by Bill Pearis
There was a smattering of band performances throughout the day Friday -- anywhere they could cram them it felt like at times -- before the night's "official selection." Honestly, I wasn't really psyched at seeing a band at 2 in the afternoon when I'd rather go record shopping or, say, getting lunch but Newfoundland's Hey Rosetta! turned out to be worth the detour. "We're usually a lot louder than this," singer Tim Baker admitted, but the less-electric approach to this performance made it kind of special. Hushed vocals, strings and soaring choruses... the band's sweeping orchestrated sound definitely held our attention. The band's last album made the Polaris 2008 shortlist and their third album, Seeds, will be out in February 2011.
A couple hours later we were taken to the the Chapel historique du Bon-Pasteur for an event called M for Martini where we were plied with said drinks while watching four more intimate-style performances, including the Dylan-esque Courtney Wing, all-girl country band Ladies of the Canyon, and the art folk of Lief Vollebekk.
The only band to really leave an impression on me was Ensemble, the brainchild of Oliveir Alary whose baroque sound is akin to early Broadcast or '60s cult band The United States of America. We only get three songs -- including a brilliant reworking of UB40's 1980 single "Food for Thought" -- and they're maybe the only band of the week whose set I wanted to be longer. Ensemble's new album, Excerpts, is out early next year but you can download its first single, "D'Avalanches," for free if you give them your email address.
After a very heavy, very French meal we headed back to Just Pour Rire (which apparently is closing soon) for what was probably the single-best night of music at M for Montreal. The evening began with Molly Rankin who is descended from Canadian Rock Royalty. (The Rankin Family were folk megastars in the '90s. No those words aren't mutually exclusive. It's Canada.) Backed by members of The Stills, her music is charming, clever, heart-on-the-sleeve pop. A nice way to start the night.
Next up were The Barr Brothers. Andrew and Brad are both also in The Slip but under the family name they are much folkier, but still experimental. Usually when I see an acoustic guitar and a harmonica stand, I'm looking for the exit but they really knocked me back. Brad Barr entered the stage tugging on a string on his acoustic guitar as if he'd broken one on the way out. It was actually a loop of wire, filament, something that worked like a bow, giving the guitar a woozy, somnambulant quality. The band also has a full-time harpist. Most of their set is on the quiet side, but they go full-on Who for one song. One of the best surprises of the fest.
Shuffling over to Just Pour Rire's other stage, we then saw Metz, who kept getting compared to Fucked Up but that seemed more because they're also from Toronto and are making in-your-face noise punk. To my ears it's more the kind of noise you got from Amphetamine Reptile in the '90s. They are loud and spazzy and sludgy and pretty awesome. Check out an MP3 at the top of this post and there's video from their M set at the bottom.
Continuing on, Valleys were next who've played Brooklyn enough times (and I've written about them plenty already) that I should've already seen them but this was my first time. Their debut album was kind of Saddle Creek-y methadone folk kind of stuff, really good, but they have evolved into something louder, more sinister since then. Intense, even without percussion, but when they do break out the drums it's like scream therapy. Check out "Ordinary Dream" from their new Stoner EP which is out now on Semprini.
This flowed nicely into Suuns' set (pronounced "Soons"), definitely the most well-recieved of the night. This was my third time seeing them -- they played the official BV showcase at CMJ you may remember -- and they just get better every time. Singer Ben Shemie is a pretty intesnse frontman, especially when the band locks into a Kraut-y groovy. He bends over, laying into his guitar and leaves the planet.
Final act of the night was Random Recipe who are kind of folk, kind of hip hop, and definitely popular with Montreal locals. Their single "Shipwreck" is okay but overall I don't really get why the crowd is going so wild. I ask a local who shares my indifference. His answer: "Montreal is a really weird place."
More pictures from the whole day and the Metz video below...
Ladies of the Canyon
Metz - Dry Up - M for Montreal, Nov 19, 2010