GUIDE TO POP MONTREAL 2010 (from Said the Gramophone)
by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Pop Montreal 2010

This entry is, um, wide. Best to view it on its dedicated page.

Pop Montreal is nine years old; it knows how to read and play basketball. It is, perhaps, the best pop music festival in the North America. Not because it does everything perfectly but because it strives to do all things - investing in panache, mischief, that extra bit more. All Tomorrow's Parties has its curators, Sappyfest has its intimacies, SXSW has its ambition and city-scale. Pop has some of each, smally, bigly. An indie hit parade - the xx, Liars, Deerhoof, Xiu Xiu - mixed with private passions - Van Dyke Parks, Big Freedia, Mahala Rai Banda, Mary Margaret O'Hara. (Two years ago, the headliner was not Vampire Weekend but Burt Bacharach.) Hundreds of luminaries and nobodies, gathered under the same roofs. This festival says to itself - I'd love to learn about Ubuweb, the web's best resource for avant-garde sound - and then brings in Kenny Goldsmith. It books Les Savy Fav for 2 in the morning and makes sure Pat Jordache plays before.

I still think Montreal's the best city in the world; this is our week-long jamboree.

Let's hope the sky stays sunny; cool but flashed with warm. Let's hope we can ride our bikes. Let's hope everyone gets across the border.

I made similar guides in 2008 and 2009, and in 2008 also wrote up my experiences for McSweeney's. This year, I've tried to integrate some mp3s (click on the arrows to stream them, or left-click to download).

As always, this Guide is staunchy personal, subjective, honest. I recommend the things I love, the things I am curious about. And I leave out the things - even if they're highly touted - for which I'd have to fake excitement. Take everything with seas of salt.

Visitors to Montreal: Consider staying at Pop's free-form "hostel". And no frontin': A proper experience of Pop requires a bicycle. Or a Bixi.

How to Use This Guide
I suggest you flip between this guide and the official printed Pop program, for band descriptions. (You can also use the website or the fancy iPhone/iPad app, but I find paper helpful: you can write on it.) I also recommend Pop Montreal's point-and-clicky "build yr schedule" thing at Sched.

Tickets and Passes
This year, there was a major change to the way festival passes work. The short of it is: besides the $275 industry pass, there is no pass that gives you access to all shows. Instead, the Pop braintrust is encouraging people to commit to individual shows, buying full-price tickets. This might seem like a bummer, but I think it's okay; it encourages you to invest in what you're seeing, and means more people will be catch the festival's carefully programmed opening acts.

More than that, Pop's created something new & rad - the Pop Hopper pass. Daily Pop Hopper passes are available as a $10 upgrade to most festival tickets. Buy one full-price ticket, and for $10 more you can graze and skim and skip to any number of other gigs that night. It's a terrific deal, but Pop Hopper passes are limited. Before the festival, you can order them here. During the festival, they can only be purchased 11am-9pm at Notman House. (Note: Every gig* has a certain Hopper allotment. I doubt Hoppers will have any trouble if a concert is quiet; but they're more likely to be turned away at busy or expensive concerts. The festival says the pass is meant to "encourage attendees to roam and check out something new or unexpected".)
* except for the xx, Swans, Gotan Project, Radio Radio and Atari Teenage Riot.

That said, some of the festival's smaller gigs are ineligible for a Pop Hopper upgrade. IE, the concerts it will be easiest to get into with a Pop Hopper are often the ones you can't boost for $10. As a result, it makes a lot of sense to anchor your evening around one big (ticketed show) and then upgrade $10 to see smaller things.

There are also a couple of ticket bundles available, if you are planning to see several of these artists: Mahala Rai Banda, Van Dyke Parks, Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens, Mary Margaret O'Hara, We Are Wolves, Holy Fuck, Les Savy Fav, Buke & Gass, Big Freedia & the Divas.

