Last week I had the privilege of attending this year’s installment of POP Montreal, the fest that humbly began in 2002 with less than 20 bands and has ballooned to that number just in venues alone. On top of the more than 450 bands they also now have visual arts, cinema, kids activities, symposiums and probably a few more things I’m forgetting about right now.

When you look at the lineup from those early years what stands out the most isn’t the number of bands but instead just how many of them went on to big things. This is the allure of POP, catching that hidden gem of a band before they hit it big and being able to watch them in a small venue setting. At least I thought this was the allure, more to come on that in a moment.

Obviously trying to analyse the full lineup in detail to figure out who to see is impossible so I didn’t even bother to try. I just picked a few things that interested me and went with it. I expected there would be some misses along with the hits and allowed myself some time to wander to unplanned shows as well.

The results were as to be expected, a mixed bag of good, bad and random. For the purposed of this article I will focus on the most random and fun show I saw. Yes, just one show out of 450. I figure there’s no point in trying to talk about everything anyways so I might as well talk about one thing the right way.

When I made my way to Sala Rosa on Thursday night for headliners Hollerado what I knew about them ahead of time was that they had been around for a while and they were a rock band with punk influences. That was about it.

Very early on in the show lead singer Meno Versteeg gave me another crucial piece of information when he told to the crowd that this was going to be their last show in Montreal. Ever.

The band is parting ways with one final album release and tour. I had mistakenly made my way into Bizzaro POP, and alternate dimension where instead of seeing a band on the cusp of making it big you watch a group about to end their career.

The show was a perfect storm for a live performance: a group of high level professional performers with years of stage experience and tons a chemistry between them with a grand total of zero fucks to give about anything anymore.

With a lot of bands you can almost see the weight of “trying to make it” on their shoulders. This tends to bog their shows down by always sticking to conventional performance archetypes.

Hollerdo was anything but that, playing for the joy of it, having a blast and nothing more. They were pretty random as well with some of their decisions making the show anything but generic.

For example, they were dressed in matching Adidas tracksuits that were hardly flattering. Why? They joked that Adidas was going to give them ten thousand dollars and claimed that drummer Jake Boyd cost them the money by not also wearing a matching suit. In reality they just felt like it.

How do I know the reason for the tracksuits? Because this was the first question they answered at their mid show Q & A. The show just sort of stopped and people were given time to ask anything they wanted. “What’s with the tracksuits?” was the obvious first question.

Other randomness involved inviting people unprepared on stage to play songs. This is something that most bands wouldn’t risk but when you have nothing to prove to anyone then I guess you just go for it and hope for the best. In the end those ended up being some of the more memorable moments of the night.

My last random moment was when they mentioned that their show the next day in Sherbrooke was going to be canceled so they could go to the climate strike “because some things are more important than a stupid rock concert.”

I assumed this was just another joke or pandering to the local crowd but I checked their twitter and the show was actually canceled. I guess at some point you have to get your priorities in line.

Google searches don’t really explain why these guys are breaking up and it seems odd to me since they are relatively young and there seems to be no “creative differences.” Whatever the reason, it’s a shame. But at least I got to catch the end of the wave.

“I’m getting too old for this shit!”

Steph, sometime in August 2019

That was my initial reaction when it was proposed I cover POP Montreal this year. I’ve been covering the festival for FTB on and off since 2010 and was confident after last year I was done.

My reluctance had nothing to do with POP Montreal itself by the way. If you read my early reviews, my love for the festival is clear. Instead, it had everything to do with the prospect of spending a week going to evening shows on the other side of town. This old lady needs her eight hours of sleep!

So, what are my thoughts on this year’s festival? While I am likely to hand off the reporting to younger bloggers in the future, of course I’m glad I attended.

For me, the festival has always been a great way to get out of my music rut and discover new up and coming artists before they hit it big. Arcade Fire played Pop Montreal in 2003 for instance, a year before the release of Funeral.

Since you don’t know any of the acts, you take a chance every time you walk into a POP Montreal show. But that’s the fun of it! Sometimes you strike gold, other times the show is terrible and you quickly move along to the next venue.

As in year’s past, I absolutely saw some terrible music… but we won’t focus on that. Instead, let’s dive into the artists who made Pop Montreal 2019 worth it.

What it really comes down to with POP Montreal is trusting venues in the Mile End/ Plateau will deliver the music goods. NYSSA from Toronto caught my attention during my initial research and holy moly am I glad that I saw her show at Casa Del Popolo.

This electro-glam rocker commanded your attention the moment she walked onto the stage with nothing but her vocal pedal and iPad. You might think that doesn’t sound like much, but let me tell you that girl had so much stage presence I was immediately hooked.

She absolutely deserves to become a very big thing, but we’ll have to see if the music gods deem it so. 

For day two I headed to O Patro Vys, interested in checking out another band I included in my preview, Basement Revolver. Sadly as the headliners of the evening, they were on long past my bedtime for a weeknight.

