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.
As one might decipher from my overall year-end list, this year I’ve decided to mute myself. So, here again, there will be no explanation. This post might just be an excuse to include a compilation of the music I listened to in 2015.
DOWNLOAD 30-song compilation.
I saw Thee Nodes at DH three times that year and the shows have now melted into a single event in my memory. I remember that the singer from the opening punk bank, who had given a comatose performance with her back turned to the audience the entire time, was sitting onstage. Then a slim man dressed in a suit and tie, his face wrapped up in bandages like a mummy, walked onstage and shoved her off before launching into his own performance. Clearly we were in for something different.
DH is a small cramped room with a wooden staircase near the stage, leading up to a mezzanine. The singer of Thee Nodes would jump from the stage onto the staircase railing before jumping back down. During the performance, he presented himself as Mr. Node, shouting into his microphone “Mister…” before aiming it at the audience who shouted back “…Node!” “Mister…” “…Node!” “Mister…” “…Node!” “SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!” he yelled back. I couldn’t stop laughing. As a dance critic who dislikes so-called audience participation (which it would often be more appropriate to rebrand “audience coercion”), I found great pleasure in Mr. Node reprimanding the audience for blindly following his implied orders.
At the end of October, I saw Thee Nodes again at Barfly. As Halloween was looming, Mr. Node threw candy at the audience before doing the same with his microphone. It is that night that the moment that has most stuck with me happened. First, let me mention that Barfly has a low ceiling and that the stage is barely higher than the rest of the room. Second, let me specify that the moment I will describe was a lot shorter than my telling of it necessitates, lasting maybe a second. Here is what happened in that second: Mr. Node jumped into the audience, who – in an instinctive attempt to protect themselves – grabbed his clothes, during which he did a complete 360, walking on the ceiling before coming back down on his own two feet. Even though it happened just a few feet in front of me, now over two years later, I still fail to understand how it happened.
When I asked him about it on Quartier Général (the radio show I am part of and for which he insisted on being called Monsieur Le Node as the broadcast is in French), he simply told me that he saw space as a possibility and that he felt that, if he didn’t think about it, he could do anything. He added that somehow he never got hurt performing, except once, but only because someone threw something at him.
When I saw Thee Nodes again near the end of the year at the Montreal staple Casa del Popolo, it wasn’t one of their original songs that struck me as much as an a cappella cover by Mr. Node. It should be mentioned that Mr. Node’s voice is high-pitched and robotic; so to hear him sing “Happy Birthday” to an audience member Marilyn-Monroe-style was less sexy than it was creepy.
Mr. Node likes to twirl his microphone around by its cable and, that night, the mic kept flying off the cable. He would try to hook them back up again, but eventually he just gave up singing into the mic. Instead, he ripped his shirt open and a woman in the audience ran to the stage, took his pants off, and left him to finish his set completely naked. One could potentially be concerned about consent here but, based on ulterior performances I witnessed, I would be inclined to believe that the intervention had been staged by none other than Mr. Node himself. On the radio show, he told me that he never planned to get naked during a performance but that sometimes it just happened. That night might be the exception that confirms the rule.
When I caught Thee Nodes the following year at Brasserie Beaubien, Mr. Node began his set by throwing white glue into the audience, I can only assume because they were opening for the Texas band Glue. Once again, he ripped his shirt open, this time crowd surfing all the way to a pool table in the middle of the room, singing on top of it before finishing his set naked as streamers flew down on him. (They had been distributed to audience members beforehand.)
I’ll admit that I was a bit scared last year year when I saw Thee Nodes at LOUDHOUSE. While Mr. Node usually builds up his performance throughout his set, this time he began by taking off his suit, revealing red lingerie underneath. He would put himself in suggestive positions while repeating phrases such as “Fuck me.” As someone who had seen the band multiple times, I knew what I was in for, but one could not say the same of those who hadn’t and I could feel the tension rising in the room. I feared an altercation, yet Mr. Node kept pushing, repeating “Fuck me,” and just as it seemed like things might get physical, Mr. Node launched into his set and managed to win the crowd over with his highly energetic performance. Of course, the negligée proved too fragile for his corporeal intensity and once again Mr. Node ended up naked, this time long before the end of his set.
