By Colin Gallant
CALGARY — POP Montreal enters year lucky 13 and BeatRoute will be on hand to capture the action. Over 400 acts perform in more than 50 venues across just five days. Bands, comedians, filmmakers artists and speakers flock to the city’s Mile End and surrounding area each year to show their stuff and consider the question: what is POP, exactly?
If you don’t already know, POP Montreal is one of a kind. The veteran fest’s primary calling cards are a curatorial spirit of anything goes and an intuition for which bands are poised to become favourites of the following summer’s festival season. Delving into the massive lineup is nothing to sneeze at. We’ve compiled some of the biggest grabs and most intriguing curiosities to let you know what’s in store.
One thing that becomes immediately clear when exploring POP Montreal’s extensive lineup is that the title of the fest sometimes serves as a massive feint. Local act Antoine93 has taken the faded, Internet-savvy lothario character so popular in recent R&B and pop music and reinvented it in the guise of a normcore raver.
JJ Fad, the first female rap group to be recognized with a Grammy nomination, are one of POP’s most championed headliners. Though largely seen as one-hit-wonders for their track “Supersonic,” the trio boasts a debut album produced by multiple members of NWA and a legacy enduring as recently as Eminem’s inescapable single “Rap God. “
Next on the docket is the microcosm of bad boy Franglais rap. Certain uptight dads have been panicking about the turnt up, almost juggaloesque phenomenon among Quebecois teens but the bucket-hatted duo Eman & VLooper appear to be primarily a unifying bringer of fun, however you like to have it.
The above are just standard concerts for POP. Looking to the realm of special events, we find even more oddball delights. Steve Albini is hosting a cooking class, a trio of DJs recreate the Beastie Boys classic Paul’s Boutique, Arcade Fire’s Win Butler hits the basketball court and homo-punk icon in the making Brontez Purnell (The Younger Lovers, Gravy Train!!!) and Sophia Wang tackle modern dance.
That being said, POP does bring the names. Ronettes frontwoman and storied wife of Phil Spector, Ronnie Spector continues her conquering of boutique festivals (like Burger Boogaloo) to remind fans of Dum Dum Girls that’s she’s the original. The recently reunited Unicorns (an act often associated with kick-starting the world’s most enduring obsession with the music of Montreal) made a smart choice in making a triumphant homecoming at POP. Animal Collective’s not-so-secret-weapon Panda Bear will treat the city to a rare live set likely comprised of all-new material, as is his wont.
But this is a rock and roll rag, isn’t it? Well, POP hasn’t in any way forgotten about those acts. Alt-teen heartthrobs Against Me! and The Gaslight Anthem share a bill while Pitchfork-approved sensations Deafheaven and Ty Segall have directly competing set times. Canadian treasures Solids, Ought, Timber Timbre, PS I Love You, The Rural Alberta Advantage and an uncountable number more will be on hand, ready to remind you why you fell in love with them in the first place.
Thing about POP Montreal is that you can have it all; something familiar and something unexpected. A thread runs through it all, a defined but unpredictable curatorial voice that speaks to both the conventional listener and the outsider in the same language. It’s OK to get weird; it’s OK to like POP. For one week out of the year, you even get the chance to do both at once. Can’t make it there yourself? Stay tuned for daily transmissions to keep you up on the action.AB, Against Me!, Alberta, Brontez Purnell, Deafheaven, Eman & VLooper, JJ Fad, Montreal, Ought, Panda Bear, POP Montreal 2014, PS I Love You, Quebec, Ronnie Spector, Solids, Sophia Wang, Steve Albini, The Gaslight Anthem, The Rural Alberta Advantage, Timber Timbre, Ty Segall, Unicorns