M for Montreal 2022 was four days of fun, boozy, excellent shows

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M for Montreal 2022 was four days of fun, boozy, excellent shows
And just like that, Montreal’s festival season is done until the new year! Since 2006, M for Montreal has provided a crucial showcase for bands both locally and abroad to come play tunes in front of not only potential new fans, but a variety of industry professionals — many of whom travel from all corners of the globe for these shows, as well as talks from industry figures and networking cocktails. 

This year, which marks the first fully fledged M for Montreal festival during COVID times, was another four days of fun, boozy shows and excellent live performances. Here’s a recap of everything Cult MTL saw from Nov. 16 to 19, 2022.

Bibi Club

A duo comprised of Plants and Animals’ Nicolas Basque and his creative and romantic partner Adèle Trottier-Rivard, the first night of M at le Ministère was an excellent opportunity to see them bring their self-described “living room party music” to life. Singing in both official languages, these Secret City signees put on one of my favourite sets the whole week — one full of dreamy, reverb-heavy instrumentation; guitars that alternate between jangly, atmospheric and hard-rocking; strong, if straightforward, pop melodies; a healthy dose of synths; and even a set of glistening bar chimes.

Odreii

M for Montreal 2022. Photos by Cindy Lopez

Across the street at le Belmont was the second of two M showcases on Wednesday night, and I began my night there watching this born-and-bred Montrealer. Fans of R&B, reggae and Afrobeat would’ve enjoyed this one, as Odreii played a set showing off her rich, musically disparate style. Tribal drums, vocal runs, Bob Marley-esque “woyoyoy” chants and acoustic-driven numbers were all part of the act. Though she needs to tighten up her songwriting a bit to make her tunes really pop off, she nonetheless has potential and genuine talent — both on full display Wednesday night.

Albert Dalton

You know you’re in for a show when it involves a rapper from a place literally called Paradise. Hailing from Newfoundland, Albert Dalton took to the stage at Belmont on Wednesday night, as I watched from near the back of the venue (where the aroma of piss from the bathrooms was RANCID). Dalton stood alone onstage sweating up a storm and spitting crafty rhymes (sometimes with a barely functional AutoTune effect) over some classic ‘90s-sounding rap beats — all in a shouty delivery not unlike that of Zack de la Rocha or Backxwash. His flow is strong, and I’m not just talking about his long, wavy black hair.

Sunglaciers

The set I was most excited for all week isn’t just because this band hails from my hometown of Calgary — they’re also just a straight-up excellent band, both on wax and in concert. These synthy post-punks took to the top floor of famed downtown strip joint Café Cléopâtre on Thursday night opening with “Best Years” (a song I would’ve expected to be saved for closer to the end of the set). The four-piece gave a brief 25-minute set full of tunes that sound pulled straight out of the dingiest London bars during the Thatcher years. They weren’t always as tight as they could’ve been, but their setlist jumped from catchy to esoteric to abrasive and back again. Loved every minute.

Mobina Galore

Two-person bands seem like a bit of a theme at M this year, and this Winnipeg duo brought passion, clever songwriting and plenty of grit to Café Cléopâtre on Thursday. This was one of the more interesting discoveries of the whole week for me, since they play music seemingly indebted to genres I heard a lot of in high school — emo, garage punk, lo-fi and especially folk-punk à la early Against Me! (Laura Jane Grace even follows the band on Instagram). The music is simplistic and the chords kept to a minimum, but it wouldn’t be as effective any other way, and I dug it from start to finish. Too bad they weren’t playing a space more suitable for moshing.

Clay and Friends

Club Soda was a packed house for this Verdun quintet, which I checked out for a bit on the other side of the street. They describe themselves as a band that makes “music that feels good,” which probably helps explain my inability to stylistically tie them down. Are they a live rap band? A funk band? A jazz fusion band? Somewhere in between each? Regardless, these five white dudes offered trilingual bars from baseball jersey-clad frontman Mike Clay (in French, English and Spanish), virtuosic guitar solos, catchy hooks, and some beachy tunes made for cruising with the top down in mid-July (if only it wasn’t mid-November). It’s not my personal favourite type of music, but they’re good at what they do — and the crowd, who was enthusiastically jumping up and down during their Gold-certified tune “Going Up the Coast,” ate it up.

