Festival Review Music

POP Montréal International Music Festival is approaching

What to expect at the 22nd edition of the non-profit festival.

Who said music festivals were only for the summertime? Even if the weather isn’t as warm, the music scene in Montreal remains vibrant year-round. POP Montréal will be taking place from Sept. 27 to Oct. 1—the annual event has been encouraging artistic independence since 2002. 

As indicated on their website, POP MTL came to life from the collective eagerness of friends and colleagues to establish a major cultural event at the core of the city. Its 22nd year is kickstarting this week and represents “more than ever an essential event on the Montreal festival circuit and the international music scene,” as the organizers of the event state on the web. Over the last two decades, the event has amassed more than 400 artists and 60,000 festival attendees.

Since the festival is based in Montreal, putting forward local artists is a no-brainer, but the word “International” is in the title for a reason. The team offers a lineup from both emerging artists and renowned names from around the world. The festival’s initiative and impact on the overall art scene also lies in its extensive program, aiming to include diverse art forms as part of its activities, including art exhibitions, film screenings, a sale from local artisans, events for kids, and “long-lasting parties until the end of the night.” 

POP Symposium will be your time if you are into panel discussions, creative workshops, artist talks and networking events. Better yet, it will be free and open to all. 

The panels will tackle the “big questions around music, communities, and the forces that shape our cultural engagement, encouraging new connections between local and international artists, industry and fans” according to the POP Symposium page

Performing artists to check out ~

From its impressive lineup, here are my top picks for you to keep an eye out for. Previously seen at the Jazz Music Festival this summer, Annahstasia is back from California—get ready to get shivers from her powerful and stunning vocals. We can expect the upcoming performance of her folk-rooted album Revival to showcase her renewed love for music, which she shares was found “after a period of uncertainty, and facilitated a potent resurgence of self.” 

Next up is Montreal-born Gayance, who is now based in Amsterdam after spending her time growing up between Bruxelles, São Paulo and Montreal. If you’re into “jazzy-house with Brazilian spices” and you feel like journeying through Black history with flares of Afro-Latin jazz, Caribbean, West-African and electronic music, make sure to not miss this show! 

Interested? You can pick from three kinds of passes. But if you’re looking for a cheaper fare, check out their Student pass, which is available with a valid student ID to encourage student participation. Locals and students wanting to get involved are also welcome to volunteer! In tune with the Montreal music scene, this local event promises a fun and stimulating time.


The show must go on? I don’t think so!

Continuing to put on concerts should not be the only way to support musicians and preserve independent venues.

Back in July, when the Quebec government passed a law to allow indoor gatherings of up to 250 people, a handful of event organizers got the greenlight to have a few socially distanced shows. This inspired the PHI Centre to host a handful of small, seated performances on their new rooftop terrace, and both MUTEK and Festival De Music Émergente festivals to proceed while adhering to public health directives. Shortly after, small live performances became the norm.

Given that Montreal is one of the Canadian cities hit hardest with a high number of COVID cases and deaths, most people would find it completely illogical to have concerts again. Although the number of cases gradually decreased over the summer, putting on concerts did not seem right. Most venues/promoters explained that their events would be seated to limit motion, require the wearing of masks  at all times and have an extremely limited capacity of 20-50 people. Since then, Montreal entered their second wave with the virus, banning all gatherings until the curve flattens.

As most music fans are aware, attending live shows is the most effective way of supporting musicians. Streaming services becoming the most common way to consume music has drastically affected album sales. In fact, many artists have come to the consensus that their music streams are quite useless. Earlier this year, it came to light that Spotify pays its artists $0.003 USD per stream, which only becomes a liveable wage if artists can generate millions of streams in a consistent manner. That leaves the majority of artists to make most of their income from concert ticket and merchandise sales.

The Canadian government does support musicians through their granting system. This fund exists to help artists create and promote their music with the goal of expanding their audience. However, this effort does not replace touring, which helps artists generate the majority of their income. With the possibility of touring becoming less and less likely for the foreseeable future, it is evident that many musicians and touring staff have been placed in compromising financial positions.

During the summer, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante announced that the city will dedicate $800,000 to “animate” Montreal, and $500,000 of this will go to support artistic performances, focusing on the Quartier des Spectacles area downtown. She also focused heavily on the aspect of creating new spaces. Although the full details of this project have yet to be fully unravelled, the mayor has yet to mention a plan for small, independent venues.

For the greater part of this year, the majority of music venues will remain empty. Many of the small venues all over the world including Montreal’s beloved La Vitrola have permanently closed their doors. Although there have been relief funds and loans available to help, those donations will not provide venue owners stability as the situation with the pandemic continues to worsen. Those spaces also hold such importance, as they are essential when it comes to launching a career in music.

After putting off these socially distanced shows for a while, I caved and decided to catch a few sets at POP Montreal earlier this fall The festival is known for hosting international artists each year but focused on promoting local artists this time around. The events were mainly held at the Rialto Theatre rooftop to avoid traffic at indoor venues. With Montreal entering code red days before the event, ticket sales were immediately halted. This forced organizers to further reduce their capacity again and only use 25 per cent of their initial capacity, to avoid overcrowding. They also livestreamed the majority of their sets for free.

My experience at the POP Montreal made me realize that there has to be a safe and reliable way to continue supporting local artists and venues. On top of having an elaborate plan to ensure safety and having more security guards to help guide attendees, significantly downsizing the festival definitely impeded the execution of certain events. For instance, the art installations were only available for view from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. instead of having it available until the final shows at the Rialto ended, according to their Instagram stories. As well, both of the performances I caught (Jonathan Personne and Thanya Iyer) lasted roughly 30-40 minutes without any encores, despite having an hour-long slot without openers.

