Will Butler + Tropic Harbour + Algodo Egipcio @ Rialto (POP Montreal) – 18th September 2015

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This event was part of POP Montreal, now in its 14th year as a curated cultural event that gathers emerging and established artists from around the world.

Adjacent to the Rialto is the Clubhouse Pop where you can get tickets, chill out on giant beanbags and grab a beer. I am really enjoying the $2 cups you buy at these events, which make great mementos and are able to be reused.

The Rialto, built in the early 20s is truly a great place to see a live show. With its majestic marquee and regal décor, you feel the vibe of a different era as you walk past the box office.


First on stage was Algodon Egipcio who originates from Venezuela and played before a very sparse crowd. With an HP laptop, sampling machine, keyboards and electric guitar, Algodon played some electronic pop music infused with island music (which island…a mystery to me) and Spanish lyrics. He described this moment as surreal, happy to be in Montreal and thanking the slow stream of attendees for showing up early.


His shy demeanor reminded me of a better-looking Moss (without glasses) from the IT Crowd behind his laptop as he setup his loops and drums. At one point, he breaks out in a Napoleon Dynamite solo dance that was a little awkward to watch, but fun at the same time. Pop Montreal is all about experimenting with music and letting your “music geek” flag fly. I enjoyed his two last songs more the ones that preceded them.


The second act to hit the stage, Tropic Harbour, drove all the way from Edmonton and risked their lives just to play this show (more on this later). Pleasantly surprised to be invited to open for Will Butler, they played an enjoyable set of dream pop to the crowd that was continuing to stream in. Fronted by Mark Berg (Synth + vocals) with Dan English (Guitar), Ryan Kelly (Bass) and Marcus Rayment (Drums), they sounded like a mixture of the Smiths meets Tokyo Police Club, hovering on the mellow side of both. Having only 2 songs on iTunes, I look forward to hearing more from them as I really enjoyed the set they played, including Colour & Golden Rays.

I spoke to the band at the merch booth (they sell tapes with digital version included) after the show and they told me about their journey from Edmonton. Finding out they were booked for a live appearance on a radio show before the gig, they knew that this road trip was going to be on a tight schedule… drive all night and keep stops at a minimum to make the appearance. Unfortunately, they never made it to the show, one large obstacle in their way: a moose! As the semi truck goes roaring by in the opposite direction, the high beams focus on a large dark creature by the side of the road. As adrenaline rushed, the foot hit the brakes, this reunion was going to happen regardless of the model of the van (Dodge it did not). Marcus in the passenger seat braces for impact while his glasses, iPhone and hat sit leisurely on the dashboard, his only protection from the towering animal they are about to hit. Halted in their forward movement by the moose, the windshield shatters, but holds strong, protected by Apple Care no doubt. As the van comes to a stop, the antler pierces the side window and the guitar case in its path, piercing it side to side, yet not damaging the precious cargo within. Shaken from the trauma, Marcus looks to the ground where his precious glasses, iPhone and hat sit waiting to be gathered to complete the journey. Yes, an animal gave up his life for this show to happen, a sacrifice for the music.


I have to confess that it took me a while to get into Arcade Fire. After listening to the first album, I was intrigued, but I didn’t quite get it. After I saw them, along with 100,999 other people at Quartier des Spectacles in 2011, I finally fell in love with them… fell hard. Sometimes, it’s those bands whose albums you don’t instantly fall in love with that have the most staying power. The energy on stage was infectious, and I often wondered where it came from.


The same was true with Will Butler’s solo release, Policy (2015). There was something there, but seeing him perform live, it is now entrenched in my collection. Will Butler, 2 keyboardists (Julie Shore and Sara Dobbs) and a drummer (Miles Arntzen) kicked it off with “You Must Be Kidding” with such energy and panache that they made the music come alive for the full Rialto Theatre. The crowd reveled and danced to their local boy from the borough of St-Henri. I detected a little young Elvis swagger in his moves and voice as he sang about a water shortage in Sao Paulo.


“Son of God” was next with its touch of gospel followed by “Sun Comes Up”.
“Madonna Can’t Save Me Now” inspired by a black hole 12 billion times larger then the sun put art in perspective with the universe that can swallow us up at any time. Tonight, we will enjoy the performance and keep art alive.
“Something’s Coming” got us all dancing with its 70’s groove, a song that was meant for Kim Gordon to sing.


Miles, the drummer is a real stand up guy… literally… he plays the drums standing up. He truly killed it on some of the later songs with some incredible solos.

The electro beat of “Anna”, that hard working baker making money money money got us dancing yet again. Another song that came alive during the performance was “Witness” that had that Motown vibe.


The set was ended with “What I Want”, the Pony Macaroni song and “Take My Side” in which he asks: “Are you gonna take my side?” I think it was clear that the audience gave him a resounding: YES.

One song was played for an encore: Surrender.


After the crowd dispersed, Will came out to meet the stragglers and take a few pictures. Jeremy Gara (drummer of Arcade Fire) was there to support his band mate and friend. Will, saving his voice for the 3 next back-to-back performances was very gracious and friendly, yet quiet.

Find out more from his website.

As I left the Rialto, back to the real world, I could help but still be energized by the performance. No wonder Arcade Fire puts on a lively show with Will, his brother Win, Régine, Jeremy and the rest of the gang all brimming with energy ! It was nice to see Will take center stage and prove that this family’s talent is not a fluke, as even the parents were established musicians. Thanks Pop Montreal for creating a memorable evening at the Rialto Theatre.


Review & photos – Randal Wark

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  1. Great review of a great show. I asked you to post a few pics at the show and I’m happy to see that you obliged.

    – The guy that spent the show next to you. (Patrick)

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