Rejoice indie music fans for today marks the beginning of this year’s installment of Pop Montreal! For those of you who suffer from option paralysis I give you my deepest sympathies because, as usual, there’s just so many shows to choose from.

Even just looking at their schedule can send shivers down the spine of someone who wants to see and do it all. Last week Stephanie Laughlin gave you her picks for what to see and this week it’s my turn.

In order to streamline my choices and prevent my head from exploding, I’ve narrowed it down to these four categories: The Hidden Gem, The Top Venue, The Top Headliner, Best Overall Show.

Keep in mind that this list is far from extensive, completely biased to my musical tastes and prepared without any thought for the logistics of how someone would attend shows that overlap with each other time-wise. This is just a jumping off point for five days of hipster heaven.

POSTDATA

One of the many (many, many) hidden gems of Pop is POSTDATA, the solo project of East Coast indie rocker Paul Murphy more commonly known for his work in Wintersleep. They’ll be at O’ Patro Vys on Thursday to headline a show featuring Caveboy, Art D’Ecco and Strangerfamiliar.

This part-time project might not get big time attention but after listening to a few tracks I’m baffled as to why. The songs are well crafted, the lyrics are interesting and there’s an accessibility to the music that should interest people with different musical tastes.

POSTDATA perform with Art d’Ecco and Strangerfamiliar Thursday, September 27, 8:30pm at O Patro Vys, 356 Mont-Royal Est. Tickets are $13

Barfly

With so many bands to choose from I knew I had to cheat and pick a whole venue. One of my highlights every year is heading over to my favorite dive Barfly to check out a bunch of bands that you probably don’t know and normally wouldn’t find there outside of POP.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday night they’ll be running shows there with packed lineups for only ten bucks. It’s a sma… urrr I mean “intimate” venue that always has a rock and roll vibe. I once saw a guy on stage there playing the cello and it still felt rock and roll for some reason.

To go with the low ticket price, it’s also got the most affordable drink prices of any of the venues in the fest. Add all that up and there’s a good chance it will be packed on all three nights so get there early if you can.

Usually the bands aren’t as well known but if you’re feeling adventurous and want to explore some new music this is the best place to be. This year I’m looking forward to getting to know Toronto based indie rockers Goodbye Honolulu who are headlining on Thursday.

Barfly is at 4062A St-Laurent

Wolf Parade

While this is a highly unoriginal choice, I’ve decided to put Montreal indie rock royalty Wolf Parade on this list as the top act because of the sheer volume of shows they have in this year’s fest. They’ve taken up residence at Sala Rosa from Thursday to Sunday, so whichever night you plan on heading out, they’ll be waiting for you.

Sometimes picking between a bunch of bands you’re not super familiar with can be a bit tedious, if you just want to go out and be assured of a good time, this is the best option. They’re even hosting an after-party on Sunday the 30th at La Sottorenea for those of you who just don’t want the fest to end!

Wolf Parade perform with various opening acts September 27-30, 9pm at Sala Rossa, 4848 St-Laurent. Tickets are $30 (or $10 for the Basement After-Party)

Blitzen Trapper

Another of the more established acts in this year’s fest is Blitzen Trapper who have been combining indie rock with country and folk influences since 2000, often to critical acclaim. The Portland-based quintet will be supported by three great local acts John Jacob Magistery, El Coyote and Corey Gulkin on Saturday night at Le Ministère: Salle St-Ambroise.

This is my vote for the show with the most solid lineup top to bottom. Event hopping at POP can be fun, especially on a Saturday night, but if you’re not in the mood for that, give this show some serious consideration.

Blitzen Trapper, John Jacob Magistery, El Coyote and Corey Gulkin perform Saturday, September 29, 9pm at Le Ministère – Salle St-Ambroise, 4521 St-Laurent. Tickets are $15

* Featured image from Goodbye Honolulu’s Typical video, via YouTube

** POP Montreal runs September 26-30, full schedule at POPMontreal.com

“Have you heard the news?

I am bigger than ants!”  – ‘Big Gigantic Body’, The Anthony Hansen Problem

There is nothing in the city right now like The Anthony Hansen Problem. Despite being a newly formed act, they came in at #9 for both “freakiest” and “most pretentious” musical act in CULTMTL’s Best Of Montreal 2016 poll.

When, in mid July, I made my way to Casa del Popolo to see The Anthony Hansen Problem play alongside BoyJune (now Beloveds), The Island of Misfit Toys and Commander Clark’s band, I had no idea just how much fun I’d be having. This show with its greatly slotted bill was hands down the best musical time I’ve had in years.13690888_10102605839847987_3461689634366204884_o

Part performance art and part brazen ego comedy pop rock, The Anthony Hansen problem is is a hard act to describe. A friend of mine, Cas Kaplan of Boyfriends, aptly describes them as ‘absurdist new wave’ and ‘glamaged’.

