The fall concert schedule in Montreal is always dense, as many artists hit the road in advance of the holidays and hibernation, and this year is no exception. Rufus Wainwright, Bob Dylan, Wiz Khalifa, Journey, Metric, Justin Bieber, Smashing Pumpkins and even Barbra Streisand are among the many who will take to stages across Montreal in coming months…
We’ve singled out several for your attention in our annual Fall Music Guide, which will also highlight a number of the city’s most interesting autumn music festivals. Cool is, indeed, in the air…
For a city that’s excited about indie music all year ’round, Pop Montreal represents the apex of that enthusiasm, turning Montreal into a citywide candy store not just for the indie rock connoisseur, but for music fans of every peccadillo and persuasion. It’s a place to explore… without having to take out a line of credit or borrow against your home. Or your parents’ home.
There are a phenomenal number of top-quality free events and showcases, like the everyday Art Pop exhibitions, Pop Symposium panels and discussions, Kids Pop in the Park, the Montreal Record Fair, as well as the many, many free concerts by the likes of Stars, Diamond Rings, Dinosaur Bones and more (go here for a complete list of free stuff to do). And for pass holders and ticket buyers, the night sky’s the limit in terms of concert options this year, including performances by the likes of Arthur H, Peaches, Chilly Gonzales, Gotye, Talking Heads’ David Byrne and St. Vincent, Grimes, Zoobombs, Liars and many dozens and dozens more. Pop Montreal runs from September 19-23 at venues across Montreal’s downtown, Plateau and Mile End neighbourhoods.
What began, 13 years ago, as a labour of love for Montreal jazz and avant-jazz musicians – many of whom weren’t feeling very much love at all from the city’s better known music festivals – has evolved into an annual celebration of creative musical expression in the form of the OFF Jazz Festival of Montreal, which this year runs from October 4-14 at an expanded nine venues across downtown. Initiated by a “tightnight group of Montreal jazzmen” who “wished to create an event in their own image”, the event has grown to include several top-calibre national and international invitees every year, all easily accessible through the insistently low ticket prices.
He’s known to his Pittsburgh parents as Cameron Thomaz, but to the rest of the planet as Wiz Khalifa, a 24-year-old hip-hop phenomenon who broke big in 2011 with the release of his third album, Rolling Papers, featuring the triple-platinum hit single Black and Yellow, adopted by his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers as their unofficial anthem and which peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The cherry on top of all that success would be either his two Grammy Award noms – for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance – or his upcoming performance, October 20, at Uniprix Stadium. You decide.
If you have any ’80s hair left to let down, then you’re invited to the Bell Centre on November 5 to bear witness to what will no doubt be the fulfillment of a life’s dream for many a nostalgic FM radio rock fan: the gender-balanced trifecta of Diamond-certified über-dudes Journey (who clearly have no plans to stop believin’ anytime soon), ageless rock goddess Pat Benatar (here accompanied by long-loyal lead guitarist Neil Giraldo, who has played on all of Benatar’s albums) and still-red-leather-pants-wearing, Can-rock mascots for life Loverboy (who, 10-million albums sold later, continue to fall somewhere in the middle of the male/female equation) . The fun – and joking aside, this will be fun – begins at 7 pm.
Because what Montreal was missing was yet another festival, the Société des Arts technologiques (SAT) will play host for the very first time in Montreal to the OohLaLA! Festival. It’s a one-day party that originated in L.A. and celebrates music from France. In Canada. It’s just wacky enough to work. Featuring performances by Tomorrow’s World (the new project from long-serving Versaille electro duo AIR), Housse de Racket, Citizens! and Lescop, OohLaLA!’s stated aim is to “present the best and most interesting talent emerging from France, exposing enthusiastic attendees to breakout performances.” Let your inner Francophile do a little breaking out of its own at the SAT on October 16.
Did you misplace your soul-map and get Lost in Love? Is your emotional gas tank All Out of Love and you find yourself stranded along life’s highway Making Love Out of Nothing At All? Well, have no fear, the ’80s are here! Promising “the most romantic night of your life” – so be careful who you bring – unapologetic Australian hit makers Air Supply will get the sap dripping out of season when they play all their many love songs for one night only at Metropolis on October 25. For the weak-of-knee – and there are likely to be many on this eve – there are 1,000 reserved seats being offered in advance.
Following a campy and captivating free outdoor concert kicking off the Montreal International Jazz Festival this past June, favourite Montreal songwriting son Rufus Wainwright will return to the city of his birth for his first show as a married man (Wainwright recently exchanged vows with long-time partner Jorn Weisbrodt). And while he didn’t tie the knot in a church, he’ll be performing in one when he brings songs from his latest album, 2012’s Out of the Game, to the massive and majestic St-Jean-Baptiste Church on Oct. 26.
In the spirit of pumpkin smashing season, the well-seasoned Smashing Pumpkins roll into the Bell Centre for a pre-Halloween gig on October 28. That the flagship ’90s alt-rock band are less pumpkins than pumpkin – singer, songwriter and serial instigator Billy Corgan is the sole remaining original member – seems not to have deterred the band’s faithful, who’ve been turning out in droves to hear songs from the band’s seventh and latest LP, Oceania. The Great Pumpkin is calling it “an album within an album,” part of a larger 44-song test of his fans’ resolve. Smashing Pumpkins will play the entirety of the 13-track Oceania during the first half of their Bell Centre spectacle, and then rip through the hits over the remainder.
