Register Thursday | June 20 | 2019

Pop Montreal 2007: Day two, the morning after

Hopscotching hungrily across the fest with dance, bands, and bursting bulbs.

At the Social Club last night to grab a pre-show coffee, I encountered sometime Maisonneuve collaborator and real live cultural writer Dylan Young.  I wanted advice from a seasoned pro but didn’t want to directly ask for advice from a seasoned pro, because pros have internalized their seasoning to the point where it can’t be sprinkled onto one’s own problems as delicious advice. We spoke about the difference between attending a show as an audience member on the one hand, and as a working journalist on the other.  Dylan asserted that as a fan, you demand more entertainment and stimulus from a show: you get bored quickly, you want to cut out and go somewhere else if the bands aren’t really moving you.  By contrast, as someone with a job to do, you force yourself to stick with one show and see it through the highs and the lows, to find some hook for the evening that you can structure your piece around as you write it. As Dylan is telling me this, I’m quaking a bit: I need to stay until the end of things? I need to have hooks? I’m bouncing from pillar to post, I didn’t have any hooks, oh God. I thanked him for his encouragement and beat a hasty retreat back home, sipping coffee and racking my brain. Little Bang Theory, Eva B. The Little Bang Theory performance was moved to Eva B, a second-story loft space just around the corner from the Notman House and a half-block downhill at 2013 Saint-Laurent.  When you’ve grown accustomed to noisy people drinking beer and waving their arms in bars, it’s a palpable relief to sit in a quiet, dark room with a well-behaved audience, many of them dancers themselves.  You can relax knowing that many of the people around you make their living by being lithe and poised. The program began with an unexpected treat, a brief guitar performance by Lisbon’s Norberto Lobo. The audience was delighted to hear such soft, fast acoustic plinks from his instruments, and Lobo’s music drew us in and elicited a warm glow.  During the main event, local country mainstay Joe Grass used his pedal steel to build a diffuse envelope of sound, a shifting hum through which the voices of Warren Spicer and Lhasa de Sela, and the movements of the dancers, could cut and weave.  The effect was otherworldly, and as murmuring textures coalesced into individual songs and faded back into the background, the dancers would go from more individual movements to passages of moving together and pulling themselves through synchronized flips.  The gestures are at once recognizably human and clearly impossible, secret knowledge these women could only have obtained by eavesdropping on the whispers of cats.  There are two more performances. Go see this. The Paper Cranes, Saphir Somehow I managed to leave a beautiful and tranquil performance feeling restless and agitated. In retrospect, this probably was directly related to skipping dinner for no clear reason.  I rambled up the street with only doubt in the pit of my stomach and decided to drop in on the Unfamiliar/Gigantic showcase at Saphir. The Paper Cranes, who played a brief but vigorous set to a small but bouncy audience, would have been perfectly at home on the Stiff Records roster in 1980.  With period-appropriate clothing and hair and a few simple special effects, blurry video footage of this band could be fobbed off on the unsuspecting as the genuine article, an unjustly forgotten opening band for Elvis Costello or Ian Dury.  In a better world we would not have to deal with the likes of the Strokes, and could instead clear their air with bands like the Paper Cranes that, unlike their richkid New York inferiors, are dead-on efficient and can actually sing and play in tune.  Their bright, crunching music has a bracing effect. Dishwasher, Portuguese Association Dishwasher’s Martin Cesar set up for his show by shuffling an enormous, ragged cardboard box on the checkerboard linoleum floor of the darkened Portuguese Association, and when he got the box just where he wanted it he plugged a bright clear bulb into an extension cord and set it carefully on the floor. Something wasn’t quite right, and Cesar delicately picked up the bulb and moved it, first to one side of the box, then to another, and finally to the front of it in the middle of the floor. Upon which it popped in a shower of thin glass, burned brightly for a moment and faded out.  Cesar was unfazed. “Anyone got a lightbulb?”, he called out, and I would not have been surprised if one of the assembled had reached into their shoulder bag and handed him one.  In this fluorescent age, none of us were so equipped, and so after sweeping up Dishwasher had to start his performance with more conventional lighting. Backed by a video projection of crayon illustrations and accompanied by a recording of himself on CD, Cesar recounted a dream of a box factory worker whose boss (an enormous stuffed rabbit) abuses him and whose wife leaves with the children, sending him on an odyssey in the company of a rat and a mouse.  I won’t give away the ending. The Magic, Balattou I decided to run from show to show and try to find clarity by cutting across the festival, moving from event to event to try to experience the breadth of it all as directly as possible. Illustrious illustrator Jack Dylan’s showcase at Balattou seemed a logical next step, and I walked in to witness The Magic’s first show outside of their hometown of Guelph.  Once you cross the rubicon of 30, the virtuosity of the young suddenly seems terribly distant from your own fumbling abilities; the smooth-faced youth of The Magic were effortlessly good at what they do, perhaps better than they themselves realize.  Set against programmed drums, their synthesizers and thin, sharp guitars could hold their own.  When Islands’ Jaime Thompson sat in on the drumkit to thump out their last two numbers, however, it drowned out the instrumentation. The Magic already write great songs and play wicked licks. In the more controlled environment of a recording, or with their cooing synthesizers cranked to grind out more potent sounds – or just plain turned up loud – they will surely demand attention. Jeune Chilly Chill, Quai des brumes The MAN MAN show at the Sala Rossa seemed, from the narrow vestibule next to the hall, a dangerous bouillabaisse; it emitted a mighty rumble and, when the door opened, sent forth clouds of steam whose odor suggested creatures of the depths, packed together and cooking shell to mandible to fin.  In such conditions, the door staff shouldn’t have apologized for saving my scales by shaking their heads and telling me that the venue was filled to capacity.  I made my way to Quai des brumes instead, hoping to catch Abdominal’s scheduled 1AM set.  Be warned: while the larger venues are running on schedule, the smaller bar shows are running late.  And so I found myself with batteries drained at 1:30, watching Jeune Chilly Chill try to rock a cozy wood-paneled room with futuristic sounds.  Chilly Chill clearly knows his way around hip-hop, and unlike most of Montreal’s franco-rap luminaries is touching on West Coast and Southern sounds instead of New York indie toughness or French electro styles.  Despite the best efforts of his hypeman, and a contribution from confident birthday girl MC La Sauce, it didn’t work.  Sprit and flesh had weakened to the point that even rap and a pint of Cheval Blanc blanche couldn’t rouse enough energy to carry me through to Abdominal’s performance. Let my own fatigue and his indefatigability – setting up sampler and turntables (was he going to rock it all himself?) an hour after he was supposed to go on stage, in front of a half-empty bar in a city far from home – be a lesson to you.  Sleep shall be your hook, and resolve your sustenance.