Just 10 days after winning the Polaris Music Prize for best Canadian album, hometown Franco-rockers Karkwa held court inside a packed Metropolis for Pop Montreal. It was a programming coup on many levels, not the least of which is the cementing of Pop as more than just an anglo indie fest.
Earlier Thursday, Karkwa's people made the announcement that sales of the band's fourth album Les chemins de verre went up 481% last week, following the Polaris win, charting at a cool 47th position nationwide, including No. 42 in Ontario and No. 54 in B.C. Anyone wondering what all the fuss is about had only to step into Metropolis to escape the relentless downpour outside.
The band's whispered rock anthems are both dreamy and galvanizing. It's no wonder Karkwa and fellow Polaris winner Patrick Watson's band get along so well (and have collaborated together in the past). Both make music that fills the heart and sparks the imagination.
"On est en feu ce soir," said singer-guitarist Louis-Jean Cormier, referring to the enthusiastically cheering crowd. "Ca cri pas mal au Metropolis. Chaque fois qu'on fait un show au Metropolis, on se sent un peu plus léger."
It was a setup for Moi-léger, a breathtaking song off the new album which began as an airy piano ballad before the groove kicked in. Marie tu pleures, a few songs later, took a folkie turn, garnering handclaps from the crowd as the band's two drummers pounded out a thumping rhythm over which vocal harmonies were layered with intuitive ease.
It's all one and the same for Karkwa, from ambient to arena rock, campfire jigs and the odd proggy turn. There is something authentically québécois about this band, and something universal, too. La piqûre came off like Radiohead meets Nirvana, with a little Phillip Glass thrown in for good measure - a mixed bag of major league references for a band with an intuitively epic aesthetic.
Click here to see a gallery of photos from the show, and others at Pop Montreal.
By T'Cha Dunlevy Fri, Montreal Gazette, Oct 1 2010