After five days of music, film, symposia, and crazy parties, CJLO Magazine's editor-at-large Stephanie Dee reports back on day one of POP Montreal. Check out the hashtag #cjlogoespop, and follow @Tweegirl on Twitter and Instagram for up-to-the-minute commentary, video, and photos taken during the festival.
The streets of Montreal seemed so quiet and empty on Wednesday evening, but 3450 Saint-Urbain and several music venues in this fair city told a different story. POP Montreal kicked off its 2013 edition at Quarters POP with some amazing art exhibits, presentations, and fun parties complete with drinks, DJs, live music, and yummy cupcakes from Bar à beurre. The first night of the festival offered so many things to do, hear, and see, I wish I could have defied the universal laws of space, time, and direction to experience everything. I'll work on that, but until then, here is a run-down of POP Montreal Day One.
Bar à beurre: The best cupcakes ever!
British artist (and founding member of indie-pop band Talulah Gosh!) Elizabeth Price visited POP Montreal for an Art POP / Symposium artist talk to give us a behind-the-scenes look into the production of her prize-winning video installation entitled The Woolworths Choir of 1979. The 20-minute video intercuts archival photographs of an architectural choir and sepulchral sculpture from a Gothic church, footage from The Shangri-Las' music video "Out in the Streets", a women's chorus line, and clips from old news reels of a Manchester department store fire wherein 10 people died. Price unifies these seemingly unrelated elements through the repetition of text, clicking and clapping sounds, and the twisted hand gestures of the entombed figures, the Weiss sisters, ladies of the chorus, and the victims and witnesses of the fire. Pretty heavy stuff, and kind of depressing, but I found her creative process interesting in that she assembles hundreds of files into these congested timelines to form a computer-generated melodramatic dance. It was nice to get a preview of the work, which will be available for viewing starting October 9th at la Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal.
I met up with my POP Montreal partner in crime Alex G. and CJLO friends Beansie and Lucy, and we headed to the opening party for some food. DJ Dago from Brazil and funk-disco cover band Fabricville provided the music, and I met some pretty cool people as I ate my fill of cupcakes and bounced around Quarters POP to the tune of "The NeverEnding Story".
L-R: CJLO volunteer coordinator Lucy, CJLO manager Beansie, journalist Alex G.
At 8:30 pm it was off to Petit Campus to see resident Montreal weirdoes (and the nicest people you'll ever meet) Red Mass. This band never ceases to amaze me. I like to call them Les Créateurs! Red Mass is always writing and releasing new material (10" EPs, split 7" singles, CDRs, and mini-CDs in Distroboto machines), in addition to band members performing with a slew of other bands including Night Seeker with The Deaner from FUBAR, PyPy with members of Duchess Says, and at one point Roy Vucino and Hannah L is Dead were in Kieran Blake's band Hiroshima Shadows. I always wonder how they find the time. "Sleep when you're dead" I always say!
Red Mass live and breathe their craft and they're always trying something different, which is apparent in their live performance. This 30-minute POP Montreal set started quiet with Ariane Gruet-Pelchat solo on violin, then it exploded into an uproar of psychedelic and poppy garage that even included some wicked jazzy saxophone courtesy of Dave Kunstatter (formerly of Glass Passenger). Just when I thought I had heard everything that the band has ever released, they come out with an amazing set consisting primarily of brand new songs. It was super cool that Hannah sang lead on many of them (she has such a beautiful voice), and Pouf the Magik Drummer hit every beat with a fury in his trance-like state. The set ended with the song "Drugs" (about looking for the drugs you lost inside the couch cushions), and they fit in one more tune, the familiar gem "Killer on the Loose" so we could all sing along.
My goth friends have been raving about The Legendary Pink Dots for years, and through my research I discovered that the band has an incredibly large back-catalogue of music spanning over three decades. So I decided to stay at Petit Campus to find out if they lived up to the hype. The Dots were technically and musically on-point, but they seemed to perform without feeling, as if the band were going through the motions of being a legendary band, and not the emotions. The ambient synth-pop sounds did serve to clear the busy thoughts in my brain for a while, but I have to admit I eventually felt kind of bored, so I only listened to the first two or three songs before leaving. Being quite the fan of doom and drone, I can certainly appreciate minimalist experimental rock, but to me the music seemed quite contrived, and I suspect the feeling was mutual because other people in attendance were talking through the beginning of their set. A slight regret entered my mind as I exited the venue, because the song that started when I left was met with cheers from the audience.
I hopped through Carré Saint-Louis, walked up Saint-Denis, and dashed into L'Escogriffe just in time to catch local band Marble Lion. It took a while for them to sound check, and the show had some slight technical issues, which were smoothed over by band member Karl, who engaged in banter with the crowd. Their music had a lot of rumbling, noisy drone and space sound effects, and the bass was a bit high at some points, but I enjoyed their set. The song "Salt Water" had some great percussion and shoegaze-y elements, and it was very melodic and not too aggressive. The kids seemed to dig it, and the venue was packed.
One show left before bed...
#EarsGoPOP! Effects pedals yo!
Local band AIM LOW have added a lot to their act since the first time I saw them in a tiny café on Saint-Denis two years ago, and I'm really digging where they're going. The band members are more animated, there's a new bass player who likes to wink a lot, they've incorporated vocal chanting and anguished screams, the music is louder (loud as hell!), and there's plenty more effects on the guitars. So many pedals! It's also kind of funny when, in unison, the members of the band get closer to the amps and gyrate against them to add even more fuzzy effects to their instruments. That reminded me of how the Peanuts gang danced in A Charlie Brown Christmas. AIM LOW is Charlie Brown's drone/shoegaze band! I mean that as a compliment. Did I mention it was freaking loud? Even with the ear plugs, my canals were still ringing the next day (and now I'm really afraid of the My Bloody Valentine show in November).
I came prepared for the AIM LOW show!
Shout out to a pole-dancing Cedric Marinelli, the dude in the "Grunge is Dead" t-shirt, and Dan from Foe Destroyer who said I was sexy and gave me a free download.
--Stephanie Dee hosts Champions of the Local Scene (Wednesdays, 6-7 PM) and Twee Time (Fridays, 8-9 pm). Follow her on Twitter @tweegirl.