For the past 11 years, September in Montreal hasn’t just meant the return of students and cooler days – it’s also the much-anticipated time of the Pop Montreal Music Festival, a fest that started small but keeps hitting new highs year after year…
Pop Montreal excels at striking a balance between new bands and classic sounds. This year, we’ll see former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne joined by singer-songwriter St. Vincent on September 21 at Église St-Jean Baptiste – the pair plays songs from their collaborative album Love This Giant, but there’s a good chance we’ll hear songs from each artist’s individual repertoire too.
Super popular Aussie musician Gotye gets the big-stage star treatment along with Brooklyn’s Chairlift as they play what’s sure to be a Pop highlight outdoors at the Old Port on September 21. Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier doesn’t stray too far from her former band’s classic sound, employing her unique vocal twists and turns in an updated way on September 19, while Antibalas is all about afrobeat at Theatre Corona. British singer-songwriter Ben Howard delights on September 23, Chilly Gonzales brings us his Piano Vision on September 22, Montreal fave French crooner and fun-time guy Arthur H returns to town, and Brooklyn’s Grizzly Bear indie-rocks the night away with Unknown Mortal Orchestra on September 23.
On the more experimental, noisier side of all things Pop, Australia’s violin-and-bass-driven post-rock Dirty Three return, with AroarA on September 20; Gang Gang Dance still tread the experimental-noise-rock boards on September 19; loudness reigns as The Devin Townsend Project co-headlines with Swedish metal band Kataonia on September 20; and Montreal’s Tim Hecker gives what’s sure to be another awe-inspiring show in a church, with Julia Holter on September 21.
Plenty of Pop Montreal bands this year fall somewhere between danceable synth-pop and performative art-rock, a combo much loved in Montreal and one that usually makes for an entertaining show. Among them, see the great Grimes, with Elite Gymnastics and Myths on September 20, French-pop-inspired Bertrand Burgalat with Jef Barbara on September 21, energetic and party-making Deerhoof with Buke & Gase on September 19, British multi-instrumentalist Patrick Wolf, and inventive Montreal rising stars Purity Ring with Evian Christ on September 23 and Yamantaka//Sonic Titan’s show Opera 33 on September 21.
Canadian-made music is bigger than ever this year, with several of the aforementioned bands as well as Radio Radio, Austra and Yukon Blonde, who all performed at this summer’s massive Osheaga festival, a party-ready return by Peaches, who puts on a “DJ Extravaganza” on September 20, plus lauded PS I Love You, Alaclair Ensemble, Rich Aucoin, The Sadies with Andre Williams and Cuff The Duke, Sun Araw, Parlovr, Joseph Arthur, The Zoobombs, Canailles and Yacht Club.
Hip hop is in the Pop Montreal mix too with Lil B coming to town to play with Lunice and Cadence Weapon at Club Soda on September 21, Toronto’s K’naan waves old flags and new, and nights get real with Ill Bill, Onyx, Beatnuts, Alkaholiks, Big K.R.I.T., A Tribe Called Red and more.
Live shows are the beating heart of Pop Montreal, but the brains of the operation are close at hand in Art Pop, Film Pop and Pop Symposium events. The biggest Pop Symposium draw is a conversation on “How Music Works” between David Byrne and Arcade Fire’s Win Butler, but fans also won’t want to miss Guy Picciotto of Fugazi in conversation about his work. Art Pop presents an interactive show by Los Angeles performance artists Lucky Dragons at Montreal art hub the PHI Centre, and Film Pop screens documentaries, shorts and experimental films throughout the festival, including a swimming-pool showing of Jerzy Skolimowski’s Deep End and the premier of Andi State’s Sweet Nothing, inspired by the band Suuns.
And there are plenty more bands to show hop among throughout the festival, of course, like Balkan/Romani brass band Fanfare Ciocărlia, R&B legend Jimmy “Bo” Horne, and Diplo collaborator Nicky da B. Pop even gets out of Montreal’s urban core and spends some time in the sun at Parc Jean-Drapeau for a special Piknic Electronik on August 23, featuring dancefloor shakers Catz N’ Dogz, PillowTalk, EZLV, Pierre Babin and J.A.S.S.
Pop Montreal, September 19-23, 2012