‘VARIOUS ARTISTS’, ‘M FOR MONTREAL’ – MONTREAL, QUEBEC, CANADA 16-19.11.22
Elbourne has had a laudable career, which has included being the founder of WOMAD (alongside Peter Gabriel), agent for bands such as The Smiths and New Order, and booker for Glastonbury Festival’s main stages – plus having had the delicious job title of ‘Musical Thinker in Residence’ for the city of Adelaide in Australia.
He co-founded The Great Escape back in 2005, and then M for Montreal in 2006, and was also behind the ‘Music Cities’ movement – which is also still going strong.
So it was perhaps more than a passing coincidence that a week or so ago, after reviewing the Great Escape’s ‘First 50’ showcase in East London (Review HERE) we literally hopped onto a flight from Gatwick to flee the torrential rain and crunch through some snow-covered city streets to spend four days immersed in the best acts that Canada currently has to offer as guests of the M for Montreal team.
The festival is almost a perfect mirror image of The Great Escape.
In Brighton every May the city plays host to bands from around the world who are here to perform in front of a UK music industry audience keen to look for global talent to sign to labels or book onto festival stages.
M for Montreal turns this on its head, and brings bookers, A&R types, and music journalists from across the planet to expose them to home-grown Canadian artists…with a few Welsh bands thrown in for good measure, thanks to a new partnership with the FOCUS Wales team.
In total over the four days we saw almost 40 bands and singer/songwriters in a diverse range of venues ranging from tiny bars and strip clubs to full-blown club spaces.
All of them were within a short walk or easy taxi ride of our downtown digs at Hotel Zero 1 (in the heart of the former red light district) – and without exception every venue we explored had that perfect mix of relaxed vibe, great sound, good beer, and friendly clientele.
If there is a musical City twinning programme out there we want to nominate Montreal and Brighton for the first award!
So what of the bands?
Well, it gets difficult here, because the standard was high across the board, and whilst there were a few genres not necessarily up our street it was more than evident from crowd reactions that if that style was your thing then the acts performing were at the top of the game.
But our job here is to pick out a few highlights, so here goes:
The territory of Prince Edward Island where The Burning Hell hail from is small (by Canadian standards) and its 2,000 square miles forms only 0.1% of the landmass of the whole country.
The Burning Hell are a creative powerhouse and every song is awash with cultural references, anecdotes, and observations on life that hit so many nails on the head in such a short space of time that it’s a bit like watching a competition carpenter on a world record attempt.
“I wish I could hear the B52s for the very first time again”
“The search for more and better gives us worse and less options”
Or from their lockdown period:
“You don’t need wisdom like Gandalf or smarts like Sauron To know that social distance is an oxymoron”
What The Burning Hell proves without a shadow of a doubt is that music can be fun – indeed it has to be fun. Otherwise what’s the point?
Summary: every song sung with a smile…
Pop over to their YouTube playlist here: https://www.youtube.com/@BurningHellOfficial
But more importantly buy their music and see them live – you will be a better person for it.
Étienne Côté simply couldn’t be anything other than an Avant Garde French-speaking musician.
Extravagant, unrestrained, and probably a bit reckless, his striking features and even more striking hair mean he has both the attitude and the looks to perfectly mirror the 70s pomp and circumstance of his talented musical output.
Lumière is his most recent project, but he is also well known for others…including being the drummer in Bon Enfant who are next on the stage.
How he has the energy to drum after the exertions of his own set is anyone’s guess though – because he worked the crowd like the long-lost son of Freddie Mercury and Marc Bolan.
Of almost 40 bands I’ve seen during M for Montreal and Marathon, Lumière stand out as one of the best, and anyone who can see them should grab the chance with both hands.
Well that seriously woke us up!
We always love a good guitar band…but Kamikaze Nurse are a GREAT guitar band.
There’s a proper punch to their songs and they have the confidence in their lyrics to push them hard in the mix.
Those lyrics often have a Dadaist approach to observational content – take ‘Come From The Wood’, with its chorus of:
“Worms they all have thighs, And baby apples have eyes…”
…and its accompanying video rapidly descends into a visual expression of this theme.
There is a tendency at industry-focused events for the audience to sit towards the back in a thoughtful chin-stroking way, but tonight in the Café Cleopatra strip club there’s a healthy crowd right up to the stage – and we were dancing like loons in the middle of it, having the time of our lives.
We’ve been going to ‘End Of The Road Festival’ in the UK every year for a good while now… and frankly we’ve not yet heard another artist who would be such a perfect fit for their audience than Diaphanie in all that time.
This is perfectly blissful and beautiful music that is unadulterated by any sense of commercialism.
Laura Niquay is an Atikamekw singer and songwriter from Wemotaci in Mauricie who has already won awards and critical praise for her foot-stomping and larger-than-life productions, which are carried high by her powerful voice.
And we don’t use the word powerful lightly – this is a proper tour de force in vocal projection. There is a sense she could fill the venue with it unbacked and unaided by mics and speakers.
Sometimes language can be a barrier to musical understanding. But in this case there is no immediate sense of lost meaning even when songs have lyrics such as:
“Kape matce moteian Askik Ni pikekiniskisin niki pisken Mocak nikipe pisikon Kirika nikawi”
If you love a big slice of 70s disco-funk harmony in your life, then your world will only be complete after you’ve experienced a Barry Paquin Roberge live set.
‘BPR’ took L’Escogriffe by storm.
Their authentic take on the decade that saw the birth of some of the most redolent musical genres the world has known turned this small Montreal bar into a true disco inferno as the outside temperature fell several notches below zero.
In a world full of introspective pop this big dollop of pure joy is a welcome release from the banality of day-to-day life.
Primeval percussion and shamanic chanting plus some cinematic moments that wouldn’t have gone amiss on the soundtrack to the early parts of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ are interspersed with semi-shouted, semi-sung volleys of lyrics … and it’s easy to see why Balaklava Blues’ ‘Gimme’ video has just clocked over 1 million YouTube views.
That said, ‘Gimme’ is one of the more understated of Mark and Marichka Marczyk’s tracks, with the majority of the set going large on Ukrainian Polyphonics and pounding beats.
The melding of cultures works on so many levels, and the crowd is both transfixed and energised at the same time – a clever trick if you can pull it off, but Balaklava Blues manage it with effortless ease.
It’s very safe to say that this was a highlight moment of this year’s festival for anyone who was lucky enough to be there.
Every so often you discover a band who has the ability to time travel.
Mobina Galore have found the button that send them 20 years back in time to a point when they sat down in recording studios with Green Day and Blink 182…and having absorbed the energy of the songs they heard brewing, decided to see if they could improve on the formula.
BANG – as if by magic Mobina Galore have stumbled on the secret recipe and are writing and singing songs that if GD or B182 could get their greasy mitts on them they would find themselves back in the charts again.
God, these ladies are good!
[ps – Melvin, we hope you got our email about this band!]
If you are searching out an electronic vibe that is heavy on synths, but features French vocals high in the mix then C’est Karma should be your first choice.
Lithe, louche, and a little elastic, C’est Karma will ignite your stage like a small Chemical Brothers hand grenade.
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