Over five days (Sept. 25-29), the festival known since 2002 as POP Montreal presents roughly 300 bands in venues around the city (largely concentrated in Mile End and the Plateau), along with art and film events, parties, conferences and an artisanal fair.
Since the beginning, the POP line-up has always fallen somewhere between an industry festival of the SXSW variety and an experimental-oriented discovery festival like Montreal’s Suoni per il Popolo, with a touch of the summer music fest via POP’s smatterings of big-name headliners and penchant for party atmospheres (not to mention the BBQ and occasional free outdoor concerts).
With a program so deep and dense with names that may not strike a chord with the average music fan (let alone the average person), here are 10 highlights worth spending your concert budget on:
Local R&B/soul/jazz artist Zaki Ibrahim tops an all-woman-of-colour line-up co-presented by UNCDTNL, also featuring Adria Kane, Debby Friday and DJ Nana Zen. Le Ministère (4521 St-Laurent), 8 p.m., $12/$15
Montreal country crooner Li’l Andy is releasing a new album called All the Love Songs Lied to Us on Sept. 13 and will play a hometown launch on the festival’s opening night, with support from Gigi French (one of many musical guises of Montrealer Giselle Webber) and Rae Spoon (Victoria-based singer-songwriter whose sound has varied from country to rock to electronic). La Sala Rossa (4848 St-Laurent), Wednesday, Sept. 25, 8:30 p.m., $15
Québécoise singer-songwriter Safia Nolin and her guests Gabrielle Destroismaisons (a popular Quebec singer of the aughts), Elisapie (an active local singer, documentary filmmaker and Inuk activist) and up-and-coming classically trained singer Antony Carle, who released his debut EP on Bonsound in the spring. Club Balattou (4372 St-Laurent), Wednesday, Sept. 25 (repeat performance Thursday, Sept. 26), 9 p.m., $25
British post-R&B artist Tirzah makes her North American debut with openers Jon Bap (a Dallas-based experimental soul artist) and New Orleans art-rock duo Hildegard. Théâtre Rialto (5723 Parc), Thursday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m., $25
It’s been a quiet year for Montreal-based folk-pop singer-songwriter Basia Bulat, but she’ll be playing a free show at POP, right downstairs from the festival’s HQ at Martha Wainwright’s music venue. Ursa (5589 Parc), Thursday, Sept. 26, 9:30 p.m., price unlisted
L.A.-based alt-folk-rock artist Weyes Blood (aka Natalie Mering) released her fourth album Titanic Rising on Sub Pop in April, describing the sound as “the Kinks meets WWII, or Bob Seger meets Enya.” Opening is Markus Floats, the electroacoustics-trained bassist for dream pop band Silver Dapple. Théâtre Rialto (5723 Parc), Friday, Sept. 27, 8 p.m., $20
[PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS CONCERT IS CANCELLED] California art rock band Xiu Xiu have released 14 albums since 2002, the latest being Girl With Basket of Fruit (which came out on Polyvinyl in February), but like a Todd Solondz film, it has to be seen to fully experience their exquisite torture. Opening is Montreal’s Jessica Moss, a violinist and composer with an impressive live show. Cinéma l’Amour (4015 St-Laurent), Friday, Sept. 27, 10:30 p.m., $18
Jordanian Palestinian band 47Soul are one of the primary practitioners of shamstep, an electronic dance music movement in the Middle East. Check them out with openers Waahli (an MC and beatmaker from the local hip hop collective Nomadic Massive) and Toronto house collective LAL. La Sala Rossa (4848 St-Laurent), Saturday, Sept. 28, 8:30 p.m., $22
Montreal no wavers Look Vibrant can wow you with flurries of way-out sounds one minute and drop a beautiful Kate Bush cover the next. Released back in June, their latest record Cherish Everything is an ambitious one that “paints anxiety with bright colours and reveals the underbelly of a world built to distract us from the stories that make us human.” Also on the bill are fellow locals Laps (post-punk), Alexia Avina (dream folk) and NYC indie rockers Poppies. Diving Bell Social Club (3956 St-Laurent), Saturday, Sept. 28, 9 p.m., $10
Closing with another music legend, Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Famer (and Blues Hall of Famer) Mavis Staples brings her famous gospel and R&B pipes to town with support from local contemporary soul artists Clerel and Hanorah. Théâtre Rialto (5723 Parc), Sunday, Sept. 29, 7:50 p.m., $50
See the complete POP Montreal line-up here.