POP Montreal: deuxième partie
Over the last few years POP Montreal has expanded its programme beyond performance to include various other strands of interest: music workshops and discussions, film screenings (Film POP), art (Art POP, natch) and even Kids POP, child-friendly events for 'little punks and funkmasters'. Puces POP is the craft and retail aspect, doing for local designers, artists, vintage clothing suppliers and DIY-ers what the music festival hopes to do for local musicians.
A well-attended two day record fair in the basement of the Ukranian Federation proves a fun way to kill an hour or so, with a mix of the usual second-hand sellers sitting alongside representatives from Montreal labels like Sublime Frequencies and Fixture Records with their catalogues of Canadian artists. As with most big cities with a younger demographic, there's still a demand for the old black plastic and most of the stalls concentrate on vinyl and music memorabilia rather than boring CDs.
The emphasis is also on finding music to play rather than sit on the shelf as trophies, with a good selection of recent heavyweight vinyl pressings providing a good workout for the flicking fingers, while other dealers offer their wares priced to sell: the stall offering all their albums for $2 seemed to be doing pretty well, with Montrealians keen on world musics especially - if what was being carried under arms was any indication. Not wanting to wrestle much back through customs, the wallet stayed mostly in the pocket, but who'd've thought you would need to go to Canada to find a test pressing (proof sleeve!) by 80s/90s indie pop moppets Birdland? Even away from the festival, the city is well served by record stores with outlets like Cheap Thrills, Aux 33 Tours and Atom Heart justifying a visit even out-of-season.
Yet more distraction away from the main event was the inaugural Pop vs. Jocks basketball game at the McGill Sports Centre in aid of the charity DJ Sports Club that works with local kids. The Pop team featured both Win and Will Butler from Arcade Fire and special guests like Vampire Weekend's Chris Tomson and NBA star Matt Bonner squaring up against some of the finest young talent from the university. The fun atmosphere was helped along by Régine Chassagne on the sports hall organ and Kid Koala was back spinning some beats. The surprisingly close game went right down to the wire, with the Pop team running out winners by just a few points. The freaks and the geeks left the auditorium with a notable bounce in their step.
The Ubisoft building is normally the home to the programming wizards behind the Assassin's Creed and Splinter Cell series of console games, but its smart rooftop space welcomed a couple of acts for a special POP Montreal performance. Before getting there we stop off for a bagel and discover there's some kind of odd rivalry between the main city bakeries: you're either a St-Viateur or a Fairmount kinda guy and you imagine occasional fights might break out between supporters of the respective outlets. We actually sampled both and, sweeter than traditional bagels, there's no outright winner. Fairmount bake 10,000 dozen bagels every day, seven days a week. This is a city fuelled by boiled, then baked, bread products.
Peter Peter are a three-piece, Francophone project, from Quebec City. The programme describes them as 'Eliott Smith minus the self-pity' which is unfair on everyone involved, but they have an intensity that takes their semi-acoustic repertoire almost into screamo territory. The appetite for 'foreign language' music is virtually nil in the English-speaking world (unless it's identifyingly exotic) so it's hard to see the likes of PP ever crossing over to any degree but if you fancy impressing your mates with your broad tastes, they're worth a listen. Random Recipe are a different kettle of fish, throwing jazzy, electro beats behind some powerful female vocals and MCing that brings to mind no-one in particular. This is a good thing, obviously. They have a good-natured vibe that's met with an extremely positive reception. Try 'Shipwreck' for a quick taster. The sun begins to set part-way through their set, and they end in near darkness, the lights of Montreal their backdrop.
Back on terra firma, Cabaret Du Mile-End is just ten minutes walk from the Ubisoft building. Every city has to have its own Interpol and Citizenship may be Montreal's. The three piece do attempt to differentiate themselves however, largely due to some smart guitar-effect wranglings that leave the power chords at the door. The bassist/vocalist is one of those wiry types who you imagine has spent a few years treading the boards round the local scene without ever having been able to give up the dayjob, but that's never been a crime.
This was the first time in Montreal for New York's The Vandelles, and their beachbuggy bubblegum pop takes on a much, much harder edge up close 'n' personal. We take a shine to the maraca-wielding drum powerhouse that is Suzanne Pagliorola and just generally to their ability to make something kinda old sound shiny, new and quite giddy. No matter that Glasvegas have disappeared up a colon of their own self-importance, The Vandelles have some candy talking for sure.
Yuck are one of a handful of UK acts on the programme and there's a definite buzz of interest among the crowd by the time they come on stage. The comparisons to Dinosaur Jnr. are inevitable although you can hear bits of early Teenage Fanclub or even The Boo Radleys in some of their gentler material. They're mostly quiet or self-deprecating between tracks (it's the English way!) and happy, it seems, to just go about their business. Their challenge will be maintain the solid start they've had with this year's debut album.
Out once more into the Montreal night. Hey, she likes to party! But for us, time for bed.
Next time: party in the park.
Photos courtesy POP Montreal.