Some of Pop is completely free. There's Puces Pop, the year's best handmade/craft fair plus and record fair. There are the "Post Meridiem" afternoon shows at Divan Orange, and tiny basement shows at Phonopolis. But most importantly, there's SYMPOSIUM, Pop Montreal's "conference" segment. This might sound stuffy, but it's aimed at people like you. Besides being an incredible forum for ideas, advice and discussion, it affords free access to headliners like Van Dyke Parks and Mahala Rai Banda (plus invitees like Carole Pope, Ubuweb's Kenny Goldsmith and Songs of Leonard Cohen producer John Simon). It's one of Pop's most exceptional - and overlooked - components. And soemtimes they have free snacks.

Recommendations over several days
Apart from Art Pop's mountings, permanent and mobile, the major festival installations belong to Puces Pop, Pop's handmade goods/arts fair component. The principal Puces Pop fair takes place October 2 and 3, with a nearby record fair. There's also going to be a vintage clothing shop (open starting Sept 22). Parents (and folk with tiny pals) should also go crazy for the amazing KidsPop programming, which I do not explore here.

Recommendations day by day
Every day, I break things down as follows:

What I'm doing:Instructions for following me around! But there are gazillions of Pop shows, much more than any one person can do; depending on your tastes and budget, there's much more to recommend.
Anchor your evening:The ticketed shows that deserve your doubloons, usually including several acts.
Roam:The night's other best sets, for those with slimmer wallets, industry passes, Pop Hoppers, or a sense of adventure.
Roll the dice:The day's foremost curiosities and gambles - could-be treasures and maybe-flops.

And then a list of the day's highlights, as far as I can tell. It's important to note I am not listing entire bills - just my highlights. So check the program for full set-times.

I highly recommend everything on these lists, but everything listed in bold is completely CAN'T MISS.

This list has been made using the Pop's updated online schedule of September 22. All dates/times are as best as I know.

Updated Sept 23 with free Phonopolis shows.
Updated Sept 24 with new Sacred Sunday times.
Updated Sept 26 with events at Le Pick-Up.
Updated Sept 27 with Symposium's Thursday location changes, Savy Fav/Pat Jordache time changes [boo!], Barr Brothers free gig.
Updated Oct 1 with surprise free Bear In Heaven, Diamond Rings and Tonetta gigs.

Wednesday, September 29

What I'm doing:Wednesday's our first night; we'll start it slow. The day's can't, can't, can't-miss moment is the very first event of the 2010 festival, Mahal Rai Banda's free workshop at 12:30. Romanian gypsies, showing us what they do. If it's a marvel, I'll be forced to attend their headlining show that night; if not, I'll opt for weird indie-rock at Sala or quiet folk across the street at Casa.
Anchor your evening:Said the Gramophone are long-time fans of Suckers, a weirdpop band from Brooklyn (mp3), and they're playing with the acclaimed psych dogs of Menomena. For those of a gentler affect, Ireland's Villagers (mp3), fresh from a Mercury nom, are headlining Casa with help from the earnest orchestral (but possibly precious) Lost in the Trees (mp3).
Roam:Cousins (mp3) are playing, at five to midnight. Saw them at Sappyfest and was struck silly. It is loud, forceful, freelance, I wrote, grimy and valiant. The Halifax drums/guitar duo used to play light, strange pop. They're heavier now.
Roll the dice:It is quite possible that the best Wednesday show, by far, begins at Cabaret Mile End at 10:30 pm.

12h30-14h30 - Mahala Rai Banda improv workshop [Agora - free]
14h30-16h - "State of the Artist" panel [Agora - free]
17h30 - Opening party, ft GOBBLE GOBBLE and Grahmzilla [Rialto - free]
20h - Look At What The Light Did Now, Feist documentary [Ukrainian Federation - $8]
20h - BigSmall, four short films about Montreal musicians. [Studio Off Interarts - free]
21h15 - Suckers [Sala Rossa - $15]
22h - Menomena [Sala Rossa - $15]
22h - Lost in the Trees [Casa del Popolo - $12]
22h30 - Mahala Rai Banda [Cabaret Mile End - $25]
23h - Villagers [Casa del Popolo - $12]
23h55 - Cousins [Lambi - ?]

