I missed the last volume in May due to personal reasons (and certainly regretted it) so I was looking forward to this one even more with its stellar lineup. It also reminded me of the first NMFT show (vol 8 in May 2016) that I ever saw since Mass of the Fermenting Dregs were returning. Another thing it shared in common was that there were no idol acts. Vol 9-12 all had idol acts.
After the unfortunate closing of long time venue Divan Orange, vol 12 was held at La Sala Rossa which I’ve never been to so I’m not sure what the vibe and surroundings were like there. Vol 13 changed venues again to Le Ministere. I like this venue. It’s small and intimate, easy to get too and is actually fairly close to Divan Orange’s old location. There’s wasn’t as much space for the merch tables and no fussball table but I think it’s a good replacement. Sound was good as far as I could tell.
The first act was Otori. This was their second time being part of the tour having been part of vol 7. They were definitely the most unique sounding band but my first reaction was thinking that this music is kinda weird, not bad but I just didn’t know what to think about it. Sae’s lead vocals are kind of like spoken word shouting. The music is honestly not something I could describe remotely accurately, you’d be better served just to listen to some MVs of them on the internet. I admit that I don’t think I really appreciated them live as much as I should have. Interestingly when I bought a digital download of the pre-release of their second album (it’s untitled at the moment), I found to my surprise that I really liked it and then I recalled some of the songs that were played live before. I think I just wasn’t ready for Otori and that I needed to learn to appreciate the uniqueness and oddness.
I also got to talk (or at least try to talk) to a couple of members from the band, mainly Tsuda (bassist with green hair) and Sae (lead vocals). Despite understanding nearly nothing of what Tsuda said, I appreciated his efforts and could tell he was a fun guy to be around even if all I could do was nod vaguely and stare blankly as he spoke Japanese. Sae knew more English so with a mixture of English and my not even basic Japanese I was able to communicate in a marginally more meaningful way with her. She is very nice and charming in person. The expression “cute as a button” definitely applies to her. As for her stage persona, an addition to that expression would probably be “cute as a button, ferocious as a lion.”
Next up was Ululu, their sound was more closer to conventional rock and a bit retro nostalgic. It was fun and upbeat. Kayo’s singing exuded youthful emotion. I think this band has potential.
In the middle was Paranoid Void, whose math rock sound I quite enjoyed. It felt dreamy at times. The energy level of the crowd rose a bit with this act but the crowd on average was still largely stationary which was uncharacteristic when compared to previous Montreal shows where the crowd went wild.
Batting cleanup was Elephant Gym from Taiwan and thus the first non-Japanese band to be part of the tour. Although one could argue they are like an honorary Japanese band, having had several shows in Japan and being known there from what I could tell. They were my most anticipated band and they didn’t disappoint. Their live performance definitely exceeded my expectations and this was when the crowd finally seemed to get going. Even their mellower songs were great to listen to without feeling like there was a drop in energy. Chia Chin’s drumming was exceptionally powerful. Their sound mostly revolves around the bassist, KT, but I really felt the drumming was just as good. KT also seemed to be the most animated and talkative but that could be because she could speak English fairly well. She was drinking a beer on stage and revealed her potty mouth by shouting a strong F*ck you to Steven for not stage diving during their performances at the end of her intro to the band. It was pretty funny. At one point she also called her brother and guitarist, Tell, handsome but a bit boring. Who knew KT was such a savage!
I got a chance to talk with Tell and he seemed anything but boring revealing many interesting insights into China and Taiwan. He also had an interesting theory on why there seems to be a lot of math rock bands coming from Asia. Tell’s English is not bad although he humbly says he lacks vocabulary. He was extremely friendly. He showed interest in those he spoke to and was easy to talk to.
Like back in vol 8, Mass of the Fermenting Dregs was the headliner in Montreal and they definitely killed it. I feel their music a bit more traditionally appealing. Catchy but not generic. Their performance was ridiculously intense. Last time, I had to leave a bit early but this time I was able to stay for their entire set. They were a definite hit like Elephant Gym before them.
Final thoughts: 5/5 bands liked, Recommended.
Overall, I think the general listlessness of the crowd made this show somewhat less memorable than past ones. I know that I have a bit more difficulty recalling some of the performances in the usual detail that I have for past volumes. But I also think some of the bands had a discography that had more mellow songs than hard-driving ones. In the end, I liked all the bands and bought music from all of them. I definitely would like to listen to Otori live again to see if I can appreciate their music more now that I’ve had a good listen to their album.