Pop Montreal Montreal, PQ — September 26 to 29, 2002

Sonny Best Band Crowd pleasing country rock that ranged from Willie Nelson to Gary Glitter to Michael Jackson, all the while indulging in two, three and four-part harmonies and lotsa songs about drinking. And let's not forget the ace lead guitar and fab fiddle. LC Blonde Redhead Blonde Redhead performed with beautiful precision but cool detachment. Despite their Japanese and Italian background, their sound follows a distinctly Teutonic pulse. The use of sequencers was distracting, considering the live instruments sounded just as robotic. MB Broken Social Scene Hushed keys, low trombone and fleeting percussion launched this Toronto act's set-long crescendo, featuring two members of Montreal's Stars on horns. With steady hands and scattered brains, their sound ranged from ambient noodling to Doves-style, ringing guitar pop to less engaging rock-outs. LC Cuff The Duke These young Oshawa cowpunks utilised vintage keyboards and lap steel to help transcend the ramshackle buzzsaw country that forms the base of their sound. MB The Dears The Dears did their best to dispel their live reputation with a dull thud of new material. Any Euro charm they once had has somehow morphed into Matthew Good, with three spine-tingling exceptions: a harrowing torch number, a pseudo-dub tune, and an epic set closer, "Summer of Protest." Other than that, new guitarist Rob Benvie injected some Zeppelin II riffery and drummer George Donoso III gets an MVP award for maintaining orgasmic intensity throughout a sub-Spiritualized sleeper. MB Hot Hot Heat The second coming of Platinum Blonde? Hot Hot Heat's '80s obsession doesn't stop with their sound: there's the hair, the fashion, and the rock star demands for more smoke machines. That said, they put on quite a show, even when singer Steve Bays adopts stage moves to go along with his clucking chicken imitation on "Le Le Low." MB Hylozoists Vibraphonist and occasional Sadie Paul Acoin's studio project came to brilliant life with the help of six compatriots, including the Weakerthans' Jason Tait (on second vibraphone!) and the Guthries' Dale Murray on ethereal pedal steel. Geeks could gawk at the musicianship and the meticulous instrumental arrangements, but this band has soul, too. MB Lederhosen Lucil Dressed in her baby blue "frozenhosen" and working two keyboards while doing knee dips and maintaining a cutesy Kraut schtick, the hosen hostess doled out gold stars for enthusiastic audience members and invited a suspicious trailer trash couple on stage to do some out-of-line dancing. Must be seen to be believed. MB Marlowe Returning from a long live hiatus, this born again Montreal band has ditched simple guitar pop for exquisitely mellow, post-pop soundscapes. Keys, guitars and gravity-defying female vocals led the way in this increasingly layered set, recalling shoegazing at its most dense and most pop. LC Model Children With a new percussionist and a new falsetto for the swaggering lead singer, Montreal's soul punks Model Children have obviously spent some time with some old Curtis Mayfield records. Lots of promise, but it doesn't all add up just yet. MB Mogilny Interpol may have been a buzz band of the weekend, but they don't have much that Mogilny don't — they both delve into death disco and dreamy guitar lines, and Mogilny have the added Euro appeal of francophone lyrics. However, their dramatic decision to hold a frozen tableau mid-song — which lasted longer than the actual song itself — backfired when most of the audience failed to notice. MB Montag Officially launching his minimal, electronic debut disc, Are You a Friend?, Montreal's Montag (aka Antoine Bédard) tooled and tweaked at various machinery, playing violin and percussive trinkets when his pop-informed, delicately organic pieces required them. Despite some technical troubles, Montag's witty banter and sweetly textured, accessible sounds were a delight. LC Royal City For their first appearance in town, "Mount" Royal City debuted new songs and tracks from the modern classic Alone at the Microphone in a loose and joyous set that buried their mopey reputation. Guest keyboardist Bob Wiseman pushed several songs beyond the band's usual limits, and they closed with an anthemic cover of Iggy Pop's "Here Comes Success." MB Stars The sexiest band of the festival seemed to be having some issues with their time allotment and on-stage sound, but they were able to put it behind them to deliver a golden set including some choice new material. They closed their set by inviting their friends in Broken Social Scene to add sheets of feedback to a rousing instrumental. MB Tangiers Toronto's Tangiers are clearly Clash fans, also reflecting mod and good-time, axe-wielding rock, their gritty guitar and vocal harmonies constituting a great Canadian bid to that rock ‘n' roll saviour-wave. LC Tremelo Though heavier on thick guitars, live drums and vocal emoting than on their wonderfully moody, minimal album Romantisme Hermétique, Montreal's Tremolo spilled their brand of tense, psychedelic electro-pop with ease and muso skill, taking the Radiohead route to their own, sonically lavish space. LC Martha Wainwright Drifting and pointless songs played politely and sung with rehearsed abandon — sounds like a bad Van Morrison album. Trying to be edgy by injecting a sweet chorus with the sing-song lyrics "goddam motherfucking asshole" doesn't help. MB Washington Social Club This tightly-wound, rockin' pop, DC trio just dripped with fun, all smiles and danceable tunes. With big charisma and bigger teeth, singer Marty was straight out of a UK,'60s, pop idol group, only invigorated by punk urgency, while Kirsten Dunst-alike bassist Olivia co-bopped, all cute, up and rockin' right out. LC The Weekend Don't try and pinpoint the Weekend's sound. Sure, they look like a synth-pop version of Veruca Salt. And yes, they sing songs about boys like the Donnas. The main factor is an addictive combination of poppy hooks, punk rock and delicious lyrics. JW-G Bob Wiseman Dressed to the nines and performing before a rapturous cabaret-seating crowd, Wiseman's comeback proved how much his songwriting and performance have been sorely missed. If only there was more new material. MB