The Linda Lindas POP Montreal 2022 review reviews

14 POP Montreal shows that radiated festival-comeback energy this year

“Featuring members as young as 12 — they even talked between songs about doing homework on the red-eye flight here — talented L.A. quartet the Linda Lindas boast plenty of spunk, attitude and genuine chops, and proved it on Thursday night in front of a packed Rialto.”

The 21st edition of the POP Montreal festival has come and gone, bringing the noise to the Rialto Theatre complex and other venues across the city. Though POP was fortunate enough to have held editions in 2020 and 2021, they were beholden to significant pandemic restrictions and unable to host acts from outside Montreal (in person). This one felt almost pre-pandemic by comparison.

Cult MTL reporters and our concert photographer covered a lot of bases between Sept. 28 and Oct. 2, and here’s what they found.


My trek to Rialto for this set was unfortunately an excruciating one — not because it felt like a chore (quite the opposite), but because I sprained my ankle playing with my parents’ dog the day before POP started. As I hobbled in agony toward the theatre for the show headlined by Allison Russell (I hadn’t yet gotten crutches), I was treated to locally-based chanteuse Magella as soon as I got in. The jazz-tinged singer-songwriter — complete with a three-piece backing band including a synth player with quite the elaborate setup — plays a style that’s also informed seemingly by electronic, indie rock and even post-punk. It’s cinematic-sounding soul and jazz music, with an extra, spicy kick to it. (Dave MacIntyre)

Allison Russell

Allison Russell POP Montreal 2022 review reviews
Allison Russell, POP Montreal 2022. Photos by Cindy Lopez

The Rialto’s main event during the opening night of POP was one that swung very much toward folksy Americana, and Allison Russell delivered a powerful set that would’ve entertained those not well-versed in those genres. Between the native Montrealer’s sweet-yet-husky voice, frequent references to the city between songs (name-dropping Westmount Park and a time she saw Oscar Peterson live at Jazz Fest), occasional English/French code switching, confident onstage persona and her ability to effortlessly sing about some harrowing subject matter, this singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist’s homecoming show was a sublime victory lap for her acclaimed 2021 debut solo LP, Outside Child. Russell’s all-female and mostly POC backing band (some of whom are Americans playing in Montreal for the first time) made for an excellent bedrock, to boot. (Dave)


L’Rain gave my favourite performance of POP. The word “soundscape” gets thrown around a lot, but I can think of no better way to describe what Taja Cheek’s Brooklyn-based project crafted at l’Entrepôt 77 on Wednesday. “Kill Self,” a highlight of the set, captured what I found so brilliant about the band. Cheek’s gorgeous vocals layered between two chords; synths that emerge on the off-beat, with a distorted guitar shredding louder and louder — and then a scream to bring it all together. Now delicate, now abrasive, the band explored form (duration, repetition) in a way that is genuinely innovative and, more challengingly, endlessly compelling. (Brandon Kaufman)


Cymande POP Montreal 2022 review reviews

Among the many things that POP Montreal does well, throwback is high up the list. And while big names may have been a little scaled back this year, billing British ’70s funk-soul brothers Cymande to headline the first night of fun was a great look and a solid return to form. 

As fest founder Dan Seligman noted in an informal chat during the show, unlike some of their peers who have trudged the globe incessantly for decades only to become worn out and weary, Cymande have the advantage of having hung their hats long ago, only getting the band back together to tour regularly over the past few years. As a result, these elders are in top shape and sounded absolutely amazing on a chilly night in the roof-covered outdoor comfort of l’Entrepôt 77. 

As Seligman further noted, booking them was a no-brainer to please the music nerds (myself among them) who are familiar with Cymande primarily as hip hop sample source material and not necessarily for the baby-making music that made them a hit in their heyday. 

“Brothers on the Slide,” “Dove,” “The Message” and more made the sold-out crowd boogie into POP’s comeback with a dip in our hips. (Darcy MacDonald)

Sophia Bel

Sophia Bel POP Montreal 2022 review reviews

An artist I’ve profiled before for Cult MTL, this American-born/Quebec City-bred singer plays indie pop with an almost childlike voice and a clear early-aughts pop-punk edge to make you immediately think of the Avril Lavignes, Olivia Rodrigos and Charly Blisses of the world. Her set at the Rialto Theatre on Thursday evening was a no-frills adaptation of that exact sound in live concert form, acting as a fitting opener for the Linda Lindas as people continued trickling into the venue. Sophia Bel’s style may not be for everyone, but she writes fun, nostalgia-inducing tunes that make those of a certain age yearn for simpler, more carefree times. (Dave)

The Linda Lindas

The Linda Lindas POP Montreal 2022 review reviews

When you have a promising young band with members who are actual children, it’s no surprise that the Linda Lindas’ set was one attended by quite a few parents with their kiddos. The future of parenting is punk-rock, I suppose! Featuring members as young as 12 (they even talked between songs about doing homework on the red-eye flight here), this talented L.A. quartet boast plenty of spunk, attitude and genuine chops, and proved it on Thursday night in front of a packed Rialto. Closing with viral hit “Racist Sexist Boy” before launching into a cover of a song by riot grrrl legends Bikini Kill, “Rebel Girl” (they also covered the Go Gos’ “Tonight” earlier in their set), these Epitaph signees have swagger and panache well beyond their years, and they translated that nicely to the stage. (Dave)

Ata Kak

It was, of course, a testament to Ata Kak’s skills as a showman that his Piccolo Rialto gig on Thursday was such a ball, but it also should be mentioned how great his band — consisting of Pax Nindi, Akornefa Akyea and Tim Tapsell — was. The audience was as in the bag for the Guyanese artist as any I’ve seen recently, and the energy did not let up for the entirety of the hour-long set. I was moved by the dynamic between performer and audience in that cramped basement: the interludes of sustained applause, Ata Kak’s ardent “thank yous,” the riotous “Happy Birthday” the crowd serenaded him with, which seemed to genuinely move him. It was a great night, simply put. (BK)

Kxng Wooz

Whereas I had planned to rest up for the weekend ahead on Thursday, I couldn’t help but notice some hip hop on the bill and my FOMO got the best of me. Plus, I love Quai des Brumes. So I headed up on a stealth mission to catch Halifax rapper Kxng Wooz drop an 11 p.m. set, and I’m glad I did. 

