The Story of the Only Band I Ever Booked Based on 1 MySpace Song

A few weeks ago I received a message on Facebook from the singer of a band I booked at the Centre St-Ambroise several years ago. He sent me the message on probably the busiest day I’ve had since leaving my job at St-Ambroise, and normally I would wait a few days before even checking a message on Facebook, let alone when I’m swamped with work. But I remembered this band. I had been waiting 3 years for this message. So I watched the video right away, then I watched it about a dozen more times throughout the day. And then I started emailing everyone I knew in the industry, there was a band they needed to see: A Secular, Rabble-Rousing, Barn-Burning, Queer-Positive, Feminist, Anti-Racist, Subversive Gospel Music Band: ***** Back in May of 2008, I was in my first year of programming the newly created Centre St-Ambroise. There was pressure to make the space viable in the first year, so choosing which events were booked at the space was extremely important. I tried to ensure that the artists/bands that were booked had some kind of online presence, gig history and a tangible sense of a fan base that would come to the show. Well, I threw all that out the window for Irreverend James and the Critical Mass Choir. I received an e-mail from the band asking if they could play at the space, and they sent along a MySpace link. There was only 1 song on the page, along with 1 photo, which wasn’t even of the band. Plus they had no gig history; this would be their first show. Normally, I would’ve disregarded the request or tell the band to find other acts they could play with before booking them. But after 1 listen to the song on MySpace I was hooked. I decided to take a risk and book the band. I figured at worst, I would work the bar and not pay myself so the space wouldn’t lose money, and I would get to see a live gospel band.

The Night of the Show

Fast-forward to the night of the show. While getting the room prepped for the show, four scrawny young guys come walking into the venue. I honestly thought they were lost, but it turned out they were the band. Now I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I was polite and helped them get set up and waited around hoping that some kind of crowd would magically show up for this show. Well, show up they did. The room was packed that night. And it was hot, really hot. But it didn’t matter, once the band started playing, no one was going to leave that room. People were up dancing, clapping and singing along instantly, it was infectious. The room was alive, there was energy and excitement that you only wish you could feel at every show. And man, could they play. The piano, bass and drums were tight, the musicianship was incredible. These guys were trained musicians and have been around the block, no doubt. And the vocals. Oh my God the vocals. The singer, “The Profit” (known as Baptiste in some circles), put on a performance I will never forget. Not only can the guy sing, but he really took on the personality of a preacher. It was a performance in the truest sense of the word.

One of Those Rare Moments

Every once in a while an original/unique project comes along that makes you go “WOW”. Irreverend James and the Critical Mass Choir is one of those projects. I was involved in more than 500 events during my time at St-Ambroise, and that night is forever etched in my memory. I felt the same way after seeing them as I did seeing Lake of Stew’s first show, or seeing Random Recipe for the first time. It was something different, something unique. Let’s face it, it’s not every day that you see a secular, queer-positive, feminist, anti-racist, gospel band. After their show that night, I found out that the bass player was leaving the country for a little while, so they weren’t sure about the future of the project. Although disappointed, I told them that I thought the project had enormous potential and that if they ever launched the project officially, to please let me know. I would be happy to help them in any way I could. Well, the message finally came on Facebook a few weeks ago.

Irreverend James and the Critical Mass Choir "Introduction" EP Launch: June 8 at Divan Orange

So for all those in the Montreal area, I highly recommend this show and this band. Watch this short video trailer for their official launch show coming up at Divan Orange and you’ll get a sense of what they’re about: And hopefully I’ll see you on June 8. I'll be there clapping and singing along...ok, maybe just clapping… Cheers, Dave  

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