words and photos by Dominick Mastrangelo
Patrick Watson's Sacred Sunday
The afternoon of day 5, the final day, at Pop Montreal 2010 (catch up with day 1, day 2, day 3, and day 4) was a toss up between children's entertainer, Fred Penner and friends, or Patrick Watson's Sacred Sunday. With promises of pieces by Arvo Pärt and Bach and artists like Socalled and Brad Barr (from the Slip) along with Patrick Watson in a venue like Ukrainian Federation, it was an easy sell.
I walked into Pärt's "Fratres for String Quartet" and stayed until the end. In between it was an eclectic mix of religious and not-quite-religious songs with a rotating cast of performers. Watson's piano arrangement of "The Lord's Prayer" was beautiful as was Barr leading a re-worked version of Bach's "St. Matthew's Passion". Josh Dolgin of Socalled remembered Lhasa with a Kurt Weill cover. (Mary Margaret O'Hara mentioned Lhasa on Saturday night and it's clear not just by the tributes but in conversations over the course of the festival she is deeply missed by those she touched in the city she called home.) The event closed with everyone involved joining Watson for a rousing, uplifting version of "Old Time Religion." For even the most nonreligious it was hard not to be moved as people clapped, and Watson encouraged the audience with his megaphone. Early on, Socalled's Katie Moore said at the start or her version of "Satisfied Mind" something to the effect that all good religious songs should make you feel good about yourself. Well, the Ukrainian Federation was packed and as the "congregation" filed out there was no shortage of people, even a full 30 minutes after the event, walking - some even skipping - away singing the chorus to "Old Time Religion" and feeling very good about themselves.
I'd like to say that the festival ended on a high note, and maybe if I wasn't airport bound at 3:30am, it would have. Then I would have made it to the closing party headlined by Big Freedia at Espace Reunion. But the logistics were too great to overcome so my festival would come to an end at Casa del Popolo for Film School, Depreciation Guild and if I could swing it, Scout Niblett across the boulevard at Sala Rossa. Not entirely excited about what I had heard from Montreal's Receivers, I arrived an hour late, just in time for... Receivers. The entire show was pushed back as Film School were delayed at the border. So, Receivers were on and the venue was full but even live they failed to impress. It was uninspired shoegaze and the most underwhelming set of the festival. Depreciation Guild were next and when one of the band members said to the in-over-his-head sound guy, "We've lost all power on stage," things looked to get even worse. The power was eventually recovered, but clearly things were not right as band members continued to ask for more vocals. The Brooklyn band soldiered on and were tight and energetic but on a Sunday night, and late at that, the crowd had thinned and gave little back.
I skipped over to Sala Rossa, presented to me as the 'Bowery Ballroom of Montreal', to catch some of Scout Niblett. She was already into her set and had the crowd fully cast. Her hushed, sparse vocals gave way to vicious guitar and heavy metal-drumming on "Hot To Death" and everything felt more sinister with the velvet red background and decor. The evening looked to be turning.
However, by the time I got back to Casa del Popolo I imagined Film School would already be on, but they were still pulling everything together and apparently having more sound issues. By the time they started it was well over an hour from their original start time and the crowd had thinned a bit more. They started strong and sounded good until Greg Bertens' mic went out during the second song. A verbal back and forth with the sound guy, who looked shattered at this point, culminated in Bretens, no doubt frustrated from the delays at the border and scurrying to get to the venue, telling him he should just "leave the board." They played the song over with the mic working this time and carried on but the vocals were still way down and it marred what had the potential to be a great set. And what should have been a positive end to a very enjoyable festival.
Until next year. More pictures from Sunday, and a video from the Patrick Watson church show, below...
Patrick Watson's Sacred Sunday
The Depreciation Guild