DOWNLOAD: Jesuslesfilles - Fous Le Camp (MP3)
The final day of M for Montreal had two showcases, both of which seemed programmed more to locals more than the "international delegates" like myself. Mainly because much of it was en Français.
First up was an all-Francophone afternoon. This might sound like drag to some, but I see it as a window to a world most Americans don't really know exists. And while a lot of it is heavy on the fromage, there's always a discovery to be made here. The only band that seems likely to make a dent below the border was Jesuslesfilles, who make a racket somewhere between the Pixies and early Dandy Warhols. Garagey, but not the blown-out levels kind, and the songs are very catchy even with the language barrier. Check out "Fous Le Camp" at the top of this post. It's from their excellent self-released album, Une Belle Table, which you can download in its entirety for free at their Bandcamp page. There's also video of them performing at the bottom of this post.
I also really, really liked Les Surveillantes, an incredibly charming, nerdy folk quartet from Saint-Boniface, Manitoba. Huddled around two microphones, and looking like French-Canadian Quakers, they sang about girls, apathy and science. "La Racine Carree du Couer" ("The Square Root of the Heart") was kind of about all three. Though all their songs were in French, their very funny between-song banter filled in the blanks for Anglo-monolingual folk in the audience. One of my favorite performances all week.
The rest of the Francophile showcase was a little more glitzy. Damien Robataille worked his inner Tom Jones for a crowd of excited ladies, one of whom threw a bra onstage. Tongue-in-cheek, yes, but sorta not at the same time. Montreal seems to like a little panache in their rock. We also got Yann Perreau, whose 2009 album was nominated for a Juno and epitomizes Francophile rock: indebted to Leonard Cohen, with a little Vegas and a little analogue electronic edge. And in his case, a little dub too. He was good.
Alex Nevsky seemed like a younger, blander version of Perreau, which I guess makes sense as Yann produced his new album. Nevsky and his band's flowered shirts were the most memorable thing about them. Monogrenade made anthemic, somewhat pompous rock that reminded me a bit of Parisian talent Benjamin Biolay but not as good. They had a cellist. And Geneviève Toupin crafted airy, ethereal pop not unlike Beth Orton.
Later that night was the big M for Metropolis show at the Metropolis theater, one of the nicest bigger (around 2500 capacity) venues I've ever been to. Great sightlines, sound, and lots of bars. It puts Hammerstein, Roseland and Terminal 5 to shame. The line-up here is of bands who are genuinely popular in Montreal, but it's equally schizophrenic as the other bills this week, a little something for everyone.
La Patere Rose, who also played last year's M, opens the show. She's very French, from the striped shirt to the accordion. There's also a little dance music vibe thrown into the chanson mix, as well as choreography. Very cute.
Up next was Pascale Picard Band who was so bland and forgettable I have to look up their name every time I try and reference them. If they ever made a French-Canadian remake of Dawson's Creek, Pascale Picard Band would likely be on the soundtrack.
Waking us up after that was Priestess, who -- unlike Dance Laury Dance earlier in the week -- brought some serious hard rock to M for Montreal. Though I was hoping for more mayhem. No pit, just some mild thrashing from the crowd. The band were tight and giving it their all though.
Next were The Dears whose sound is clearly designed for a big venue like Metropolis. They sounded properly epic, but played a set that was heavy on the new album, Degeneration Street, which no one has actually heard yet. (Not out till February). Maybe I don't understand how these things work, but I think if you're playing a big show like this, a festival crowd, cram your set with hits and play the best song from the new album. (That would be "Omega Dog" in this case.) Instead we only got the great "Lost in the Plot." Lost opportunity if you ask me.
Then we got the real entertainment of the night: Misteur Valaire, who I saw two years previously at M, and have become Montreal megastars. They're kind of the city's Hot Chip, in that they look like members of a high school AV club but make serious club music. Jazz trained, these guys are great musicians and have the crowd going mental the whole time. There's also costume changes and boy band style choreography.
What they don't have, however, are very many catchy songs which is where the Hot Chip comparison kind of falls apart. But in the moment, they are a one-stop dance party. But they'll need more hooks if they want to really translate to American audiences. That said, if you want to get a head start -- I think they'll be at SXSW 2011 -- you can download their album for free at their website.
The crowd kept dancing for Poirer, one of the hottest DJ/Producers in Montreal but at that point I was entirely wiped from four days of French-Canadian hospitality, music and general excess.
Videos of Jesuslesfilles and Les Surveillantes, plus some more pics, après le saut:
La Patere Rose
Pascale Picard Band
Jesuslesfilles - "Tes Yeux" @ M for Montreal 2010
Les Surveillantes - "Whatever" @ M for Montreal 2010