Johnathon Cruickshank, Staff Writer
Montreal’s creative spirit is difficult to put into words. Friends and family, too, have commented on the city’s distinct feel. One explanation may be its diverse and multilingual community, or perhaps it is the combination of the European aesthetics of Old Port and the laissez-faire style of the Plateau Mont-Royal. It may even be the vibrant student populations who keep the city young. For me, however, it has always been the rich and lively music scene. Whether it was attending outdoor performances at OAP or open mic nights in crowded basements, my first two years of university filled me with musical memories to last a lifetime. Although we may not be quite as artsy as our friends over at Concordia, McGill students have delivered some of the brightest and most talented acts in the city.
The COVID-19 pandemic made it more difficult for the city’s music scene to thrive, with the days of big crowds, packed venues, and collective jam sessions are on pause for the foreseeable future. However, McGill students have adapted to these unprecedented circumstances, finding ways to prevent the pandemic from snuffing out creative expression. As the world went virtual, so, too, did our vibrant music community, displaying resilience only found in the most trying of times.
Just before cities around the world plunged into lockdowns over one year ago, a good friend of mine had launched a student-run record label that sought to platform McGill musical artists. Now operating entirely online, Green House Effect records has become a revolving door of talent, lighting up the student music scene. Some of my favourite Friday nights in quarantine have been spent tuning in to their Twitch stream to listen to their in-house DJ mix the latest hits, filling the musical void that would otherwise have been satisfied by a night out at the club.
Students have also been putting their performance skills towards charitable causes. On March 23, Meals for Milton-Parc teamed up with Jam for Justice to host a virtual event that demonstrated the power of music in bringing students together in solidarity with marginalized communities. It was a thrill to listen to the series of coffee house performances by local artists, especially knowing that it was for a good cause. Events like these go to show that even a global pandemic cannot deter the McGill community’s creative output.
Kennedy McKee-Braide, Managing Editor
The day after McGill announced the two-week closure of the university back in March 2020, I sat with my three best friends in one of their basements making plans for the upcoming two weeks of freedom. At this point, none of us truly understood how serious the pandemic would become, but we would soon realize that it would be quite some time before we could see each other again. For those first months of quarantine, I cried over missing my friends more times than I’d like to admit. After all, they are my rocks, and I hate when we are apart for too long.
Despite not being able to have sleepovers or watch shitty television over bottles of wine and junk food, we found ways to adapt. Days before my 21st birthday, I was dreading spending the milestone alone, when my doorbell rang and I was met with a package––a weighted blanket from my friends, who had remembered that I mentioned wanting one months before. On the day of my birthday, we watched almost the entire season of Too Hot To Handle together on Netflix Party, and I felt incredibly loved.
Over the past year, one of our favourite activities have been our weekly—and sometimes even daily—Netflix Party routine. By my calculations, we have watched at least eight different shows together since the onset of the pandemic, and right now, we are rewatching the entirety of Pretty Little Liars. People are often confused when I tell them what shows we are watching, because they are almost always of awful quality. But nothing makes me happier than time spent with my friends making fun of Riverdale’s ever-deteriorating plotlines, or watching some good old-fashioned reality TV.
At the end of the Fall 2021 semester, two of the four of us will be graduating from McGill, with the rest of us following suit in Winter and Fall 2022. We all have ambitious dreams for life after undergrad, some of which will inevitably require us to leave Montreal. We try not to think about this too much, because the thought of being apart is unbearable. However, if the pandemic has proven anything, it is that friends can always find ways to share laughs, love, and new experiences, no matter how far apart they are.
Sophia Howard, Contributor
Throughout the hardships of the pandemic, students’ sense of humour has been a great strength. Nothing brings people together like a good laugh, and university students have always survived tough times by poking fun at shared struggles. Even before remote classes, students shared jokes on Instagram meme accounts, Facebook groups, and the McGill subreddit.
The news that comes through social media is often overwhelmingly negative—between horrifying COVID-19 death counts and gruesome details of human rights violations committed across the world—and it is important to have a variety of coping mechanisms, whether through friends, family, and various hobbies. Seeing a meme amidst one’s feed is one way to take a break from the constant bad news.
Remarkably, the university’s comedians rose to the challenge of COVID-19 like never before. Meme pages mocked MRO Communications’ emails, Associate Provost Christopher Buddle’s daily vlogs, and even the province’s curfew. Instead of despairing about these difficulties, humour has helped students cheer each other up. Facebook groups like McGill Poll Party, for example, provide a community where students freely rant or joke about their experiences. In honour of remote learning, the popular Instagram meme page @eatingassinottomaas recently changed its name during the pandemic to @eatingassinonlineclass. When the McGill community heard of absurd events like the infamous fight club, meme pages immediately responded with a host of jokes about the event.
Research shows that a simple laugh can relieve stress by reducing stress hormones like cortisol. Even anticipating laughter can help the immune system by releasing oxytocin—a hormone linked to increased empathy and bonding. By joking with our peers through the internet, we are able to forge a sense of comradery. Having dedicated internet spaces to visit for comedic relief has supported students’ wellbeing.
The past year has been bleak for McGill students, but levity has helped them persevere through hardship and focus on the bright side of things.