Culture  The new night out

Kid Koala invites partygoers to swap poppers for pencils

It’s a chilly Monday night, and Ste. Catherine is glowing beneath flickering signs for exotic dancers and pulsing club lights.  But instead of a night of boozing and dancing, I’m going out for a cozy night in.

This unique blend of staying in while going out is exactly what DJ Kid Koala’s current gig at Théâtre Ste. Catherine offers. “Music to draw to…” is a soothing alternative to Montreal’s usual downtown nightlife, providing calming music for creative souls looking to get out of the house. For $5, guests can bring their own creative supplies and enjoy a night of drawing, painting, sculpting, knitting, and absolutely no dancing while listening to a mix of dreamy tunes courtesy of Kid Koala.

Just a few doors down from the throb of club beats, “Music to draw to…” lends a whole new meaning to the concept of “going out.” Despite being hosted at a theatre, the event has little to do with performance. Kid Koala sits tucked away behind his turntables alongside fellow artists on the floor, instead of alone onstage. When he’s not mixing tunes, he sketches intently in his notebook, pausing only to select a new record or change to a new song.

Upon arrival, guests are greeted with a pencil, complimentary hot cocoa, and the irresistible aroma of freshly baked goods.  Desks and chairs arranged in circles fill the theatre and stage, while dimmed Christmas lights provide a warm, casual atmosphere. Students clad in sweaters and checkered scarves read novels or write in notebooks, while professional artists and illustrators sketch comic book panels or program video games on laptops.  Once the music has begun, conversations dull to a murmur as guests allow themselves to become absorbed in their respective crafts to the hum of Radiohead and Björk.

Especially during the coldest months of the year, when finding an excuse to leave the house can become difficult, “Music to draw to…” provides a perfect compromise between  an entertaining night out and an intimate night at home with good food and better company. In an interview with The Daily, Kid  Koala admitted that drawing to music is an activity he does frequently at home, similarly noting that he doesn’t “know anyone who draws without music.” By drawing together this common love for art and music, Kid Koala has taken a typically private activity and expanded its potential and borders.

A McGill graduate, Eric San began DJ-ing under the pseudonym Kid Koala at the age of twelve.  Since then, his beats have been heard alongside DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist, and in the alternative hip hip group Deltron 3030.  For this DJ, music and art are tied closely together; when he’s not spinning discs, Kid Koala also draws all of the artwork for his album covers and illustrates comic books.  While touring, Kid Koala’s beats don’t usually stray too far from the dance floor, so something more low-key is somewhat of a departure.  Kid Koala says the idea for this sober, low-key social event came to him after witnessing the isolation suffered by busy artists. “I have a lot of animator friends who say they can’t come out ‘cause they have two-hundred frames to draw,” he explained. “This is a way they can get out of the house while keeping up on their work”.

Indeed, the event satisfies this craving for social interaction without the distraction of alcohol. Kid Koala said that, when first organizing the event two years ago, he specifically chose Monday night in order to discourage the high-energy, party hard attitude associated with the weekend. In response to the event’s overwhelming success, Kid Koala has brought it back for another three Monday nights this year – after a yearlong hiatus.

“Music to draw to…” cannot be compared to a performance or even a party; rather, it alludes to a completely different type of socializing than that found mere blocks away in the bars and clubs of downtown Montreal.  A gathering of friends and crafters alike, “Music to draw to…” provides a cheap, relaxing social release – without the hangover.