Operators Rule First Night of M for Montreal
Last night (Nov. 19), at a small club in Montreal, Dan Boeckner and his new band Operators brought the house down.
Broeckner, formerly of Wolf Parade, Divine Fits, and Handsome Furs, led Operators -- who also include synth player Devojka and Divine Fits drummer Sam Brown -- through a set that was both furiously rhythmic and aggressively poppy. And like a microburst blasting through the Quebec plains, it felt like it was over before it even started.
The show last night for part of M for Montreal, the mini-CMJ that takes place here in Montreal for the purpose of grabbing attention for some of the region's best bands. Besides Operators -- who, like a few other bands this weekend, stray outside the realm of the French Canadian -- last night's showcases included a bewitching set from New York's Tei Shei and a joyous, colorful contribution from Toronto's BadBadNotGood.
But it was Operators who played the most outsized set of the night, at Montreal's Casa del Popolo. Boeckner played off to the side of the band, literally in the shadows of the stage. His face, which already looks like something from the set of a German Expressionist film, wavered in and out of view. Thus, the music felt like it was issuing forth from a place beyond the band, like it was emanating out of some dark cave, a fully formed pop animal.
It all came together during 'True,' the lead-off from the band's 'EP1,' released over the summer. Devojka, who, it must be said, looked like she was torn off the cover of a 1985 issue of Vogue, professed that the song was "about sex." The music on all the band's songs recall the best '80s dance-rock -- New Order jumps to mind -- constructed synthetic music that still has rock and roll in its heart, and still has something to do with flesh and blood. Something about 'True' brought out the Prince in Boeckner, who staggered in place all the while. As Brown and Devojka raced to keep up with each other, the band chanted: "One, one, one ..." The refrain was dizzying, ecstatic.
Across the street at La Sala Rossa, Tei Shi played her languid, soulful pop, thick with the sounds created by her two-man band, featuring melodies that bounce off the beat. After 30 minutes, the only thing they seemed to lack was the ability to surprise -- until the band's last song, a real soul crescendo. Unlike countless other acts that chase the soul-pop sound in 2014, Tei Shi reaches for the threshold in ways that singers as talented as her -- and their bands -- rarely do.
BadBadNotGood are known primarily for jazz-rock collaborations with the likes of Frank Ocean and Odd Future. Back at Casa del Popolo, they put their naked selves on display, blasting through a few hyper-rhythmic jazz compositions, heavy on thrashing drums, and colored by swaths of piano color and sudden, surging melodies. We hear they are releasing an album with Ghostface Killah next year -- we can't even imagine what it will sound like.
We also checked out Montreal locals Allie, Lydia Ainsworth, Sean Nicholas Savage, and Little Scream. Check out some exclusive photos from the shows below: