There’s a future for Laval music festivals

Despite one last-minute cancellation and one programming misfire, MRCY Block Party succeeded in booking quality bands and getting Montrealers out to the north shore.

A mostly 514 crowd in 450 territory. Photos by Cindy Lopez (scroll down for a full gallery)
Another attempt to make Laval happen is in the books. Except this time, last Friday’s MRCY Block Party in the parking lot of Collège Montmorency made a compelling case that holding musical festivals out on Montreal’s Shutter Island isn’t so farfetched a dream after all. The one-day block party comes on the heels of outdoor shows by Maroon 5 and the Black Keys in the hood.

To help matters, the line-up was solid for a first-time fest. Headliners Metric delivered their hits with an endearing sloppiness that likely wasn’t present during their Osheaga and Bell Centre appearances — heavy on guitars and goofiness from singer Emily Haines – and won the day when the frontwoman shouted out the closed-but-not-yet demolished Laval landmark Récréathèque. The band once played the famed family entertainment centre, believe it or not, and the lack of response to the mention suggested the small crowd was mostly comprised of carpetbaggers. There was a surprising lack of car-less suburban skater youths, or any other type of concert goer who came because it was convenient.

Admittedly, the orange line schlep to Montmorency station was no more a logistical hurdle than a trip to Parc Jean-Drapeau. (It’s actually faster, since there’s no yellow line transfer.)

Former recluse Jeff Mangum and his band, Neutral Milk Hotel, were a curious pick given the setting, and as expected the critically acclaimed weirdo folk vibes didn’t really suit the proceedings. Theirs was also the longest set of the night, especially compared to the early acts, who stuck to 20-30 minute limits.

There seemed to be more interest and excitement for the band that preceded them, Death From Above 1979. Like Metric, the duo has history playing in Laval, and drummer/vocalist Sebastien Grainger even had a brief anecdote about visiting the town for his grandfather’s funeral. Whatever sound problems may have been present with the other bands didn’t really apply to DFA1979, who Slayer-riffed and forcefully pounded away without much care for sonic clarity. The songs from their comeback album, The Physical World, blended perfectly with the previous classic album you likely know by heart – a remarkable feat.

Before sunset, the Barr Brothers previewed songs from their upcoming album, Sleeping Operator. Brash American popster Sky Ferreira cancelled last-minute and was replaced with Foxtrott, another local artist with new music forthcoming.

An annual pilgrimage to the vast suburban expanse that is Laval is a healthy thing. The end of the Vaillancourt regime may have delayed the building of the Place Bell concert amphitheatre and sports complex, but it will still happen eventually, and with it could come the Habs’ minor league affiliate, currently languishing in Hamilton.

If travelling to Laval to see live music feels sounds like an inconvenience, MRCY did its job in alleviating those suspicions. ■
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