Recently transitioned from solo act to three man show, The Anthony Hansen Problem is Anthony Hansen (keys, vox), Noemie Kinney of Nanimal (bass), and Evan Magoni of Boyfriends (drums). The decision to switch from one man show to a trio was one that Hansen made after carefully consideration:

“I definitely had a period where I kind of stopped playing for a while and tried to rethink my approach because in as much that people told me it was entertaining to see me doing the one man thing I knew I couldn’t sustain it,” he explains, “It wasn’t any fun and I’m basically enjoying myself a lot more now that I have people to bounce ideas off of and it just it feels less like I’m dwelling within an echo chamber.”

One of the major factors for the switch was the limitations brought on by using a backing track:

“The backing track is not gonna stop, it’s not gonna allow you to banter with the audience. I was sort of really shooting myself in the foot because I was just putting songs back to back to back and not giving myself any breathing room. People even told me they couldn’t tell where one thing ended and other began the pace was way too manic. I think this is the issue when I generally do projects entirely on my own I just get so kind of, I topple over under the weight of my own ambition when I don’t have people to reign me in.”

Hansen met Magoni and Kinney through musical circles whereby they found mutual admiration of each other’s musical stylings and that the two genuinely liked what he referred to as his ridiculous songs.

“For this specific project, I build off of what strikes me as an interesting phrase,” Hansen describes, “I’m taking one specific phrase that sounds like it could be a hook in a song and then just constructing lyrics around it. A lot of times what I do is I’ll take that phrase, write free associatively based on what it makes me think of, and then loosely organize that into a song like structure. That’s part of why a lot of my songs involve me talking and not really rhyming, because most of what I write is stream of consciousness and then edited together after the fact.”

Of the performance and pretentious aspects of his project,  whereby each song seems to come from a very odd backstory, Hansen remarks:

“I tend to write in character a lot and a lot of the characters I write for are unreliable narrators so it’s essentially just you know and like, I remember Andrew (Boyfriends, Smokes) said that the song All This Techonology is Making Us Antisocial made him think of just being trapped in a car, some vehicle, with someone who is talking At you and not registering your discomfort.”

He adds,  “There is a lot of that in my music. I think it gives me a freedom to write from the perspective of people who don’t, I guess, have the same social inhibitions that I do. It’s a way of embodying things that I could not get away with in my normal life. Just being this like very strange, very alienating kind of figure. It’s fun to sort of play with that and just you know, write as someone who deliberately breeches social boundaries within a performance context.”

In terms of what is next for The Anthony Hansen Problem, Hansen says he is really enjoying the band’s current momentum. They’ve played three shows in three weeks and are about to head into the studio to record.

“To be honest,  I like working quickly, you know, just keeping things moving. I’m really someone who can’t relax or stay still so I kind of constantly have to be tinkering with things. I mean, that’s the goal as much as anything is to just always have this outlet that I can turn towards and if other people like it that’s great too.”

“I can promise you though,” he adds with a playful grin spreading across his face, “if someone comes along with like a shit ton of money to give us, we are going to sell out all the way. I’m just gonna start making the worst and most vacuous music I possibly can. Probably break up. Then go on a reunion tour that outlasts how long we stayed together originally.”

Catch The Anthony Hansen Problem at Barfly tonight, August 8, 2016. Show starts at 9pm. 7$

This past Wednesday I sauntered on over to St-Urbain street to pick up my POP Montreal press pass. If you’ve never been ‘popping’, I can understand how one might be wary about the expenses surrounding such an endeavor. But I’d encourage anyone in Montreal in September at least to drop by Pop headquarters.

I began my POP 2015 experience by wandering around the free activities HQ has to offer including art shows, panels, and of course, music. As I shoved a hot dog and beer into my face like the classy lady that I am, I was entertained by Montreal Band Nancy Pants. They’re a perfect hybrid of pop and punk sensibilities, or “dirty pop” as my friend Google tells me they like to be called.

Whatever labels they give themselves, the band was giving it their all and clearly very excited to be there. I would recommend giving their single Happy a listen, and I look forward to seeing them again at some point in the future. Sadly that was my extent of music on the first day, because well when you’re in your thirties and have to get up at 5:30 a.m. for work, sleep becomes more appealing than a party.

