Pop Montreal 2011 began two weeks ago tonight, so it is about time I am finally writing my review!
Part of the reason I am so slow in writing my review is that it was very hectic, being out to shows late every night, and working a day job, so I took some time to recover if you will. Okay, and there was procrastination in there too.
This year marked the tenth anniversary of Pop Montreal, what started as a few friends putting on some shows. And it really culminated with the free Arcade Fire show where the free festival shows are held annually (recent years saw Stevie Wonder, Ben Harper, and just this past summer, The B-52s. Somewhere between 80 000 and 100 000 showed up for the Arcade Fire show. Of course many had to watch from surrounding screens, myself included, although I watched Kid Koala from the side of the giant stage. I did not pay too much attention to Karkwa, as I really do not know them, and only watched about 20 minutes of Arcade Fire on the screens, as I took off to see Rebekah Higgs, along with openers Dinah Thorpe and Mussaver at Cagibi.
Presently I am listening to Grass Widow‘s latest album, Past Time. Grass Widow being a great example of a pleasant discovery. I did not know them before the night before the show. They were the final opening band for The Raincoats. And the highlight of that show for me. The Raincoats were good, but I am not too into them, and not to be age-ist, but they are showing their age a bit. I of course do like a lot of aging musicians!
My festival really started off with Charlotte Cornfield, a local indie/folk singer who I knew by name, but had never seen her perform. She played at the Ukranian Federation, a sit-down venue, kind of as it sounds, a theatre, but not a really old one with nice architecture, but instead kind of a dull church feel/meets hall space. Not bad for a mellow show though, although, seeing tUnE-yArDs there was not the best. Charlotte put on a nice set, she was happy to play there, as she said she saw Arcade Fire there a few years earlier at Pop Montreal! Next was Lindi Ortega, a bit more country/bluegrass, although a bit more of a commercial feel (oh, and not at all bad looking!) Not bad though!
After Charlotte and Lindi, I ended up at an industrial loft space, that someone actually lives in! Ah, Pop Montreal! Good spot for the particular show! In this case it seems like it was Charlotte Cornfield who organised it with a few of her favourite bands, including Ben Caplan, and Donlands and Mortimer.
The aforementioned Rebekah Higgs show was very nice, save for the curfew, which had Rebekah only doing a few songs lasting 20 minutes at the most! Dinah Thorpe from Toronto who played prior was very good, and another nice Pop find. As per her MySpace, she is “acoustic / alternative / electro.” Indeed a nice mix, and one song, from her latest album, 12, called “Song for Dolly.” Of course for Dolly Parton. Her album is called 12, as she created a song every month for 12 months, a 12 song cycle as she puts it. Montreal’s own Mussaver opened the show, think Joanna Newsom, however with an accordion!
What I liked about this year’s Pop was how there was no huge acts (aside from Arcade Fire, they have proved themselves musically, but they are more big in the underground circles), for example, last year Macy Gray played Pop Montreal. Although, that was a co-presentation with the big concert promoters here. Many small acts I knew, and many I did not. I saw many I knew, and many I did not, yet I still missed some I knew, and some I did not. For example, I missed Emma-Lee, who I knew somewhat, but had never seen her perform, and I missed Dominique Young Unique, who I read about checking out artists playing Pop. Think Lil Mama meets Nicki Minaj for a not so accurate comparison!
Friday night I saw Kid Sister, it was a club set, so way too short, and she played at least a couple mixtape tracks, which were good, but I did not know too well. After a few songs she disappeared, leaving her DJ to entertain the crowd. She returned with the very crowd pleasing “Right Hand Hi!” I was happy to catch that one live. The club it was at was apparently voted #1 in Montreal in several categories by readers of the free weekly entertainment publication the Mirror. I also vote it well in not starting on time! Kid Sister started well over an hour late (as Pop publishes the set times for benefit of those Pop hopping from show to show). Before she went on I was able to catch about 20 minutes of Ohbijou, and missed Azealia Banks in the process.
Allie Hughes played O Patro Vys Saturday night as the last openers for the all-girl Weezer cover band Sheezer! She is presently working on her debut album. And I say it is one to look forward to, as she has a nice vocal range, hitting some high operatic like notes!
Before seeing Allie Hughes, and catching most of By Divine Right, I saw Laura Marling. I am not a huge fan, but she definitely impressed! Her voice definitely had the audience getting their socks blown off (as opener Alessi’s Ark put it!), despite her mellow folk!
The closing party was nice, with Think About Life playing their last show ever, a very energetic party-like show!
The tUnE-yArDs set was of course nice, especially after having seen Merrill Garbus doing a symposium that afternoon, talking about her influences, that include being obsessed with singing styles from around the world (Korean Pansori for one), and applying them to her music. And looking to the future how she would like to evolve away from the looping pedal.