because the personal is cultural
1. Bas + EarthGang @ Le Belmont (Greenland Productions)
For years, I’ve suspected that indie rock audiences were the worst and this year my suspicions got confirmed. The crowd at this hip hop show not only knew the lyrics to all the Bas songs, they also knew the lyrics to all the openers’ songs and to the ones spun by the DJ in between sets. I seriously had no idea Montrealers could be that enthusiastic about anything. I lost my shit that night and am pretty sure no one who knows me would have recognized me.
2. Jon Mueller @ Coop Katacombes (Heavy Montreal)
Experimental drummer Jon Mueller is simply the best live musician there is. The only reason why this isn’t my top show this year (as it was the other two times I saw him) is because, as my previous example proved, the audience can make all the difference. Mueller opened for sludge metal band Sumac and clearly the crowd didn’t know what they were in for. With his non-stop endurance-based performance, he won them over and – to be honest – he made Sumac seem underwhelming. Though lighting certainly helps, no one pushes the musical performance until it becomes spiritual and dramatic in and of itself like Mueller.
3. La URRS @ Loudhouse
The day after they took the stage at Casa del Popolo, Spanish punk rockers La URRS played a house show that was scarcely attended. But that didn’t bother singer Áfrico Martín, who began his set by saying, “It’s Monday night, there aren’t many people here, but we will have fun anyway.” Then La URSS gave everything they had just as if they were playing for a packed venue.
4. BRAIDS @ Casa del Popolo (Blue Skies Turn Black)
I like BRAIDS’ records but I assumed they’d be the kind of band that’s unexciting live. I was proven wrong when I had the chance to catch them during their series of three sold-out concerts in the intimate space of Casa. Their energy exceeded that of some punk and metal bands, and Austin Tufts joined my long list of drummer crushes.
5. Young and in the Way @ Théâtre Plaza (MetalSucks)
The sexiest band I’ve seen all year.
6. Anicon @ Piranha Bar (Sepulchral Productions)
I saw Anicon the night after Donald Trump got elected and black metal was exactly the catharsis I needed. They picked me off the floor and made me want to get a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire and go into the darkness gladly.
7. Cloud Becomes Your Hand @ Brasserie Beaubien (Loose-Fit)
I was completely unfamiliar with the avant-prog CBYH before that July night. They’re like a less obsessive-compulsive but more fun and theatrical Dawn of Midi. Sam Sowyrda particularly stood out on the malletkat, turning his (non-)playing into arm choreography. All-around the most self-consciously artistic musical performance I caught in 2016.
8. Ursula + Endform @ La Vitrola
This NoDAPL benefit proved that it’s possible to make the world a better place while rocking your ass off. Endform stood out and Ursula might just currently be the best live band in Montreal.
9. Cinéma Vengeance @ Drones Club
They made me horny. Plus them having to stop halfway through their set so we could wait for the cops to circle the block was kind of hilarious.
10. Ricky Eat Acid @ Bar Le Ritz PDB (Blue Skies Turn Black)
Though I barely drank that night, I almost passed out and I’m convinced Ricky Eat Acid’s music is at least partially responsible.
11. Julie Doiron @ Le Cagibi (Gladeye)
This was the definitive Doiron concert for me: small, intimate, the way all her concerts should be. I’ll probably never go see her again now because it will never get better than this.
has an MA in Film Studies and works in contemporary dance. His fiction has appeared in Headlight Anthology, Cactus Heart, and Birkensnake.