Friday, October 5th, 2007
Pop Montreal 2007 II
I think there’s some sort of rule that you can’t review your own show, so I’m not going to. Instead, I’m going to start by reviewing someone elses.
Norway’s Harmonica’s evening showcase has been a moving target on the Pop Montreal schedule, changing both venues (the Green Room/Le Gymnase fiasco I’ll get into further on) and set times (7PM! 8PM! 8:30PM! 12:30AM!) over the past week that made it look increasingly like I was going to be able to make it. Happily, they had a second show scheduled for Thursday afternoon in Le Divan Orange. Unhappily, it ran half an hour late as keyboardist Ingeborg Selnes was caught in traffic but when they took the stage, all was forgiven. Harmonica make pop music about boys and girls and kissing and dancing and with their glittery New Wave aesthetic it’d be tempting to dismiss them as simple and silly if not for the fact that their songs are unbelievably and irresistibly hooky. With killer melodies and three-part girl group harmonies, Harmonica made Thursday afternoon feel like Friday night and delivered on their threat threat to be your new favourite band.
And then it was time for my show, or at least time to meet the bands at the venue for load-in and soundcheck and I was immensely relieved that everyone got there safe and sound if exhausted. Before getting into the evening itself, I have to say that for my first foray into show promotion, I probably could have chosen a better scenario than to do it in another city where I don’t really know anyone, during a festival where there’s so much going on (read: competition) and with a lineup of artists that I think are terrific but who may not register a whole lot in the greater consciousness. And on top of that, the 11th hour venue change was a curveball that we certainly didn’t need.
To accommodate those who hadn’t heard about the change – and there were a good number – we delayed the start time for 45 minutes to allow them to get to Le Gymnase. While this did pay off in terms of having an audience when the show began, it did throw us off the scheduled set times and potentially causing problems for club hoppers and so if anyone was inconvenienced – and this includes the guy in the white shirt who showed up on time and then sat bored out of his mind at the bar for 45 minutes – I apologize.
Danielle Duval started off, playing to friends and family in her hometown. Some folks had expressed some surprise that I’d included her in my lineup given how stylistically different she was from the other acts and sure, I was far less familiar with her than the others but after hearing her play, I’m really glad I invited her. Her voice is even more impressive in person, like a smooth blend of whiskey and gravel (that’s a good thing), and with some great songs and a crack band, she’s going to do great things and I’ll be able to say she played my show way back when.
Ottawa’s My Dad Vs Yours had the shortest drive to the fest and as such, were the peppiest on the bill. Not necessarily musically, but they were at least awake. They were using the show to debut their new keyboardist/violinist and air out material from their excellent 2006 album After Winter Must Come Spring. As always, I was impressed with how well they made instrumental music engaging without falling back on the whole “quiet loud quiet” dynamic shifts to maintain interest – the get by fine with just terrific melodicism and musicianship. I can’t comment on their newest member’s violin skills because I don’t think she was coming through the PA at all but in theory, at least, strings should add a lot to their sound.
By this point in the night, the deficiencies in the room’s sound – either the fault of the PA or the soundman – were becoming evident and by The Airfields’ set, they were basically the whole story. The Airfields, trying to showcase songs from their brand new Yr So Wonderful EP as well as their first full-length, due out later this Fall, had to deal with feedback in both the house and stage monitors, vocals cutting in and out or horribly unbalanced and myriad other problems that were causing obvious frustration. The songs – what I could hear of them, anyways – sounded good but the vibe of the night was turning sour.
I was so psyched to see The Brother Kite – their Waiting For The Time To Be Right remains one of my favourite records of the last few years – but with the tone of the evening what it was (sound problems, running late, out of beer, sparse crowds), I was a bit too anxious to really enjoy them. Sadly, the sound problems The Airfieds were having didn’t go away even though the Brother Kite had sounded terrific in soundcheck and again, there were issues with the vocals, guitars… yeah. But despite this, what I did hear, whatever the mix was at that moment, sounded sublime. That they pull off the guitar and vocal arrangements of the record live is really something. I was sad they played a shorter than expected set but given the troubles they were having onstage, I understood. If for some reason you’re in Toronto and reading this as I post it at almost 8PM (why?), do consider going to check them out at Tiger Bar tonight with Fjord Rowboat. They’re on at 10 and have copies both of Waiting For The time To Be Right and the brand-new Moonlit RaceEP for sale. Both worth your time and money.
And that was the night. The one that I’ve been stressed out about and going grey(er) over for the past three months plus. On the plus side, I was able to put together a lineup that sounded like a merry romp through my CD collection and that I’m quite proud of. On the down side, attendance wasn’t what I’d have liked if not for the sake of my pocketbook than for the sake of people not hearing these terrific bands. But with the sheer number of big names performing the same night of the fest – even right upstairs from us at the Arts & Crafts showcase – I probably shouldn’t be terribly surprised. But I will chalk it up as an invaluable learning experience (like how I’ve learned that I don’t really have the temperament to be a booking agent) and I’d like to thank all the bands, their managers and labels, and everyone who offered advice and encouragement and came out to the show. Those of you who didn’t come out, you’re dead to me now. No, I kid, but I do love you a little less now. Seriously.
And now I head out to see Patrick Wolf, though he’ll probably be it for me tonight. My body is a symphony of aches and pains right now and staying out later than that probably isn’t going to happen.
But before I sign off, a few concert announcements to note for those of you back in Toronto. Sondre Lerche is at Lee’s Palace on November 22, Ben Lee is at the Mod Club on November 24, Los Campensios! return to town for a December 5 show at Mod and reigning Polaris winner Patrick Watson will be there on December 14. At Mod Club, I mean.