Pop Montreal

Pop Montreal Review: Koudlam, October 1, Musée d’art contemporain

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Montreal – Koudlam is an electronic musician from France who bills himself as a “symphonic composer” and while he does incorporate symphonic sounds into his music, I don’t think anybody will be confusing what he does for classical music.  This show was a unique one for Pop Montreal as it was taking place in an art gallery.  In a partnership with the Musée d’art contemporain and it’s Nocturnes series, entry to the show also allowed access to the exhibits on display.  Along with features on artist Paul Emile Bourduas and a bizarre video entitled “Shut Your Cockface Up” (featuring what i think were hot dogs drinking 40s and taking about a bank heist), there was also a screen playing the video for Koudlam’s “Eagles Of Africa” on a constant loop.  This could be heard pretty much throughout the whole museum, but it’s a testament to Koudlam’s songwriting and composition skills that I didn’t get totally sick of hearing it over and over.

When the time came about for Koudlam’s show to begin, the room was already full of dry ice smoke.  The table was set up for Koudlam with two laptops, an empty bottle of water and an apple with one small bite out of it.  The apple would go untouched for the duration of Koudlam’s set.  As he began to play, I was struck not only by how catchy his songs were, but by what an engaging performer he was.  For a guy who said almost nothing during the duration, he was somehow pretty interesting to watch.  He even lit up a couple cigarettes during his set.  Seeing as how I’m pretty sure smoking was not allowed inside, the organizers of the show obviously did not provide him with an ashtray as he seemed to be ashing it wherever and even left the lit cigarette lying on the table as he played. 

His songs ranged from moody, atmospheric sounds to more uptempo tunes that had shades of ’80s synthpop and were augmented by the video projections on the screen behind him.  Ranging from still images of buildings to football hooligans rioting  in the park  to topless bikini babes cavorting in the ocean, the footage was always an interesting accompaniment to the music and vice versa.  I believe much if not all of the footage was provided by video artist Cyprien Gaillard, which probably explains why this show was held in an art gallery.

Now if only I can figure out what that mysterious partially eaten apple was supposed to mean.

Pop Montreal Review: Hunter-Gatherer, October 1, Phonopolis

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(Panic Manual) Hunter-Gatherer

Montreal – Free shows in record stores can be a good thing.  For one thing, they’re free.  Another good thing is it gives you something to do before the band goes on – browsing for records.  Back home in Toronto, I enjoy checking out shows at Sonic Boom or Soundscapes, so I figured why not check out  a good indie music store in Montreal?  The real draw for this show was Braids, a Montreal band I caught this past summer and quite enjoyed.  On the bill before them was Calgary’s Hunter-Gatherer, who packed their barrage of various instruments into the back of Phonopolis’ tiny basement.  It was a fairly packed room, which meant it was very, very hot down there.  October should not be this hot, especially indoors.  Because it was so hot, I only stuck around for about four songs, but those four songs gave me a good sense of what Hunter-Gatherer are about … or maybe it didn’t.  Before their set, they mentioned how they were playing without monitors.  This combined with the fact that they were starting late and the fact that they were playing in a tiny basement meant that I couldn’t be sure whether the ramshackle nature of their feedback filled set was intentional or not. 

The band’s Pop Montreal bio describes their sound as “nervy, high energy pop” and mentions their “ADD-addled arrangements.”  I could definitely see what they mean as this stuff shifted gears from moment to moment within the course of one song.  During their third song, I felt the band was really starting to hit their stride.  It had a bouncy rhythm and some yelpy, Pavement style vocals.  Then the “ADD-addled” part kicked in and they switched gears into an Eric’s Trip style thrashy segment.  Their next song was another good one, sounding almost like an indie-fied version of some lost ’70s AM radio pop song.  Then it got too hot for me and I had to leave, deciding not to go back down there for Braids.  Regardless, what I saw of Hunter-Gatherer showed some promise. 

Pop Montreal Review: Municipal Waste, September 30, Club Soda

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Montreal – You know, Pop Montreal has a very broad definition of what the word “pop” means.  On this somewhat rainy Thursday night, I made my way from the kind of classy and adult pop of Clare and the Reasons and Van Dyke Parks to the thrash metal of Municipal Waste, which kind of made me feel like a teenager again.  Appropriately enough for a band that has been described as “party metal,” (and who have a song called “The Art Of Partying”) this show was literally a party presented by Vice Magazine

And what a party it was – copious amounts of alcohol and the craziest mosh pit ever.  Municipal Waste sure knows how to work a crowd into a frenzy.  Watching from above, the mosh pit was quite the sight to behold.  People were moshing of course, and crowd surfing.  Literally surfing in many cases – somebody brought one of those flutter boards which was then used as a platform upon which to navigate the crowd.  In addition to that, there were so many failed stage dives, one after the other.  This may sound cruel, but this was one of the more entertaining aspects of watching the pit.  I guess seeing people get hurt because of their own reckless actions is entertaining somehow (This is pretty much the entire appeal of Jackass).  They got up immediately afterwards though and seemed to keep going so I didn’t feel too bad.  (Although the guy who seemed to take a running start and then kept running on people’s heads is a total dick)  Also, a note to Vice Magazine: giving out free copies of your magazine was appreciated, but probably not so much by the staff at Club Soda, who would have had to clean up the hundreds of ripped up magazines that were strewn about during Municipal Waste’s set.  It was kind of like really large pieces of DIY confetti.