Despite attending multiple seated shows over the years, those ones seemed particularly odd. Whether it was the seats being placed 10 feet from the stage or the lack of artist-to-audience connection with these half-empty rooms that do not radiate a sense of togetherness, attending these makeshift shows was not satisfying at all.

Another important element to consider is that a lot of these spaces used to hold a capacity of over 1,000 people. Proceeding with socially-distanced shows when cases begin to decrease will create inequalities among both artists and promoters. Renting larger venues just to use 25 per cent of their capacity is both costly and will make all venues who have a capacity of under 100 useless, since playing to a crowd of 10-20 in a small venue or bar is both risky and not as profitable. There has to be a proper agenda put in place to help artists maintain their careers and prevent further venue closures to avoid rushing to plan shows without a COVID vaccine.

Even though the prospect of returning to a state where people can genuinely go out and enjoy dancing and moshing at gigs is extremely slim, being patient and looking into ways for effective ways to help rebuild our music scene through supporting local venues is what will save live music, even if the experience is not as pleasant. 

Feature photo by Sun Noor


September arts & culture festival masterlist

Don’t get too cozy yet! The weather was strangely warm this week and it appears it’ll stay that way for another… so get off the couch! Take a study break and go check out these festivals happening all over Montreal this fall! Oh, and if you haven’t seen any part of the Momenta Biennale, do that too!



Returning for its fifth year, LadyFest is a comedy festival celebrating femme and non-binary talents. I had the opportunity to go last year and had such a great time! Did I mention that I went back to watch a show alone… and sat in the front row? I didn’t even anxiety-hurl! LadyFest is truly soul food. Anyway, this magnificent happening ends Saturday, Sept. 21, so get your tickets here or at Théatre St-Catherine. For more information visit


Feminist Film Festival
No one will be turned away for lack of funds at this intersectional film festival! With local and international film shorts, FFF promises to challenge gender norms and feature strong female leads.

The schedule is as follows:

Sept. 21 at Association des réalisateurs et réalisatrices du Québec (ARRQ), 5154 St-Hubert St.
4:30 p.m. – The Different Faces of Maternity

Sept. 22 at Association des réalisateurs et réalisatrices du Québec (ARRQ), 5154 St-Hubert
St. 6:30 p.m. – Racialized Points of View


Stop Motion Festival
A fabulous contributor covered the Stop Motion Festival last year and completely overwhelmed me with the number of cool workshops that took place. Largely based on Concordia’s campus, this festival screens at the J.A. de Sève Cinema in the Hall building, in the EV building’s main auditorium, the LB atrium, and at Mckibbin’s Pub on Bishop St. Grab a beer and freak out about some sick animation until Sept. 22. View the full schedule here.



Sept. 24-29: Montreal International Black Film Festival
I’ve attended the MIBFF since I started writing for The Concordian. Each year, my eyes are opened wider than the last. I was particularly fascinated by last year’s documentary on the reclamation of Dutch wax fabric, one of the most popular textiles in Africa.

With programs for youth, discussions, markets, and screenings, of course, this festival – opening with a tribute to Harriet Tubman – isn’t one to miss. For more information and tickets, visit

Sept. 25-28: VIVA! Art Action
Taking place in the industrial heart of St-Henri, the VIVA! Biennial will feature over 20 artists from all over the world, including a handful from Montreal and a couple from Concordia! Performances, workshops, conferences, and other participatory experiences take the forefront at this festival, where lines between the artist and the viewer are blurred. Keep your eyes peeled for this one.


Sept. 25-29: POP Montreal
Hello fall festival queen, are you a person who likes to spend all day at art shows and all night at concerts and movies at the same time? Yes? Me too. Last year’s POP Montreal drained my soul in the best possible way. I have fond memories of walking to and from venues with POP’s specialty drink in my hand.

Committing to the festival means discovering new spaces and experiences you wouldn’t typically find yourself in. Queer visibility and sexuality, the underlying theme of Art POP, connects various satellite exhibitions across Montreal. Partnerships include UQAM, artist-run center Articule, and Elephant gallery – where Concordia-based creator Skawennati has developed a virtual portrait project with youth from Montreal North and Kahnawake.

It doesn’t stop there. In addition to art and music, POP Montreal includes a segment of symposium talks (which cross disciplines between art, music, queer theory, etc.) and film screenings at the glorious Cinema Moderne in the Mile End.


There is ALWAYS something happening in Montreal. No matter the weather. The end of September just so happens to be the sleepiest and busiest time ever. Yeah, yeah Green Day, I’ll wake you up when September ends, (that’s a lie I will wake you up now so you can festival hop.) Happy fall! Stay hydrated! Wash your hands!


POP takes over the Mile End

POP Montreal is an annual multidisciplinary music and arts festival, taking place in various locations across the city from Sept. 26 to 30. In a takeover of the Mile End and some of the neighbourhood’s most prominent venues, more than 400 artists, musicians and filmmakers participated in a vast number of events.

Under the umbrella of the festival, there are several subsections, such as Film POP, Art POP and Puces POP, focusing on music-related film events, visual arts and crafts respectively. This year, events under these branches included talks by filmmakers Alanis Obomsawin and Allan Moyle of Empire Records, outdoor film screenings, diverse art exhibitions and site-specific performances across the city. POP Montreal also put on a variety of panels and symposiums, discussing a range of topics in relation to the arts and music community, from gentrification within the arts to the relationship between music and astrology.


