Getting your band heard when you’re first starting out is rarely an easy feat, even in a musical city like Montreal. Getting your band heard by your peers at McGill can be even harder, which is why Radio CKUT is launching Thursdays (A)Live, a free showcase of McGill bands playing every third Thursday of the month at Gert’s.
“Montreal can be a bit of a closed community for musicians, and if you’re coming to a new city as a student it can take a while to know where the good places to play are and what radio stations to send your demos to,” says Erin Weisgerber, Radio CKUT’s funding and outreach coordinator.
The monthly event is aimed at giving young bands the practice and publicity they need to thrive, as well as a way to bring CKUT’s underground music to campus. Although Gert’s has previously showcased McGill talent, Weisgerber says that Thursdays (A)Live are going to be a bigger and better way for bands to be heard.
“I think we’re doing a lot better job of publicizing it [than previous student band nights]. We want it to be a bigger event, especially because we want it to continue regularly. We’re using all the resources of radio and print media. We’re recording all of the nights we’re showcasing and playing them on the radio, getting them out to the Montreal community,” Weisberger says.
CKUT plans to not only organize the night at Gert’s, but also to interview each band on the air and to play their demos with hopes of bringing lots of attention to these student musicians. Yet some McGill musicians believe that the real challenge isn’t so much breaking into the Montreal scene, but is instead catching the ears of other McGill students. Phil M., of the band Intensive Care, will be playing the inaugural Thursdays (A)Live this Thursday. In his experience, it’s getting heard on campus that has proven most difficult.
“At McGill, the only thing we’ve done is OAP. We actually tried getting in touch with CKUT many times, but always with no response,” Phil says. “When we realized we actually wanted to pursue this as an actual project, we started promoting ourselves in the local [Montreal] scene and got to know other bands, promoters, venues and all these things. So now I think we’ve basically infiltrated the scene in many ways. It’s much easier to get shows.”
Intensive Care recently released their first full-length album, Fairytales From The Island, produced by Jace Laske of The Besnard Lakes. Yet shows on campus are few and far between. OAP and, in the past, SnowAP are the big campus draws, yet as Phil explains, “It’s not really the kind of event where people sit and listen. It’s always a little awkward, but we keep applying just because we love McGill and it’s always fun to play there.”
Which is why Thursdays (A)Live is full of potential, both for musicians and for students wishing to hear their peers in action. On Thursday, three bands will be playing: Intensive Care, The Pop Winds, and The Kelp Center, with CKUT DJs keeping the music going between sets. So far only the first lineup has been chosen, but Weisgerber says that the station has already received 14 other demos to choose from.
“We’d like more [demos] in,” Weisgerber says. “A lot of what we’re getting is rock and folk, which is awesome, but we’d love to reach out to bands playing hip-hop and jazz and experimental, because we’d love to see a broader reach of music.” Bands can send their demos to Radio CKUT for consideration, where they’re chosen based on overall quality and musicianship, how well they would fit with other bands in the lineup, and their adherence to CKUT’s indie, underground theme.
If the nights are a success, Weisgerber says that CKUT would be very interested in increasing the event to more than just once a month. And with two-dollar drink specials and fresh new music, it’s worth taking a listen.
The first Thursdays (A)Live is Thursday, January 21 at Gert’s, in the basement of the Shatner Building.