With yet another season of POP Montreal, a musical who’s who, a family reunion full of bands with growing abilities and discographies, it has been proven that festivals in Montreal are organic, fluctuating mechanisms of awe and sweet noise.

I wanna talk about Thursday night with John Cale. Whiskey shots. Helena Deland courageously taking the stage at the Theatre Rialto before Cale, OG of the experimental sing-a-long, the righteous godfather of weird. And there was Deland, heroically strumming her strat, her voice bouncing off the balconies of the Rialto and starting off that Thursday nicely.

Deland was joined by her band: guitar, bass, drums, you know, the whole thing…The quartet played with subtlety in a powerful way, working space and silence into a shapeless, sprawling spread of song. The band built up soulful ballads from sparse skeleton to incredible crescendos. Buy the album. I did.

And then there was Sir John Cale. Yes, that’s right, he’s been knighted by Queen Reptile herself, and though his suit of armour is confined to cloying metaphor, Cale’s setup absolutely took over the stage of the Rialto.

Jams were soaring and familiar in Cale’s dissonant, mechanical-beautiful way, the lights of the venue bursting behind him. Though he limped and his hands appeared arthritic, music is timeless in our fading vessels, and Cale, though older, is far from fading. He is indelible. He is the epitome of rock n’ roll, if I can use that word without cringing. (I can’t, really).

cred: Long Press
cred: Long Press

Gracefully introducing his ferociously talented band by name, I remember it was Dusty on that dissonant guitar, and Cale may be a few years older than me, but he’s certainly stayed technologically relevant, with MacBooks and wires and pedals on every surface so that the stage looked more like 2001: A Space Odyssey and less like some venue.

The wires falling from the gear against the lights looked like the branches of electrocuted trees. I wanted to ask Cale what he thought about death.

I also want to say thanks to POP Montreal for keeping this year’s lineup as eclectic and wonderful as Montreal itself.

And then it was off to Theatre Fairmount for Holy Fuck. Eavesdropped feedback from miscellaneous performers went something like this: “Holy Fuck has been the best band this year, checking all the boxes: performance, utilizing the venue, lights, songs, growth.” That quote is not direct. But you should get the drift.

Holy Fuck: I’ve written about them before, and have seen them enough times that checking out a Holy Fuck show has become more like tradition and less like just another concert.

The band claims to be from “Toronto” but don’t be fooled: member Brian Borcherdt hails from the little fishing village of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Check out his early stuff and prepare for transformation. Or whatever happens to you when you hear good music.

I share that history with you to show you how far Holy Fuck has come. From playing abandoned cotton factories in tiny oceanside towns to filling a venue with synthetic explosions of flailing limbs and audio orgasm, ripping tape reels through pockets of slamming sound, Holy Fuck has been dubbed more appropriately than any contemporary outfit. By far one of the most unbeatable performances at POP Montreal.

Honourable mentions absolutely must go to Hoan (formerly Kurvi Tash), who were the ambassadors at POP Montreal, in that they got us all warm and wild at the opening party.

They will ALSO be playing tonight at Club Lambi. GET THERE. I got a whole mouthful of adjectives for these guys, but none of them will suffice. All I can tell you is they just released a new EP called Modern Phase, and it’s what good music is made of. They have so much exciting stuff happening that you should say you saw them when (aka tonight).