Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Spending a Weekend With Warren Peace, The Man Behind The We Are The Mods Empire – Part II

Part II

In part I, I introduced you to the highly entertaining and contentious host of the We Are The Mods radio show, DJ Warren Peace. I explained in way too many words what I thought we had in common and where we diverge, only to describe the first 60 seconds of our first encounter in person. Here's what ensued.

Day 1:

I had a weekend planed full of surprises and the best of what Montreal had to offer. I met Warren and the lovely DJ Penny Lane at their hotel. Our first stop was a little restaurant that is often frequented by the local McGill University students and not a place that an out-of-towner would usually visit. Le Santropol has some of the best sandwiches in town and offers a great selection of tea. Not a fancy place by any means, I had Penny in mind because of its vegetarian friendly menu.

My first impression was confirmed. The meal was punctuated by laughter, friendly tomfoolery and non-stop conversation. I always suspected the reason why some people can't stand Warren is that they take what he says way too literally. You can be firm in your convictions without taking yourself too seriously. That was established very early on. What I love about getting into contact with fellow Mods from around the globe is that you have this instant connection and have plenty in common. That's something that my non-Mod friends don't get. Let's face it, we are a fraternity.

I had Warren in mind for our next stop. If you have ever listened to his show, you know he's a scotch aficionado. So it wasn't by chance that we made a detour by the Whiskey Cafe. Ask any local and they'll tell you that the Whiskey Cafe has a reputation for having the nicest washrooms in the city. Where else can you take a whizz in a waterfall?

But we weren't there to use the facilities but to enjoy the best selection of scotch and whiskey in town. As soon as we walked through the entrance, my wife was greeted by the barmaid with open arms, a long time friend. You could tell right away, by looking at Warren's reaction, that he was impressed that we seemed like regulars in this upscale joint. It was actually just a coincidence. We all had the sample selection and our guest of honour, that is quite particular about his scotch, emptied every glass in front of him. The evening was off to a great start.

The bar Les Bobards was next on the list. Time for some live entertainment! We needed a little break from all of us talking non-stop for the last couple of hours. I wanted our guests to have a taste of some of our local talent. The bar is small, intimate, with the stage just a few feet in front of us. It's the perfect place to taste some of our local brew on tap. I was pleased when I learnt that the traditional Ska band The Skatton Club was playing when our visitors were in town.

The band had just started their first set when we set foot in the establishment. Andre, the band leader, spotted me walking in and right in the middle of a song, greeted me by my first name. “Bloody hell Patrick, you own this town? Everywhere we go, people know you!” came out of Warren's mouth. I wish that was planned. I have to admit, I couldn't think of a better way to boost my ego.

I had invited some of the Montreal Mods and a few friendly skinhead mates of mine to join us. A few answered the call and we were soon a dozen enjoying the cold beer and a great show. I was delighted to know that Warren loved the band. He thought that they were worthy of a record deal and was surprised they didn't have an album out.

That reassured me for the surprise that was just about to happen. During the second set, Andre invited me on stage to sing One Step Beyond. I started with the Madness intro we have all heard a million times followed by a little bit of toasting and skanking on stage. By the look on their mugs, it's safe to say that nobody saw that one coming!

We finished the night in a clandestine bar that can be best qualified as a depression era speakeasy. To find the place is half the fun. Once you walk through the door that has the word “bar” the size of a baby's fist with a Japanese character above it, nestled between a local fast food joint and a jeweller, you find yourself in a long narrow hallway covered on each side by long white drapes. This mysterious corridor finally ends with another heavy drape where a tall man, dressed in a tuxedo, suddenly peaks out and asks you how many you are. I was expecting to be asked for a secret password or a set of keys with the Playboy bunny on it but after a ten minute wait we were invited in. Inside is a dim light place that has enough place for a bar. It's strategically placed in the middle with arms branching out on each side. So basically, wherever you are in this boudoir, you're resting against the bar. Frank Sinatra was softly being played over the speakers. We all felt quite at home, all sharply dressed in our tailored suits. Trendy cocktails are the house's speciality. 

It took me a while but it dawned on me that this place used to be the nastiest dive bar around where all the local skinheads and punks used to meet, get drunk on cheap beer and fight. I think my wife came up with the most accurate description of the night when she said: “This place feels like I'm in a David Lynch movie.” That just made an already memorable night even more special. Penny, Warren and I already felt like childhood friends that hadn't seen each other in 10 years.

