September 26, 2012


Having never been to Montreal, Jux contributor Elise Hennigan is on a mission to both experience the city and catch good shows at this year’s POP Montreal Fest. Continue on for a rundown of her experiences with synth pop, sweaty venues, performance art, late night poutine, and more.


You gotta give props to a city that values its artists, musicians, and filmmakers as much as Montreal does. Recognizing that culture and art make for a healthy society, the Quebec provincial government has bankrolled projects that would otherwise be non-starters (like Cirque du Soliel); art is integrated into residents’ everyday lives here.


The laid-back, joie de vivre lifestyle of Montreal has created a launchpad for creative projects. Your favorite acts that you never knew were Canadian—Arcade Fire, Chromeo, A-Trak, Grimes—have all been nurtured by the scene here in Montreal.


POP Montreal is a showcase of international music and art with a symposium series. The performances are tucked away in venues scattered throughout town—in the basements of churches, wings of art museums, vintage stores, and more traditional dance halls—allowing the visitor to explore the city as they seek out their new favorite band. The goal is both exploration and discovery. Either way, the city charms and the music rocks.




By Elise Hennigan


MONTREAL--Friday evening, on the front steps of the St. Jean Baptise church, hundreds of people huddled together under umbrellas, ducked under the front awning, and peered inside the grand domed building.


Photo by Dominick Mastrangelo (via Brookyln Vegan)


David Byrne and St. Vincent were scheduled to perform promptly at 8—no opening act—and the crowd outside would soon either be turned away from the sold out show or figure out their way in. The lucky ones inside filled out the church pews, side balconies, and space in front of the organ in the far back end of the church.


The performers—Byrne in a head-to-toe white getup, Annie Clark (St. Vincent), clutching an electric guitar in a black mini dress and red lips, played on the church’s stage, where a pastor would otherwise orate. Their 90+ minute set met and then exceeded the promise of the grand venue and the hype surrounding their performance.


Photo by Dominick Mastrangelo (via Brookyln Vegan)



Photo by Dominick Mastrangelo (via Brookyln Vegan)


The duo played the highlights of their newly released collaborative effort, Love This Giant, accompanied by a drummer, keyboardist, and an eight-piece brass section. The entire production was funkified by Byrne’s dance moves and St. Vincent’s ragdoll-like stage presence.


Two musicians, each with sizeable respective followings, brought together a unique intersection of fans. We sat behind a 60-something, jet-setting, Canadian couple—Byrne fans, and beside a group of 20-something hipsters, craning their neck to see St. Vincent’s guitar solos over the heads of those in front of them.


So as to not disappoint fans on either side of the aisle, each musician also dipped into their individual catalogs. During crowd-favorite Byrne songs, “This Must be the Place” and “Burning Down the House,” on which St. Vincent lent backup vocals, you would be hard-pressed to find an audience member without a smile plastered on his face. Byrne hung back during St. Vincent’s performance of her hits “Cruel” and “Cheerleader,” and she absolutely stunned.






The elephant in the room was that Byrne, of course, is a rock legend. While performing new material with an indie artist 30 years his junior may be a stretch for some stars, Byrne pulled it off with flair and confidence. His presence on stage gave the show a feeling of grandeur (David Byrne!) but he did not, and I think this was purposeful, steal the show.


Rather, the whole performance soared—the big brass sound, Byrne’s honey vocals, St. Vincent’s angelic voice and guitar riffs, the synchronized choreography—it all sat well with the appropriately reverent audience (who, at the request of Byrne, had not watched the whole show through the lens of a cell phone or camera.)


After a double encore, as the crowd filtered through the aisles toward entrance of the church, there was a shared feeling that we had witnessed something special. And then, stepping out under the awning once again—mass instagraming ensued.



Later that night, after an incredible meal at La Salle À Manger on the Plateau, we caught a set by Toronto’s METZ, a post-punk trio recently signed by Sub Pop. (Their debut album comes out in October).


The METZ are chaotically loud—their music is a tornado of garish vocals, earsplitting guitar licks, grunge, and noise. Jarring, perhaps, for the casual listener, but for the crowd present—especially those up front and center—it sat just right.


In a break between songs, lead singer Alex Edkins looked down, concerned, at an audience member, “Dude, you okay? You’re bleeding.”


He was okay, just really excited. And possibly intoxicated. The METZ continued on with the show and Edkins dedicated their next song, “Wasted,” to their devoted fan. Nice to see a band that really cares.


That’s it for Friday . . . tomorrow we will explore the city a bit more, check out Puces POP, and catch Big K.R.I.T. au demain!