pop montreal 2013 / review

i had a friend ask me exactly why pop montreal chooses to label itself as “pop.” i stood there in a kind of dumbfounded silence. why had pop montreal chosen to label itself as pop? i know what you’re thinking – when you think pop, you think bubblegum, britney spears pre-head shaving, and otown’s liquid dreams. at least, that’s what i think of. my friend had a point. pop montreal is kind of anything but. open mindedness is what makes this festival such an experience: anything from indie, to folk, to electronic, to rock falls under the pop genre for pop montreal. taking place over a series of nights and locations all around montreal, pop is a five day festival that features over 600 bands, artists, fashion designers, guest speakers and panelists, and a slew of other creative talents. read on to get the inside scoop. disclaimer: i used music instead of photos because for some disastrous reason, good photos of the festival do not exist on the internet.

pop montreal opening party /

i mostly went to this because there was a “media” party, and you know, i’ll take any excuse to pretend i’m a reputable media source (full disclosure: i’m not). there were rumours of super secret special musical guests, which ended up being some pretty weird dude in a floral tank top singing MIA. i still haven’t recovered. the band actually turned out to be fabricville. but regardless, they didn’t pique my interest enough to brave the sweltering temperatures of the venue. there was free beer and pretty dope cupcakes, so it was a win in my book nonetheless. next!

UNO x artubus showcase at cabaret du mile end /

around the corner from my house (hell yeah mile end) and featuring a solid number of artists i like, i decided the UNO artubus showcase at cabaret du mile end was a safe bet. although it didn’t fulfill all my expectations, it was still a fun night, and one that was full of surprises. gobby, whom i thought was an experimental DJ, was actually moonlighting as an amateur drummer who basically wrecked the drum set for a half hour while a sound technician attempted to mix at the same time. it was very stressful and confusing. would have been better had the kick not been so loud that literally all you could hear was his mildly psychotic drumming accosting your ears. next up, ian isaih took the stage. and let me tell you, dude can sing. and rock a crop top better than me. doldrums closed out the night with an energetic DJ set. the dancers were a fun, albeit entirely unecessary and distracting.

solar year + yamantaka/sonic titan at breakglass studio /

solar year is a montreal duo made up of ben borden and david ertel. i dig their music a lot, so i was really looking forward to their live, which took place a kind of sketchy studio in the outskirts of the mile end. when my friend and i got there, everyone was sitting on the floor. it felt like hipster kindergarten class, but with beer and dim lighting. we sat, awkwardly. the lights got lower when the guys went on, their faces illuminated only by glowing crystals. there was a smoke machine. it would have all been really pretentious had it not also been the most fitting staging ever. their music is like being drunk on wine – hazy, dreamy, and makes you sway. their track “seeing the same” (above) has been on rotation ever since.

yamantaka/sonic titan went on next. there was all kinds of moody lighting (read: seizure inducing strobe lights) and ear splitting, spooky vocals. and face paint. can’t forget the face paint. i don’t know. it was interesting, but to be honest, it just did not compute. next!

majical cloudz at la sala rossa /

although i’m not particularly fond of absurd spellings of normal words (why is that necessary?) i do love majical cloudz, a montreal duo consisting of devon welsh and matthew otto. sadly, i only got to see a hot minute of their set due to a jam packed friday night pop schedule, but what i caught was pretty glorious. those vocals are the real deal. beautiful piano. beautiful everything. plus, their lyrics are kind of weirdo. the show was one of those strange montreal paradigms where no one moves or reacts or does anything other than stare straight ahead while looking like they’re not having fun. i had fun though, and i would love to see them again under other circumstances.

motel raphael at petit campus /

are you guys totally sick of reading about motel raphael on here or what? this was emily skahan, maya malkin, and clara legault’s first headlining show here in montreal and, man, i was such a proud mama. hearts were broken. jameson got the best of me, in all the right ways. it was my friends’ first times seeing the girls play, and i turned around at one point to two of them just absolutely love struck. there were literally cartoon hearts bursting around their heads. i don’t blame them though, obviously. read my interview with the girls from last year here, and go behind the scenes at their video shoot for ghosts, here.

sofa king raw showcase at the belmont /

not really sure what was happening at this event. there was no set times posted. i was only interested in seeing black atlass, so i showed up at 10.30 pm. big mistake. it was empty, and i was alone, and legit sat in a corner drinking whiskey for an hour and a half. tunes were pretty sporadic at this point. someone (i don’t know who – seb diamond?) was playing usher interspersed with other top 40 club beats and some weird heavy electronica. i was confused and drunk. next up was foxtrott. i have to say, the french horn and drums and everything was cool, but to be honest, it was all a bit background music-y. not helped by the fact that the belmont might be the worst venue in montreal, sound wise. i didn’t even stay for black atlass (not being drunk at the belmont seemed more important at the time), and spent the majority of the time i was actually there wondering “what is even happening?!” womp womp.

so, i know it sounds like i really had no fun at the festival, but honestly, it was a pretty ridiculous adventure. i’m all about being open to trying out new music, even if i end up hating it, at least i can say i tried. i even attempted to make it to the kid koala reading at drawn and quarterly, but after dipping out to avoid the crowd, and returning too late to snag a pair of headphones, we missed out on the “listening experience.” seemed like it would have been cool but definitely geared towards children (considering my friend and i were the only non-toddlers in the room). t

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