POP Montreal 2017 post-fest analysis

The last two days of POP Montreal 2017 were a doozy, with a hyped reunion show, a promising indie rocker from Oakland, and an eventual Polaris Prize winner. Above all, it was just more proof that as far as multi-venue music festivals go, POP is a national treasure. Here’s our second and final recap of POP Montreal’s Sweet Sixteen.

Aside from their BBQs at the POP Quarters, one of the most fun elements of the entire festival is when shows are held on the rooftop of Montreal’s Ubisoft building. The Montreal HQ to one of the biggest video game companies in the world hosted several sets through the weekend, with Saturday’s bill including local acoustic indie pop singer-songwriter Jason Bajada, and Francophone folk outfit Avec pas d’casque (the non-French speakers around me were calling them “Avec podcast”, because I suppose that’s easier).

Saturday night really began, however, with a performance – and some hilarious stage banter, to boot – at the upstairs of the Rialto from Toronto-based Colombian singer Lido Pimienta. If you have to pigeonhole her, you could argue her music is a mixture of traditional Latin-American music, Björk, and electronic music à la Massive Attack.

The tone of her music can be extremely political – she asks all the women, women of colour and trans people go ahead of all the men in the crowd, and performs a song protesting Nunavut selling water bottles for $20 – and her style is very experimental while also being strangely hypnotic. That said, she’s got obvious talent in both her performance and vocal elasticity, and the (unfortunately) smallish crowd ate it up. The fact that she’d win the Polaris Music Prize two days later is merely a happy coincidence.

Meanwhile, ‘90s noise/blues rock band Royal Trux took to Fairmount in front of a crowd noticeably smaller than the one this venue had for Ty Segall earlier in the week. The music felt like a jammier, bluesier Dinosaur Jr., with guitar noodling, jumbled song structures, and complex bass riffs front and centre. It’s intriguing for what it is, but it’s a lot to get used to, and singer Jennifer Herrema also slurred as if she could have been drunk or high during the performance. (She might not have been, mind you, but you have to wonder.)

That said, night four at POP Montreal 2017 would end with a loud bang thanks to the first show since 2011 by Montreal dance punk-flavoured indie rockers Think About Life. Whether or not this show is simply a one-off reunion remains to be seen, but sweet Jesus did they ever bring it.

With a packed crowd at the Piccolo Rialto waiting in anticipation similar to that felt for the Unicorns in 2014, frontman Martin Cesar comes onstage with a Real Madrid jersey and pure intensity from start to finish. Positive vibes, crowd-surfing, and a trip down memory lane for Montrealers who knew the band during the late nineties would ensue.

As if the show wasn’t crazy enough, some dude in a wizard costume – or a Jesus costume, I’m not sure which – comes onstage and rips through a few songs on bass. Utter madness.

The band then closed with, rather appropriately, “Sweet Sixteen”. Given how much of a frenzy their crowd was in throughout, they’ll need to speed up the timeline of their next reunion show.

It’s hard to imagine topping that on the final day, which is probably partly why the Sunday was the quietest day of the festival. My choice of curtain-closing for this year’s edition would be Stef Chura (indie rock with a Stevie Nicks-meets-grunge voice); Jay Som, aka Oakland musician Melina Duterte, who fuses dream pop with jangly Mac DeMarco-esque guitars to make what the New York Times calls “D.I.Y. bedroom pop”; and Hurray for the Riff Raff, a bluesy Americana act from The Bronx with very political between-song monologues (“We’re Hurray for the Riff Raff… we’re from the Divided States of America”), and a singer with a strong, technically gifted voice and an energetic live persona.

I didn’t go to as many shows or venues as I wanted to this year, but one can only be in one place at a time – unless, of course, you’re Hermione Granger and you own a Time-Turner. That’s the beauty and the curse of POP Montreal: it’s full of great shows and both new and old artists to check out in a smaller venue, but its over-saturation can also give you some definite FOMO. In any case, I can’t wait to do it all again next year.

by Dave Macintyre

 

This article originally appeared on Northern Transmissions.

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Top 10 Performances at Osheaga 2017

Once again, another wild – and in this year’s case, very wet – edition of Osheaga has made it into the history books. Despite inclement weather permeating the better part of day one, as well as being held at a temporary site due to the usual festival ground undergoing construction until 2019, the Montreal midsummer festival made the best of a bad situation and satisfied tens of thousands of keen festival-goers once again. Here are my top 10 performances from across the three-day event.

