By Bill Pearis
Half Moon Run
As an "international delegate" at M for Montreal, by Friday you start to get a little worn out. Your day is booked with meet-ups, panels, something called "speed schmoozing" and loads of bands. Most of it's fun or interesting but I went to sneak a catnap on Friday afternoon and ended up sleeping through one whole showcase. (Sorry, I.No and Bobby Bazini.)
But there was a lot of good in what I did see, including what most agreed was the best new band of the week, Half Moon Run. The Montreal trio match songwriting (and harmonies) of '60s folk rock with the atmospherics of Radiohead. A little too like Radiohead occasionally, but for the most part Half Moon Run had found their own way. I was instantly impressed but it took me a day to get their name right: I tweeted praise for something called Full Moon Circle, which I later realized was partially from one of their songs "Full Circle." (That song and another are streaming at the bottom of this post.) Maybe the name's not so memorable but their music sure was.
Buddy McNeil and the Magic Mirrors
The afternoon show Half Moon Run were part of also featured Buddy McNeil and the Magic Mirrors, punchy twang-n-roll dressed in Nautical outfits; Toronto four-piece The Midway State who make commercial-sounding alt-rock (clearly talented but definitely MOR); and the widescreen roar that was Passwords, who all the Brit journalists in attendance seemed to go gaga for.
After the unplanned three-hour konk-out and some much-needed dinner it was off to La Sala Rossa again for the official evening showcase, which was co-presented by CMJ. Hollerado headlined the show and are a lot of fun. And know their way around a giant hooks, the kind that would've made them hugely popular in the mid-'90s. Songs like "Americanarama" and "Juliette" (from their debut Record in a Bag) would've fit perfectly in between "Seether" and "Sucked Out" on a mixtape. As it is, Hollerado are merely Very Popular in Canada and fans are vocal and rowdy in a good-natured way. The band encourage it with confetti cannons, glowing beach balls and a cover of "Fat Bottom Girls." They also had awesome t-shirts at the merch table co-opting the Wu-Tang Clan logo and the Heisenberg sketch the Cousins pray to in Breaking Bad.
The showcase also had Parlovr on the bill who I've seen a handful of times over the last three years and have become a really solid live band. There's a lot of flying hair and the drummer is crazy tall with long arms flying the whole time. I'm not sure they have yet to write a song as catchy as "Heaven/Hell" which opens their set. If they have, they're not playing it yet.
Uncle Bad Touch
Also on the La Sala Rossa bill: Montreal's Uncle Bad Touch who recently signed to JEFF the Brotherhood's Infinity Cat label and that probably tells you a lot about their sound. (Riffy, sneery, Nuggets-y party rock.) For those in NYC, Uncle Bad Touch play Death By Audio on November 29.
We also got duo TONSSTARTBANDHT who started off Animal Collectively but became progressively more prone to dissonance. I still don't know how to pronounce their name.
Like the previous night, they had us running across the street to Casa Del Popolo to see more bands. Toronto's Doldrums (aka Alrick Woodhead) was wonderfully ADD, twiddling knobs, hammering sample triggers and pacing around the stage. Too many ideas crammed into one 20-minute set? Maybe, but it was exciting seeing talent that is only just now beginning to show its potential.
The other band at Casa Del Popolo was Candian/Swedish combo Thus:Owls, the only band of the week to use a colon in their name. The band stay busy in Montreal, backing Patrick Watson and Marie Pierre Arthur (who would play the next night). Here, fronted by harpsichord-wielding Erika Angell, they are delicate and stirring and swoony. Angell's got some pipes.
After the Salla Rosa show, we headed over to the late-night after party at Club Soda, one of Montreal's many amazing venues. (Seriously, no city I've visited has more clubs with great sound, great lighting and intelligent layout as Montreal.) I walked in about three songs into Plaster's set which was pretty great. Squelchy and banging, they do live dance music right. If there was a little more flow in their set, they'd give Soulwax a run for their money.
Next was Misteur Valaire who some of you may have seen at one of our day parties during SXSW this year. Seeing them on their home turf, however, is something else. Montreal loves Misteur Valaire who, like a lot of groups genuinely popular with the locals, come with a thick slice of fromage coating everything they do. They definitely put on a show, complete with costume changes. Hipster nerd Franco-Canadian boy band who have serious musical chops applied totally in the pursuit of a good time. The crowd was going mental for the entire set, which didn't finish till 2AM.
At that point I was finished and left before Bran Van 3000 started, choosing instead sweet sleep.
Click through for a few more pictures from Friday's showcases, plus the Half Moon Run streaming player and some video of Hollerado and TONSTARTSSBANDHT in action.
Half Moon Run
The Midway State
TONSTARTSSBANDHT live at M for Montreal 2011
Hollerado - "Americanarama" live at M for Montreal 2011