Film POP

Kicking off Film POP was a free screening of Betty: They say I’m different. The documentary reveals the bold and enigmatic Betty Davis as she burst into stardom and, just as quickly, disappeared from the limelight.

Now, more than 30 years later, she is ready to tell her story—her transformation from a “bright, orange bird” to the dark and powerful “crow.” The latter encapsulated the musician’s Nasty Gal stage persona. With the subsequent loss of her beloved father, the crow disappeared from her heart, and she from the stage.

POP Symposium

Fail Better: Learn from the Pros’ Mistakes featured successful music managers and publishing administrators Mark Kates, Molly Neuman, Nancy Ross, Jeff Waye and Tom DeSavia who spoke about their mistakes in the industry and how they’ve since bounced back. From debates surrounding exposure and payment, to growing your network and being true to your art, the panelists exposed a different side to the music industry.

Historical Erasure of Queer Spaces: Shakedown and Beyond featured musician and artist Elle Barbara; community organiser, activist and artist Jodie-Ann Muckler; hip hop artist, entrepreneur and community organiser Lucas Charlie Rose; and Montreal-based DJ and designer Tati au Miel. Together, the panelists led an empowering discussion that questioned true inclusivity. They spoke about building trust and relationships among QTBIPOC to better foster safe community spaces and encouraging environments for performers and party-goers alike. They also indicated the importance of properly documenting and archiving these community organizing methods for organisers to come.“The work I’m doing will help the people after me,” Tati said. “We don’t realize how lucky we are to be safe enough to document these events.” In the past, documentation was high-risk. Now that it’s safer for the queer community to do so, their stories must be told and non-POC must help be their microphone.

Find POC organizers and give them money,” suggested Muckler. “Hire QTBIPOC performers, not because they’re people of colour but because they’re qualified. Don’t tokenize; give it to them because they need it more.”

Gentrification: The Role of Artists in Changing Neighbourhoods was a collaboration between Concordia’s Fine Art Student Alliance (FASA) and POP Montreal. The panel discussed the presence of gentrification in the arts community, and took place at Piccolo Rialto. Moderated by Robyn Fadden, a Montreal-based writer, editor and broadcaster, the panel featured Faiz Abhuani, Gregory Burton, Fred Burrill and Cathy Inouye. Who all have unique experiences and personal connections to the arts, and its relationship to gentrification within Montreal, through their respective careers, practices, and experiences.


Whispering Pines

California-based video and performance artist Shana Moulton created Whispering Pines as an ongoing project to define the virtual environment of her alter-ego and avatar, Cynthia. A hypochondriac and agoraphobe, Cynthia searches for harmony and unison in her surrounding environment, both indoors and outdoors. She is obsessed with the kitsch and New-Age, avant-garde home decor and consumerism. Projected onto the gallery walls, Whispering Pines transports viewers into the artist’s mystical, kaleidoscopic world and Cynthia’s pop culture-obsessed subconscious.

Where: Centre Clark, 5455 Gaspé Ave., suite 114
When: Now until Oct. 13
Admission is free.

Miniature turtlenecks cover the wall in Portable Closets. Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

Portable Closets

Kyle Alden Martens is a Montreal-based interdisciplinary artist working with sculpture, textile and fashion design. The miniature garments in Portable Closets were attached to or, in some cases, fitted within ready-to-wear articles of clothing and wooden sandals. Accompanied by a video to further explore Martens’s project, the installation includes strange sculptures, tiny turtlenecks, T-shirts and pants. “Don’t look for fixed meanings here, you won’t find them,” wrote Concordia’s art history PhD student, Mikhel Proulx, in the gallery’s pamphlet.

Where: Centre Clark, 5455 Gaspé Ave., suite 114
When: Now until Oct. 13
Admission is free.

Òu sommes-nous?

This multidisciplinary exhibition is showing at the artist centre OBORO and features the works of Judith Albert, Nik Forrest, Katrin Freisager and Dana Claxton. The exhibition focuses on connections and relationships with nature. Featuring works in the media of photography, film and moving images, the works also invoke feminist and postcolonial themes and perspectives. The exhibition and the artists’s respective works provide a diverse mix to look at and interact with, yet are cohesive and connected through these central themes.

Where: OBORO, 4001 Berri
When: Now until Oct. 27
Admission is free.

Showing at the Ellephant Gallery in Quartier des spectacles, Cité-Jardin features the work of artist Sabrina Ratté, a Concordia graduate with a master’s degree in film production. The exhibition presents works in video projection and 3D printing, and transforms the gallery space into otherworldly, imaginary, ephemeral landscapes. The exhibition considers and explores connections between the physical and virtual realms. In addition to the exhibition, an interview with the artist will be broadcast every day by XX Files Pirate Radio at Rialto Theatre.

Where: Ellephant, 1201 St-Dominique St.
When: Now until Nov. 3
Admission is free.

What you missed…

Photos by Mackenzie Lad.


From beats to bars to boybands

The lowdown on shows at POP Montreal


Goodbye Honolulu

POP Montreal

By Ana Lucia Londono Flores, Contributor

Have you ever heard of Goodbye Honolulu?

