MEG Festival Montreal, QC - October 19 to 22, 2005

Montreal's MEG festival underwent a bit of an identity makeover for its seventh edition. Previously an acronym for "Montreal Electronic Groove," the organisers decided to back off from the already crowded local electronic festival circuit to include some indie rock and leftfield hip-hop. This year's four night programme boasted its strongest line-up to date, with Broken Social Scene, Islands, Jad Fair, Peanut Butter Wolf, Superpitcher, Optimo and numerous others on deck to deliver the goods. Unfortunately, organisers had several logistical points set against them from the get-go. MEG comes at the tail end of an absurdly busy six months of festivals. In addition, instead of competing against the much smaller Elektra Festival, which moved this year to the spring, MEG now lands two weeks after the mammoth Pop Montreal and one week before a massive Halloween party weekend. Those who did attend were confronted with scheduling issues, no-shows and an awkward selection of venues. Parisians Jackson and Bertrand Burgalat, the headliners for Wednesday and Saturday nights, respectively, both cancelled. Akufen and Tiga were kind enough to fill in, but locals can catch those two DJing around town outside of the hefty door price at least six times a year. Thursday night in the cavernous SAT was marred by overlong sets and set-up times all night. The venue is usually great for techno, but any act with a live instrument suffers for sound and attention in this dark and cavernous hall. Satan Belanger, the opening DJ, spun for 90 minutes on a night slotted with six acts, few of who respected their own time allotments. French noise-trio Sister Iodine, German theatrical electro-poppers Der Plan and fan favourites Adult. were each commendable in their own way. But it's hard to understand why Scottish DJs Optimo were tucked away at 2:45 a.m., playing to few more than the bartenders closing up shop when they could have come in handy on the weekend. Friday night's Kompakt/Areal showcase was definitely the highlight of the festival, though I can't say for certain because scheduling made it impossible to see Broken Social Scene and Islands playing at the same time over at the Metropolis. The 2,500-capacity Metropolis may suit BSS, who have the fans for it, but Saturday's combined line-up of Panico, Jeans Team, and Rinocerose were more curiosity than draw in the overlarge venue. MEG may have struck the right notes with this year's line-up, but all the other organisational issues certainly deserve more scrutiny.