They say Montreal is the holy land of indie music. If such is the case, then the Metropolis is its live music Mecca. I recently embarked on a pious pilgrimage to the legendary venue to pay my respects to the overlords of rock n' roll: Queens of the Stone Age.
So the Queens of the Stone Age are touring their first album it its entirety and their Toronto show is all sold out. What’s a poor music nerd to do? Venture all the way to Montreal to see them, that’s what! It’s a six hour drive down highway 401 to get from the Big Smoke to La Belle Province; that’s plain sailing for a fan as obsessive as I.
Upon arrival, we’re met with droves of fans already lining up along St. Catherine Street. Guess this gig was no little secret. And why would it be? This is one of the biggest bands in the world playing in one of the most revered concert venues in the world, located at the heart of downtown Montreal’s bustling club district. Since becoming a concert venue in 1997, the Metropolis has hosted some of the most prevalent names in modern music, from the Smashing Pumpkins to the Wu-Tang Clan to the White Stripes to Isaac Hayes. Yes, I said Isaac Hayes.
Once inside the Metropolis, we’re awestruck by the venue’s ultra-modern interior, especially considering its rustic exterior. Immaculate wood flooring, floor-to-ceiling columns and hyper-futuristic hall lighting – it smacks of classic Montreal, yet it’s augmented by all the modern touchstones you’d expect to find in a bumpin’ Montreal nightspot. Oh, and the acoustics; the thunderous, sepulchral, heavenly acoustics. When the Queens finally hit the stage, the venue makes them sound delectable, like audible chocolate. From “Regular John” to “How to Handle a Rope” to “Hispanic Impressions,” each classic cuts right through the brain stem. Once the band kicks into the pulverizing “Song for the Dead,” the audience is left entranced, dazed and fomented. It’s the musical equivalent of a ritual sacrifice. Or a Benny Hinn summit. You get the idea.
Of course, no pious pilgrimage would be complete without a holy feast. Round these parts, the go-to place for grub after a gig is a fast food joint called La Belle Province – “La Belle Pro,” as the locals call it. Located right beside the Metropolis, they specialize in all varieties of greasy post-show goodies, but their specialty is poutine – hey, this is Montreal after all. And not just any run-of-the-mill poutine; we’re talking poutine of all kinds of crazy variations: chicken poutine, chili poutine, extra smoked meat poutine and a personal fave: poutine smothered in spaghetti sauce. Mmm. Bellissimo, baby. Er, I mean, vive la Montreal!