One of the first Montreal concerts in a year went down at MTelus last night

One of the first Montreal concerts in a year went down at MTelus last night
Passersby in Montreal’s downtown core were baffled by the small lineup of people eagerly waiting to enter the MTelus building to watch Québec City’s melodic skate punks, Mute.“Wait what’s happening here?” “Is a band playing?” “Is that even legal?” These were just a few questions people asked as they watched the line move. 

It almost felt normal, seeing the clusters of people smoking weed a block or so down, or running to the dep to buy a few beers and crushing those beers in an alley after realizing it was going to be a dry show. It was also broad daylight outside, around 5:30 p.m., which felt odd. This was of course to follow the city’s curfew regulations.The line moved quickly as a man in front of the door in a bedazzled black and gold long-sleeved shirt handed out black surgical masks, instructing everyone to keep them on at all times.

Inside there were cut-out arrows everywhere. On the floor, on the walls, on the railings leading to the venue balcony—everywhere. This was to encourage people to only follow the arrows and not leave their seats, or so said the guy scanning tickets. 

The floor’s pit was covered in chairs in pairs of two, spread out six metres apart to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines. Upstairs on the balcony was the same but with stools. Actually, you could only buy tickets in pairs for the show. Single tickets did not exist.Concert-goers slowly got to their seats as the Offspring played on the venue speakers. Everyone for the most part stayed in their seats, save for a few individuals grabbing merch or going to a different chair pod to chat quickly before the band arrived.

There was no opener and Mute was only late by 10 minutes — which is unheard of by live music standards. The band clearly wanted to get on stage and do their thing.After a few moments, the lights dropped down and there was nothing but silence.

One of the first Montreal concerts in a year went down at MTelus last night

“Montreal…,” followed by a long pause and cheering … “It’s been a long time,” said Mute vocalist and bassist Jean-Philippe Lamonde. Lead vocalist and drummer Étienne Dionne started the performance with a furious drum fill, the other band members strummed a few chords, heavy with distortion, and the show was on. 

Some of the audience (like six on the floor) immediately rose from their seats, but realized no one else was going to and sat down. This was to be a sit-down show. It felt strange, since Mute does not make music you want to sit still to. Their music is for constructive punk rock mayhem. The band urged people to stand up, but to no avail.

Mute plays M Telus, May 8, 2021

Seated fists were however pumped in unison to the thrash punk sounds of crashing cymbals and chugging guitars. A few people finally stood up from their chairs, proceeding to headbang and skank in their bubbles. Everyone was following the rules and well-behaved for the most part. After all, this was a dry show.Two younger concertgoers in separate pods began punching across at each other, forming their own two-person moshpit. A man in one chair seemed to know all the lyrical cues of the popular “Bates Motel” as he punched the sky to every heavy guitar chord, almost hitting the girl sitting next to him multiple times. 

From above, it seemed like some sort of weird social experiment with everyone in their designated chair pod. No one seemed to know what to do except the band, who gave a passionate and tight set. 

Mute have played over 600 shows — they’re professionals. You could tell they really wanted to be there and were having a lively time playing these songs. And watching them jump up with their guitars simultaneously was a delight. Especially fill-in rhythm guitarist Marc-Antoine Bastien, who left his feet at every opportune moment and stomped around in a circle, commanding his part of the stage. 

One of the first Montreal concerts in a year went down at MTelus last night

The setlist was a mix of old and new, but to someone not well versed in Mute’s repertoire, many of the songs blended together. Still, it was a marvel to see and hear live music again and the encore punk rendition of Mr Big’s “To Be With You,” was great. 

The experience was surreal to say the least, especially since most of the audience hadn’t been to a live show for a year and some change. The chair pod thing seemed to work for the most part … or maybe this was a really well-mannered group of punks? Either way, I’m sure many of us would take this new concert chair pod normal over a live-streamed couch show any day. ■

For more upcoming live concerts in Montreal, please visit the Events page.
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