As part of this year’s POP Montreal festivities, local indie rockers How Sad took the stage at the spacious Corona Virgin Mobile Theatre last Thursday night. The Montreal quartet played a short but enthralling set to a surprisingly packed room -most concert goers usually hang loosely around the venue- which can only be a testament to the band’s strength as musicians and entertainers.
After several jacked up, amped up toe-tapping synth-pop songs, How Sad toned it down to reveal a slower mellow side; like a mass music sponge, the crowd absorbed every note they dished out. Once the song was over, they quickly reverted back to upbeat crowd pleasers and revved up their amps almost one million per cent. The softer melodies were quickly replaced by a constant steady drumming and wild synthy guitar riffs.
The lights switched from the standard yellow to a vibrant red and blue to reflect the dynamic nature of the rest of their performance. How Sad closed their 35-minute set with their infectiously catchy single “Indian Summer,” which coincided perfectly with the last few warm days of September. How Sad had the crowd clapping and dancing throughout the set, thanks mainly to the lead vocalist’s endearing twitchiness that left people moving and grooving well into the intermission period.
After half an hour of intermission and set-up, Portugal. The Man slid out onto the stage to an already electrified screaming crowd. Without hesitation, the psychedelic indie five-piece kicked off their set with their crowd-pleasing hit single “Purple, Yellow, Red and Blue” off their latest album Evil Friends from notorious producer Danger Mouse. The audience was immediately intoxicated by the eye-popping flashing lights to match the colourful song and equally trippy backdrop: a sequence of seemingly irrelevant images of the ocean, trees and just plain weird visuals, projected onto a giant cut out in the shape of a mountain with several peaks.
Halfway through, lead singer John Gourley ditched his beanie and glasses and things got seriously trippy. The band mainly played tracks from their latest album, but dished out fan favourite goodies like “People Say” off 2009’s The Satanic Satanist. Throughout the medley of psychedelic guitar licks and riffs, “Sea of Air” permeated soothing acoustic waves then dove in and out of crashing drums and heavy guitar for the next few songs.
The psychedelic nature of the music was mirrored by the fantastically odd projected images. The backdrop displayed interchangeable scenes of trees with ghoulish green hands adorned with red claws projectile vomiting rainbows during “The Sun.” In these rare subdued moments, Portugal. The Man continued to rouse excitement in the already lively crowd. After playing for almost an hour, the band exited the stage, but returned within 10 minutes to offer up a hair-raising 20-minute encore. Bassist Zach Carothers praised Montreal for “starting the tour off right,” and for the beauty of the city and its people. The band played “The Devil” which quickly transitioned into a cover of The Beatles “Helter Skelter.” The backdrop during this mash-up reflected the intensity of the song with images that resembled something like an apocalyptic descent into chaos. This was quickly followed by a face-melting musical interlude fueled by a heavy bassline and creeping drumming beat. Portugal.The Man closed their almost 90-minute set with “Sleep Forever” and Beatles inspired “Hey Jude” chants to crystallize their place in the ever-expanding psychedelic indie pop scene.