#10: Phantogram

Photo credit Pat Beaudry

Kicking off my list is an early afternoon main stage set that, frankly, would’ve gone down just as nicely at night time, if not more so. New York electronic rock duo Phantogram didn’t play in front of the biggest crowd over the weekend, but it hardly seemed to faze them, as they went through their set with plenty of enthusiasm and a full band adding some oomph to their hip hop-edged sound. Singer/keyboardist Sarah Barthel went full Geddy Lee by singing and playing the bass, and the black and white graphics in their onstage projections looked incredibly slick.

#9: Cage the Elephant

Photo credit Pat Beaudry

For a band with seven career number one singles on Billboard’s alternative charts, you’d expect Cage the Elephant to be pushed further toward the top of the bill. Nevertheless, despite a late afternoon set time and two members missing from the equation, the crowd ate it up like a mouth-watering steak. Performing with genuine liveliness and positive energy – topped off by frontman Matthew Shultz’s relentless shimmying that would’ve given Thom Yorke a pretty decent run for his money – they delivered a rollicking performance in front of a massive audience, showing how they’ve managed to become one of the most popular alt-rock bands of this decade.

#8: Sampha

Photo credit Tim Snow/ EVENKO

Still riding high off his debut full-length Process – arguably one of the best albums of 2017 thus far – Sampha Sisay descended onto Osheaga on Friday with his trademark falsetto, skittering alt-R&B beats, and a band including two drummers (one on live drums, another on electronic) backing him up. Thankfully for us, the sky stayed relatively clear and dry as well. Even though his vocals were a bit quiet at times – mic issues seemed to be a problem basically throughout the entire festival – his music is stirring and utterly gorgeous (listen to songs like “Plastic 100°C” and “Timmy’s Prayer” if you need proof), and his performance matched its intensity and emotional rawness.

#7: Lorde

Photo credit Pat Beaudry

Considering how rainy the first day of this year’s festival was, Lorde coming onstage with a bright white umbrella to match the colour of both her dress and pair of sneakers was entirely fitting. Fashion choices aside, her headlining performance was executed beautifully. Cranking up the theatrics and production value compared to her first time playing Osheaga in 2014, the Kiwi songstress brought the hits (she opened with “Tennis Court” and saved “Royals”, “Team” and “Green Light” for the end), the super-long monologues between songs, and occasionally, the quirky dance moves – basically everything one would want and expect from a Lorde show.

#6: The Weeknd

Photo credit Pat Beaudry

Perhaps the most divisive headliner this year – partially because he’d just played the Bell Centre back in May – Abel Tesfaye (best known as the Weeknd) nonetheless returned to Montreal with a rapturous grand finale mostly showcasing his more polished and pop-friendly current sound rather than the hazy and drugged-up brand of alternative R&B he made his trademark back in 2011 (“Wicked Games” was the lone track he performed from that era). Regardless, Tesfaye undeniably capped off the Osheaga Weeknd (I know, groan) extremely well by delivering hit after hit while working the crowd with astonishing ease. The fireworks toward the end of “I Feel it Coming” were merely a cherry on top.

#5: MGMT

Photo Credit Pat Beaudry

Regardless of whether or not you’re indifferent toward their newer material (or even to their heavily psychedelic and left-field 2010 sophomore album Congratulations), MGMT remain a force to be reckoned with as a live act. Even during elongated renditions of older songs, the oddball psych-rockers sounded as clean as a whistle. Songs like “Time to Pretend”, “Electric Feel” and “Kids” – the tracks this crowd cheered loudest for – still sound just as fresh and exciting now as they did a decade ago, and they can still round up a huge festival crowd and leave them riding a wave of nostalgia and good vibes.

#4: Run the Jewels

Photo credit Pat Beaudry

It’s absolutely insane how well Run the Jewels’ uncompromising sound, incredibly smart lyrics and raucous energy on record translates into their live performances. It’s seamless. Despite some initial problems with their mics, Killer Mike and El-P tore up the Scène de la Rivière to hit the mid-day Osheaga crowd with hard-nosed rhymes, booming bass and mosh pits galore. They knew how to restore calm and order as well, with Killer Mike telling everyone to take two steps back when people in the front were getting crushed. The New York/Atlanta duo seldom disappoint in smaller indoor venues, and they showed on Sunday that they can just as easily rock crowds several times as big.

#3: Broken Social Scene

Photo credit Pat Beaudry

Mesmerizing. Few adjectives better sum up Broken Social Scene’s return to the Osheaga main stages. Kevin Drew and his gang of Canadian indie rock royalty gave a career-spanning spectacle, opening with “Cause = Time” from their landmark 2002 album You Forgot it in People, all the way to new material from their solid fourth LP Hug of Thunder. In addition to Drew’s monologues to the crowd calling for love and friendship, the band also brought out Metric’s Emily Haines to help sing newer songs (“Halfway Home”, “Protest Song”) and an old chestnut (“Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl”). If they’re not one of the greatest Canadian bands of the last 25 years, I don’t know who would be.

