Culture & Conversation

Pop went the surprises

Diana Pop montreal

I am worn-out. After five days of late nights, blasting speakers and a whole lot of hustle and bustle, this grandma needs to hit the hay. My predictions made pre-fest, of losing my sense of propriety within the long list of bands, came unsurprisingly true. I suffered nearly every night from the dreaded FOMO syndrome (“Fear Of Missing Out”) and found myself drained by Friday. However, if Pop Montréal’s objective is to expose viewers to never-before-heard bands, then they did their job this year. I was fortunate enough to catch some lovely surprises on my pinball experience at the fest, in those moments when I finally let go, didn’t plan, and allowed the music keep me in one place for a spell.

Diana is a spectacular new arrival on the Canadian music scene. Their Wednesday evening set at Sala Rossa nearly blew the roof off (not to mention my clothes, hubba hubba). Lead singer Carmen Elle is a magnetic force on stage. I found it difficult to peel my eyes off her vivacious swagger, her energy and engagement gripping the room. Their sound fits somewhere between Hall and Oates and Austra. Researching this band at home revealed that their newest record, “Perpetual Surrender,” is in fact their debut. Shocked mostly by the cohesive and dynamic stage presence of such a young band, I am very excited to see where this group goes in the future.

On the same evening I managed to see another phenomenal live show at O Patro Vys, where the BCASA performed with their shirts off. This band sings about Mortal Combat and Batman while driving the crowd into a sweat-frenzy, giving us as an audience the freedom to lose ourselves in their insane energy.

Another surprise came when a friend took me by the collar and steered me towards the Cabaret du Mile End on Friday. There I had the immense pleasure of seeing Bernie Worrell and Fred Wesley. Legends in their own right, these men played old school funk to swooning fans. I don’t think it is possible to have a flashback to an era one never experienced, but this will certainly be the closest I get. Worrell’s band dressed for the job, with spectacular sideburns and bell-bottoms.

At the top of my new discoveries this year would have to be Thus: Owls. Amidst a very well dressed crowd, atop the Ubisoft roof (an epically gorgeous place for a concert, by the by), this Swedish-Canadian band played through the sunset and into the night. Formed by Erika and Simon Angell, Thus:Owls is a thrilling combination of voices and influences. Part Bjork, part Stevie Nicks, part Table of Elements; Thus:Owls gave an incredibly dynamic performance, dipping into intimate and lyrical moments, and then soaring into chaos and crescendo. The show gave me shivers in the Montréal sunset.

Of course I saw a great deal more during Pop. Artists I had treasured long before this weekend. Thursday I saw the incredible Charlotte Cornfield light up Il Motore, accompanied by Leif Vollebekk on guitar. I saw Vollebekk again during his gorgeous set at the Ukrainian Federation, filling the enormous space with his sweet and soulful croon. Walking homeward on Friday afternoon, I stumbled upon Michael Feuerstack playing a gorgeously crushing set at Divan Orange, with songs that make me weepy no matter how many times I hear them. Saturday I saw a late night set by the inimitable Akua, casting her magic waves over the audience. All these artists I have seen many times in the past and will continue to see in the future. I happily have some new additions to that list.

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