I continued my Pop adventure on Thursday night by doing one of my favourite activities; seeing a movie. While one wouldn’t naturally associate a music festival with film, Film Pop (movies with a clear musical influence) has been a part of the festival for a long time (since the beginning? Now I’m ashamed at my clear lack of knowledge about Pop history). The film I saw was about this small Montreal band, you may have heard of them – Arcade Fire.

The Reflektor Tapes is footage that was taken of the band during the course of their latest album, 2013’s Reflector. The film cuts back and forth as the band conceives, records and tours the album. I went into the experience hoping to get some sort of insight into what a monumental task it must be for band with that level of fame to work and tour an album.

If you were hoping for the same, I believe the expression I’m looking for is “you’re shit out of luck.” The Reflektor Tapes is far more an art film then documentary. Not that I didn’t enjoy the screening. The film is beautiful to look at, and its high energy leaves one feeling oddly inspired even though you don’t quite understand what you just watched. It perfectly complimented what followed the screening.

Fueled by the energy of the screening and dance party that followed, I wandered down St-Laurent. After the high-art vibe of Arcade Fire at The Rialto, I was in the mood for something a little trashier, and settled on my favorite hole in the wall, St-Laurent bar Barfly. While I was kind of hoping for some punk band I could mosh along to, instead I was treated to the low-key French folk singer Clemence Freschard.

At first listen her songs are silly and simplistic. Chees and Crackers. Freschard crooned to the shamefully small crowd at Barfly. But then, as the song progressed, you become totally enchanted with her style and she hooks you in. Freschard was in fact a perfect way to close off a night of Pop, and I hummed her addictive choruses all the way home.

I caught up with three of the four members of Montreal heavy psychedelic rock band Realms of Bliss after playing the Barfly as part of the 2014 Montreal Infringement Festival. This was a jam-packed night that went from the experimentally loud, to folk to punk in the form of the extact, Richard Lahmy and Crazy Knows Crazy.

Here’s what they had to say:

The 2014 Montreal Infringement Festival continues today and wraps up tonight, please visit infringemontreal.org for more

Late Sunday nights spent in a light snowfall with good company have been the breeding ground for some of the best moments I’ve had. There is nothing more beautiful than a still winter evening and taking a quiet stroll through the deserted urban landscape that is our fair city.

This passed Sunday I was particularly restless after a week of illness and home improvement projects. I spent most of the holidays without a voice and one of the worst colds I’ve had in a while. The bright side is the money I didn’t spend on partying and keeping up with my friends allowed me to splurge on décor! However when I realized it was my last night before a new semester, I decided it was necessary to put on my new boots and head out on the town.

The four piece of Wild and The Wind playing at Casa Del Popolo

Sunday is a day of relaxation, but you can still find a fun event if you’re going stir-crazy. Give your local concert venues a check and you can usually find a cheap show to suit your Sunday vibe. This past Sunday I attended a friend of a friend’s show at Casa Del Popolo, a venue located on St Laurent just south of St. Joseph (that serves fantastic black velvets for five dollars).

Sunday’s line up was Wind & The Wild (formerly On a Bear Hunt), Little Stella, and Geronimo. Though the STM late night Sunday service is not the most reliable, I made it for the last act. I enjoyed my drink and settled in for the sounds of Wind & The Wild, a Montreal based band whose members reign from Aylmer and Chelsea, Quebec. They kept me at a good level of lively, with their relaxed sound and twangy vocals. They played a few upbeat danceable songs, a couple of covers, but mainly their own tunes. It was five dollars well spent.

The show ended at twelve and I decided to continue on because… I was already out. The next place we slid to was Barfly. Each Sunday they host a bluegrass jam session, and there is no cover. In a very loose environment, the crowd is a mixture of young to old (ish) folks drinking, playing pool, chatting, and listening to the live music.

barfly2As most anyone who has lived in Montreal longer than a couple months knows, this city is a small one. On any given night it is just as likely that you will make a new friend, as it is you will run into an old one. To me there is nothing more comforting than a chance encounter with someone you knew in a different time or place, it helps you feel like the world is a manageable size.

After some catching up you continue your adventure together. By this point some dancing might be in order. If you’re around the plateau, you have the three staple options: Blizzarts, Blue Dog and Korova. No lines, no cover, decent tracks, and occasionally, if one is lucky enough, an empty dance floor all for themselves. Disagree as you may, but for me nothing beats starting a dance floor with some good company.

Perks of Sundays: you never know who you’ll run into, you’ll only have to pay cover once, and despite how many buses you miss, you can walk home down the middle of Sherbrooke, Parc, St. Laurent, or in wherever direction your bed lies, unbothered by the usual spew of on coming traffic, because this metropolis sleeps early on Sundays.