Music for miles at POP Montréal

Robyn Fadden

For five days in September, the city rocks out and sings along to the music of POP Montréal, a long-running, wide-ranging festival of indie rock, folk, electro, hip hop, punk, R&B and new music that defies genre let alone the word “pop.”

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Montréal show by show

POP Montréal showcases over 450 artists this year, September 13 to 17, in performances, films, talks, activities for kids, an artisanal market and more events throughout the day and late into the night. With multiple show venues in Mile End and beyond and strong connections to many of Montréal’s music scenes, POP Montréal doubles as a great way to see both major sites and lesser-known parts of the city, from free shows at Jardins Gamelin in the Quartier des Spectacles and afternoon BBQs on the edge of downtown to studio concerts up in Mile Ex.

#Sweet16 must-sees

This year POP Montréal marks its sweet-sixteen party alongside Montréal's 375th, so in fine form the festival celebrates with legends such as RZA, Royal Trux, William Basinski, DJ Lady Miss Kier of Deee-Lite, The Mighty Diamonds and Havoc of Mobb Deep, as well as bringing back some of the acts who appeared in the fest's early years, including The Dears performing the entirely of album No Cities Left, the return of Montréal pop-partiers Think About Life, turntablist songwriter and artist Kid Koala, shoegazey indie band The Besnard Lakes and famed garage rockers Thee Oh Sees.

More sweet stand-outs

Among all the mind-blowing sounds of international stars and up-and-coming local talents alike, several names stand out: prolific multi-instrumentalist Ty Segall in a solo acoustic show, experimental Argentine singer-songwriter Juana Molina, Son Little's magical R&B, experimental pop maker and Ariel Pink collaborator John Maus, and a legion of female singer-songwriters with an edge: Lido Pimienta, Kali Uchis, Vagabon, Beyries, Weyes Blood, Jay Som, Aldous Harding, L.A. Foster, Little Scream, Laura Sauvage, Klô Pelgag and Austra. On top of that, add the experimental-noise-rap of Moor Mother, Indian-American-British-Pakistani hip-hop group Swet Shop Boys, local hip-hop legends Dead Obies and Lunice, electro producer Alison Wonderland, afrofuturist local Pierre Kwenders, noise-rock masters An Albatross, Mount Eerie's introspective lo-fi, mixed-Nation powwow drum group Buffalo Hat Singers, the dance-music-meets-folk-pop of Middle Kids and the synth-pop sounds of Moon King.

Late-night scenes

The swanky site of the Rialto Theatre becomes POP’s after-midnight show venue, a place where fans and musicians alike let loose. This year, stay up late to see one-of-a-kind sets by Love Theme, DJ Lady Kier, Quay Dash, Think About Life, Strange Froots, Hurray for the Riff Raff and roots reggae legends The Mighty Diamonds and Jah Cutta. Whether you're still deciding who to see or you’ve already grabbed a Super Pass and figured it all out, take a listen to this year's Sweet16 Mixtapes of POP artists.

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Outside the music

Along with all the great music comes a diversity of festival programming – much of it free – in the curated form of Art POP exhibitions (including NYC artist Baseera Khan, Jay "J-Berd" Keating and Maya Stovall), Film POP screenings and talks (including GG Allin doc The Allins and A starring Dirty Beaches' Alex Zhang Hungtai), POP Symposium discussions and workshops, Kids POP children’s activities and concerts, the catwalks of Fashion POP, a Record Fair, and uniques clothing, accessories, art, and housewares for sale at local creators fair Puces POP. With so much going on, POP Montréal remains a city-wide entertainment experience not to be missed.

Robyn Fadden

Robyn Fadden, blogger

Robyn Fadden is a Montréal-based writer and editor who searches out city secrets, new bands, life-changing art and things to do with her perpetually active kid. Robyn has covered major events for HOUR, MUTEK, ARTINFO, CKUT 90.3FM and more.

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