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Monday, Dec 8, 2008
In his final dispatch from Montréal, PopMatters' photographer experiences poutine for the first time, is enchanted by upcoming singer-songwriter Coeur de Pirate and is baffled by Francophone crooner Pierre Lapointe.

Seeing how both of us were flying out the next morning, Kevin and I had no problem figuring out what to eat on Saturday night. Neither of us had ever had poutine—the classic Québécois comfort food—so it seemed almost mandatory that on our last night in town we visit Resto La Banquise, considered by many to be Montréal’s premiere purveyor of poutine.


Resto La Banquise is open 24 hours a day and serves up 25 different varieties of poutine, including an “Elvis Poutine” a “Kamikaze Poutine” and a “T-Rex Poutine”. Being that we were both first-timers, Kevin and I opted for the classic poutine, which consists of french fries topped with cheese curds and chicken velouté sauce (essentially a chicken gravy). The dish is warm, salty and simultaneously soft and crunchy. Good poutine, it’s said, is marked by the freshness of the curds, which should “squeak” when you bite into them. As you might imagine, poutine is a favorite late night snack in Quebec, so its not surprising that Resto La Banquise tends to be packed well into the wee hours of the morning.


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Friday, Dec 5, 2008
by PopMatters Staff
Words and Pictures by Sachyn Mital

The Space in Hamden, Connecticut is a very intimate venue and Kristín Björk Kristjánsdóttir, otherwise known as Kira Kira, told the crowd of about thirty people that her songs took on new meaning when heard in such a cozy place. After checking if anyone was falling asleep, Kristjánsdóttir told one spectator that it would be okay if he did because “we won’t make fun of you if you snore.”


With Alex Somers on the piano and glockenspiel and Kippi Kaninus behind a laptop, Kristjánsdóttir sang and played her guitar as well as some unique inventions of her own making, creating music that other instruments could not. Shining a flashlight into a telephone handset, pressing what looked like a thumb piano, and singing into a tin can equipped with a microphone (all processed through her laptop and other gear), Kira Kira performed songs primarily from the 2008 release Our Map to the Monster Olympics including “Bless”, “Agustskot”, and “One Eyed Waltz”.


In comparison to her fellow Icelanders, Kira Kira’s subtle songs might sound similar to the dreamy amiina—a string quartet often found playing alongside Sigur Rós—while other songs convey a more ominous tone like Jóhann Jóhannsson’s ambient electronic works. Perhaps it is Iceland’s belief in magical beings, like gnomes, elves, and fairies, or its stark terrain that inspires such ethereal music. After playing a new song, Kristjánsdóttir simply told everyone she was finished because she did not want us to wake up from our reverie.



Tagged as: kira kira
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Friday, Dec 5, 2008
During day three of the M For Montréal festival, PopMatters' photographer rides a school bus, eats more smoked brisket than is probably advisable and checks out Montréal's budding Francophone hip-hop scene.

I’ve heard it said that this year’s All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in New York felt like an indie rock summer camp. After attending M For Montréal, I now know what that means. Over the course of the three-day festival, the international delegates (that is to say, the group of about 30 festival buyers, agents and journalists who had traveled from abroad to attend) were carefully shepherded from activity to activity by the festival staff. In addition to the showcases there were dinners, happy hours and networking events, all of which were carefully planned and orchestrated by the aforementioned handlers. To their credit, however, the festival never felt like a contrived daycare for music industry insiders. Friendships came easily over the course of three days and even those activities that sounded like tourist clichés on paper turned out to be more than worthwhile. The key was not taking oneself too seriously—something that both the organizers and the attendees seemed to understand instinctively.


Take, for example, the city tour, which took place inside of a yellow school bus on a Saturday morning. Instead of being led by a dry, professional tour guide, the journey was narrated by the festival’s booking and promotion guy, Mikey Bernard. Looking like a Cobra Snake-approved L.A. hipster with his ostensibly ironic moustache and fedora, Mikey was the perfect tour guide, injecting each comment with a bit of sardonic wit. He also knew Montréal’s indie rock landmarks like the back of his hand: the street where American Apparel founder Dov Charney once lived, the apartment where the idea for Vice Magazine was hatched, the restaurant where Leonard Cohen likes to have his breakfast.


