Pop Montreal Day 1

Pop Montreal, it’s a good thing you have so many orifices. Six of Cult MTL’s faithful are out there daily on a circuit of sonic avenues leading straight to your core. Today, Lorraine Carpenter, Erik Leijon, Darcy MacDonald and Emily Raine report on what went down last night.

Laetitia Sadier

Photos by Susan Moss

Pop Montreal, it’s a good thing you have so many orifices. Six of Cult MTL’s faithful are out there daily on a circuit of sonic avenues leading straight to your core. Today, Lorraine Carpenter, Erik Leijon, Darcy MacDonald and Emily Raine report on what went down last night.

Laetitia Sadier, Cate le Bon, Orca Team

Cate Le Bon

What a satisfying triple bill. Seattle’s Orca Team blended classic pop rug-cutters with post-punk wrist-slashers, with the strange bonus of the (clearly!) male singer sporting a black unitard and cat’s-eye make-up. Meow. He easily out-tarted the other acts, especially Cate le Bon, who looked great despite wearing what appeared to be a bag. Her bridging of ’70s-style Celtic folk and shaggy psych-garage was a pleasure, as was Stereolab chanteuse Laetitia Sadier, who drew out a lot of annoyingly accented, Gauloise-scented Montreal residents. Sadier charmed everyone in both official languages, her versatile vocals and guitar striking the right chords. Her slightly under-rehearsed trio sucked up their one major flub with good humour, eliciting laughs, but Sadier seemed a bit unnerved for the rest of the set. Lady, relax: you’re supercool, always. (LC)

Stars, Diamond Rings, Eight and a Half

Musically speaking, this free show at la Tulipe was a fine way to kick off the festivities. Stars were their usual selves, so chances are you’ve already formed your opinion on the locals, but watching Diamond Rings was akin to watching a star junior player skate circles around his draft class. No longer performing and dancing by his lonesome, Diamond Rings (aka John O’Regan) and his tall frame are now free to perform with as much gusto as required. As this show was also an introduction to his upcoming record, Free Dimensional, the early-’90s-style rapping (almost in the vein of C+C Music Factory’s MC and Vanilla Ice, who O’Regan dances like) surprised and delighted the crowd to no end. The final song of the set, the counting-heavy “Day & Night,” is destined for ubiquity. It’s quite the earworm. Bonus props to O’Regan to referring to his new guitarist, Graham Van Pelt, as Miracle Fortress, and not by his given name. (EL)


When it was announced that NYC’s Antibalas would return after a too-long hiatus, fans were happy. I was apprehensive about the addition to the bill of Somali-Canadian flag-waver K’Naan, whose slated Metropolis show reportedly wasn’t selling well. Sure enough, K’Naan became the headliner, forcing the three-hour-giggin’ Antibalas crew into a more traditional one-hour Pop set. But what a set. Antibalas were blissfully themselves: limber, raucous and preternaturally in sync. You could distinguish the adoring long-time fans from people stumbling onto something new by their faces, the former smiling and nodding to the rhythms, the latter wide-eyed and open-mouthed at what they were witnessing, perhaps for the first time: pristine Afrobeat. (DM)

Buke and Gase

The Brooklyn duo was the perfect opener for Deerhoof, whose influence they at times wear on sleeves — their newer material, especially, with its sparse angular guitar spikes, owes a lot to mid-aughts ‘hoof. They apparently use lots of homemade and tweaked instruments in their cloudy, chaotic pop, although the crowd at Cabaret Mile End was so thick I can neither confirm nor deny this. Still, the room was transfixed, and their set was charming and flawless. (ER)


The perennial Pop favourites offered fans a long set of jerky, noisy experimental rock, clocking in at well over an hour, and despite a few technical glitches, they were as captivating as ever. They played mostly newer material from Friend Opportunity and Offend Maggie, although they did treat the audience to a few jams from Apple O and Reveille toward the end. Satomi Matsuzaki and Greg Saunier’s onstage banter in stilted French was absolutely adorable, particularly when Saunier chided the audience to “ne folie pas!” which I’m still not clear on. And, forever cementing their place in my heart, Saunier — who’s a Yoko Ono collaborator and kind of a big deal — spent much of the night humbly hawking merch. (ER)

Wild Nothing

Wild Nothing

Il Motore was so jammed, I was lucky to get past the doorway. I considered crowd-surfing to the bar, but wound up sulking and sober by the bathrooms. But it was worth it for the opportunity to absorb the ’80s textures of Wild Nothing, a band that started as a one-man show back in ’09, that man being Blacksburg, VA’s Jack Tatum. They’re a five-piece band now, emitting jangly riffs and synthscapes recalling the likes of the Smiths and New Order. At one point I was sure I was hearing the beginnings of a cover, New Order’s “Thieves Like Us,” to be specific. But no. My night, which began with Orca Team’s stolen Joy Division bass riff, had come full circle. (LC)

Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire

This guy doesn’t just have fans, he has worshippers. eXquire’s set only lasted 17 minutes, but you can’t bitch about a show that brings one of rap’s most exciting new voices to town for the first time, free. Stepping right into the Mission Santa Cruz crowd for the duration of his set, he laughingly asked one dude going off hard, “Yo, what you on?” to which the guy jubilantly replied, “I’m here to see you, man!” Oh, and jeers to the guy who offered eX “sacré bleu” as a “French curse word” when he asked to learn a few. Unless you’re doffing your beret at passersby on a cobblestone road en pays, sipping wine and eating cheese on a café terrasse, you never say that, mon colis de tabarnak. Sweating, moshing, spilling drinks, yellin’ every line (at least to “Huzzah”), the crowd gave eX every reason to come back soon and stay a lil’ while. It was a bit start-stop, a bit rough around edges, and sure, even a bit short. But it was entertaining as hell, a mini-slice of what every great rap show should be.(DM)

Gang Gang Dance

It’s a marathon kids, not a sprint! That being said, when Gang Gang Dance and their flowery, sonically soothing jams are what’s on tap at last call, there’s little choice but to chug another brew, down a Nouveau Palais hamburger and boogie till they kick ya to the curb.

If you managed to keep your eyelids open and your arms akimbo long enough, you were treated to perhaps the most ideal soundtrack to the end of a busy day. Gang Gang Dance’s vocals may be somewhat nonsensical, and they have a spiritual advisor with an odd-looking hat on stage providing them good vibes, but otherwise their music is universally pleasing and easy to dance to. Or at least, at such a late hour, lightly sway to. (EL) ■

Check back tomorrow for our report on Pop Montreal Day 2. For daily festival recommendations, look here for pop, here for rawk and here for hip hop.


Leave a Reply