Ten Artists That Show POP Montreal Is About Much More Than Just "Pop"

Laurie Anderson, Mavis Staples, Nick Cave and more come to the Montreal festival from September 25 to 29
Ten Artists That Show POP Montreal Is About Much More Than Just 'Pop'
Promotional consideration provided by POP Montreal.

POP Montreal is full of amazing pop — it's right there in the title. From the celestial baroque pop of Weyes Blood to the electronic pop ruminations of Tirzah to the joyous power pop anthems of Hollerado, the festival will feature a plethora of catchy melodies and great choruses.

But that's only half the story. POP Montreal offers one of the most diverse, boundary-pushing lineups of any major Canadian music festival — and the 2019 festival is no exception. From experimental icons to R&B legends to rising folk luminaries, POP Montreal's lineup pushes the envelope.

This year's festival features dozens of shows at various venues around the titular city, from September 25 to 29. There's a lot of choice — so to help you sort through some of the festival's must-see performances, we're highlighting some of this year's most adventurous artists. Check these shows out to find out just how much range POP Montreal has to offer.

And of course, POP Montreal also includes non-musical components like Film POP, Art POP, Puces POP and POP Symposium. More details can be found here.

Laurie Anderson
September 25, Théâtre Rialto (with Colin Stetson and Rebecca Foon)

Laurie Anderson is an avant-garde icon. She's not so much a musician in the traditional sense as she is a mixed-media artist who has been staging innovative performances since the '70s. She's best known for her 1981 surprise chart hit "O Superman," and she plays violin alongside a number of instruments of her own creation. She was married to Lou Reed for many years, and they even collaborated on a performance at a frequency only dogs can hear. Her forthcoming album, Songs From the Bardo, is a mix of spoken poetry and Tibetan instrumentation.

Colin Stetson
September 25, Théâtre Rialto (with Laurie Anderson and Rebecca Foon)

Consider this one a bonus to Laurie Anderson, because Colin Stetson is opening for her. He's an experimental saxophonist known for his work with Arcade Fire and Bon Iver, but it's when performing solo that his virtuosic talent really shines. With circular breathing, Stetson's performances are visceral and intensely physical, making for a very different show than pretty much any other sax player out there.

September 25, Piccolo Rialto (with guests)

This collective formed around a block party in their hometown of Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They quite literally bring the sounds of the streets to life, converting materials like plastic containers and metal engine parts into instruments by which to make their dance music. With electronic production and dancers, KOKOKO!'s music is a rebellious political expression that draws attention to the struggles of their homeland.

Yamantaka // Sonic Titan
September 25, l'Escogriffe (with guests)

Yamantaka // Sonic Titan have been one of Canada's most dependable experimental rock bands this decade, bringing together their self-described "Noh-wave" music with an electrifying visual spectacle. They went through a major lineup change a few years ago, but re-emerged with 2018's Dirt — an apocalyptic concept album full of headbanging metal influences, sharp hooks and prog complexity. They've never sounded heavier, and their shows are a sight to behold.

Bad Waitress
September 26, La Sala Rossa (with Hollerado and Ellis)

Toronto's Bad Waitress rock. Hard. Formerly known as the Nude Dogs, they adopted their new moniker in 2018 and soon after signed with Royal Mountain Records. They mix punk with hard rock and even an undercurrent of blues — but as loud and angry as the music sounds, it's also a hell of a good time. This is a band, after all, that named their EP Party Bangers: Volume 1. Expect this show to be a rowdy good time. See you in the pit!

Haviah Mighty
September 26, Piccolo Rialto (with Yung Baby Tate and Ian Isiah)

Haviah Mighty is one third of Toronto trio the Sorority and a hell of a rapper in her own right, so it's no wonder she has quickly become one of Canada's hottest rising hip-hop artists of 2019. Her recent album, 13th Floor, is a short-list finalist for the Polaris Music Prize, offering introspective bars and dark, booming booms. Combined with electrifying performances — when she gets right up in the audience's faces — this is likely to be one of POP Montreal's most intense shows.

Nick Cave
September 27, St-Jean-Baptiste Church

Nick Cave is an art rock icon. Whether performing aching piano ballads or snarling through noisy rock songs with his band the Bad Seeds, he's known for his brilliantly cryptic storytelling. He's also revered as one of the most charismatic frontman in rock music, and the connection he forges with audiences in spellbinding. His magnetic personality will be on full display at POP Montreal, since this performance is part of his "Conversations With" tour, which features both intimate piano songs and an open Q&A with the audience.

Aldous Harding
September 28, Théâtre Rialto (with guests)

Born in New Zealand and based in Wales, Aldous Harding specializes in gorgeous folk songs that aren't easy to define or categorize. Sometimes sparse and acoustic, sometimes swelling with upbeat rhythms and lush orchestrations, this year's acclaimed Designer is tied together by Harding's sweetly lilting voice. Her music is tough to pin down, but there's no questioning its beauty.

Hua Li 化力
September 28, Casa Del Popolo (with guests)

An official bio describes Hua Li 化力 as "Canada's only half-Chinese, half-militant, half-rapper." Hua Li 化力 is the performing alias of Montreal-based DJ/singer/rapper Peggy Hogan, who makes swooning songs that blend atmospheric electronic production with smooth soul melodies and rapped verses. Get ready for a party doused in a dreamy haze.

Mavis Staples
September 29, Théâtre Rialto (with Clerel and Hanorah)

Now 80 years old, soul legend Mavis Staples has been performing since 1950 — first as a member of her gospel family band the Staple Singers, and then as a solo performer. She's a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a friend and collaborator of Bob Dylan, and a multi-Grammy winner. And yet, despite being such a celebrated veteran, she's also managed to stay current thanks to collaborations with Jeff Tweedy, Gorillaz and Pusha-T, and M. Ward. POP Montreal is a chance to be in the presence of a true R&B icon.