Zoilus by Carl Wilson

2009 Montreal Popposts #1

October 2nd, 2009

Another year at my favorite rock festival, Pop Montreal, and I’ll post quick dispatches as I go. (I’m also sending field reports to Twitter, if you roll like that.) I missed Day 1, Wednesday, and while by most accounts that wasn’t a tragedy, it sounds like there were some memorable bits. Meanwhile, I flew in Thursday afternoon in time to make my 5 o’clock on-stage interview with Buffy Sainte-Marie. Do I need to tell you she was a delight? Probably not. (Although a challenge, as a voluble and digressive speaker, for an interviewer to keep up with!) An extraordinary 47-year-long career so far, much more than we could ever talk about. Her counsel on “following the joy trail” and that the world is never ready for what’s most original in us, as well as her thoughts about her other vocation, education, will stick with me. Looking forward to her show at the Eglise St-Jean-Baptiste tonight, with what sounds like a tremendous band of younger aboriginal players. Ask her what Big Bird wears under his costume and whether she liked the Trailer Park Boys movie.

Musically most of what I caught last night was a disappointment, unfortunately. After a little R&R, got out to the Olympia in time to see Toronto’s own Lullabye Arkestra pull out stadium-sized energy and charisma, rock the house and set their snare drum literally on fire (to refreshingly chill response from the venue). For a two-person bass-drums duo, Kat and Justin can make surprisingly like Motorhead. It was Torontoverthetopia! Totally upstaging the reunited Butthole Surfers, who looked unexpectedly healthy and cheerful, were still showing autopsy videos and zombie movies, and demonstrated that the music - a melange of sixties psychedelia, Zappaesque prog, punk sloppiness and basic rock freakouts that’s really up the quebecois alley, a fact that made me realize that their musical heirs were really Mr. Bungle (mister bunghole?) - was never really the equal of the idea of the Butthole Surfers, and that idea depended on novelty or perhaps enough naivete to take it as novelty, or perhaps enough acid, and by the time they re-screened the eye-slicing scene from Un Chien Andalou, I figured that it was maybe four or five decades past time to leave the show.

Along with Toronto buds Jonny Dovercourt (Wavelength, Music Gallery) and Chandler Levack (Eye Weekly), I found myself next at the Blocks Recording Club showcase at the Casa del Popolo, where an enjoyable set by The Torrent was joined in progress. But since a Blocks showcase is basically our daily life in Toronto, it was quickly on to the next venue, Club Lambi, where true hip-hop legend Roxanne Shante was giving what she’d reportedly sworn would be her last live show ever. After her DJ warmed the crowd up and the crowd traded Cornell jokes (”Imma let you finish, but first Roxanne has to defend her dissertation”), Shante came along, rapped a few verses, did some crowd-charming patter, then led a long singalong session to the first verses of various golden-age hip-hop tunes (which was a lot of fun, actually), rapped a bit more, left. Hmm, that took about 13 minutes. I guess that’s what you get when you pour your energy into talking someone into doing a show they maybe don’t really wanna do.

We rounded out the evening at a crammed Green Room for an Ian Svenonious-DJ’d Soul Clap Party and Dance-Off, a popular NYC (and DC?) event that needed a different, larger space to really work - the dance competition (a self-declared concession to capitalist individualism by the famously Marxist (Chico tendency) Svenonious) had 32 contestants, so it was lengthy and involved and until it got down to the last round or two one couldn’t see a damn thing from the back of the room.

Perhaps the trouble was my planning. Today I finally registered for and used the interactive schedule on the Pop Montreal site, and even paid the $2 to install the corresponding app on my iPhone, and it’s looking like the only way to go. Here are my plans, subject to change and whim and secret hints - tUnE-YaRdS, Buffy, Destroyer… Pretty promising, right? If I manage all the running around, I’m particularly intrigued to see The Horse’s Ha, a new outfit from Janet Beveridge Bean (Freakwater, 11th Dream Day) and James Elkington (The Zincs) with Fred Lonberg-Holm and other Chicago stalwarts on backup: I’ve only given a cursory listen to the album but it seemed to have staked out its own distinct encampment on the AbEx-country-colour spectrum, and Bean is always a bracing and beguiling presence on stage.

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