It’s the boyband that will make your head nod all night long. That’s right, nothing better than

listening to rock music on a school night. The Toronto-based group composed of Fox Martindale, Jacob Switzer, Emmett Webb and Max Bornstein played at the back of Barfly, a small bar on St-Laurent Blvd. This was their first performance at POP Montreal. In the bar, the lights were low, creating a calm and chill ambiance. The people were ready to hear them, and so was I. As the band arrived on stage, I felt like they owned the place. Goodbye Honolulu made sure everybody was feeling the music. Frequent eye contact was their way of connecting with the crowd at Barfly. While the music was playing, I felt like the audience was attracted to the melodies. Even the smallest sound problems added to the band’s charm. In between songs, they conversed with the audience and made fun of each other. They were very comfortable and very friendly. Just the type of band you would want to see on a school night.


Lydia Képinski

POP Montreal

By Olivier Du Ruisseau, Contributor

The 25-year-old Montreal singer pulled off a remarkable performance and mise en scène at the notorious Cinéma L’Amour last Wednesday.

Toward the end of the night, when her sadistic-themed show had turned the movie theatre into a dance floor, Képinski said: “This is the kind of concert all your friends will be jealous they didn’t go to.” And she was right; it was quite an experience.

The venue itself was a big part of what made this opening show of POP Montreal so special. As the audience entered the theatre, a drunk clown was waiting to greet them with directions to the bar. Just before Képinski’s arrival, a medieval pornographic film was projected on the movie screen behind the stage. The screen was used throughout the concert, playing some of the singer’s creative video clips, custom-made for the show. She also added two musicians to her band, which allowed for a more rock experience and refined some of her songs.

Despite the one-hour delay, the mediocre sound quality and the singer’s voice cracking from time to time, Képinski still accomplished her most grandiose and extravagant performance yet, enjoyed by a mixed crowd of anglophones and francophones, proving that good music transcends language barriers.



POP Montreal

By Simon New, Music Editor

JPEGMAFIA, who affectionately refers to himself as Peggy, came out on stage at the Belmont like a lightning bolt striking an angry internet comment section, manifested in a man with top-notch rap skills. During the opening of his set on Thursday, Barrington DeVaughn Hendricks started a chant of “Fuck you Peggy,” which the crowd ravenously carried.

Having released his indie hit album, Veteran, about a year ago, it was easy to see the effect it had on the crowd. The album is a mix of the Baltimore street culture where Hendricks was born, and the internet culture in which he was raised. “This album is for the internet,” he said on Twitter prior to the release.

He holds nothing back in his lyrical tirades against everything from Morrissey to alt-right Twitter trolls, with bars as hilariously caustic as “AR built like Lena Dunham / When I shoot I don’t miss.” Fans at the Belmont yelled the lyrics like they were screaming about JPEGMAFIA for the first time outside of the comments, and it was glorious.

Hendricks fed on the crowd’s voltaic energy, throwing himself off the stage and rapping through the crowd, all without missing a line. The Belmont was buzzing that night, and the crowd caught a glimpse of the lightning rod that is JPEGMAFIA.


Main photo by Simon New


Happening in and around the White Cube this week…

Happening in and around the White Cube this week…

Inuit Women in the Arts

Part of McGill University’s eighth annual Indigenous Awareness Week, Inuit Women in the Arts will feature a panel of distinguished Inuit artists and curators. Heather Igloliorte, the co-curator of Among All These Tundras and professor of art history at Concordia, as well as Niap Saunders, a multidisciplinary artist from Kuujjuaq, Que., will be among the women participating in the panel discussion.

When: Sept. 25 at 5 p.m.
Where: McGill Indigenous studies program building, 3643 Peel St.
Admission is free. RSVP with Eventbrite.

Words Before All Else: Oral Histories in the Digital Age

Art centres Vidéographe and Dazibao come together to present multiple screenings that explore traditional stories and storytelling. According to Vidéographe’s website, “the works in this program make use of experimental forms akin to computer animation.” Words Before All Else will present short, digitally animated films by Skawennati, Mary Kunuk, Zacharias Kunuk, Trevino L. Brings Plenty, Doug Smarch Jr., Elizabeth LaPensée, Zack Khalil and Adam Shingwak Khalil.

When: Sept. 27 at 7 p.m.
Where: Dazibao, 5455 Gaspé Ave., Suite 105
Admission is free. Space is limited.

Art POP Montreal

Art POP curators Terrance Richard and Hugo Dufour have organized a collection of more than 70 artists for this year’s festival, with works that explore identity, heritage, narrative, class and culture. Taking over the entire third floor of the Rialto Complex with solo and group shows, the Art POP studio will showcase live dance performances and an independent writers reading event. Richard and Dufour have also organized satellite exhibitions all over the city. The locations include Espace POP, OBORO, Centre Clark, Ellephant and Pied Carré.

When: Vernissages, workshops and other events will take place until Sept. 30.
Admission to all Art POP exhibitions is free.

Alexander Calder: Radical Inventor

Calder has worked in a variety of disciplines—from painting and drawing to jewelry and sculpture. Organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 150 of Calder’s most innovative artworks have been brought together in a new exhibition. Born into a family of artists, Calder had a passion for invention. He designed several large sculptures, such as Trois Disques, which was created for Expo 67 in Parc Jean-Drapeau. The museum will be hosting several lectures, film screenings, workshops and family activities associated with Radical Inventor until the end of October.

When: Now until Feb. 24
Where: MMFA, Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion, Level 2
Admission is $15 for people under 30.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin.


The best and worst of POP Montreal

The week-long festival brought a plethora of bands to the city’s best concert venues

Following a decrease in enthusiasm over the last few years, there was a fair deal of pearl-clutching over whether or not the summer festival circuit was indeed losing its edge. This doesn’t seem to be much of a concern in Montreal.

