An indepth look at the bands and artists of Taverne Tour
Taverne Tour shines a spotlight on lesser-known venues and local music. For its third edition, the festival featured 43 bands in 15 venues over four days. Despite the gruellingly cold of February, the weekend saw people flock to the festival’s shows en masse to experience Montreal’s finest in local and international music.
Day 1: Jan. 31
As the snow began to fall, a crowd of eager music fans flooded through the doors of the historic La Tulipe, on the corner of Mont-Royal and Papineau Ave. That night, the large concert hall would play host to an event sure to set the tone for the weekend.
Galaxie held a free show in celebration of the release of their fifth studio album, Super Lynx Deluxe. Veterans of Montreal’s garage-rock scene, the group’s unapologetically spacey sound led them to a Polaris Music Prize shortlist nomination in 2011.
Despite its awkwardly early starting time, the venue was filled to the brim, so much so that late-coming audience members had to be ushered to the upper levels of the venue’s balcony. With only two singles released from the new record, a sense of anticipation ran rampant through a crowd eager to hear new material. Galaxie, no doubt, satisfied the crowd’s hunger.
The sextet, led by Fred Fortin on guitar and vox, energetically ripped through a short set bursting with noise and groove. Propelled especially by the group’s two percussionists, the show was bolstered by their emphatic enthusiasm. The new songs, played with tribal dance beats and elements of electronic music, created a sound both contemporary and righteously timeless.
To build on the cosmic, discotheque vibe laid out by the music, the show was also a visually striking psychedelic affair. Multi-coloured lasers shot out from the stage in bunches, sometimes aimed directly at the large disco ball suspended from the ceiling, to create an overwhelming, spinning celestial display.
Day 2: Feb. 1
Le Ministère, housed in a former Bank of Montreal building from the mid-1910s, is one of the city’s newest concert venues. From the outside, the brutal concrete structure, adorned with thick columns and a meticulously sculpted coat of arms, seems like the last place in the world you’d go to see a rock show. Yet the space was familiar and welcoming, dimly lit by blue neon lights and packed for Taverne Tour’s most anticipated events—the acid-soaked disco impresarios, Wizaard; local idols and experts in 60s pastiche, Anemone; and curators of all things psychedelic, Memphis-based Spaceface.
Wizaard’s mellow set, stuffed with an effortless groove, sent the crowd into a dancing trance, readying them for the coming sets rather than stealing the show.
Considering the glitter of Anemone’s recent international success and their great local popularity, the group acted as the spiritual headliners of the night. Their set, effervescent and dreamy, enveloped the crowd with its hazy rhythms and velvety smooth psychedelia. The rhythm guitarist stood in the corner, clad in a stylishly baggy grey suit, sleepily strumming his gorgeous 12 string. Meanwhile, Anemone leader Chloé Soldevila stood centre stage at her keyboards, swaying carelessly, enchanting the audience and inviting them into her world.
While Anemone won the crowd over with their subtlety and gentle manner, Spaceface took a different approach, opting for a psychedelic energy the audience didn’t quite seem ready for. Formed by Flaming Lips member Jake Ingalls, Spaceface have made a name for themselves through their spacey, psych-rock sound and visual shows that strongly emphasize audience participation.
Despite playing a tight set, riddled with enough noise and psychedelia to make you squirm, Spaceface’s sound was familiar, and the crowd was left unengaged. Before the last song, Ingalls told the crowd how grateful he was for the turnout on a Thursday night. By then, however, the crowd had shrunk to about half its original size, making the comment feel more like a personal reinforcement than anything else.
Day 3: Feb. 2
Some of the best musicians Montreal has to offer were at Pub West Shefford on Friday. That night’s show eclectically paired Dunes, a desert blues ensemble, with Teke Teke, a hyperactive surf rock band that takes as much from late 60s metal as they do from traditional Japanese music.
Half an hour before the show began, the small pub was already suffocatingly packed. In order to reach the stage at the front of the room, band members had to squeeze their gear through the mass of people standing shoulder to shoulder. They inevitably bumped into audience members, but always made sure to apologize. This sense of camaraderie foreshadowed a show that was one of the purest and most honest musical experiences I have ever witnessed.
The night began with Dunes, a group self-defined as a co-operative, united by their love of blues and African music traditions. Their set was a collection of heavily rhythmic blues jams led by a smiling man playing hand drums, two women dancing while playing traditional African percussion instruments, and a drummer whose ravishing style took more from jazz than anything else.
These jams were accentuated by a wailing harpist, who played his instrument through a distortion-laden microphone, and two guitarists swapping lead and rhythm duties and sometimes soloing in harmony.
Audience members danced and sang along to the songs they knew, embracing their proximity to one another and not minding the lack of visual display. Dunes closed their set with an African-inspired rendition of The Beatles’s classic “Get Back,” which sent the crowd into a heightened frenzy.
Following Dunes’ set, another half hour of chaotic gear-lugging occured before Teke Teke finally took the stage. Clad in matching kimonos—except the group’s flutist/keyboardist who was dressed like a 60s go-go dancer—the group launched into an assaulting surf rock tune. Though immediately recognizable as surf rock, Teke Teke’s sound is a diverse one, drawing from traditional Japanese music, late 60s metal and soul. The group’s trombonist gave their sound a welcome fullness, while the flute added a wistful element.
Toward the end of their set, Teke Teke welcomed guest vocalist Maya to the stage. Her voice knew no boundaries as she graciously and naturally shifted from a sensual croon to an unhinged wail.
The two encore songs were the most abrasive of the bunch, fast in tempo and noisy. One of the guitarists, who had previously been on rhythm duty, began fiercely soloing, using his strumming hand to tap the strings with a small rod. When the set ended, the buzzing crowd took their time leaving the packed room.
Photo by Charles Fretier-Gauvin