BUT the evening was not a loss because I was introduced to the joy that is Alex Dirk, aka the lead vocalist of the Winnepeg band Begonia. Part Adele, part Florence Welch, Dirk belted out the tunes with an intense passion that it was impossible not to be mesmerized. 

Day Three of the festival was when I saw all the aforementioned terrible bands this yearbut then I decided to try O Patro Vys again on a whim. The vibe was much different than the night before; calmer, much less packed.

Thankfully before my companions and I decided to call the night a total loss, Laura Carbone and her band came onto the stage. It’s a perfect example of why a small audience doesn’t necessarily mean a mediocre band; they were anything but! I was glad I got to be amongst the few in Montreal who got to see their set.

For my final night of POP Montreal 2019 (the festival is five days, but sadly I couldn’t make Sunday’s shows), I headed to The Rialto for a more low-key evening of folk-rock. Even if the bands are so-so it’s always a pleasure hanging out in The Rialto; thankfully the acts absolutely delivered.

The highlight of the night for me was Hollie Fullbrook, aka Tiny Ruins. While I was disappointed not to see this UK born New Zeland-based artist perform with her full band, she was still wonderful to see as a solo act. I highly encourage anyone into folk music to check her out.

So for what I assume will be my last ever POP Montreal post (lol I say that now, but who knows what next year will bring), let me end by imparting some wisdom to those who are thinking about attending this festival in the future:

The non-music portion of the festival can be interesting, but honestly rarely worth it. When it comes to the music it’s all good to do preliminary research, but more often than not you end up throwing that plan out the window as the festival goes on.

But EMBRACE the chaos! A festival like this is all about discovering something new, and more often than not you will love what you discover.

Featured image of Tiny Ruins by Adrien Gooding

Four days of Pop Montreal are now in the bag and the indie music storm has yet to subside. As usual the quest to see everything has been utterly futile with so many shows happening in short succession.

At this point we’ve given up on any type of schedule or plan and instead have resorted to wandering the show bars of the Mile End open to whatever indie rock/pop/hip hop we happen to encounter. We’ll have more live Tweets tonight and detailed reviews coming out next week once we catch our breath.

For now here are a few of the highlights from our wanderings:

Hollerado’s last show in Montreal was on Thursday night. Glad to be a part of it (Joe)

Featured image by Adrien Gooding

POP Montreal 2019 concludes tonight and we’ll be live tweeting. Also check out our full reviews and a photo post in the next few days

Pop Montreal starts tonight and as usual FTB has asked me to do the impossible and pick my choices for the best shows to go and see. If you take a peek at the schedule you’ll see that’s clearly impossible with so many bands playing in such a short period of time.

Here’s a few options that most caught my eye but even as I write this I’m seeing many more choices that I might like. I tried not to stick to one genre or type of show but I did stick to music only.

I will just briefly mention that there’s way more to Pop than just music, my other favourite part of the fest is Film Pop which has some really interesting movie screenings this weekend.

Ok, on to the music!

Blinker the Star

Not every band you see at Pop has to be fresh off their debut album. Veterans of the Indie rock scene Blinker the Star have been around since the 90s, which for some of you might feel like ancient times, but believe it or not they actually had good music way back then.

This isn’t however a pick for nostalgia’s sake, they have a new album out and it’s quite good. I’m interested to see how it will be performed live when they play at Petit Campus on September 26th.

Wolf Castle

I’ll admit my interest was initially peaked by the clever name reference but when I looked into it I didn’t find a fictional Austrian action star whose bit part has been an endearing part of a long running cartoon comedy series. Instead I found a young rapper, singer, producer who hails from Pabineau First Nation in New Brunswick.

I checked out his bandcamp and immediately got sucked in. Maybe you will too. If you do, he’s playing at La Sotterenea on the 26th.

Les Louanges

First of all, free show! Also worth noting: it’s at 4pm on Saturday (28th) and it’s outdoors at Skatepark du Mile-End. Those factors combined makes this one of my “family friendly” suggestions. It would also be a good choice as the opener for anyone who is planning to make it out on Saturday night.

I’ll let the music speak for itself but I will just add that I had a chance to catch the end of Les Louange’s set at Osheaga this year and I was very impressed. I’ll be sure to catch the whole thing this Saturday.

KOKOKO!

If you’re out on Wednesday night this is the show to end the evening with. Starting at 11pm at the Piccolo Rialto (with openers Mabika-Ki & Le Moovmnt Populaire Bantu and DOOMSQUAD) KOKOKO! will be bringing their mix of modern electronic music and lo-fi instruments to what is certain to be the best dance party of the night.

Proving that music can be made by just about anyone and with just about anything, this collective is known for making instruments out of items that you wouldn’t normally expect. Check out this live clip to see what I mean.