As the summer leaves tint to brown, eager concert purists and artsy indie kids flocked to POP Montreal. In its 16th installment, the city-wide music festival still retains the magic that kept it going during its inception. The POP Montreal curators are probably the most well-versed tastemakers around.

Upon discovering all the festival had to offer over the last week, we found that POP is, by definition, a true music festival. But to insinuate that the festival is by all accounts “music first and questions later” is to denounce the key to POP’s success. And that formula for success stems from the festival’s adept understanding of how the music industry operates. There was plenty of music, sure, but gallery installations, Q&A panels, film screenings and programming for kids and families served as the affair’s main crux.

Integral to POP’s programming is an emphasis on the local arts and culture scene. While there was a slew of internationally touring acts at the top of the bill, their performances were supported by local concert staples.

Here’s how it all went down…


Blanck Mass

This year, F**k Button’s Benjamin John Power released his third solo album under the moniker Blanck Mass. The album is intended to symbolize “a previous year teeming with anger, violence, confusion and frustration.” As the brutally shrill opener, “The Rat,” unfolded into a fit of metallic synths and swells, attendees were seen covering their eardrums. The artist’s proclivity for noise injected his performance with an intensity unmatched by other performers.

Oh Sees

John Dwyer has maintained control over his project, Oh Sees, for the better part of two decades—changing lineups and shuffling between sonic territories while churning out some of the most compelling and nail-biting psychedelic music of his generation. Still, despite its propensity for unpredictability, Oh Sees pins down an unparalleled vivacity. This same spirit clearly overtook Dwyer, as he danced and pranced around stage with a devil-may-care inclination.
This didn’t compromise the quality of the performance, however, as his nervy guitar dexterity propelled him through the set. Though this compiled into a rugged, relatively unadorned sound, Dwyer’s franticly kinetic energy was supplemented by his bandmates’ breakneck riffs.


Weyes Blood

Weyes Blood has a brand of artistic finesse that translates just as powerfully live as it does on record. The velvety textures of her voice were often replaced by an infusion of rootsy folk with fuzzy AM rock—styles she no doubt pulls inspiration from. The audience witnessed the artist switch flexibly between scornful kiss-offs and flowery poetics on the turn of a dime. The new Sub Pop Records signee offered no sneak peaks from her forthcoming record, but flexed a variety of fleshed out renditions from her debut, Front Row Seat. The adaptability with which the backing band postured itself allowed them to cycle through the set like the pulse of a heartbeat.



Jay Som

After breaking into 2017 with an ever-poised and confident debut, indie pop artist Jay Som basked in the divine glow of the Petit Campus stage. She performed a collection of gorgeously ornate and burgeoning pop songs with an artistic slant that absorbs from the lofty heights of 80s synth rock.






Naomi Punk

To call Olympia-based trio Naomi Punk alienating would be a crude understatement. The band forged their career with a discombobulated brand of surrealistic grunge and an equally bizarre bass-free lineup. While they’ve amassed a fair share of doubters, the band has no doubt achieved cult status within their specific niche.

Their headlining gig at La Vitrola on POP Montreal’s opening day on Sept. 13, however, did nothing to win over skeptics. Though the energy was there on stage, the lack of bass rendered the set laughably disjointed. The group’s twin guitarists drowned the crowd in a muddle of twangy cacophony.

The trio played as if breaking into abstract jam sessions—performed in the disjointed manner you would associate with school kids playing music together for the first time. The sets closing song, “Tiger Pipe,” a bleary, minimalistic single from their recent double album, Yellow, would go on to define the set.

Performed over a pre-recorded backing track, the audience looked on as the lead guitarist packed up his gear and walked off during the set. Meanwhile, the drummer sat on in his throne having seemingly fallen asleep and the lead singer put his guitar down and began testing his interpretive dance skills whilst howling in his signature Cobainian drawl. A fitting end to a night of noise, confusion and disappointment.

Photos by Mackenzie Lad

Student Life

The city’s first meditation studio

Andrew Rose, the co-founder of  Présence Meditation, at his studio in the Mile-End. Photo by Elisa Barbier.


Welcoming Montrealers to take a deep breath and relax at Présence Media

The sun’s early golden rays were subtly parting the shadows of potted plants through the curtains into the room. Only the faint sounds of birds chirping and distant voices from the street could be heard. Inside, a pleasant warmth caressed the faces of some participants. Sitting with crossed legs, tall spines, hands on their thighs, with eyes closed and a restful expression, they are meditating.

About a year and half ago, Andrew Rose, the co-founder of Présence Meditation and one of its instructors, decided he wanted a studio to solely practice meditation. On Sept. 13, he opened Montreal’s first secular meditation studio,  in the Mile-End. For the occasion of POP Montreal—an annual international music festival—the studio offered free classes from Sept. 13 to 17. It was as an introduction to the practice of meditation and an opportunity to try different teaching styles.

If you walked by 207 St-Viateur St. W., it would be hard to believe the building is anything other than a regular apartment. Yet, if you climb the dimly lit stairs, you’ll find a bright and spacious room filled with potted plants and dark blue cushions spread across a squeaky wooden floor. In a hidden corner is a desk where people can register or sign-up for a membership. On the other side of the cushions is a small room with a sofa facing a bookshelf filled with books on meditation and mental health.

Rose said he wanted to create a space for people with varying knowledge about meditation to come in and sit for 30 minutes a day or a couple of times a week. “Every class is accessible and suitable for beginners,” he said. Varying in length from 15 to 60 minutes, the classes focus on periods of the day with sessions like late-riser, after work, lunch or morning meditation. On Sunday mornings, an outdoor class teaches meditation while walking. Rose said more classes will be added as the studio grows. Drop-ins, monthly memberships and inclusive 10-class cards are available at a student-discounted price.

