A Dreamy Sunday Evening with Airiel at Bar Le Ritz

Much was happening in the city the weekend Airiel came to Montreal for the first time. From St. Jean Baptiste Day, to the closing of Suoni Per Il Popolo and Francos de Montréal festival, it felt like Montreal’s classically music-filled summer was finally in swing. Despite the many options for entertainment, dream pop fans across ages and demographics arrived at Bar Le Ritz PDB last Sunday to experience the cult-favourite band in the intimate Little Italy venue. 

First up on the bill was the local band Bodywash. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the dream pop duo of Rosie Long Decter and Chris Steward a few times, most recently at Tiny Fest this past fall, and they always promise a great show. Long Decter has keys and Steward guitar, sharing vocal duties, while accompanied by drums and bass, the entire band felt in sync Sunday night, even so close to the end of their tour. The set started with some of their dreamier tunes and got heavier as it went on, focussing on songs from their latest record I Held the Shape While I Could. At times, the band (minus Long Decter) would turn away from the audience to shred facing into the drum kit, which heightened the intensity and showed the musicians’ chemistry with one another. Since Bodywash is now done supporting Airiel, be sure to check out their next hometown show. 

Next to the stage was the Austin, Texas double husband-and-wife-duo band Blushing. Coming off the release of their latest album Sugarcoat just last month, Blushing performed a high-energy shoegazy rock set. Frontwomen Christina Carmona and Michelle Soto played off each other well, even both falling to their knees to shred on the floor facing each other by the end of their set. 

After a brief pause between sets, which inexplicably included “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton being played over the speakers, Airiel entered the stage. The band jumped into “Liquid Paper,” the opening track to their Winks & Kisses EP which just celebrated its 20th anniversary. The band was incredibly tight for their first-ever show in Montreal, with the main duo of Jeremy Wrenn and Andrew Marrah feeling completely in sync. 

While the crowd was not as tightly packed as many Bar Le Ritz shows, those who were there brought high energy to Airiel’s dreamy yet danceable music, with a few of the older attendees dancing and jumping right at the lip of the stage. Many more concertgoers were at the stage’s edge to get a better look at Wrenn and Marrah’s giant Frankensteined guitar pedal boards. 

The band played broadly through their discography, from the various Winks EPs to newer songs off of 2017’s Molton Young Lovers. The audience was unsurprisingly the most excited to hear Airiel’s most iconic song “In Your Room,” and with good reason, as, in my opinion, this is a perfect song. Despite the vocals feeling much farther back than on the recording, the duo’s performance of the song was romantic and loud but somehow still gentle. 

Airiel played a fairy-trim set of eight songs before returning for an encore. The band ended their show out with “The Painkillers,” the closing track to Molton Young Lovers. The song quickly devolved into a delicious wall of noise as Marrah thrashed around with this guitar, shaking it upside down, and holding it up to the amp behind him to create harsh feedback on top of the duo’s already extensive pedal use. The unrelenting noise of Airiel’s final song still had an element of joy and whimsy to it, as it was obvious through the whole set how much fun the band has playing together and how happy the Bar Le Ritz crowd was to zone into their meditative tunes on this dreary Sunday night.

Aviva Majerczyk is the magazine editor at CJLO 1690AM. She is also the host of The Alley, a folk-rock show airing Fridays at 11:00 AM.