The 18th edition of the POP Montreal festival may be behind us but our critics still have tunes (and some persistent ringing) echoing in their ears. See their reviews here:
Thought it started a little slow, L’il Andy’s launch of All the Love Songs Lied to Us was by all accounts a resounding success. Performing the new record’s title track, his big voice filled and warmed up the hollow parts of the room; when the lighting changed during “Limestone Song,” it felt like the prelude to a Tarantino death scene; when he switched gears and played right on the floor, there was something conspiratorial and beautiful about it, like we were all in on a secret; and when Andy took us back to 2015 by belting out “While the Engines Burn,” you could see the catharsis on his face. (Dave Jaffer)
Laurie Anderson/Colin Stetson/Rebecca Foon
Entering the Rialto Theatre about 10 minutes into what I thought would be an opening set (apologies to Ms. Foon), I was pleasantly surprised to see cellist Rebecca Foon and saxophonist Colin Stetson playing with the show headliner (and festival headliner) Laurie Anderson. This wasn’t a night for solo renditions of familiar pieces of music, it was a largely improvised jam. The last time Anderson played Montreal, the violinist and electronic/experimental music pioneer played the 2010 Jazz Fest in a similar formation with her husband Lou Reed and sax player/composer John Zorn, and the absence of hits brought out the worst in the Reed fans who were there. But at POP 2019, the audience was all in, respecting the “100% no talking” rule posted around the venue and drinking in all the show’s intense vibrations — from Stetson’s beastly bass sax to Anderson leading the audience in a primal scream — and sprinkling of lighthearted musical moments. (Lorraine Carpenter)
Some pals like to go fishing or grab brunch when they get together. When Ouri and Helena Deland hang, they bust out the machines and make music. Former Cult MTL cover stars as separate entities, the local artists made their live debut as a united force at POP Thursday night, under the name Hildegard. They came out sirens blaring, literally, although the rest of the set hopped back and forth between harder, pulsating beats and more atmospheric pop. In other words, a distillation of their respective solo careers. You can tell they were enjoying themselves, and there were some fun elements to the set, like Ouri breaking out a megaphone out of nowhere to ask “how was your day?” There was a simplicity to the set, which makes sense since it was their first, but there was enough meat to suggest this partnership might be more than just an occasional break from their own projects. They’re both pros, so it’s no shock Hildegard are already a step ahead of most bands playing their first gig. (Erik Leijon)
The Flamingos Pink
“I can’t think of a rock band that I’ve heard do something that sounds new to me,” said Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers on a podcast this week, speaking in regards to the genre’s past decade.
This review is not going to tell you that Montreal duo the Flamingos Pink are bringing something new to rock — they aren’t. But I’d be lying if I said the band doesn’t take elements of old and turn them into something refreshing.
Comprised of Julien Corrado and Sacha Gubany, this two-piece packs up enough vitality to feel like triple the force. The band is a sharp departure from Gubany’s other project, the Corks, who are more comparable to the aforementioned Chili Peppers, while Flamingos Pink take their listeners to a more garage-inspired territory. (Mr. Wavvy)
Sandwiched between sets by Moroccan hip hop act Mobydick — who either has a rabid local cult following or a few dozen very excited Montreal cousins — and R&B torch singer la Bronze, Montreal’s Wake Island worked their cross-section of pop and dance music like true champions, despite a bit of a lukewarm crowd response. Having evolved out of a rock phase and into touring party impresarios, Philippe Manasseh and Nadim Maghzal strike a fun and engaging balance of danceable beats, intense build-ups and drops (luckily they never wade into cheesy EDM territory), emotive singing and lyrics that are minimal but still get under your skin. (LC)
Sasha Cay has solved world peace. Turns out, all we needed was bagels.
“This may start fights but…is anyone hungry?” asks the singer after the first song of her set. The band’s decision to bring both Fairmount and St-Viateur can be seen as a metaphor for their music: light and pleasing to all. Yet like our city’s bagels, the band remain unique, in part due to a certain sweetness that comes along with their easy-breezy aura.
Since last year’s POP performance opening for Homeshake, this trio has been quietly continuing to pay their dues. A headlining Friday night show seemed fitting for Cay, she and her bandmates rightfully earning a show of their own. (MW)
A fond farewell to a rock band that moved to Toronto but never really lost their cavalier Montreal spirit. Back in the day, the quartet lived here, rehearsed in the now-demolished space behind the Bell Centre, played about a billion shows at Barfly and Divan, and even had a tour bus painting party on St-Laurent Blvd. They’re calling it a day after 12 years of sweaty shows and catchy guitar tunes, but not before an appropriate curtain call at Sala in matching Adidas. “We’re going to tell a bunch of dumb stories and play songs for you,” said hall-of-fame stage banterer and frontman Menno Versteeg, who was definitely feeling wistful. He pointed to Montreal pals in the crowd, even bringing one on stage to play his guitar part on “Juliette” from 2010’s Record in a Bag. It was a fittingly frenzied final gig in their former home, with a reminder that in the pantheon of pop rock Canadiana, Hollerado ought to nestle up right beside the best Big Shiny Tuners of the ’90s. I also kinda admired how they poked fun at the economics of being in a band, like getting paid in speed at one Montreal New Year’s Eve party. Their knees might not be able to withstand those timed leaps anymore, but they kept jumping till the very end. (EL)
As Told to G/D Thyself
Ahead of Devil’s Pie was a 22-minute short film directed by the Umma Chroma, a five-man collective led by Kamasi Washington that also features almost-Space Jam 2 helmer Terence Nance. Much like Washington’s music, the short is freeform and experimental in all the best ways, its ambiguous narrative structure leaving much open for interpretation.
