The breadth of sounds and vibes at Pop Montreal, particularly on Saturday (10/1), is unmatched by any fest I've been to, dominated by international artists at many venues. Last night alone had sets by Isabella Lovestory, Scott Hardware, Jamal Padmore, Jane Inc. (another one), MVLL CRIMES, fauxcils, Swim Team, Gorgeous, Kellarissa, Alpen Glow, Sun Entire, Tinkertoy Fog Machine, Best Fern, Sheenah Ko, Sara Danielle, and more.
My night began on the Rialto Rooftop for a set by Vanille, a native Montrealer whose sound continues to evolve. Hers was one of few shows I've seen this weekend that was almost entirely francophone. She played through blustery wind and a magnificent sunset -- quite well suited to her understated, '70s revival baroque folk. Vanille played acoustic guitar and was flanked by two multi-instrumentalists who played bass, flute, autoharp, tambourine, and triangle during the show. The crowd grew as the set continued, but the space never lost its intimate feel.
Inside, Minneapolis (Oneida land)-based experimental Pow Wow singer Joe Rainey overtook the Rialto Theatre with a highly unique wall of sound and visuals, holding the crowd rapt for the length of his set. Joe sang from the front corner of the stage, accompanied only by a DJ with a laptop (Chicago band Tortoise were on after, and their rig occupied most of the stage). Psychedelic light projections in shades of red, yellow, green, and brown spanned the back of the stage, ebbing and flowing with the sound of Joe's chants. I've never heard anything like it, and I'll be there when Joe Rainey plays NYC next month just to see it again.
L'Entrepôt77 hosted a giant lineup of its own yesterday, featuring Haru Nemuri, Pelada, Witch Prophet, OMBIIGIZI, Ura Star & Fireball Kid, Paris Pick, and father figuer. I arrived in time for Japanese phenom Haru Nemuri, whose fans dutifully filled the semi-outdoor space with noise, cheering and singing along -- the loudest I'd heard thus far. Haru's singularity comes from her ability to mix textures. She took to the stage wearing stripes, florals, lame, tulle, and lace all at once, and her music shook the crowd with the sound of metal, dance pop, electronica, indie rock, and more. She stood on a box at the very front of the stage for parts of the show, her slight frame absolutely commanding the audience. She could switch from a laid-back verse of her poetic rap to screaming on a dime, and the anyone watching was simply along for the ride. She crowdsurfed! Haru's enthusiasm was evident -- Pop Montreal was the first appearance in her fall 2022 North American tour that hits Brooklyn on 10/7 at Market Hotel -- and she continually emphasized her gratitude, at one point saying, "To be here singing for you, it's an honor."
As more shows continued across the city, a long line stretched outside of Piccolo Rialto, the basement club underneath the Rialto Theatre. Piccolo Rialto was already at capacity by midnight, ahead of sets by Bambii, Mossman, NIABI, and dancehall legend Sister Nancy. Once I got in, the scene was dark and everyone was dancing. Toronto's Bambii was spinning live, energizing the crowd with room-filling beats and remixes of throwback favorites including Serani's "No Games" and Gyptian's Nicki Minaj-featuring "Hold Yuh." Following Bambii, it was Sister Nancy's room to own. She was accompanied by Mossman, as well as a guest MC who brought out Canadian reggae singer Carol Brown for a brief set of her own. The night was run by women, most of them Jamaican, and they held the crowd in awe and kept them dancing until the wee hours. On top of singing, rapping, and running the show, Sister Nancy spread words of empowerment, first saying "When you see me you see the original," and closing the show with the message, "No one is an island, no one can stand alone... If you love me, I love you too. But remember, you have to love yourself first." She finished the set with a gospel melody and her classic hit "Bam Bam," leaving the audience in thunderous applause. Check out iPhone photos of Vanille, Joe Rainey, Haru Nemuri, and Sister Nancy below.
Check out our recap of Friday at Pop Montreal here.
Sister Nancy plays a free Brooklyn show as part of Union Pool's Endless Summer Thunder series on October 9.