Just a couple of short months ago I had the priviledge of attending Pop Montreal, an incredible music and arts festival, now in its 14th year. My second Pop experience was just as enjoyable as my first, in wonderful and different ways. While last year I made several surprise discoveries, and indulged in my deep love of female driven music, this year’s pop gave me the chance to check out some decidedly male, decidedly, classic music, or destined to be. Consider this a class in musical history that you should think about taking along with me.
While all of us have probably heard the Sonics in one form or another throughout our lives, I was only formally introduced to them earlier this year, when my good friends from Nesta (my favorite Montreal bar) made the trip to Toronto to check out the band’s only Canadian tour stop of that tour. I was immediately impressed by the energy and epic musicianship of the reunited band. The Sonics are truly the grandfathers of grunge, punk and alternative music as we know it. Their show in Montreal was just as phenomenal as the show in Toronto, with an even higher level of energy exuding from the stage right into the audience. Fans danced, sang and moshed to the Sonics’ well known hits “Have love will travel”, “Psycho” and “Strychnine” as well as killer songs from their latests This is the Sonics like “I dont need no doctor”, “Be a woman” and my personal favorite “Sugaree”. It was over too fast, and you could definitely hear my voice among the many screaming for more.
While Chairman may have been new to me (and many other music lovers at the Divan Orange that night), they are veterans of the Taiwanese music industry. Truly the members of Chairman were pioneers of the underground rock scene, playing in various bands in the late 1980s just as martial law was being lifted from the country. By the time the band officially formed in 1997 punk/rock/alternative music in Taiwan was thriving, and the band has enjoyed a long and successful career, with fans spanning the globe. The Divan Orange was filled with an endearing mix of die hard Chairman fans who sang along in Chinese to the original songs the band played, and folks like me, no doubt intrigued by the band’s description in the Pop Montreal app. What we were met with was an interesting blend of folk rock music, passionately and artifully played by a group of men whose careers were hard one, and will continue on for decades to come. Chairman was definitely my favorite new discovery of Pop this year.
It would have been incredibly un-Torontonian of me to miss the Diodes at Pop Montreal. The punk legend’s rough and raw performance was delightfully juxtaposed against its setting at the sleek and stunning Centre Phi, in the heart of Old Montreal. The audience was an interesting mix as well, part seventies era stalwarts, now mature and stylishly dressed, and young punk music lovers thrilled to be witnessing the innovators behind the music they love so much. Being in the presence of the Diodes was another great reminder of how music can not only span generations, but bring them together, and last decades past its inception.
While Viet Kong’s choice of band name may have been one of the hottest topics of conversation in the musical community, all conversation stopped once the music started. I had always wondered if the Calgary natives had merited the endless hype (and occasional controversy) that always preceded them, and indeed they were. While some may describe Viet Kong as post punk I find them far more palatable than most of the bands in that general genre. Rough harmonies, a hint of electronic effects and straight up rock music combine to give the band a unique and engaging sound. I’ll definitely be making more of an effort to check them out, they’re worth many more of a listen.