#2: Justice

Photo credit Pat Beaudry

Your best memories of Justice are likely through their debut LP Cross (†), a slap bass-heavy thrill ride of hard rock-tinged, ultra-cool electro house. A full decade later, their prowess as live performers is still as strong as ever. Smoothly mixing both newer and older material in an hour-long set with a huge white light show, the French duo reminded all in attendance just how much they’ve deserved their legacy over the years as modern EDM forefathers. Newer single “Safe and Sound” set the tone deliciously, while older classics like “Genesis”, “D.A.N.C.E.” and “Stress” feel very ahead of their time nowadays.

Before I unveil my top pick, here are a few honourable mentions:

– The Lemon Twigs (Shoutouts to their drummer, who looked like he’d just come back from an audition to join KISS)

Photo credit Pierre Bourgault

– Majid Jordan (OVO’s lone representatives over the weekend)

Photo credit Tim Snow / EVENKO

– Liam Gallagher (Yes, he played “Wonderwall”)

Photo credit Pat Beaudry

#1: Alabama Shakes

Photo credit Pat Beaudry

Brittany Howard and co have earned a reputation for being absolute dynamite live, and their Osheaga set this year was no exception. The penultimate main stage show of this year’s festival would combine Howard’s effortless stage presence and commanding voice with a show full of soul, firepower and pure musicianship. Sadly, Howard’s mic would suddenly get cut off during “Over My Head,” bringing their otherwise stunning performance to an abrupt and extremely awkward end. Regardless, this should prove once and for all that they belong on big festival stages. If they keep their momentum going, you’d have to think a future Osheaga headline slot is theirs for the taking.

 

*Cover photo credit Tim Snow/ EVENKO

 

This article originally appeared on the blog for WatchMojo.com.

A wet and wild Osheaga 2017

It wasn’t pretty, but we made it. Despite Osheaga not quite selling out this time around; having to adjust to a whole new festival site; dealing with torrential downpours right off the jump; and seeing cancellations from big names like Solange, De La Soul and Lil Uzi Vert, the 12th edition of Montreal’s midsummer bash did pretty damn well this year. While the crowd took some time to get used to the temporary digs, the festival would find its bearings nicely as the three-day event progressed – and Shoeclack was there for all of it. Here are my biggest takeaways from a very rainy, very different – and ultimately, still loads of fun – Osheaga 2017.

Mother Nature didn’t seem to want Osheaga 2017 to happen.

If you arrived at Parc Jean-Drapeau at any time between 2 or 4 p.m. on the Friday, chances are you didn’t see a whole lot of music at first. If anything, you were probably busy looking for whatever semblance of shelter you could find. Multiple sets were either delayed, rescheduled, or cancelled altogether – notably indie darling Angel Olsen, slated to perform at 2:45 that afternoon.

Downpours would again interrupt the music once it re-started, including during BadBadNotGood’s set, and also forcing the Shins to start late. Glass Animals were particularly unfortunate victims of the rainfall, being forced to play only two songs after their synths got water damaged.

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The rain would continue to hit on and off throughout day one, especially around the start of Lorde’s headline set. Fittingly, the Kiwi electropop superstar would come onstage carrying a white umbrella while wearing an equally white dress and pair of sneakers. In the end, the weather wouldn’t put much of a damper on an excellent set that showcased how much Ella Yelich-O’Connor has grown as an all-around performer since her last Osheaga go-round in 2014.

Nostalgia was the name of the game this year.

When you look at this year’s lineup and see names like MGMT, Justice, Crystal Castles and the Shins, you’d be forgiven for thinking to yourself, “What year is this? Did we fall asleep in the DeLorean from Back to the Future and wind up in 2008?”

Fortunately, those acts – or at least, the ones I got a chance to see – delivered the goods. MGMT provided a very solid early evening set despite the crowd mostly responding loudest to songs from their debut Oracular Spectacular – which, in 2017, feels ahead of its time – and Justice would give an extremely dynamic and hard-hitting set immediately after, criss-crossing effortlessly between both newer and older material.

Keeping the nostalgia train rolling were bands like Temples, who could very well be the living musical embodiment of the ‘60s with both their retro-flavoured image and their John Lennon-meets-the-Yardbirds sound. Beach Slang also brought the sound and raw power akin to that of the Replacements; the Lemon Twigs evoked serious Supertramp vibes; and another big name this year was Foster the People – whose biggest hit “Pumped Up Kicks” is old enough to be in Grade 2 right now. To top it off, Liam Gallagher performed a handful of Oasis classics – yes, he played “Wonderwall” – and Vance Joy’s Sunday set included a cover of Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al”.

