Montreal has always kept it a little weird, with artists who elsewhere might be considered fringe feeling a little more a part of the culture here. At Théâtre Fairmount on Saturday night, to close out the 2023 edition of M for Montreal, some 700 people packed the venue to see to see electronic artists Marie Davidson and Nadah El-Shazly as part of booking agency Heavy Trip’s 10th anniversary party. Neither artist’s music is especially out-there, mind you: Davidson, who was playing her first show in four years, embraces disco, darkwave and dancepop as part of her atmospheric sound, and backed by a harpist, El-Shazly created a gorgeous soundscape. But neither exactly screams “late night capper for a four day festival”…except in Montreal. The hometown crowd was hyped.
Similarly, one of the coolest, most ambitious shows M for Montreal showcases of the week was Mothland‘s showcase on Friday night at La Sala Rossa. The club has a proper stage but they made a second one in the middle of the room to keep the lineup (and the crowd) moving nonstop. Mothland is an agency and label with a well-defined aesthetic of art rock and post-punk — both longtime Montreal staples — they went the extra mile on Friday, with sets from La Sécurité (their second show of M), synthwavers Night Lunch, the grand and heavy post-rock collective Atsuko Chiba, Atlanta’s theatrical CDSM, and OSEES tourmates Population II all giving it their all with wall-to-wall psychedelic projections lighting them up in vivid phantasmagoria.
There were also impressive visuals at the second edition of Blessed, M’s 2SLGTBQIA+ / BPIOC/ fxmme late night rave/DJ party which only started to fill up around 2:30 AM when I was calling it a night, but the DJs I caught (SILKTITS, Trinidaddy) sounded great against trippy, 180-degree projections at Union Française de Montréal.
There were also more Official Selection showcases on Friday, when it rained all day. The afternoon show at the very cool multi-use NOMAD loft was warm and chill with some of the festival’s folkier acts, including Afternoon Bike Ride, Bells Larsen, Arielle Soucy, Aviv, and Billianne. After the fest’s closing cocktail party, things moved back to Club Soda and and Café Cléopâtre (across the street from each other on St Laurent Blvd) for dreampop band 36?, the baroque francophone sounds of Thierry Larose, mathy/jazzy indie rock trio Zouz, singer-songwriter Lou-Adriane Cassidy whose charming fuzzed-out guitar pop comes in French and English, and ending with an only-in-Montreal act, the glammy, theatrical and unpidgeonholable VioleTT Pi.
Also on Saturday: I was back at Quai des Brumes to catch Moncton, NB’s Simon Daniel, who had the small pub sounding arena-huge with his brand of widescreen rock (shades of ’90s Radiohead), and another francophone artist, La Faune. Before hitting the Heavy Trip party, I stopped by Sala Rosa to see poppy duo Milk & Bone who felt way too big for the venue.
It was a fun four days, and while, like all cities, Montreal will change, I hope it doesn’t change too much. Keep on keeping it weird.
Check out a few photos from the final two days of M for Montreal — some by Camille Gladu-Drouin — below and read recaps of Night 1 and Night 2.