POP Montreal International Music Festival returned to Montreal on a high note this September, after hosting their 2020 edition via hybrid format. Presenting a series of concerts, exhibitions, and multidisciplinary art events, the festival showcased many burgeoning, unique artists. The McGill Tribune experienced POP Montreal’s colour and vibrancy, with highlights from a few different concerts below.
Laura Niquay – reviewed by Louis Lussier-Piette
The air of Théâtre Rialto’s parterre was ecstatic with spectators eager for in-person concerts after an almost two-year hiatus. That same excitement energized the opening acts Claire Morrisson and Kae Sun, as well as main act Laura Niquay, who all gave one hell of a show.
A natural performer, Niquay combined music with storytelling by explaining the meanings behind each song, all sung in Atikamekw. Among the songs on her set list were “Aski-Terre,” a beautiful homage to our planet and the people who live on it, and “Otakocik – Hier,” an emotional ballad about the unexpected death of her sister’s best friend. Her band was on fire from start to finish, especially percussionist Gotta Lago, who kept the audience on their toes throughout the show.
Bad Skin – reviewed by Anna Berglas
Punk as a genre commands energy, but the crowd for Bad Skin was seated, not standing, and applauded rather than danced. Despite the formality of the venue, a joyful indignation radiated from Dope, the lead singer, guitarist, and creator of the group. The strobe lights set the mood for a fast-paced set list, and Bad Skin delivered. Songs included “Fuck You,” dedicated to Quebec premier François Legault, and a ‘90s cover of “Barbie Girl,” rock-and-roll style. The song “Riot Girl” alluded to the Riot Grrrl movement, a subculture that combines feminism, punk music and politics. The four musicians head-banged their way through the performance, keeping smiles on their faces to match the musical intensity. The close relationship between the band was palpable in the way they leaned inwards and communicated musical cues. It was exhilarating to witness the tenacity and camaraderie needed to achieve the success they have in the male-dominated punk genre.
Asuquomo – reviewed by Louis Lussier-Piette
Asuquomo, a Nigerian-born, Ottawa-based Afro-Fusion musician and producer, played a sold-out first show in Quebec at the Clubhouse Rialto packed with ecstatic fans.
Asuquomo’s Afro-Fusion music mixes West African spirituals with American hip hop, a combination of energetic beats and jazzy rhythms that makes dancing hard to resist. The moment he and DJ Seiiizi climbed up on stage, the crowd went ballistic. His ingenuous charisma made him a natural MC, keeping the audience active and entertained from start to finish. His song “Wide Awake” attracted much excitement from the audience, who sang the refrain alongside the artist. Even with a maximum capacity of 50, the crowd had the energy of hundreds.
Backxwash – reviewed by Louis Lussier-Piette
At L’Entrepôt 77, rapper and producer Backxwash delivered a mesmerizing performance full of theatrics, headbanging, and crowd surfing. With touches of experimental hip hop and horrorcore, Backxwash’s music explores themes of faith, queerness, and self-destruction. Backxwash performed on stage alone, supported solely by the visuals of her eccentric face paint and white dress splattered with fake blood. She delivered a furiously vigorous show, performing one song after the other with almost no breaks or signs of exhaustion. She yelled, jumped, and moshed alongside her fans, turning her metal-inspired beats into something communal. The venue was packed like it had never been before, with an audience completely bewitched by the power of her performance. Everyone was either neck-deep in the never-ending mosh pit in the front, or head-banging to the point of whiplash.