Canadian Musician


CM Does POP Montreal 2013 – Day 1

Friday, September 27th, 2013

San Fermin @ POP MTL 2013

It’s sophomore year for these two POP correspondents, Candice Dugas and Melanie Cheung, and we are confident about this year’s prospects. The POP Montreal 2013 lineup is looking fierce and these girls are armed with Canadian Musician media passes. We’re fashion designers turned part-time journalist/photographers (and forever music junkies at heart) and we are ready to divulge our discerning musical opinions.

The exciting thing about this festival is not necessarily the big names that it brings to the city, but the emerging up-and-coming bands that we have yet to discover. The POP MTL roster guarantees a sneak-peek of what to look forward to musically in the year to come.

Day 1 sent us to church…


Eden Sela

We headed to the Church of St. John the Evangelist, known to MTL locals as the “red roof” venue. The high ceilings, stained glassed windows, and aged acoustics provided an ethereal backdrop for the performances.

Ex-Montrealer Eden Sela opened the show with her balmy vocals, accompanied by an aloof keyboard player, and performed a mix of experimental, soul, and gospel songs. She switched back and forth between two microphones – one calm and airy, the other angsty and disgruntled. It was a split personality of sounds and we struggled to catch the harmony of the two.

San Fermin

San Fermin

Let’s be honest, we came for the main event: San Fermin. We landed the best seats in the house – front row, centre. John (the trumpet player) joked as they were setting up that it would be too loud for us at this proximity. We kept our seats, as we intended to have the “maximum experience” – a motto Melanie lives by.

San Fermin just released their self-titled debut album and POP Montreal was the first stop on their tour. Their travelling band consists of eight members: Allen Tate (vocals), Rae Cassidy (vocals), Rebekah Durham (vocals/violin), John Brandon (trumpet), Stephen Chen (saxophone), Ellis Ludwig-Leone (keyboard), Tyler McDiarmid (guitar), and Mike Hanf (drums).

San Fermin

San Fermin

Ellis Ludwig-Leone is both the keyboard player and composer of all the tracks on the album. His lyrics hint at themes of nostalgia, triumphs of love, growing pains, and coming of age.

The band describes their musical genre as a compilation of post-rock, chamber-pop and contemporary classical vibes. The result is a unique infusion of Ludwig-Leone’s classical influence (he has a background in musical studies at Yale), Allen’s booming baritone vocals, and Rae’s sweet melodies.

San Fermin

San Fermin

When the first song starts, Tate’s voice demands your attention. His vocals have an uncanny resemblance to those of Matt Berninger (The National), while the female vocals are as alluring as those of Amber Coffman and Olga Bell (from Dirty Projectors). The compilation of trumpet/saxophone/violin/keyboard/drums parallels Sufjan Stevens’ sounds.

It is difficult to pick out a stand out song as their set (and full album) is a well-rounded collection of musical greatness; it’s not riding on catchy hit singles. Best songs of the night: “The Renaissance,” “Sonsick,” “Casanova.” Surely this band is one to look out for in 2013 and beyond. We felt incredibly lucky to catch this intimate show before the explosion into stardom. There is no doubt this fresh-faced Brooklyn based band (with plenty of Canadian ties) is on the rise. Music buffs should watch out for their cleverly named Vanna White (white tour van) coming to a nearby city.

San Fermin

San Fermin

After their set, we picked up a San Fermin band T-shirt and gave John (the trumpet player) tips for some great late night poutine spots.

We returned to our seats for the last act of the night, Saltland. Rebecca Foon’s soothing voice was accompanied by layers of cello on her loop machine. She was later joined by Aaron Lumley on double bass. Rebecca dedicated a song to her mother, who is currently doing meaningful work in Toronto, coordinating music programs for inner-city kids.



Foon’s eerie cello sounds were a somber contrast to San Fermin’s upbeat songs. We were in a content sleepy state and ready to wrap up a successful first day at the festival.

More to come…

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