The best thing about POP Montreal is that I never know who I’m going to see. I start out intending to go to one thing, and get sucked into the one I’m at. Then, a set change takes so long, I might meander off and find myself on a new trajectory altogether. Of course, there are so many amazing artists performing simultaneously that it just seems unfair. I can’t be at the Rialto and Divan Orange simultaneously, no matter what quantum physics says. Oh, and by the way, I’ve been using POP Montreal’s custom schedule builder. At least, I begin by using it and then… well… yeah, I don’t do what I intend.
Here are some stand outs from my time a-Popping. I deliberately picked bands I’ve never seen because THIS WAS MY CHANCE TO SEE THEM. And I apologize in advance for all the shows I didn’t make it to because there are so damned many.
Fake Tears at Divan Orange
I started out intended to see Our Book and the Authors at Club Lambi, but I walked by Divan Orange first and heard these two ladies playing music on the synths and had to stop in. Also, CISM was hosting the night and even though I have no idea how sponsorship works, I figured that the artists in their purveyance would be winners. The two harmonized beautifully but the sound reminded me of something between a late ’80s Berlin nightclub and a Swedish airport. Robot-lounge music I scrawled to myself, and I meant it in the best possible way. Hauntingly pretty vocals and very electronic keys. I loved it.
Fredy V. at Divan Orange
Once at Divan Orange, Fredy V kept me there. Again, I wanted to go see a few others, but I just had a feeling. Fredy V is a name I see connected with the Belmont and funk… well… I never miss a chance. Smooth grooves and deep funk is exactly what Fredy V delivered with his amazing band. I MEAN AMAZING. I don’t have adjectives for it. It was like the ’70s but without the ugly floral orange prints. Soulful stuff. My notes to myself are things like: “win win win” and “fuck!” I was referring to a keyboard solo. Other than the dancey stuff, Fredy V’s band also does some slow n’ sexy stuff, but also slow n’ sensitive stuff too. One song, Chocolat reminded me of Seal’s Kissed from a Rose. It had the same sort of feel and tempo, the same kind of emotion provoking rhythms. Count me a new fan.
Thanya Iyer at Cagibi
This was another accidental discovery. I set my butt down in Cagibi to do a bit of writing and was so compelled by the voice in the back that I had to go and see for myself. Iyer was onstage with a full jazz band: keys, drums, horn, toy piano. It wasn’t folk. It wasn’t jazz. Iyer is that atmospheric indie sound I associate with Wes Anderson films: dreamy, evocative of a life I never had with lacy dresses and summer bows and punting on the river at Oxford University. I was transported to a wonderful, imagery-rich world. She had a great sense of play and wonder. What a magical band! Oh, and Iyer’s voice… romantic, thick and seductive.
Caveboy at Cagibi and again at Rialto Hall
I didn’t realize that Caigibi would keep me on, but there we go, that’s how we roll. Caveboy is three ladies who can rockrockrockrock. Tough and reverby, like a Brooklyn coffee joint around 11 a.m. in all black and attitude, Caveboy was my perfect espresso. It was such authentic music, all heart, all sweat, all joy, reminding me that I love to rock. I love seeing a band get on stage and just give’r. I love when that band sounds like something you could listen to a thousand times and learn all the lyrics and never get bored. And I love it that they were all women. Yeah, Caveboy is another new favorite of mine, new wave but rocking. I liked them so much that I went back and caught them at Rialto Hall.
Partner at Cagibi
Helloooooo Maritimes. Please make that 20 hour drive more often and head our way. Montreal has a sound which is sort of retro chic. East coast sound involves a lot of guitars. The result is richly layered music, kind of garage-band sounding, a little off kilter, but not really off kilter. Partner can probably play any Sloan tune better than Sloan can (and I like Sloan a lot, so boo to all the haters). What I mean is that they are just so likable, so catchy, fuzzy without being annoying, grand without arrogance. Another fantastic rock band that makes my list of things I love.
Mary Ocher at the Goethe
Bedecked in gold with enormous glasses, Mary Ocher was the edge. Not edgy. This was actual edge. I liked it too. Her personality is endearing, welcoming — not exclusionary. That doesn’t mean she’s folky. She’s a total weirdo, an “outsider” art type, and that is half the charm. The music is art rock in the vein of David Byrne, Lou Reed, and John Cale. Sonic, chaotic, poetic, each song was super short and there was no way to tell when it ended until she said, “Thank you.” I thought this squat style music fit perfectly in the swanky subdued Goethe library, amidst books and computers and comfy chairs. Her talent as a singer came through in how she was able to perform screechy songs to guitar without ear-breaking screeches, and then turn around and hit the piano keys with mastery à la Tori Amos. The crowd wore a lot of stylish glasses too.
Small Feet at the Rialto Hall
Scandinavian duo Small Feet asked for more reverb and they got it. The sound came out bigger for the drummer and singer/guitarist. The lead singer had a nice voice, could whistle well, and delivered one introspective tune after another. It was a subdued set with an Americana folk touch to it. The intimacy between the singer and the drummer also added to the atmosphere of woodsy nostalgia. This is cabin music for cold winter nights when you want to feel like the place is haunted and your heart longing.
Salivation Army at Late Night Little Burgundy
Her hair and outfit were perfect. Too few people caught this cool DJ in the basement of the Rialto annex section. Or maybe the room was too big and the live music too appealing to resist. Nonetheless, Salivation Army plays music that makes your ass move. I wandered in with one of the volunteers early in the evening and we dug her house style. I came back later and she was playing what I think would be Afrobeat and dancehall (I wandered in a few times between other shows). She switched from style to style, all the while singing along to the songs. This is music where you start dancing and don’t stop.
Junglepussy at Late Night Little Burgundy
I told myself I’d catch this rapper and little did I know, so did everyone else. 23 years old, but with a stage presence of someone far older. The crowd loved her. She slapped everyone’s hand, sensuously writhed her body, and rapped her heart out.
Bonus bad photos