Montreal’s old port is a beautiful place. After a brief look at the Netherland’s HNLMS Karel Doorman moored at the docks, I headed to Vigne Management‘s show at Pub St-Paul to experience four bands from Montreal on a lovely night in May. The Pub St-Paul is located in the heart of the old city, on the second floor of a building that seems to have been there since the cobblestones were laid. The stage lines a windowed wall, giving the bands playing a backdrop of St-Paul Street.
The tight, five-piece band Bridgeway started the show with “Hands Up”, an original tune that reminded me of a feel-good Lynyrd Skynyrd song. They followed with “Sing It Louder,” a radio-friendly ballad for which singer Raph Pilon began playing keyboard while guitarist Vincent Vertefeuille harmonized with him, embellishing the vocals. They continued with “Beauty from the 80s,” a pop song that got the audience clapping along. Phil Chevrier’s five-string bass was felt as the band launched into “Sky Full of Stars”, an uplifting cover of a tune by Coldplay which was a welcome addition on the warm Friday night. “Smile” followed, a ballad highlighting Mr. Vertefeuille’s prowess on the guitar as he dished out a hearty solo filled with emotion and skill. Bridgeway ended the set with “Tomorrow”, a song that reminded me of Kings of Leon.
Starstruck Avenue‘s first song “Walk Away” instantly evoked The Police; funk and pop collided as this four-piece rock outfit lay into the beat. They followed with “Sometimes,” a pop-rock song with raspy vocals, and “Crazy,” which brought me back to Blink 182, featuring start-stop arrangements that kept the music interesting. “Apology” reminded me of Sum 41, followed by “I Used to Be,” a pop-rock tune that got fans singing. Adam Radimiri was met with a loud response when he asked the crowd if they were feeling good tonight. “We’ve Caused a Disaster,” another high-energy rock song with a welcomed ballad-y breakdown, was followed by Weezer’s “Say it Ain’t So,” and it is here I must report something that let me down. During the song, Mr. Radimiri signaled to the soundman to bring up the vocal level. I had trouble understanding the lyrics, and was glad to see Adam requesting more volume. Unfortunately, the soundman was too busy checking his phone to notice the request. To me, this is unacceptable and annoying. Live sound is tough, and it’s shitty as a performer to be working with someone who isn’t attentive. Adam, I feel your pain. The funky and anthemic “Reminisce” showcased Derek Mota’s bass-slapping abilities and his love of the groove. Closing their set was “Only at the start,” a tune that got the musicians huddled together for an instrumental break before thanking the grateful crowd, who returned the favour.
The Falling began with a synthesizer backing-track that gave way to a very U2-feeling song named “Carry On,” exhibiting clear vocals from the singer and tight drumming from Luc Brodeur. A round of drinks was handed to the musicians on stage as they played “The Same,” an upbeat track displaying frontman Pat Rossi’s great voice. “What I Really Am” followed, and you could tell the drummer was having a great time. They used a lot of backing tracks in their set, which was disappointing. I prefer a band to play fully live, and I’m sure these talented guys could find a synth player to join them on stage. “This Is The Day” brought Mr. Rossi’s jamming with the band on a floor tom. “We Are The Ones,” recently shot as a music video, was a catchy pop-rock tune with big hooks. A cover of the Killers’ “When You Were Young” got people in the room dancing as the singer joined the crowd. “Your Best Memory” filled the pub with anthemic choruses before their ballad “Live for Today” finished the set.
Hopeland closed the show; unfortunate technical difficulties meant their set would start at 12:55. Starting with a clean guitar swimming in delay, “Take my love” featured the band dancing on stage and feeling the music. Throughout the song, I kept thinking “Gah, the vocals are too low!” Singer Tom was evidently on the same page, asking the crowd if they could hear him. “Crashing” demonstrated Tom’s great stage presence; charismatic and happy, you can tell he enjoys being in the spotlight. Fast-paced song “The Storm” was next, showcasing a guitar solo I could almost hear. After this tune, Tom asked the crowd if they could hear anything. Was the soundman asleep? Four great bands I was looking forward to, and only two got good sound. One certainty is that my band won’t be playing the Pub St-Paul. Despite it being gorgeous and offering great service from the bar staff, what matters most to me is the sound quality, which let us down repeatedly. Hopeland’s “Time of our lives” celebrated times with friends before ending the night with “Stripper,” which started out with an interesting riff and was more on the rock side of this band’s musical palette. Hopeland really dug into this last one as Tom delivered powerful vocals.
I wish I had seen these bands with a different soundman, but these guys did their best and played their hearts out. For that, I am grateful to have seen them, and will be happy to watch them again at other venues. 6.5/10
Written by Dave Tone
Photography by Paul-André Gonzalez Aldana Abereau photographie