Rose said he wants Présence Meditation to be a space for people to meditate together and become Montreal’s first cohesive meditation community. “You can certainly do it alone, but when you are starting out, having a group and someone to guide you is much more practical,” he said.

A view of the serenity found in a Présence Meditation room. Photo by Elisa Barbier.

According to Rose, the studio has a unique approach to meditation with 12 teachers from different backgrounds and a partnership with Mindspace Clinic, a Montreal-based organization that specializes in using cognitive mediation to strengthen mental health. Rose emphasized the secular aspect of the studio. “We are not endorsing particular techniques or religions,” he said.

Rose said determining who is qualified to teach meditation is a sensitive topic at the moment. He pointed out that Présence Meditation focuses more on teaching techniques and less on the psychological problem-solving aspect that meditation can offer. “We made sure that our teachers have the techniques,” he said. “Some even went through the mindfulness-based stress reduction program taught in clinics.” While scientific studies show meditation can have considerable impact on the brain, Rose said it’s not a solution to tackle every problem. “Meditation is more efficient when practiced regularly. It is not a magic pill.” He explained that it involves long and arduous training—he has been practicing meditation for 15 years, but more seriously in the last 10 years.

Rose also mentioned the potential anxiety that comes with meditation, as one has to deal with unwanted emotions. He said that is a challenge in and of itself.  “Sometimes the [emotions] come up to the surface as tears, sometime as laughs,” he said. Nonetheless, Rose emphasized the importance of the practice. “It is hard in the beginning, yet truly worthy on the long run,” he said.

This was a challenge I faced during a late-riser session at the studio last week. With little sleep and an empty stomach, the breathing exercises—meant to help visualize our bodies as spaces and our breathing as time—enhanced my hunger to a point of obnoxious discomfort.

Yet, as we kept going, the overwhelming hunger transformed into an unexpected deep joy and thankfulness that brought tears to my eyes. Needless to say, it was an emotional rollercoaster. After I completed the session, my outlook on things like breathing, mind and body connection were remarkably transformed.

Rose said he tries not to have overly high hopes about the studio’s future. While he said he believes there is a need and desire for this type of studio in Montreal, Rose doesn’t try to convince people of the benefits of meditation. Instead, he encourages people to experience them first-hand. Quoting his favourite line from the American TV show Reading Rainbow, Rose said with a smile: “You don’t have to take my word for it.”


How gentrification affects the local music scene

A conversation about underground music and art of DIY venues at POP Montreal

A jam-packed room on St-Urbain Street played host to a rare discussion during POP Montreal on Sept. 17 about the struggle Montreal musicians face in the wake of gentrification.

Famous for its one-of-a-kind art scene, Montreal has also garnered a reputation for its boundless local music scene. However, even in a world where creativity flows free, artists say it’s hard to ignore how much gentrification has changed the city. Venues close, struggling musicians move away, new residents complain about noise.

Out of these struggles arose a DIY music culture. Tired of the exhausting requirements associated with owning a venue, artists found ways to open venues without the proper permits, making them illegal. It’s a throwback to New York City in the 60s––a bustling, crowded stage where bands like the Sex Pistols and The Clash got their start.

While this creates a myriad of legal problems, artists often feel they have no choice but to create a place to hone their craft. Yet, with the rise of gentrification in Montreal neighbourhoods, these legendary places are disappearing. What was once a welcoming, art-driven environment for DIY venues is becoming a concrete jungle of new condos and overpriced coffee shops. The artists move away and the music that once dominated a region goes with them.

“If the [venues] are all gone, where are artists going to play?” asked Sybil Bell in an interview with The Concordian. She’s the creator of Independent Music Week, a festival promoting small venues around the U.K. featuring new local bands.

“They need to [learn their craft] in a small venue,” she said. “They have to be able to make mistakes, learn what it means to go on tour and learn how to deal with people. Without that, there just won’t be a new chance with other artists coming through.”

Katie Jensen, the moderator of the POP Montreal panel, recalled the moment she realized developers were affecting small and DIY venues in her hometown of Toronto. She has been producing a monthly art, music and food event called Feats in the East for the last six years. In that time, she’s had to change venues six times, as they closed one by one.

“That’s when I realized about the venue crisis we were having in Toronto,” she said. “I started paying attention to these conversations that were being had between venue owners and community members. That really got my interest.”

There is no record of how many Montreal venues have closed over the years, but many musicians claim it’s something they observe every day, and it isn’t simply because of the rising rent costs. Panelist and McGill professor of urban media studies, Will Straw, explained that a key issue is newcomers to newly-gentrified neighbourhoods.

“They come to the neighbourhoods and don’t like the presence of music—so they make noise complaints,” he said.

Bell pointed out that, without legal or DIY venues, Montreal’s music scene wouldn’t be the same. Grassroots musicians would have no way of developing their sound or performing for an audience.

“If you’re driving to work and listening to music, where did that music come from?” she asked. “It’s from a band that started out at a small venue, got good and got signed.”

Photo by Mackenzie Lad


How Mount Eerie copes with personal grief

Phil Elverum talks latest album and the pitfalls of navigating death

“Death is real” is the first phrase that introduces Phil Elverum’s A Crow Looked at Me. What makes this album different from the rest of his work is the realness and pragmatic candidness in the face of death after having experienced it first-hand.

