Indie music awesomeness at POP Montréal 2018

Jamie O'Meara

It’s where the legends you know, the legends you didn’t know, future legends and the occasional legend-in-their-own-mind get together for one of the most eclectic and electric celebrations of independent music that Montréal experiences every year: POP Montréal. And this year’s shaping up to be one of the most memorable yet.

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POP goes the festival

The POP Montréal International Music Festival, which spans five days of concerts, symposium discussions, artisan and visual art exhibitions, fashion shows, film screenings and, of course, a few epic all-night parties, will turn 17 from September 26 to 30. A non-profit cultural event that champions independence in the arts, POP Montréal takes place at venues big and small throughout the city’s Plateau-Mont-Royal and Mile End districts as well as the downtown Quartier des spectacles. This year organizers are expecting attendance of more than 60,000 for the approximately 450 bands and artists slated to perform. Above all else, POP provides an opportunity for music fans to take a journey of discovery, which you can begin right now by listening to their POP 2018 artist mixtape.

Things that go POP in the night

First off, this year’s musical offerings range from bona fide legends like the First Lady of Rockabilly, Wanda Jackson – who has performed with everyone from Elvis to Jack White – to iconic U2 producer Daniel Lanois, who will team up with Canadian breakcore musician Venetian Snares for a night of experimental electronica. Nineties lo-fi, indie rock pioneer and former Smog member Bill Callahan will also be on hand, and Governor General’s Award-winning Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin will give a one-time-only presentation of her classic album Bush Lady at the equally classic Monument-National. Trail-blazing international artists who are revolutionizing pop music will also take the stage, like Glaswegian producer/singer/songwriter SOPHIE and highly acclaimed Baltimore rapper and producer JPEGMAFIA. And a special treat for Montrealers, popular local indie rockers Wolf Parade, after coming off a lengthy hiatus, will play a four-night stand at the excellent Sala Rossa space. Go here to see the full lineup.

The silver screen is a-POPpin’ too

Film POP is known for presenting a variety of music-related film events, including premieres and retrospectives, outdoor screenings and expanded cinema events. This year’s programming features several illuminating portraits, including films about feminist icons Betty Davis, Lena Platonos and Joan Jett. Film POP closes out on a screening of Shut Up and Play the Piano, which follows the journey of singular classical/pop pianist and former Montrealer Chilly Gonzales (who, it bears mentioning, will be playing two shows at the elegant aural jewel Maison symphonique on October 26 and 27). You can check out the complete Film POP programming here.

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POP talks

The POP Symposium offers access to a diverse range of people and ideas driving the world of music today, and this year has curated a variety of talks, panels and workshops covering everything from adapting to fast-paced music tech developments to navigating mental health and burnout in the arts. Special guests like SOPHIE, Wanda Jackson and indigenous writer, musician and academic Leanne Betasamosake Simpson will be sharing their unique perspectives during artist talks, and so will Lizzy Goodman, author of the critically acclaimed oral history Meet Me in the Bathroom, about the New York post-2000s rock revival. The ideas will be rich, but the talk is beyond cheap: all events are free and open to the public. POP Symposium programming can be found here.

Art that POPs

Art POP has put together a packed program of more than 70 artists for this year's edition, with works that explore identity, heritage, narrative, class and culture. Art POP will take over the entire third floor of the city’s gorgeous and storied Rialto Complex with solo and group shows as well as smaller surprises throughout the building. There will also be live performances, including an exhilarating evening of original dance and movement by renowned New York duo FlucT, and an independent writer reading event presented with comic and zine fair Expozine. Art POP will also include several satellite exhibitions at various independent gallery spaces. All Art POP exhibitions are free and open to the public.

And the kiddos can also get their POP on

On the Saturday and Sunday of POP this year, organizers are saying “the kids have the power” and most activities will be centred around providing children of all ages with a platform to be themselves in the same innovative spirit as the grownup fest. Among other things, the young’uns can go on a POP scavenger hunt with local artists, learn how to make their own YouTube-style video (and then watch it on a big, real-life cinema screen) and build an air mattress labyrinth. All activities are free and take place at venues in Montréal’s Mile End district.

Jamie O’Meara

Jamie O’Meara, blogger

Jamie O’Meara is a writer for The Montreal Gazette, C2 Montréal, Moment Factory and more. He also manages the PR Team at the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival and is the former Editor-in-Chief of alt-weekly newspaper HOUR Magazine.

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