A uniquely Montreal fest at Van Horne overpass
Megative, a new band featuring familiar faces, makes itself at home under the Van Horne overpass at Mile Ex End Musique Montréal
AT A GLANCE
The Mile Ex End Musique Montréal festival takes place Saturday and Sunday under the Van Horne overpass, between Casgrain and Henri-Julien Aves. Megative performs Saturday at 4:30 p.m. on the Mile Ex Stage. Tickets cost $50 per day, $90 for two days. For more information, visit mileexend.com.
It’s not the most obvious spot for a festival. Or for anything, for that matter.
The urban blight that is the Van Horne underpass is the kind of place where you wouldn’t want to be caught at night. Unless, say, you were getting down to some intoxicating sounds with a few thousand like-minded revellers.
The Mile Ex End Musique Montréal festival isn’t the first event to repurpose this desolate, industrial setting — coming on the heels of the recent Osheaga Block Party and other one-offs over the past several years (see accompanying story) — but it’s by far the most ambitious.
A range of indie acts, mostly local and a few international, will take to three stages set up under and around the concrete infrastructure this Saturday and Sunday for the inaugural edition of a celebration that has elbowed its way onto the cultural calendar on the premise of creating something uniquely Montreal.
Anchoring the local contingent is the incandescent alt-pop of Patrick Watson, who will be joined over the weekend by postrock icons Godspeed You! Black Emperor; rising trip-pop star Charlotte Cardin; folk-pop singer Basia Bulat; singer-songwriter Matt Holubowski; DJ Kid Koala; jazz-pop ensemble Busty and the Bass, and many more.
Add in a few big names from outside our fair city — Canadian rocker Dallas Green’s City and Colour; the awesomely introspective Cat Power; the oldschool cool of Suzanne Vega; altfolkie Andy Shauf — and you’re off to the races.
But there’s one name on the list that represents Montreal unlike any other, bringing together representatives from two distinct decades of our city’s music scene while converging to mark a third.
It’s a name you haven’t heard before, but that you may be hearing a lot more of in coming months.
Megative is the brainchild of Gus Van Go, a.k.a. Gus Coriandoli, the towering frontman of late-’80s/early-’90s Montreal ska-punk heroes Me Mom and Morgentaler, and Tim Fletcher, former lead singer of earlyaughts indie buzz band the Stills.
The two friends have come together for something distinctly different from either of those previous groups: a dub-reggaeinflected fusion of hip hop, rock and other stuff, with a hefty dose of urban cool. In other words, the perfect kind of sound to launch in an urban wasteland.
“Oddly enough, I think the Brooklyn-meets-Montreal angle of the band — which includes four Montrealers and four New Yorkers — in the most Brooklyn area of Montreal is kind of fun,” said Van Go, who has been based in New York for two decades.
During that time, he has built up a reputation as a producer, working with Canadian indie acts Arkells, Whitehorse, Wintersleep, Les Cowboys Fringants and, of course, the Stills. Aside from the odd Me Mom reunion, Van Go hasn’t been on a stage the last 17 years. He thought his days in a band were behind him until something called him back.
“I feel a need for Megative,” he said, sitting with Fletcher in a Plateau park Monday afternoon, on a break from rehearsals inside the concert hall La Tulipe.
“Seven years ago, Tim and I started talking about doing this project. No one was doing cool, dark, apocalyptic reggae. For us, reggae is not something that only has to do with good vibes. Dub reggae is dark, f---ed up and kind of scary. The political activism of bands like the Specials and Clash is lacking, too. That social commentary is especially needed in today’s political climate.”
Dub legends King Tubby and Lee (Scratch) Perry are cited as influences, as are British triphop pioneers Massive Attack.
“This is a chance to explore different realms,” said Fletcher, who has been making regular trips to New York over the past two years to work on the album, due near year’s end on Last Gang Records.
Fletcher assumes lead vocals for Megative, while Van Go is on backup vocals, guitar and — kicks?
“We’re on stage in rehearsals and you’re doing kicks and s--t,” Fletcher said to Van Go, a hint of awe in his voice. “I’m like, ‘Whoa! OK, this is going to happen. OK, I remember those Me Mom shows. This is Gus, from Me Mom! Oh yeah, OK.’”
The core of the band is rounded out by New York production duo Likeminds, with add-ons including Jamaica-via-Brooklyn dancehall reggae MC Screechy Dan and old Me Mom percussionist John Britton, now living in Toronto.
The opportunity to give Montrealers a sneak preview of the project is a perfect fit, Fletcher said.
“I used to live at St-Laurent and St-Viateur,” he said. “Now I’m in Park Ex. That whole Mile End, Plateau area, and now Mile Ex (comprises) decades of stomping grounds. It’s very intimate to be playing there, in terms of neighbourhood. We’re going to be performing in the middle of a community that I feel is home to me. So on one level, it’s amazing; on another level, it’s like, whoa, family. It’s a homecoming.”
Gus Van Go (ex-Me Mom and Morgentaler, second from left) and Tim Fletcher (formerly of the Stills, fourth from left) will bring their new dub-reggaeinspired collective Megative to the Mile Ex End Musique Montréal festival under the Van Horne overpass.
The Bridge Burner parties in the late 2000s created a uniquely Montreal atmosphere under the Van Horne.