Monday, October 8th, 2007
Pop Montreal 2007 IV
Saturday was my last day in Montreal but the beautiful and unseasonably warm weather decided to take off a day early, leaving things cold, grey and wet in its wake. Most of the day was spent doing not much of consequence though I did pop into the Pop & Policy workshop on dealing with the media (from the artist’s POV) and much as my “The New Influencers” panel at last year’s FMC turned into “Meet Ryan Schreiber”, this one ended up a “Ex-Unicorns vs The Media” grudge match, featuring a prickly Nick Diamonds and J’aime Tambeur, formerly of said band. I don’t know how much the attendees took away from the session (though hopefully it did register that sending 8×10 glossy promo photos to online publications is kind of silly) but it was certainly entertaining.
The evening session began for me at the Ukrainian Federation towards the north end of the Plateau. Ron Sexsmith was the headliner but I was there to see Woodpigeon, a Calgarian outfit who had gotten a fair bit of support from those who know earlier this year during the Polaris nomination discussions. Flying a few members short of a full flock (at least relative to their official lineup), the five-piece band lined up across the community centre stage, two pairs of ladies flanking Mark Hamilton (who looks eerily like my second grade teacher Mr Shaw) and his acoustic guitar. The offered up a set of gentle and lovely spiritual folk music centered around simple guitar work, tasteful piano, percussion, glockenspiel and flute flourishes and some absolutely stunning choral vocals arrangements. – but before you think it sounds a little too Sunday school, consider that they announced one song was about gay pirates and have another dubbed “Death By Ninja”. They’re sugary sweet but with a crunchy centre and are in Toronto November 8 for a show at the Rivoli.
It was a bit of a hike from there back to the main drag on St-Denis, but I got to Le Gymnase in time to catch Amos The Transparent, there to play I Heart Music’s edition of our Bleating Heart Shows. Combining sharp folk-pop songs with lilting boy-girl harmonies and big rock crescendos, the Ottawa outfit were endearing and engaging and impressed me into a purchase of their Everything I’ve Forgotten To Forget album, which is actually a lot broader, musically-speaking, than their show implied. In a good way.
My intention had been to catch Hot Panda at Quai des Brumes but rather than some Edmontoninan fuzz pop, I instead got a
transvestite transgendered lounge singer by name of Mackenzie MacBride. Oh, the joys of unannounced schedule changes. While she cut a pretty convincing figure of a lady, she was unable to move around with anything resembling grace on the heels and her schtick begain wearing thin after a couple songs. I decided it would be in everyone’s best interest if I left then and got some pizza. Which I did. Hot Panda are in Toronto at The Boat on Tuesday night – if I didn’t have other plans, I’d take the gamble of trying to see them and hoping that drag night doesn’t break out again.
Then it was back to Le Gymnase, second floor this time, for some OFFICE action. I noted, with a mix of bitterness and satisfaction, that my showcase on Thursday had drawn more people than this somewhat buzzy Chicago band with major-label backing. But to their credit, the slight crowd didn’t faze them and they served up A Night At The Ritz like they’d sold out the biggest theatre in town. The slightly arch, new wavey pop of the album was served up with a healthy dose of blue-collar rock energy – I enjoyed their set a lot more than the album, and I enjoyed the album pretty well.
And finally, closing out the night and the festival (for me, anyways) was Los Angeles’ Earlimart. The crowd had filled up a bit by the time they took the stage but it was still pretty sparse for an act as veteran as they. Also a bit unfortunate was the fact that I wasn’t even running on fumes by this point – I was simply in the act of falling down very slowly and hadn’t yet hit the ground. But on the way down, I heard things – lovely, classically pop-ish things. Songs that were rocking and gentle, rough and elegant, sweetly voiced by both boy and girl and laden with crickets and radio static. And before everything went dark, it occurred to me that I should listen to my copy of Treble & Tremble.
Okay, that’s not really how it went down but the net result is approximately the same. I wish I’d had been more together, mentally, for Earlimart’s set, but I did leave with a very positive impression. Mentor Tormentor.
Most every media outlet in the country had some sort of presence at Pop this year – rather than round up everything, I’ll point you to full coverage from NOW, Maisonneuve and a couple days from The Montreal Gazette. The Gazette coverage is really thorough but their website is so abysmal, I’m not having much luck finding all of it. If you’re interested, you’re welcome to go digging.
And now I’m back in Toronto, sitting on my couch with my cat napping at my feet. And more importantly, I have no ongoing projects, no upcoming trips (not till SxSW, anyways), no extra-curricular activities, no music/blog-related stressors taking years off my life, for probably the first time this calendar year. I look forward to catching up on some reading, maybe some movies, on listening to some of the mountain of unlistened-to CDs littering my office and a lot of sleeping. In short, it’s time to decompress. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.