POP MONTREAL 2016: 5 Highlights

Every September I make my annual trip to Montreal to eat bagels, see friends, bands and collect some swag and experiences. This year, like every year at Pop Montreal, there was an abundance of things to see and do – Fashion, Kids stuff, crafts, films, workshops, talks, networking, cocktails and most importantly music. These were my top 5 performances I witnessed at the festival.


The story of Chandra still blows my mind. Chandra grew up in NYC in the late 70s and her dad was an artist. When she was only 10 years old she met a post punk band through her father’s friends who were looking to collaborate and she wrote an album, recorded and performed with them until she was 12, this was 1980. Flash-forward to 2014 and Chandra fan Julie Reich of Bile Sister reached out to her about her music and they developed a musical collaboration. Weird Canada reissues the 1980 album and they perform 3 songs at Double Double Land in Toronto. Now 48 years old and a mom, Chandra is backed by a 6 piece Toronto band (Jesse Locke of Century Palm, Bile Sister, Penny of Tough Age to name a few) playing her entire 1980 repertoire. Standing still and serious in a suit Chandra belts out her cult classics such as “Concentration”, “Get It Out Of Your System” and my favorite “Kate” which features the lyrics “It’s not fair, it’s not fair, everyone stares at the girl with blonde hair”. Anyone who’s been to highschool can relate to this song, it’s just perfect and simple.


I’m going to go on the record and say it, hands down, Let’s Eat Grandma is the most exciting band in the UK right now. The name alone drew me to check them out. Let’s Eat Grandma are Rosa & Jenny, Norwich teenagers who have been best friends since they were 4, not to be mistaken for sisters. They have the same hair and dress similar but that’s what best friends do, right? Multi-instrumentalists on stage they switch between drums, keyboard, xylophone, guitar and recorder (a LOT of recorder!). The music jumps around from beautiful keyboard parts, almost classical, to crazy freak-outs with shrill insane vocals. It’s experimental pop music with very innocent lyrics. They have a song called Rapunzel which starts, “My cat is dead, my father hit me, I ran away…” I really hope it’s fictional as their parents are on tour with them. Mom is working the merch table. Not only is the music exciting and new, the whole stage show has to be seen. They lie down on stage between songs, skip around during instrumental breaks and the crowning glory is a synced patty cake joint clap game in beat to the music. Let’s Eat Grandma is one of the most exciting live shows I’ve seen, just be warned there is a LOT of recorder!!


If Let’s Eat Grandma are the most exciting band in the UK, Partner are the most exciting new band in Canada. Picture Weezer blue album (they’re even getting the dude who mixed that album to mix the Partner debut record), early 90s pop punk with tongue in cheek lyrics about working in the service industry, getting mistaken for Ellen Page and being high. I took along some British delegates who by the end of the set were full converts to Partner fandom. Set highlights included “Everyone Knows Your High”, “Personal Weekend” and “Hot Knives”. Partner’s live shows are a mix of inside jokes that everyone gets, stage banter à la Beavis & Butthead and enough guitar solos and hilarious song content to make even the most serious person smile. If you aren’t smiling by the end of a Partner show there is something seriously wrong with you.


Not only was Seth Bogart performing at Pop this year, he also had an art installation at the headquarters. If you don’t know who Seth Bogart is, let me drop some names… he is Hunx from Hunx & His Punx, he was also in Gravy Train!!!!, Panty Raid and back in the day ran this amazing DIY synth label called Super 8 Underground. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Seth now resides in Los Angeles where he also runs a weirdo shop called “Wacky Wacko” where you can buy clothes and knick-knacks designed by Seth himself and other artists. Described as John Waters meets Pee Wee’s playhouse, I’d say that’s a great description of the art installation at Pop. Seth’s live show is a solo performance synced with his “wacky” videos and a backing track. Seth’s stage costumes include a pink vinyl suit, black vinyl shirt, leggings and change more times than Donald Trump says China. His song subject matter ranges from eating make up, Hollywood Squares, getting lubed and other fun topics. It’s all quite silly but there is an underlying message of challenging gender and sexual norms. Seth’s debut album is out on Burger Records.


John Waters doesn’t need any introduction, if you are vaguely into pop culture, cinema and kitsch you have probably seen a John Waters film (Hairspray, Cry Baby, Serial Mom etc). Not only is he a filmmaker but he’s a very talented stand up and performed a 90 minute talk at this year’s Pop, entitled This Filthy World. I wasn’t sure what to expect, 90 minutes of someone talking? It felt like a stream of consciousness, as John Waters rambled on talking about his childhood, celebrities, movies, Baltimore and bohemia. These ramblings were some of the funniest on point quotes and musings of the world. The entire theatre listened to his every word in awe. At the end there were questions from the audience, one person asked him if he would ever try crowdfunding and his reply was “I own three houses”.

Other honourable Pop Montreal 2016 mentions go to… Vallens, Jef Barbara doing Bowie, His Clancyness, Nantha’s food and Wake Island’s pop up Lebanese BBQ. Thanks Pop Montreal for killing me yet again, I slept for 16 hours when I got back to Toronto. Until next year!

Mar Sellars
Radio host and music PR person. Mar also plays bass, promotes monthly gigs, manages Partner and spends most of her time working for the record label Hand Drawn Dracula. Her past includes BBC, touring Germany 7 times, CBC radio personality and lots of writing for music blogs. She’s lived in Vancouver, London and Berlin but now very happy to call Toronto her permanent home. Her two favourite things in the world are music festivals and waterparks.
Mar Sellars

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