Indefatigable Kansas-born blues/folk rocker Melissa Etheridge has not suffered for lack of acknowledgement – she counts an Oscar and two Grammys in her trophy case – but the latest tribute to her many achievements is of a different space and shape. Etheridge is being honoured by the National Women’s Museum of Art in Washington, DC as part of the “Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power” exhibit organized by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and which recognizes the contributions of some of the most influential women in rock. Those closer to Montreal than DC in that time frame can opt to see Etheridge in person when she plays songs from her latest, 4th Street Feeling, at Théâtre Maisonneuve in Place des Arts on November 6.
Trivia question (who doesn’t love a trivia question?): According to the RIAA, who is the number one best-selling female recording artist in history, and the only woman to make the Top 10 all-time best-selling artists list? Is it Madonna? That Celine Dion guy? Toni Basil? (With all due respect to Mickey, just kidding.) Nope, none of the above. That honour would belong to the incomparable Brooklyn-born Babs, as her many fabulous fans like to call her. Her being, of course, Barbra Streisand. Streisand will make an exceedingly rare Montreal appearance at the Bell Centre on October 17 with some special guests: top-selling pop-jazz instrumentalist Chris Botti, and world-renowned Italian tenor trio Il Volo. Bring your bank card.
Montreal Symphony Orchestra director Kent Nagano once again pops the top on expectations with the intriguingly titled two-day series “Military Marches: Classical or Electronic?” Nagano, in the role of conductor, will attempt to answer – or more likely expand – that question with the assistance of internationally acclaimed Israeli-American classical pianist Yefim Bronfman and much-loved Montreal electronic music maker DJ Champion. On the menu are Haydn’s Military Symphony No. 100, which will open the program, and Beethoven’s Fifth Concerto (which was composed during Napoleon’s bombardment of Vienna). “What better way to push back the limits of a genre than to partner it in the same concert with a work for turntables and orchestra by DJ Champion composed jointly with Maxime McKinley?” asks the orchestra. Find out on November 14 and 15 at the Maison symphonique de Montréal.
If Montreal artists could be said to have their very own embassy, it would be M for Montreal. As unofficial ambassadors for emerging talent in the city, for the past seven years M for Montreal have opened up international doors for many of la belle ville’s best, staging showcases featuring Montreal musicians in places as varied as Paris, Reykjavik and Brighton, as well as all the requisite festivals (Canadian Music Week in Toronto, South by Southwest in Austin, North by Northeast in Toronto and CMJ Music Marathon in New York, among others).
In addition to having their passports stamped abroad, M for Montreal host an ever-more-expansive industry event here in Montreal every November, and this year is no exception. From November 14-17, many carefully juried, and above all proven, Montreal artists will provide the entertainment portion of M for Montreal, which will also feature powerful industry panels, networking sessions, VIP cocktails and dinners and much more. The lineups for the showcases will be announced in October.
Part of being a successful solo artist is harnessing opportunity when it presents itself, and with the world set to expire on December 21, Montreal-based alt-pop songwriter David Usher appears to have grabbed doomsday by the reins with his latest album, Songs from the Last Day on Earth.
“This is really my first album with a central theme,” explains Usher. “It’s premised on a group of friends sharing their last day together and some thoughts on what, in the final reckoning, might stand out as the things that have stayed with them over a lifetime.” So a day at the fair it ain’t, but when it’s released on October 2, it will no doubt find a popular place alongside the four-time Juno Award hoarder’s eight other solo albums. How one stays motivated with the end verging on nigh is anybody’s guess, but for his part Usher will be touring Songs from the Last Day on Earth with a Montreal stop at Club Soda on Nov. 15.
On September 11, folk-rock legend Bob Dylan reached yet another milestone, along a career path scattered with the dang things, with the launch of his 35th studio album, Tempest, the release of which coincides with the 50th anniversary of Dylan’s self-titled, 1962 debut record. Dylan and band will take the ten-song Tempest on a North American tour this fall with a very special guest: Dire Straits main man Mark Knopfler. The tour stops in Montreal, at the Bell Centre, on November 16.
Montreal just can’t seem to get enough of Toronto indie rockers Metric, who from humble but memorable beginnings gigging at small venues like Sala Rossa have now made the big leap to arenas, playing Montreal’s Bell Centre on November 21 in support of their latest full-length, Synthetica. And this only four short months after playing the main stage at Montreal’s massive (and sold out) Osheaga Festival. Joining Metric at the Bell Centre is Montreal/Toronto orchestral indie-pop outfit Stars, an outstandingly rational choice for accompaniment, and the musical yin to Metric’s yang (or perhaps the other way around, depending on which way the wind is blowing that day). Stars are pushing an even newer album, The North, released just last week and their sixth studio album in just over a decade.
And finally, Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen play the Bell Centre on November 26. Tickets were, of course, sold out within seconds of being on sale, but if you’re of the Biebs/Call Me Maybe demographic, you’ve already got yours or have been diligently saving money for your friendly neigbourhood scalper.