We recently arrived in Montreal armed only with our wits and a very small French vocabulary. Luckily for us most of the people here are fluent in English as well. And what seems a little strange is the fact that most of the music seems to be sung in English, even though French seems to be the predominant language. Not complaining though…
We had pretty high hopes for the music scene thanks to glowing appraisals in the lonely planet guide we bought. And since one of our favourite bands, “Arcade Fire” hails from this city we were keen to sample. So as per our modus operandi so far, we just googled “live music montreal” and randomly picked out a name we liked.
So that’s how we ended up at La Sala Rossa, a decent 2km walk from our place but worth it once we get inside the beautiful old theatre. A nice lady takes our door fee and we grab a couple of drinks and take a seat. The first band “Ought” arrive onstage very fashionably late and we’ve got no idea what to expect. I’m not really savvy enough to describe what kind of noise bands they sound like (The Pixies maybe?), you’d be better off just going to their bandcamp page and listening for yourselves (http://ought.bandcamp.com/ I think track 5 “Habit” is the highlight). Suffice to say, there was plenty of noise, plenty of movement and plenty of screaming (the singer couldn’t even talk by the end of the set, he’d pretty much completely shredded his vocal cords). I found the mix of effected wurlizter, and dissonant guitar really effective while the basslines brought some order and sanity back to the songs. And the drummer was super tight, which I think you have to be to make this style of music work. The singers’ guitar stopped working half way through but my theory is if you don’t have at least one technical problem during your set, you’re not trying hard enough. I really liked them (definitely better live than recorded in my opinion, they seem to be quite different, a lot heavier), Olivia didn’t.
Next band Maica and Mia have a very minimal setup- half a drumkit, bass and guitar. I’d probably describe it as very moody and slow PJ Harvey (nothing above 90 BPM here folks). Emphasis on the moody; the singer definitely seemed angry about something. Opinions reversed here- Olivia really like them, I was indifferent. See what you think… http://maicamia.bandcamp.com/
Sadly, the room looks a bit emptier when the headliners “The Backhomes” take the stage, which has now been almost completely blacked out so the self-provided projector can work. It turns out that the nice lady who took our door fee is actually one half of the band and she’s joined by another guitarist and a drum machine. I found these guys to be really endearing- they noodled on their fenders over backing beats from the drums and had some really nice harmonies. Set highlights were probably when she busted out the mouth organ for one song and a lapsteel for another. Check out the website here… http://thebackhomes.com/
So for night number one in Montreal, I think we leave pretty satisfied- definitely got our $8 worth. But I think the most fun was caning down the long hill back to our house at 1 in the morning on our rented Tron bikes. Small things for small minds.