Pop Montreal turns 10 in 2011… 10 years of uniting music-lovers from Montreal and beyond, 10 years of breaking new bands before anyone else, 10 years of enriching Montreal’s cultural landscape. To honour Pop’s tenth anniversary, here’s a list of 10 of the best Pop MTL shows of all-time…
The legendary Patti Smith was a shining light of the 2007 Pop Montreal lineup. I remember the frantic rush for tickets and the fever that over took the city that night in anticipation of the musical and cultural icon. Patti Smith played in Montreal’s St. Jean Baptiste church, which lent an atmosphere of reverence to the occasion. The architecture of the church perfectly complemented the mood of her dark, rock and roll poetry. It was an intimate performance where she played old favourites as well as songs from her most recent album, Twelve. Her crowd-pleasing covers included The Beatles’ Within You Without You, a Hendrix cover, Neil Young’s Helpless, Lou Reed’s Perfect Day, Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit and then she recited Ginsberg’s footnote to Howl. If that’s not enough, Patti Smith played two encores. For one, she even ripped the strings off her guitar. A true performer, Patti Smith embodied the raw spirit of Pop Montreal.
Although the show got off to a late start, those who stuck around were rewarded by one of the wildest shows Pop Montreal has seen. Reggae legend Sister Nancy hit the stage around 1am, which happens to be prime Montreal party time, accompanied by Mossman Soundsystem and played her raucous reggae anthems full of authentic energy for an adoring crowd that danced the night away.
On a drizzly and cold night, Joanna Newsom played the Ukrainian Federation which was the perfect venue to house her impish and shy persona. This show happened to coincide with a pivotal moment in Joanna Newsom’s career, as she was on the brink of releasing her seminal album Ys. During the show she played some favourites off of Milk Eyed Mender, the album that launched her into the public sphere. This show would be the first time that audiences heard her the new material that dictated the polyrhythmic style she would later adopt on subsequent albums. But the real treat was when she played Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie for her encore and forgot the words, but the audience didn’t. They lovingly shouted them to her from their seats and with their help she finished the song. David Byrne was also there, which I assume is the mark of a great show.
The great Irma Thomas graced the stage at the Ukrainian Federation for an evening of classic rhythm and soul. Unlike other singers of her time, Irma Thomas has managed to endure the test of time and is still releasing albums and singing songs. During the show she addressed this marvel and attributed it to “having a good man” who makes her feel like “a queen”. He also happened to be there that night. She asked the audience to have some patience and listen to her new stuff before she got down to the old favourites. They graciously accepted her request and fell in love with her all over again. Of course, she sang her hit Time is On My Side and it launched her into the archives of the best Pop Montreal shows of all time.
The night that Lee Fields & The Expressions played at Sala Rossa they basically converted the entire crowd to their church of soul. “Junior JB” charmed and thrilled the crowd with a showmanship that few had seen before and the band, as tight an ensemble as Pop has ever hosted, almost brought down the roof at Sala. About 20 different times.
Before The Persuasions played Pop, they announced that they were accepting requests. For their set, they sang a generous repertoire of old and new songs alike, including a doo-woopified version of U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, The Grateful Dead’s It Must Have Been the Roses, a Zappa song as well as classics like Duke of Earl and In the Still of the Night. The acappella crooners were in top notch form, but it was the spirited mood and crowd participation that made the night, especially during their rendition of Under the Boardwalk.
Socalled, one of Montreal’s brightest lights (aka Josh Dolgin) performed with Fred Wesley who is a jazz and funk trombonist best known for his work with James Brown and the Count Basie Orchestra. During the songs they collaborated on you could sense the sheer joy they had on stage together. Josh Dolgin’s diverse musical talents were the perfect complement to Wesley’s melodies. They jammed the night away for an eager crowd who were grateful to witness one of Pop Montreal’s greatest collaborations.
After a 13-year hiatus, Swans played Pop Montreal with a performance that was the stuff of legend. It began with a taped drone at a dizzying volume. And they hadn’t even started playing yet. Swans raged through their two hour set, packing punches and playing the way they always do, with a relentless awe-inspiring power.
When crooner Burt Bacharach was confirmed as a Pop Montreal performer, people were slightly incredulous but mostly bewildered and excited. What lent the show its charm was how he incorporated new musicians like Julie Doiron, Owen Pallet of Final Fantasy and Katie Moore among others. His set was over two hours long bookended by a beautiful rendition of What the World Needs Now. For his encore he played Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head and managed to transcend generations and unite cotton tops and kids for one stellar show.
The smooth soul singer most famous for his collaboration with The Roots on the song The Seed 2.0 charmed Pop Montrealers in 2007. That night the Florida-born soul singer stole the hearts of many and wore a regal red robe with gold trim. He played guitar and sang soulfully while inviting the eager audience to participate in his show. His show was filled with tracks off the album he was working on, The Live Release, giving fans a taste of his new songs. Always a giver, he stayed after the show and talked with fans. Reportedly some people even got hugs from the man himself so it’s no surprise that his was voted one of the best shows of the festival.