Blue Grass BBQ

The title is pretty self-explanatory. On Sunday afternoon from Noon till around 7 there will be a free (to get in) BBQ at Skatepark du Mile End. This is another great choice for those of you with kids or on a budget.

It features various bluegrass artists throughout the day. You can check out the Pop Website for specific band listings but it’s safe to say that at whatever point you show up you’ll be getting hear to free bluegrass music and relax outside. Not a bad combination!

POP Montreal 2019 runs until September 29th. For complete schedule and ticket info, check out popmontreal.com

September winding down means it’s time for another edition of Pop Montreal. While I’m excited to take part in all the festival has to offer (art, film, discussion panels and a craft fair) today I’m going to focus on the top five musical acts I’ll be watching at this years festival.

It’s an eclectic bunch of artists from around the world whose online presence, at least, has piqued my interest. Will they deliver? I’ll find out September 25th-29th.

1. Basement Revolver

(Hamilton, Ontario)

With the lead singer’s dreamy vocals and the band’s self-confessed inspiration from 90s indie-rock, this trio from Hamilton was one of the first shows on my radar this year. Not only was I drawn in from discovering their single Wax and Digital on YouTube, but also learning about the ways successful bands have to hustle in the digital age.

2. Charlie Cunningham

(Bedfordshire, England)

With impressive guitar skills that are influenced by the Spanish flamenco tradition combined with intimate yet accessible lyrics, England’s Charlie Cunningham is another must-see show for me this year. On first listen, his music gives me a Jose Gonzalez kind of vibe.

While I’m looking forward to his show at Phi Center, I’m also eager to listen to this music more at home alone with a nice cup of tea on a rainy day.

3. NYSSA

(Toronto, Ontario)

Described as “Toronto’s answer to Robyn”, NYSSA is an electro-glam rocker who has been working the music scene since she was twelve. After being a part of numerous Toronto bands, these days she’s the kind of artist whose most comfortable on stage alone with a loop pedal and her iPod.

After listening to her single Champion of Love I’m confident I’m not going to be dancing on my own to her show at Casa Del Popolo.

4. Tiny Ruins

(Auckland, New Zealand)

Not since Flight of the Concords have I been this pumped about a band from New Zealand. Unlike the sarcastic comedy of Jermaine and Brent, Tiny Ruins are a very sincere folk group that has been around for almost a decade.

Even if their live show at The Rialto doesn’t end up living up to expectations, watching the hypnotic video for Olympic Girls has already made me a die-hard fan.

5. Daniel Norgren

(Boras, Sweden)

As a reclusive singer/songwriter from rural Sweden, a recent Pitchfork article describes Norgen as a man who “happily exists as an outsider among outsiders, and he weaves the joy he finds in isolation and in nature into his songs.”

Having released his first international record Wooh Dang it looks like this folk/blues artist is interested in stepping a toe at least into greater recognition. I’m looking forward to seeing his show at Cafe Campus to see how he fares with a North American audience.

Tickets available through popmontreal.com

POP Montreal released the first part of their lineup for their annual fall festival at a 5 à 7 on Wednesday in their new venue, Chez Ursa, which is conveniently located right below their official headquarters.

The atmosphere at Ursa is friendly. Dan Seligman, POP’s co-founder and creative director, even acknowledged the good vibes as he thanked us all for coming.

The venue itself is quite cozy; lamp-lit, with a rug in front of the stage which creates a sense of the familiar comfort of being in your own living room, the only thing missing being seats. Although on my way to the venue I had the unfortunate luck of choosing a particularly broken Bixi bike, and so my feelings about the matter were more inspired by my aching legs than anything else… Choose your bike wisely, folks.

When I first arrive, Hua Li is casually mixing her set, fluidly transitioning between a mix of rap and RNB. Her adorable dog, Edna (pictured below), joins her on stage, calmly gazing out at all of us while Li sways rhythmically in time with the music. The combination of their presence invites a relaxed overall mood, though there is an air of something among us that is similarly curious and intriguing.

The performances also include POP’s first play: Trapped in Elon’s Mansion, written by Joe Bagel (of which a reading of an excerpt was performed at Chez Ursa). The play was inspired by a twitter fight between Elon and Jarrett Walker, and is full of rapid-fire witticisms, many in reference to Musk and his ex-girlfriend, Clair Boucher (Grimes), and their own various connections to Montréal.

Musk, giving his two cents to the mayor of Los Angeles

Some other noteworthy acts from the lineup also include: Laurie Anderson, Tirzah, and Aldous Harding. (Full list of performers to date pictured below). The festival is set to take place from the 25th to the 29th of this September throughout Montreal. Tickets are on sale now, and can be purchased through POP’s website.