Of course, no trip to Montréal would be complete without a visit to Schwartz’s famous Jewish delicatessen, a mainstay of Montréal cuisine for 80 years.


The specialty here is the smoked beef brisket, which is piled high on a two comparatively puny slices of white bread. The meat is rich, hearty and flavorful and almost seems to melt in your mouth—just the thing for a cold Montréal afternoon.


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Wednesday, Dec 3, 2008
In which PopMatters' photographer sees some of the festival's best and worst acts and ruminates, ever so briefly, on the topic of festival beer.

After a short walk in the brisk cold, we found ourselves at the Cabaret & Studio Juste Pour Rire (“Just For Laughs”), where the night’s showcase would unfold. Sets alternated between two stages in the complex, separated by interludes of five minutes. Much like South by Southwest, which has often been described as a musical version of speed dating, M For Montréal can feel like an event geared toward the attention span impaired. A band performs a handful of songs, you walk a few feet and five minutes later, another band is set in front of you. As you might imagine, this approach has its upsides as well as its drawbacks. If you’re stuck watching an act that doesn’t particularly move you, you’ve usually only got a few more songs to sit through. However, if you really like a band, you’ve got to deal with the fact that you’ll only get to see them play for a few more minutes at most.


First up was Chinatown, a five-piece from the French-speaking side of town. While it’s said that their music combines the French pop of the ‘60s with the indie pop of today, to my ears, Chinatown just sounded like a sub par, Francophone bar band. If I was forced to tell you two interesting things about this band I would mention that:


1.) That singer kind of looks like Ewan McGregor, doesn’t he?


2.) Their guitarist looks, dresses and acts a bit like Joe Perry from Aerosmith. Can’t say he solos like him, though.


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Monday, Dec 1, 2008
PopMatters' intrepid photographer arrives on the scene in time for day two of the M For Montréal festival and takes in the town as well as the first two of Friday's acts.

Due to scheduling conflicts, I arrived in Montréal late on a Thursday night, a full day after events editor Kevin Pearson had touched down. As such, I missed the first day of the festival, not to mention a few swanky dinners, courtesy of the festival’s organizers.  Luckily, there was still plenty left to be seen, heard and tasted in Montréal and I was determined to make the most of my weekend in the world’s second largest French speaking city.


Coincidentally enough, I was born in Montréal, though my family left Canada when I was just a few months old. Though I had made a few trips back as a child, this would mark the first chance I would have as an adult to explore the city in earnest. As such, my trip was filled with a peculiar sense of nostalgia; fleeting moments of recognition in a city that I knew almost nothing about.


Our home base, the fashionably minimalist Opus Hotel, was located at the intersection of two of Montréal’s great thoroughfares, the Boulevard Saint Laurent and rue Sherbrooke. Boulevard Saint Laurent is apparently referred to as “the Main” by locals, as the street serves as the dividing line between the Anglophone and Francophone parts of town. Leonard Cohen owns a nondescript grey stone house about a mile from the Opus, not far from the corner of Boulevard Saint Laurent and rue Marie Anne (the latter street, apparently, serving as the inspiration for the song that bears its name).


Even though I arrived after midnight on Thursday, Kevin managed to coax me into going out to a bar (okay, I admit, it didn’t take much coaxing) with him and a few folks he had met at the festival. We ended up at Korova, an upstairs hipster dive on the main drag that somehow felt both authentically divey and authentically Canadian. The DJ spun great tunes (‘50s and ‘60s pop 45s, mostly), the bartenders poured St. Ambroise brews from Montréal’s own McAuslan brewery and practically everyone danced themselves into a sweat as the moose heads mounted on the wall silently observed the proceedings.


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