Sun Ra Arkestra Suoni per il Popolo festival Montreal shows

3 picks from the Suoni per il Popolo fest & 1 more must-see Montreal show in June

The best damned festival in the city is upon us.

Now that things have thankfully warmed up and summer has really started swinging, June plays host to the best damned festival in the city: Suoni per il Popolo.

Brought to you by the same people that have been serving up the suds at Casa, Sala and la Sotterenea, Suoni is indeed a wonder to behold with a progressively minded curation that is as much about diversity and eclecticism as it is about kicking against the pricks. While this column hangs its hat on “picks of the month,” Suoni remains a slippery eel to saddle up, offering a sense of true discovery with a host of artists who fly well beyond most people’s radar. The thrill of Suoni really is about darkening the door of the three main venues and just taking chances on unknown artists. If you like to have your ears challenged, there are shows happening throughout almost the entire month of June that are guaranteed to get yer ya-ya’s out. 

As much as the spirit of the fest is about daring to surrender to the unknown, I do indeed have a couple of picks to offer. 

First up, nobody should be missing the documentary Deep Listening: The Story of Pauline Oliveros at Cinéma Moderne on June 10 (5150 St-Laurent, 2 p.m., $17.85). Oliveros is best known as a pioneer of electronic music who was able to implement technical innovations that are still being used, coupled with a rich musical mind with strategically placed beeps and blips flowing like a babbling brook. Producing over her six decades of work, this film promises to be a real treat. Following the film, director Daniel Weintraub and producer Ione will be on hand to field questions. This should be nothing less than utterly inspiring. 

On Sunday, June 18, Suoni’s truly heavy hitter, the Sun Ra Arkestra, returns to the festival at Église Saint-Denis (454 Laurier E., 8 p.m., $43.98). Although Sun Ra left this mortal coil in 1993 to cruise the rim of space, his music has been left in loving and expert hands. If free music leaves you a little queasy, Ra’s in-the-red pyrotechnics could be your gateway into the maelstrom of sound. Long after we are all dead and gone, there will always be a group of gifted musicians keeping Ra’s intergalactic sound alive. 

Closing Suoni out is a show that will surely turn out to be one of their most sublime moments with Hamid Drake’s Turiya: Honoring Alice Coltrane at Sala on Sunday, June 25 (4848 St-Laurent, 8 p.m., $33.53). Drake’s drumming will form the backbone to his tribute to the late, great Alice Coltrane. After the death of her husband and musical giant John Coltrane, Alice used piano and harp to carve out thick swaths of sound that hit boldly and emanated from rich spiritual depths. If you’re looking for a real sense of musical ascension, this show is a definite do-not-miss. 

Off of the Suoni path this month is Liturgy, a band technically rooted in black metal although their deeply meditational pull on the dark genre is probably more in tune with the spiritual and meditative awakening in Alice Coltrane’s work than in second-wave Norwegian black metal. If you want to get an inkling of just how far metal can go, dip into a quick stream of Veins of God from 2011’s unrelenting blaster Aesthetica and thank me later. Not only that but heavy hitters BIG|BRAVE will show off their post-tour muscle in the sweat-act spot. This is all happening at le Ritz on Saturday, June 10 (179 Jean-Talon W., 7:30 p.m., $30.20).

This article was originally published in the June 2023 issue of Cult MTL.

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