Nance was set to direct the Space Jam sequel until leaving the project, citing the ever-suspicious “creative differences” excuse as his reason for departing. Much like his HBO series Random Acts of Flyness, As Told To G/D Thyself shows the filmmaker’s knack for the unconventional. One cannot help but wonder if perhaps the forthcoming animated sports film could have been more daring under Nance’s weirdo watchfulness. (MW)
Trapped in Elon’s Mansion
Cinéma l’Amour switched gears from adult cinema to actual theatre, for a one-night-only performance of Joe Bagel’s Elon Musk-inspired play. Although great on paper, the real-life enactment of theatrical piece possesses something of an Adam-Sandler-movie sensibility: fun to act but at times grueling to witness.
Though it has its moments, Trapped in Elon’s Mansion plunges into deep waters of confusion, with its weirdly specific Montreal DNA leaving plenty of opportunity to drown in the details (much dialogue involves characters Grimes and Azealia Banks reminiscing over their days in Montreal, something many may forget in regards to the latter). Nonetheless, there are kernels of great work here, and Bagel has plenty to grow from for his upcoming world tour of the play. (MW)
Devil’s Pie: D’Angelo
Following the release of the two-time Grammy Award-winning Voodoo, D’Angelo disappeared. Carine Bijlsma’s new film, Devil’s Pie: D’Angelo picks up the pieces of the singer’s life between then and his masterful 2014 return, Black Messiah.
I learned more about D’Angelo’s life and times from a few pages of a 2012 GQ profile than I did throughout Devil’s Pie runtime. The documentary, relies heavily on interviews with those surrounding D’Angelo, with few anecdotes from the man himself. This ultimately keeps the mystery alive, in some ways failing at many of its own ambitions. Nonetheless, the documentary gives a semi-insightful look into the mind of one of contemporary R&B’s greatest. It is, if nothing else, smile-inducing to see the singer back in action. (MW)
Every so often you think you’ve seen it all in concert, then comes along an unassuming artist like Tirzah, accompanied by her close knit crew of Mica Levi (of Micachu and movie score fame) and Coby Sey, to re-imagine an album you thought you had pegged. 2018’s Devotion was an acclaimed debut for a lot of reasons, but I never really pictured it as a meditative experience. About three songs into the U.K. artist’s set at the Rialto on Thursday, it all clicked. Tirzah was minimal in her movements, mostly with her arms behind her back and eyes directly forward as she sung in a freeform R&B cadence. Levi and Sey were a little more busy behind her, blasting new age sounds over their sampler and synth kits. Tirzah would occasionally pop over to their corner to give her bongos a light dusting or run her hands through a set of wind chimes. They were arrangements to get lost in, and while Tirzah’s hushed vocals risked getting lost in the mix, it never really happened. You could see — and feel — people vibing in the crowd, but not in the usual way. It really was more of a mindful experience. (EL)
Seeing the same band play the same (for the most part) set in two diametrically different places was an interesting experience. At the Mile-End Skatepark, Ice Cream’s set, played in open air at 4:30 p.m. in front of skateboarders (woo!) and a pretty inattentive crowd (boo!) was quite good, but the duo’s sharpness and power and straight-up defiance was somewhat mollified by the space (or lack thereof) and the (necessary) distance from the audience. Later that night, under l’Escogriffe’s pink and purple neon, in a room steeped in libido and liquor and full of people who were there specifically to see them and even dance a bit (!), Ice Cream was just as fierce and locked in, just with much more effect. (DJ)
Begonia has a song called “The Beats,” and if her set were only that song, played the way it was played at O Patro Vys, it would still be worth the price of admission. My notes re: that song include the words “wow” and “fuck” written in all caps and circled. Much has been made about Begonia’s mighty voice, but seeing her perform live one cannot help but notice the linchpin of her set is her generosity of spirit. She performs for people, connects with them, gives to them. Her songs say “come with me,” and you go willingly. The crowd, comprised largely of young women, picked up what she was putting down, too. They applauded enthusiastically. They danced with joy and abandon. The whole set was a “fuck you” to cynicism and it was dope as hell. (DJ)