If you wanted to peel back the layers of the Montreal music scene and climb inside the minds of musical masters and industry pros, if you wanted to see our regular venues morph into spaces of transformational music experience, then what you wanted to do was get your ass to M for Montreal.
Unlike all the other music festivals happening in our charmed city, M for Montreal is special in that it is definitive; it’s the musicians’ music festival. It’s the behind-the-scenes, the inside scoop, the music festival you attend if you’re making music or can’t take a breath without it.
The spirit and jive and life of beatnik jazz fiends did not actually perish in wine, amphetamines and disillusion with Jack Kerouac, ‘cuz I went to Badbadnotgood and witnessed the proof for myself. Picture a crowd so thick at SAT you can barely move. Picture the three piece adding a sax player, covered Flying Lotus and the audience screaming, “Go! Go!”
That musicians (Canadian musicians, I add with pride) can be so virtuostic is mind-blowing. The three Toronto-based artists came across as genuine, groovy, unfathomably talented and are not only making jazz accessible, they’re making it innovative, too.
Nils Frahm was the other performance I was privileged enough to catch. His music is so evocative that it begins to play with your brain, expanding it into beautiful patterns of thought. Elegant and simple riffs that expand into synth-manipulated melodies, Frahm was jumping back and forth from a piano to his keyboard, pushed together at the corners.
When he spoke, he bowed his head in shy gratitude. When he played, he filled Metropolis with soaring noise that held onto your heart with its hands.
The hundreds of people crammed in the balconies and in front of the stage didn’t make a fucking sound. Nils Frahm got every person there to fall silent. To close their eyes. Some people looked like they were on the verge of weeping. And that was when I think I realized that our farce of a species may actually still have some dregs of hope, if artists of such profound magnitude still exist in this world, creating exquisitely beautiful compositions.
Even the bartenders were enraptured; they said so when I crept to the bar to get a beer. The only noise was the sound when someone accidentally dropped a plastic cup (it wasn’t me, I swear).
When there was no crowd noise, there was just the incredible performance of Nils Frahm, and the way he changed our lives. (I don’t mean to get all overwrought and carried away like a Pitchfork journalist here, but you honestly just have to listen to his music or see him live and when it strikes you, you’ll understand).
Thank you to M for Montreal for creating a music festival of such an incredible standard of creative output. Just when I think this city can’t get any more talented and inspiring, it does.