Monday, October 9th, 2006
Pop Goes The World – Day 4
Though there was still Pop Montreal programming on the Sunday night – albeit a limited schedule – it seemed most other punters I knew headed home after Saturday night. My initial plans had involved The Constantines’ free show at Main Hall but I ended up staying at Casa Del Popolo the whole night, even though headliner Carolyn Mark had to cancel for reasons unknown. What ended up transpiring was as follows:
Relief Maps @ Casa Del Popolo – Hearing of the cancellation, Matthew from I Heart Music seized the opportunity and got this band from Ottawa on the bill and in a car en route to Montreal and arrived just in time to open up the evening. Though the odds were somewhat against them – the 11th hour notice, the fact that they were loaded down with Thanksgiving turducken and fighting off the effects of tryptophan and that their new bassist had rehearsed with them for the grand total of two hours, they still pulled off a respectable, compact set. Their sound is raw but promising, and if they figure out how to best balance out their singer’s smooth vocals with the band’s spiky post-punkish attack they could well be onto something. But in the meantime, an act to keep an eye on and more evidence (along with the evening’s defacto headliners) that something’s brewing in the nation’s capital.
Schooner @ Casa Del Popolo – In town all the way from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Schooner piqued my interest last week as I did a casual cruise of the unknown acts playing Pop Montreal. Blending sweet boy-girl vocals, some ’50s doo-wop and ’60s baroque pop influences (not heavy, but there) with the college rock skronk of their hometown in the ’90s and some timeless power-pop hookery, the five-piece didn’t disappoint on the promise of the brief samples I listened to while hastily filling out my schedule. Which is to say that they were quite good and I was pleased to see that by the time they took the stage, a decent crowd had filled out the club – it would have been a shame if they came all this way and played to just myself and the bar staff.
The Acorn @ Casa Del Popolo – People have been telling me for a while now I should listen to The Acorn. Well I finally got a chance to hear The Acorn and damnation, they ARE good. Combining some killer songs with an engaging (if awfully-lit) live show, The Acorn impressed and proved that I should listen to other people more often. Like The Soft Disaster, who I saw on the same stage on Thursday and with whom they share a member, there’s something about The Acron that just sounds like Ottawa. Though more extroverted than their colleagues in The Soft Disaster, they spun out pop songs that were similarly plaintive, open-hearted and epic-sounding under down comforters. It seems somehow fitting that this sound is emanating from our nation’s capital because there’s something quintissentially Canadian-sounding about it all, but without being cliched, Take that, Tragically Hip.
Prefix and BlogTO wrap up their Pop Montreal coverage with a fine Saturday night in Beirut (though I will maintain that I still saw the better show that night). And that was my Pop Montreal. You may note that I didn’t take in and ungodly amount of shows – fact is, I needed to take this trip to decompress from a breakneck past five weeks and simply didn’t have the energy or motivation to club hop. The fact that the venues were more spread out (at least from where I was) than I’d originally expected also helped put the kabosh on heavy-duty showgoing. But what I did see was generally quite good and I’ve enjoyed reading the reports on stuff that I missed from other attendees. While it wasn’t a patch on the insanity of SxSW, my only other real frame of reference for festivals, it still offered a very good batting average for quality acts – not something that bigger and more scattershot fests like NxNE and CMW can necessarily say. The Future Of Music summit was also quite enjoyable and educational, both as an audience member and participant.
I didn’t do much sightseeing either – a little trekking around the Plateau on Saturday and down to Old Montreal and Downtown on an unseasonably warm and sunny Sunday afternoon were about the extent of it. I’m sure this city has far more to offer and I certainly hope it won’t be another 30 years before I come back. But I’m pretty happy with how the past week has gone and am also happy to be heading home.
But to debunk one of the more popular assertions made by Montrealers who move to Toronto… St Hubert’s is, in no way shape or form, better than Swiss Chalet. QED.