Covering POP Montreal for (Maybe) the Last Time

“I’m getting too old for this shit!”

Steph, sometime in August 2019

That was my initial reaction when it was proposed I cover POP Montreal this year. I’ve been covering the festival for FTB on and off since 2010 and was confident after last year I was done.

My reluctance had nothing to do with POP Montreal itself by the way. If you read my early reviews, my love for the festival is clear. Instead, it had everything to do with the prospect of spending a week going to evening shows on the other side of town. This old lady needs her eight hours of sleep!

So, what are my thoughts on this year’s festival? While I am likely to hand off the reporting to younger bloggers in the future, of course I’m glad I attended.

For me, the festival has always been a great way to get out of my music rut and discover new up and coming artists before they hit it big. Arcade Fire played Pop Montreal in 2003 for instance, a year before the release of Funeral.

Since you don’t know any of the acts, you take a chance every time you walk into a POP Montreal show. But that’s the fun of it! Sometimes you strike gold, other times the show is terrible and you quickly move along to the next venue.

As in year’s past, I absolutely saw some terrible music… but we won’t focus on that. Instead, let’s dive into the artists who made Pop Montreal 2019 worth it.

What it really comes down to with POP Montreal is trusting venues in the Mile End/ Plateau will deliver the music goods. NYSSA from Toronto caught my attention during my initial research and holy moly am I glad that I saw her show at Casa Del Popolo.

This electro-glam rocker commanded your attention the moment she walked onto the stage with nothing but her vocal pedal and iPad. You might think that doesn’t sound like much, but let me tell you that girl had so much stage presence I was immediately hooked.

She absolutely deserves to become a very big thing, but we’ll have to see if the music gods deem it so. 

For day two I headed to O Patro Vys, interested in checking out another band I included in my preview, Basement Revolver. Sadly as the headliners of the evening, they were on long past my bedtime for a weeknight.

BUT the evening was not a loss because I was introduced to the joy that is Alex Dirk, aka the lead vocalist of the Winnepeg band Begonia. Part Adele, part Florence Welch, Dirk belted out the tunes with an intense passion that it was impossible not to be mesmerized. 

Day Three of the festival was when I saw all the aforementioned terrible bands this yearbut then I decided to try O Patro Vys again on a whim. The vibe was much different than the night before; calmer, much less packed.

Thankfully before my companions and I decided to call the night a total loss, Laura Carbone and her band came onto the stage. It’s a perfect example of why a small audience doesn’t necessarily mean a mediocre band; they were anything but! I was glad I got to be amongst the few in Montreal who got to see their set.

For my final night of POP Montreal 2019 (the festival is five days, but sadly I couldn’t make Sunday’s shows), I headed to The Rialto for a more low-key evening of folk-rock. Even if the bands are so-so it’s always a pleasure hanging out in The Rialto; thankfully the acts absolutely delivered.

The highlight of the night for me was Hollie Fullbrook, aka Tiny Ruins. While I was disappointed not to see this UK born New Zeland-based artist perform with her full band, she was still wonderful to see as a solo act. I highly encourage anyone into folk music to check her out.

So for what I assume will be my last ever POP Montreal post (lol I say that now, but who knows what next year will bring), let me end by imparting some wisdom to those who are thinking about attending this festival in the future:

The non-music portion of the festival can be interesting, but honestly rarely worth it. When it comes to the music it’s all good to do preliminary research, but more often than not you end up throwing that plan out the window as the festival goes on.

But EMBRACE the chaos! A festival like this is all about discovering something new, and more often than not you will love what you discover.

Featured image of Tiny Ruins by Adrien Gooding

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