Duchess Says Club Soda, Montreal QC, November 21

Duchess Says Club Soda, Montreal QC, November 21
Photo: Luke Orlando
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Duchess Says entered the stage to a throbbing synth and hammering drums, but it couldn't have prepared the crowd for the rest of their manic, hour-long performance. Singer Annie-Claude Deschênes ran to the crowd, gesturing wildly, making faces and singing emphatically, half yelling and issuing cries between the lyrics. It would get even more engaging later on.

The band are nearly a household name in the Montreal underground, but they still haven't made a name outside of the city which, frankly, is shocking, given how incredible their performance was. Their arty synth punk was part Devo, part Black Flag and part B-52's, the kind of skewed pop that only musicians raised on experimental music could make. It's ultimately optimistic music; the songs suggest that there's definitely something wrong with the world, but Deschênes laughs in the face of sense.

She's a magnetic front woman, almost scary in her commitment to her manic, entrancing performance. She's got a powerful voice, and on songs like "I Repeat Myself" and "Tenen non neu," she explores every nook and cranny of it, like David Byrne, Nicki Minaj or Karen O before her.

At one point, she split the crowd, Red Sea-style, to walk among the crowd, antagonizing them and imploring turn to crouch down — when they stood back up, everybody bounced along with her. Later, at least 30 fans crashed the stage to dance, mosh and, most insanely, to crowd-surf, among the gear, between Deschênes and the drummer. The band closed with their best-know song, "Black Flag," which she sung from a crowd member's shoulders.

Duchess says were the best surprise of M for Montreal. How aren't this band on every music fan's lips?