Thursday, September 30

What I'm doing:There's no way around this: Thursday is awful. Far, far, far and away the best night of Pop 2010 - which unfortunately means that everything is on at the same time. So: harsh choices. Instead of seeing the legendary Van Dyke Parks (mp3) in concert, I'll check his workshop/chat-with-Vish-Khanna at 1pm, and then of course assist at my own panel at 4:30. Then... Shotgun Jimmie (mp3 does not quite give him credit), an extraordinary one man band, with rough, true, funny, beautiful songs. Although I may stay on at Cagibi for much of the Sappyfest showcase, I may also flit around for two hours: a set by Carl Spidla (mp3), my favourite emerging Mtl songwriter; the synth-pop of Blue Hawaii (mp3); fuck, the choices are nearly endless. I'll skip the Luyas (mp3) because I'll see them Saturday, but will definitely hit Sala for two of the best bands I discovered in 2009: Twin Sister (mp3), luminous and sly, and Bear In Heaven (mp3), churning and silver. And also, somehow, I will make it to the simultaneous set by Khaira Arby, visiting from Mali. (Don't just ask me; Khaira is festival director Dan Seligman's number one pick.)
Anchor your evening:Choose your poison. All of the following bills are extraordinary:
Roam:Obviously, this is a good night to get a Hopper. The picks of everything are Carl Spidla (mp3), Shotgun Jimmie (mp3), Bear In Heaven (mp3), Twin Sister (mp3), Blue Hawaii (mp3), Arrington de Dionyso (mp3), Women and Khaira Arby. No matter what, after everything else, go see Adam & the Amethysts (mp3) at 1am. He is Montreal's most sincere psych troubadour, making brilliant things. The Playhouse is directly across the road from the Rialto.
Roll the dice:Karkwa just won the Polaris prize: I'm not usually a fan but I suspect this will be a barnstormer. And when Zsofia Zambo hits the stage at Balattou, it will be with members of Pat Jordache, Clues and Thundrah; could be singularly killer.

13h-14h30 - Van Dyke Parks songwriting workshop [Agora - free]
14h - Christopher Smith [Divan Orange - free]
16h30 - "Hobbyist Label" panel, featuring Weird Canada/Arbutus/and me! [Agora Notman House - free]
17h45 [ish] - Baby Eagle [Phonopolis basement - free]
18h30 [ish] - Shotgun Jimmie [Phonopolis basement - free]
18h-21h - Dark Night of the Soul video installation [Trusst Club - free]
20h - Shotgun Jimmie [Cagibi - $5]
20h - Daniel Schachter [Ukrainian Federation - $25]
20h30 - Baby Eagle [Cagibi - $5]
20h30 - Karkwa [Metropolis]
21h - Black Feelings [Le National - $18]
21h - Carl Spidla [L'Escogriffe - $9]
21h - Clare and the Reasons [Ukrainian Federation - $25]
21h - Ian Roy [Cagibi - $5]
21h - Les Shelleys [Divan Orange - $13]
21h - Zsofia Zambo and friends [Balattou - $9]
21h30 - Mavo [Cabaret Mile End - $15]
21h30 - Snailhouse [Cagibi - $5]
22h - The Luyas [Sala Rossa - $15]
22h - Blue Hawaii [Rialto - $5]
22h - Construction & Destruction [Les 3 Minots - $9]
22h - Fred Squire [Cagibi - $5]
22h - Netherfriends [Cabaret Playhouse - $9]
22h - Olenka and the Autumn Lovers [L'Escogriffe - $9]
22h - Van Dyke Parks [Ukrainian Federation - $25]
22h - Women [Le National - $18]
22h15 - Mice Parade [Divan Orange - $13]
22h30 - Arrington de Dionyso [Cabaret Mile End - $15]
22h40 - Pop Winds [Rialto - $5]
23h - Twin Sister [Sala Rossa - $15]
23h - Liars [Le National - $18]
23h - Misha Bower [Cagibi - $5]
00h - Bear in Heaven [Sala Rossa - $15]
00h - Khaira Arby [Balattou - $9]
00h - Silly Kissers [Rialto - $5]
00h30 - Shonen Knife [Cabaret du Mile End -$15]
01h - Adam & the Amethysts [Cabaret Playhouse - $9]
01h30 - Hudson Mohawke [Lambi - $17]
02h - Holy Fuck [Espace Reunion - $15]

