Culture | Pop Montreal: Li’l Andy

October 2 / Cinéma L’Amour (4015 St. Laurent / With Angela Desveaux

Chances are that if you’ve been to Bluegrass night at Barfly in recent years, you’ve seen Li’l Andy. It’s also likely that if you’ve been to Bluegrass Night at Barfly, then you’ve seen the nearby adult movie theatre, Cinéma L’Amour. On October 2, you’ll get the chance to see the two together. Li’l Andy, backed by Ideal Lovers, will headline the festival’s first-ever Porn Pop by playing Neil Young’s 1975 album Tonight’s the Night in its entirety.

The proximity to Andy’s comfortable Sunday hangout may have played a role in his decision to cast the Cinéma as a venue for the upcoming Neil Young tribute concert, but will ultimately offer much more to patrons than convenience. The Cinéma started in 1914 as a venue for Yiddish films and didn’t cross over to the adult movie sector until 1969. Today the theatre shows two movies daily, offering such films as Big Butt Teens and MILF Cruiser 12. At the Cinéma, clients can choose V.I.P. seating areas, which, as their web site explains, are designed for “more privacy-minded clientele.”

Whomsoever you choose to spend your time with in a porno theatre, be it that special somebody in a private room or many strangers in the dark – or in Li’l Andy’s case, Ideal Lovers – there is a certain commonality between each of the experiences. Cinéma L’Amour is a place where you can sink away into the dark unnoticed or participate with the others around you. If you aren’t taking part, you have the opportunity to take in the experience of others. Regardless of your participation level, it is a place where your mere presence leaves you exposed – emotionally exposed, that is.

This kind of exposure is exactly what you’ll encounter when you head into the dim hallways of Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night. Here he confronts the deaths of two close friends, Bruce Berry and Danny Whitten. Young opens up and shares his grief with you, and although dismal at times, the album isn’t without its pleasures. Everything about it is raw, and while you get kind of sad, you also get excited; you know that when you’re done you’ll want to do it all again.

If this listening experience isn’t the stuff that viewing a public skin flick is made of, then I don’t know what is. And although I may not actually know what stuff going to a porno theatre is made of, is that really the point? Li’l Andy is taking us to a mysterious place and, frankly, isn’t that enough? I can’t think of a dark and intimate setting in the city that would better complement a tribute to this sombre and intimate album.

Good luck to you Li’l Andy, you’ve got the weight on your shoulders. This concert should offer a chance for listeners to become fully consumed by the experience and with any luck, break the ice for a second edition of Porn Pop next year. At the very least, MILF Cruiser 12 will resume showing the next day.

– Chase Moser, image by Sasha Plotnikova

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Li’l Andy chats with The Daily about pornography and pop before his upcoming performance.

The McGill Daily: So the story goes that you bought Tonight is the Night for $5.99 when you were a kid, and this show at Cinéma L’Amour has been a long time coming. What was it that made you choose that specific cassette, as an 11-year-old in a record store?

Li’l Andy: As a general rule, I’d say that most 11-year-olds are pretty fascinated by death and darkness, and I was certainly no different. The album cover for Tonight’s the Night is pretty bleak and sombre: just a pitch-black canvas with a scraggly-looking Neil in sunglasses. Having just started playing guitar, there was a secret part of me that dreamed of being in a rock band, dying of a drug overdose, and choking on my own vomit. I’ve since revised my ambitions, but that whole world is pretty appealing when you’re in grade seven.

MD: The Cinéma has quite the fabled past. How did it become the venue for your performance of Tonight is the Night?

LA: When I first moved to Montreal, I heard that Cinéma L’Amour was the place where Houdini took the punch in the gut that led to the internal bleeding that eventually killed him. Actually I’ve also heard the guy who hit him was a McGill student – which I like to believe. Shortly after that a friend of mine started working there as the popcorn girl, and I was really surprised by her descriptions of the “porn-enthusiast community” that gathered there. She said that most of the clientele were friendly old men who hung around, drank coffee, and talked about the construction on St. Laurent.

The idea for playing the whole album really started turning over in my head after a Percy Farm show at Divan Orange around four years ago. It was their first-ever live show, and at the end of it, the crowd started cheering for an encore. Problem was, they didn’t know any more songs. Daniel Isaiah Schachter, the singer, came up to me and said “Do you know the words to ‘Mellow My Mind?’” So I got up on stage and played it with them, not knowing that that song is way too high for someone with my kind of voice to sing. That’s why Daniel’s going to come on as a guest and sing that song this time around.

After that, Percy Farm and I started rehearsing the show for the 2007 Pop Montreal, but I was away on tour for most of the summer and it was too much to organize. Then, Percy Farm split up. After hanging out with Ideal Lovers, I realized there was really no better band in town to do this kind of show with. We bought some José Cuervo Gold and started rehearsing!

MD: Will you be making use of the cinema’s screens?

LA: We weren’t going to, but then Warren from Plants & Animals suggested that we have a live feed filming us playing the show to project onto the screen behind us while we play. So now, we’re going to play on the floor and have larger-than-life projections of us right behind. It’ll be like when you actually go see Neil Young in concert these days: you’re at the back of an arena and you can’t tell which guy on stage is Neil, so you have to watch it on the Jumbotron screen to even get a sense of what’s happening!

MD: If you could see any band, movie, or performance of any kind at Cinéma L’Amour, what would it be?

LA: Well, I’ve always thought that Leonard Cohen and Stompin’ Tom Connors would make a pretty good duo, so I don’t see why they couldn’t team up for a special show at Cinéma L’Amour. They could play the entire Hank Williams songbook. For entertainment at intermission they could get Lili St. Cyr to do that famous striptease she used to do in Montreal in the forties, where, since the city’s laws only said that it was illegal to undress on stage, she would walk on entirely nude and proceed to put on each article of clothing piece-by-piece. That would be worth the cover charge.

MD: I hear Cinéma L’Amour has a special V.I.P. section. Do you get any perks for playing a show there? Season’s passes, perhaps?

LA: Yeah, the V.I.P. section is quite, um, swank. It takes up the entire upper balcony. There are private booths with couches, curtains, and a few zebra-striped plush chairs. The only perk I get is that I’ve had a few deluxe tours of Cinéma L’Amour and got to see the old projection booth they used in the 1920s. And besides, admission’s free on couples night, so – if you’ve got a date – you never really need a pass.

– Compiled by Leah Pires


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