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Continue reading “A wet and wild Osheaga 2017”

Suuns bring some darkness to Montréal en Lumière

Given how saturated Montreal’s sea of top-notch indie acts can be, it’s not really surprising that Suuns were a band I’d always heard a lot about but hadn’t sought out for myself, despite them already being an established Montreal export. That changed on Saturday night at Club Soda, and boy am I glad it did.

Before they’d take the stage, opener Sarah Davachi brought the early birds her noticeably minimalist style of ambient music– a taste you likely would’ve already needed to acquire before watching her. Her set consisted pretty much entirely of one long, droning number that only occasionally saw new notes or changes in arrangement be thrown into the mix. Perhaps not everyone was expecting this going into the show – at least one guy in the crowd cheered and clapped, perhaps sarcastically, while she was still playing – but she was nevertheless well-received by the end of her set; or rather, song.

As the crowd now gets close to capacity, a Bollywood song plays as Suuns take the stage – with their band name in huge, inflatable letters to boot. Running the gamut from Krautrock to post-punk to art-punk and even a ’90s alternative rock edge at times, they made people stand still as if they’re paralyzed and immerse themselves in the music just as easily as they made them sway and groove hypnotically.

Going into this show without much prior knowledge of their sound, the biggest thing standing out to me right off the bat is their penchant for electronic influences. Some guitar licks were reminiscent of synths from acts like Boards of Canada, while other songs had the type of groove and swing you’d expect to hear more often in trip-hop.

Frontman Ben Shemie’s eerily Lou Reed-esque voice shone through even among an array of sometimes dissonant and sometimes hard-nosed guitars, booming bass lines and repetitive drum patterns. The lack of front-facing light during their show would work in their favour as well, accentuating the mysterious and uncompromising nature of their material – which, in retrospect, feels much more lively and intense onstage than on wax.

Although they rarely interacted with the crowd until near the end of their tight-as-a-whistle set, the Secretly Canadian signees still left them utterly mesmerized during their temporary respite from the frigid Montreal weather.

Nuit Blanche 2017: when downtown Montreal became Antarctica

If any city in the world truly knows how to put on a great party in the middle of winter, it’s Montreal, and the proof is in the city’s yearly Nuit Blanche event. 2017’s edition – its 14th annual – was yet another fun evening of shows, activities, art installations, food tastings and more that kept rolling on until the wee hours of the morning. The only problem? Mother Nature was in no mood to party with us. The weather outside felt like -20 with the windchill – and if you’re like me and you tried jumping from venue to venue to see how different places celebrated despite having to walk for 10-20 minutes at a time, it got to you. Here are my biggest takeaways from a night I’ll unfortunately remember more for the frigid cold than for its otherwise solid events.

This year’s Nuit Blanche celebrated the 50th anniversary of Expo 67, and milked it for all its worth.

Musical references to the era – such as DJs playing songs like “Twist and Shout” as well as Quebecois songs from that time – in addition to artsy projections of photos from the expo were only a couple of references made to the 20th century’s biggest World’s Fair that night. At the dome upstairs at S.A.T, 3D graphics of “LOVE” and the Beatles’ yellow submarines would occasionally pop up. The overall ‘60s vibe many events tried putting on – including the very ‘60s-themed record sale at S.A.T.’s main floor that night – went off nicely.

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Despite the weather, a lot of Montrealers still came out to party in the cold.

With fire pits, marshmallow roasting, deep house DJs – and of course, the freezing weather – defining the activities around the Quartier des spectacles while I was in that area, this year’s Nuit Blanche felt a bit more like your average night at Igloofest than any other year I’d gone. To those of you who likely queued for an eternity to ride on the zip line on Saturday night: I envy your patience and cool (pun intended) under pressure.

Thankfully, it seemed as if enough people stayed home so that walking through the crowd on Ste. Catherine actually made me feel like I wasn’t packed like sardines amongst everyone else – probably the first Nuit Blanche I’ve been to where I felt that way. The same cannot be said for when I headed home for the night, however: the crowd waiting on the metro platform heading north on the Orange Line at Berri-UQAM at 2:45 a.m. rivalled that of Tokyo at rush hour.

The dab is still alive and well.

As much as some people might hate to admit it, dabbing doesn’t look like it’s going out of fashion just yet. I saw several instances of people dancing like they were about to sneeze, the most notable example of which coming through a little boy – probably no older than five – enthusiastically doing so at one of the exhibitions at the Belgo building downtown, to much applause from his mother and the volunteers watching him. Eat your hearts out, Cam Newton and Migos.

You never know what you’ll stumble into sometimes.

