The most ambitious POP show I've ever seen wasn't even on a stage — it was in the back of a cafe with tables and pillars in the middle.
At Le Cagibi, BUFFLO was clad in black and 10 feet tall. Standing in near darkness, he took us through the sounds that will appear on the follow-up to his 2014 record Unseam'd.
But this was no simple listening party.
Some soulless creature was in the middle of the room, conjuring nightmarish, industrial passages blended with singing and spoken word. With a mic to his cowl, he would uncover beauty for brief instants — a beast making pop music — only to be again washed into blackness.
His troupe lurked in the crowd, shouting, leading puppets or wrapping themselves in red twine.
For BUFFLO, the question of how a producer can turn his music into a performance was beside the point. Instead he created an environment for his sounds to live in, letting the music become the room. BUFFLO's night enveloped the venue, leaving us in fearful awe as his spindle limbs conducted this captured symphony.
The set ended with him disrobing under a strobe light, then grabbing an acoustic guitar with the whole room singing along. And just like that, the trip was resolved.
Kurvi Tasch have fleshed out their sound as a four-piece, allowing singer Alex Nicol to drop the guitar when they bring things down. At Divan Orange they played cuts off their self-titled full-length from last year, plus some new stuff with synth in place of the four-string.
For a band driven by guitars, it only makes sense they now have two of them. Second guitarist Ouss (who also plays in Pool Boy with bassist Mike) added another dimension to their melancholic tunes, still giving Alex's voice room to lead.
Then Nancy Pants took the energy up a notch, subbing Kurvi Tasch's introspective indie groove for sheer excitement, lead by singer/guitarist Ohara Hale.
Like an indie take on the music from Grease, their hook-heavy tunes are made to be sung along to. A relatively new band (though none of the three are new to Montreal music), they exuded pure, silly joy as they played stuff off their debut, last year's Total Nancy Pants.
That joy was picked up by the crowd, dancing and swaying along as the band goofed around onstage.