November 19th to 21st, the hills were alive with the
sound of Canadian indie rock.
BY APRIL S. ENGRAM
Summer is the time most
flock to music festivals. Yet, what about when the sun sets earlier, predictions
of snow may be part of your forecast and the holidays are encroaching? This is
when M for Montreal (a/k/a M4M), now four years old, pounces. During this time of festival
hibernation this little-known musical extravaganza is growing into the must attend
indie event. And trust this road weary writer of BLURT, this statement is far
from exaggerated. One glance at the eager fans, dancing hipsters, packed venues-and
of course the amazing talent showcased-proves this to be true.
The goal of M4M is to
highlight Canadian bands – mostly Montreal
based acts – and present a format for them to unleash their hell. And they did
just that. It was quite obvious that every band had a well established fan base
eager for their favorite band to blow them away…their desires were met.
Yet again the fourth
edition of M for Montreal
ran like clockwork. Alternating sets, almost 30 bands, no act went unseen; and,
here are the bands that made the festival all the more exciting.
The first day of the
festival had the most impressive line up and it began with solo act, Graham Van
Pelt. A busy multi-instrumentalist who
did double duty at M4M – he is also the guitarist for band Think About Life –
Van Pelt performed twice this night. However, before he graced the stage with
the night’s main act, and hovered behind two theatrical singers, Van Pelt took
center stage with keyboards, drums machines and loops to create his ethereal,
dance beats as Miracle Fortress.
Spectators were greeted to
a stage with several props (lamps, lights and other like items) when all went
black. Van Pelt walked out with a red light illuminating from his heart and
donning black shades he pressed a button on his drum machine and the show
began. Van Pelt proved to be an eccentric act as he arched backwards, sang in
his genteel falsetto and provided his own light show. His vocals could barely
be heard over the catchy beats but Miracle Fortress was an intriguing act.
Following Van Pelt was folk
band Rural Alberta Advantage, and as the name suggests, all members of the trio
hail from Alberta,
RAA put on an emotive performance as lead singer Nils
Edenloff’s sobering voice commanded everyone’s attention. Paul Banwatt’s
static, rhythmic drumming made each song come alive as Amy Cole switched
between violin, vocals, keyboard and xylophone. A bright surprise and
advantageous addition to the evening, even in the large venue RAA’s performance
was personable, quaint yet grand. Fans seeking a modern Neutral Milk Motel or a
less cheeky Mountain Goats look towards The Rural Alberta Advantage.
Say Party! We Say Die!
One of the few bands I knew
by name prior to attending M4M, You Say Party! (pictured above) did not
disappoint. If lead singer’s Becky Ninkovic’s pixyish stature, wing
outfit, or adorably coiffed ‘fro didn’t charm you surely her infectiously
humble smile captivated you. Making a special trip from their regularly
scheduled tour, You Say Party! was warmly welcomed; there were several fans in
the room this night. Once on stage the band did not hesitate and quickly leapt
into their dance, punk-rock tunes with the dark “XXXX/Loyalty.” Ninkovic’s
eerily wailed over the roar of the keyboard and banging drums to an eager
audience who immediately jumped and danced to the beats for their entire set.
Well, it was quite obvious
why this Montreal
band closed the evening. Unashamedly quirky, fun and silly, Think About Life’s
dance, pop-rock induced the venue to a sweaty rage. Though some of their tunes
proved too immature to my refined taste – sarcasm tone intended – their raw
energy was damn contagious; one could not pull themselves away from the
Singers Martin Cesar and Caila Thompson-Hannant,
guitarist Graham Van Pelt, and drummer Greg Napier provided a great explosion
of sound. Even members of You Say Party! sat on the rear of the stage and with
beaming smiles on their faces watched Think About Life work their magic. A horn
section, balloons, beaming smiles, sarcastic quips with the audience, feverish
dancing and fans rushing the stage were just a few of the antics that took
place. Their exhausting 11pm set, which stretched well into midnight, was
nearly over when Cesar called for a friend to join him for their last song,
“Sweet Sixteen.” And with the balloons still flying, together they closed the
show with a loud bang.
Pronounced Parlour, the
trio creates a unique blend of disjointed, upbeat punk, pop-rock. Sharing
singing duties, Louis Jackson and Alex Cooper
with drummer Jeremy MacCuish were yet another band full of smiles
and infectious energy. Parlovr made quite a bit of noise with just two guitars,
a keyboard and drums. Introduced as “I love these guys, Louis babysat my kid
sister…,” the amorous feeling of the evening was set.
Several times Jackson addressed the
audience and it was apparent he wanted to share a more intimate moment with his
fans. “Who wants to be my human stand,” he asked as eager hands flew into the
air. He picked a girl from the crowd, helped her on stage and with her holding
the mic, began singing. She tried to hold back her urge to dance as she smiled
with bubbling delight.
and Silver Starling
DMY’s blend of loud punk,
noise-rock soared above the realm of constructive rhythmic beats and sailed
straight for kinetic chaos and achieved deafening clamor. And though this
pleased some-the crowd of near deaf fans who stood front row, center-there were
quite a few who waited in the lobby for the next act, I joined the latter.
Later that evening Silver Starling, on the opposite end of the musical
spectrum, performed their blend of country-alt-rock. Their music was far from
interesting and quite archetypal, alternative rock…perhaps I’m hard to
Standing in the front of
the stage holding a camera to record the bands performance was Ian Cameron, a
member of The National Parcs – they performed at last year’s M4M.
As we camera geeks discussed our gear a collection of highly eager, young men
(questionably pre-pubescent in appearance) gathered and eagerly jumped, drank
and rough housed before the music began. And then I saw why. Le Matos. If your
life is a rave this electro-trio will most likely provide the soundtrack.
Encased in lights and keyboards the members of Le Matos were shrouded in
darkness until the music began and their personal light show complemented the
music. With mostly lyric-less songs that easily spanned 6-8 minutes in length,
the audience and performers alike were sweaty before the first track was over.
Arthur and La Patere Rose
Well, Saturday proved to be
“let’s sing in French and confound those foreign tongued delegates” day. And
though my weak French only picked up on a word or two, I was able to decipher
that all of the bands had rabid fans in the audience. Marie-Pierre and La
Patere Rose shelled out pop drenched rock. While Marie-Pierre music was quite
focused and catchy, it was difficult to pin down Rose’s sonic influences. Uber
poppy and uber feel good, lead singer Fanny Bloom voice squeaked and squealed
over the electro-pop sound produced by her two bandmates.
Not that I am a forlorn
soul, yet after the mini pop fest this Blurter
was ready for some melancholic grooves. Automelodi came to the rescue. A blend
between Depeche Mode and The Cure, Automelodi’s throwback to dark, melodic,
‘80s, synth-filled, dance-rock got the audience moving. Singer Arnaud
Lazlaud’s subdued vocals calmly wooed the audience as the cool, electronic
beats poured from his synthesizers. Though their sound is far from original,
Automelodi was a fine live act and their solid performance made my day.
Well. How to describe
Geraldine? A dash of rock mixed with a smorgasbord of crazed, eccentric,
electro-noise punk, Geraldine was…unique. They all wore ski masks. She sang
into a fan. She chirped adoringly into the mic for a duet. For another track
Geraldine screeched incomprehensibly while the band poured out some great,
chaotic beats. Definitely artsy, definitely captivating Geraldine made a
of You Say Party!We Say Die! by April S. Engram. To view BLURT’s gallery of
Engram’s pictures from this year’s M4M, go here.]