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M for Montreal day 3: Cindy Lee, Helena Deland, Bernardino Femminielli, New Fries, LeE HARVeY OsMOND & more

Friday of M for Montreal was the best day, musically, of the festival so far and not just because it was the official BrooklynVegan showcase at Casa Del Popolo (co-presented by Heavy Trip). Most of the folks crammed into the small venue (sold out) were there to see Cindy Lee, the solo project of ex-Women singer/guitarist Patrick Flegel. Taking the stage solo to Angelo Badalamenti-style synths (via an iPod), there was an undeniable Twin Peaks aesthetic to Cindy Lee, which also seemed very much a work in progress. Cindy Lee recordings are fully of mystery and romance, but live Flegel’s voice and presence was unsteady — the live show is not quite there yet.

Things went further into the surreal with headliner Bernardino Femminielli, the self-described “genderless provocateur” whose stage show was as much performance art as it was a concert. In my mind it was like a Dario Argento musical with songs by Giorgio Moroder as performed by Goblin. Or something like that. There was a “story” to the performance,  involving seduction and sex and lot of smoke machines. A lot of it was in French, but not all of it, and I wasn’t 100% what was going on but it was not boring and when krauty disco was cranking it sounded great. It probably played even better the night before under the seedy strip club lights of Cafe Cleopatra.

Bernardino Femminielli will be on tour with Marching Church in 2017, including the NYC stop at Sunnyvale on February 4. Tickets are still available.

Earlier in the night at Casa: Toronto’s New Fries made scratchy, nervous post punk that never seemed like a direct rip of anyone specifically. Songs made right turns often, making hooks hard to hold on to, but they were never short of ideas. Singer/guitarist Anni Spadafora reminded me a bit of Life Without Buildings’ Sue Tompkins with her off-the-cuff delivery that slipped around the spastic rhythms.

The showcase began with Montreal singer-songwriter Helena Deland, whose smoky vocals paired perfectly with the atmospheric but spare arrangements of her songs. For her last number she asked the sound man for blue lights instead of red — Deland is a very talented songwriter who is just getting started but already seems to have a solid handle on things.

Earlier Friday was festival booker Mikey Rishwain’s annual Montreal bus tour, this year becoming a traveling showcase. Along the way we saw LeE HARVeY OsMOND whose got a voice somewhere between Johnny Cash and Wolfman Jack that just demands dusty outlaw country. He’s got a outsized persona to match that voice as well, and was a real treat. There was also Saskatoon’s The Garrys who make haunting surf pop not to far from La Luz (I liked them a lot), instrumental synth act Hologramme (Tycho-esque, good), angular punks Sonic Avenues, and Le Trouble who make what you might call classic Montreal indie a la Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade and The Dears.

Fuzzy iPhone pics from M for Montreal day 3 are in the gallery above and you can listen to some music from the groups in this post below.. Check out reports from day 1 and day 2 of M 2017 as well. M for Montreal wraps up tonight (11/18) with shows all over the city.

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