Register Thursday | June 20 | 2019

Pop Montreal 2007: Day four, the morning after

Fred Wesley gives a graduate seminar in the funk while Glitch Mob oversee an unruly hipster kindergarten.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 6 Pop Montreal’s contradictions can’t be concealed or readily evaded by Saturday night, and the weekend events come thick and fast – late show times and packed houses mean that once you’re is inside the door you have more or less committed to staying there, as any other venue you’d like to check out later is likely already packed, the sets going off one right after the other like firecrackers on a string.  The big, unavoidable crowds, skewed young and feverishly anticipating the no-longer-secret events, mean that no matter what you show you choose to attend, you face a further choice in how to handle it: are you a populist or an elitist? Fred Wesley, Socalled, Think About Life, La Sala Rosa Sala Rosa wasn’t the Notman House, where this show was originally scheduled to take place, and it’s far easier to envision a loud and funky party in the comfortable and familiar Saint-Laurent room than in a Scots Italianate mansion built in 1844.  The stage being taken up by a grand piano and other equipment, openers Think About Life had to clear out a small circle on the floor in the front of the room in which to set up.  They couldn’t have been less intimidated by the august company on the bill and put on an exuberant performance, singer Martin Cesar grabbing everyone in sight who wasn’t dancing and setting them in motion himself, leaping and waving a peach-colored shirt over his head.  It was a mighty exertion, if a brief one, and the fact that Think About Life were scheduled put on a second show in a few hours didn’t lead to a moment’s restraint. Aging-genius shows often have a sense of duty about them, as events that you go to in order to pay a kind of rote tribute to performers long past their prime, or to fulfill a morbid curiosity about whether the shell of a brilliant pioneer will last the year.  No such provisos were in effect last night for Fred Wesley, who invented more party-funk conventions over his long and storied career than most artists manage to break.  Socalled came out first to do a few songs with the band, made up of old friends like New York guitarist Alan Watsky, Parisian bassist Fred Lieber, Ottawa drummer Phil Bova Jr. (son of the recording-studio owner who taught a teenage Socalled the basics of putting music to tape), and Montreal country charmer Katie Moore.  Though C-Rayz Walz was a no-show for his verse on “You Are Never Alone”, LA transplant Subtitle burst in the room and made a breathless run to the front of the stage in the middle of the song, and was visibly awed to contribute to the event for the rest of the night. A few songs in, Socalled made the introduction people were waiting for and Fred Wesley came out from backstage to the loudest and most rapturous reception I’ve ever seen at the Sala.  If there was any doubt that the crowd would know who Wesley was, the impact of his creations, and the significance of his visit, it was put to rest by the uplifted hands and excitedly craning necks.  Wesley, resplendent in shiny silver Adidas, hasn’t changed his trombone style a bit. When working with James Brown, his were always the less-flashy solos that rode with the beat, while Maceo Parker engaged in endless squealing runs that cut across the music. Wesley’s solos, last night as throughout his career, don’t jump out of the groove but weld themselves to it.  The energy was unrelenting from both parts of the crowd, the greying Fred-worshippers and a younger, more Francophone set that – though perceptibly funk-literate – is directly familiar with Socalled’s tunes from their heavy rotation on influential French radio stations like Radio Nova. The epic finale, a rendition of Wesley’s 1980 classic “House Party”, seemed to go on for fifteen minutes and had the crowd and the band alike bopping and grinning until the fade-out.  Something special had happened, and we all knew it.  There was enough energy and wonder left behind in the room to sustain the audience’s interest in a troupe of poppers, who performed a brief epilogue set exhibiting this rarely-seen funk dance art – a clear West Coast predecessor of the uprock techniques seen in East Coast breakdancing – right there on the floor in the midst of the crowd.  There was no divide possible for this show: everyone knew that a virtuoso display of what former Wesley collaborator George Clinton delicately called “the art of moving butts” could and would unite skeptical cognoscenti and excited kid alike.  Glitch Mob & Megasoid, Queen Street loft The word went out yesterday that the mammoth Megasoid party would be happening in a loft in the Faubourg des Recollets, the area of stone warehouses, shot through with parking lots, that extends between Old Montreal and the Bonavenure Expressway.  Biking down from a warm, loud and comfortable show in Mile-End to this empty, futuristic neighbourhood of slickly-restored industrial buildings, high-design condominiums and high-tech office slabs, finding my way by following the scraps of bass that escaped the party and slipped along the wind, the contrast was depressing.  Passes were no good at the door (though they reportedly admitted a fixed number of early arrivals), and even Pop Montreal brass had to cough up $10 to get in.  Up a narrow staircase and into the hot, packed room went a continual stream of bright-eyed party folk who wanted to be at the place, with the people, doing the thing to do.  Yesterday I wrote that this would be that party, and it was. Which was its problem. Besides being insufferably packed, meaning that one was elbowed in the small of the back when trying to dance or stand still, there was a suffocating air of having arrived.  The difference between 250 people having a party and 250 individuals notching the bedpost of their own hipster credibility could not have been clearer, and to go from the relaxed Fred Wesley show to a jittery loft party seemed a step backward.  Glitch Mob were on-point and tremendous, but there was no middle ground from which to hang back and get a detached sense of things.  One either danced and danced hard, in a throng that constantly threatened to tumble over into the heaps of equipment and cables and into the laps of the Glitch Mob themselves, or edged back to the margins of the room and was continually pushed and prodded by people making their way to and from the bar and a rooftop terrasse that offered the party’s only relief. It was like being trapped in an American Apparel ad, all ugly colors, shiny synthetic fabrics, dilated pupils, and porny posturing.  I found local producer and sound bwoy Mark Lawson feeling like I did: worn down by the night and the atmosphere, and finding it difficult to enjoy electronic bangers at the top of their game.  The flesh was weak and the spirit grew rapidly less willing, and we parted to find our bicycles and each make our tired way home trough the chilly, exhausted streets.