Now into its tenth year, POP Montreal – International Music Festival has proved that through its short life span, the festival has gone from strength to strength. The Line of Best Fit looks at the top 5 performances from this year’s edition.
Wanting to do something special for POP Montreal’s tenth anniversary, and also for their hometown of Montreal, Arcade Fire did a two-night stand on the Wednesday and Thursday night of this year’s festival; the latter being a free outdoor show which, needless to say, drew everyone’s attention. Packing an entire street full of fans and supporters, leading people around the block and climbing onto building ledges to watch, the recent Polaris Prize winners didn’t hold back on the grand set ups they’ve been known to have. From theatre marquees to the numerous screens, it was all there – they even concluded their set with the light-up balls from their Coachella set earlier this year. Arcade Fire has an incredible ability to transform every song they perform into an energetic experience, one that’s fresh and exciting every time you see them. They never lack focus, enthusiasm and most importantly, fun, in their sets and that’s immediately infectious. A free performance from one of the best live acts today was truly a gift to their most loyal fans.
Merill Garbus has a magnetism that makes you want to watch her perform for hours despite the buckets of sweat pouring down your face. The queen of looping, Garbus creates a sound that’s all her own and can only be pulled off with a voice like hers; the strangest and most beautiful vocals to be heard since Bjork. Though not an exact hometown show, Garbus (the one-time Montreal resident) was received with a massively supportive audience inside the packed church. Her enthusiasm that night was evident as she even felt the need to treat everyone to a new song, performed with the help of additional singers. This might is probably said about all her shows but this was definitely a special one that people will remember.
The Montreal electronic singer-songwriter often shows her nerves onstage and if things go wrong, she’s the first to apologize, profusely, for any glitches. But her set Thursday night in her hometown showed a more matured and confident performer than the one I saw open for Lykke Li months ago. Unabashedly weird, the one-woman act of Claire Boucher embraced her quirks and showed that, with nerves aside, she is one hell of a musician. Crafting layers of beats and harmonies together, Boucher sent the energetic crowd into a hypnotic trance of fluttering melodies and moodiness. If she continues on this road, she can kiss those opening slots goodbye and finally step into the spotlight she so deserves.
It’s been two years since the Vancouver duo’s last record Post-Nothing so the anticipation alone made the show well-worth its spot on this list. Giving little snippets of the band’s new material – four songs, to be exact – guitarist Brian King and drummer Dave Prowse reminded us of why Japandroids are one of the most exciting duos in music. Their punk rock aesthetic calls for an intense reaction that hits you like a ton of bricks – lyrics that make you want to scream along and a thick wall of reverb atop heart-pounding rhythms. 2012 better watch out because the boys are back and they’re looking to destroy some eardrums.
Nostalgia comes in handy sometimes and clearly, the members of UK garage rock band Yuck took their love of the golden days of Pavement and Superchunk and channelled it in the best way possible. Throwing back to the melodic garage-pop songs of the 90s before full-on grunge took precedence, Yuck’s sound might not be too original but they make up for it with their impeccable ability to translate something good into, well, more of that something good. Similar to bands like The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Yuck is heavy on the guitars, distortion and all – as a critic put it, “Dinosaur Jr Jr” – but with an even heavier focus on a catchy melody.