How to POP Montreal like a bauce

You can have it all at POP Montreal. This handy etiquette/navigation guide will help you get there.

Doldrums DJ set credit Richmond Lam

POP Montreal 2013. Photo by Richmond Lam

It is possible to have it all at POP Montreal. With hundreds of bands strewn about dozens of venues and wonderful people perched on every bar stool, the annual five-day festival can be a lot for five measly senses to fully take in.

You will read, on this wonderful website/publication and others, countless must-see lists. Consult enough of those articles, and chances are all 400+ acts will get at least one laudatory sentence. Instead of adding to the noise and telling you which shows you absolutely, positively must see, I’m going to tell you how to see as many shows as humanly possible.

Ukrainian Federation. Photo by Toma Iczkovits
Ukrainian Federation. Photo by Toma Iczkovits

A disciplined POP pass holder should have no trouble meeting a nightly six band quota. Volume does not detract from the experience – developing a compelling urge to reach for one’s phone is a sign that the show you’re watching isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. If you start to fidget, don’t be afraid to skim the schedule for another option. If you catch five songs of a band’s seven song set and heads haven’t exploded, don’t feel guilty about hustling uptown for the next, next big thing.

Those five songs you do catch, though, should be done with your utmost attention. The way to properly one-night stand a band is to enter confidently and move directly to the bar, shaking any hands as needed along the way (keeping conversations to a minimum). With drink in hand, put your phone in your pocket and move as close to the stage as possible. Once settled, gaze intently at the act on stage. Try to fully immerse yourself in whatever it is they’re doing. Focus on the minute things that make this band different from everyone else you’ve ever seen before. Keep your mouth shut and phone away from view. If you’re feeling it, great. If not, return to the bar to hatch an escape route.

Once outside, it should be a sprint from one venue to the next. Cyclists should note that evening temperature will dip into single digits, and to prepare for the usual difficulties of finding a place to lock your bike. Busing up the Main and down St-Urbain would be great, but by karmic law the 55 will not appear if you’re pressed for time. Cabbing down Parc or St-Urbain works if Quartier des Spectacles et ses environs is the destination. Cabbing up Saint-Laurent does not. Try to stick to a cloister of venues for as long as possible.

Will the bands be punctual or are the times listed on the program merely for entertainment value? When you get to the venue, ask the person working the door when the previous band came on. That way you’ll know whether things are running smoothly.

Late Night space. Photo by Richmond Lam
Late Night space. Photo by Richmond Lam

Having a cachet of friends and colleagues spread around is important, but don’t hang around the same gang for too long. Be noncommittal about meeting people at certain places and times — it’s terrible to schedule a rendezvous at a particular venue only to realize upon arrival that there’s a better show elsewhere. A larger posse means decreased mobility. If you want to meet up with friends and have a drink, save it for the late shows at le Late Night Little Burgundy – many of the best shows this year are happening there anyway.

Your phone, annoying as it may be if you’re waving it in a band’s face with the flash on, is a necessary evil. Keep a steady flow of dispatches from other venues via text and social media. Something unexpected or crazy could be occurring just down the road. Do take photos of bands for your social media networks, as discreetly as possible. I’m sure most would appreciate the free promo. Do not take selfies – people are tired of seeing your face in front of different backgrounds. If you’re at the bar and can’t find a familiar face, your phone also serves as camouflage – stare at it and you’ll be left alone.

Although it’s a hike, do try to visit the new Il Motore on Jean-Talon, now called Bar le Ritz PDB. It’s been completely renovated and it finally looks like a real venue.

There are off-POP events – some worth your time, others not. There’s no Boiler Room planned this year (last year’s was a bacchanalian beat-fest that sparked in the afternoon and ignited around supper time), but there is a beer company-sponsored guestlist-only Chromeo and A-Trak Macklovitzah at Arsenal on Saturday way out on Notre-Dame West.

You will probably run into Win Butler at some point. He will likely be wearing something garish. Be cool. ■


POP Montreal runs from Sept. 17–21.