Festival Season is upon us now.. I can feel it now when I walk through the streets of my fine city, seeing gazebos go up, stages erected, bustling activity, musicians with guitars slung on their backs treading the pavements. Street Poles and streetlights are well clothed by layers upon layers of posters that cover them up from top to bottom, not much vacancy there. Yes, fest season is in the air! It seems there are more festivals than bands out there nowadays, especially in Montreal which had become a regular carnival starting this weekend and going until october literally non-stop. I can proudly say on my end that I am happy to have been able to contribute to an already over saturated market as far as music festival go. I have been working on the One Man Band Festival which kicks off in exactly 5 days now!
I’m super excited and super nervous at the same time to put on this mega-event which now boasts close to 60 ombs. But I believe in my heart of hearts that it will be a success. How could it not be with the amount of effort we have put into it? (heh heh ..famous last words) the amount of love we have poured into making this unique event into a regular Carnival of variety, of ingenuity and most of all OF FUN!! I’m sure all you who can make it to Montreal next weekend for this one of a kind ONE MAN BAND FESTIVAL (the 2nd ) will be the better for it.
You can check out our storefront window at Phonopolis and interview for the Fest with Midnight Poutine, Voir Montreal , Journal 24 Heures , Hot Soupe , Cult Mtl, Info Culture, The Gazette and more to come!
Below is an interview I did for Pop Montreal which talks in great detail about how this whole fest came about , and who some of my favourite picks to check out are for this year in case you feel you need some orientation. I hope beyond all hope to see you all there come in great numbers like the families who flock to the travelling roadshow when it comes to town, so the One Man Band Fest comes to the beacon that is Montreal to celebrate diversity, variety, to admire, accept, support and tickle the fringes of Pop Culture. Life is A Carnival and I’m cordially inviting you to mine!
Now Speaking of Pop..
One Man Band Festival will be kicking off its second edition next weekend with one sick lineup featuring The World Provider, Bloodshot Bill, and many more. POP spoke to founder Jon Cohen (also from The Jon Cohen Experimental) about how the festival came along, the peeps we should watch out for this year, and his all-time favourite one mand band.
What’s the story behind the festival? How did the idea first come about?
I was fronting a band for five years when we decided to break up. It felt like yet another defeat of trying to make it work as a band failing because of too many different agendas and egos mixed in with no pay, no glory etc. I felt just about ready to pack the whole thing in. But one day, I found a second hand looper pedal on craigslist. I had seen Final Fantasy put on a full orchestra sound of very complex pop music, completely alone at the Ukrainian Federation a few years before and I was totally inspired by him. So on a whim, I decided to reinvent my sound and performance using all kinds of equipment, live loopers, samplers and triggers. Next thing you know, I was on tour on a greyhound bus worldwide across 15 countries dragging a 70-pound suitcase on wheels from city to city. The new Jon Cohen Experimental, a one-man show, was born.
For me, it came to a point where it was do or die. I took my career into my own hands. I had much more freedom this way, to do the kind of show I wanted. Best part is that there was no one to argue with on the tour bus! (laughs) But I had to work harder than I ever had on my music and my performance. There was there was no more hiding behind a band. It’s all eyes on you.
I also discovered in the next two years of constant touring was that there were many other solo artists, one-(wo)man bands out there doing the same as me. I saw Lonesome Organistliterally shake his crowd into a frenzy. I saw Scott. H Biram and Bob Log III blow everyone away with the most insane rock soul music ever. I saw (Maschine) a guy who made instruments out of old xerox printing machines!
What struck me the most out of all these acts was their variety, their ingenuity and multi-tasking. It got me thinking how amazing it would be to put on an event that would bring them all together, as a celebration of all that is different, original and on the fringes of pop culture. I came home from a European tour last April 2012, determined to make it happen. And so the first One Man Band Fest was born.
It was a small affair, 23 artists, three venues over three nights, but it was a total success. The shows were so varied and amazing. It had this beautiful carnival-esque quality.
That’s why we are doing it again. We want to make this an annual thing because we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of what’s out there.
The festival is now going into its second year. How is this edition different than the previous one?
Last year was more like an experiment. It was about gauging the artistic relevance of an event like this in Montreal. It was small and humble and whipped together in just two months with the help and enthusiasm of the artists, the volunteers, the media, and the venues.
This year is very different in many ways. For one it’s much bigger. I wanted to sprout this thing quickly. I thought go big or go home. This year we have 50 one man and woman bands from all over the world and spanning all musical genres. We have more people involved in organizing it too. Interns and volunteers have just been stellar. We have between three and six shows a night over 4 nights (may 23-26). We have a free looping workshop and artist panel on touring solo. We have two documentary crews capturing this one of a kind party, of which one is for the BBC, with Tom Ravenscroft, (son of John Peel). We have a book sale, an outdoor barbecue party, a documentary screening on one man bands, a closing night, all free!
The vision behind this fest is to convey to one man bands, struggling solo artists, audiences and those curious about the concept that this is high art, and that their output and your support combined will be a precious contribution to the cultural landscape.
How would you describe this year’s lineup?
This year, we are presenting a roster of over 50 local to international one-man bands whose sounds cover the entire spectrum of musical genres. From traditional dick van dyke-style fanfare one-man bands and eighties reject beatpunk looper-junkies to grease slicking/rockabilly guitar-shredding, drumming all-in-ones and vicious vinyl vigilantes. It’s a total buffet for the senses, musically and visually. Expect tons of variety, high-energy performances, and killer lineups. Now go block it off on your calendars.
What shows are you most excited to see?
That’s a tough question…I don’t like to play favourites and it all depends on what you’re into. If you were on borrowed time, I’d say check out Shake it Like a Caveman, whose name could not be more apt; Steve Hill who has rekindled my love for the blues; Boxwood from Florida, who has been on heavy rotation at the OMBF headquarters; Laura Barrett who, with voice and kalimba, will sink you into pure bliss; Thomas Truax from Berlin who plays the “sister spinster” and “mother superior”, instruments plucked right out of a Tim Burton film; Royer’s One Man Band, if you close your eyes, you’d think you’re hearing a bluegrass band; Clara Venice, the playmate theremin queen; and the gypsy dance punk / tap dancer from Chicago (Thrill Jockey) The Lonesome Organist which you should absolutely catch. He IS the one-man Gogol Bordello.
Which artists should we watch out for?
I’d say a good thing to do would be to invest in discovering new talents. They are on the bill because they blew us away and we want them to do the same for you. Check out Matt Dorgan Project, Mountain Marc Charron, Sam Klass, Washboard Hank, DJ Drumkit, Xania,Pang Attack, Bird Radio, André Daneau, The Kettle Black, Lederhosen Lucil, andBooks on Tape (Alien 8) who’ll be smashing laptops on a dancefloor near you at the OMB punk-disco vogue after party at Sundari late saturday night (May 25).
Who’s your absolute favourite solo artist of all time?
Lately, I’ve been listening to TrinTran who sounds like the OMB version of B52’s meets Kraftwerk and who is now on tour with Ty Segall. I’ve also been really into Reggie Watts lately. What he does is so unique, original and yet so simple. His personality shines through in his performance and that’s what this is all about. Crossing our fingers for having him on in 2014!
Don’t miss One Man Band Festival, May 23rd to 26th. Find all the info here.