For two and a half weeks, Consequence of Sounds Sasha Geffen will be exploring Montreal and its music scene, attending the mammoth three-day music festival Osheaga (featuring The Cure, Beck, New Order, Vampire Weekend, and many more), and taking in the local culture. Follow her adventures here, or through the hashtag #MTLMoments on Instagram and Twitter, and visit Tourisme Montreals website to learn more about the city.
You can measure the size of a city by how long it takes to run into the same people twice. Walking into Divan Orange, we notice M for Montreal’s Mikey Rishwain Bernard on the guest list for the show. Sure enough, we greet him near the start of the headlining set. The club’s filling up with people, most of whom he seems to know.
We’ve already met the opener, too; Simon Angell played with Thus:Owls at the same Cult MTL party where we first met Bernard. Playing solo under red lights, Angell feeds an electric guitar through loop pedals to build a calming folk-drone ambience. The middle slot’s act starts out as a duo, with Lisa Iwanycki at the helm of a tangle of electronics and Morgan Moore slumped over an electric bass. Together, they go by Blood and Glass. Iwanycki stirs up a drum machine, then mutates her voice through a MicroKorg’s vocoder. The effects pulse and slide; I’m reminded of The Knife dressed in warmer textures. Angell and his wife Erika soon join them onstage on guitar and vocals, respectively. The club starts to feel like someone’s living room where songs are traded like stories.
But it’s the headliner, whose members are all new to us, that does us in. Dear Denizen’s arranged a lot like any band you’d see at a club like Divan Orange: drums, bass, synths, guitar, vocals. They’re also proof that the spirit of something is not in the structure. The singer’s all charisma: wild, combustive charisma, eyes fixed on every spectator, hands everywhere. He sings beautifully but that’s not what breaks through to us. He is staring down into us and fighting so hard to get us to feel what he’s feeling.
Dear Denizen’s lyrics flicker from love to fear to desire but the ones that stick out for me are the ones I can wear around my own feelings. “I wish I could be a better son. I want to be a perfect friend.” He sings it so fiercely you can’t mistrust the sentiment.
The best live acts get you thinking about what performance is and how it can work. Here, I’m struck by the danger in Dear Denizen’s show. They’re blasting this crazed vulnerability; anything could go wrong. But by the end, even the casual drinkers are up by the stage, transfixed. I don’t dance and I’m dancing. We’re won.
Previously on #MTLMoments: Sasha catches the Kiss experience at the Bell Centre.