If I have learned anything from POP Montreal this year it would be: buy tickets in advance. Last year, when I was just getting to know the Montreal music scene, I bought concert tickets at record stores or online, weeks in advance. The papers would stare at me every day from my desk almost saying “You haven’t forgotten about me, have you?” But this year laziness set in, and I figured I’d just show up to venues, skip some of the opening acts, and avoid the stress of planning an elaborate schedule.
On Thursday night I struck out not once but twice. The show at Cagibi, where singer-songwriters Fred Squire and Dan Romano were playing, was sold out. I hopped on my bicycle and hit up another venue, but unfortunately the five dollars I had brought to cover the cheap Cagibi show wouldn’t stretch to cover much else.
On Friday I had my heart set on a Timber Timbre show, but at least had the good sense to check online if it had sold out or not. Of course, it had. I ended up at Casa Del Popolo and caught a set of Beaver Sheppard’s. I liked his hypnotizing finger-picking guitar, but his stage presence was pretty stiff. Unfortunately I didn’t arrive early enough to see Leif Vollebek, a dreamy up-and-coming singer-songwriter out of Montreal whose song, “Northernmost Eva Maria” completely mesmerizes me. I did, however, smartly venue hop to Jukebox, where Toronto’s Grand Analog was setting up.
As a runner, I’m always looking for songs that pump me up before a race. For some reason, a few years ago, Grand Analog’s “I Play My Kazoo” did just that, minutes before a 1500 metre steeplechase. What hurdles and water pits have to do with kazoos I’ll never know but the song is catchy and inspiring and definitely worth a listen.
Grand Analog’s set was fantastic, and the impressed audience couldn’t help but dance, or at least “move a little.” (“People in the back, people in the middle!” urged frontman Odario Williams.) Before launching into a couple great songs, Williams pointed at a man with a media pass sitting serenely at the bar. “You! Take your jacket off!” he ordered. The dance floor was about to get hotter.
Grand Analog played a long, energetic set, and Williams often came down from the small stage to dance with the audience.
“People say the music industry is dying,” Williams said at one point, climbing onto a speaker by the side of the stage, “but I say they haven’t heard Canadian hip hop!”
I couldn’t agree more.