Elverum is a renowned musician from Anacortes, Wash., who performs under the moniker Mount Eerie. He was previously the frontman and producer for the coveted lo-fi band, The Microphones. The band reached mass acclaim with dreary and introspective music that explores themes of nature and solitude with fuzz-laden guitars and echoey reverb.

Mount Eerie’s most recent album, A Crow Looked At Me, is Elverum’s most raw and personal work yet—and rightfully so. It was released this past March, and recounts memories and feelings of grief after the passing of his wife Geneviève Castrée, a native of Loretteville, Que. Castrée died of pancreatic cancer last July.

What Elverum is best at describing is his literal and emotional environment. This is prominent in previous Mount Eerie and The Microphones work, where he contemplates his place in nature, the world and the universe. But in his new project, Elverum attempted to eliminate artistic symbolism and metaphors to construct an album that is undoubtedly a raw and honest chronicle of the aftermath of his wife’s passing. In it, he explores the grieving process that follows death and the experience of raising a daughter without her mother.

References to space, time and nature are all still prominent throughout the album—noting the passage of time since Castrée’s passing, recounting significant spaces in Elverum’s town and house that stir memories. The most significant is the event that inspired the album’s name: a crow following him and his daughter on a hike.

Elements of symbolism were not intentional. Still, the album contains poetic allusions to crows, and Elverum is aware of this. “I tried hard to eliminate symbolism, but I didn’t succeed 100 per cent,” Elverum said. He said he feels there is a mysterious, poetic beauty to being followed around the forest by a crow, indulging in the romantic and melancholic idea that it could be an embodiment of his dead wife. He wasn’t trying to make a statement—his goal was to present himself accurately as an artist and let people glimpse what death actually looks like. “Poetry, art, metaphor; these things felt stupid and self-indulgent in the context of Geneviève dying,” he said. “They seemed like small potatoes.”

However, Elverum is aware that his older work contemplated existential questions about death and one’s place in the universe. “I maybe was mostly trying to say, ‘Death is real’ to myself,” Elverum said. “[I wanted] to correct all my past years of songs where I am exploring the idea of death without really having a sense of the human experience of it.”

When writing the songs for his latest project, Elverum intended the album to be a personal documentation of experiencing death first-hand rather than art itself.

“When these songs started taking form, I had no intention of releasing them,” Elverum said. “I was just expressing myself in the way I had done for 20 years previously, refining feelings and ideas into song shapes. I was doing it only for me.”

It’s this personal stream-of-consciousness brand of lyricism that has defined Elverum’s new album, with subtler and softer guitar work instead of the fuzz and reverb-heavy noise elements in his previous work with The Microphones. “[A] limited palette of instruments is consistent for the whole album,” Elverum said about the album’s production. “Janky electric guitar, complicated piano chords, weird slow drum machine, loud sparse bass, unobtrusive music that lets the singing communicate.”

Elverum said it felt good to have an outlet to examine this experience of loss. “I was just burrowing into the experience and trying to document it,” he said. “The experience itself was, of course, extremely difficult, like the worst thing ever, but the documentation of it and the songs were not. They were joy.”

Though A Crow Looked At Me is a deeply personal work, it opens up the topic of death in an forthright way, emphasizing the importance of being true to oneself and living life to the fullest. “We’re all going to die and nobody knows when,” he said. “So fear, hesitation and restraint seem like big wastes to me now.”

Mount Eerie is currently touring the United States and Canada. He will be performing during the POP Montreal festival at the Ukrainian Federation Hall on Sept. 17.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Motherhood saves the best for last

The New Brunswick band ends their Canadian tour at POP Montreal

Motherhood: a soft, nurturing and beautiful word. It is also the name of a gritty, dark, industrial rock band. From New Brunswick, Motherhood has been touring across Canada since the end of August to promote their most recent album Baby Teeth, which was released this past summer. They performed in Montreal on Sept. 23 for POP Montreal’s music festival.

Brydon Crain, is the lead singer, guitarist and vox player; Adam Sipkema sings backup vocals, plays the percussions and vox; Penelope Stevens sings, plays the bass, organ, synthesizer and vox. The bandmates go way back. Crain and Sipkema went to high school together, then moved to Fredericton where they met Stevens. The band formed in 2010.“Fredericton influenced us in a major way lyrically. We write as if no one pays attention to it. There are no expectations of what a band should sound like from Fredericton,” said Crain. The lack of expectations has led them to bend the rules and become a more experimental band.“We’re more about the concept behind the music and not the genre. We mess around with ideas. If they sound cool, we use it,” said Crain. Motherhood is a mixture of punk, blues and country sounds. They are also influenced by bands from various genres. “We all like Dear Rouge, Captain Beefheart and Death Grips,” said Crain.

Their recent album, Baby Teeth, expresses their anger and emotions towards various issues. Their song “Greed” is about the negative impacts of consumerism. Even though a lot of the lyrical content isn’t very happy, Crain’s goal is for people to think their music is interesting.“The lyrics are stories from the different universe that I write in. For this album, we practiced twice a week and came up with ideas. We basically banged our heads against the wall until we found something we all liked,” said Crain.Overall, Baby Teeth is about being from New Brunswick. “It’s a mix about being happy about New Brunswick but also being frustrated because there’s a lot of shitty stuff going on there which is affecting being there right now,” said Crain.

Live from O Patro Vys, Motherhood was rocking it on stage. Photo by Ana Hernandez

Everyone contributes the same amount of work to the band’s creative process. This is something that Crain said he loves most about Motherhood. “Both my bandmates have musical brains,” he said. “They are always ready to hear my floppy ideas. Adam plays drums unlike any other. Penny is good with harmonies and has more of a technical background, which is very helpful to the songwriting process.”

