Despite the fact that Under Pressure’s 2011 activities officially kick off at 11 am Saturday, by noon, tents are still being set up on Ste. Catherine East between Ste. Dominique and Hotel de Ville for the Montreal hip-hop culture event of the year. It’s early, but the artists are out on the streets, starting new pieces against the sides of several buildings, their spray cans clicking loud and proud with every shake.
On the street corners scaffolding has been pushed up against massive walls. Most of the walls are shared between several artists, each having been given a sizable space for their personal tags and designs. On the largest mural near Foufounes Électriques, Montreal graffiti crew FAM create a larger-than-life homage to their home city; a collage of all of Montreal’s most famous symbols, from the more obvious rosette and STM arrows to the Couche Tard owl and the feisty Just for Laughs mascot. While the walls are transformed, skateboarders compete for cash prizes and temporary glory in the FTR Design skate park that has been set up in front of Underworld.
Apart from the paint and skate, Under Pressure’s street fair is lined with tables and tents promoting and selling all kinds of stuff — from skate decks and wheels, to winter clothes for cheap, to official merchandise. With DJs scratching from the Under Pressure stage on De Bullion and rap beats coming from the underworld tent, people browse, sauntering down the closed-off street and perusing the tents. One noteworthy tent in front of Volume sells CDs, five for fifty cents. From here, a copy of the The Sheepdogs’ Big Stand is promptly nabbed (for a quarter) by yours truly. Don’t miss this table!
While the steals are great, what really seems to stand out the most at Under Pressure is the undeniable presence of a great vibe. For one, people of all ages are not only welcome among Montreal’s skaters, but embraced: many really young kids roll around on skateboards with surprising ease and skill, usually trailing an older version of themselves around and fearlessly owning the skate park like any of the other competitors. It’s pretty clear that kids are more than well received at the festival; there is even a ‘kid’s corner’ stocked with bubbles, juice boxes and art supplies galore.
The feel at Under Pressure is like that of a marvelously extended skatepark. Under the beating sun of Saturday afternoon, skaters and pedestrians do just what summer calls for – chill out. And, as the artists create their tags, puffs of coloured aerosol rising with every stroke, they bring to light a culture that usually stays hooded and elusive. It feels good to be out of the dark.
Under Pressure continues Sunday August 14th, 2011. For more information visit http://www.underpressure.ca/2011/07/under-pressure-2011-fresh-paintsweet-16/ .