Taverne Tour 2023 Montreal Plateau

Taverne Tour is bringing a blizzard of sound to small Plateau bars from Feb. 9 to 11

We spoke with the producer, programming director and co-founder of the festival that’s making a comeback next month, with a lineup including Backxwash, Of Montreal and Annie-Claude Deschênes.

The Plateau’s well-known for both its bar scene and its music venues — so why not stage a festival marrying the two, even in the dead of winter? Luckily, the sixth edition of the upcoming Taverne Tour festival will give you all that and then some (though tickets are selling fast!).

After the pandemic forced the festival to go fully online last year, Taverne Tour is back with in-person shows — and a vengeance. Highlights of this year’s programming include Of Montreal, the Sadies, Backxwash, the King Khan & BBQ Show, Choses Sauvages, Annie-Claude Deschênes (of Duchess Says fame), Yoo Doo Right, Laura Niquay, Bibi Club, up-and-coming producer Nicholas Craven and No Waves, among others. 

Put on annually by Mothland, also known for the Distorsion Psych Fest and for curating FME in Rouyn-Noranda, this year’s Taverne Tour will be the first full edition since 2020, with a lineup spanning genres — “post-everything,” as the festival calls it. 

Taverne Tour will host shows in small venues across the Plateau, mainly Mont-Royal Avenue watering holes like Saint-Sacrement, MR250, Chez Baptiste and Pub West Shefford — bringing a “blizzard of sound” to each of these less-than-conventional venues from Feb. 9 to 11. One could even call it the Igloofest of indie music festivals, except you’re actually indoors and staying warm!

Cult MTL recently chatted with Mothland’s Marilyne Lacombe — who’s the producer, director of programming and co-founder of Taverne Tour — to talk more about what’s being planned for the festival’s comeback edition.

Dave MacIntyre: How are you feeling leading up to this year’s festival?

Marilyne Lacombe: We can really see that people are excited that the event’s coming back. Looking at the tickets we’re selling right now, it’s higher than any other edition. People are writing to us, engaging with everything we do. Overall, we definitely feel the excitement of people about the return of in-person events at their full capacity. That’s very encouraging. It’s definitely giving us the energy we need to keep on going until February.

DM: How much more quickly are tickets selling compared to other years?

ML: Twice as fast. We definitely see a huge difference compared to before. That’s really exciting for us. People are digging the programming we’re offering this year — I think it’s the biggest edition we’ve ever presented in terms of programming, too. It’s really great that we see that the response is so positive.

DM: Which artists are you most excited to have this year?

ML: Obviously Of Montreal is a huge thing for us. We tried to have them in 2022 just before we had to cancel the event. We’re having a couple of other artists we booked for the last edition that, because we couldn’t make it happen, we re-invited them. Of Montreal and Adam Green are good examples of that. I’m also excited to see Backxwash — one of the coup de cœurs of the team here. She’s going to play [at Sala Rossa] with Dreamcrusher, who’s a really, really cool discovery of mine this year from New York. We also have Choses Sauvages playing L’Esco. It’s going to be crazy. They sold out MTELUS last time in Montreal. I think the quintessence of what Tavern Tour is is going to be that show… We also had them at FME, and the crowd broke the dancefloor. They were going at it so hard!

DM: The festival’s primary mission is to energize the Plateau music scene. How would you describe the state of that scene right now?

ML: The last few years, with all the venues being closed and everything, I think it’s cool to have an event really focused on that specific area. There’s obviously a lot of music venues in Mile End, downtown and other neighbourhoods. We’re concentrating all the programming on Mont-Royal Avenue, St-Laurent Boulevard and St-Denis Street, across the same part of the neighbourhood. I think it’s cool to come back with these super intense events where we’re taking over all the venues and little bars on the streets. Not just the venues, either — there are a lot of places where we host shows during Taverne Tour that are not typical venues, like small neighbourhood bars. It’s about taking over this community and  having a good time and a good party… One of the big things is that the dates where we’re (hosting the festival) is a very dead moment in the calendar. There’s not much happening in any given year around end of January/mid-February. The goal was really to provide some activities during that dead period. As for the (Plateau) music scene as a whole, I think we’re all facing challenging situations, so it’s good that we’re bringing in some activities and positivity.

DM: As far as genres, the acts in the lineup are described as featuring “a healthy dose of post-everything.” Could you describe what you mean by that?

ML: I guess it’s a bit of a joke, in a way. A lot of bands are tagging themselves as being post-punk, post-rock, post-hip hop, post-everything. I think it’s just about modern sounds — new bands, new music.

DM: What were some of the bigger challenges to putting this year’s festival together, especially now that you were able to prepare a full festival, when you couldn’t last year?

ML: It was a bit scary to say “Okay, we’re putting this thing on again after last year’s cancellation, which happened at the very last minute.” Last year, we were all ready to go, and then literally three or four weeks before, we had to stop everything. Obviously, that was really hard. To get the motivation to say, “Okay, we’re going to try again,” I think that was one of the biggest challenges. 

