Ten years. That’s certainly a milestone in the history of a festival, especially one that was launched by a bunch of friends who have often gone out of their way not to do things the conventional, easy way. At the same time, it seems like this is just the beginning for an event that keeps getting better with time and which, at this point, this city could not do without.
I’d been to Pop Montreal previously, but the first time I remember feeling it all make sense for me was during the 2006 edition, when a trip to L’Hémisphère Gauche to see my beloved Pony Up!, Le Husky and a few other bands turned into an all-night affair that climaxed with an unannounced show by Malajube in the wee hours of the morning. Off the top of my head, I also have indelible memories of Patti Smith’s impromptu poetry reading at the Ukrainian Federation in 2007, with Thee Silver Mt. Zion acting as her backing band; of The Dears’ 2008 midnight show in the somewhat eerie setting of the Masonic Memorial Temple; of Lee Fields & The Expressions blowing the roof off La Sala Rossa in 2009; of Lost in the Trees almost moving me to tears with their music at Casa del Popolo last year…
This year, of course, I’m looking forward to Arcade Fire’s big outdoor show tonight, September 22, at the Place des Festivals. Since playing Osheaga and launching The Suburbs in the summer of 2010, the band has won the Grammy, Brit and Juno awards for Album of the Year and, just this week, it added the Polaris Music Prize to that list. Coincidentally, the group that handed Arcade Fire the Polaris, last year’s winners Karkwa, will be opening for them tonight. Kid Koala will kick things off at 7 p.m., hopefully wearing his plush koala suit.
After this double dose of Polaris-approved rock, I’ll either hurry to O Patro Vys for the first of Adam & The Amethysts’ two Pop 2011 gigs (the other one is at La Tour Prisme on Friday) or swing by Casa del Popolo to catch the end of the Weird Canada showcase featuring Grand Trine, Babysitter, Thomas, Silver Dapple and Chevalier Avant Garde.
On Friday, I’m really curious to plug into Jean Leloup’s Electric Voodoo Night at Théâtre Rialto, a show which will also serve as the launch party of The Last Assassins’ self-titled debut album. I’d also love to attend the public recording session of Moonface (a.k.a. Spencer Krug) at Breakglass Studios, just like I wouldn’t want to miss the Ponderosa Stomp Revue at Cabaret du Mile End, with acts like The Velvelettes, Ralph "Soul" Jackson and Lil’ Buck & The Buckaroos.
Saturday brings more opportunities to try to be everywhere at once. Doesn’t the idea of Andrew W.K. and Galaxie rocking the hell out of Maison des Arts de Laval, of all places, sound awesome? But then back in Montreal, you’ve got Random Recipe set to shake and bake it on the Ubisoft roof, Marie-Jo Thério and Krista Muir attempting to outquirk each other at Ukrainian Federation, all-girl Weezer cover band Sheezer playing songs from the Blue Album and Pinkerton at O Patro Vys…
Sunday ought to be quieter, right? Think again. Patrick Watson’s Sacred Sunday at Ukrainian Federation, Socalled’s "puppet-heavy indie musical fable for the 21st century" entitled The Season at Théâtre Outremont, and Think About Life’s late-night show at Saint-Édouard Church are only three of the extremely attractive final propositions on the Pop schedule for this year.
And I’ve yet to tell you about all the other sections of the festival: Pop Symposium with its conversations, panels and presentations by a lineup that includes singer-songwriter R. Stevie Moore (Pop Quarters, Sept. 23), former Captain Beefheart collaborator Gary Lucas (Cinéma L’Amour, Sept. 24) and comic book artist Art Spiegelman (Concordia University, Sept. 24); Art Pop with its group exhibitions And No One Was Around (SAT, Sept. 23-25) and Did It Make a Sound (Pop Quarters, to Sept. 25); Film Pop with its projections of music-driven films like Seamus Murphy’s PJ Harvey: Let England Shake (Pop Quarters, Sept. 23), Sogo Ishii’s Crazy Thunder Road (Cinémathèque Québécoise, Sept. 24) and Julien Temple’s Oil City Confidential (Blue Sunshine, Sept. 24); plus Puces Pop, Kids Pop and probably more I’m forgetting.
What’s more, as you might know, the best thing about Pop Montreal is often the moments where your schedule goes out the window and you wind up in oddball corners of town, where you make great, unexpected discoveries. Here’s to another ten years!