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POP MTL 2013 Show Picks: How to find the best of this mammoth festival

Posted by Greg / September 25, 2013

20130925-StageDive.jpgLast night, I was trying to explain to a friend that Pop Montreal is an exhausting crunch time for Midnight Poutine since it's so long, with so many shows, and we cover it so extensively. But I couldn't actually recall the term "crunch time" and came out with a couple alternatives: rush... period...? busy... time...? Yeah, already losing speech skills and the festival hasn't even started yet.

Each year, Pop Montreal brings over 600 artists to over 100 venues and performance spaces across the city for five days of nonstop shows. It's a lot to handle, even for the most seasoned music lover. I've written out my picks for each night of the fest in an effort to help the wary and overwhelmed sort through through the massive schedule. This is not so much a comprehensive or definitive guide to Pop Montreal as a list of particular recommendations, leaning heavily toward emerging artists and unique performance experiences. The Shows section of each day lists places where you can plant yourself for the night and absorb a full bill good and complimentary acts. Hop around is for those with passes who want to take in all they can.

Before getting to it, let me remind everyone that we are also running a series of five podcasts previewing each day of the festival. Also follow us on Twitter and Instagram for the most up-to-the-minute updates from the field.

Day 1: Wednesday, September 25th

Shows: The Kinnata Records showcase at Brasserie Beaubien features the festival's largest lineup of amazing sounding bands I've never heard of before. The power pop of Expwy, the enchanting sounds of Einar Jullum, the soft 60s throwback of The Haiduks, and the lush, washed out folk of Ollie North have been stuck in my head since I first came across this show. If you like the loud stuff, Holy Cobras, New Swears, Boyhood, and Big Dick at Quai des Brumes will not let you down. There's also DIANA, Empress Of, and MORI at Sala Rossa for anyone who likes dancing and shouting along to impeccable pop hooks. Or go to Casa del Popolo for experimental/noise music late into the night, with El Salvador, Kurvi Tasch, Girls in Uniform, No Magic, and Charlotte Day Wilson.

Hop around: Technical Kidman, my favourite up-and-coming Montreal band, will be going on late at Balattou after Brews Willis, demonstrating that someone behind Pop's scheduling has a sense of humour. I'm also dying to see Saltland, the solo project of violinist Rebecca Foon, at the Church of St. John the Evangelist, and ambient kroutrockers Slight at L'Escogriffe.

Day 2: Thursday, September 26th

Shows: Start the day off early with a BBQ in Parc dela Petite-Italie featuring glitch-poppers Born Gold, Montreal scene stalwart Miracle Fortress, and a host of other fun acts. Later in the night, it's an even draw between two phenomenal shows happening at the same time. I can't decide whether I'll be at The Rialto Theatre seeing Colin Stetson, Tim Hecker, and Bobo & Chris or at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art for a special collaborative performance with Suuns and Jerusalem in my Heart's Radwan Ghazi Moumneh. Either way, you can't go wrong.

Hop around: Cory Archangel & d'Eon are sure to provide some mind-bending keyboard music at their Phi Centre show. The Blue Seeds will be releasing a an EP of beautiful, breathtaking new songs at The Belmont early in the evening, and apparently there will be free smoked meat and beer if you arrive shortly after doors open at 5. Otherwise, anyone at the Arbutus Records showcase is sure to impress, not least Doldrums, who will be DJing late into the night, and soft rock revivalists TOPS.

Day 3: Friday, September 27th

Shows: Go see a ridiculous number of awesome acts for free at Divan Orange starting at 1pm, including Asthma Camp, How Sad, MORI, Valleys, Michael Feuerstack, The Highest Order, Sea Oleena, and Holobody. This is basically the easiest choice anyone will have to make all week. Later on, it's all about The Dream, possibly the most essential R&B songwriter today. If that's not your thing, go see the masterful Leif Vollebekk, Angel Olsen, and Pillars and Tongues at The Ukrainian Federation for one of the most beautiful folk-rooted shows of the week.

Hop around: The Passovah showcase at Divan Orange is stacked this year, and anyone would do well to drop in on Born Gold, Pat Jordache, Freelove Fenner, The Moment, or Fragile Feet. Montreal's finest alt-country band, Sunfields, will be offering one of their first performances in a while early on at O Patro Vys. I also hope to catch the gorgeous harp music of Emilie & Ogden at Petit Campus and dance my ass off to UN at Club Lambi.

Day 4: Saturday, September 28th

Shows: Catch up on sleep during the day (or follow the earlier hopping options below, or see Killer Mike in conversation with Matt Sonzala at Pop Headquarters), and then consider parking yourself for the night at Quai des Brumes for CTZNSHP, Pick a Piper, El Motor, and Ariane Zita for some of the most wonderfully melodic rock going. If you're up for it, hit the late show at Cabaret du Mile End with Killer Mike, Tre Mission, Shadakiss, and DJ Illo.

Hop around: If the hopping starts early, head to Divan Orange for 2:30 to catch classical-electro wonders Syngja. Then go over to Empire Exchange at 4:30 to see a free show with Kieran Blake, Norvaiza, and Fragile Feet. Later in the night, there's the jublient pop of Royal Canoe at Petit Campus, the alternative R&B stylings of Akua at Divan Orange, the always unpredictable Pigeon Phat and Dishwasher at Breakglass Studios, and Broken Social Scene co-founder Brendan Canning at Casa del Popolo.

Day 5: Sunday, September 29th

Shows: Indie Montreal's Pop Brunch at Divan Orange has become a Sunday fixture, and this year it features more than hangover-curing free food, with a lineup including Adam Strangler, Fire/Works, Royal Canoe, Emile & Ogden, and more to be announced. Considering I recommended many of these acts earlier in the fest, this will be a great time to catch up on any I missed. Later on, I'll be seeing Songs of Darkness at the Rialto Theatre, with Patrick Watson, Sarah Pagé, Little Scream, and more guests, focusing on the theme of darkness in music. For anyone who needs to blow off some late-night steam before the festival comes to a close, head over to Église POP Little Burgundy for METZ, Crabe, and Fist City and have fun showing up to the office the next day looking like Edward Norton in Fight Club.

Hop around: Spencer Krug has consistently been one of my favourite songwriters for the last ten years and I look forward to stopping in on his solo project, Moonface, at the Ukrainian Federation. I would also love to catch up with Corinna Rose at Brasserie Beaubien and maybe stick around for AJ Cornell, Gianna Lauren or Dorothea Paas.

There it is: the plan for the weekend. Now I'll start taking bets on how long it lasts before I fall hopelessly off track.

stock moshing photo taken from GB Posters (you can buy it, if you want to)

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