Taverne Tour 2024 Montreal music festival reviews

Photo by Charles-Antoine Marcotte

Taverne Tour 2024: A riot of music over three glorious nights

“With shows in many classic Montreal venues as well as in Plateau-Mile End bars not usually known for hosting live music, Taverne Tour is a great way to discover music — and the 2024 edition was yet another feather in their cap.”

As crowded as Montreal’s festival scene may feel, Taverne Tour manages to stand out in a huge way. With shows in many classic Montreal venues as well as in Plateau-Mile End bars not usually known for hosting live music, the festival is a great way to discover music and stay warm during mid-February — or at least it usually is, since temperatures in Montreal have been unseasonably warm for most of this winter (my blood pressure is spiking from climate anxiety as I’m typing this).

Taverne Tour is nevertheless an excellent platform for emerging artists to play for curious show-hoppers, and the eighth annual, 2024 edition was yet another feather in their cap. Here’s what I saw, from Feb. 8 to 10.

Safia Nolin

It’s been nearly a decade since Safia Nolin broke through with her debut album Limoilou, and I’ve felt like a bad Montrealer ever since for never having seen her live until last week. I was in for a treat, though, as she did a fantastic job bringing a sense of intimacy to Quai des Brumes — a venue which, though already small, was packed like sardines for her. Playing mostly acoustic guitar with an electric guitarist opposite her, Safia’s songs gave off a Neil Young-meets-Grouper type feel in this setting, skillfully combining emotion and raw storytelling.


Some may recognize her through la Sécurité, but Laurence-Anne has always been a musical force in her own right. Thursday night at l’Esco playing synth-driven art-punk tunes with equal amounts of ethereality and ominousness, while sometimes sporting a cowboy hat. Given that finding a good place to stand (or breathe) with taller heads and bodies in front of you is high currency at l’Esco, I could barely see her from where I was standing. Regardless, her tunes ranged from hypnotic to psychedelic to eerie to everywhere in between — definitely a polar opposite vibe to Safia’s set two doors down.

Population II

My favourite performance of the entire festival this year came on Friday at la Tulipe thanks to this trio of experimental psychedelic rockers (with a hint of prog, blues, sludge metal and funk thrown in for good measure) opening for Jon Spencer. Singing drummer Pierre-Luc Gratton absolutely shreds behind the kit, taking on lead vocal duties while playing complex rhythms and double bass pedals. Add some wah-wah guitar effects, crunchy and menacing bass riffs and a clever use of red and green lighting, and you get a delicious cross between Black Sabbath, Miles Davis and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Population II’s ability to push sonic boundaries and make your head spin in the best way possible was on full display, and lots of folks seemed hugely impressed.


If you know SAMWOY’s backstory, the fact he’s even touring and playing shows at all is hugely admirable. The Montreal-via-Vancouver Island artist born Sam Woywitka got emotional while telling the crowd at le Ministère on Friday about deciding to make music after waking up from a months-long coma following a car accident that killed his best friend, and you can hear that pain and passion in his music. His surfy garage rock tunes have a California skate punk feel to them at times, with spoken word screams and yelps adding emotional heft. They’re fun, raw and hard-hitting, and those songs drew in a packed crowd that night.

Sweeping Promises

Hailing from Lawrence, KS via Boston, indie rock duo Sweeping Promises took the stage at Sala Rossa on Friday immediately endearing themselves to the crowd, with frontwoman Lira Mondal greeting the audience en français just before their first song. Using fairly straightforward garage rock instrumentation as a backdrop for Mondal’s dynamic vocal range, the Sub Pop signees delivered one of the more entertaining sets I saw this year — and one that wasted little time making Sala Rossa’s floor vibrate.


Friends of mine who also attended the show describe TEKE::TEKE as “Tarantino movie music,” and that’s honestly a pretty apt description. These Japanese/Québécois psychedelic rockers play the kind of live shows that put you in a trance and take you right back to the ‘60s and ‘70s, and a teaspoon of ska and surf rock thrown in the mix. The seven-piece played to a packed house at le Ministère on Friday, with songs that feel left-field and whimsical, yet sleek and rich and refined. A TEKE::TEKE live show is a wonderfully weird and kaleidoscopic audiovisual experience, and their Taverne Tour set was a strong example.

Booster Fawn

The artist born Joshua Seguin makes psychedelic folk-rock with a ‘90s lo-fi slacker edge, somewhere in between Alex G, Beck, Donovan and Elliott Smith. His set at la Sotterenea on Saturday night opening for Night Lunch (actual headliner Daniel Romano pulled out) showcased his penchant for freaky, nostalgic tunes with strong melodies, and did so with a man down, as his guitarist couldn’t make the gig due to personal reasons. Just as memorable as the music, though, were the trippy, cartoonish claymation visuals — including one of a guy pissing all over a bathroom while lying on the floor. Lovely.

Night Lunch

With a Palestinian flag draped between their drum kit and one of their amps, Night Lunch took to the stage just after 11 p.m. with a spirited set, albeit one shorter than hoped for. One of Montreal’s most buzzed-about new local bands, the four-piece play music with ‘80s new wave as a core part of its identity (the Cure, David Bowie and Talking Heads are especially noticeable), with frontman Lukie Lovechild dressed to the nines in sunglasses and a suit and tie, with slicked-back platinum blonde hair and a voice that goes from slightly nasal in his higher register to crooning like he’s Elvis when it gets lower. Though they didn’t play “My Love Is a Rebel,” and their set didn’t feel quite long enough, it was still an example of Night Lunch showing their potential for even greater musical heights. ■

Taverne Tour 2024: A riot of music over three glorious nights

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