Summer Drums: The Euphoria of Montreal’s Tam-Tams

Summer’s officially orbited out of our hemisphere, but as I’ve been so busy setting up my Etsy shop, I haven’t got around to posting some of the photos I took during the warm lazy days of August’s end. One of my adventures took me to Montreal’s Mount Royal, the maze-like green space topped with a cross and landscaped by the very same architect Frederick Law Olmsted who later designed Central Park.

View of Mount Royal rising in the background (note tiny cross visible between lamppost and tree).
View of Mount Royal rising in the background (note tiny cross visible between lamppost and tree – also the smokey haze rising from the Tams).

Smack in the middle of the city, this mountain (well…more of a hill…) is home to many things including the odd racoon and crack smoker. On summer Sundays, however, is when it really comes to life.

Every Sunday in the warm months the slopes are host to the Tam-Tams, or Tams for short. It’s hard to describe exactly the frenzied/excited yet simultaneous chill and peaced-out atmosphere, thus I shall use accompanying photographs to hopefully illustrate the euphoria.

It’s always good when dropping by the Tams to either bring a picnic or eat at one of the tasty restaurants in the area. My personal haunt is TA – “Tourtière Australienne/Thanks Alot” – the Australian/Kiwi pie shop.

TA shopfront.
TA shopfront.

I reviewed the place back in University for The Concordian newspaper, and you can check out the article here, but basically this place is the tits. Buttery, flakey, melt-in-your-mouth pie shells cradle gourmet meat and veggie fillings including butter chicken, curried sweet potato, and classics like steak and mushroom.

Butter chicken pie with mango chutney.
Butter chicken pie with mango chutney.

For those who want pies done properly, they can even be ordered with mashed potatoes, mushy peas, and gravy. Otherwise a selection of hot sauces and mango chutney awaits on the side counter. Get an ice cream float and a dessert (THE PAVLOVAS ARE ORGASMIC), and you’re guaranteed to be a happy camper for the rest of the afternoon.

TA terrace, where pies can be enjoyed in the summer sun.
TA terrace, where pies can be enjoyed in the summer sun.

Once you’ve sat digesting on the terrace for a while, taking in the city sounds and basking in the filtered sunlight, then it’s time to head on over to the Tams.

Flower box on TA terrace.
Flower box on TA terrace.

On the way over, you might pass a busker. Stay for a few minutes and listen; it’s all in the spirit of the day. Drop a loonie or two into his saxaphone box in support of local artists.

Busker on the banks of Mount Royal.
Busker on the banks of Mount Royal.

Walking farther, you’ll begin to hear the low thrum of a drumbeat. The very pavement hums with it.

When the curving sidewalk reaches its apex, look to the right: a looming statue spreads its angelic wings over a scene of hedonistic decadence worthy of Ancient Greek revellers.

Angel of the Tams.
Angel of the Tams.

Walking in, the path is decked with blankets strewn with handmade wares of artisans selling everything from exotic jewelry to carved wood pipes to psychedelic boho pants. The vendors are as unique as their merchandise, some with multicoloured dreds, others studded with scores of piercings, all wearing huge smiles and inviting you to take a closer look at what they have to offer.

Once past the temptations of spending, you merely have to follow the drums. At once, you know you’ve entered a different realm of being.

The Tams.
The Tams.

Smokey with marijuana haze and coloured like a disco rave, drummers sit in a circle with bongos and strike up an intoxicating beat that insists on you dancing. A swarm of revellers gyrates in the centre and just lets it all go, no self-consciousness, no hesitations.

All the tiny dancers.
All the tiny dancers.
Drummers of the Tams.
Drummers of the Tams.

There are also those who prefer to watch, relax, have a drink or a picnic, and these people crowd in droves around the dancers and drummers.

Watching the Tams.
Watching the Tams.

This older gentleman was particularly enjoyable to watch (may we all be so spry at his age).

Getting down to that beat like a boss.
Getting down to that beat like a boss.

But the Tams are not just about the drums, though that might be what started it all. As you wander into the trees, up the woodland paths, you’ll find much more to dazzle the eye and impress the mind.

Tightrope walkers…

Tightrope walker at the Tams.
Tightrope walker at the Tams.

Acrobats…

Acrobats at the Tams.
Acrobats at the Tams.

LARPers (Live Action Role Players)…

LARPers.
LARPers.

Often you’ll get hula hoop performers and silk rope dancers as well, though on this particular day we weren’t so lucky to see them.

Once you’re spent from wandering, or just want to kick back and relax, then there’s a vast lawn on which to spread your legs. For those easily offended or with small children, be warned: this area in an unofficially designated safe smoke space for those wishing to indulge in some quality time with Mary Jane. But don’t bother them, and they won’t bother you.

Tams lounging lawn.
Tams lounging lawn.

If you want to get up and about, there are a plethora of trails to walk or hike which give you a peaceful city reprise through the preserved woodland spaces. What’s more is you get some pretty gorgeous views of the Montreal skyline.

Montreal skyline.
Montreal skyline.

Whether you’re a Montrealer or just a visitor, the Tams are one of those things that you have to do at least once. The texture, the vibrance, the diversity – it saturates you with colour and life.

Check out those clothing textures.
Check out those clothing textures.

I wish I could have gone many times this summer, but alas I arrived back home on the cusp of summer’s end. One thing’s for sure though, going even one time is enough to imprint the experience clearly in your mind forever.


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