FULL LIST: Laurie Anderson, Tirzah, Aldous Harding, Nick Cave, Weyes Blood, Kokoko!,  Yung Baby Tate, Moor Mother & Jerusalem in My Heart, Félicia Atkinson, Jon Bap, Hollerado and Xiu Xiu, Jess Sah Bi & Peter One, Tinariwen, Shonen Knife, 47Soul, Kedr Livanskiy, Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, Oshun, Ian Isiah, Lafawndah, Ex Eye, Teto Preto, Torres, Jerry Paper, Kelman Duran, Daniel Norgren, Haviah Mighty, Blanck Mass, God Is an Astronaut, Marwa Loud, Helm, Emel Mathlouthi, Jessica Moss, Ellis, Bad Waitress, Charlie Cunningham, Fink, TiKA, Colin Stetson, Rebecca Foon, Rakta, Ellemetue, YlangYlang, Trapped in Elon’s Mansion, Hua Li, James Baley, Mobydick and Friends, Desiire and Odile Myrtile.


It’s been three years since my last POP experience, so I headed down to the Rialto Theatre last night without knowing what to expect. As soon as I entered the POP Montreal opening party, I immediately felt at ease. The vibe was inviting, intimate, and full of that specific kind of excitement that fills the air at the beginning of any festival: you can’t wait to discover the next great thing.

After looking through our press swag bags, dancing to the DJ, and absorbing the atmosphere, Joe and I left the opening party. We headed down Parc, making a stop at the Crying-Laughing show at Espace Pop. In the old days I never used to see anything but music shows, so this year I’m trying to expand my horizons and see more of what the festival has to offer.

Joe and I eventually made our way to Sala Rossa, where our first music show of the night was Dany Laj & The Looks. While not groundbreaking by any means, they are a very fun rock n’ roll band that got our show watching off to a great start.

Then we were meeting a friend for a drink across the street at Casa Del Popolo, so Joe and I decided to check out the music there. Honestly I wish we hadn’t. Raf Wilcot seemed to try a little too hard to come off as the brilliant tortured artist, when in fact his music was tame and uninspired.

What changed my mood was heading to La Vitrola to catch their last two shows of the night. I was immediately charmed by Moscow Apartment, a teenage girl band from Toronto. They were just so sweet and had such great stage banter you couldn’t help but fall a little bit in love with them. They reminded me a bit of First Aid Kit, and I wish them all the success!

We ended off the night by going from one extreme to the other. After the sweet folk-pop of Moscow Apartment, Laura Sauvage came swagerring onto the stage, demanding that we get the hell off our seats and come rock out. They played a shorter set then scheduled because their drummer had to run off to another show, but what they did play was full of punk rock energy that got everyone at the small venue dancing. It definitely inspired me for all the rocking that’s still to come!

* Featured image of Laura Sauvage by Stephanie Laughlin

** POP Montreal 2018 runs until Sunday. Full schedule at POPMontreal.com

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

On September 26th, Pop Montreal returns with another five days of music, film, panels, and visual arts. It’s been a few years since I’ve attended this very Plateau/Mile End festival, but I already know I’m going to have a good time. Because unlike other bigger festivals where you’re drawn to check out what you know, at Pop you’re guaranteed to discover a whole slew of new exciting artists you’ve never heard of before.

Here’s my list of what I’m most looking forward to checking out at Pop Montreal 2018:

Bad Reputation

Ever since I first heard the song I Love Rock n’ Roll as a teenager, I was drawn to the badass that is Joan Jett. This year as part of Film Pop, the festival will be screening a documentary by director Kevin Kerslake about the legendary feminist punk rocker. I’m also looking forward to attending the screening at the newly opened indie/art house movie theater Cinema Moderne on St-Laurent.

Wednesday, September 26, 8pm, Cinema Moderne, 5150 St-Laurent. Tickets $12

Kilo Kish

While rap music isn’t usually my thing, I was so drawn by the music video for Elegance by New York artist Kilo Kish that I officially have added her show to my must-see list. While researching Kish I discovered that Pitchfork recently dubbed Elegance one of the best songs of 2018, declaring “Building from the stream-of-consciousness style that characterizes most of her catalog, Kilo Kish turns her racing thoughts into crackling electricity.”

Wednesday, September 26, 11pm, Piccolo Rialto, 5723 Ave du Parc. Tickets $20

Puces POP

My favourite part of POP. The festival has these fairs year-round now (if you’re friends with a Plateau gal, you’ve undoubtedly been dragged to one of these events), but the biggest of them all is always during the main festival in September. For three glorious days, you can shop for prints, jewelry, food, makeup and clothing. So come watch hipsters gather in their natural habitat, and leave with a cute new print to hang on your wall!

September 28-30, Eglise St-Denis, 454 Laurier Est. Schedule

Molly Nilsson

Molly Nilson is a Swedish pop singer that, according to Pitchfork “does ennui like no one else.” That combined with her 80s music sound has me excited to see what she does onstage. I would love to tell you more about her but she doesn’t have much of a social media presence… which kind of only makes me want to get to know this artist more.

