Taking POP Montreal to prom

While late September is commonly known as the season of midterms and rain, the start of fall has also been synonymous with POP Montreal. The annual festival took over Mile End from Sept. 26-30, pushing aside third-wave coffee venues and bicycle co-ops to make space for over 450 performers. With such a breadth of acts, the sheer selection can be overwhelming. While the A&E team couldn’t decide on who deserved the crown, we still have the authority to bestow superlatives to our favourite acts.

Best Homecoming – Homeshake

Katia Innes, A&E Editor

In the year since the release of his latest album Fresh Air, Montreal-based musician Peter Sagar, better known as Homeshake, has kept a relatively low profile. Playing only a handful of shows this past summer following his 2017 tour, Sagar has remained a reclusive figure on the music scene—he hasn’t played a show in Montreal since 2016. On Sept. 29, to a crowd of tiny-hatted and frayed-jean-clad spectators packed into Theatre Rialto, Sagar breezed through his 15-song set. Making sure to include fan favourites like “Every Single Thing” and “Call Me Up,” Sagar interrupted his dreamy set only twice to address the crowd.

“We’ve been here for seven, eight years. I’m trying so hard to move, guys,” Sagar joked.

Despite Sagar’s apparent weariness of Montreal, the hometown crowd seemed to love every second of the set, with chants reverberating around the Rialto as Sagar and company exited the stage. Never before has a horde of cultural studies majors been so riled up. What a fitting comeback performance for an unlikely hometown hero.

Sweatiest – JPEGMAFIA

Katia Innes

For 45 minutes, Baltimore rapper and ex-marine Barrington DeVaughn Hendricks, better known as JPEGMAFIA, played a frenzied set at Le Belmont. All expectations of personal space were thrown out the door as the crowd clawed for the best spot in the pit. Equipped with nothing but a microphone and seven bottles of water, Hendricks radiated manic energy. Burning through tracks from his recent album Veteran, Hendricks stripped down to nothing but a pair of shorts and a bandana, quickly draining the aforementioned water bottles. Playing tracks like “Baby I’m Bleeding” and “1539 N. Calvert,” at one point Hendricks jumped into the writhing mass of bodies that greeted him below. Talk about a close encounter.

Best Red-Eye Show – Kilo Kish

Katia Innes

Playing the Piccolo Rialto theatre—arguably the sweetest venue of the festival—Brooklyn-based rapper-singer-and-visual artist Kilo Kish didn’t take to the stage until 1 a.m., but her set was well worth the wait. Drawing mostly from her recent EP mothe, as well as her full length album Reflections in Real Time (2016), Kish swayed hypnotically around stage, exuding a strange magnetism. Kish cooed over slow the slow beats of a drum machine, crooning songs such as “Self Importance” and “San Pedro. In such a small venue, the lack of space can restrict performers. However, Kish’s allure made it impossible to look anywhere but the stage. Perhaps it was the crowd’s exhaustion or the intimacy of the venue, but Kish was spellbinding.

Most Resembling the “Elevated Consciousness” Meme—Oneohtrix Point Never

Noah Simon

On Sept. 26, Daniel Lopatin, also known as Oneohtrix Point Never, performed his show MYRIAD at the Monument National Theatre. MYRIAD is Lopatin’s ambitious art installation ’concertscape’ that seeks to redefines the concert. With a combination of electronic synths, samplers, and live drumming in addition to a backdrop of fragmented LED screens and elaborate light show MYRIAD is an immersive live experience. With original music he wrote specifically for the MYRIAD show, and tracks from his album Age Of (2018), Lopatin pits his digital soundscape against abstract images of the expansion of capitalism across Earth, exposing the show’s own artificiality as a consumer product. But what a product it is! Videos of animated flying eagles combine with angelic synth patterns, followed by a montage of newspaper prints and an abrasive-drone. The range of visual and musical styles reflects Lopatin’s conflicted perspective of our current place in history; he points towards the dangers of computers and electronics while fully acknowledging MYRIAD would not be possible without them. It was engrossing.

Best Venue—U.S. Girls, Cinema L’Amour

Noah Simon

A venue can completely alter the nature of a concert; the building’s history can pervade the physical space and affect the experience. This was certainly the case for the U.S. Girls’ show at Cinema L’Amour, the local adult theatre on Boul. St. Laurent.

Opening act Johnathan Rice put it best.

“I’m very happy for two things tonight. One, that I can perform for all of you, and also that people still get together to watch pornography,” he quipped.  

There were no such jokes from Meghan Remy and her band, and the seemingly dated institution perfectly reflected the sentimentality of her act. Remy’s set felt like a relic in time: The disco, funk, and attire all transported the audience to a different era. The crowd seemed liberated by the night’s taboo and danced to fan favourites like  “M.A.H.” and “Pearly Gates” as much as the confines of the cramped theatre allowed them. It was exciting and provocative, and one of the best acts that POP Montreal had to offer this year. All of those walking out with Cinema L’Amour merchandise seemed to agree.

Chillest—Advance Base

Noah Simon

Being one of the lesser known artists playing POP Montreal, Advance Base’s festival closing show at Bar Le Ritz to was pleasantly intimate. His music exemplifies the tenderness of youth  and the comparative hardships of adulthood. In addition to his keen eye for life’s minutiae, Ashworth’s swirling synths and subdued piano melodies express a bittersweetness—a simultaneous melancholy and fondness for human existence. After five days of running around the city, there was something poignant and rewarding in witnessing Ashworth, accompanied only by his keyboard, singing about dogs to a 15-person crowd.

“What if someone locked all the doors and we just did this all night,” Ashworth quipped.

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