M for Montreal 2017: Friday recap (Partner, Absolutely Free & more)
After two days of watching emerging, “export-ready” acts at M for Montreal, there were a lot more choices on Friday (11/17) at the fest, with shows happening all over the city. Unfortunately almost all the acts I wanted to see were playing at the exact same time. Opting against Alvvays, as well as a hip hop show at a casino, and super-buzzy UK act Shame, I ended up at the Heavy Trip showcase at Casa Del Popolo which featured Tess Roby, Absolutely Free and headliners Partner.
Having consistently gained steam since their indie hit “The ‘Ellen’ Page,” queer riff-rockers Partner cite another Canadian duo, Tegan & Sara, as their biggest inspiration but clearly worship at the alter of early-’90s DGC (Weezer, that dog, Veruca Salt, Sloan). It’s all big hooks, bigger choruses, quotable lyrics and a lot rocking out. (With an able full band, some their new material approaches AC/DC riffage.). This was their 100th show. If Lucy Niles lays it on a little heavy with the rawk schtick, they are clearly having a blast.
It’s been a few years since we’ve heard from Absolutely Free, whose members were all in DD/MM/YYYY and whose 2014 debut album was a Can-influenced delight. A trio these days, and enveloped in heavy fog for most of their set at Casa, they sounded absolutely great (sorry, but they really did). They played three or four new songs from their second album, which they recorded in August and will be out sometime in 2018. One of those had a Steve Reich/Tangerine Dream vibe to it, with frontman Matt King and drummer Moshe Rozenberg laying down polyrhytmnic patterns on synth pads (that would ring through the whole song) before moving on to other instruments. Very cool and their whole set was awesome. (it was also the sixth anniversary of their first-ever show, which was also at M.) Earlier this year they released a cover of The Walker Brothers’ “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” as a charity single and you can stream that below.
Opening was Montreal’s Tess Roby who makes dreamy synthpop, accompanied by her brother on atmospheric guitar. The easy comparison is to Chromatics, made easier as her debut album is coming out via Italians Do It Better, but her music doesn’t feel as distant, with a much more emotive voice. I thought she was terrific.
Earlier in the evening I stopped by metal bar Katacombes, a venue that could double as a set for one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies (lots of skulls), to catch some decidedly non-metal bands from British Columbia. Flying Nun signed The Courtneys sound like they could’ve been next door neighbors to The Clean in 1984 and their short set was good enough that I’m considering going to see them do a full set tonight. I also saw Dralms who are in that Rhye mood music vein, not bad.
My Friday started off with the now infamous/legendary M for Mikey Tour, where festival booker Mikey Rishwain shows the sights of Montreal as only he can. There was some music on the way too, including a couple songs atop Mount Royal (where there was snow on the ground) by restaurateur and CO/NTRY frontman Beaver Sheppard, plus brief performances by Respectful Child (loop pedal pizzicato violin ambient loveliness) and Common Holly (who was just on tour with Fazerdaze).
You can check out some cellphone pics from Friday in the gallery above, and music from some of the acts I saw below. Reports from Thursday are HERE and Wednesday are HERE. M for Montreal wraps up today (11/28) with the annual Francophone showcase this afternoon, and nighttime showcases that include Jean-Michel Blais, Deradoorian, Graham Van Pelt, Michael Rault, Odesza, and more.