Friday, October 1

What I'm doing:After the 1pm panel and Leif Vollebekk's (mp3) free show at the Divan, I'm going to go see Warpaint (mp3) and the xx (mp3). That will finish in time for me to see Hidden Words, the new Baha'i-pop (?!) project by former Unicorns Jamie Thompson and Alden Penner, and - obviously! - the gung-ho sweaty mess of Pat Jordache (mp3) and Les Savy Fav (mp3), ushering in the wee hours.
Anchor your evening:
  • The xx's (mp3) show is a big one: Place des Arts is cavernous, and the band just won the Mercury. But their music is intimate, restrained; you'll have to listen hard to enjoy it. (I will.) I'm also keen on their openers.
  • If you like snarling Swans (mp3), their resurrection is a miracle - and Baby Dee (mp3) is a remarkable, strange opener.
  • Timber Timbre (mp3) and Nina Nielsen (mp3, not to be confused with Nive Nielsen) are a perfect bet for the softies.
  • Finally, just about everyone ought to buy - and then upgrade - tickets to the Savy Fav (mp3)/Pat Jordache (mp3) party. Dan lost it for Les Savy Fav in Toronto and Pat's currently exploding the minds of all hearers.
Roam:Really curious about Toumast [trailer], a film on Tuareg culture. (I love Tuareg acts like Tartit, groups Bombino and Inerane.) Keen on the PEI rockers English Words (formerly Smothered in Hugs, mp3), R&B by Yoodee Frances, the earnest pop of Belgrave, and delicious sour Cotton Mouth (mp3), a Parlovr side-project.
Roll the dice:Curious about Sister, the new band by Plumtree founders (and sisters) Carla and Lynnette Gillis. And will Naomi Shelton be a throw-down gospel party, or a snooze?

9h-19h - All-day breakfast "party" at Le Pick-Up
13h - "Making it in Montreal" panel, featuring Godspeed/Luyas/Arbutus/Distroboto [Agora - free]
14h - Leif Vollebekk [Divan Orange - free]
15h - "Face to Face" panel, on music grants [Agora - free]
15h30 [ish] - Braids [Phonopolis basement - free]
16h - Black Feelings [Divan Orange - free]
16h15 [ish] - GOBBLE GOBBLE [Phonopolis basement - free]
17h - Bear In Heaven [Divan Orange - free]
19h - Koudlam [Musée d'art contemporain - $15]
20h - Leif Vollebekk [Casa del Popolo - $8]
20h - Danielson [La Tulipe - $17]
20h - Toumast, Dominique Margot's film on Tuareg musicians [Blue Sunshine - ???]
20h - Nina Nielsen [Ukrainian Federation - $20]
20h45 - Warpaint [Place des Arts - $20-$30]
21h - Fred Squire [O Patro Vys - $9]
21h15 - Deerhoof [La Tulipe - $17]
21h30 - the xx [Place des Arts - $20-$30]
21h30 - Yoodee Frances [Jukebox - $9]
22h - Baby Dee [Le National - $25]
22h - Joe Grass [Cagibi - $9]
22h - Timber Timbre [Ukrainian Federation - $20]
22h30 - Grand Analog [Jukebox - $9]
23h - English Words [Divan Orange - $9]
23h - Sister [O Patro Vys - $9]
23h - Swans [Le National - $25]
23h30 - Tonetta [mystery show, might be at a different time - free]
00h - Hidden Words [Casa del Popolo - $8]
00h - Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens [Sala Rossa - $20]
00h30 - Belgrave [Les 3 Minots - $9]
01h - Cotton Mouth [Casa del Popolo - $8]
00h15 - Pat Jordache [Espace Reunion - $20]
01h - Duchess Says [Breakglass studio, 7250 rue Clark, 3rd Floor - $9?]
01h - Les Savy Fav [Espace Reunion - $20]

