Friday, October 6th, 2006
Pop Goes The World – Day 1
Greeting from lovely Montreal. Or so I’ve been told – haven’t actually seen much of the city as of yet, just the train station, back of a cab, my hotel, the music building at McGill and a handful of clubs on St-Laurent. Almost immediately after arriving yesterday, I headed to the Future Of Music Summit at the aforementioned McGill building to check out (though not participate in) a panel on blogging featuring Matthew Fluxblog and Carl Wilson. Interesting discussion and gave me a bit of an idea of how my panel this morning might go. I expect it will mostly be people asking Ryan from Pitchfork lots of questions and ignoring me, which suits me fine.
But to the shows (as in Pop Montreal, which is why I’m here – that and the poutine):
The Soft Disaster @ Casa Del Popolo – This Ottawa four-piece got the festival off to a very good start for me. I found their songs compact and intense, while simultaneously expansive and delicate. There was something inherently wintery about their brand of indie rock, spare and glistening like the newfallen snow. It’s a little hard to explain what captured my attention about their set, but it definitely did. I picked up a copy of their album Roughs/Stalls and am hoping that when I get a chance to listen to it, it will remind me of what it was.
Snailhouse @ La Sala Rossa – This Montreal two-piece is the long-running project of Michael Feuerstack and play meditative, introspective singer-songwriter-ish pop with lots of words but not a lot of choruses. Feuerstack played guitar and sang while his compatriot moved between bass and keyboards, adding bits of ambience and rhythm to the proceedings. Overall a bit slowish for my tastes at the time but certainly with merit. And as I’d find out shortly, capable of rocking out as well.
Portastatic @ La Sala Rossa – Mac McCaughan could easily rest on his laurels, his legacy with Superchunk and Merge having guaranteed his place in whatever hall of fame there is for indie rock, but he’s still cranking out great records as Portastatic. Starting out playing solo and acoustic, his set covered the last three Portastatic records including the Hot Chip cover off his recent digital-only EP. He then brought out Snailhouse as his rhythm section and went electric and ripped it up, reminding that as much as festivals like these are generally about the up-and-coming kids, sometimes the veterans can still teach a thing or two. Great stuff. Mac reviewed his own show on the Portastatic blog.
Tokyo Police Club @ La Sala Rossa – Wasn’t especially enthused about seeing these guys again, but I was there and the crowd seemed to be buzzing with some excitement for their set so why not? Turns out that was a wise move, as they put on a very tight and solid performance, easily the best of theirs I’ve seen yet. It’s remarkable how much better they’ve gotten as a live act just over the past few months, now striking a good balance between putting on a good and entertaning show without compromising the actual performance aspect. They still do that screamy/shouty vocal thing a little more than I’d like, but the songcraft is definitely improving. They’re growing into the hype and that’s commendable.
Basia Bulat @ L’Escogriffe – Matthew from I Heart Music convinced me to check out Basia Balut instead of sticking around La Salla Rosa for The Hot Springs and I’m glad he did. Not because The Hot Springs would have been bad – I’ve no idea – but Bulat was quite good. Playing in a cozy (read: tiny) little club, Bulat impressed with her fundamentally folky songs but dressed up with soul, jazz and country influences and accented terrifically with strings and percussion and her own delicious vibrato. Though hailing from London, Ontario, Bulat spent the Summer in Montreal recording her debut full length and the judging from the warm response she got from the audience, she won them over quite handily. Mark me down as quite interested to hear how her recorded output turns out, whenever it’s ready.
Photos will be forthcoming whenever I get a chance to take a minute and process them.
Other bits – Zoilus reports back on his first two days at Pop Montreal, including his first Joanna Newsom show. BlogTO also recaps nights one and two and finally Prefix is in town checking things out and has a report on Wednesday’s festivities.