Montreal was Under Pressure this weekend as graffiti artists from around the world claimed the main stretch of Sainte-Catherine Street to paint their towering canvases of brick and cement. Dozens of buildings gained a new look for the long-running festival’s eighteenth edition, from murals of whacked out cows and ice cream genies to crew tags in icy blues and fiery oranges.
The festival was organized by youth culture magazine Under Pressure, a publication aimed at skateboarding audiences and fans of urban culture and graffiti art. And much like the new MURAL Festival did for Saint-Laurent Boulevard in June, these talented men and women attempted to bring a blast of life and colour to a section of the city long plagued by graffiti of a vandalizing variety.
During the day, the festival had a moderate turn out of patrons from all age groups, creating a family environment. A few street-side tents offered face painting for the kids, and a plethora of t-shirt souvenirs for everyone. By night, the event changed its pace and its crowd. After the sun had set, beer consumption skyrocketed — evident by small mountains of empty bottles and cans around the garbage containers on Sainte-Catherine Street — and the twenty-something and up crowd took over.
In addition to the visual stimuli, there was music aplenty. Popular DJs and MCs came in droves to showcase their talent to hip-hop and reggae listeners. Blaster, Heart Streets, City Fidelia, and Simahlak, to name only a few of the performers, kept the crowds dancing all day long.
There was a stark contrast to the MURAL festival, however, as Under Pressure had a much lower showing of Montrealers. The biggest explanation is its limited budget – Under Pressure is entirely self-funded – but the level of organization also left something to be desired. Informational pamphlets were difficult to locate, and ran out halfway through the event. The website gave circuitous instructions as to when and where these events would be held, leaving the attendee to wander Sainte-Catherine blind, missing many of the artists’ work. Even some of the “graffers” started late, risking the possibility of not finishing within the allotted time frame. Confident that this was the status quo, one of the volunteer staff members boasted, “not to worry. They’ll finish on time.” Those traversing Sainte-Catherine this week will have to be the judge of that.
But, practice makes perfect as the saying goes and Under Pressure seems to be a stable fixture in the community. In the meantime, the city has a couple dozen new works of art to admire for, what in all probability, will be years to come – or at least until next year’s edition.
To see the murals and professional tags, head east on Sainte-Catherine Street from Saint-Laurent Boulevard, and don’t skip the adjacent side streets, as much of the painting was done on the backside of these buildings.