While being armed with a media pass obviously helps for getting into places without a hitch, I didn’t expect to suddenly stumble into a Mother Mother concert whilst casually checking out what was happening at L’Astral. However, the biggest surprise of the night came at Old Montreal’s Phi Centre. At the venue’s third annual Nuit Tribe event, I arrived to DJs largely playing afrohouse to a packed crowd, some rather provocative art installations (mainly ones that took children’s TV shows and made them very adult), and even a virtual reality gaming station upstairs.

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As awesome as all of that is, it pales in comparison to what happened as I was ending my night: while I’m heading toward the back to leave, I spot none other than Kaytranada chatting with his pals near the exits. Clearly, even local celebrities will brave the elements for a fun night at Nuit Blanche. (And no, I did not try and get a selfie with him, though the temptation was obviously strong.)

And lastly…

Cronuts and Nutella are among the most heavenly food combinations you can think of.

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You’re welcome.

(This article originally appeared on Shoeclack. All photos taken by me.)

Governors Ball announces 2017 lineup

A day after Coachella dropped its 2017 lineup, New York’s Governors Ball has followed suit, and it looks like yet another solid one.

Headlining this year’s bill will be Phoenix, Chance the Rapper, and reclusive prog metal veterans Tool, with Childish Gambino, Wu-Tang Clan, Flume, Wiz Khalifa, Cage the Elephant, the Avalanches and Air also among those making their way to the Big Apple in June.

Notably, the bill also features a performance from Mark Ronson and Kevin Parker (Tame Impala), as well as Lorde in what will be one of the first shows she’s played since 2014. Other highlights include Danny Brown, Mac DeMarco, Warpaint, Car Seat Headrest, Phantogram, and Skepta.

Governors Ball 2017 will take place at Randall’s Island Park in New York City from June 2 to 4. Three-day wristbands will go at an early bird price of $275 before jumping to $290 and then again to $305 after the first two tiers have sold out. Wristbands will be on sale Friday, January 6 at 12 p.m. EST. Stay tuned to Shoeclack for further Gov Ball coverage!

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(This article originally appeared on Shoeclack.)

Shoeclack’s recap of M For Montreal 2016: chill electro-pop dreams and primal screams

M For Montreal may have a reputation for being an industry-driven festival, but the musical aspect is just as important as anything else – and everything about this year’s edition of the festival, music or otherwise, was even crazier and more exciting than last year’s. While it was a bit cumbersome trying to get from venue to venue with Bixis being taken off the racks in anticipation of winter – it started snowing the night after the festival ended, so it was probably for the best – the experiences shared and eclectic music seen across the festival’s four days were worth any minor annoyance, not only for myself but surely for all the delegates from all over the world, industry folks and everyday fans who got to be a part of it. Here are five moments that defined my M experience this year.

The first night at the Rialto was truly a special one.

The opening night probably holds a place in my heart mostly for personal reasons – for example, I bumped into many people I knew who I didn’t expect to see at all. Of course, such pleasant surprises were matched by the quality of the music: Joe Grass – a bandmate of Patrick Watson’s – kicked the night off with a versatile range of atmospheric and bluesy indie rock tunes, and local indie pop group Groenland brought some energetic, Ellie Goulding-meets-Of Monsters and Men vibes to the sold-out theatre. That said, the evening belonged to headliner Martha Wainwright, who enthralled the crowd with a set full of elegance, pure emotion and an appreciation for Montreal and Quebec culture in a show that doubled as the launch for her new album Goodnight City. Playing in a city still hurting from his recent passing, her cover of “Chelsea Hotel No. 2” was a fitting tribute to one of our homegrown legends.

Martha Wrainwright
Martha Wrainwright

Frigs frontwoman Bria Salmena can scream like there’s no tomorrow.

Despite being a strip club, the upstairs level of Montreal’s notorious Café Cléôpâtre masquerades pretty well as a divey, intimate venue whenever M for Montreal turns it into one. One band in particular that owned this setting had to be Toronto’s Frigs. Stealing the show in a night that also featured Tasseomancy, Michael Rault and Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning on the bill, these recent Arts & Crafts signees cemented themselves as a band worth seeking out for fans of more grungy fare, with frontwoman Bria Salmena carrying both an absolute howitzer of a scream and a cooler low voice akin to that of PJ Harvey and Savages.

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Busty and the Bass belong in front of big crowds.