Saturday, October 2

What I'm doing:Today's a day for Puces Pop and record fair, plus Howard Bilerman's interview with superproducer John Simon. (Howard's a friend; approaches these kind of talks in all the right ways.) Then - with no hesitation - Everything Outta Sight, the crowdfunded installation at Red Bird, 8pm-10pm, with artworks, dancers, music by the Luyas (mp3) and Sonic Titan, video projections by Derrick Belcham, and possibly even a waterfall. (They have a second show scheduled at 11.) Said the Gramophone's dear RatTail (mp3) play the Playhouse at 11:30pm. And then I'll likely go see Buke & Gass, whose recordings I am not crazy about - but, Marc (and Radiolab) tell me, are mathy and mind-melting live.
Anchor your evening:Everything Outta Sight aside, there are two bills that catch my eye. At Sala Rossa, some wonderful, ambitious and very different bands - Helado Negro (mp3), Ben + Vesper (mp3), Shapes & Sizes (mp3), Danielson (mp3). Or maybe the smaller indie pop gig at Divan Orange, including Ghost Bees' new thing, Tasseomancy, Forest City Lovers (mp3), Evening Hymns, and the new Gentleman Reg/Ohbijou electronic team-up, Light Fires.
Roam:This afternoon's 2pm-5pm shows in the Phonopolis basement (cramped, free) are all wonderful. Little Scream is steel-gleam marvellous (a shame I've recently seen, and been frustrated by, Mary Margaret O'Hara). James Irwin, frontman for My People Sleeping (mp3), plays veiled, half-lit songs - solo here, but with a band. He's exceptional. The Youjsh (mp3) play terrific klezmer jazz. Radio Radio's (mp3) loopy Acadian hip-hop was my vote for the Polaris prize. Marnie Stern (mp3) is indie's most spectral shredder. And a free gig by Think About Life (mp3), even at 4pm, sounds like a no-brainer.
Roll the dice:I've never quite understood Xiu Xiu (mp3), Mary Margaret O'Hara or Wovenhand (mp3). This might be my chance.

11h-18h - Puces Pop [Eglise St-Michel - free]
11h-18h - Record Fair [Ukrainian Federation - free]

12h30 - conversation with ubuweb's Kenny Goldsmith [Agora - free]
14h - Flow Child (Pop Winds) [Le Pick-Up - free]
14h - Father Murphy [Phonopolis basement - free]
14h30 - Carole Pope in conversation with Carl Wilson [Agora - free]
14h45 [ish] - The Youjsh [Phonopolis basement - free]
15h30 [ish] - Silly Kissers [Phonopolis basement - free]
16h - Think About Life [Divan Orange - free]
16h15 [ish] - Hidden Words [Phonopolis basement - free]
17h - Barr Brothers [L'Envers - free]
17h - Diamond Rings [Divan Orange - free]
18h30 - conversation with John Simon (producer, Music from the Big Pink, Songs of Leonard Cohen [Agora - free]
20h - the Luyas' "Everything Outta Sight" installation. [Red Bird - free]
20h - The Luyas' Everything Is Outta Sight installation/concert [Red Bird - pay what you can]
21h - Braids [Ukrainian Federation - $15]
21h - James Irwin [Cagibi - $9]
21h - Tasseomancy [Divan Orange - $10]
21h30 - Helado Negro [Sala Rossa - $15]
21h30 - Little Scream [Cabaret Mile End - $15]
21h40 - Radio Radio [Club Soda - $24.83]
21h45 - Evening Hymns [Divan Orange - $10]
22h - Xiu Xiu [Ukrainian Federation - $15]
22h30 - Marnie Stern [Cabaret Juste Pour Rire - $17]
22h30 - Babe Rainbow [Le Belmont - $10]
22h30 - Ben + Vesper [Sala Rossa - $15]
22h30 - The Youjsh [Club Lambi - $17]
21h30 - Freak Heat Waves [L'Abreuvoir - $9]
23h - RatTail [Cabaret Playhouse - $9?]
23h - the Luyas' "Everything Outta Sight" installation (encore). [Red Bird - free]
23h30 - Mary Margaret O'Hara [Cabaret Mile End - $15]
23h30 - Wovenhand [Il Motore - $12]
23h30 - Shapes and Sizes [Sala Rossa - $15]
23h35 - Light Fires [Divan Orange - $10]
00h - Father Murphy [Espace Reunion - $10]
00h30 - Danielson [Sala Rossa - $15]
01h - Buke & Gass [Espace Réunion - $10]
02h - Library Voices [Petit Campus - $10]]

