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M for Montreal 2019 day 2: Jeremy Dutcher, Adelaida, and more (review)

I have now seen three of the 10 nominees for the 2018 Polaris Music Prize this week at M for Montreal. Following Partner (very fun) and Hubert Lenoir (great) on Wednesday night, I headed to the Gesu on Thursday afternoon to see a special performance by this year’s winner, composer and tenor Jeremy Dutcher. On his winning album, Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, Jeremy rearranged music by the Wolastoq First Nations’ traditional music. It’s a fascinating story. Interested in his people’s history, he was giving access to the Canadian Museum of History’s archives where he discovered wax cylinder recordings from 1907 of his ancestors singing forgotten songs and stories. Digitizing those cylinders and incorporating them in the work, it’s Jeremy’s contribution to sharing and continuing the Wolastoq language which is only spoken by about 100 people today. (Jeremy said only a couple decades ago it was spoken by entire communities.) Playing as a three-piece with a cellist and drummer, Jeremy performed songs from the record, triggering the wax cylinder recordings via an iPad he had beside his grand piano. The music is gorgeous, sad and haunting in a Rufus Wainwright or Antony way, and knowing the backstory makes it all the more compelling. Alas it was only a 30-minute show, and Jeremy said that at a normal concert he offers stories behind the songs, but we didn’t get that here. It did make me want to see him again, and he’s on tour now and into 2019. He’ll make his NYC live debut at The Copacabana Times Square on January 6 which is part of the 2019 edition globalFEST (tickets).

Right before Jeremy was a performance by Socalled, aka Josh Dolgin who is doing a similar thing with Yiddish music, albeit in a more whimsical way. He has reworked traditional Yiddish music into hip hop, dance music and other pop styles, but this performance featured “lost” songs that were only available as sheet music, which he reworked for a string quartet. Though a little more highbrow that what he usually does, Josh was still very funny, and I found it pretty fascinating/entertaining. A nice change of pace to a usual festival show and not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

The evening showcases were not quite as engaging, I have to say. At Club Soda it was M for Montreal’s showcase of French-Canadian hip hop, featuring Fouki, Zach Zoya (who mostly rapped in English) and Rowjay. Across Boulevard Saint Laurent, at the sometimes strip club Cafe Cleopatre, it was a night of indie rock from around the world. (As witnessed on Wednesday night, there is less Montreal at M this year.) Best of the bunch were Chilean band Adelaida who took forever to soundcheck but made it worth it with their crunchy, hooky brand of ’90s inspired rock that split the difference between Loveless and Gish. For just a trio, they had quite the wall of sound. Also pretty good were Catalan band The Zephyr Bones who sounded a bit like DIIV with more of an emphasis on songs. (Fellow Catalan artist Núria Graham, who was so good on Wednesday, was right up front for their set.) The Cafe Cleopatre lineup also featured Regina, Saskatchewan’s Beach Body (that province certainly likes their surf bands) who were fine but had too many slow-to-midtempo songs for an 11:45 PM start after a long day of schmoozing, free booze, starchy dinner and music. The night opened with Vancouver’s Yung Heazy and the less said about that the better, trust me.

It’s Friday (11/16) which means M for Montreal goes from industry conference mode into more of an actual music festival, with shows all over the city, including former Dears guitarist Krief, Tess Roby, Helena Deland, and lots more, while Saturday has How to Dress Well, Kero Kero Bonito, Corridor, Pottery, Chandra and more. And hopefully I’ll get some St. Viateur bagels today finally.

Read about Wednesday at M here, listen to some music from Thursday’s bands below, and stay tuned for more coverage.

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