By the power vested in me by Rolaids, Gatorade and the hair of the hair of several dogs, I survived Pop Montreal. I’m going to avoid the opportunity to wax eloquent with wonderfully grandiose theses and rock ruminations, and instead let the bands’ performances speak and shriek for themselves.
On the fest’s opening night, Sept. 27, Dragonette proved that white suits and a hot lead singer do not always a great band make, while popstress Annie, equipped with a glass of red wine and a fat rockabilly DJ, proved something similar. Her last song killed, though. At the after-party at ZooBizarre, which could be a bomb-shelter club in Jerusalem, Ghislain Poirier dropped enough crunk to smother a bedazzled elephant.
Wednesday at Divan Orange, Telefauna sounded like they were singing an extended jingle for some new hipster toy company, which sounded a bit "who cares" until they dropped the real geek-funk. Hot Springs then delivered some pretty damn competent rock, though the lead singer’s boobs were not as big as advertised on the cartoon poster. Down at Soda, Busdriver, manning the show sans DJ (which is always a bit boring), seemed a bit pissed off to be there, though I’m feeling the new album and others there disagreed, so I’m willing to be outvoted. TTC fucking destroyed it, one of the week’s best, rocking some Euro-hop, stripping down and getting girls to sing along with some insanely dirty lyrics. Up at Main Hall, City Field were good, mostly because of the impossible-to-contain talents of Matt Murphy. I only saw a bit of Enon‘s set because I started hiccupping like an alcoholic, which prevented any high-quality schmoozing.
I knew very little about Coco Rosie before Thursday’s show, and what little I did know seemed too art-house pretentious, but they completely overwhelmed the weirdness. The sisters’ lost-little-Björk/power operatic vocal interplay was aided by beatbox dynamo Spleen and a stage’s worth of instruments. Their conversion of a cheesy R’n'B Kevin Little song was inspired. Antony & The Johnsons? What did you expect? Friendly and funny, morose and melancholic, the effeminate man-mountain’s voice filled up La Tulipe, as did the great musicians in The Johnsons, and he did the most tender, improvised song about parsnips I’ll ever hear. On a completely different tip, up at Main Hall, Devin The Dude, happy as a pig in a pot field, ran through his hits and made stoned believers of us all.
Friday, Joseph Arthur at Club Soda ran through his one-man show effortlessly enough to finish a painting while on stage, while over at Club Dome, the near-riot crowd outside was waiting for Nas, who (surprise, surprise) got stopped at the border. At the Ships at Night showcase, I only had the chance to catch a sweatily awesome set from Plants And Animals and one great song from Timber before heading up to the insanely high-quality Arts and Crafts showcase, where Apostle Of Hustle dropped some great straight-up indie that almost got derailed when the lead singer of Stars got up and overacted his way into near embarrassment. Up next, Jason Collett gave lots of love to Pop Montreal and the audience gave it back. Over at Academy Club, Think About Life killed their first song then got sort of boring, but are clearly a young band to watch.
Saturday, at the Puces and Pop fashion show DJed by Pshaw Dunlevy, hipster hotties rocked some great locally designed clothes and accessories, but the show was stolen by one incredibly fine, jaw-dropping booty. Over at the Divan Orange, Torngat, experiencing technical problems, seemed like they were rehearsing, but Pawa Up First delivered a fest best performance, partially because of Melo from ICM dropping some nice rhymes on their slab of head-nodding funk. At Main Hall, Melissa Auf Der Maur‘s Mtl. love-in kicked off with some vintage footage of the Main, then Lil’ Andy reminisced on how he once explained irony to Leonard Cohen. Down at Soda, Lovely Feathers rocked harder than I thought, though not as hard as the girl passed out with her head in a garbage can. By the time Metric took the stage, with frontfemme Emily Haines doing the always-entertaining electro-seizure, the crowd was going apeshit. Up at Academy Club, the fest’s nexus, Subtitle (otherwise known as the guy with the biggest hands in the world) rocked the stage with Busdriver and Bluebird, before Islands, whom someone called "the band that hype built," dropped the classic pop sound I’m going to wait to judge, because it was hard to hear in the mayhem. I heard that someone punched a volunteer trying to get in, a tactic I assume didn’t work. Down at the Vice after-party, which could be described as the most claustrophobic room I’ve ever been in, the beer was free, the Sunday Sinners were loud, and I was the fuck out of there.
Sunday night at Cabaret, Architecture In Helsinki didn’t make it, which gave me a chance to hear Elizabeth Powell‘s great voice, which I’d previously only heard making sarcastic jokes, before Holy Fuck’s Brian Borcherdt dropped a solo acoustic set replete with a hilariously great Kim Mitchell cover. Then headliners Patrick Watson made it clear why they recently upstaged Philip Glass in New York.
The fest’s final night was an inspired feat of programming, a sit-down affair where the weary crowd was treated to the other-era performance of Irving Fields, who charmed them with a rapscallion’s grin and a classical song mega-mix. It was followed by Gonzales‘s uniquely incredible approach to the keys, which included coaxing sounds out of a childhood piano that no one else could, and a hilarious piano lesson given to one of the funniest looking guys I’ve ever seen. The night, and the fest, was capped off by the Socalled Orchestra, which saw Josh Dolgin at his best, directing, on the fly, a stage full of musicians to fill out a collaborative, all-over-the-road sound that essentially sums up the very best of Pop Montreal.
(P.S. If you’re wondering if I beat Jamie O’Meara’s 26-acts-covered record, add them up for yourself. My math skills left me several days ago.)