During Jian Ghomeshi’s wonderful show at the Olympia Theatre last Thursday, I got a chance to chat with a rather enthusiastic fan there to see Braids. He introduced himself as Vincent and had the familiar look of a musician. I soon found out that Vincent was in fact playing a show later that night as part of the POP Montreal lineup. Invited to hear them play a set, I dec
ided to take a mini detour and head out to the Quai des Brumes on Saint-Denis St.
Gulfer, like many of the bands featured in this year’s festival, hail from Montreal. Formed in 2011, the band is comprised of David (bass/vocals), Simon (drums), and my new acquaintance Vincent (guitar/lead vocals). During my conversation with David, he described their sound with terms such as “math-pop” and “jazz-emo” — and I’m still not quite sure what those terms mean — but as opposed to many synth-heavy bands, I’ll just call it ‘alternative indie rock with balls.’ Once inside the Quai Des Brumes, I finally got a chance to watch these guys play live, and boy, were they fun. In an energy-filled set consisting of a handful of songs, they got the crowd to dance, then mosh-pit, and then dance some more.
Part of POP Montreal ‘s charm is becoming acquainted with such up-and-coming bands and the wide-eyed musicians who genuinely consider themselves lucky to be part of a major festival. More importantly, bands such as Gulfer strive towards taking music from a part-time hobby to a full-time profession. David, for example, is both excited and surprised at the thought of their album Transcendentals selling copies in Japan through their label Friend of Mine Records. As for the very near future, Gulfer is currently working on their full-length release, slated to be out in 2014.
Once a movie theatre, the Corona Theatre in Montreal’s Little Burgundy neighbourhood is now home to one of the city’s hottest concert venues — it helps to be partnered with evenko. On Sunday, Danish electro-pop songstress Oh Land took the stage, and she is part of a new breed of pop musicians: a powerful voice backed by synth-heavy catchy melodies. Not only is she a talented pianist, the former Copenhagen-born ballet performer is quirky, confident, and stunningly beautiful. She’s got undeniable stage presence, an adorable accent, occasional dance moves, and of course, a voice that’s simply intoxicating. With her latest release Wish Bone, Oh Land is definitely on the verge of stardom. Backed by a band consisting of drums, guitar, and a DJ, she not only performed a whirlwind 2-hour set for a crowd of 300 but hung around afterwards to sign copies of her new album.
Opening for Oh Land was Sun Rai, the brainchild of Rai Thistlethwayte, an Australian musician who has been performing in various bands since the age of 18. Backed by a drummer Abraham Rounds, the soulful jazzy sound of the band is only enhanced by Rai’s soothing, impressive voice, and equally superb piano chops. It’s very easy to root for a musician who’s so energetic, gracious, and supremely talented. In fact, I was able to have a quick chat with Rai after his performance and he was all smiles, offering me a signed copy of his new album, Live At Studio Delux.