Although I interviewed bass player Milo Johnson about the band’s particularly memorable festival experiences – for good and bad reasons – back in the summer, this was my first taste of the group’s live show. If there’s anything this band lacks as a live unit, energy is most certainly not part of that equation. Playing before a packed crowd of largely young people at Club Soda right across the street from the aforementioned Café Cléôpâtre show, the crowd played along with their every command – clapping and jumping around enthusiastically at various points during the set, sometimes in unison. Even if the rapping doesn’t always make sense in tandem with velvet-voiced frontman Nick Ferraro, these McGill graduates have serious chops as an engaging and fun live act.

Busty And The Bass
Busty And The Bass

The shows at Casa on the third night were downright weird.

There will be shows at any festival that leave you gobsmackingly impressed, and others that just throw you for a loop without truly knowing what to make of them. The latter effect was largely the case at Casa del Popolo on the Friday night. Despite the show being kicked off by some sleepy, Mazzy Star-esque indie rock via Helena Deland, it was then followed by frantic art punks New Fries, experimental artist Cindy Lee, and avant-garde disco crooner Bernardino Femminielli. Lee, for example, wasn’t bad on a musical level, but the aesthetic of that particular set made me feel like I was watching that scene in Eraserhead with the Lady in the Radiator – in other words, almost a bit too surreal.

The Saturday night showcase at Divan Orange was a rousing success.

I’ll admit I’m just a touch biased here, since this particular showcase on the closing night of the festival was one that us folks here at Shoeclack helped put on. That said, the show comprised largely of Quebec City-based acts went off swimmingly, with a packed crowd watching interconnected acts from the capital like Ghostly Kisses and Men I Trust alongside La Voix alumni Liana and Gabrielle Shonk. With most of the night’s acts playing relaxed, makeout-worthy electronic pop music – Shonk was the exception, as her style is decidedly more alt-country and folk – another trend showed itself at the gig, as Liana and Shonk decided to put their spin on two Drake songs, “Hold On, We’re Going Home” and “One Dance” respectively. If Drizzy’s own lovesick and heavily introspective kind of hip hop and R&B is influencing Quebec City’s music scene as a whole, somebody’s gonna have to photoshop him sitting on top of the Château Frontenac pretty soon.

Liana
Liana

 

(This post originally appeared on Shoeclack. All photos are credit to Alexandre Couture.)

POP Montreal 2016 superlatives

So yet another year of POP Montreal is in the books, ladies and gents, and the atmosphere and experience of the festival is still as cool and rewarding as ever. In fact, my experience was such that I feel like giving out some “awards”, if you will, to many different areas of this year’s five-day venue-hopping marathon. Without further ado, here they are:

Most impressive solo artist: Wally Badarou

Playing his first ever solo show at the ripe age of 61, Wally Badarou – the French musician known for performing with Talking Heads, Fela Kuti, Grace Jones and Robert Palmer among others – brought an old school approach with a new school setup to Sala Rossa on the first night of the festival. Although his solo material isn’t nearly as recognized as that of the artists he’s played with over the years, it was still eaten up lovingly by the crowd, even if the sweltering hot temperatures inside the venue caused some people to head for the exits a bit early. Fellow influential old-timer John Cale – performing at the Rialto the following night – was also a big highlight for me this year.

Most impressive local band: Caveboy

After sadly arriving too late for Angel Olsen at the Rialto – more on that later – I instead biked up north to Bar Le Ritz PDB to watch Montreal trio Caveboy (opening for the brilliantly-named U.K. duo Let’s Eat Grandma), and my dismay over missing Olsen would be short-lived. Mixing ‘80s-indebted new wave tunes with a sprinkle of dance-punk, as well as melodies appealing to fans of artists as classic as Bruce Springsteen and as modern as HAIM, their catchy repertoire of material – plus a brief cover of Justin Timberlake’s “What Goes Around… Comes Around” – made for a rightfully well-received set. Side note: Bar Le Ritz, which I’d surprisingly never been to before this show, wins my vote for coolest and most laid back venue of this year’s festival.

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Hottest venues (literally): TIED – Sala Rossa and La Vitrola

As great as the venues in Montreal are – particularly those in the Plateau/Mile End area – and as much as the temperature outside is definitely dropping to mark the beginning of autumn, some of those venues tried a bit too hard to compensate for it; prime examples being Sala Rossa (where I saw Wally Badarou) and La Vitrola (where I saw Solids). While both shows were great, I became increasingly drenched in sweat to the point where I could barely handle being inside anymore. Needless to say, stepping outside afterward felt like discovering heaven.

Biggest inconvenience for getting to shows: Uber

The fact that Uber surge prices were anywhere between 1.7x to twice the regular fare while trying to get to POP shows – even on weeknights – is proof that not only are taxis still able to compete with them, but those surges are just another reason for cab companies to make a stink about Uber’s mere existence.

