Home Music From Churches to Porno Theatres; A Play-by-Play of POP

From Churches to Porno Theatres; A Play-by-Play of POP

by Archives October 7, 2008

Let’s start at the beginning, at the launch party. It’s at the Poolroom on St. Laurent. The place is a dive, the food is shit; my hotdog is so soggy it drips. A columnist from the Mirror informs me that his poutine tastes like cigarette butts. “It’s like they haven’t changed the oil since it opened,” he said.
There’s free beer, but the girl working the keg doesn’t seem to know how to pour and is pulling glasses that are half foam, half beer. She’s pouring them in a big plastic bowl and then pouring the bowl into the cups, holding back the foam with a spoon. By the time you get the beer it’s flat. It’s almost as bad as the time I drank Steam Whistle in Toronto. The music is worse, bad world-dance music. The whole thing has an intentionally bad hipster-irony to it. Like the organizers were sitting around and one said “oh I know, let’s have it in a really bad restaurant.”
“And we can play horrible music, at a music festival, it’ll be hilarious.”
“Bad food and bad music? That sounds awesome.”
“Is there some way we can ruin beer?”
But I digress. We start at Trois Minots, on St. Laurent. Postage Stamps are on first, only they aren’t. Apparently they cancelled. Another band is on stage and I never find out their name.
Mia Verko is next. The vocals are way too loud and it drowns out the intricate indie post-punk guitars. Sometimes they sound like they’re all playing different songs. When it comes together it’s good, but then it falls apart like an old sweater. The 13 people in attendance love it all. There are a few songs that stand out as particularly good, but the rest are pretty forgettable.
We meet the photo editor from one of the McGill papers, and her and our photographer Cindy have a when doves cry moment as we wait for Hexes and Ohs.
You know that band Mates of State, they sound like that, only less cute and more electronic.
My friend Kate disagrees, she thinks they’re cuter, especially because they’re high school sweethearts.
“But Mates of State are married.”
“Well [Hexes and Ohs] aren’t married – yet.”
They’ve got sugary harmonies and sweet synth riffs. If you listened too much you’d probably get diabetes.
The guy switches back and forth between guitar and drums, laying down some live beats, and rocking out to the electronic ones. The high point comes when he puts the guitar on a loop delay and switches back to the drums. It’s pretty cool, but they really need a full band.
We split a cab and head to La Tulipe to see You Say Party! We say die! I’ve seen them three times before and with the possible exception of a sweaty summer night at the Horseshoe in Toronto, this is the best one. The sound is flawless. They play two encores, ending the first in a mess of strobe and feedback. I love it.
Thursday is the first disappointment. We can’t get into Nick Cave. It’s too full. So we head up the hill. Vicious/Delicious are playing at Saphir. They’re good friends and I haven’t seen them play in months. Three guitars, lots of reverb, slightly psychedelic, slightly country, very 60s. I’m too biased to say much more, but even if they weren’t my friends I’d still like them.
As we walk up the main we run into Li’l Andy and Ideal Lovers. They’ve lost their keys in the sewer, the lid is off and they’re lowering slide player Joe Grass down to fish them out. He finally gets them, covered in shit and throws them down on the street, to applause from the gathered crowd. But now nobody wants to touch the sewer keys.
Neither of us have been to Jupiter since it re-opened. “It’s not the Jupiter room we all remember,” says Cindy. There’s no hole in the ceiling anymore, it’s all been replaced with plywood and gauzy curtains.
Superfantastics are playing at Barfly. The name alone leads me to believe they’re from Halifax, and the sound which Cindy describes as “very Sloany” seems to confirm the theory. They sing things like “will we ever reach Ontario?” in high pitched voices. They confirm their Halifax origins before playing a song called “Lullaby Punches.” Disgusting.
We walk down to the Portuguese Association and catch the last song from Bonjay. It’s really reminiscent of M.I.A. reggae vocals with U.K. style rap and a little bit of soul.
Over to Lambi for the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, they’re four trumpets, two trombones, baritone, tuba and drums. The eight brass players all share the same father, one of the members of legendary jazz group the Sun Ra Arkestra.
They’re from the south side of Chicago and 70s soul with jazz and hip hop with a bit of a classical influence. They keep asking the soundman to turn the tuba up in the drum monitor. It’s the oldest sound I’ve heard all fest, but somehow also the newest. “More tuba throughout the house, we need that shit to rock!”
Down to Cinema L’amour for the last show of the night, Li’l Andy and Ideal Lovers doing Neil Young’s “Tonight’s the night.” The porno theatre is shockingly nice. The only colour light in the whole place is red. The exit signs look like they’re from the 70s and they’re all in English, I guess no one wants to tell the OLF that they were at a porno theatre.
Li’l Andy is good, but I’m not sure what the point of the whole thing is, except for the possibility of amusing stage banter. “We’re gonna get a bona fide folk festival feeling in this porno theatre.”
About five songs in Li’l Andy actually starts to sound like Neil, and it gets better and better as they go through the album. The reprise of “Tonight’s the Night” (the song, not the album) is amazing.
I have an essay due Friday at midnight. It keeps me off the street, so Cindy takes over:

