By Colin Gallant
September 20, 2014
MONTREAL — It’s hard to get an early start in Montreal. Bars can serve until 3 a.m. and the after-party options are nothing short of excessive. This was the reassurance I gave myself as I left my hotel room at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
Empire Exchange is Montreal’s first and only “Buy-Sell-Trade” clothing store. It is both an unexpected and obvious venue choice for an act like Adrian Underhill. Modestly stylish and hyper aware of his surroundings, the ‘70s-indebted crooner recalls the most iconic moments of the likes of Randy Newman and Michael McDonald. Harnessing the power of funkified ballads, the debut performance of the trio was ripe with groove and punch lines alike.
Running around the Plateau and Mile End to see young bands exploring new territory is one of the main reasons to come to POP Montreal. The other is seeing a performer who has cemented a legacy worth backing up with a spectacle of a live show. Animal Collective’s Panda Bear headlining set at the gorgeous Theatre Rialto was a flawlessly engineered sensory overload. Openers RAMZI and Blues Control had touched on various niches of psychedelic music – digital disruption and sweaty swamp rock, respectively – but it remains clear that Noah Lennox is firmly affixed at the head of visionary experimentalism today.
Lennox’s recording and performance style hinges on intuitive sample manipulation. If he let one decayed drum loop go on for a moment longer or pulled away one otherworldly bass tone too soon, the entire façade would collapse. The visual components of the set were just as necessary to its impact as the sonics. Strobe lights and .gif-like, rhythmic imagery completed the otherworldly effect. Panda Bear’s sporadic performances are known to be testing ground for future recordings and there was no doubt his next album will be as high water mark for the already beloved artist.
Nestled snugly between the Plateau and Chinatown, SAT bills itself as a compromise between an art gallery and nightclub. It was here that Win Butler of Arcade Fire hosted the after party celebrating his POP vs. Jock charity basketball game. Under the hilarious pseudonym DJ Windows 98, Butler was joined by DFA label boss and LCD Soundsystem mastermind James Murphy for crowd-pleasing selections, from forgotten disco B-sides to iconic new wave. Far more impressive than watching a few famous friends have fun together was the presence of Arcade Fire’s live percussionists behind the decks. The intuitive players moved from 4/4 time to stop/start post-punk rhythms without batting an eyelash. Though the industrial sized club was humming with revelry, there was a more intimate electronic performance I needed to cover.
Jacques Greene has been a team player in the Montreal party scene for quite some time. Inauspiciously churning out house, R&B and bass music over the years, Greene has only recently made a run for the spotlight with releases on LuckyMe Records and transcendent sets across the globe. This night at Le Belmont wasn’t about that. Greene was here to use his expertise as a local tastemaker to get every last person in the club moving. The producer was revealed to be the secret guest at SOFA KING RAW’s showcase a few hours earlier but his presence felt entirely natural. The hip-hop heads and house enthusiasts alike were nothing short of delighted with Greene’s enigmatic selections.
Having a hometown boy shut it down on POP’s biggest night was the perfect comment on the festival at large. POP happens once a year to celebrate the city’s vibrant arts community and invite the rest of us to celebrate along with them. If you get the chance to join them on this odd and wonderful adventure, just say yes.
By Seth Leon
LE DIVAN ORANGE
For Saturday afternoon Pop provided a handful of laid back (almost) jangly guitar and synth type bands. Not that uniforms are common these days, but street clothes was the dress for the afternoon. These shows were by donation and overlapped with the city’s affordable happy hour specials. Bartenders played cards with patrons and the front of the dance floor remained vacant. It was very nice.
Out of the sleepy afternoon, Montreal’s Nancy Pants started the party with their catchy stripped-down three-piece sound. Lead singer and guitarist Ohara Hale has an amazing brash voice, combining seasoned rock and roll Chutzpah, with sweet California coast tones. She also has a ton of presence, getting low in a Chuck Berry duck-walk, bouncing around, and doing basically the opposite of the previously mentioned bands.
Nancy Pants are a lot of fun, and with a record coming out soon, you should be hearing more about them.
Right off of the hop, the audience was wrapped around the La Luz’s pinky finger and their Jack Nietzche brand of rock and roll. Their dulcet tones and subtle synchronized choreography added a theatrical element, and strongly reinforced the forth wall. However, veering off script, cracking barely more than a smile the crowd would melt. La Luz is a band at the top of their game, and a delight to see. The layers of guitar, and organ, lead to much swooning and swaying.
“Give’r” or “Given’er” is a popular term in Alberta. Although it can be applied to almost any situation, it is usually mentioned in regards to giving 110 per cent while drinking a beer. It rarely is used to talk about, say, giving gifts, or giving of one’s self to other people or community. Ty Segall falls into the latter, him and his band give, and give, and give.
Ty Segall, introduced as the Manipulator Band by their denim clad manager (rambling on, tongue in cheek about being from Jupiter), played a juggernaut set. It was sweaty, and fast, and loud, a mountain of rock and roll, with mind-blasting solos soaring high above. Unrelenting and unstoppable.
The band set up in a close group, everything front and centre, leaving lots of room to move around. The crowd was whipped into a fervour, trying to keep up with the always smiling and constantly moving Ty Segall. They played through people climbing on stage, clamouring into the band before diving back in to crowd surf. At one point a security guard stepped in to stop an overly eager fan, Ty, without missing a beat put his hand on the shoulder of the security guard stopping any type of altercation and letting the fan stay onstage. The crowd erupted in an appreciative whoop and partied harder, with more people climbing on top of one another and onstage.
In one of the handful of lulls, Ty Segall started into the Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack. He would flub around, and his band would indulge him for a few bars. After “Science Fiction Double Feature” fizzled out, he started up another song. As if at one point they would figure out the song and tear through it as well.
Ty Segall has made a lot of music, covering lots of different sounds, and playing with different bands. His performance unites this work, and connects a large group of rock and roll fans, to build a large, very happy and appreciative audience.
Leaving Club Soda the crowd sauntered out wearing large smiles, eyes wide in astonishment at what they had experienced. Fans for life, and warm with thanks to the gifts they have received.AB, Adrian Underhill, Alberta, Arcade Fire, Blues Control, Jacques Greene, James Murphy, La Luz, Montreal, Nancy Pants, Panda Bear, POP Montreal 2014, RAMZI, Ty Segall, Win Butler