words and photos by Dominick Mastrangelo
Day three/Friday of Pop Montreal (check out days one and two) was colder and, thankfully, dryer than Thursday. But a canceled day party at the Notman House and some overlap at the other day party at Divan Orange made for a quiet afternoon.
The night started in earnest at Place des Arts to catch Zola Jesus. It was a really spacious concert hall and Nika Roza Danilova paced from one side of the stage to the other, dramatically swaying back and forth. She owned the stage and her backing band sounded good in a space where it would seem easy for the sound to get lost.
Then a walk along Rue Ste-Catherine back to the National to catch Baby Dee and Swans. Baby Dee's Baroque pop consisted of her on harp and an accompanying violinist and cellist. Between hushed songs and awkward "hee, hees" at the audience applause, Baby Dee led the audience in some purposeful artist bashing. She mentioned how you never hear crowds show their out and out dislike for someone's music. So, the entire crowd was led in a chant of "You stink and your music stinks." It was reprised at the end of the set as well. "Just don't do that with (Swans') Michael Gira," she warned the crowd. "You need to do that to someone with lower self-esteem."
For Swans, ten minutes of loud, deep strings on tape gave way to each musician taking the stage, first Shearwater's Thor Harris on percussion and finally the rest of the band and lastly, Gira. He stood stoically and surveyed the crowd and as the noise began to swell he donned his guitar and rocked back and forth before the band broke into blaring instrumental, face-melting, rock mode. Even with earplugs it was deafening. It was mesmerizing and devastating and sounded great in such a cozy, old theater like the National. "Holy shit, I still can't hear!" said one kid as he bounded out of the venue before the set was over. He was certainly not alone and any questions about the reboot of the band were settled.
From there it was up Boul. St-Laurent to the packed, hot and sweaty Barfly to catch Montreal's No Joy. I arrived early to find Toronto's Little Girls rocking away. Their set of self-described minimalist post-punk culminated with lead singer Josh McIntyre knocking his keyboard onto the ground and then standing on it as his bandmates thrashed around him. Shoegazy with indecipherable lyrics that bled into hazy guitars and bass, No Joy was a solid set though one gets the feeling that dark, sweaty clubs is where these songs sound best. The same would go for Little Girls.
More pictures from the whole day below...