Taverne Tour: Unveiling a counter-culture winter wonderland

Explore the Mothland-hosted Plateau festival - where local beats and spirits of discovery blossom in the snow

Courtesy Chloé Biocca

Looking for something affordable to do this upcoming weekend, having no concrete plans in this -10 C temperature? Are you someone who always likes to make discoveries of fresh new music?

If you are, why not take a look at the Taverne Tour? The perfect blend of affordability and local entertainment will be right around your corner.

From Feb. 8 to 10, a selection of more than 80 bands will perform in 25 establishments in the Plateau Mont-Royal. An eclectic lineup, co-curated by organizers and artists, offers captivating new musical discoveries in intimate settings. The Taverne Tour will focus on exploring new sounds and exchanging creative energy.

With tickets ranging from $10 to $20, the Taverne Tour is a winter music festival that was brought to life by a couple of partnerships. 

Presented by Desjardins Caisse du Plateau-Mont-Royal, and in collaboration with l’Avenue du Mont-Royal, BLVD SAINT-LAURENT, SODEC QUEBEC, and Socan Foundation, the festival was brought to life by production partners such as Mothland, SOLOTECH, KickDrum and Pop Montreal. 

Marilyne Lacombe, overseeing Taverne Tour programming, and Philippe Larocque, managing event programming and press relations, discussed Mothland's beginnings linked to the Taverne Tour festival, evolving from the Distortion festival focused on psychedelic music. Both are Mothland founders, initially establishing it as a Quebec-based booking agency for an underrepresented scene, now expanding nationwide to connect with music scenes across North America.

Lacombe and Larocque explained that The Taverne Tour evolved from a desire to bring counter-culture into a mainstream setting. The label grew significantly during the pandemic, transforming from a live music company to a label with a consistent aesthetic and philosophy, aiming to expand a diverse musical community.

“The Taverne Tour was born not long after Distortion,” said Lacombe. “The idea was really to occupy a period in the year that is super dead; the month of February, equally challenging for cultural workers, artists, and local businesses. So the idea was really to come up with an event to breathe life back into Montreal in the middle of winter when ultimately everyone has nothing to do."

Showcasing artists like Safia Nolin, Jon Spencer, Deli Girls, Laurence-Anne, Hawa B, and many more, Lacombe explains that at least 80 per cent of the artistic programming at least focuses on discovering new artists. The remaining 20 per cent involves featuring more established artists, bringing them into a more intimate context where they haven't been presented before in Montreal. This portion of the programming is designed as unique and special performances. The overall idea for Taverne Tour spectators is to take a risk and attend shows by bands they may not be familiar with, emphasizing the spirit of discovery.

Larocque emphasizes breaking out of the micro-scene and fostering collaboration between different music scenes and audiences. This mix promotes the discovery of new bands, encourages collaborations, and presents audiences with unique experiences that contribute to overall artistic development. 

"One of the things with the capacities, since these are small venues and intimate shows, we don't need two big groups to fill a room,” he adds. “We've already mixed discoveries, the show was full, and it was completely a wildcard”.

The Taverne Tour pretty much originated at Taverne St-Sacrement on Mont-Royal. Pierre Thibault, the owner of this bar, has been there from the beginning, and it was somewhat his idea to collaborate with musicians.

“Initially, it was only on Mont-Royal Street - so he developed it with local merchants, and business development corporations, and, as I mentioned, February is such a challenging month for everyone that there was quickly an urge to try something - and see how it goes,” adds Lacombe. 

Initially, with nothing to lose, they saw improvement over the years, drawing people to Mont-Royal Street. As it gained momentum, St-Denis Street and St-Laurent Boulevard also joined, making them the three main businesses in the neighborhood.

Lacombe mentions a significant innovation this year, involving the invitation of an international industry delegation, consisting of around ten professionals—five from Europe and five from the United States. They will discover bands at the Taverne Tour and potentially reprogram them in their respective locations. This move aligns with the ongoing goal of exporting the Montreal music scene. She emphasizes the uniqueness of organizing a music festival in winter, a time when nobody else wanted to do so, in the locality of Montreal.

"The social essence truly comes with the city and the weather,” states Larocque. “Our DNA is Montreal, and we're all not far from the Plateau neighborhood. The current idea is not necessarily to grow in size but to try to enhance the experience we have. We prefer all our shows to be truly full—a great atmosphere for the audience and excellent opportunities for the bands. We really want to build on the success we have now and offer a better experience for both artists and the audience with the current formula.”

If you wanna see the lineup and buy tickets for the festival, you can click here.