Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
Eight and a Half Singer Dave Hamelin on Moving From 'Utopian' Montreal to Toronto, the 'Capital of Uncool'
- Posted on Apr 12th 2012 2:00PM by Dave Hamelin
Thirty-one years ago, I was born at Montreal's General Hospital, I took my first breath of fresh air on the beautiful, winding and luxurious Pine Avenue which sits somewhere near the top of the tiny mountain that my native city was built on. I grew up in a bilingual household and as a result, much to my dismay, was thrust into the French Catholic school system from kindergarten all the way to the grade eight. Did I want to learn French? No. Did I want all my best friends to be Yannicks and Guillames? No. But I didn't have a choice really. My parents wanted me to be at least half French-Canadian as my dad is a true Pepper.
He learned to speak English at the tender age of 18 but previous to that spent his life rummaging the streets of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, worrying about how he was gonna make it in a town that wouldn't have his kind occupy any life-position of importance. And so I took my medicine on my knees; I played hockey with Yannick and Guillaume, and I learned everything about the great nation of Quebec and how the rest of Canada really had no respect for us. Fine, I get it, I totally understand. My dad thought he would lose his job based on his Frenchiness up until the day he retired. Half of my family didn't trust the Anglo, didn't trust that they wouldn't all turn us into sexually-repressed Tim Hortons-eating drones by dawn...
OK, well. Those Canadian Anglos really do love Tim Hortons and they definitely don't like it when we smoke while we cook, or move in for the double-kiss. They're more comfortable with shaking hands, I understand. But I don't want live like a hermit inside this tiny cultural vacuum, and I don't want to be stuck drinking 50 and eating poutine my whole life. I want options, I want it all.
And so I spent the second half of my life hanging with a bunch of Anglos and other half-and-halfs on St-Laurent, and avoiding Pierre Falardeau at all costs. I ditched Yannick and Genevieve and instead spent the later half of my teens and twenties with a bunch of Jasons, Tims, Liams and Seans -- AKA the Stills -- moving to New York for a minute, and traveling the world playing eighth notes. Now don't get me wrong, I do believe in the great nation of Quebec and I did vote for the Bloc on numerous occasions. I'm a bleeding-heart Montrealer and never thought I would ever really leave the utopian city that gave me such great things as Rotisserie Portugalia and Rock et Belles Oreilles.
All this to say that the most difficult thing for me, in terms of getting my new band Eight and a Half, off the ground, was moving to nemesis-land, the capital of uncool, the epicentre of boring, squaresville, Toronto.
Yes, I did it.
And just like ripping off a band aid, it happened very quickly. I never saw it coming and I probably swore a million times that it would never happen, but it did. I left the language police, the tam tams, GrimSkunk and the Main behind and I hopped into a moving truck and set my sights on starting a new life in Toronto. After all, Toronto is where dreams come true, where we all get rich and send our kids to over-priced, private elementary schools, right?
In all seriousness though, it was really difficult for a while. Even though I arrived here already being close with the tightly knit Broken Social Community, I still found it difficult to shake off the years of misplaced and unfounded resentment for a city I didn't know or understand at all. I would yell, "va chier mon calice", or "check ta crisse de face," to many motorists, tellers, bartenders and police officers. All the while, Jimmy [Shaw], Emily [Haines], Kevy [Drew] and [Eight and a Half bandmate Justin] Peroff, would just roll their eyes and accept me anyway.
What's wrong with them? Aren't they elitist assholes too? Maybe they think I'm being a big baby? Maybe love is all you need?
After all, nobody in Toronto hates Montreal the way Montrealers hate Toronto. People here smile at you when you're having coffee and ask you how your day is going. Sure the hugs here are a little weak sometimes, but people here aren't so judgmental or hung up on their identity.
That's probably because it wasn't shoved down their throats their whole lives. But nonetheless, I enjoy it. I'm a little sentimental right now as I've had a couple of drinks but I want to thank all of you Torontonians for letting me into your lives and your city.
I might be here to stay, I might only be here for another 10 seconds, but so far it's only been great. xo