POP Montréal celebrated its sweet sixteen and invited the city out for another year of wonderful performances. Not only limited to concerts, POP provided an array of other mediums to get into that included film, art and symposiums. The weekend was an endless getaway of entertainment and talent that boasted acts and panels from the likes of RZA, Lunice, Thee Oh Sees, Royal Trux, Un Blonde, Ty Segall, Raveen, Common Holly and countless other artists. There was so much talent squeezed within one week it was a challenge deciding who to prioritize. Nearly every venue in the city was packed full of music nerds trying to get their fix of groovy tunes that they’ve eagerly been waiting for or have just recently discovered. However, because of the number of artists playing at this year’s POP events there wasn’t a wrong decision to be made. The only way you could’ve missed out was if you didn’t know about the festival, in which case if you’re one of those people reading this then sorry you missed out! Here are a couple of highlights from last weekend’s events at POP Montréal.
On Friday night experimental synth-pop artist John Maus put on one hell of a performance in front of a sold out crowd at the Rialto Theatre. With lovely opening sets from local bands Morthouse and Exit Someone, the audience quickly warmed up for the main act. Exit Someone’s performance in particular got the audience in the mood for a night of unforeseen madness. Lead singer June Moon didn’t shy away from engaging with the audience demanding them to clap for her and performing a personal new track for the first time. By the time they left the stage the venue was packed and eager to witness some experimental pop tunes. It was a great way to start off the weekend, Maus was in town and was more than prepared to give a show that Montréal wouldn’t forget anytime soon.
Touring in support for his upcoming album Screen Memories dropping in late October, Maus lit the stage up with a harrowing stage presence. The way Maus carried himself and threw his body around the stage pleased the audience need for a crazy show. Every line delivered looked like it was literally beating the hell out of him. Whether it was yelling while starring at random members of the crowd or hitting himself in the head with his fist multiple times, not one moment of entire performance felt dull. Few pauses during the whole set were made, it was non stop performing from beginning to end. The times there was a break was so Maus could drench his sweat covered body with cool bottles of water. The Rialto Theatre couldn’t get enough of the band’s chemistry onstage, his music felt widely atmospheric within the walls of noise the band produced. By the end of his set Maus looked like he fought an entire war on his own, dripping in sweat it was clear as day he couldn’t have put in a harder effort to give us his all.
Weyes Blood returned to Montréal nearly a year later to serenade us once more with her psychedelic soft rock gems. This time she is playing a sold out crowd at La Sala Rossa with openings local bands Year of Glad and ggpeach. The first opener to perform was Year of Glad who proposed an epic arrangement of songs that harnessed both delicate and heavy progressions through their set. Following up Year of Glad was the slowdance assemble ggpeach with their groovy pop tunes off their EP Melt. During the set lead singer of Weyes Blood Natalie Mering sneaked her way through the audience to the merch table. Only a handful of people noticed and the ones that did got to sneak in a quick hello and autograph. She was enjoying the show and didn’t look bothered by the amount of people approaching her for a friendly gesture of gratitude. Towards the end of ggpeach’s set Mering snuck back into the backroom and prepared herself for what was one of the most beautifully pulled off shows at POP in my own opinion.
Most of Weyes Blood set consisted of the tracks off of last years Front Row Seat to Earth. Mering’s vocal performance was remarkable and was pulled off in an effortless fashion. Dressed in a shiny baby blue suit that can be seen on the cover of Front Row Seat to Earth, Mering created a whole new atmosphere for the audience to exist around for the night. The dreamy guitar chords across “Be Free” evoked heavy themes of relationships coming to a close. It was one of the more heart wrenching tracks of the night and caught the attention of the entire crowd while it was performed. Later on in the night Mering and company came on for an encore and performed a George Harrison cover of the track “Run of the Mill” which was executed perfectly. Within the past year Weyes Blood has toured with Father John Misty, recorded a collaboration EP with Ariel Pink and has just signed to Sub Pop records. With the new contract we can expect a record in 2018 which means you can look forward to catching Weyes Blood come to our city once more.
Mount Eerie played on the last night of the festival at the Ukrainian Federation Hall. The ambience of the venue was both parts excitement and sorrow, this was one of the most unique shows to have been added to POP Montréal in recent years. Phil Elverum has suffered a tough loss with his wife Geneviève Castrée who lost the battle to pancreatic cancer last summer. He wrote and recorded the concept album A Crow Looked at Me to mourn her death and now is embarking on tour in support of this album. Performing in Montréal hit closer to home for Elverum as this was the province his wife was born and raised in, family members and friends of Castrée were seated in the audience to support Elverum through this difficult show. As he walked onto the stage a wall of praise met him and caught him a little off guard. He would look down at his feet and then straight up at the ceiling with his eyes wide open, it was clear he was trying his best to hold back from crying in front of the audience.
The set was surreal, that’s the best way to describe it. It was just Elverum and his acoustic guitar talking about the loss of the love of his life. All of the detailed accounts of the days, weeks and months that had passed by since her death and how he was feeling at the time. It felt invasive sitting in the crowd listening to Elverum open up about everything he has and still is going through. He debuted two new tracks which still surround the theme of mourning, this time with more time having passed. Towards the end of the set Elverum paused for a minute and told the audience how he probably wouldn’t perform these songs ever again in Montréal. The devastation of returning to where his wife was from and performing these tracks had really got to him. He ended the set with the track “Tintin in Tibet” which recalled a memory of Elverum and Castrée going to Victoria together. It was brutal and unspeakably tragic to witness this man recall memories of times with his loved one. Mount Eerie was one of the most unique live shows ever experienced, his loss was translated with great grief to the audience.