Now, this night would merit a 5 star rating if it wasn't for the fact that I had forgotten where I had parked the car. Since Warren and I are such gentlemen, we had dropped the ladies in front of the venue. And just like two high school gals, we never stopped talking while hunting for a parking spot. So I never payed attention to where I had left the car. We must have walked a few miles at 3 am just to realize that it was just across the street from the bar.

I was looking forward to what adventures the next day was going to bring.

Day 2:

I picked up the dynamic duo at their hotel just in time for brunch. I brought them to a diner that has been open since 1942 and is a Montreal institution. Beautys Luncheonette is the place to go, evident by the fact that there's always people lining up outside. Even if we had to wait a while for a table (I don't own this town after all) at least we were entertained by the 90 year old Jewish owner Hymie that cracked us up with his rapid fire one-liners. “Don't worry, once you're inside, you can take all the time in the world. As long as you do it fast.” was one of them. Well, you get the picture.

Photo from the Beautys Facebook page
Is it just me or Hymie is the live version of the old guy character in the Pixar movie Up?

I was proud to have my guests taste the world famous Montreal bagels (Google it if you don't believe that Montreal has the best bagels on the planet) and the delicious pancakes served with REAL maple syrup. The brunch also served as a business meeting. It wasn't just for the fact that Warren put the meal on his expense account. We officially decreed that in exactly a year, we were going to meet again at the Modtreal Weekender and Scooter Rally. So mark your calenders folks, Montreal will be the epicentre of the Mod world during Labor Day Weekend of 2014.

Once our bellies were full, that the caffeine had kicked in and that we had decided that Modtreal was going to be jointly presented by We Are The Mods and Parka Avenue, we were ready to hit the streets. What are 3 Mods to do on a sunny Saturday afternoon? Visit the Montreal Museum of contemporary arts? Naw... Maybe next time. Go see the unique architecture of Old Montreal? Pfff. Too many tourists. Go up the tallest inclined tower in the world at the Olympic Stadium? Maybe if we have enough time. Let's have our priorities straight here folks. Let's go shopping!

A short walk from Beautys is Le 63. Recently opened, it's owned by a Rocker! Yes, I brought them in enemy territory! Actually, Richard is a super nice fellow that has a nice mix of quality vintage threads and new stuff. His selection of new, retro inspired helmets, aviator goggles and driving gloves are worth checking out.

Richard and I settling our differences.
A Rocker's jacket over a Vespa. This spells trouble.

As soon as we walked in, the lovely Sandra greeted me with a big hug. Warren was again mystified. I had an ulterior motive to bring him there. I wanted to lure Warren to the dark side. No... Not turn him into a Rocker! I actually wanted to show him that having a retro fetish is sometimes a good thing. Richard had bought a load of brand new, deadstock, sta-prest type trousers from the 60s. Most of them still had the original tags attached to them! Usually, I like to keep that type of precious bounty all to myself but I had VIP guests to impress! Warren did manage to find a stunning pair of tan trousers that fit him perfectly. That's one point in the “Win” column for vintage clothes!

There was a massive sidewalk sale on Mont-Royal Avenue and I didn't leave empty handed either. I found a nice 60s yellow wool Arnold Palmer cardigan that cost me next to nothing. Another quick stop to see my buddy Manuel at Paul's Boutique. We didn't spend a lot of time searching for records but just enough for Warren to drop a box full of pins on the floor.

Before bringing my visitors back to their hotel for a little down time and a quick change we drove to the top of Mount Royal where the views of the city are breathtaking.

For the evening's festivities, I had planed a good old fashion loft party. Chilled cocktails were flowing and smooth Soul music and Mod classics were the soundtrack for the night. Everybody came dressed to the nines, like only Mods can do. Another surprise was in store for all in attendance. For the first time ever, my friends Dominic and Caroline introduced themselves as fiances. That's right, a few hours earlier Dominic had asked his girlfriend's hand in marriage while on a romantic Vespa ride along the Lachine canal. So out came a chilled bottle of Moet & Chandon!

This ended up being a weekend I will not soon forget. I spent some quality time with some old friends and made some new ones. I believe I promised my readers a shocking revelation about the man behind the microphone, didn't I? So without further ado, here it is. Warren is actually a real nice guy. Shocking I know! He's attentive, generous and quite a good listener, believe it or not. Unlike some of you might believe, he doesn't torture cute fluffy kittens in a dungeon. Here's the proof.