photos by Dominick Mastrangelo
Pop Montreal kicked off Wednesday (9/29) with a relatively small lineup of shows. But those lineups included bands like Menomena, The Dears, Murder By Death and Lost In The Trees among others. All these being ticketed shows, there's a lot of hedging and hoping that goes into planning; it's not unlike CMJ where badgeholders are given so many slots and the rest are for ticketholders.
Opting to start out close to the hotel and work my way up Rue St. Laurent, I popped in to see Murder By Death and caught the opening act, Buddy McNeil and the Magic Mirrors. Their set of rockabilly got stronger as it went on and set closer "Help Me Mama" was inspired. The venue had filled up and was nearly full by the time Murder By Death came on. Darker and more deliberate, their set was impassioned and the crowd was into it from the off. Leaving early was tough but Menomena were playing up Rue St. Laurent but despite my best laid plans arrived to find the show was sold out. No badges, no nothing.
So I quickly ran across the street to Lost in the Trees only to find out it, too, sold out with Villagers coming on afterward. Finding the learning curve for my first Pop Montreal swift and slightly unforgiving I managed to talk my way in but the venue. Casa del Popolo, slightly smaller than the Mercury Lounge, was packed. So packed that you could barely open the door into the space. Luckily the venue cleared out a bit for the headlining solo set by Conor O'Brien of Villagers. "The plural doesn't really apply tonight," he said. His set was perfection, the crowd was respectful and versions of his two more popular songs "Jackals" and "Home" (video below) were intense and the highlights.
Much like CMJ and SXSW bands are looking to get signed and raise their profile. Overheard at breakfast this morning at the Opus Hotel was a primer in how not to market yourself at an industry festival:
Label Guy: "Oh you're a musician? Are you playing the festival?The pictures of Villagers were already posted. The rest from Day One are below...
Musician: "Yes, my band is playing."
Label Guy: "Umm, are you playing tonight?"
Musician, after a thoughtful pause: "Yes, we are actually."
Label Guy, growing a bit impatient: "Well, are you going to plug your show? 'Cause, you know, maybe I'd like to attend."
Buddy McNeil and the Magic Mirrors
Murder By Death