When it comes to concert craziness, it seems that each subsequent year outdoes its predecessor, and 2011 was no exception. Record attendance was reported at Montreal’s major music festivals and the number of club and larger venue music events hit an all-time high. Clearly, the appetite for music entertainment in Montreal continues to be one that’s not easily satisfied. Hungry music gourmandizers, therefore, will want to take note that Prince, The Wailers, Jay-Z & Kanye, Feist, Judas Priest, Bon Iver, the New York Philharmonic and many more represent the best of what’s left in 2011…
November 4-5: It’s always a big deal when the oldest symphony in North America – one of the proverbial “Big Five” – takes over town, and it’s certainly no exception this time around when the New York Philharmonic – helmed by music director and conductor Alan Gilbert – fills Montreal’s brand-spankin’ new Maison Symphonique concert hall for two days running. There will be a pre-concert discussion at 7 pm for ticket holders.
November 6: Chicago indie rock veterans The Sea and Cake – who claim more than a 1,000 shows played over their 20-year career, and who are fresh off a co-headlining tour with Toronto indie institution Broken Social Scene – will headline at La Sala Rossa, playing tunes from their recently-released, experimentally inclined The Moonlight Butterfly full-length. Also on the bill is Brokeback, the side project of Tortoise bassist Doug McCombs.
November 9-11: Heavy-duty church tunes are on tap when conductor and director Kent Nagano’s Montreal Symphony Orchestra tackles one of the best-known sacred oratorios going, Bach’s St-John Passion (which chronicles the suffering of Christ in the hours leading up to his crucifixion) over three nights at the Maison Symphonique de Montréal.
November 10: They broke up nearly 25 years ago, but iconic Austin, Texas noise punks Scratch Acid have decided to indulge themselves with what will likely be a one-off reunion tour – playing tracks from their, only, three albums – of North America. Scratch Acid play with Montreal stoner metal outfit USA Out of Vietnam at Il Motore.
November 12: Immensely popular, left-field rock’n’roll wolfman Jean Leloup (also known by his birth name John Leclerc) unveils the latest transformation of himself when Jean Leloup and The Last Assassins play selections from the recently-released Last Assassins full-length at Metropolis as part of the ongoing Electric Voodoo Night tour.
November 15: It’ll be bad dancing for as far as the eye can see when L.A.-based electro-pop party rockers LMFAO get goofy in the Bell Centre courtesy of lead DJs Skyblu and Redfoo (who is apparently SkyBlu’s uncle) as well as the expected collection of dancers, rappers, producers and box-headed whatevers that are a staple of the band’s circus-like live performances. Fans will want to keep an ear out for new songs from their forthcoming third album, due in early 2012.
November 18: The ghost of Bob Marley will (hopefully) smile on Montreal when his long-touring band mates The Wailers – a reggae institution since their Kingston, Jamaica formation more than 30 years ago – make one of their semi-regular tour stops in town at the beautifully restored Corona Theatre… Also today, loveable local indie-pop weirdos Hollerado, who never made a video they didn’t put one hundred percent hilarious effort into (check out their latest, for the song Good Day at the Races, which features the boys racing each other… while saddled up to ostriches). Also on the bill are fellow local indie-rock favourites Parlovr and Uncle Bad Touch (featuring Priestess frontman Mikey Heppner) at Sala Rossa.
November 19: French dream-pop band M83 have, perhaps unsurprisingly, just released a double album – their sixth in only ten years since forming – that is entirely about dreaming and is titled, well, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. Far from being the nightmare one might expect, the album has received almost unanimously rave reviews – hear for yourself when the foursome play the SAT with Active Child.
November 22: It was on, and then it was cancelled, and now it’s game on again. One of the most-anticipated concerts of the year will unroll in Montreal when hip-hop superstars Jay-Z and Kanye West tag-team the Bell Centre.
November 23: It’s been 14 years and four albums since DJ/producer James DiSalvio quenched a certain thirst for R&B- and electronica-coloured pop rock by famously Drinking in L.A. Still supporting last year’s concept-style album The Garden, the sprawling DiSalvio-led collective Bran Van 3000 will almost assuredly start a party at the Corona Theatre…. And Montreal metal fans – of which there are many – must have been good this year, because they’re getting an early Christmas gift in the form of an appearance by the group that Rolling Stone called “the greatest metal band of their generation.” Remarkable mainstream crossovers Mastodon – their last studio album, Crack the Skye, debuted at number 11 on the Billboard 200 – play with Dillinger Escape Plan and Red Fang at Metropolis.
