by Ann Cernek
Last week I sat down with Laura di Maio in Pourquoi Pas Espresso Bar where we spoke about her photography and the support that many Montréal cafés show for local artists. Our next venture takes us to a modest brick house just off the Lachine Canal. Here live Amelia Robitaille, Michael Langiewicz and Andrew Wilson – joined, on the weekends, by an art gallery, a live music act and a crowd of dozens of people. They run Bad Lunch, which has been uncovering and showcasing Montréal artists and musicians for the last year in their home.
One of the first things the trio did as Bad Lunch was provide room and board to friends on tour. A year later and the first floor of their house is divided into 3 main spaces: an art gallery; a performance space; and a kitchen. They have plans to offer music lessons, workshops and discussions during the week.
Bad Lunch’s purity of spirit is felt by all who visit, first-timers and regulars alike. “The performance space is very intimate, unlike anything I’ve ever seen before” one guest told me as we stood in between a fridge full of beers and a washing machine, “it feels like a particularly cool houseparty.”
This feeling of intimacy is definitely intended. When asked why Bad Lunch has, until now, existed solely within the confines of a home, Michael says that “it was kind of necessary in a way; it’s really hard to find a place in Montréal where you can, as a musician, connect with the audience, and as the audience connect with the musician.”
With word of mouth as their top method of promotion and a growing attendance every weekend, it’s clear that people are enjoying Bad Lunch. “Our success spreads organically, which is why we have so many amazing groups of people [both guests and musicians] who are genuinely interested in what we are doing and music and art. We’re attracting the right kind of people every time and I don’t know how we do it, but we’re always amazed.”
Bad Lunch makes it a habit of discovering new artists and sharing their findings with their guests. This process is “really motivating because we are all constantly inspiring each other”, Michael explains. In addition to all three working in the music industry – Amelia and Andrew at Third Side Music and Michael at CJLO radio – Bad Lunch have been avid music fans and players their entire lives.
Hosting shows in their home is very personal for them and a result of that is often a lasting relationship with the musicians who play in their space. “We have artists coming to the space and we want to show them that we are doing something interesting,” says Michael, “and then we go and visit see them play other shows. It’s this game of tag where we are constantly challenging each other and it’s really motivating and keeps us learning.”
Even though so much of what Bad Lunch is focuses around their role as a community space in a home, it is the spirit of the group and its activities, and not the physical location which matters the most. “It’s not about the physical space” Amelia explains, “it’s more about the atmosphere, the environment that you create in the space.” The things they have done to create this atmosphere have worked; Bad Lunch recognize and feel the respect that their guests have towards the space.
The three feel encouragement from consistently high attendance and the well-mannered behavior of the audience members. The night of their 1 year anniversary show on October 15 was dry, and yet all guests left their shoes at the front door. Conversations took place in the gallery space, kitchen and back smoking area, while heads bobbed and hips swayed in the music room. This was more than a glorified house party. Beers were kept stored in a communal fridge, counters remained cleared and the spin table was set up on a persian rug. A projector displayed moving images on a screen behind the musicians and part of the way through the first act, Andrew turned on flashing-disco lights that hung over the crowd.
When they first moved in, the place stank of cigarettes and paint was peeling from the walls. Much has changed since then. The name, however, came with the house. During their first visit, they noticed chalk scribbles on the brick facade. One in particular caught their eye. “I love you Mom, even when you make bad lunch.”
With a first year of Bad Lunch under their belts, the three are celebrating a level of growth and success they didn’t expect. “It has exploded in a way that we never thought could be possible,” Michael began, “ I find that it grows exponentially. We started off doing accommodations and we were a studio and a showspace and it evolved to encompass as many things as possible under the arts and culture umbrella. People are embracing it and every time we offer something new it… I don’t know how to say this…” Michael looks at the others and Andrew chimes in, “It breeds positivity!”
Could Bad Lunch exist anywhere? “In Montreal? Yes. Elsewhere? Probably not.” They attribute much of their success to the sheer amount of artistic talent living in Montréal. “We keep on thinking that we’ve reached and booked everyone but then we find a random group of friends and they’re all musicians,” says Amelia. “Montréal has such a small scene that you can know everyone in it, but so many people are creative.”
The community space thrives off of Montréalers’ desires to support and contribute to the local scene. As long as people are interested in discovering and hearing new artists, Bad Lunch will be around to offer just that – along with a heck of a good time.
You can check out Bad Lunch’s show schedule and Facebook page here.
Image of gallery is author’s own. All other images via Bad Lunch.