As soon as we decided that, we just went for it without asking too many questions. But you ask yourself, “Are we going to end up in the same situation as last year?” We’re still knocking on some wood that we’re going to be okay, because you never know! (laughs) We thought last year we were okay, and then we weren’t. 

The uncertainty of this is definitely a challenge. We were a little bit afraid, too, that coming back after all these years would be hard… The last (proper) edition was already three years ago, so you wonder if your audience is still following you. Looking at how fast the tickets are being sold, I think we answered that challenge, and it’s been positive.

DM: What are you guys doing for this year’s festival that you haven’t done in previous years?

ML: This year was more about bringing the festival back to where it was in 2020, rather than trying to go bigger and crazier. Just doing that was a huge challenge. We didn’t go there being like, “Okay, we’re going to change everything. We’re going to do more venues, more bands,” and all that. We’re aiming to bring back the festival to its full capacity, something similar to what we presented in 2020. For us, we’re just like, “Let’s kick ass like we did in 2020.”

DM: Of Montreal’s show is also the first ever Taverne Tour show at la Tulipe. Why book shows at that venue this year?

ML: This venue is at the centre of the neighbourhood we’re taking over. It’s also one of the biggest. So it’s always been a goal or dream that we should eventually add la Tulipe to the Taverne Tour circuit, but I think we weren’t ready yet. An act like Of Montreal was calling for a venue like that. It was the perfect match.

That’s probably the main addition if you compare it to what we did before, because obviously we always really focus on small venues and small bars. We’re just like, “Let’s have one little thing that’s a bit bigger, just for fun, you know?” Without killing the whole concept of the events, obviously. The goal is not to take over all the big venues in Montreal, but it’s right there in the middle of where the festival is, so it kind of just makes sense.

DM: Which shows do you think are going to be the most spellbinding, mind-blowing ones for the crowd?

ML: As I said, Choses Sauvages at l’Esco is going to be quintessentially what Taverne Tour is — this idea of, “Let’s bring bands that have played in big venues, and put them in a totally different setup to create a unique bond between the audience and the artist.” Choses Sauvages’s last show was a sold-out MTELUS show, and now we’re putting them in a 200-capacity basement, l’Escogriffe. I think this one’s going to be one for the books. Also, the King Khan & BBQ Show. They haven’t played Montreal in a really long time… This one’s going to be a real party, too.

DM: You also have shows booked at venues like Barraca, MR250, Pub West Shefford, Taverne Saint-Sacrement, les Enfants du Rock, le Pontiac and Chez Baptiste, each on Mont-Royal. I didn’t even know any of those places hosted shows at all!

ML: That’s kind of the idea. We want people to discover new places by putting shows in those unconventional setups. That’s been the core of what Taverne Tour is. Year one was just that: no real venues, we’re just in bars on Mont-Royal. As we added some real venues like l’Esco, Quai des Brumes, la Sala Rossa, we didn’t want to lose that part of it, because I think that’s what makes this event unique.

DM: You mentioned Choses Sauvages already — which other local acts are you excited to have playing this year?

ML: There’s so many! We’re having Annie-Claude Deschênes, the singer of Duchess Says, coming back with her solo project under her own name, so that’s going to be cool. It’s her second show that she’s playing, so every Duchess Says fan should definitely come there. It’s going to kick ass as much as a Duchess Says show would have back in the day. We’re having Bibi Club, who have a little buzz right now in the music industry, playing Quai des Brumes with Yocto. Gros Mené is Fred Fortin’s project, he’s pretty big in the francophone scene. He’s going to play at Taverne Saint-Sacrement. His last show was sold out at Club Soda, and then we’re putting him in a tavern on the floor. That’s definitely going to be a pretty unique show. 

We have a couple of free shows going on, too. Barraca with Douance, the Fake Friends are playing Taverne Saint-Sacrement, that’s going to be free as well. No Waves are going to play a free pizza party show at le Ministère. It’’s going to be the last show the festival — a bunch of free pizza, a bunch of punk kids and a bunch of punk music — and it’s free.

DM: Since Taverne Tour is in February, and given it’ll likely be freezing at that time, what are some of the biggest selling points you can give people to convince them to go to these shows?

ML: I feel like nobody’s doing anything during January. Everybody’s broke and tired post-holidays, and Taverne Tour is kind of the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s the first part of the year after New Year’s Eve. People (attending the shows) are really going for it. The ambience at all the shows is electric. People are really digging the idea of going to see a bunch of bands that, most of the time, they have no clue about. It’s like a discovery music festival. We’ve got a few headliners of course, but mainly people don’t really know these bands. 

I go to see a lot of shows during the year, and I see a different crowd at the shows. You see people from the neighbourhood going out and being like, “Okay, I’m going to go catch the show at the bar next to my street.” We see a bunch of new faces that we don’t usually see at shows. Which is good, because you’ve got to see new people at some point at those shows! People really see it as the end of the worst month of the year, which I think is January. (laughs)

For more on Taverne Tour, please visit the festival’s website.

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