Babylon, P.Q.: Cleveland on the St-Laurent… not

Cleveland on the St-Laurent… not

Caron: Devoted to rock'n'roll

"I just got back from Cleveland."To which one might normally respond, "I’m sorry to hear that." However, in Patrice Caron’s case, the journey to C-Town wasn’t to take in the lovely and idyllic Cuyahoga River (famous for having caught fire an estimated 13 times due to heavy surface pollution), or marvel at the Incredible Shrinking City (its current population of about 433,000-and-downward-counting is less than half of its 1950 high of nearly a million), or stock up on Cleveland Indians apparel (which, defying belief, continues to have the most offensive team logo in professional sports, that of smiley red-faced "Chief Wahoo").

No, Caron was in town for the best (the only?) reason to go to Cleveland: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And unlike the 7.5 million folks who’ve been to worship at the temple of rock since its opening in 1995, his visit smacked of ulterior motives: Caron is spearheading a drive to establish and build Quebec’s very own museum of rock’n'roll.

"It’s amazing that they have so much stuff," he says, then laughs. "And now the fun is figuring out what they left out. It was a good experience for me, I’ve wanted to go for a long time, and now I finally had a reason to. It was good to see how they did theirs, and now we’ll see what we’re going to do with ours.

"I also went to the rock’n'roll wax museum in Niagara and saw what I won’t do."

What? No life-size wax mannequins of Gerry Boulet and Offenbach?

"No."

If Caron sounds like the kind of guy who knows what he wants, it’s because he is, and his no-nonsense approach to decision-making is informed by a lifetime of involvement in music and music-related business here in Montreal. The lead singer for now-defunct franco-punk band Les Krostons was, in previous lifetimes, the production manager at Foufounes Électriques, and publisher and editor of indie music newspaper Bang Bang, this after having spent numerous years working at clubs Café Chaos and Jailhouse Rock. He remains the founder and general director of the GAMIQ independent music awards and the director of operations at networking platform/music festival M for Montreal. For the foreseeable future, however, Caron intends to be known as the general director of the first and only Quebec Museum of Rock and Roll.

Caron, and those involved with him, are not lacking for ambition. Still in its conceptual stages only a few months ago, the museum team is now looking at presenting their inaugural exhibit in February of 2011, and this while they still don’t even have a roof over their heads (negotiations are underway for a prime piece of real estate in downtown Montreal).

"For now we have 10 people involved in the project," says Caron, "and we know other people who want to get involved but we don’t have things for them to do just yet. But the team’s going to expand to 20 for sure as we get closer to the opening – we’ll need people to build stuff and make it as beautiful as I see it in my head."

This first exhibit will span that nascent, groundbreaking epoch from 1956 to 1964, "because [in 1956] Elvis appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, and we see that as the first major event in the rock’n'roll world," explains Caron. "We looked in the Quebec National Archives and ’57 was the year of rock’n'roll in Montreal. Everything was rock’n'roll. You went to the cleaner, you heard rock’n'roll; you went bowling, it was rock’n'roll. It was the big thing in ’57. And next came The Beatles, and that’s where our next exhibition will start."

The researchers preparing the exhibit expect to wrap up their work by the end of June, after which point the acquisition and collection process will begin. "We’re already in contact with a number of collectors – the challenge is to be as extensive as possible. We’re not going to be covering the hundreds of bands who played in church basements, but we’re going to talk about all of those that had an effect."

And it doesn’t end there: Caron says that future exhibits are planned out for the next 10 years. "For example, Genesis was very big at one time, so we’re going to link that with progressive bands of the time and so on and so forth," he says. "The whole plan of the thing, as a final product maybe in 20 years or so, is to have an extensive history of what happened in music in Quebec from the early 1950s to 2030 or whatever. That’s the plan.

"We don’t think we’re so good that we’re going to achieve it in the first few years," he laughs, "but that’s the main idea as we go."

While Caron isn’t averse to the notion of success – and certainly there is a great deal of potential for a venture of this nature to be lucrative in the long run – the idea isn’t to create wealth, he says, but rather legacy.

"I’m not going to buy a big chalet up north with this," he jokes. "What I want is for it to survive and be successful so that I can look back in 10 years and be proud of the results. I want something for all the musicians, who had success or not, to remember their history, and to give something back, and to have a place for those who were there to come and remember."

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