While I don’t consider myself a numerologist, the number seven has always had some sort of mystique around it. The seventh son of the seventh son, seven deadly sins, lucky number seven … and on the second weekend of February 2024 in Montreal, the seventh iteration of the beloved and eclectic music festival, Taverne Tour.
For seven years, Taverne Tour — tied together by the good people at the Mothland record label, who are also responsible for the Distorsion Psych Fest — has been bringing big-name headliners in the “left-field music” world like Lydia Lunch Retrovirus, A Place to Bury Strangers, Of Montreal and the Sadies to local Montreal pubs and historic venues. For those who dabble in the gritty, DIY art/music scenes of Montreal, Taverne Tour is like an old friend who only comes around once a year but always leaves a memorable trace.
It’s impossible to see everything and that’s kind of the point. It’s encouraged to hop around and see a bit of everything, but this year — damn, it is going to be hard not to miss out on some killer shows.
Before stomping throughout the bars of Montreal, do yourself a favour and download the FEST App to make your schedule. Here are a few of my top picks to help you decide on what you cannot miss.
Taverne Tour 2024 Day 1, Feb. 8
Right out of the gate, you will have to make some strategic decisions on Thursday. Over at la Sala Rossa is an absolute juggernaut of a show with ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT (the experimental electronic art-rock duo of Godspeed You! Black Emperor founder Efrim Manuel Menuck and Ariel Engle of la Force. You can count on one hand the number of times ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT has played live since releasing their EP in 2021 and following it up with the Darling The Dawn LP in April 2023 — so, just like ball lightning, it’s a rare occurrence you won’t want to miss. They will probably grace the stage at around 10 p.m., so until then, you could check out the legendary Yonatan Gat (of the Medicine Singers) in the same room. The last time he brought his avant-garde meets improv punk guitar-based soundscapes to Montreal, they played in the middle of the room and it looked totally wired.
Before and during Yonatan Gat, Taverne Tour world is your oyster. It’s all about supporting the locals: We have the wonderful local star Laurence-Anne taking us through her theatrical, dark dream pop at l’Escogriffe at around 9 p.m. and a fantastic local hardcore punk rock show in the Sotterenea basement featuring Glowing Orb, who just released the maniacal banger EP Subterranean Prison, along with Dirty Milk, who is more no wave and noise punk.
And then at the same time, it’s the friggin’ New York noise punk duo Deli Girls at le Ministère, and who is opening that show but Alix Fernz, the francophone post-punk/hypnotic pop stooge who crushed his set at M for Montreal this year. Not to mention Slash Need, which is just pure carnage from Toronto. So yeah, there is lots to see on Thursday. I’ll probably hit Alix Fernz at le Ministère first because I love him and then boo on over to la Sala Rossa and bounce between there at la Sotterenea. Then I’ll high-tail it over back to le Ministère to catch the last bit of Deli Girls. Who knows what I’ll be feeling? Pray for me.
Taverne Tour 2024 Day 2, Feb. 9
Friday is also packed with a bunch of shows you won’t want to sleep on. Starting us off is Population II at la Tulipe and their ridiculously entertaining live renditions of the prog rock meets psych noise album, Électrons libres du qu
At the same time, we will have the Japanese surf rock/Eleki band TEKE::TEKE over at le Ministère. Pantayo, a Filipino R&B/lo-fi percussion group, is also on the bill as well as SAMWOY, the alternative rock/punk persona of Samuel Woywitka, one half of FHANG.
If you’ve got a hankering for more of a DIY new wave/post-punk fare, you’ll want to check out Sweeping Promises down the road at la Sala Rossa. Montreal’s garage pop kings and queens, Feeling Figures, are also going to be unveiling their sleeper hit album Migration Magic live.
There is also a Queb rap show right across the street from le Ministère at le Belmont with the multi-platinum producer High Klassified and 20some (who might soon rise out of Quebec fame with his FIYAH album).
No matter what your decision, if you’re in the mood to dance after all the shows, head on back to le Ministère for a soul funk dance party with Jonathan Toubin’s New York Night Train at around midnight. The legendary New York DJ plays soul-funk deep cuts from a wild collection of 7 and 10-inch records.
Taverne Tour 2024 Day 3, Feb. 10
You might be a bit tired after shaking everything you got during the New York Night Train, but there is still a treasure trove of music to discover on the final day of Taverne Tour. So rest up and drink plenty of water before heading back to le Ministère for the PYPY / Hot Garbage show. PYPY is a fantastic performer of no wave and post-punk, and their shows always come with a little theatrical surprise. The venue will probably be covered in streamers or clouds or something, or maybe there will be giant Ps and Ys on the stage. Hot Garbage will also be playing songs from their forthcoming fuzzy psych rock LP Precious Dream (Jan. 19 2024).
Again, simultaneously we will also have the Suuns and Activity show. Sunns of course is the art punk/ krautrock band that many in Montreal know, but we haven’t seen much from them in the last few years. If my spidey-sense is telling me anything, it’s that there will be a new Suuns project in the near future. Activity has gotten a bit more goth rock with the latest release Spirit in the Room, which at times feels a bit like the Smashing Pumpkins meets the Cure.
If moody jangle pop is more of your bag, check out Ducks Ltd., who are releasing a new record, Harm’s Way, in February, and the Wesleys, a local indie band who is starting to, slowly but surely, break through the Montreal band fame mold.
At the same time, Daniel Romano’s Outfit will also be slaying their basement set at la Sotterenea. The band looks like they stepped out of the ‘70s, and under Daniel’s tutelage, have released a number of albums ducking under the rock ‘n’ roll, blues, funk, glam rock and country umbrellas. If you’ve never seen Daniel Romano, I suggest checking it out.
Last and not even close to least is a free show at le Pontiac by Li’l Andy’s newest project, The Complete Recordings of Hezekiah Procter. Hezekiah is a rambling vaudeville folk singer from the 1920s who has a full-on old timey country band and a number of songs. Li’l Andy (as Hezekiah) will be flexing his acting chops, fully in character, and the show is sure to be entertaining as snake oil. ■
For more on Taverne Tour, please visit their website.
For more Montreal music coverage, please visit the Music section.