Gulfer + Deanna Petcoff + PACKS + Jaywood's Playful Performances for This Year’s POP Montreal Music Festival

As we swung into October, crisp weather, colourful trees, and the POP Montreal Music Festival reappeared to remind us of the everchanging seasons. More than 400 local and overseas artists and bands gathered at over 50 venues around the Mile End area and across the city for another glorious week of live music to raise the chilly spirits. 

September 30 marks day three of performances of the six day-long festival. Lined up for that evening’s live performance was Gulfer, Deanna Petcoff, Packs, and Jaywood. Center stage at Casa del Popolo on St Laurent, right at the heart of Mile End, a handful of millennials were gathered eagerly awaiting another highly anticipated low maintenance live show. 

Upon first glance, the venue seemed like a regular bar: lights dimmed just enough to obscure far-sightedness to a matter of a squint. A bar filled with overpriced alcoholic drinks was accompanied by a lonely DJ spinning in solitary contentment at the back. Only upon approaching the farther corner of the venue, would one have been able to discover the door: the secret gateway to the real live band music experience.

The scene is set: four fly looking lads stunting under silver-studded ceilings and rich red lights. Jaywood, lead by Winnipeg’s Jeremy Haywood Smith, took the lead on the night's musical adventure. Their jazz-y twist on indie music is reminiscent of sixties psychedelic music and takes the crowd on a trip. Thick bass notes solidify the roots of each song. Sly synth riffs slip in between guitar licks, creating a solid trunk that holds the branches of each melody and expanding into the sky.  The chemistry of the group is clear as the sound comes together naturally. Their impressive manipulation of melodies brought to mind a timelapse video of a planted seed growing into a fully bloomed flower.

Toronto’s Packs plays next and their somewhat forgettable performance turns the tables on the phrase, “first is worst and second is best.” Not to be taken to the extreme, their set was pleasant to listen to, but their regular rock style of music was more reminiscent of a restaurant’s background playlist, rather than a live show. Their artistic abilities have definite potential though, especially in combination with additional original inspirations.

The audience’s awesome spirit was awakened again as Toronto-based singer-songwriter Deanna Petcoff took up the mic. Her performance was a wonderful contrast to the previous, as it offered a more down-to-earth, emotionally enriched experience. If Jaywood sowed the seeds of the garden, then Petcoff picked off each flower petal in a game of he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not.  Each song picked apart lost lovers and poured passion into strung-out lyrics. While her enchantingly possessive power swayed the crowd into some-sort of hypnotic-like trance, the spell slowly wore off as the song styles blended together. 

By time Petcoff pranced off the platform, the concertgoers were patiently ready for the headliner and final show of the event: Gulfer. Straight from the streets of Montreal, the mostly local listeners were more than eager to show their appreciation of the band. More heavyset songs drove the event even deeper and darker into the night. The evocative emotion in their lyrics echoed the extra-passionate Petcoff. The band members were equally enchanting each in their own individual light. 

Upon first glance, the group appeared as an awkwardly odd jumble of millennial men, reminiscent of the leftovers of a graduate garage band. Singer and guitarist Joe Therriault is one of two front-men of the band, well-deserving of songwriting and light-speed guitar strumming credits. Main vocalist David Mitchell occupies middle- stage, and evokes intense emotion on his expressive face while bringing his artistic bass-playing abilities to the audience’s attention. Julien Daoust’s stunted emo-punk drum strokes recalled Travis Barker’s name to mind, both in his sleeve tattooed arms and in his musical style. Last, but certainly not least, the second main inspiration behind Gulfer’s groove: singer and guitarist Vincent Ford answers the infamous question: Where’s Waldo? Well, we’ve found him and he’s stage-left wearing a beanie; striped shirt and all.

With the clear clash of stylistic aesthetics, each artist seemed to exist with their instrument in their own universe, their wicked and wonderful melodic worlds colliding only over speaker-amplified tunes. The members' apparent individual differences also lended handily to weaving a fabric filled with diverse fibers of sound. Their collective melodic universe unveiled a wonderfully array of sweet-sounding songs sung by slick guitar riffs, just as quickly swept away into another dimension of heavy distortion and strained screaming. 

Despite their lack of engagement with each other, they impressively energized  almost all of the crowd to move in a jaunty and head banging fashion. The crowd happily clapped their hands and in a last effort to release every last bit of enthusiasm, pushed each other around in a polite but sweaty moshpit. Performing artists and audience members, equally tired from the long night of concerting, concluded the event in cheery applause in the wee hours of October 1.