POP on Saturday—
By Elise Hennigan
MONTREAL--Locals go crazy over Poutine. It is the official comfort/drunk food of Quebec. At its most basic, it is French fries covered in cheese curds and gravy (though you can scale up from there). I am told that people also eat this dish as a regular meal, but I find that hard to believe.
I’m skeptical, but open to exploring all of the city’s idiosyncrasies—squeaky cheese curds and all. With that in mind, my goal for today was to get down to the street level, meet Montreal’s makers, bike around, see street art, discover new, local bands, and cap my night off with a taste of late-night poutine—the way locals do.
We started our morning at Jean-Talon Market near Little Italy. If you even sort of like farmer’s markets, this one will make you giddy—residents flock to this market to pick up fresh fruit, produce, livestock, olive oil, fresh-from-the-oven baguettes, and other prepared treats.
On the rainy walk away from the market, we came across a few murals.
Next stop, Puces POP, where we met local designers, craftspeople, and artists. Puces POP was conceived as the craft component of POP Montreal fest in 2004 and has since grown into an event that goes down 5 times a year.
The event is similar to the Renegade Craft Fair in the states—it’s a great way to plug into that community and see new trends in crafting.
Trends spotted: felt; crochet; small, furry animals/monsters; geometric shapes; everything pickled (check out the new season of Portlandia for more proof); rough, unfinished wood; eco; feathers...
All natural, vegan soap
Elsewhere, the POP vs. Jock Basketball game paired members of Arcade Fire and The Strokes with other celebrities like Martin Starr (Freaks & Geeks, Party Down) and pro basketball player Luke Bonner against members of the McGill Redman and Concordia Stingers. Kid Koala, Régine Chassagne spun during the game and the halftime show featured David Byrne & Moment Factory.
photo by Richmond Lam
David Byrne had a busy day. That evening, we popped in the Ukranian Federation building to hear him talk about “How Music Works” with Arcarde Fire’s Win Butler
photo by Richmond Lam
The building was filled to the rafters with eager music-lovers, listening to the two banter about the style and substance of musical performances.
Later on, we watched critically-acclaimed Southern rapper BIG K.R.I.T. perform tracks off of his latest, Live from the Underground. While his fan base came out strong to see him, the real party seemed to be happening a few doors down at the less internationally-famous, but more locally-appreciated Radio Radio show.
Radio Radio is a hip hop trio that raps in Chiac—a pidgeon language only spoken in the maritime provinces of Eastern Canada; a hybrid of Acadian French and English. They incorporate elements of blues, electro, and country in their sound.
Although very few people in that audience could understand a word that these guys were saying, the crowd was loving it. Radio Radio’s onstage enthusiasm is infectious
photo by Stacy Lee
On the recommendation of a friend, we checked out Mozart’s Sister who was playing in the basement of a nearby church. It’s just this type of surprise that one hopes to stumble upon at festivals like this.
Mozart’s Sister is the electro-pop solo project of Caila Thompson-Hannant (of the Canadian Indie band Shapes and Sizes). She has the confident style of Lykke Li and a sound reminiscent to Purity Ring and Grimes.
photo by Richmond Lam
Although this was my first encounter with her music, it was clear that many locals were already familiar. In the crowd I recognized journalists, record label reps, and a few members of Arcade Fire, who had come to see her show. Arcade Fire is like the patriarch of the local music scene here—a visit from them can never be a bad thing.
After, we made our way to La Banquise for late-night poutine. La Banquise is the place to get poutine in Montreal—it has been around since 1968 and is open 24-hours a day. They serve 28 different kinds of poutine and even have a vegetarian option, which I can appreciate.
When we arrived, we saw a just-married couple, still in their wedding attire, photographer and wedding party in tow, waiting in line for poutine. That’s how deep the love is here.
After a long day of exploring, I have to admit, it tasted pretty good—fatty, salty, savory. I may not be forgoing my late night nachos for poutine any time soon, but Montrealers are definitely on to something.