Gus Englehorn

The only artist I saw all week who I’ve previously interviewed, Quebec-via-Alaska oddball Gus Englehorn closed the Cléopâtre showcase with a short set full of his trademark quirkiness, simple-yet-hypnotic instrumentation and Black Francis-like spoken word sections. Playing a number of tunes from his album Dungeon Master, released back in April, Englehorn and wife/drummer Estée Prada looked like a Lynchian White Stripes up there on that tiny, hazily-lit stage, with surreal and incredibly charming results.

Absolutely Free

Friday night at Sala Rossa for the Mothland showcase was a bit of a gamble, as I knew none of the bands playing it—I mostly just wanted to go to whichever showcase was closest to home. Thank Jeebus I did, because I enjoyed every band I saw. Toronto’s Absolutely Free play artsy, synthy, psychedelic indie rock with smatterings of math rock, post-punk, krautrock and experimental music thrown in for good measure. Shades of bands like the Cure, Ought, Television and especially Can are evident in their sound, and the smoke machine going off during their set gave it a whole new layer — literally and figuratively — of intensity.

Grim Streaker

There was also a stage set-up in the middle of the floor that night, and this Brooklyn-based outfit played there rather than the main stage at the back. Fronted by Amelia Bushell, whose voice strongly recalls legends like Siouxsie Sioux and Karen O, Grim Streaker are a more garage-punk influenced outfit with traces of psychedelia and shoegaze, but with post-punk at the core of their musical identity. Fittingly, they brought the heat to a room that was already very humid and claustrophobic, giving a set that would especially entertain fans of Dry Cleaning, Interpol and the Chameleons. 

Gloin

M for Montreal 2022. Photos by Cindy Lopez

While it was snowing like hell outside, Sala Rossa was still a sweaty, stuffy atmosphere indoors — and full enough that moving your arm in any direction risked either colliding with someone else or spilling your drink (or theirs). This was when Toronto noise rockers Gloin took the main stage, and played one of the more aggressive, punk-driven sets I saw all week. Bassist/lead vocalist Vic Byers can let out a good wail, and both the smoke machine and intense white strobelighting effects (“I forgot to give a smoke warning, and for strobelights,” admitted Byers) went along nicely with their sludgy guitars, heavily distorted bass lines, and some occasional stoner rock vibes, to boot.

PRIORS

These Chateauguay natives fall somewhere between retro-sounding surf punk and noise punk, and they gave the most flat-out fun set of the entire evening in the middle of the floor. Their name looks almost like IDLES, but they fall closer musically to Parquet Courts, the Buzzcocks and the Stooges. Signs of aging may have hit frontman Chance Hutchison mid-set (yelling “It is way fuckin’ past my bedtime!” and later, “I’m almost 40, this shit is hard to breathe, motherfucker!”), but he danced and shimmied like a heavily tattooed Iggy Pop with a dad bod. People around me were grooving like it was the ‘60s, and it was an excellent offering of bruising, high-energy, no-frills punk rock. Also, shoutout to that Michael Pezzetta lookalike in a black sleeveless shirt dancing up a storm next to the stage. You go, Glen Coco.

No Waves

Only one show was on my agenda Saturday night, and it was to see these scrappy young local punks. Capping off a year that’s seen them play FME in Rouyn-Noranda and open for NOFX at MTelus in September, No Waves took the stage at Turbo Haüs with big-haired frontman/guitarist Angel Parra Vela essentially letting out a battlecry: “Let’s get fucking emo!” It’s a perfectly fitting one, too: even if they sound indebted to bands like Black Flag, Pennywise and Less Than Jake, there’s also a strong resemblance to Weezer, Sunny Day Real Estate and the like. 

The trio, presumably named after the FIDLAR song, know their way around a rip-roaring skate punk tune, and the floor vibrates underneath me while much of the crowd is collectively dancing and head-banging. Their songwriting may still be a bit raw and rough around the edges, but their performance — complete with a cover of Blink-182’s “Dammit” and more hilarious stage banter from Parra Vela (“We’re pulling out the drop D for this one. We’re not fucking around!”) — was quite possibly the crown jewel of the shows I saw at M this year.

For more Montreal music coverage, please visit the Music section.
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