festivals Reviews

Best of POP Montreal 2020: Thanya Iyer and Jonathan Personne

Despite COVID-19 restrictions significantly downsizing the annual celebration, the festival still managed to come through with a selection of exceptional shows.

By: Sun Noor

With the ongoing pandemic halting most live music attempts over the past few months, the idea of hearing new releases live seems nearly impossible. For their 19th edition, the annual multidisciplinary arts, music and film event opted to present various performances while also broadcasting them live. Some performances also took place entirely through the virtual platform. Given the reduced capacity of the venues, having the live streamed option also enabled those from other parts of the world to experience POP Montreal.

Although I missed the hecticness that comes with wanting to catch as many sets and hearing loud music coming from the Rialto theatre this time, just the fact that the festival managed to still go on and undergo this hybrid edition was good enough. As well, the fact that the majority of the lineup consisted of local artists was a pleasant change and hinted at how live music will take place for at least the remainder of the year. Having that local focus seems to be the only way to rebuild live music in the most realistic manner during this pandemic. As well, the Montreal-centric lineup gave a glimpse of how shows will take places for the next few months.

One of my favourite element of the festival is the art installations at the Rialto Theatre. There were various interesting conceptual pieces and sculptures as well as eerie paintings.There was this specific piece that brought back some memories, given the fact that it consisted of a teenager’s bedroom from the 90s. It was essentially covered with music and tour posters, CDs and had a few lockers. Being that child with Oasis spreads from NME magazine plastered on my walls, observing that piece was quite a nostalgic experience.

Corridor’s Jonathan Personne recently released his sophomore solo record Disparitions, an excellent project that made for a great performance with a full band. Seated rock shows. Although seated rock shows can feel very awkward, watching Personne and his band play most of that record was quite an immersive experience. His set marked my first show in five months, an exciting yet weird experience because it was as though I forgot about the notion of in person events. As well, the distance between the audience members and musicians added to the awkwardness of being seated but those thoughts immediately slipped my mind once the music began. It’s important to support musicians if you can through attending these events while they are able to take place. The 30 minute set consisted of Personne and his band diving into that record, fusing elements of classic rock, western and dream pop to create captivating compositions.

Jonathan Personne

My last day at the festival was spent watching Thanya Iyer’s alluring afternoon set at the Rialto Theatre. Kind is another one of my favourite projects from this year. Iyer and her band mates played a laid back and stripped set, consisting of those beloved dreamy, off-kilter jazz songs. The band played a handful of those new songs under the dimly lit venue lights, adding to the enthralling vibe. Iyer posses quite a unique and ethereal voice and demonstrates her range throughout the entirety of that album. Hearing her voice echo through the room as she switches between piano to violin was quite an entrancing experience. Through pairing those prominent vocals with subtle instrumentation and collected sounds that effortlessly basque into that soundscape, Iyer creates a unique and addicting sound. My festival experience definitely ended on a high note.

Thanya Iyer

Shout out to POP Montreal’s organizers for putting on a lovely edition and the staff and security for ensuring that everyone has a safe and amazing experience.

Here are more photos from the performances:

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