Thursday, September 27, 8:30pm, Bar “le Ritz” P.D.B., 179 Jean-Talon Ouest. Tickets $16.50

Art POP

In between film screenings and shows, I plan on checking out the many art shows that are also happening during Pop. Here’s just a sampling of the ones I’m most excited for:

Où sommes-nous

OBORO and White Frame co-present Où sommes-nous, an exhibition by Judith Albert, Katrin Freisager, Dana Claxton, and Nik Forrest. These four established artists open and disrupt our knowledge of space and time, bringing into question the line between reality and illusion through poetry and resistance. (info)

Pop Pavillion

Art POP is collaborating for the very first time with the Association of Visual and Media Arts Masters students (AEMAVM) of the Université du Québec à Montréal to co-present POP Pavillon, AEMAVM’s annual group exhibition showcasing the work of 11 exciting, emerging artists. (info)

Whispering Pines

Centre Clark presents a new exhibition by Shana Moulton, an artist who creates evocatively oblique narratives in her video and performance works. In Whispering Pines, the artist presents art pieces combining an unsettling, wry humor with a low-tech, pop sensibility.(info)

* POP Montreal 2018 runs September 26-30. Full schedule available at POPMontreal.com

** Featured Image: Screengrab from Kilo Kish’s Elegance video

POP Montreal 2016 came and went with a blast of exquisite music, a frenzy of new friends and old faces, and a pleasant haze. Here is a highlight reel gleaned from the morass of sights, sounds, and smells that descended upon Montreal this past weekend.

Seth Bogart

Nothing was left up to the imagination with Seth Bogart. This underground LA pop diva sensation blew the minds off everyone in the room, with his unabashed physicality, wry satirical lyricism, and explosive performativity. The hilarious video content was nearly as captivating as his outfits, which he changed three times!

John Cale

John Cale performed in a very fitting venue: the aged and mysterious Rialto Hall. You can feel the passage of time sitting in the upper portion of the theatre, just as you can feel the passage of time in Cale’s mysterious calmness.

Perhaps surprisingly, what was most striking about his performance was its contemporary relevance. A mixture of live and electronic drums provided the basis for exquisite synthesizer tones and a guitarist who played more sounds than notes.

Holy Fuck

Holy Fuck came to party, and they took us all with them. Never before has an instrumental band been as captivating as this quartet of feisty Torontonians, excited to share a new LP with the world after a six-year hiatus. Nothing was lost in the interim – in fact, the group has only sharpened their tones even more; made those arpeggiated grooves even smoother; those lengthy breakdowns even tighter. Check them in your city if you can, for undoubtedly you will dance.

Angel Olsen

Back at the Rialto Theatre, I witnessed the transformed sound of Angel Olsen, a fairy-folkster turned rock’n’roller. Her band looked cute in their 50’s style suits, but the real catch is Angel’s voice, which carries a worldliness that belies her young years no matter what band arrangement she performs with. She put aside the guitar for a couple of keyboard ballads, sending the crowd away into the night with catchy melodies reverberating in our ears.

Morthouse

Drawing from the darker shades of new-wave, these brothers brought a captivatingly sinister energy to the tiny L’esco stage. One cannot help but be fixated by the singer Thomas, who manages to convey the brooding skepticism of a Nick Cave figure in all his glory. Every phrase was spat out with the vigour and charm of a street urchin turned art student, or visa-versa.

Hua Li

If you don’t know Peggy Hogan (aka Hua Li) yet, then get with the program. This dynamic local hip-hop artist and rapper is one-of-a-kind excellent. Performing with collaborator Gloze on programmed drums, Peggy slid smoothly through a healthy batch of heavy hip-hop with consummate ease, delivering her verses’ lines with dexterity and force. It’s always a pleasure to see someone act out their confidence and skill in a physical way, and Peggy sure knows how to get down with her beats.

I hope everyone’s saved up a little money and a lot of energy because tonight marks the beginning of the most frantic week of concerts this year, a.k.a. Hipster Christmas, a.k.a Indie Music Mayhem, a.k.a. the 2016 installment of Pop Montreal. From September 21st to the 25th most (if not every) small and medium sized music venue in and around the Plateau/Mile End will be hosting an unbelievably large and varied collection of artists.

To preview this fest in all its diversity is altogether impossible so we haven’t tried to. These are simply a few options that stick out as highlight to us at FTB. You might want to go check out the full schedule and reach your own conclusions but be warned, if you have option paralysis this might be your worst nightmare.

There’s just so much to do and so little time to do it in. My advice to newer fest goers is to pick something and stick to it, you could spend half the night walking back and forth trying to find the right show.

I know you want to find the “it” show but at Pop there’s actually several “its” going on simultaneously, so just get out there and pick one. To not overwhelm you, here’s three to get you started on your search.

