The Montreal-based international music, film and arts festival made its return last week for its 18th edition.
By: Sun Noor
POP Montreal Festival is undoubtedly one of my favourite events in the city, given how it both showcases the city’s talented artists while welcoming a myriad of international artists for 5 days of non stop musical showcases, film screenings, workshops and vernissages. This event has allowed me to discover various different artists over the years while broadening my knowledge on different aspects of the music industry, which has drawn me to look out for the festivals off-season events as well. Watching the majority of the performances at the beautiful Rialto Theatre is also another aspect of the festival that I look forward to each year.
This year’s edition has been by far my favourite given its diverse lineup, meaning I managed to watch various dissimilar artists each night. The event kicked off on Wednesday with the annual kick off party at the Club House in the Rialto Theatre. The first performance I caught was Debby Friday’s set at Le Ministère. I have been listening to her music quite a bit over the years but had yet to catch her perform live, which was something I have been looking forward to for a while. Despite the fact that her heavily experimental sound translates well in her music, the live experience really captures her ideas in a clear manner. The glitchy, heavily produced sound paired with her punk-inspired vocals create an idiosyncratic sound, which interestingly Debby Friday dubbed as “Bitch Punk.” Her captivating performance definitely pushed me towards catching her second set, which took place on Friday.
The second set of performances I caught took place at Bar Le Ritz. The Los Angeles-based composer and producer Nathan Lucas who releases music under the pseudonym, Jerry Paper has definitely caught my eye on the lineup, as I really enjoyed his latest record, Like a Baby, which was released last year. Montreal’s synth pop outfit Bodywash, hit the stage before his performance for quite the generous set. Their sound bounce from psychedelic pop and dream pop, with elements of shoe gaze, creating a dreamy soundscape.
One of the new performance spaces for this edition of POP Montreal included the Mile End skatepark, which lies under neath the Van Horne viaduct. Toronto’s synth pop duo, Ice Cream played a lovely set while various skateboarders showed off their tricks and children danced in the background. The band consist of Carlyn Bezic and Amanda Crist who have previously collaborated with various artists over the years such as U.S. Girls. The following set consisted of another Debby Friday performance. The artist definitely managed to expose her “Bitch Punk,” ethos to an audience that consisted of a wide demographic including children who managed to be quite entertained.
The next performance I saw was definitely the one that caught my eye during the lineup’s initial release which was Nick Cave’s intimate conversation and music set. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity in a line that wrapped around the St-Jean-Baptise Chruch, audience members were met with a cheerful Nick Cave who expressed gratitude for attending his event. Before jumping into his first piano ballad, he gave the crowd three seconds to snap photos and videos before they were asked to put their devices away so they could truly enjoy this experience. As the night went on, audience members asked him a wide range questions from dealing with loss, struggling with identity and lacking the proper motivation to create. The running gag of the night consisted of Francophone audience members apologizing for their accents which was put to an end when Cave mentioned how he should be the one to apologize for his Australian accent. Given the fact that this event took place at a church, Cave felt it was only appropriate to culminate his performance with “Stagger Lee,” which was quite intense yet comical.
The final show for Friday took place at the Piccolo club in Rialto Theatre. This year’s Polaris Prize winner Haviah Mighty kicked off the show with her empowering performance. The Toronto-based rapper brought her high-energy set to an intimate crowd, who were captivated by her larger than life stage presence. New York based artist Ian Isaiah was next on the lineup, bringing his soulful, r&b and gospel-inspired tunes to a room that quickly began to fill up. Atlanta-based rapper and producer Yung Baby Tate closed out the show, performing multiple tracks from her stunning debut album Girls.
Saturday’s sets took place at La Vitrola and consisted of sets by Emilie Kahn and Methyl Ethel. The Montreal-based harpist played a dreamy solo set, which included a handful of tracks from her latest effort, Outro. Kahn played a stripped back set, relying on creating layers of sound with her harp as opposed to playing with a full band and using different instruments to create her ambient soundscape. Kahn made a comment about bringing her colour-changing lamp on stage and allocating a colour for each song she performed, which was quite fitting for her intimate set. The Australian based art-rock five piece, Methyl Ethel were up next, playing a set in which they aimed towards playing g the majority of the tracks from their latest LP, Triage. The band also included a handful of fan favourites from their discography and managed to experiment with their sound while performing most of their material. Methyl Ethel’s performance was definitely one of my festival highlights even though they decided to cut their set short of an encore.
The last day of the festival was definitely the most exciting, as it was the most diverse in terms of music. I attended Mavis Staples’ highly anticipated performance, which I have been looking forward to for quite some time. Before the legend was due to hit the stage, Cameroonian-bord, Montreal-based singer songwriter, Clerel was first to take the stage, performing a handful of stripped- back, heartfelt, guitar driven ballads. The Montreal-based soul artist Hanorah was up next, performing a short yet sweet set. The audience was immediately held captive my her strong range and impeccable guitar melodies. After a few minutes of anticipation, Mavis Staples was met with a standing ovation, quickly escalating into the majority of the audience dancing as Staples proceeded belt out a few tracks. Anemone closed out the festival, playing an intimate set at the Piccolo. The Montreal-based psychedelic-pop outfit brought played a dreamy and trance-inducing, set, playing the majority of their discography.
Despite how lengthy and eventful POP Montreal always manages to become, I find myself missing the thrill of catching as many sets and discovering new music each year. Until next time POP Montreal!
POP Montreal have handful of off-season shows. Click here to view the full listings for the rest of the year.
Here are more photos from the festival: