M for Montreal always ends this city’s festival season with a crash-boom-bang-hangover. The ninth edition of the four-day parade of (mostly) local bands yields an impressive crop of homegrown sounds — every year, M seems to spread out, moving into new venues, hosting more afterparties and booking a wider range of acts.
The line-up for 2014 is pretty juicy, and while you’ll see media types and industry delegates flashing their badges as they show-hop, everyone else will likely limit themselves to one show per night.
So in an effort to steer you to the best shows, and help you discover some fresh talent, here are recommendations for TWO shows per night (Nov. 19–22), with plenty of audio-visual aids:
This is a no-brainer as there are only two proper shows open to the public on day one. However, if you haven’t seen Le Pop d’Epoque at the SAT’s Satsosphere (1201 St-Laurent), the final three screenings of the digital baroque opera are happening as part of M, with performances by Hua Li and Ohara (Wednesday), Year of Glad and Syngja (Thursday) and ¡Flist! (Friday), AND given the timing (7 p.m.), these happenings barely interfere with other shows. Tickets cost $42.25, and include food. It’s worth it.
At la Sala Rossa (4848 St-Laurent, 9:30 p.m., $15), headliner Little Scream plays with Toronto’s Lydia Ainsworth, whose orchestral pop compositions and golden throat is a distant echo of such iconic females as Björk and Kate Bush. At the bottom of the bill is NYC minimal pop magician Tei Shi. Adding some male energy to this otherwise all-female bill is celebrated local strange-crooner Sean Nicholas Savage. Check out his latest video here:
Later that night, at la Vitrola (4602 St-Laurent, 12:30 a.m., free), see Country (a duo feat. local musical/culinary/party legend Beaver Sheppard, whose album art & title combo are pretty classic) and Alex Calder, the Edmonton native and Montreal-dweller who scene followers will remember as Mac DeMarco’s bandmate in Makeout Videotape. His sound could be described as a shambolic reimagining of classic pop.
If you can make the free afternoon show on Thursday at Café/Petit Campus (57 Prince-Arthur E., 1–6 p.m.), featuring Secret Sun and Kandle & the Krooks, among others, why wouldn’t you? But at night there’s a choice to be made: At Club Soda (1225), there’s “folk trash” artist Lisa Leblanc, Toronto’s July Talk, roots stompers Canailles and rock ‘n’ roll hotshots le Trouble (who sing in English) — watch a live video of the latter for a taste:
But the more interesting show, for its variety, setting and sheer strength, is happening across the street at the lower Main’s last remnant of red-light sleaze, Café Cleopatra (1230 St-Laurent, 8:30 p.m., $14). Now hip hop heads MUST report to the Satosphere on Friday night, but this is your first chance to see the Posterz at M, along with Heat, Weaves, rock ‘n’ roll twin-sister act the Muscadettes, chill Mile End wavers Homeshake, electro-pop act Light Fires, and trap trio Ragers 666 (who we’ve spotted in matching gang shirts for the last two years amid the crowd at Osheaga and are looking forward to witnessing the dumb fun live). See Light Fires in awesome action here:
There are 19 events to choose from on Friday night (including that hip hop show in the Satosphere that I already mentioned, a show that rap connoisseurs have zero excuse to miss, other than being turned away at the door if it sells out), AND a free afternoon show at Café/Petit Campus. I have to recommend Operators (at la Sala Rossa, 9 p.m., $13/$15) to anyone who hasn’t seen them already — the synth-punk/new wave trio is led by former Montrealer Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs, Divine Fits), and the rest of the bill is solid Montreal music: Seoul, Moon King and CTZNSHP. Check out this performance by Operators:
I’m also going to recommend one of the weirder, more theatrical shows happening during M (at Divan Orange, 4234 St-Laurent, 9 p.m., $10/$13), headlined by New Orleans husband-and-wife duo Quintron & Miss Pussycat, with psych-pop outfit Cocobeurre and Bavarian showstopper Lederhosen Lucil. Self-conscious hipster douchebags and other boring-ass losers will be turned away from this one.
Since 9-to-5-ers are relatively free on the weekend, I’m going to insist that as many people as possible pack in to Café/Petit Campus in the afternoon to check out three very different acts: epic franco pop band Bernhari, Eman x Vlooper (of Queb rap combo massif Alaclair Ensemble) and synth-pop duo Essaie Pas (feat. Marie Davidson).
And finally, psych-pop masters Elephant Stone headline at la Vitrola, preceded by another appearance by Heat, Mile End lifers Each Other, the satisfyingly scummy punk rock of Teenanger and garagey bros UUBBUURRUU (fans of Brian Jonestown Massacre, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and the Raveonettes have to check these guys out). Sample some Elephant Stone here:
To see the complete M for Montreal program, look here.