Sunday, October 8th, 2006

Pop Goes The World – Day 3

To my fellow Pop Montreal-ers: I don’t know where you were on Saturday night, but if you weren’t at the Cabaret du Musee Juste Pour Rire, then I guarantee you I saw a better show than you. For serious. Like the previous night, there was no club hopping this eve – everything I wanted to see was in one spot and it was way too far from the rest of the main drag to even try to get around… and anyway, it was right next to my hotel. I could see the entrance from my window.

Mike O’Brien @ Cabaret du Musee Juste Pour Rire – I didn’t expect too much from Montrealer Mike O’Brien and his band the Ideal Lovers – judging from the samples on his website, I assumed it’d be fairly rote singer-songwriter stuff. Well-played, but not especially inspiring. Happily, I was making an ass of not so much you, just me, as O’Brien and company kicked things off with a very entertaining (and well-played) set that you could also have filed under country, jazz, folk, roots or pop. O’Brien was a personable frontman, offering anecdotes behind many of his songs (“this one’s also about a girl”) and generally making me glad I didn’t decide to stay in my hotel and watch the first half of the Battlestar Galactica season premiere. Shut up.

Photos: Mike O’Brien @ Cabaret du Musee Juste Pour Rire – October 7, 2006
MP3: Mike O’Brien – “Movie Star”
MP3: Mike O’Brien – “Dirt Road Blue”

Under Byen @ Cabaret du Musee Juste Pour Rire – As I mentioned last week, this was the set that I was most looking forward at Pop Montreal and I was not disappointed. While most every other act I’ve seen fell pretty well within the jurisdiction defined by the festival name (some sort of pop performed in Montreal), this Danish outfit were the proverbial “and now for something completely different”. Boasting an elaborate and expansive stage setup, Under Byen dazzled with a show that was both angelic and gutteral, delicate and hulking. By performing the dense and complex arrangements on Af Samme Stof Som Stof completely live and with mostly acoustic albeit amplified and heavily processed instruments (the distorted kalimba sounded amazing), the band was able to bring the occasional haziness of the album into sharp, stark and totally affecting focus. Shrouded either in shadows or silhouetted by a a lightshow and even hiding their supermodel-looking singer further back on the stage, often crouched down by the floor, the band didn’t say a word to the audience, preferring to let the music do the talking – and that it did, in mysterious booming tones. I am actually glad I can’t understand Danish because I think that being able to process the lyrics on anything but a strictly non-phonetic level would take away some of the overall effect. It’s always nice when something manages to meet high expectations, but to have them blown away – as I and many others in the audience were – is even better.

Photos: Under Byen @ Cabaret du Musee Juste Pour Rire – October 7, 2006
MP3: Under Byen – “Af Samme Stof Som Stof”
MP3: Under Byen – “Den Her Sang Handler Om At Fa Det Bedste Ud Af Det”
Video: Under Byen – “Af Samme Stof Som Stof” (YouTube)
MySpace: Under Byen

Giant Sand @ Cabaret du Musee Juste Pour Rire – And yet somehow, with as good a show as Under Byen put on, a very strong case could be made for Giant Sand stealing the show back. I’d never heard any of Howe Gelb’s prodigious output – not any of his many projects – but after last night that’s certainly going to change. Gelb’s work is lazily described as desert rock, along the same lines as Calexico and such, but that doesn’t nearly do the breadth of his talent and vision justice. Over the course of his set and moving between guitar and piano, he turned out cosmic country, cabaret jazz torch songs and gloriously ragged rockers – often all within the same song. There was even a short operetta duet with Henrietta Sennenvaldt of Under Byen, with whom Gelb has worked in the past – hence the otherwise incongruous bill. Gelb himself was also incredibly personable onstage, coming across like the visiting, vagabond uncle with a twinkle in his eye. Judging from his casual manner and the way his band watched him intently for cues, I’d say that Gelb had no set list and even no set plan before heading on stage, but even so, they didn’t miss a beat and put on a superb, superb show start to finish.

Photos: Giant Sand @ Cabaret du Musee Juste Pour Rire – October 7, 2006
MP3: Giant Sand – “Occupy (live 1995)”
MySpace: Giant Sand

I know I said that if Giant Sand and Under Byen blew me away, I’d catch them again Monday night at the Horseshoe back home… while the necessary condition is obviously true, I expect to be way too tired/burnt out to keep my promise. But then, stranger things have happened. Like seeing the best show of the festival (for me) in a comedy club. Actually it was a fantastic venue with great sound, lights and sightlines, but still – comedy club.

Prefix and BlogTO report back on their Friday night (much of it spent next to me at Les Saints).

By : Frank Yang at 10:16 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. mike says:

    I’m desperately gonna make an attempt to check out the Giant Sand/Under Byen show at the ‘Shoe tomorrow, but that’ll all depend if the tryptophan in the Thanksgiving turkey kicks in or not. While I’m not too familiar with Mr. Gelb’s music, I did see him perform at the 2004 T.O. Bluesfest and also I saw him at an instore at Soundscapes this past March. He is a consummate storyteller and highly entertaining. I do have an old Giant Sand CD that I picked up on the cheap several years back, that maybe I should dig out and give a good listen.

    Hope you a great Pop Montreal.

  2. Carrie says:

    Oh good…I’m heading to the show at the ‘Shoe tomorrow night, too, so I’m glad to hear that it should be a good one.

  3. scott says:

    good review of this show. i agree with you. wanted to mention (as a long time fan) that checking out howe’s solo stuff is good, but seeing him live SOLO will convince you to become a fan.
    also: the new battlestar galactica is completely wicked. you COULD have stayed in and watched it, and been just as happy.