Mr. Node has since announced that he has been diagnosed with “a very rare disease” and that his deteriorating health has made it impossible for him to continue performing with Thee Nodes. On December 21, they played one final show, little more than three years after their first one. Thee Nodes is no more, but those of us who have been fortunate enough to see them perform will undoubtedly be inclined to refer to them as one of the most memorable live acts to have come out of Montreal.
1. Porn Persons @ RATS 9
When I walked into RATS 9, there were clay statues of the Virgin Mary everywhere, less than a foot high. By the drums was a large, glowing, plastic one. Next to it, a luminous sign: PORN PERSONS. Most of the four musicians in the band, all men, had their face covered and were wearing dresses and longhaired wigs. The singer, a woman, was sporting a similar look. She sang-screamed, rolled around on the floor, dragged a case of the clay statues behind her… At a certain point, a woman in the audience felt compelled to lift up her foot and crush one of the statues with her boot. The man next to her bent down, picked up the dust in the palm of his hand, and pretended to snort it. At that moment, I knew it was the best show of the year.
2. Sigur Rós @ Centre Bell
Wearing a hoodie at the Sigur Rós show was one of the best accidental choices I ever made; I ended up holding my own hand the entire night.
3. Velvet Glacier + Blight + Woe @ Deathouse
When I walked into Deathouse, Velvet Glacier was already on the floor doing his thing, shirtless, covered in tattoos, turning knobs. For just a moment, I thought God existed and that he’d answered all my prayers. When the second act, Blight, turned out to be a black metal band with a longhaired shirtless drummer, you can understand how that delusion went on for a bit longer.
4. Klikk + Pink Street Boys + Coke Bust @ Bar 11 (Reykjavík)
There were basically two moments when I felt at home (i.e. where I was supposed to be) during my summer in Reykjavík. One of them was when I saw Klikk at Bar 11. There I was, in a dark basement, listening to punk and watching my Icelandic crush, Klikk singer Úlfur, scream his guts out while climbing everywhere, leaving audience members to untangle the long chord of his microphone so he could keep going wherever the fuck he wanted, and leaving the mic dangling from the ceiling before exiting when he was done.
Also, the drummer from Pink Street Boys did not help my thing for drummers.
5. Hellenica @ Deathouse
Smoke was filling up Deathouse and candles were burning onstage. Throughout his set, I developed a crush on Hellenica and thought that, if I ever held a black mass, I would definitely get him to score it.
6. Thee Nodes + Wastoids @ Brasserie Beaubien
The infamous Mr. Node began his set by throwing white glue on the audience (I assume because they were opening for the band Glue), then ripped his shirt open, crowd surfed all the way onto a pool table, and ended up naked under streamers. All this to say that Thee Nodes gave a pretty toned down performance that night. Also, two members from Wastoids shared a kiss during one of their songs, which is always nice.
7. GAG @ Concrete Cage
The singer from GAG crowd surfed all the way onto a shady structure at the back of the room, leaving those right under it to hold it up with their hands and the rest of us to pray it wouldn’t collapse on us.
8. Klikk @ Dillon (Reykjavík)
9. Muck + AMFJ + Whorls @ Bar 11 (Reykjavík)
…but the other time I actually felt at home in Reykjavík was when I saw Muck.
10. Elín Ey @ Kiki (Reykjavík)
Elín Ey (who reminded me of Rae Spoon in their more folksy days) opened her intimate set, which quietly closed the Reykjavík Pride festivities, by stating, “It’s good to be gay.” It’s hard to argue with that, especially when you’re holding the hand of a beautiful man.
11. Dekoder @ Decadent Squalor
FULL DISCLOSURE: I consider some of the members of Dekoder to be my friends. But few things are as great as the feeling you get when you realize how fucking talented your friends are, knowing you won’t have to bullshit them after the show. And Dekoder just keeps getting better.
12. Taylor Hoodlum Stevenson + Ultrathin + Soupcans @ Katacombes
The rock show that had rung in the New Year at Jackie & Judy two years ago had been (like every other show there) so underwhelming that it is a cause for celebration that the one that brought in 2013 at Katacombes was as fun as a New Year’s party should be, with the right people, and just the right level of inebriation.
2013 in My Ears – A Mix:
has an MA in Film Studies and works in contemporary dance. His fiction has appeared in Headlight Anthology, Cactus Heart, and Birkensnake.