Pop Montreal 2023 | Montreal’s Music Odyssey: A Tale of Highs, Lows, and Dr. Cornel West
Once again, it’s on! The usual riff-raff/ loveable rascals of Best Kept MTL have delved into the guts of last weekend’s festivities and clawed out some nuggets of brilliant gold for you to chew on and nod about.
Coming one week on the heels of the autumn equinox and a day after a full moon Pop Montreal announced the pre-evening coming of long shadows, and a season of change. With it’s strange mix of content both high and dissatisfying I see this event as the perfect metaphoric cocktail with which to view our fair city and these rapidly changing times.
Armed with official disposable plastic bracelets and official plastic lanyards we entered our post-pre-drink Uber X with all the enthusiasm of priests on choir night, elated with that feeling of a good time in the air.
Our well laid plan to check out Bernice, Marker Starling; Ashley Shadow at Casa del Popolo quickly veered when we decided to go further uptown to link with a friend and fellow Best Kept contributor to pre-drink in his bangin’ loft.
I’m going to be honest here, I had no desire to see Bernice. If I were to describe the Toronto based Bernice’s music in simple terms, I’d use the late great Trevor Moore’s old internet comedy crew’s nomenclature as a solid base: The Whitest Kids You Know. Though to be fair, the comparison begins and ends in name alone, and any similarities to any sketches current or defunct are purely incidental. Trevor Moore was a genius. Bernice is… “Quirky” and “loveably low-fi”? How about that? My editor says I come off as too mean, so, there, “Loveably low-fi”.
Marker Starling is a step up, if you’re in the mood to look at a talented fifty-something white dude that adequately emulates late-sixties , early-seventies, black funk-soul music with no pizazz, soul, heart or balls, he’s the guy. Think a Curtis Mayfield interlude that lasts the entire song, album, and then show.
What about Ashley Shadow? A mere shadow of Joni Mitchell? Witchy, and ephemeral. White chicks in long flowing dresses who loved Mid-Sommar are going to love her shit, it’s very ethereal, and just a little bit country. After leaving the aforementioned comrade’s home we ventured towards that Van Horne skate park at the underpass. It was awesome. Great DJ’s, dope atmosphere, high energy, sick lighting, crazy projections and best of all, self-determined, free-form, shadow theater on the sidewall of a building. It was the kind of party that’s at its best between 23h00 and 3h00, when people, hyped and ready to kick it up a notch, pull up after having already scratched a few items off their kill list and their just ready to loosen up. But this city being spineless toads more interested in serving geriatric gripes than they are geriatric needs naturally turned the whole thing off around 23h00, as with every other outside show. It’s almost as though boomers themselves forgot what they got up to before they were old, tired, and angry and they now enforce rules they would’ve never respected themselves in their glory days.
We move down St-Laurent and run into MC, Producer, and all around light in the dark, the Canadian phenom known popularly as SoCalled. He informs us Cornel West is giving a talk at the Rialto Theater.
What?! I’m gonna be honest here, I’ve got love for this guy. After listening to his impassioned pleas for a better today I get to ask him something about the neoliberal corporate media and the establishment’s hypocrisy in the way they do not practice the very principles they espouse and how do we reconcile the two. How do we bridge the gap between lofty lies that should be made manifest and the dirty truths that look us in the face every day? His answer was great, and can best be surmised as: “Tell the truth, as you see it, every time, no matter the consequence, especially if the very game of cancan dancing for peanuts, change, love, clout or power, is the very thing you abhor.” And I was totally cool with that response. It took him a lot longer than that to say it, and he tore Biden a new asshole as he said it, quickly summarizing a litany of his failures over the last three decades in succinct, punchy, verbose, jazzy vitriol, but the overall point stands.
We checked out a couple of other shows I thought were just shadows of what they should’ve been, lacking depth, heft, weight and substance.
Between sets and showrooms I ran into Dr. West one last time on the streets. He and I got to chat for a bit, we high-fived and hugged, and talked about my earlier question and the many things it could imply. Then, being the free associating ranters that we are, we just riffed about society, it’s potential and the constant dance of hope and disappointment that comes with every step forward and every step back.
We chatted for a solid little while, shared a nice moment and Mel snapped a pic. Thinking back on it, that was the high-light of the night. Mr. West and the few other cool people I’d met and got to spend time with were what made the night great. The days are getting shorter. The long shadows are going to hit sooner than later. But as long as the people bring that fire, we’re gonna have a good time.
For more on our TOP 10 preview of Pop Montreal 2023 click here.
Writer, Director, Camera Op, Editor & Professional "Last Man Standing". Is there anything this guy can't do? Yes. A veritable metric f*ck ton of things, so he sticks to what he knows. Join him on some adventures, here, at Best Kept MTL.