Friday night started at a church and ended at a porn theatre. I go off on my own, camera and notes in tow, to Burt Bacharach over at the St-Jean Church on Rachel St.
This is my first time being at a church venue, it feels sacred and suited for a song writing legend whose career has spanned 50 years.
The sounds of the audience echo through the entire church as Bacharach enter the hall; he speaks softly before approaching his piano. I’m with seven other photographers squished up front in a small corner. We all frantically take pictures as we only have three songs to do it. But since he’s performing a medley, I can’t figure out if the limit has passed and find myself running to the balcony at an angle aiming my lens straight at Bacharach. As the series of medleys continues I find out that he has written every single popular song I’ve ever known.
I hurry over to Club Lambi hoping to catch Machete, but at the last minute they’re unable to get their gear together. Green Go takes their slot instead. The band fills the room with electro dance hall beats getting the dance floor moving. Awesome.
I head over to Jupiter Room for Shad, a rapper out of Vancouver. He’s been called the next K-OS and is a recent Polaris nominee. Playing to an overcapacity room, Shad doesn’t disappoint with lyrics that match his grad school awareness and social consciousness.
I step out and discover the longest line I’ve ever seen at Cinema L’Amour, all for live music and gay porn. The line goes from St. Laurent all the way down to St. Dominique. I end up leaving in the middle of a “certain act” and sleep a little before tomorrow’s next round of shows.
– Cindy Lopez

Saturday. Start at L’Escogriffe. When I get there the Gertrudes are on stage they play one song and then go off. I’m a little disappointed. Head to O Patro Vys. It’s a nice room with black curtains and art on the wall.
Ryan Eugene Newman is a standard singer-songwriter. The music isn’t bad but the lyrics are ridiculous. Like he wrote them with a rhyming dictionary, just filling in the blanks between “fire,” “desire,” “attire” and “choir.” He kills a Leonard Cohen song and there’s an awkward pause when he finishes.
Return to L’esco. Same band as before, the one that I had caught the end of their sound check. They have a Theremin, saw, trombone and banjo. They’re an old-fashioned a mix of bluegrass and country with a bit of Dixieland and a wide-eyed Canadian indie pop sensibility. They’re fun. They have a song protesting against a Hydro Quebec dam, that might destroy a “beautiful river,” is earnest and touching without being too much.
We go to Barfly and see Elephant Stone. As they were turning up I was expecting something good, but instead it’s a vaguely 60s rock band.
Sunday. Foufs. Whiskey Trench. Straight up punk rock, bit of a hardcore influence. Constant blast beats on the drums, good for a pit, but it’s too early for that. We can’t make out a single word they sing, not even which language. They sound like any one of the thousands of indistinguishable punk bands of the past 15 years, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Wire at le National. I generally don’t like bands that reform and tour long after their time, but since Wire has never really broken up, except for a hiatus between 1981 and 1985, so it seems a little more legit. They play with the energy of people half their age, but it makes me wish I had seen them 30 years ago. They focus more on their guitar heavy songs, which is probably a good idea, instead of their early experimentation with electronic music, which along with the Factory scene in Manchester helped to pave the way for Rave music. Their primitive beats would have sounded dated.
Before there was Sonic Youth there was Wire. Before there was Brit Rock and its wall of sound, there was Wire. They’re one of those missing links that show how a small movement in London in 1976 became the most influential force on guitar based music and helped shaped the direction of popular music in the last 30 years more then anything else, except for hip-hop.
They play three encores, making the audience really wait for each one, and it seems more real, ending with their classic 12XU. But by this time they’re too tired to pull it off right. I leave le National and my ears are ringing. That’s always a good sign.

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