November 24: And speaking of worshipping metal, old-school metallists will have another thing comin’ when pioneering British steel rockers Judas Priest – who’ve been banging heads for a nearly unbelievable 42 years – pitch an altar in the Bell Centre with Black Label Society and reunited ’70s contemporaries Thin Lizzy.
November 26: One of the hardest-touring, easiest-listening indie pop bands in the country, Newfoundland’s Hey Rosetta!, have been steadily stepping up their game, and make the leap to one of Montreal’s larger venues, the 650-capacity Corona Theatre, in support of their 2011-released third album, Seeds. And if you miss ’em this time around, no worries – chances are they’ll be back next week.
November 29: James Blunt at the Bell Centre. That’s probably all that need be said about that… The same evening, up the street and around the bend, Saskatoon boogie-blues rockers The Sheepdogs – whose principle claim to fame thus far is beating out 15 American bands to win Rolling Stone’s “Choose the Cover” competition this year, appearing on the cover of the magazine last August 18 – will throw down at Cabaret du Mile End.
December 2: Many would argue that the highlight of the recent 2011 Montreal Jazz Fest were the two surprise, back-to-back concerts by multi-platinum recording artist Prince, last-minute bookings that saw lucky concertgoers at the 2,500-capacity Metropolis treated to generous, approximately four-hour sets by his royal purpleness. Well, those who missed out last June can take solace: Prince returns to Montreal, this time to the Bell Centre, as part of his just-announced, 11-date Welcome 2 Canada cross-country tour… And two of the most talked-up indie rock bands in Canada – the Polaris Music Prize-nominated Austra, out of Toronto, and the similarly-nominated Young Galaxy from Montreal – pull together for an evening of heady instrumentation at Cabaret du Mile End.
December 3: Being a little late to the game seems not to have hurt Calgary’s Feist in even remote ways, as the much-adored singer/songwriter (who first showed up on the radar of the public at large at age 28 with her 2004 sophomore release Let It Die) plays songs from her fifth and latest album, Metals, at Metropolis… Similarly tempting will be spookily alluring, Toronto indie-folk enigma Timber Timbre, who will play songs from his very well-reviewed 2011 release Creep On Creepin’ On at the striking, old-world-ish St-Jean Baptiste Church, which has previously hosted shows by the likes of Patti Smith and The Cocteau Twins.
December 5: Bon Iver – or “bon hiver,” the French expression for “have a good winter” from which the über-popular Wisconsin indie band derives its name – indeed. The fab folksy four are touring only their second studio album ever, the chart-topping self-titled Bon Iver, and will perform alongside British folk/soul singer Lianne La Havas at Metropolis.
December 9: Nobody’s more surprised than long-time fans – other than, perhaps, the band itself – that introspective and awesome Brooklyn, New York indie rockers The National, who wowed again last year with their breakout fifth album High Violet, are playing Montreal’s second-largest indoor venue, the Bell Centre. Whoda thunk? Opening is Tacoma, Washington alt-country singer, songwriter and heartbreaker Neko Case, and Baltimore indie-folk duo Wye Oak.
December 10: In the run up to the release of next year’s Black On Blonde, what will be the fifth studio album from long-serving (18 years and counting) Toronto MC/producer k-os, the indefatigable rapper hits the road concurrent to the release of the MuchMusic Presents k-os LIVE DVD and CD. The Dirty Mags will warm up the stage at Club Soda.
December 15: What better way to get in the spirit of Christmas than by moshing your face off to the maybe not-so-seasonal tunes of Christian metalcore outfit The Devil Wears Prada, who have wasted no time spreading the word, putting out four albums in the last five years, including September’s Dead Throne, which they will bring to Metropolis in the company of White Chapel, For Today and Enter Shikari.
December 17: The ever-upward St-Vincent – a.k.a. multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter Annie Erin Clarke – has come a long way since her days backing The Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens, making a name for herself (or St-Vincent, rather) as a top-shelf maker of music that ranges, for now, from baroque pop to chamber rock to experimental indie to whatever is her heart’s content on any particular day. Things will get interesting at the Corona Theatre… And the 2010 Polaris Music Prize-winning Karkwa – oft-described as Quebec’s answer to Radiohead – play a final 2011 thank you show for fans at L’Astral, marking what has been a career-making year for the much-loved and much-deserving Montreal five-piece.
Guest blogger Jamie O’Meara is a Montreal editor and journalist who covers arts, culture and music. Formerly the editor in chief of Hour Magazine, he is now an editor at Roverarts.com.
Prince Photo: Victor Diaz Lamich