A Week in Review: The Best of POP Montreal

15th Edition of the City-Wide Music Festival Ended Last Weekend

D.R.A.M played POP Montreal on Sept. 24. Photo Matthieu Marin

So we got through POP—trust, it’s easier said than done. Among some of the unlikely things to happen, we managed to scrape by with few instances of drinking on the metro and peeing in alleyways. Here’s the recap on all the crazy shows we went to:


TOPS at La Tulipe Cabaret on Sept. 21. Photo Claire Loewen

Cabaret La Tulipe was in full bloom as the audience welcomed beloved Montreal-native band TOPS, in what was a homecoming of sorts. Joined by Corridors and The Allah-Las for POP’s opening night, much singing along, dancing and swaying ensued. TOPS was home, and the high-energy crowd for relatively low-energy music showed for that.

Yet, despite a dreamy set, the audience was left wanting more. The band only played a handful of songs—mostly stuff from their latest release, Picture You Staring, for a meagre set that lasted no more than 45 minutes. The audience could hardly complain, though, as lead singer Jane Penny was joined on stage by another female vocalist, weaving beautifully rehearsed harmonies.

Thanya Iyer

Thanya Iyer and Co. Photo Jonathan Caragay-Cook

There’s probably no better compliment than to say a band sounds as good live as they do on their record.

Thanya Iyer and her ensemble earned this reputation on Thursday night during their set for a packed tiny room at Le Cagibi.

Alongside a quartet including a bassist, backup vocalist, trumpeter, and drummer—but specifically, no guitarist as her website specifies—Iyer led a silky performance of hits from her recent debut album, Do You Dream?, on lead vocals and keyboard.

The audience on Wednesday swayed sideways, eyes closed, letting the group’s smooth back and forth melodies induce goosebumps up and down their bodies. It was a good little POP show that ended abruptly when Iyer asked the sound guy Greg if they could play another, and he said, no. Shame—but Iyer and co will surely be hitting grander stages in the near future.

John Cale

John Cale at The Rialto on Sept. 22 Photo Brandon Johnson

The Rialto Theatre slowly began to fill up, possibly for one of the most anticipated shows of the week. Walking into the auditorium, it was clear that most people making their way to the show on Thursday night had stuck with Cale’s influential musical impact since the mid-1960’s.

Within the first few songs, there was no distinction between old and young fans—everyone was enjoying themselves, and it was a magical spectacle to witness.

Cale performed some deeper cuts from his solo stuff from the early 70s, appreciated mostly by those who grew had up with his music. “The Endless Plain of Fortune” from his 1973 studio album Paris 1919 drew upon raw emotion within Cale’s vocals and excited the longtime listeners. The song “Hanky Panky Nohow” also from Paris 1919 carried out beautifully and felt extended solely due to the high praise he received while performing it.

The crowd fell into sheer awe as soon as the notes for “I’m Waiting For The Man” resonated. The song off of the iconic debut album The Velvet Underground and Nico shook the audience to the core and stunned everybody in the room.

By the end of the set, everyone gave a standing ovation to the innovative artist for his wonderful performance. Watching young and old people enjoying themselves in the same concert venue was a rare sight to witness.

Angel Olsen

Dream pop songstress Angel Olsen played a magical show Friday evening at the Rialto Theatre. Her stage presence felt warm and inviting, almost as if we were all guests in her home.

The moment Olsen and company appeared on stage, a loud roar erupted, followed by an immediate silence no sooner than before Olsen had picked up her guitar. Her live performance was of studio quality. Olsen’s guitar playing was as delicate as her voice and translated beautifully and seemingly effortlessly onto the live stage.

Tracks like “Shut Up and Kiss Me” rocked the auditorium, garnering movement and cheers from the crowd. Other heavy-hitting tracks like the recently released “Sisters,” which featured a wildly fun guitar solo, left fans astounded by how tight the band sounded. Olsen’s incredible vocal range astounded new listeners and more than satisfied those familiar with her work—she wove flawlessly from loud, punk rock projection to soft, low tones throughout the evening.

“Intern” is the only song that Olsen has ever recorded that contains any kind of synth work—and it was an extraordinary feat to see pulled off live. All the band members vacated the stage except Olsen and one backup vocalist, turning the setting of the Rialto into a more intimate atmosphere. Showing off their beautiful voice projection and complex harmonies, the two women sang together for some time before the band returned to the stage for an epic (almost) finale. The band even came back for an encore, playing “Windows” from her album Burn Your Fire for No Witness.

Rodrigo Amarante

This Brazilian-born artist opened for Angel Olsen, and while Olsen unequivocally stole the show, Amarante offered something not often found in the Montreal music scene—the whole crowd had his undivided attention, and all he had was a classical guitar and his heavenly voice.

Perhaps best known for his Bolero called “Tuyo,” or the theme song for Netflix’s show Narcos, Amarante has had a lengthy music career. In 2006, he collaborated with Fabrizio Moretti, drummer from The Strokes, to form a sweet pop-rock trio called Little Joy.

Amarante’s show was beautiful, calm and sway-worthy—it seemed like he was making lengthy eye contact with everyone in the room at least once. The crowd didn’t freak out when he played “Tuyo,” but quietly acknowledged that they recognized it from Narcos theme and continued to listen attentively.


D.R.A.M. at Photo Matthieu Marin

Late Saturday night at the Rialto Theatre, Virginia-based hip hop artist D.R.A.M illuminated the basement stage with his enthusiastic presence. It was surprising to see a popular artist like D.R.A.M headlining a show at Rialto with less than 100 people attending. He’s recently released three singles that have broke millions of plays through different streaming services such as Soundcloud, Spotify, and Apple Music that have been garnering tons of attention.

Opening with his most recent single, “Cash Machine,” the crowd instantly exploded, vibing hard with one another as D.R.A.M performed the vibrant track that features luscious piano throughout.

“Cute”—his second single—kept good vibes flowing in the small audience. The sheer lack of bodies felt strange at first, but as the eccentric rapper started boasting his performance skills, the amount of people attending couldn’t have been less important—everyone was having a blast.