Where do you go to a party on a Saturday night? Pierrefonds-Roxboro, amirite? Montreal West Island? No? Whatever, you don’t know. You probably weren’t even at the Strangers in the Night Gourmet Charity Gala. I was, and let me tell you, it was a hell of a party. Under the event’s tent, there was food everywhere. Literally, like a mile of food. Baton Rouge, The Keg, Jack Astor’s, you name it, it was there. The food came in sample-sized portions, but there was so much of it to try that doing the full line likely would have caused one to collapse.
Also, there was a fully-stocked open bar so, you know, had to keep room.
Okay, wait I’m not done though. There were people shucking oysters, there were smaller stands serving craft beers and other novelty drinks, there was a “breakdancing kiosk,” all the coffee and desert you could ever get wired off of, all for the pleasure of a who’s who of Montreal media personalities rubbing shoulders, both literally and figuratively.
In the next room over were several long rows of numbered tables, but most remained empty. There was a small stage in the middle that provided entertainment as cameraman and passersby were treated to a series of short performances which included just the niftiest British Invasion tribute band who call themselves The Hi-Fins (lol get it??) and a 15-year old girl named Ari Skye who boasts a voice that is likely to take her quite far.
From what I could tell, all of this was available for the lower to middle range of donation/ticket purchase. In the higher levels, there was an open cigar tent which featured live jazz, and various other bars which I assume were stocked with that really good whiskey with a name that’s impossible to pronounce and tastes like a campfire.
The first act to hit the main stage was The Box: a Montreal staple from the 80s, they were all over those big synths and drumrolls, the stuff neon dreams are made of. They did try to lead the crowd in a singalong, but most of the early listeners seemed more interested in capturing videos. In a highlight moment, they paid tribute to Men Without Hats (another local group, and one Jean-Marc Pisapia got an early start in) by playing the classic Futurama joke – I mean song –“Safety Dance.”
Next up to bat was percussionist extraordinaire Sheila E. who, for my money, stole the show. Standing behind a small kit and surrounded by fiery singers, she and her band led the crowd in some of the funkiest, dirtiest grooves this side of the Atlantic. At one point, she expressed her distaste for barriers, disappointedly proclaiming that she usually has, like, forty people from the crowd come up and dance on stage with her. The 61-year-old (!!!) also showed off her dance moves, including one I believe the kids call “flossing,” along with a ripping drum solo.
For a band that you probably made a lot of fun of in high school, a lot can be said about Simple Plan that wouldn’t be true of many of their contemporaries. For starters, they still boast their original lineup. They’ve been around for two decades. That’s an achievement, folks. They also have an impressive lost of awards to their name – only one of which is a Teen Choice Award – and they’re gearing up to release their sixth studio album.
But for all of that, they’re still just a bunch of kids from the West Island. Rarely do we get to see an international act gleefully take the stage in their home stomping grounds to support a good cause. And you’d better believe they brought all the hits. For the hour they were on stage, the crowd of well-clad socialites was whirl-winded back to a time when Detox was the place to shop and Fairview’s parking lot was the place to be. They bulleted through “I’d Do Anything,” “I’m Just a Kid,” “Shut Up,” and more with the same energy they had when they hit the scene and full arsenal of beach balls to back them up.
From the smallest donor to the highest roller, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who had anything to complain about regarding this year’s edition of Strangers in the Night. I certainly wouldn’t trust anyone who did.
Written by Syd Ghan
Photography by Michael Kovacs
*edited by Danielle Kenedy