Biggest mistake you could make ahead of bigger shows: Getting there too close to the start

I pled guilty to this twice: first for the Kills and secondly for Angel Olsen, as I arrived at both shows roughly 15 to 20 minutes before their sets were due to start. This isn’t Osheaga where you can flip between stages fairly easily; the venues in this town are spread too far apart for that. Your best strategy is always to get there as early as possible – case in point: the round-the-block lineup outside the Rialto for Olsen, more than an hour before her first opening act.

Best non-musical activity: The Pop vs. Jock game

Making its return after last being played in 2014, Win Butler’s Pop vs. Jock basketball game was as entertaining and flat-out fun as ever, with Nikolai Fraiture (the Strokes), Chris Thomson (Vampire Weekend) and Martin Starr (actor on Silicon Valley) hitting the court as well. Although lacking the memorable half-time show and near-full crowd of two years ago, it was still a highly enjoyable ball game – not to mention Régine Chassagne returning on the organ, highlighted by her playing along to Skepta’s “Shutdown” during the pre-game warmups.

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Biggest bummer about POP Montreal 2016: Missing out on certain acts

Though I was disappointed to miss out on the Kills and Angel Olsen like I mentioned earlier, those instances were completely my fault. What was more disappointing was having to miss out on performances due to where they were placed, and when. Due to unfortunate scheduling, I had to skip acts I otherwise would have checked out like Groenland, Cold Specks, Diet Cig and Sebastien Grainger. Luckily, I would catch one fairly hyped up show in Holy Fuck at the Fairmount Theatre, and they unquestionably delivered the goods.

Best thing about POP Montreal 2016: The sense of community

Even if I didn’t get to check out as many shows as I wanted or experience the festival to its fullest this year – having a full-time job throughout the week will do that to you – I’m always reminded of why I love POP to begin with: how small it feels, even if it’s spread all around different areas of a place as big as Montreal. The bands may not be household names, but the feeling of being able to congratulate bands at their merch table after their set and have friendly conversations with them – as well as potentially make new friends in the crowd and discover some amazing new music together – is always a great one, and one that big-time festivals in this city like Osheaga sorely lack by comparison.

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(This post originally appeared on Shoeclack. All photos taken by me.)

POP Montreal 2016 profile: Will McClelland’s “The Minted”

Imagine Toronto being destroyed by a horde of 300,000 raccoons. If that’s not enough, throw in some demons and muzzled members of Canada’s Parliament for good measure. Those are just some of the crazy ideas brought forth by Canadian novelist Will McClelland in his new book The Minted – and the backstory of its creation is just as intriguing.

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Having started the book at age 23 – first by working on it for 10 years before spending the next four trying to get it published, and throwing out hundreds of pages in the process – the now-38-year-old author conceived the idea for the novel in part through the band he’s opening for tonight at the Fairmount Theatre with a book reading at POP: the Sadies.

“If the Sadies were American, they would have been on the cover of Rolling Stone five times already,” he says. “I know this will sound like boosterism of friends, but I’ve been saying for a long time that they’re the best rock n’ roll band in the world.”

Having seen the band open for Neil Young back in 1993 in his early teens with his younger brother Andy – a musician known as Li’l Andy who’s also playing tonight’s event, and who we interviewed for POP last year – and thinking their set was “more intense” and “more rock n’ roll” than Young’s was, the brothers would eventually get connected with the Sadies personally.

In Andy’s case, it was through playing shows with them; in Will’s, it was through a four-month solo hitchhiking trip he took across Canada where he bumped into the band in Canmore, AB whilst on tour – an experience which would serve as a major source of inspiration for the novel. More specifically, it was from watching them play a show – and show up fashionably late beforehand – at the Canmore Hotel, leading to him eventually selling merchandise for them.

“They’ve been my favourite band for over 10 years, and I’m very lucky and honoured that I get to hang out and work for and be friends with my absolute favourite band,” he says.

“There are certain characters [in the book] that are such a psychotic mania unto themselves that they were created just listening to the Sadies driving around late at night on country roads, riding in front of the headlights of my truck, with the Sadies blaring on logging roads that are closed. That’s how I wrote my Gules character – he’s like a demon made out of moose blood.”

Focusing on the character of The Moose, the anthropomorphic leader of an animal rebellion in Canada, the book’s story is told through multiple footnotes and journal entries. It tells the story of animals going through the process of minting – in other words, having their souls captured and turned into money – and responding by causing a mass uprising against urban Canada in the year 2030. It’s a compelling – yet dark and sometimes terrifying – ride through a dystopian, sci-fi version of our country, but also one seemingly defined by how Will views the way we are right now.