IMTL Day Party and Brunch with Lakes Of Canada + Fleece + Nova + KyAzma

One of the more unique shows that happens at Pop takes two things that aren’t normally known to work in tandem, Sunday brunch and rock concerts, and for the fifth year in a row ignores convention and puts them together. An all-you-can-eat buffet for $7 is a steal in its own right but then you add performances by Lakes Of Canada, Fleece, Nova and KyAzma, who will be debuting their latest music video for  The Circle, and this becomes a highlight show in this year’s fest.

Indie Montreal allows you to buy tickets in advance through their website and I strongly suggest that if you plan on attending you do that. It’s not hard to foresee this show selling out, the lineup alone should bring a lot of interest and when you combine that with the best brunch deal on The Main you’ve got packed venue written all over this.

Lakes Of Canada, Fleece, Nova and KyAzma play Divan Orange, 4234 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, Sunday, September 25th, 12:00pm (Doors at 11:30am), $7 in advance and at the door, ticket through indiemontreal.

 

Nanimal + Girl Arm + Pins & Needles + Laureate

If you’re looking for a great rock show at the best dive rock bar in town then head down to Barfly on Thursday night and check out Nanimal, Girl Arm, Pins & Needles and Laureate. This concert should be a hot sweaty mess of tightly packed individuals, like most Barfly events are, so save the fancy outfit for another night and wear the jeans, t-shirt and dancing shoes to this one.

This show is on our highlighted list for a second reason, my “sources” inform me there might be a special guest appearance during Nanimal’s set. Someone who can certainly be considered part of Montreal’s indie rock royalty might be hitting the stage right before your eyes.

Nanimal, Girl Arm, Pins & Needles and Laureate play Barfly, 4062 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, Thursday, September 22nd, 9:30pm (Doors at 9), $10.

CJLO BBQ with Wiklow + No Aloha + Joyce N’sana + Guy Madonna

If you liked the idea of combining food and music but think Sunday morning’s a bit too groggy a time for that then perhaps you’d prefer Thursday afternoon’s free BBQ over at Quartiers Pop. This event is being put on by the good people over at CJLO, begins at 2pm and features Wiklow, No Aloha, Joyce N’sana and Guy Madonna.

Before people start going crazy over the “free BBQ” aspect it’s important to point out that the entrance and music is free, I’m pretty sure you’ll have to pay for your own beer and hot dogs. There’s no such thing as free beer, you know this, accept it, move on, you still get to see four great acts for free.

 Wiklow, No Aloha, Joyce N’sana and Guy Madonna play Quartiers Pop, 3450 Rue Saint-Urbain, Thursday, September 22nd, 2:00pm, free.

 

One of the best things about any festival is the opportunity to discover something new. Before any new festival starts, I do my research as to who’s playing and what the buzz-iest acts are. But I also enjoy throwing my plan out the window to give something a try I know absolutely nothing about. Sometimes it’s a monumental disaster (aka the posts that never get written), other times it’s a delightful surprise.

Thankfully last Friday at Petit Campus I experienced the later. Kitty, Daisy and Lewis are a British band whose talent is immediately recognizable. First and foremost, the band is the definition of stage presence. The ladies walked out in matching sparkly body suits and a fiery red pantsuit. The gentlemen all wore suit and ties.

And as they smiled broadly and danced around the stage, I gave a sigh of relief.  What a treat not to see yet another indie rock band where four white dudes stand uncomfortably in place on stage.

The natural chemistry that the band has on stage isn’t hard to decipher; they’re family. Literally. The aforementioned Kitty, Daisy and Lewis are all siblings. Their back-up band when they’re touring? Mom and Dad. Even Grandpa comes up and plays the trumpet for a few numbers. You wish your family was this cool.

Their music has a wide range of influences, from R&B to rock n’ roll to swing. It makes sense that they would shift influences to suit whoever takes over the reigns as lead singer. While mom and dad stayed put as back-up musicians throughout the set, Kitty, Daisy and Lewis seemed to play musical chairs each number as they all took turns either singing, playing guitar, piano, or drums.

My favourite of their numbers was the Lewis led “Baby Bye Bye”. I look forward to downloading their music and getting to know this band better in the future.

On Saturday night I headed back to the Rialto for an evening of punk rock. The headliners for the evening where the American punk band and riot grrl inspiration Babes in Toyland. I’d never heard of the band before last week, but my curiosity was peaked when I heard the band was inspiration for other girl bands like Sleater Kinny.

When you think of punk rock/grunge you half expect the musicians to look bored and annoyed to be there. I was grateful that Babes in Toyland didn’t play to that stereotype at all. They gushed about how The Rialto was the most beautiful venue they’d ever played.

The band also talked about how someone in the audience had bought a ticket to their show they had to cancel twenty years ago when they couldn’t get across the border. After said audience member produced a ticket as proof, the band laughed and promised to sign the ticket after the show. The whole moment really showed that this band has an audience that loves them, and they love ’em right back.

