The Sainte-Catherines: Thanks For The Memories. A Review of their Final Show.

I woke up to a cool, sunny April day feeling a bit off balance. Yeah, there was the typical saturday morning hangover, but it strangely enough felt like a chapter of my life closed. As The Sainte-Catherines played their final show on the 27th of april, it didn’t seem like a possibility that this was really the end of the band – a band that has given the Montreal music scene a stiff kick in the ass for the past 13 years.

In a typical romantic point of view, I couldn’t have hoped for a better setting: While helicopters were patroling and the riot squad was blocking Ste-Catherine street to prevent any last minute student demonstrations, it just seemed like the whole night could have been a huge music video set to most of The Sainte-Catherines’ songs.

I walked into the Club Soda hearing the buzz of a tattoo ink pen – something that anyone familiar with Sainte-Catherines shows, or their now-defunct side-project, Yesterday’s Ring’s shows can tell you goes together hand in hand with the merch booth. Something odd, but totally great – especially for a final show, something that will stay with you forever.

Actually, through the night I kept going back and forth seeing if they had place for just one more tattoo but the whole night was reserved, so no tattoo for me. That’s probably a good thing, in retrospect.

When the Sainte-Catherines took the stage at 10pm sharp, they played the set they promised to deliver, and the very reason why they decided to quit now: quit while you’re ahead. The setlist was about 25 songs-long, spanning their entire career (one song had singer Hugo Mudie admitting he wrote at the age of 17). Mostly, people got what they wanted to hear I think: the more recent stuff, coming from 2006’s Dancing For Decadence album, and their 2010 swan song album (swan album? Google please?), Fire Works.

It was a heartfelt show, sure, but it never felt self-glorifying or over-indulgent. It just got you to realize how great this band is/was. How tight they are (I tip my hat to drummer extraordinaire Rich Bouthilier – it was so good to see you play again after so long).

Mostly, it got you to realize just how loved this band is, will be, and was. The Club Soda was packed with over 1000 fans showing up and singing their hearts out. Lemme tell you that it’s a pretty special moment when you hear 1000 people singing out “I spend time in fucking bars when I should be in your trustful arms”. I can only compare it to seeing Rage Against The Machine live and hearing everyone sing out “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me”. It’s quite liberating. But honestly, of all the shows I’ve seen in clubs the size of the Club Soda, it was probably the loudest singalong of its kind…and the cool thing is it lasted the entire show. When a band has been around for 13 years, different people in the crowd relate to different songs, or even different parts of the song. I just love how Sainte-Catherines were able to have a part 5 second long as memorable as the chorus. That’s good songwriting.

But that makes me get to the point that a band so rooted in their hometown singing about subjects ranging from growing up, heartbreak, poverty, injustice…one song at the very least will strike a chord with you. Even singer Hugo Mudie’s father was in the audience – his first ever Sainte-Catherines show (!), and he seemed to be having such a great time. As proud of his son as the people in the crowd who have related to what he was singing about, or what guitarists Louis Valiquette, Fred Jacques and Marc-Andre Beaudet were playing and their incredibly powerful back vocals.

I’m writing this currently listening to Yesterday’s Ring’s last-ever album, Diamonds In The Ditch. An album that was the soundtrack to my life in 2009. The Ste-Caths Dancing for Decadence album did that for me in 2006. And in 2010, Fire Works was released on the eve of winter, and hearing the words “The snow is falling like shit on our heads” put quite the smile on my face while I was walking to buy a fucking shovel.

It’s weird to think it’s over. There you have the band playing the show of their lives…I mean they didn’t just feel like hometown heroes, they felt like you were watching simply a great band. Well, you guys wanted to go out in style, you did…But I fear you just gave 1000 people a reason to keep believing in you guys. The memories aren’t enough, and I’m greedy I know, but you should give us some more.

Then again, they knew it was over before Fire Works was released. Just listen to the words, that’s a band saying “so long, farewell my friends – it’s your turn to do what we did now”. Yet I don’t know if it really is that simple. Noel Gallagher passed the Brit pop torch to Coldplay, but I’ll take a new Oasis album anytime over a new Coldplay album.

Yeah, it was a funny night. For one, you knew that most people at the show would be out there demonstrating if it wasn’t for something that related so personally to them. It was touching to see Hugo Mudie facing each band member in turn when he sung “I’ll Miss The Boys”. And to cap it off, the last song they ever played was “I don’t wanna say goodbye”. Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think? A little too ironic?

My beer’s running empty. Give me just a second…

Ok. The PBR weekend continues.

Well, writing about The Sainte Catherines in the last few months, interviewing them, etc…Got me to think a lot about the Montreal music scene. I always felt like it was a scene that was misjudged and made safer than what it really is through the British Press (you know, Mojo, Uncut, etc…) But then I remember reading a survey about the fact that Canada is some of the least sexually impulsive people on the planet. There might be a difference between the Quebec music scene and the rest of Canada’s if we go by that logic. Thanks, the west. I’ll go get Stephen Harper’s haircut sous-peu.

The music scene to me here is punk. It’s the basement shows at L’esco, it’s the bars that smell like beer and sweat. Now let me clarify: I don’t consider myself to be punk at all. As a matter of fact, I really don’t like new punk music very much. I guess I go towards the old stuff. Gimme some Saints, some Stooges, some Jam – yup, call me a dinosaur, whatever. I’m 26 and I relate to that more. But what the Sainte-Catherines had to me was beyond what I could define. Typically, it is punk, but there’s this saying that I rather like “It doesn’t matter what you call it, it’s either good or bad”. They fell in the former’s category. I never really related to newer punk music until I heard the Sainte-catherines.

You know that scene in 9 1/2 Weeks where Kim Basinger asks Mickey Rourke “How did you know that I’d respond to you the way I have?” and he answers “I saw myself in you”. I saw myself in a bunch of tattooed punks singing about living in Montreal, and oddly assimilating this to The Stooges’ song “Dirt” – “I’ve been dirt, and I don’t care”. Yeah, works for me. Especially with the angst that 18 year old me carried.

But unlike being 16 and listening to Pink Floyd thinking you really understand what the world is all about and how we’re just another number, what The Sainte-Catherines were able to inspire in me still works to this day. Fire Works. Yup. PS: I’m not badmouthing Pink Floyd, but to each his own – right now it ain’t what works for me, though I do enjoy The Flaming Lips’ cover album of the Dark Side Of The Moon. I guess that makes me a hipster. Boo.

Music isn’t very complicated, it either works for you or it doesn’t. But something will always work. I’ve never spoken to anybody who said “I don’t like music”. They may not care for it as much, or use it as a soundtrack to the drive to work, but it works for everybody. For me, The Sainte-Catherines opened me up to a new attitude and to new bands that I got to discover, whether through Hugo Mudie’s L’ecurie label, or through the influences they often spoke about. Believe it or not, I had never heard The Broadways or The Lawrence Arms before I listened to the Sainte-Catherines.
In the end, all I have to say to them is thanks. I grew up with you guys. I got to know some of you and drink with you. You guys are as cool as your music is, and even though we’ll surely cross paths at L’esco every so often, we’ll miss your impromtu gigs and your rants in between songs during your shows. Just as The Sainte-Catherines is a part of your life that is tattooed in your heart (though probably physically elsewhere…which is where I failed last night), it is in mine too. I know that I’ll look back at this time in my life as the time when music in Montreal was never as good – and you guys are responsible for a lot of that.

Cheers to you.
PS: I fully accept resonsibility for any typing and/or grammatical errors.

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