Over Labour Day weekend, eager music lovers congregated beneath Van Horne overpass for a fun and unique festival experience
Were it not for the large, yellow “Mile Ex End Musique” sign propped up against one of the concrete supports of the Van Horne overpass, festival-goers might have mistaken the set-up for an elaborate back-to-school barbeque. Past the entranceway was a long line of picnic tables, with people of all ages resting in their seats, eating an assortment of festival foods and tranquilly putting back booze.
There was a sense of serenity that came with Labour Day weekend—with the knowledge one had an extra 24 hours to prepare for the week and, for some, the start of a new school year. Fairy lights were strung up between slabs of concrete, and as the sun dipped lower in the horizon, the entire space was painted in warm yellow hues.
The festival had three stages: Mile Ex, Mile End and Van Horne. The largest, Mile Ex, was positioned at one end of a parking lot. The other two were tucked, near seamlessly, into the urban landscape. Unlike many musical gatherings, most of the performances were staggered, meaning acts rarely had to fight to be heard. These individual run-times allowed the event’s impressive sound quality to shine through, demonstrating the unique resonance of the confined location.
Day one was the quieter of the two days, and there was space to recline in the grass as bands like the Foreign Diplomats took the Van Horne stage. The group had gusto worthy of a full-sized stadium, and lead singer Élie Raymond channeled old-school alternative acts like The Cure with his quaking, gothic vocals.
Busty and the Bass, similarly, radiated charisma. Wearing dress shirts and wielding their brass instruments with the nonchalant expertise of frat boys holdings beers, they wooed and impressed in equal measure.
Other Saturday acts included Cat Power and City and Colour. The former was her typical ethereal self, but failed to hold a crowd the way her fellow headliners did. City and Colour likewise maintained the pitch-perfect sound we’ve come to expect from lead vocalist Dallas Green, but their overall energy paled in comparison to that of some of the younger, more eager acts.
Despite persistent rain on day two, the festival was livelier. Standing and swaying amidst a sea of poncho-laden listeners heightened the festival’s underground, cult atmosphere. One often had to crane their neck to catch a glimpse of the band members between umbrellas.
Flexing her chilled fingers and commenting on the cold, local trip-pop star Charlotte Cardin nevertheless dazzled the crowd with everything—from newly minted original work to a cover of Post Malone.
Of all the performers, Patrick Watson best demonstrated the festival’s aesthetic potential. Between positioning a choir atop a viaduct column and descending into the audience in an Inspector-Gadget-esque contraption to sing “Man Under the Sea,” Watson captured the raw intimacy of the space unlike any other headliner.
Though this brand of spectacle might run the risk of overpowering the event’s gritty, indie aesthetic, ultimately, Mile Ex End Musique was an event based in experimentation. One can only hope to see future acts play to this strength in the years to come.
Photos by Sandra Hercegova