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LIVE REPORT: From Manchester to M for Montreal (Day 1)

I’m sure M for Montreal ranks up there as one of the friendliest music and culture festivals out there. A matter of hours in and I’ve fist-bumped the founder himself, gone ‘exploring’ the city with a music producer and radio host from LA, eaten breakfast with John Robb and been told that my accent is ‘quaint’ – that’s one I haven’t heard before!

M for Montreal (M pour Montréal) is a four-day music event which takes place annually and is held in venues across the magnificent city which is Montréal, Québec, produced by Avalanche Prod. Running since 2006, it hosts at least 100 local and international breakout bands each year.

2017’s event spanned the dates 15-18th November, and markedly stood out as an opportunity not just to be a ‘spectator’ of music, but ‘sharing’ it – as networking is an essential part of the concept.

And this is far from the ‘clinical’ kind of networking you may associate with industry events – as M for Montreal approaches the discussion and diversity of music culture in increasingly novel ways.

Designed to be in a format which gets delegates talking to artists, journalists chatting with videographers, and designers debating with producers – along with some great gigs – we were plunged into four days of – fun.

This is the type of place which allows you to consider questions like – can an artist suit commercial concepts and still satisfy personal tastes? How much does video really matter? What is behind a good album cover from the perspective of a potential buyer? Music melts down industry barriers, in a sense, rather than entrenching the roles – that is what this event seems to endorse, and in turn, everyone’s perspective is valuable.

That emphasis of inclusivity in music – so often stereotyped as an ‘industry’ or ‘exclusive’ – is extremely refreshing, especially from the perspective of a young journalist.

The opening day on 15th November involved a creative networking event – HUB Montreal presents: Pixmob Networking Lunch – integrating technology into tactile interaction.

How? Attendees were given little devices which attached at the wrist, flashed colours to communicate which industry they were working in – the likes of music, video, production and more. The objective was to mingle with others and press the devices simultaneously to connect, in turn exchanging email addresses as previously registered. Fist-bumping, turned wrist-bumping – so perhaps even more cool.

Considering that so much of the music industry ironically seems to revolve around email exchanges and transfers of files – rather than the essential transfer of voices – the networking event emphasized the importance of face-to-face, thought-out interaction. The amount of positivity in the room suggests that progression in industry is moulded as much by discussion, as by Dropboxing – thank goodness.

And this was just one element of a day that involved a talk from UK Producer Stephen Budd who is also a Manager and Africa Express Co-Founder, discussions on gentrification in music and a separate session on SEO, the innovative ‘HUB Montreal presents: Robert Kory & Nikolaos Bardanis – Leonard Cohen meets Assassin’s Creed’ and much more.

Then for the evening of music – with just a few highlights here from the Montreal scene:

Ghostly Kisses 

We travelled by retro yellow school bus to Casa del Popolo, a bustling café on St Laurent – one of the longest streets in Montreal, with some 166 ethnicities reported to live there. An eclectic vibe and welcoming feel characterised the gig space, not too far removed from the upstairs of Gullivers, Manchester – right down to that antique feel. First on the bill was Ghostly Kisses – the solo project of singer-songwriter Margaux Sauvé. She was joined on-stage by two other musicians, mixing a range of keys and notes for billowing, dreamy soundscapes which seemed to seep forth with themes of desire and longing. The music was emphasized by atmospheric setting with Sauvé central-stage, stance aimed into the mic, incensing the crowd. A captivating way to start the night.

Men I Trust 

Then it was a jump over the road to the cool Spanish-style taverna La Sala Rosa –  known for its gig space upstairs and eatery downstairs. The aroma of Spanish cooking seeped up the stairs as crowds flocked into catch the set of Indie-dance pioneers Men I Trust. What immediately captivated me was the colourful, creative nature of the three-piece, pulling out foot-tapping rhythms yet still maintaining a relaxed feel. It was an indie-dance performance without the artificial intensity which too-often spoils the genre. This was a case of satisfying, feel-good tunes in a fun atmosphere. Notable too, this band are a brilliant DIY blend – recording, mixing and mastering their own tunes; even shooting the music videos.

Geoffroy 

Also playing at La Sala Rosa, set for 11pm was Geoffroy, a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Montreal. With a distinctly different feel from the other acts of the evening, Geoffroy delivered satisfying, spiralling electronica, with a real gutsy trip-hop groove. These were tunes that kept surprising me – as steady rhythms rolled into blistering beat-drops. Brilliant, a crossing of genres which is interesting as well as catchy. And with his debut album ‘Coastline’ released back in March via Bonsound, I’d definitely recommend a listen.

Other acts to look forward to include John Jacob Magistery plus Nive and the Deer Children at Le Ministère, the iconic Canadian Indie-pop group Alvvays at Club Soda, and Britain’s own Shame at L’Escogriffe. More to follow…

M for Montreal takes place over 15th-18th November. More information about the event can be found here.

Emily Oldfield
Lover of music, poetry and Manchester.

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