Babes in Toyland may be a punk band/grunge band, but there was nothing sloppy or unorganized about this show. They went on stage at exactly 10 pm and performed a tight one hour set. But just because these ladies are professionals doesn’t mean the music was in any way lame or commercial. As the audience members pounded back beers and started moshing, these ladies rocked loud and hard. And what’s more punk rock than that?

Thursday marked the second day of POP Montreal, and it was arguably the best day for electronic music lovers. Kaytranada, a Haitian-born, Montreal-raised producer who is known for his groovy, R&B infused dance music, played his second sold out show in Montreal at the SAT.

Since the start of his career in 2010, Kaytranada has been able to cultivate his own unique sound that differentiates his music from other producers, which has allowed him to not only draw in thousands of loyal fans from Montreal and across Canada, but also grow rapidly as an intentionally recognized producer.

I attended some Kaytranada shows a few years ago, back when he was opening for bigger producers and playing at smaller club-type venues, like Le Belmont. The setting was intimate, and everyone who attended was there for the music. I knew this wasn’t going to be the case on Thursday, simply based on the fact that this was a sold out show at the SAT, which is a sizeable concert venue.

Planet Giza and Graves were the opening acts of the show, and the crowd loved them. Or maybe they were just really stoked for Kaytranada. Before the opening acts were even over, I had a layer of sweat all over my body from how crowded and hot the space had become. I was already nervous about how I was going to be able to withstand that level of heat for the rest of the night.

Once Kaytranada came on, everything went wild. I became a human sandwich, pressed hard in between people in the crowd. Kaytranada started his set with one of his classic tracks, and continued his set with catchy beats that just make you want to dance.

The problem was, you couldn’t dance because there was simply no room for it. Every couple of minutes, an intoxicated person would push through the crowd, falling on the people around him or her, trying to get as close to the front as possible.

It was hard to immerse myself in the music when I found myself caught in the middle of all of this. Kaytranada seemed to be okay with this though, because at one point during his set, he took the microphone and said “this isn’t a concert, it’s a party!”

Kaytranada played a good set, but I wouldn’t say it was spectacular. He played many of his older songs, which I enjoyed, but there were definitely points in the night where I had trouble telling the difference between one song and another. This may have been a result of his staple sound that can be found in most of his music, or because I wasn’t able to immerse myself enough into the show.

It disappointed me when I realized that much of the crowd was not there to enjoy the music, but simply for the hype that Kaytranada has become. I’m thrilled for him to have found fame and success, and he definitely deserves it. Despite that, I’ll forever miss those raw, intimate shows he was able to play before he became a mainstream musician.

As a long time fan of Kaytranada who went to the show for the music, it was difficult to fully enjoy myself. However, I have no doubt that those who went to the show to party had an amazing time. I wish Kaytranada the best with his career and I will continue to support his music, but I can’t say I am planning to ever go to a Kaytranada show again.

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.

Born Ruffians kicked off POP Montreal this past Wednesday with an energetic, intimate show at La Sala Rosa. The show was the first of many for this Canadian indie band’s RUFF tour, during which they plan to play across Canada, in the US, the UK, and Europe.

The tour celebrates the release of their new album, RUFF, which will hit stand on October 2nd. RUFF is the band’s fifth studio album, and the first one they will be releasing since their last album, Birthmarks, in 2013.

I was lucky enough to have a chance to chat with Luke Lalonde (vocals and guitar) and Mitch Derosier (bass) about their experiences since becoming an internationally recognized band in the indie rock world.

Sisi: You guys are from Midland, Ontario, but now live in Toronto. How was the transition of being from a smaller town to playing in larger, more metropolitan cities?

Luke: It all happened when we were 18 or 19, and time just moves differently at that point. We went through many changes in life, like moving out of our parents’ house, going to school for a year, and then dropping out to do music full time, and eventually going on tour. Life felt so momentous.

For me, there was definitely an adjustment period that I didn’t realize I was going through until I started looking back now, ten years later. I was having a lot of personal issues that were hard to deal with, and I was very hard to be around. I just kept my head down and kept going, and it wasn’t until about five years later when I popped my head back up and realized, ‘woah, that was kinda rough.’

Mitch: It didn’t feel like there was much of a transition, because everything happened too fast. But in reality, there really was. You just don’t really have a choice in the transition, because everything we were doing as a band was things we had to do. We didn’t really have a choice but to deal with the craziness of it all.

Sisi: When was the moment you guys realized you finally made it as a well-known band? How did it feel?

Luke: To me, it feels like that’s always happening, and we continue to grow and strive for more and more. For a band like us, we never hit that level of Arcade Fire success, where it’s just guaranteed sold out shows everywhere you go. But we’re also not toiling away in obscurity. We do enough to make a living and tour comfortably, so that always leaves us really appreciating everything we have.

