As the August heat faded and the leaves began to curl and drift away, the Montreal arts community said one final goodbye to summer at What the Pop!, a pop-up exhibition run by YES Montreal. The free public exhibition gave dozens of local artists the opportunity to sell their art at Riverside St-Henri. On Aug. 14, 21, and 28, a plethora of local artists showcased their photography, painting, jewelry, dance, and theatre, and Iranian-Canadian singer-songwriter Naghmeh Shafiei performed live on Sept. 4.
Shafiei’s performance fused folk and rock and interwove Iranian melodies and intonations. With her soulful, emotive voice, and raw, poetic lyrics, Shafiei delivered a moving performance. In that moment, Riverside St-Henri felt transformed, as though there was something special in the air. As the terrace stood sheltered between brightly decorated shipping containers, wooden fences, and the darkening sky, a myriad of voices—each as uniquely beautiful as the last—washed over the crowd.
In addition to giving artists opportunities to perform, the event allowed them to meet listeners and other local artists in person. Attendees were free to roam the terrace and stop by booths to speak to artists, fostering a greater sense of community and connection.
“I have friends that I’ve met through social media [and] we’ve become really close, but it’s easy to forget that that real, [in-person] connection is just really what the soul needs,” Shafiei said in an interview with The McGill Tribune.
Shafiei stressed the importance of in-person presence at shows, explaining that many artists become inspired and motivated by their audience. In fact, Shafiei said that What the Pop!, which offers webinars and motivational tools for artists, gave her the motivation to finish writing her poetry book, Somewhat Wiser, Some of the Time.
Lady Athenae, a three-member metalcore band, also performed at the event. To them, music is a form of catharsis: Mental health takes first priority in their lyrics. Between drummer Chris’ powerful beats, guitarist Sergio’s driving riffs, and lead singer Camille’s enchanting vocals, the band mesmerized the crowd. Suspended in the twilight, these artists shared slivers of magic through their music.
“Music is like air. It’s life,” Camille said.
Although What the Pop! is now over, the event’s website offers links to all its artists’ websites and social media, and will soon have a virtual exhibition gallery for its visual artists.