POP Montreal 2017 superlatives: Sweet Sixteen edition

Just like you're in high school all over again.

POP Montreal celebrated its 16th birthday like a high schooler would: plenty of beer, loud music, and youthful, carefree vibes – not to mention the bleachers, basketball jerseys and awkward high school photos at the festival’s opening party. But of course, it’s always the music, the daily activities and the overall sense of community and togetherness that makes POP like few other festivals in the world. Just like we did last year, here are our superlatives for this year’s POP Montreal.

Most impressive solo artist: Lido Pimienta

Two days before winning the 2017 Polaris Music Prize, Colombian-Canadian chanteuse Lido Pimienta took to the top floor of the Rialto to a modest audience for a performance demanding both attention and hijinks. Her take on Latin American music is very experimentally minded (think Björk mixed with the kind of electronic music you’d hear on Massive Attack’s Mezzanine), and also very political lyrically, but the set was a pretty accurate summary of the kind of artist Pimienta is. It was powerful, it was hypnotic, and it largely impressed a crowd that should hopefully start ballooning in size following her Polaris victory.

Most impressive local band: The Dears

In celebration of the album that arguably helped set the wheels in motion for the Montreal music scene becoming what it is today, La Tulipe had the honour of hosting the Dears’ performance of their 2003 sophomore effort No Cities Left. Murray, Natalia and company came on dressed to the nines and ready to take a joyride down memory lane, and did so with their landmark baroque pop-flavoured album, followed by an acoustic rendition by Murray Lightburn of “There Goes My Outfit” from Gang of Losers in the encore. Supported by a full, 12 (or possibly more)-piece band and playing together smoothly despite such strength in numbers, this performance was one meant for proper, old-fashioned concert halls like La Tulipe, and the crowd roared in approval song after song.

Biggest improvement on last year: Uber

Thanks for not surging your prices to ridiculous heights this year when I had to go to venues in a pinch, Uber. You da real MVP.

Show I regret missing the most: Dead Obies

After getting turned away from two major POP shows last year – namely, the Kills and Angel Olsen – as they’d reached capacity for those holding media passes, I figured there was no way I could possibly get in to the Dead Obies show at Metropolis (yeah yeah, I know it’s “M Telus” now, but I’m never calling it that). But, the Franglais Montreal rap crew put on what was apparently a wild and energetic show at the newly-rebranded concert hall. To add insult to injury, I learned later that there were 100 spots available at the venue for pass-holders. Welp.

Best show: Think About Life

Although I nearly put them as “Most impressive local band” as well, Think About Life only played at POP Montreal as a one-off show (their first in six years), so the Dears got the nod based mainly on activity status. That said, this particular Montreal band absolutely rocked the Piccolo Rialto for their comeback gig (a popular stage banter running gag for frontman Martin Cesar was “see you again in 10 years!”), and caused dancing, moshpits and positive vibrations. Their groovy, charismatic take on the dance-punk sounds of the aughts – the era in which they were initially active – hyped up the packed crowd in the basement that night, and crowdsurfing and audience participation became major components of the show itself. Oh yeah, and some dude came on in a wizard costume to play bass, too. If that’s not the most badass moment of POP Montreal this year, I must have missed it.

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