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.
I will not bore you with inane ramblings. Instead, I'll let the music speak for itself... CLICK HERE to download a shitty mix of songs from the following albums.
1. Your Best American Girl, Mitski
2. I Went Too Far, AURORA
3. All Night, Beyoncé
4. Daydreaming, Radiohead
5. I Can't Give Everything Away, David Bowie
6. Me and Your Mama, Childish Gambino
7. You Want It Darker, Leonard Cohen
8. When It Rain, Danny Brown
9. I'm Clean Now, Grouper
10. Cranes in the Sky, Solange
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.
2. Thee Nodes @ LOUDHOUSE
2014 turned out to be the last year for Thee Nodes, one of the best live bands to come out of Montreal these past few years. The two shows I caught at LOUDHOUSE especially stood out, particularly one that had me a bit scared. While singer 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 Mr. Node ended up naked (as he often does, but) this time long before the end of his set. Their show with Nudes had me tweeting, “Tonight will go down as one of the sexest nights in Montreal punk history.”
3. Dawn of Midi + Nils Frahm @ Metropolis
“[Dawn of Midi regarding their] compositional process: we just stood in a room and danced for two years and at the end of it we had this album and no more girlfriends.” After seeing them live, I understand what DOM mean; I don’t know if I’ve ever seen another band whose performance was this dancy. I don’t mean by this that the musicians move a lot (the fast-paced, highly repetitious nature of their music rather ensures that they don’t) or that it’s the kind of music that would get the audience dancing. I mean that the music itself is dance. I can see it clearly. It’s choreographed by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. It’s like a cross between Fase, four movements to the music of Steve Reich, and Rosas danst Rosas. It’s amazing. I embarrassingly tweeted, “I’m afraid that if I said how much I loved Dawn of Midi out loud, I would sound like a very hungry woman,” followed by, “I feel like Nils Frahm is proving to me that human beings are fundamentally good.”
4. Tim Hecker @ Musée d’Art Contemporain / MUTEK
If you want to go on an astral voyage, there are probably few things as good as Hecker's ambient music to help you along. That the concert took place in a fog that made it so that you could only see a few feet in front of you probably didn't hurt either. Tweeted: “The world would be a better place if people took Tim Hecker as their god.”
5. Perfect Pussy @ La Sala Rossa
I saw Perfect Pussy twice this past year. They were already great the first time, but somehow managed to top their performance the second time around. They dragged out their finale, each musician leaving one after the other, some even then coming back to take their instruments apart while others kept the music going and a visibly spent Meredith Graves remained sitting directly on the floor, thereby cleverly avoiding the dreadful ritual of the encore.
6. (Two Crosses + Dervish + La Riposte @ Death House)
As far as I know, this concert didn’t even happen. I don’t want to say too much about what did happen because I’m not 100% sure myself. What I will say is that I didn’t mind losing my 5 bucks. It was more than worth it for what turned out to be one of the most compelling pieces of theatre I witnessed this year.
7. Dissension @ Café Chaos
I’ve been in a lot of weird places in Montreal, but this night was definitely one of the weirdest. There was a woman with a live albino snake. You could take pictures with it. (The event was a fundraiser.) A man I don’t know and who turned out to be one of the members of Dissension told me, out of nowhere, “Dude, this place is packed!” (It wasn’t.) In what is a recurring theme in my life, I felt like I was in a Gregg Araki movie. At one point, the hostess of the night said, “Free shot glasses! They’re empty, but they’re free. Happy Valentine’s Day, folks!” without a detectable ounce of irony. Oh, and did I mention that, in between two metal bands, there was a shirtless man twirling a baton? What’s most important though is that I got to discover Dissension that night. They showed me the most fun time I had all year.
8. Death Vessel @ Divan Orange
I went to see Shearwater but it’s Death Vessel who ended up blowing me away. Their music makes me feel connected to the land and to our ancestors. I’m not even sure what that means, but I don’t think any other music has ever made me feel that way before.
9. Milanku @ Turbo Haus
Tweeted: “If I ever fall in love, I want it to be scored by Milanku. That’s what love sounds like to me.”
10. SOHN @ Il Motore
It’s ironically thanks to a straight friend that I ended up at the gayest concert I attended this year. It’s so rare for pop music to translate well live, but SOHN made it happen.
11. Wapstan @ Cabaret Playhouse
Wapstan had already impressed me with his noise a couple of years ago, but this time around his physical performance followed suit, turning an aural experience into a spectacular one.
12. Gashrat @ La Vitrola
I’ve had a crush on all four members of Gashrat for a while, but it’s with this show that they truly won me over. There’s just something refreshingly democratic about how they switch instruments between almost every song, as though experiencing the many might be more important than mastering the few.
Has God Seen My Shadow? is the soundtrack to a road movie that doesn’t exist, whose protagonist (alternately played by Richard Hawley, Tom Waits, and Mark Oliver Everett from Eels) is a man with a story but without a destination. We can tell from his blasé attitude that he’s been hurt by life, though we will never know by what exactly. It’s in his music more than in his lyrics that we can hear it. Despite being a compilation that spans more than two decades, HGSMS? remains anchored in a perpetual present.
Our protagonist is a solitary man (of course) whose freedom comes from having given up on his own life, which allows him to be more in tune with life itself. He can usually be found walking by the side of the road, in a land that is otherwise sand. Every once in a while, he gets to rest in the passenger’s seat of a car. These are his favourite moments, especially when the driver is quiet and he can just take in the scenery blurred by travelling, the window rolled down.
When he reaches a town, it is usually the kind whose only way to not fade into the blackness of the night sky is to draw its contours with neon signs. It’s in these briefly sedentary moments that a certain sexiness can be detected; not that of nudity, but of suggestion: of tight jeans, of cleavage, of a necklace dangling in the right place. Even when we can guess at the seediness bubbling beneath the town, its surface has been smoothed out and dressed up so beautifully that we can’t feel any guilt about finding ourselves there. When sex does occur, it’s never without whiskey and cigarettes, but also never without some care. Everyone is always covered in a thin layer of sweat, but the warmth is never stifling.
HGSMS? is about a man who’s learned the hard way that the only possible peace comes from not holding on to anything. It is not without hope. In any moment, life could prove redeeming. Something beautiful might happen, especially if it isn’t expected. A gentle religiosity permeates the album, which could be read as a reverence to life, as faith in its mystery.
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.