While they take their music seriously (as I previously mentioned, drummer Dave Witte is amazing), the guys in Municipal Waste do not take themselves too seriously.  I mean, they do have songs with titles like “Headbanger Face Rip,” “Beer Pressure,” “Drunk As Shit, and “Terror Shark.”  Vocalist Tony Foresta was really hamming it up onstage too.  Most amusing was his continuous mocking of the gigantic security guy who stood on stage right.  This guy looked like a cross between Peter Stormare and Vin Diesel and he pretty much became a part of the show.  “Look how tiny I look next to this guy!” said Foresta at one point and he later jumped up and hugged him, forcing security guy to actually crack a smile.  Security guy must have started to feel pretty comfortable up there because during bassist Philip Hall’s solo, he just strolled across the stage kicking stray Vice magazine pages off the stage. 

Further evidence of the band’s sense of humour (or maybe Vice Magazine was responsible for this.  Who knows?) was seen in their choice of post-set music to be piped in.  During the time between them first leaving the stage and their encore, instead of music, we were treated to a snippet of an old Andrew Dice Clay routine.  After that bizarre interlude, the band returned for a brief encore, and then the first song as the lights went up?  Third Eye Blind’s “Semi Charmed Life.”  This pretty much ensured that the metalheads would leave swiftly.  Probably many of them headed up the street to Katacombes.

Municipal Waste – Wrong Answer by ScionAV

Pop Montreal Review: Van Dyke Parks, Clare & the Reasons, Daniel Isaiah Schachter, September 30, Ukranian Federation

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Montreal – Van Dyke Parksis a pop music legend.  Having worked with Harry Nillson, Joanna Newsom, The Byrds, Tim Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, Ringo Starr, Brian Wilson and a whole lot of others, his pedigree is pretty impeccable and it’s obvious that he is both talented  and in demand.  Yet at 67 years old (a fact he mentioned at least a couple of times during his set almost as if he couldn’t believe it himself), here he is embarking on his first tour ever. And that tour brought him here to The Ukranaian Federation on one of the rainiest nights I’ve seen in awhile.  Yet the rain did not deter people from coming out. 

As I arrived at the venue, partly soaked from the downpour, opener Daniel Schachterwas already on.  His rootsy, singer-songwriter-ish tunes were pretty good and he and his band had a nice laid back, loose vibe onstage.  He closed out his set by inviting a female singer to join him in performing “une chansonne,” and the song was probably the best of the set.  The French lyrics also served to remind me that I was indeed in Montreal.  Ironically, even though I was in Montreal, Schachter would be the only local performer I would see during the festival.

Next up were Clare & the Reasonsfrom Brooklyn.  Pretty much from their first note, I knew this was a band I was going to like.  They had  a very good chemistry onstage as well as pretty good stage banter.  Said banter included little asides in French from multi-instrumentalist Olivier Manchon and at least one slightly corny yet kind of funny play on words – “This next song is called “Ooh you hurt me so.  It’s either about me getting hurt or soup in Japan.”  Clare’s voice is slightly reminiscent of Martha Wainwright and probably some other singers  that I can’t think of right now.  It has a sort of old school yet timeless vibe.  Clare and her three bandmates are all really talented musicians, each of them playing multiple instruments  and drawing on various influences ranging from classic pop to jazz to chamber music and much more.  One of the highlights of their set was a cover of Genesis’ “That’s All” which was a whimsical, gentle reworking that made me realize what a great song it actually is.   Speaking of their instrumental dexterity, I have to mention Manchon’s ability to play the glockenspiel with one hand while simultaneously playing the recorder.  It’s probably not as easy as he made it look.  Also, how many bands actually incorporate the recorder into their performances?  No others that I can think of.  They were joined at the end of their set by Van Dyke Parks himself for a version of “He Needs Me,” a song co-written by Parks for the soundtrack to Robert Altman’s Popeye film.  They were definitely one of the standout bands of Pop Montreal for me.

The Reasons (minus Clare) would retake the stage as Van Dyke Parks’ band for the entirety of his set, thus displaying further evidence of their instrumental prowess as they joined Parks on both his own songs and a few from various other writers.  At least one of those songs stretched way back to the 1800s.  “I come from a country that no longer exists.” he said as an acknowledgment of his affinity for a bygone era of American life.  Parks was a pretty engaging performer, telling various stories about his life, his songs, and his inspirations.  He’s a very eloquent speaker.  I would probably not have minded that much had he spent half an hour just talking about his songs, but I suppose that’s what his songwriting and arranging workshop held earlier in the afternoon was for.  Too bad I didn’t get into Montreal til later in the afternoon or I would have caught that for sure.  He also got political at times, telling stories such as that of the sinking of oil tanker The Prestige, which inspired him to write one of his songs.   Despite his at times almost curmudgeonly demeanor, he was also very gracious and pleased to be playing, telling the crowd, “I love you” at the end of his set.  He closed out his set with a version of the Beach Boys classic “Heroes and Villains” before returning for a brief encore of 2 songs.  Definitely a unique and talented performer.

Check out Clare and the Reasons’ Daytrotter sessions here.

Clare & The Reasons – Rodi by senseless