Sunday, October 3

What I'm doing:Sunday, fittingly, is a quiet one. Wake up, eat brunch. Early evening, perhaps Patrick Watson's (mp3) "sacred Sunday" concert with Katie Moore (mp3), Socalled (mp3), Alden Penner, etc. I saw children's hero Fred Penner in Dawson City (it was nice, but slight) so I will choose instead the free afternoon shows by Adam & the Amethysts (mp3) and Snailhouse (mp3).
Anchor your evening:There's a lot of dance-party programming, but none that happens to be my bag. Depending on your tastes, either head to Casa from 9:30 on for shoegazery and Receivers' (mp3) shimmery dark rock; or to Sala, where Scout Niblett (mp3) is a-yowling.
Roam:GOBBLE GOBBLE's glitchpop (mp3) might sound awful nice before you collapse from fatigue.
Roll the dice:Pillow fight?

11h-18h - Puces Pop [Eglise St-Michel - free]
11h-18h - Record Fair [Ukrainian Federation - free]

14h - Blue Hawaii [Le Pick-Up - free]
14h - Adam and the Amethysts [Phonopolis basement - free]
14h30 - Patrick Watson's "Sacred Sunday" [Ukrainian Federation - suggested $15]
15h [ish] - Snailhouse [Phonopolis basement - free]
16h [ish] - Dan Romano [Phonopolis basement - free]
16h - Fred Penner [Rialto - $15]
16h - Tribute to Van Dyke Parks [Cagibi - ???]
19h - Mogwai:Burning, Vincent Moon and Nathanael Le Scouamac's Mogwai doc, with Moon in attendance. [Ukrainian Federation - $10]
19h10 - Pillow fight, as in an actual pillow fight [Cafe Campus - $5]
20h - Fred Penner [Rialto - $15]
21h30 - Receivers [Casa del Popolo - $10]
23h - Scout Niblett [Sala Rossa - $15]
01h - GOBBLE GOBBLE [Espace Reunion - $15]

That's it! Pop starts in a week. I'll try to slip any afterparty surprise-guest gossip to my Twitter account.

Posted by Sean at September 22, 2010 11:11 AM

hey. I heard, by reading your pop picks, that you dont really like "dance music". But I dont think dance music is all the same and Sunday night at Espace Reunion a band called "UN" is playing (midnite) and I really think you should check them out because even tho Gobble Gobble is one awesome dude, UN is TWO melodramatic ladies with serious melody making skills. Thus you can come an hour before Gobble Gobble and you dont even have to dance if you dont want to because these songs are full of heartache, which is just as good. By the way, this is UN speaking. And this is more then we have written about ourselves and with your permission, maybe we can use this blog comment post as our band bio.

Posted by kara at September 25, 2010 8:35 PM

I'm sad that I discovered this guide the last night (while looking up Patrick Watson on Hype and seeing your post). Some great picks and I totally fell in love with Suckers which I just happened to see by getting to the Menomena show early!

Posted by Taylor McKnight at October 3, 2010 1:33 PM

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about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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