How To POP Your Cherry

Graphic Clement Liu

How does a virgin festivalgoer sift through the vertigo-inducing plethora of POP-related events?

Although POP Montreal is only five days long, it manages to boast an overwhelming amount of shows, workshops, conferences, screenings and activities. Their schedule booklet could double as a booster seat.

The festival’s programming is divided into six sections: POP Montreal, FilmPOP, ArtPOP, KidsPOP, PucesPOP and the Symposium. There is no shortage of things to do, see, taste, hear and buy.

“It can seem really overwhelming, and it is,” shared Marilis Cardinal, Puces POP coordinator and festival connoisseur. “You have to be excited about it.”

According to Cardinal, diving in headfirst is the best and is, perhaps, the only way to really appreciate all that POP has to offer. This starts with getting the schedule and a highlighter. You can step it up by putting it all in a spreadsheet or creating your personal schedule on the POP Montreal website. Pick, choose and don’t rule out trying to book three shows at once, advised Cardinal.

“Find out what is playing in venues nearby and get a bike. You’ll get there faster and make more than one show in an evening.”

Besides, how can you choose when so much is going on all the time?

One feature that could save you big when hitting up multiple shows in one night is the POP Hopper pass (try saying that a few times fast). You pay for your first show of the evening, and for $10 more, you have access to any other show you want that same night, capacity permitting.

When choosing your shows, Cardinal suggested balancing the bigger names and the local acts. “You know you’re going to get a really great show with local bands because they are so excited to be playing. They have great energy.” When asked for her top-five acts not to miss, Cardinal named at least 15. Big Freedia, Grimes, Shonen Knife, Deerhoof, Pat Jordache, Adam and the Amethyst, Naomi Shelton, Fred Penner (yes the Fred Penner who used to crawl through that hollow tree log every morning), Braids, Xiu Xiu, Peace, Matt Perri and the Living Sluts—the list goes on.

One could be suspicious that POP lets just about anyone play, but the truth is the selection process is months of months of listening with input from various music industry professionals. The variety of musical genres showcased makes this festival a winner for everyone. The schedule has a code for genre and short descriptions, so you can get straight to the juicy stuff, whether that is folk, rock or more experimental music. However, this is a festival to discover new bands and new sounds, so be open to different styles.

To be sure you’re in the loop on all these simultaneous events and the latest festival news, a great idea is to follow POP Montreal on Twitter.

“Keep your ear on the ground for the after-parties” as Cardinal put it, since the fiesta usually goes on all night long. “The after-parties can make your festival,” she said.

Music aside, the venues, people and art weaved into this POP Montreal tapestry make it one sweet party.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 07, published September 28, 2010.