Pop goes Montreal

There’s a good reason my patented Morning memos have been more like bleary-eyed early-afternoon memos over the past couple of days: I’ve been spending some (staggeringly late) nights checking out all things weird and wonderful at Pop Montreal.  For those who don’t know about Montreal’s little-music-fest-that-could, it’s one of the city’s best showcases for outsider/underground artists, with a handful of well-known acts sprinkled in for good measure.

After watching the French-language debate over at Marty’s pad on Wednesday night, I cut across town to catch local mock-rockers Quatro who were playing on a bill with Georgia’s Dark Meat (more on them later) at the Vice party. I don’t usually have much time for the self-aware rock n’ roll theatrics of bands whose shows are described as an “experience,” but Quatro’s the apparent brainchild of Les Georges Leningrad’s Mingo l’indien and that was all I needed to know to check it out. I’m happy I did, too: Who knew big, crunchy guitar riffs layered over Scarface-style synths could be so much fun?

I wasn’t quite as taken by the Dark Meat show, however. With a dozen or so members on stage and a full-on Manson Family aesthetic, I expected them to indulge in some sort of “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord”-inspired freakout. But, as it turns out, the whole affair is more straight-ahead jukebox rock than a decadent hymn to the heavens.

I really, really wanted to go to last night’s Nick Cave show. But alas, Irma Thomas‘s show at the Ukrainian Federation was too good a gig to pass up. She delivered, too. Her aptly-named backing band, The Professionals, gave the show a brilliant cabaret atmosphere, and the exceptionally warm and elegant Thomas was in top form. The video above is one of my favourite scenes in American cinema; the song, of course, is Thomas’s sublime rendition of “It’s rainin'”.

Yesterday’s other notable gig was the decidedly weird Silver Apples. The stage show involves the 70-year-old Simeon playing a self-designed, primitive machine (The Simeon) that distorts and changes the pitch of basic tones. I’d only just heard of them (him, actually) from a friend in Toronto who told me it was essential that I check it out. Although it was occasionally a little too proggy for my tastes, the more pulsating, krautrock-style material gave the show an oddly compelling, almost hypnotic ambience.

Here’s my schedule (so far) for tonight: Burt Bacharach, Japanther, Socalled (in a porn theater!), and Akron/Family. If there are any music geeks out there, throw some recommendations in the comments. (I don’t have much planned for tomorrow night.) Here’s a link to the festival schedule:

Also, if you think you recognize me at a show, come up and say “buy me a beer, you damn anglo”, and I’ll do just that. Keep in mind that you’ll probably get punched in the face if you’re wrong. (Or if you try it with Marty.)