“I’d been fascinated by both Canada and the idea of Canada for a long, long time, and had always studied Canadian literature; Canadian music; Canadian film,” Will says. “When I set out on that trip originally, I don’t know what I thought I would discover or experience, but… we’re real hypocrites in this country in terms of who we think we are, and who we actually are.”

“An easy example [would be] in terms of how we think that in some way we’re rugged or of the natural world, or the North is pristine, when in fact we’re one of the most urbanized populations in the world… All the different ways in which we take the North for granted and have turned our back on the North, turned our back on First Nations, you get beyond a certain point in this country and you realize government’s not even really there – it’s just corporations that are there.”

Although the book was still in its infancy, Andy – who also uses animals as a literary device in his lyrics – would get one hell of a taste of what was to come, having been sent initial ideas about it via email from Will during his hitchhiking trip.

“Will started talking in these emails in the voice of this character [The Moose], and it was a really destabilizing, weird experience,” he laughs. “I’d be getting these emails that would start pretty normally and then go off on these strange, metaphysical, angry, polemic rants about Canada. I would think, ‘This kind of sounds like Will, but it kind of sounds like someone has invaded his email account or taken over his voice.’ It was fun to see that develop.”

As far as what one can take away from the experience of reading the book, Will hopes readers will feel more comfortable to face Canada’s dark history after finishing it, even though the country is seen as “the source of ultimate evil” by many of its characters.

“There’s many, many different veins and branches of dark, genuine ongoing shame in this country,” he says. “But there’s also a very unique experiment. Canada’s a country that does not work in theory, but somehow does work in practice – you sense that in Toronto, you sense that in Montreal, you sense that in Vancouver, and not just those multicultural superstar metropolises of Canada [either]… There is a lot to be proud of here.”

Will McClelland will do a reading from his new book The Minted – which is available now – tonight at the Fairmount Theatre, alongside The Sadies, Li’l Andy, and Charlotte Cornfield, with the show due to start at 9:30 p.m. Tickets for the event are $18 apiece plus service charges. If you’ve got an hour to spare, you can listen to our full interview with Will and Andy below.

Five of the craziest things about Nuit Blanche 2016

Well, another year of the entire city partying it up in the snow, ice and cold weather has gone into the history books, and by all accounts, it was a success for Montréal en Lumière’s trademark event yet again. Of course, an event that attracts so many people at once – and with most of the events being free, who can blame them? – can bring with it both upsides and downsides, but that’s precisely why Nuit Blanche is such a special event in this city. Here are the five craziest things we saw during our experience this year.

The hordes of people.

If there’s anything to be gleaned from the moment you start walking around Place des Arts during Nuit Blanche, it’s that it’s a struggle and a half to get from point A to B in a timely fashion. The hordes of people around the festival’s outdoor site isn’t surprising, but nevertheless claustrophobia-inducing. Not only that, but to ride on the zipline, you’d probably have to wait in line until 2028 – even if you were wearing an outrageous outfit/horse head mask and tried convincing them to let you skip the line for the sake of them having a hilarious photo op.

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The fireplaces.

I mean, it was +2 outside, but the festival decided to have huge fireplaces out there anyway. All in the spirit of the season, right?

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The Gaslamp Killer.

This year’s Nuit Tribe might not have been headlined by A Tribe Called Red, but this was probably the next best thing. Equipped with huge, frizzy hair and glitchy hip hop beats, the producer born William Bensussen did a great job reeling in a crowd at the Centre Phi by dropping tracks that were as off-kilter as his label founder Flying Lotus’ musical output, whilst also spinning stuff that was recognizable (Kendrick Lamar’s “King Kunta”) and trippy (Tame Impala’s “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control”) early on in the set.

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The lack of movement during the Dilla tribute.

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Although I wasn’t at Astral for very long, it didn’t take much to notice how J Dilla’s smooth beats and legacy live on far beyond his death in 2006, and this newest edition of Montreal Loves Dilla on Nuit Blanche was proof of that. Sadly, although it was still relatively early in the event (around midnight), the lack of movement in the crowd while the DJs were spinning tracks from his vast musical catalogue was disconcerting to say the least. Considering his music is incredibly easy to bounce and sway around to, much of the crowd at that time seemed to stand around like statues.

The upstairs of SAT.

While the downstairs of the Société des arts technologiques (SAT) next to Club Soda had a nice – albeit rather dark – party atmosphere with deep house dominating the DJ’s soundtrack, the upstairs was a whole other level: a huge sphere with crazy patterns and visual effects engulfing the DJ and the crowd, as well as an open patio despite obviously less-than-ideal weather conditions. The chill but very lively atmosphere was like little else you could find at shows during Nuit Blanche, and was arguably the highlight of the night.

(This post originally appeared on Shoeclack. All photos taken by me.)