The POP Montreal festival will be banging up venues big and small this month, with its wide load of live music complemented by film and art programming, the Puces POP artisan fair, Kids POP activities for the children and the POP Symposium series of talks on the music biz and beyond.
With 35 per cent of this year’s music acts selected via an open submission process, the 17th edition of POP Montreal is packed with ambitious acts to discover. The following rundown of 12 recommended festival shows focuses on headliners, but please bear in mind the work that POP puts into curating its line-up — don’t skip the opening acts! You just might catch your new favourite band.
Five albums deep into her career as a neo-goth (or “roségoth” as an NPR writer recently categorized her), Midwestern misfit Nika Roza Danilova — bka Zola Jesus — returns to town to dazzle at the Rialto with rock-solid support from local emoter Devon Welsh (see our interview with him here) and Toronto’s “radical” electronic duo LAL. Théâtre Rialto (5723 Parc), Sept. 26, 8:30 p.m., $20
Is Montreal rapper Nate Husser’s solo career going to eclipse his years of fine rhymes and superb posturing with the Posterz? Does it matter? Just take the time to enjoy his live show before you can’t afford tickets anymore. Also on the bill are local hip hop acts the Grey Era, Salimo and Montrealways. Théâtre Fairmount (5240 Parc), Sept. 27, 9 p.m., $10/$15
Berlin-based Swede Molly Nilsson has released nine albums of gloriously dark pop over the past decade, all the while running the Dark Skies Association record label. Catch the cult chanteuse with three Montreal acts: electronic duo the Beat Escape, “popstar poet provocateur” Forever and ethereal electronic pop experimentalist November. Bar le Ritz PDB (179 Jean-Talon W.), Sept. 27, 8:30 p.m., $16.50
Some of Montreal’s best and brightest musicians from the experimental, psych/shoegaze and electro/dream-pop realms will be in one place (the intimate and supercool Breakglass Studio) as part of the Ambient Electronique show, starring violinist Jessica Moss, Suuns singer and solo artist Ben Shemie and Light Conductor (Besnard Lakes’ Jace Lasek and Young Galaxy’s Steven Ramsay). 7250 Clark, Sept. 27, 7 p.m., $12/$15
NYC-born, Morocco-raised singer, activist, model and social media star Dounia makes alt-R&B with attitude. Backing her up will be local powerhouses Akua, Sarahmée and Mabika-ki. Le Ministère (4521 St-Laurent), Sept. 28, 9 p.m., $16/$20
Abdul Lateef and the Distraction Machine is a musical offshoot of Lateef’s celebrated Z’Isle comic book series — a lurid depiction of the zombie apocalypse, Montreal style. Expect a true performance, incorporating step dance, singing, beatboxing and music played on upcycled objects and bicycles. MAI (3680 Jeanne-Mance), Sept. 28 & 29, 8 p.m., $25
Former Supergrass singer Gaz Coombes has still got it, as he’s proving it with a solo trek around the world in support of his third solo LP, World’s Strongest Man, released in May. Catch his POP show with Louisiana singer-songwriter-cellist-bandleader Caleb Elliott. (Britpop fans should note that the Charlatans “U.K.” are also playing POP this year.) Petit Campus (57 Prince-Arthur E.), Sept. 29, 8:30 p.m., $20
Thus Owls — ie. Montreal’s Erika and Simon Angell, peddlers of sublime indie rock — launch their fourth album The Mountain That We Live Upon with a true spectacle at Phi Centre, featuring dancer Hanako Hoshimi-Caines, filmmaker Karl Lemieux and three extra guitarists. 407 St-Pierre, Sept. 29, 9 p.m., $22
Toronto’s U.S. Girls (aka Meg Remy & co.) has bent and moulded pop music to her will over the course of six albums, the latest being In a Poem Unlimited. See a master at work when she plays Plateau porn theatre Cinema l’Amour with American/Scottish singer-songwriter, composer and onetime actor (he played Roy Orbison in Walk the Line) Jonathan Rice. 4015 St-Laurent, Sept. 29, 10:30 p.m., $20
Chicago rapper CupcakKe tops a sick bill at the Piccolo room in the Rialto, rounded out by Montreal rappeuse Donzelle and (east) Indian Calgary hip hop duo Cartel Madras. 5723 Parc, Sept. 29, 11 p.m., $15/$20
Elle Barbara (aka J. Ellise Barbara) is a Montreal artist and scenester at the top of her game, carving out spaces for black and trans musicians and performers with synth-soul gigs as well as carefully conceived R&B/rock operas. Check out her latest endeavour, the sex-themed Bosom Confidante variety show at Cinéma l’Amour. 4015 St-Laurent, Sept. 30, 11 p.m., $20
POP Montreal runs Sept. 26–30. See popmontreal.com for the program and see more preview and review coverage at cultmtl.com