Teki Latex bangs out the beats Parisian-style.
POP MONTREAL at various venues in Montreal, October 1 to 5.
Despite the freezing cold weather, Pop Montreal gave another warm welcome to bands, artists and music fans from all over the world last week. As always, detractors harped about how it's become too big, too corporate and lost touch with its raison d'être.
It was interesting to hear locals roast the festival as if it were a band, resorting to the formulaic "their older stuff is way better" trope. Never mind that Pop Montreal is the best festival of its kind in Canada.
Sure, there are corporate sponsors, and, no, not every band is worth writing home about, but more often than not I found myself envying Montrealers for getting the urban indie music festival so right.
I started my crawl Friday near the northern fringe of the festival's downtown strip, at Club Lambi, where Toronto garage-rockers Action Makes impressed an early crowd with their roots-tinged ferocity and killer guitar hooks.
Next, I made my way south on Saint-Laurent to Le Divan Orange to check out the Weird Punk showcase. First up were local Montreal queer-positive punk outfit Double Dip. The band certainly produced volume levels to rival Bikini Kill, but lacked memorable hooks and onstage dynamics. Despite the large crowd, no one was losing their shit.
After a quick break, it was Japanther's turn to teach the crowd a lesson in the art of noise. Passing the merch table, I noticed industrial-strength earplugs - a nice gesture, but abrasive sound waves aren't the only thing that can hurt you at their shows. Case in point: halfway through their third song, an unlucky crowd surfer was pushed right into a rotating ceiling fan. Ouch. Both the fan and the dude survived, and - testament to Japanther's hook-filled blasts - almost no one noticed the incident.
Hiking down past Ste-Catherine to the sold-out Club Soda, I arrived just in time to see Ratatat. The Brooklyn guitar duo, who perform with a touring member on synths and samples, have a rep as one of the most unique-sounding indie rock bands of this decade because of their dedication to instrumentals and near-continuous guitar soloing. While the dudes onstage performed full-bodied head-bangs, sweaty fans taking a break from the dance floor whispered rumours that Ratatat are close to signing a deal with Pharrell's Star Trak records.
Ducking around the corner to Foufounes Electriques, Montreal's nu-rave dance cave, I heard a DJ set by TTC's Teki Latex. Large and in
charge, this Parisian MC hyped the crowd in their native tongue, but every time he spit a line I wished that the festival had just booked TTC instead. Getting by on his pitbull-like bravado and some okay mixing, Teki dropped everything from Robin's Show Me Love to M.I.A.'s Paper Planes, which brought down the house but also spawned sloppy dance-floor make-out sessions.
Saturday's festivities started early with great afternoon sets by ex-SS Cardiac Jessie Stein's eclectic new band, the Luyas, and Guelph post-punks the D'Urbervilles at Le Divan Orange.
As day turned to night, I headed to the Musebox showcase at Petit Campus to check in on Toronto's the Mark Inside. Once the wunderkinds of T.O.'s indie garage scene, the quartet were hampered by label woes until recently. Now prepping to drop their long-awaited follow-up in April, the boys thundered through a huge-sounding set of killer new material to the delight of the large early-evening crowd. Don't call it a comeback, but watch these guys explode again come springtime.
Photo By Zach Slootsky
Japanther's Matt Reilly assaults the crowd with shards of noise and massive hooks at Pop Montreal.
Cabbing it back up to Le Divan Orange, I found out that Rhode Island no-wavers Made in Mexico had cancelled their gig but in-demand Brooklyn/Bmore club punks the Death Set had detoured to take their place. Rocking borrowed gear and playing samples off an iPod, the three-piece set up in front of the stage and soon had the overflowing room gleefully destroying the dance floor to crowd-pleasing lo-fi hits like Negative Thinking.
Looking back, it seems weird to have attended so many shows and yet heard so few mediocre performances. Some detractors may label Pop Montreal "elitist" in comparison to NXNE's expansive programming and comparatively lax artistic standards, but that's the way I want it. I'd much rather have to choose from a shorter list of better bands than be stuck seeing scads of populist alt-rock schlock.