Wooz’s studio work suggested a guy who can rap, sing and write well, and his performance tied it together nicely. If we’re being generous, there were about two dozen people in the room. Wooz didn’t just get the tiny crowd interested. He got us singing, doing callbacks, dancing and feeling like we were at a damn hip hop show, despite the small turnout. 

It’s not easy to play to a small room at a weird hour on a weeknight in the middle of a big festival and turn total strangers into fans. But Kxng Wooz had it all the way in him. As hidden gems go, all I can say is if you were at POP, too bad you missed this. (Darcy)

Kaya Hoax

A relative newcomer, and performing at her first show she’s ever played as an opener, this local avant-pop/drum & bass singer played a fairly short set while those who showed up early at Fairmount Theatre on Friday waited for Strange Froots and Magi Merlin. Those who did stop by early got a pleasant surprise, though, as Kaya Hoax — despite the bass and distortion being too heavy—delivered a peppy, energetic set that showed some signs of promise despite her overall performance still being a bit raw. She has a fun repertoire of songs that fall somewhere between M.I.A., Nicki Minaj and the Go! Team, and I’m interested in seeing where she takes her career while she continues developing as a performer. (Dave)

Strange Froots

This self-proclaimed “alternative chill-soul duo” play music defined by a mix of singing, rapping and synergetic harmonizing. Members Mags and Naïka initially performed with only themselves, their acoustic guitars and dark lighting — no bells and/or whistles. Though some of their songs felt a bit short for my liking, they have great chemistry together as performers, and they clearly have fun together. The crowd could feel that, too, and they’d go even wilder when a producer came onstage with a laptop and a mixer, as they’d launch into more electronic and 808s-based bangers, even one sampling Busta Rhymes’ “Gimme Some More.” Strange Froots gradually went from 0 to 100 over the course of their set at Théâtre Fairmount, and I frankly didn’t want them to stop. (Dave)

Magi Merlin

Though this emerging Montreal R&B songstress spent the beginning of her headlining set at Fairmount on Friday telling jokes to kill time while waiting for technical difficulties to be resolved, Magi Merlin showed an enthusiastic audience why she’s become the queen of festivals this year — she’s played Jazz Fest, Osheaga and now POP Montreal, with Quebec City’s FEQ thrown in for good measure. With a live backing band adding colour and texture to her intricate, moody sound (her songs definitely pop off with live drums in the mix), she brought her smooth vocals and confident onstage persona to life. A personal highlight for me was when she dropped a track influenced by drum & bass — one I liked so much I was gutted I couldn’t record it, as my phone ran out of space. Her energy and music are infectious in equal measure, and I’m sure we’ll hear more from her quite soon. (Dave)

Bran Van 3000 (Night 2)

Bran Van 3000 POP Montreal review reviews 2022

Despite having called Montreal my adopted home for the past 12 years, this was my first time experiencing BV3 in any kind of live setting. I’d been warned ahead of time that they’d put in a subpar performance at the Jazz Fest this summer, but perhaps that was just them shaking off the cobwebs, as they definitely delivered the goods on Saturday. Ringing in the 25th anniversary of their debut album Glee with the second of two shows at Club Soda, this was one for the books. James Di Salvio remains the conductor of their vibrant, genre-bending symphony, but it’s the performances of Stéphane Moraille and Sara Johnston that brought the show over the top. From beloved cuts like “Astounded,” “Afrodiziak” and “Drinking in L.A.” to Johnston opening the encore with “Mama Don’t Smoke,” it was a set that left the mostly older-leaning crowd delirious and in awe, as any Bran Van concert should. (Dave)

Sister Nancy

Sister Nancy Pop Montreal 2022 photo photos review reviews
Sister Nancy, POP Montreal 2022. Photos by Cindy Lopez

The Jamaican dancehall legend returned to POP Montreal to shut it all the way down with riddims and praises to the almighty to the delight of a sweaty, sticky, full-capacity crowd at Piccolo Rialto. 

At 60 years old, Sister Nancy has more wind left in her pipes than her following has weed in theirs — and that’s a pretty huge worldwide fanbase, make no mistake.

With her dubplates in the capable hands of Montreal’s Mossman, Sister Nancy strutted, preached, wailed and made sure the devil wouldn’t be coming anywhere near us for a good long while. And if anyone walked in there on the verge of greening out, Sister Nancy’s bombast was the remedy. 

If I wanted to be cynical, I’d say something about the fact that when “Bam Bam” was finally rolled out as the set closer and encore, all rolled into one, there were more iPhone cams in the air than on an Apple freight plane. 

But what the hell? I mean, it’s Sister Nancy singing “Bam Bam.” Film till your heart’s content! Just because I can smugly say I did it for journalistic purposes doesn’t make me…well, yeah, it does. It does make me a hypocrite. I mean, it was Sister Nancy — singing “Bam Bam!” C’mon! 

Super fun show, indeed, and also a kickass party fit to make POP Montreal’s full-blown comeback a POP to be remembered. (Darcy)

To see our POP Montreal 2022 photo gallery, please click here.

For more Montreal music coverage, please visit the Music section.