The theme of Pop Montreal Day 3 to an American listener seemed to me, "your favorite band you've never heard of." The city-wide independent music and arts festival continued to host scores of events across town, many of them in unassuming but very welcoming venues -- including ArtPop at Projet Casa and PucesPop (a flea market) at the Church of Saint Denis. Tons of shows coincided with lineups four or five bands deep, and throughout the night the Little Portugal neighborhood was abuzz with people jumping from venue to venue -- myself among them.
Before the night began, though, Joseph Shabason played a warm ambient jazz set at the Musée du Montréal juif, "christening" the Jewish museum's brand new space with its first event open to the public. Joseph, best known as a collaborator with Destroyer and The War On Drugs, played several woodwinds and synths, accompanied by a band of electric guitar, bass, and drums (both electric and standard). He and the band played with loops and live samples, making the set sound like a fusion of jazz, electronic, and, at times, shoegaze--they were not afraid to play with dissonance and absolutely fill the room with sound.
The most noise I'd ever heard at a show came seeing Toronto post-punks Sham Family at Le Ministère. Their sound drifted into '00s indie-rock and '80s new wave in moments, but always returned to heavy distortion and wicked drums. Several of their songs featured long outros, pushing their guitars to their absolute limits and even throwing them onto the floor. There was almost no banter, except guitarist and lead singer Kory Ross squeaking out the occasional high-pitched "thank you." Fellow Torontonian Jane Inc. came on next -- it's the dance-pop project of Carlyn Bezic of U.S. Girls, Darlene Shrugg, and more. Carlyn was joined onstage by a single backup singer, and pulled out her guitar for a handful of songs but largely relied on tightly-produced backing tracks. She had incredible presence, keeping the audience rapt even when she was just dancing hypnotically, reminiscent of Mitski or Lorde. Her sound drew heavily on disco (at one point she interpolated Donna Summer's "I Feel Love") and veered into '80s pop, Madonna specifically, maintaining a glittery, feminine theatricality throughout. Sham Family and Jane Inc. could not have more different styles, but they made an excellent opening bill for fellow Toronto indie-rockers Born Ruffians.
Sprawling London post-rock eight-piece caroline closed out the night at La Sala Rossa, to an unfortunately talkative crowd (Sunforger and Gentle Party preceded them). The band lined the back of the stage in a semicircle, somehow fitting the dozen instruments they played onstage as well. By the end of their set of expansive, improvisatory jams, much of the crowd noise had died down, leaving caroline's choral vocals, grinding strings, and sparse drums to fill the room. Joined by a guest bassist and drummer, the band consisted of two violins, soprano and alto sax, clarinet, nylon-string acoustic guitar, two electric guitars and a cello. Toward the show's end, one of the guitarists joked "Is Montreal the home of post-rock?... Someone got so annoyed by that question they dropped their beer."
Across the street at Casa del Popolo, Royal Mountain Records labelmates Deanna Petcoff and Gulfer closed the night, following Sister Ray, JayWood, and PACKS. Deanna Petcoff, in from Toronto, played danceable indie off her debut album from this year as well as a cover of Sheryl Crow's "If It Makes You Happy" -- to which she invited the crowd to sing along, saying "We turned it into a slow jam a little bit." Montreal math-rock four-piece Gulfer played the final set to a moshing crowd, with whom they bantered with throughout--even passing the mic to a crowd surfer on one of their last songs. In typical math-rock style, their use of guitar and drums was complex and inventive while maintaining an emo-indie spirit in their vocals. Gulfer were endearingly gracious to the crowd and their label, with their bassist saying, "If you'd have told me three years ago that we're on Royal Mountain, I would have told you... no." Check out iPhone photos from Gulfer, Deanna Petcoff, Sham Family, Jane Inc., and caroline below.
Other notable sets from Day 3 included Martha Wainwright, Julie Doiron, Ambroise, oui merci, Alexia Avina, His His, Bran Van 3000, Wayne Tennant, Milla Thyme, Francis Blvd, Apacalda, Wayne Snow, Tess Roby, Lexsoul Dancemachine, Westelaken, Cedric Noel, Magi Merlin, Strange Froots, Wild Black, and more. More Pop Montreal recaps all weekend.