POP vs JOCK was the Pop Montreal charity basketball game organized by Win Butler and Dexter John of the DJ Sports Club. On Team Pop you had Arcade Fire‘s Win and Will Butler, Chris Tomson of Vampire Weekend, Miracle Fortress‘s Graham Van Pelt and current and former NBA players Matt Bonner and Paul Shirley, while Team Jock was stacked with members of the McGill Redman and Concordia Stingers. Add in Régine Chassagne on the organ and halftime entertainment by Kid Koala and Richard Reed Parry and it seems likely that Win will get his wish to make it an annual event…
Dexter John, whose DJ Sports Club is a non-profit charity organization that offers sports and education programs to kids and teens, runs several basketball leagues in Little Burgundy that the Butler brothers regularly play in. Win Butler takes his ball seriously: he plays in a weekly pickup game near my house (usually rocking a Pistol Pete Maravich LSU jersey) so regularly that I noticed when he wasn’t there one week. A couple hours later I realized that it was because Arcade Fire was playing Saturday Night Live that night.
But it was evident that fun was a large part of Team Pop’s gameplan when one of their coaches, Ryan Leir (an ex-college ball player turned yogi who recently toured with the band and looks like a member of ZZ Top), lead the group in some pre-game yoga and broke the huddle with a “1-2-3-Namaste”. Perhaps there was something to this centered-mind-and-body approach, as Team Pop ended up beating Team Jock 106-100. Though, for the sake of accuracy, their name should really have been “Team Pop and several professional ballers”.
Team Pop was filled out by Dexter John, Tyler Messick and Pop Montreal’s Dan Seligman and got strong performances from Shirley (having played in the NBA and all), Vampire Weekend‘s Chris Tomson and Miracle Fortress‘ Graham Van Pelt, who came through on an earlier Twitter promise to bring “scrappiness” and a “blue-collar ethic”.But alongside Bonner, a member of the San Antonio Spurs, it was Win that dominated much of the action, on and off the court. He feigned outrage at the refs, snuck onto the court illegally, tried to distract players shooting free throws, lead the crowd in a “We Will Rock You” chant and generally seemed to be having a blast. He certainly smiled more than he usually does.
Win and brother Will also connected on a bunch of plays, including a sweet no-look pass and score, and at halftime the two brothers, along with Régine on the organ, performed a pretty hilarious Butler Brothers “Christmas Melody”.
At halftime, AF bassist Richard Reed Perry debuted Drones/Revelations, a “site specific 20 minute multichannel composition for voice, woodwind, strings and synthesizer”. What this meant was that a bunch of light-and-stereo-mounted cyclists and rollerskaters circled the court broadcasting an atmospheric soundscape of sorts. In short: it was the most abstract, avant-guard sports half-time show I’ve ever seen and a clear reminder that this was still very much a Pop Montreal event.
Having Régine Chassagne play the organ at a sports game was an entertaining as you’d think it would be. I mean, when else are you going to get the chance to see her playing “The Macarena” while wearing a Rajon Rondo Celtics jersey?
Regine was accompanied by Kid Koala, who’d opened for Arcade Fire at their huge outdoor show just a couple days earlier. At one point he busted out his daughter’s favorite song and tried to coax her out of the crowd to dance with him to it. Though she was too shy, the crowd, many of whom had brought their children, wasn’t and the whole arena was soon grinning and dancing along. It was a sweet moment and a sign that Pop Montreal, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, has become much more than just an indie rock festival.
Photos by Susan Moss