phenomena that everyone should at least be aware of.  Also, it’s just common sense.  I’ve quickly prepared some extremely crude illustrations but hopefully they will be at least somewhat illuminating for those of us who learn visually.

1 – Generated Traffic and Induced Travel

Here is all you need to know about that but to make a long story short, when you increase capacity on a road the number of trips on that road increases.  Kind of a Field of Dreams situation only substitute SUVs for Shoeless Joe Jackson and lung cancer for a game of baseball.  This has been documented over and over again yet we keep dealing with traffic problems by building new roads, the solution first posited and pushed by car companies, oil companies and tire companies.  It’s no secret that General Motors, et al. destroyed America’s street car systems by buying up, shutting down and dismantling the public transportation infrastructure in most American towns.  Ever since we started building highways what we do when the highways fill up is…  build more highways and due to generated traffic they keep filling up and forcing us to…  build more highways.  Which is a purely temporary solution as we can see from even a cursory glance at the history of the 20th century.  So, highways fill up, so what?  That just means there’s more cars off of your nice suburban residential streets, right?  Well, that brings me to point number two:

2 – Highways concentrate their traffic onto small points such as on and off-ramps

Highways dump massive amounts of traffic onto off-ramps and on-ramps, the only points of entry or exit.  The problem is that everyone using the highway is going to the same place even if they may be coming from completely different places.

Illustration #1

As you can see by even this terrible, terrible drawing it’s plainly obvious why congestion is so bad in that area.  Any area around the ramps are going to be choked with traffic with most people coming up St-Charles just to get bottlenecked into the east or west ramps.  And anyone who doesn’t want to take St-Charles will take a smaller residential street.  If a new major road were built west of St-Charles as the article suggests what would we have?  Well, due to the induced traffic two major roads, both clogged with people still taking smaller streets to get away from it.  All of this at great cost, of course.  We wouldn’t do it any other way.

Contrast that with a grid situation where people have lots of choices about which route to take:

Everyone’s coming from somewhere different just as in the west island and everyone’s going somewhere different just as in the west island but with all of that choice there are no bottlenecks.  There is traffic, don’t get me wrong.  A lot of it.  But when was the last time you got stuck, and I mean traffic jammed, stand-still, not moving at all stuck on a grid?  And when was the last time you got stuck on a highway, trapped with no escape?  (This happened to me recently on the 40 around the junction with the 15 and once I got off the highway and  into the grid I got home a lot quicker that if I had stayed on.)  The traffic may move slower on the grid but it always moves.  Barring some kind of horrible accident, of course.  Slow and steady and all that.

And don’t forget the cost of buildings highways through cities.  Everyone who drives should have to read the chapters in Robert Caro’s The Power Broker about East Tremont in the Bronx and 3rd Ave. in Sunset Park, Brooklyn to see what impact our addiction to driving has had on many, many people.  But just as a visual aid let’s take a look at Red Hook, Brooklyn and it’s neighbour separated by a highway, Carroll Gardens.  Here are some maps of the average income in each neighborhood:

Red Hook

Carroll Gardens

Income disparity?  And this is just the best example I could find with the minimum amount of research.

This is just one instance of a highway destroying a neighborhood.  Oh, and I wonder how all those people who live where this proposed “major artery” is supposed to go feel about living next to or being moved because of this thing.

Of course, reducing traffic and congestion isn’t so simple.  There are a lot of factors involved such as public transportation, zoning so that all  kinds of businesses can exist not just in one sequestered part of town but mixed into residential parts, etc.  It’s a complicated topic.  But why repeat the mistakes that we’ve made when we know how they turn out?

Back when we didn’t all live on credit and we could only spend the resources we had physically at hand only millionaires lived as the middle and upper-middle class suburbanites of today do.  To think that a way of life that is so unsustainable can continue only highlights the greed, hubris and stupidity of those who believe that it can.

And the TRAFFIC!