Motherhood has performed in Montreal a few times before with local band Smokes. They also brought a music festival from Fredericton to Montreal called the Shifty Bits Cult. They called the Montreal version of the festival the Shifty Bits Circus.“We chose Montreal because of the city’s hard-working people in the music scene. It was a good mix of New Brunswick and Montreal bands,” said Crain.

The band’s performance at POP Montreal took place at O Patro Vys bar. Catriona Sturton, an indie-rock and blues singer-songwriter from Ottawa, opened for Motherhood. Her deep bluesy voice, along with her harmonica playing, gave the performance a folk-rockish feel. She also mixed in her sense of humour, throwing in jokes between her songs that got the whole audience chuckling. Her charisma on stage was undeniable. When Motherhood took center stage, Sturton joined in for their two first songs and rocked it.

Penelope Stevens of Motherhood on bass guitar live at POP Montreal’s music festival. Photo by Ana Hernandez

Motherhood’s music sounds all the better live. Their rough guitar riffs, industrial sounds and screeching voices are greatly intensified when they hit the stage. Their song “Twosies” is meant to be heard at maximum volume. The trio gave it their all on POP Montreal’s stage.“I love to perform live. It’s a chance to act crazy, scream, do things that I’m not aloud to do in normal life. When the show is good, I’ll come off stage not remembering what happened. I’d just be like, wow, that was so much fun,” said Crain. The band has been touring with Little You, Little Me, who also played later that night. “Little You, Little Me are more rock and roll, and heavier than us. Their influences come from a lot of different places in rock,” said Crain.

Motherhood had a piece of advice for any musicians planning on touring across Canada: “Bring a good book—Canada is huge.”   


POP Montreal turns 15

Interview with co-founder and creative director of POP Montreal, Dan Seligman

An underground music event that brings together over 400 local and international musicians and hosts four days worth of events and performances all across town—is this too good to be true? In Montreal, it isn’t, because it’s happening. The annual music festival POP Montreal is back and celebrating its 15-year anniversary between Sept. 21 to 25.

Dan Seligman, POP Montreal’s co-founder and creative director, is responsible for the festival’s musical programming. He launched the festival as a McGill graduate back in 2002, along with co-founders Noelle Sorbara and Peter Rowan.“I was pretty young—just graduated from McGill, majoring in comparative religion. A friend of mine approached me with the idea of getting involved in creating a musical festival,” said Seligman. At the time, he was doing some work in music, managing his brother’s band, Stars. “For the first edition of POP Montreal, it took us six months to make it happen,” Seligman said. “We made contacts, sponsorships and we invited a few international bands.”

The event was a success and the trio decided to make it an annual festival. “Every next edition has been a continuation,” said Seligman. “It’s a lot of fun and it’s always challenging to manage a festival.” As they grew and developed their brand, the trio realized that Montreal has a huge music scene with lots of opportunities in the industry.

Bringing in countless music legends every year, POP Montreal’s 2016 lineup is no exception. John Cale, the founder of the rock-and-roll group Velvet Underground, will be flying in to perform as a headliner at the Rialto Theatre. He will also host an “artist talk” at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.“I’m really looking forward to John Cale—he’s a musical legend,” said Seligman. “This is an exclusive show. He isn’t doing any other shows in North America. He’s flying to Montreal specifically for us.”

POP Montreal will also be hosting a series of late-night shows at the Rialto Theatre. The band 69 Boyz will be playing their 90s top hit “Tootsee Roll” and young hip-hop artist Princess Vitarah will also be performing. Besides showing performances in the main theatre hall, there will be special shows on the rooftop. The first floor area is their club house lounge, where different chefs will be there every night. It’s free and open to the public. “It’s a hangout area in between shows,” said Seligman.

Come celebrate POP Montreal’s 15-year anniversary. Graphic by Florence Yee

POP Montreal brings together a variety of music, art and people from all over the world to participate in the festival. “We have industry people coming from all over the world to check out local acts—local emerging artists can help develop their career and territories across the world,” said Seligman. Every year, local artists are invited to submit samples of their music to POP Montreal for a chance to perform at the festival. They can submit their music through POP Montreal’s website. “Certain artists, such as the headliners, we solicit and ask them to perform and some of the up-and-coming artists go through our submission process, where you can apply to perform at the festival,” said Seligman. Over 1,000 artists submitted their music this year, but only 100 made the cut. “We listen to all the music we receive with our committee. We invite journalists [and] artists to come and listen to it all. We work with the programming team to select artists and put it all together,” said Seligman. As the festival’s creative director, Seligman is constantly meeting new artists. “People are always sending me new music,” he said. “I really enjoy programming and bringing different artists together.”

POP Montreal also launched a new monthly video series called “POP Shots” which aims to give visibility to local artists. “It’s an initiative we did this past year,” said Seligman. “It was cool to work with local artists.” Espace POP, which is a space built for artists to perform throughout the year, is where these artists perform while our team films them and post the videos online. “It’s a showcase of local artists all year round. We’re always doing stuff throughout the year,” said Seligman.

POP Montreal “adds a nice flavour to the city,” Seligman said. “I think it’s a special event. I hope that people love it, support [it] and buy tickets and have a good time.” A word of advice from Seligman to all bands interested in trying out for the festival next year: “Try to make really good music that stands out and that isn’t boring. Keep practicing, keep playing shows and keep doing your music if you love it.”

For more information about tickets and the lineup, visit the festival’s website:

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