POP Montreal Day 4: The D’Urbervilles, Adam & His Amethysts, PUCE Pop

Yesterday was a slow day for musical discoveries, barring Guelph’s The D’Urbervilles, who played an invigorating afternoon set at Le Divan Orange. Unfortunately, Adam and His Amethysts were too dull to deserve such a sparkling moniker; what’s worse, their front man is also a member of Miracle Fortress, a band whose praises I would gladly bellow, loudly, from the very top of Mont Royal.

First, the good stuff. Hailing from Guelph, Ontario, The D’Urbervilles are a quartet whose sound contains a lot of odd, possibly contrary referentials, from the mainstream (The Killers, the last wave of post-punk Brits like Franz Ferdinand) to the less so (a hollered vocal line here, a bass groove there recalled the D.C. heyday of Fugazi or Black Eyes, minus the rough edges). Their closest Canadian kin would be Tokyo Police Club, another band that shares the occasionally unfortunate habit of aping the vocal inflections of Birmingham rather than Ottawa. Frontman John O’Regan may have been wearing a Billy Joel t-shirt, but his stage presence was more Ian Curtis-on-Paxil than Piano Man. Check out songs like “Hot Tips” here, but keep in mind the very indie production and release—live, these tracks come across in a self-assured blast of assurance, wilder and rawer than the recordings.

And now for the unfortunate part. Adam & His Amethysts played to a packed house at Casa del Popolo. The band is essentially a solo effort from Adam Waito, with female backing vocals and piano from Katherine Peacock. (A rather drunk girl joined them mid-set to shake a maraca. Perhaps she’s on the Amethysts farm team). Maybe it’s because he’s a member of Miracle Fortress—who friends tell me are moving away from their original Beach Boys psych-vibe and into wild, uncharted, Brian Eno territory. Perhaps it’s the fact that the songs all sounded like generic homages to indie rock touchstones—there was the lurching Arcade Fire rip-off, complete with French horn; the occasional Conor Oberst pantomime. “Stupid Ocean” attempts a San Francisco Summer of Love pop-folk vibe, but Miracle Fortress can do the same thing–while taking it well beyond the hippies-on-acid source material. In any case, my companion’s harsh assessment was spot on: if Adam hadn’t been wearing such a bright and curious Mexican poncho, it wouldn’t have been worth watching for more than a minute.

We decamped down the street to Barfly to see Toronto’s Ten Kens, but had to escape due to the venue being as pleasant as an overripe armpit in the middle of July. (Their album was just released on FatCat, and is worth a listen. “Spanish Fly” dredges up the much-missed corpse of McClusky.) Across town, the Wham City crew and friends brought their traveling road show to Eastern Bloc, a venue so far north of the downtown that it might actually look like Baltimore. Last night was the “Eyes” portion, with acts like Beach House and Teeth Mountain. I was sad to skip it. (Text received: “You’re missing out. There is a clown.”)

The night ended earlier than expected—four days of live music and cross-town bicycle riding had taken their toll. (No one felt up to ‘Turbo Crunk,’ with a DJ set from Megasoid. That’s Hadji from Wolf Parade’s Dirty-South-loving side project. Even Sasha Frere-Jones digs it.)

Before the musical festivities, we had spent the afternoon at PUCE Pop, the annual arts-and-crafts fair taking place this year at St. Michel Church. Highlights: cigar box guitars from Daddy Mojo, laser-cut jewelry from M8N4.

Jack Dylan was one of several poster artists on hand, as well as Seripop, the chief instigators of the Montreal silkscreening movement. The company is run by Chloe Lum and Yannick Desranleau, both from the aggressively antisocial band AIDS Wolf. Lum is notable for having the silliest eyeglasses ever invented; Desranleau has half his head shaved and looks like he’d bite you if you snapped his picture. Their work is delightfully overstuffed and busy, a neon grotesquerie that suits the bands they associate themselves with (An Albatross, etc.)

Now it’s time to pack, return the rented bicycle, and prepare for the mercifully brief flight back to New York. Expect a festival recap tomorrow, along with a cheat sheet of the best way to plan your own POP Montreal excursion for ’09. Au revoir, mes amis.

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