Reggae sound system parties are rare in Montreal, so I’m happy to report that Pull-up Selecta at Divan Orange on Saturday was a massive success. The packed club dripped with sweat, due not only to Divan’s poor air circulation, but also the energy on the dancefloor, stoked by the reggae fire blasting out of the PA. I hope this event indicates a sign of good things to come for Montreal’s reggae scene.
Saturday’s “Battle Crew Edition” of Pull-up Selecta pitted three local reggae crews in a friendly sound system clash. Teams of two or three selectors and vocalists performed thirty-minute mini-sets, culminating in a massive on-stage battle with all three crews dueling it out for supremacy.
Barrio Son Sao (Chele, Tonki and Lunatico of the Heavy Soundz crew) kicked off the night with a short, high-energy dancehall jam. Barrio were the only guys who bothered coordinating outfits — each member rocked matching baseball caps, logo t-shirts, and beards. In the competitive environment of sound system clashes, I thought more teams would have represented their crew with matching clothing, but evidently the beats were more important than the fashion. Barrio kept the party upbeat with tight, fast mixes, and fun tracks like Prince Fatty’s dancehall version of O.D.B’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya.”
Up next, Seed Organization with Clinton Sly on vocals immediately beefed up the bass and brought in a heavier sound. The duo dropped one of their original tracks, a cut from the Northern Light compilation, released by Svaha Sound in February, called “Peace, Love and Unity.” Clinton Sly’s rugged and rough vocal style didn’t consistently win over the crowd, but Seed Org’s on-point, dub-wise beats sounded big on the Divan system. Clinton Sly said his focus for the clash was to “…keep the energy level intense, (because) everybody is going to bring their A-game. You don’t want to be the crew that thins out the crowd, you want to keep people moving.”
Local heavyweights Nomadic Massive, represented by Waahli aka Wyzah and Dr. MaD, kept the crowd moving with deep roots reggae music. The team’s tight, dub-wise sound was crisp, and included some more commercial tunes like a version of Alicia Keys’ “You Don’t Know My Name.” It was a crowd-pleasing sound, full of positive vibes and energy that had the people grooving, but they didn’t drop many heavy dub-plates or mind-blowing beats for the reggae heads in the club.
Finally, the evening peaked with a no-holds-barred battle for supremacy of the Montreal sound-system scene. Each team was given three five-minute sets to lay down their best shit, and hope the crowd wouldn’t boo them out of the building. Under the tight pressure of a hyped crowd and a hot, sweaty club, the crews fought hard to the finish.
Seed Organization and Clinton Sly got it started with the appropriately titled “Ready,” and Barrio Son Sao pulled out some Latin-inspired dancehall dubs. Finally, the Nomadic guys stuck to their guns with popular reggae hits that sounded fat on the Divan Orange system. It was a close competition, with all three teams stepping-up their games for the main event, but ultimately the Nomadic guys won over the crowd, taking the title in the end. Shouts out to Slim Samba (Riddim Wise) for hosting the night, and Gwen from Camuz for an intense ragga-jungle set to close out the competition.
Written by Rob Coles
*edited by Kate Erickson