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In the 1890’s all of New York was talking about this hot, new supposedly miraculous piece of St. Anne being displayed at St. Jean Baptiste Catholic Church at 159 East 76th Street on the Upper East Side.   Alice Wright (1442 Greene Ave., Brooklyn) was cured of a spine disease, Mrs. M.F. Dunn (1653 Third Ave., Manhattan) had her cancer cured, Mrs. Anna Fay (174 West Ninety-Eighth Street) was cured of headaches and insomnia, and little 5 year old Mary Leahy discarded the braces she had been forced to wear for two years.  Other cures included, according to this 1897 New York Times article:

So, how did this saintly chunk get to New York?  For the answer we have to go back to 19th century Quebec.

Between 1840 and 1930 some 900,000 francophones moved south spurred on by unfair and often harsh treatment by the ruling english.  In the Eastern Townships the Catholic Church was not even allowed to purchase land until 1849 and the promise of industrial work in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts pulled nearly a million Quebecers down to New England.  Like this guy’s family:

 

On Manchester, New Hampshire’s West Side the first credit union ever chartered in the Unites States was founded in 1908.  What we know as the Caisse Populaire was a new concept south of the border and St. Mary’s Bank, which is still exists today was a hit.  French-Canadiens left a massive mark on New England as any casual perusal of a Lowell, Mass. street map will show and there are plenty of french families that integrated fully into American society generations ago still kicking around.  Now, most emigrants from Quebec went to New England but some went a little further south to New York City.  They settled in Yorkville, Manhattan (between the 96th Street, 3rd Ave., 72nd Street and the river) and with no church of their own to worship at a chapel was established in a rented hall above a stable on East 77th Street.  The stable noise below inspired the nickname Crib of Bethelem and soon the nascent parish was given the go-ahead to build their own church.  They raised $14,000 and picked out a spot on East 76th Street but no sooner did they get the thing half built that they were forced to leave the “Crib” and have 1883’s Lent in the basement of the unfinished structure.  It took off once they got up and running though and in 1886 La Congregation de Notre-Dame (founded by Marguerite Bourgeoys in Montreal 1653)  came to set up a school.  Everything looked good for this little parish on the Upper East Side when J.C. Marquis showed up with a curious object.

He dropped by on May 1st, 1892 and needed a place to stay, relic and all while on his way to Saint-Anne-De-Beaupre from Rome.  He was convinced to show it to the parishioners at vespers that night but would be on his way come morning.  Once people got word, though, larger and larger crowds started showing up.  Finally when a young man who suffered from epileptic fits was cured everyone wanted a piece of the action.  Our man Marquis would be detained until May 20th, almost three weeks after he meant to leave.  But so impressed was he with the response that he vowed to bring a relic back and once he got to St-Anne he divided it and brought a chunk back to New York.  The Pope, Leo XIII at the time, was digging all of this and let Marquis go to St. Anne’s shrine in Apt, France to get a relic specifically for St. Jean.  Miracles were being reported well into the 20th century as this 1907 New York Times article shows:

By the 1910’s St. Jean was THE catholic church to attend on the Upper East Side and the small building was packed to capacity every Sunday.  One day Thomas Fortune Ryan, a very wealthy man and regular attendee had to stand while Father Letellier asked his parishioners for prayers towards a new church.  Ryan approached Letellier after the service, asked how much it would cost and agreed to bankroll the new St. Jean.  It was finished in 1913 and indeed still stands at 184 East 76th Street.

A few more notable things have happened since 1913.  In 1918 Charles George, after a failed attempt at stealing a car ran into the church and proceeded to have a gun fight with police.  He surrendered when he ran out of ammunition:

And in 1970 a 63 year old woman was attacked by three teenagers and stabbed on the stairs.

St. Jean Baptiste is still a fully-operational church so next time you’re in Manhattan you may want to stop by and appreciate the mark Quebec has left on The Big Apple.

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