Busty and the Bass. Photos by Cindy Lopez

Highlights from M for Montreal 2019

Reviews of six sets from the local-scene-boosting music festival.

The wrap of the four-day M for Montreal fest on Saturday, Nov. 23 marks not just the end of the 13th edition of the local-scene-boosting event but the last music festival of the year — and of the decade!

Here are some highlights witnessed by our music team:

Naya Ali

Montreal rapper Naya Ali has been making noise since 2017 with tracks like “Ra Ra” and “Get It Right,” and exposure at prominent festivals and shows around the province, as well as international dates, has helped to get her name out. But more than anything it was her command of the mic at Wednesday’s Sala Rossa showcase that finally shut up what had been a very chatty crowd. A recurring sound issue was a minor distraction from a set that was otherwise totally engrossing. Ali’s tough flow, smart rhymes and dominance of the physical space make her an undeniable force on the local hip hop scene. (Lorraine Carpenter)

Lydia Képinski

Local alt-pop chanteuse Lydia Képinski took charge of Sala Rossa in a somewhat different way from the previous act Naya Ali, but was equally if not more impressive. With a four-piece band, the strength of her songs shone through a more visually spectacular set, with loads of dry ice and lights and a trip through the crowd to the bar in the back by Képinski, a novel way to engage a mid-week music-showcase crowd. Képinski is a great listen, but she also needs to be seen live. (LC)

Busty and the Bass

The locally loved McGill party troupe has spent much of the intervening years since their kingmaking Jazz Fest residency developing original songs over covers, so you’ll be forgiven for thinking they’ve moved only laterally the last couple of years. It takes a lot of gumption to go from the safety of well-known pop hits to would-be soul-pop hits you’ve penned yourself, but the transition hasn’t hurt their charisma or character on stage. Vocalist Nick Ferraro and rapper Alistair Blu played off each other as co-frontmen at first, although it’s the former that really took hold as the night went along. The truth is, the front part of the SAT was loaded with existing fans who knew the words to Busty’s original material, so there was natural momentum during the set that proved their format change was a wise one for the long term. And that’s where Busty and the Bass are at a couple of years after their Montreal rise: still primed for making it big out there but not quite there yet. One thing in their favour as they start Act II of their professional music ride: their bouncy, uplifting originals wouldn’t look out of place on a Netflix series. If Lizzo could top the charts that way, maybe Busty can take the same route? (Erik Leijon)

Odonis Odonis

For M for Mothland’s closing act, Toronto’s Odonis Odonis, pulled us right to the edge of the end of the world. It was a culmination. It was a cataclysmic event smattered with sex and doom and danger and black and dark (and blacker and darker). I recall hearing someone (maybe Dean Tzenos?) calling Odonis’s newer material  “industrial punk-gaze” and that’s a pitch perfect description and a reminder of how far the band has moved from their surf-punk beginnings. Over the course of a sweaty, bold, lights-out set featuring some of the standout material from 2017’s “No Pop,” you felt locked in a tractor beam pulling you towards oblivion — and you just really, really wanted to give up and go for it. (Dave Jaffer)


London, Ontario is a blight on the country in many, many ways, but I will always be eternally grateful that it birthed WHOOP-Szo, who stood in the middle of the floor at Sala and bathed the crowd in tight and thoughtful post-metal effluvia. It was a set of extremely controlled rage, I think, artistic and immense and heavy as fuckkkkkk without being aggressive and off-putting. Even if you didn’t know what the songs were about (and you really should know what “Gerry” and “Long Braided Hair” are about), you knew they were meaningful. Now, if you’ll pardon me I’m going to listen to their LP, Warrior Down, for the billionth time in a row. (DJ)

Atsuko Chiba

This is going to sound stupid, but I don’t care. Over the course of Atsuko Chiba’s intoxicating M for Mothland set, all I could think of was what Michael Mann’s Collateral would have been like with an Atsuko Chiba soundtrack, because their performance was about everything and for everyone without being one thing for one person, somehow. It was both dark and light. It felt like a hero’s journey, or something. Proggy and spacey and curious and mathy, its constant was its (delightful) lack of linear structure (read that however you want) and its massive, hopeful energy. (DJ)

See our complete M for Montreal 2019 photo gallery here.