I think it’s a good thing, because sometimes you see people get fame, and they get really fucked up once it goes away. We don’t have fame, we have this thing that you just appreciate but not come to expect.

Mitch: Other bands may think the same way we do, but I feel like we’re such a self-conscious band. We reflect a lot on what we do, and we’re learning from our experiences.

Sisi: You guys have a new album coming out on October 2nd, called Ruff. I went on the website watchruff.com and stumbled upon a very special countdown, where 1.3 million photo frames are played over the course of a month until the date of the record release. I thought it was a super creative idea. What inspired you guys to have this?

Luke: John Smith, the guy who helped us put the video together and directed it; it was his idea, really. We wanted someone to help us pull a bunch of creative ideas together and to be the creative director for this album, so we sat down with him and brainstormed.

We have full control over the sound and lyrics of the album, but we wanted something visual that could tie it all together. We wanted something really hypnotic and dreamy, but we also wanted to creep people out and make them laugh simultaneously. It was kind of David Lynch inspired, but with a bit more humour.

All the vignettes are different scenes, and they all kind of escalate and get crazier as the month goes on. It’s essentially 12 hours of footage, slowed down to a month.

Sisi: Does the theme of the countdown reflect on the theme of the RUFF?

Luke: Well, not really. This album is a lot more personal in a lot of ways, so maybe if being too personal is creepy, then maybe.

Mitch: Maybe not creepy, but its darker. I feel like [Luke] was being very straight up and was coming from an honest place when working on this album. As he said, it’s a lot more personal. We were looking for something that made our audiences feel the record in a different way, it wasn’t just going to be another pop rock record, you know what I mean? There’s something else to it compared to what we’ve released before.

Sisi: What was your favourite public event you attended as a band, aside from live shows?

Luke: We did this series of videos with Matt Johnson, a Toronto based director/writer/actor. He did this web series a while back called “Nirvana the band the show.” For before Birthmarks came out, we did these in the studio videos, where Matt acted as the producer. He basically just improved for a few hours and pieced it together. It turned out really funny and it was a good time.

Mitch: Another funny thing we did together was attend the Junos. It was such a weird experience, because we never expected to be there. It never felt like that kind of thing we thought we would be recognized for. We always felt like we were catching up to other Canadian bands, so it felt like we didn’t totally belong there.

We didn’t expect to win, which we didn’t. It was a fun thing to experience as a band because we’re not a band that goes to award shows, like ever. It felt like a funny accidental thing.

Luke: It felt surreal to be walking around people like Jim Cuddy and Fred Penner. It was a crazy experience. It was weird and it was an anomaly, but it was fun. You don’t think they’re paying attention to you, so it was like “oh, you noticed us?”

Sisi: After a long, stressful day, what kind of food would you crave for if you could have anything in the world?

Luke: Mine is really lame… A salami sandwich. It’s not like I want to indulge, it’s just what I want. With some crackers, hummus, and some cheddar cheese. And maybe also some pea soup.

Mitch: I was raised eating potatoes, so I love roasted potatoes. Sometimes I crave Kraft Dinner as well.

Luke: Yeah, usually at 3 in the morning. Aside from that, I guess I would want something really expensive, like a really nice cut of Kobe beef.

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Make sure to check out RUFF on October 2nd!

Summer may be fading into fall, but turn that frown upside down my fellow Montrealers. We live in a city where there’s so much more to the season than back to school and Instagram pics of pumpkin spice lattes. September means it’s time to POP!

For its 14th edition, Pop Montreal is offering five days’ worth of panels, art fairs, music and movies. Here in no particular order are some of the things that I’m most excited for during Pop 2015:

The Reflektor Tapes

Offers a scrapbook-like documentary about the making and touring of Arcade Fire’s 2013 album Reflektor (Sep.17th at Rialto Theatre, 8pm). Fingers crossed Arcade Fire makes it to the screening!

The Noisy Locomotive

A Montreal string-band that seems like they’d be a perfect fit for Folk Fest or a drunken night at Grumpy’s. And while they’ve likely played both, I’ve never seen them at either so now POP’s my chance to check ‘em out. (Sep.18th at L’assommoir, 8pm)

PUCES POP

Everybody’s favourite craft fair is back! This year 140 different artisans will be selling their clothes, accessories, graphic novels and so much more. (Sep.17th-20th 160 Saint-Viateur)

Viet Cong

This rock band from Calgary has a feel of a modern day Joy Division. Their Self-titled EP was shortlisted last year for the Polaris Music Prize. (Sep.18th at Fairmount Theatre, 9:30)

Babes in Toyland

A riot grrl band of the first order, these ladies from Minneapolis went on to inspire bands like Sleater-Kinney and Jack-Off Jill. (Sep.19th at Rialto Theatre, 8pm)

Pop Montreal runs from September 16th– 20th. For more information about events, shows and tickets, make sure to check out the Pop Website

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