Two happenings that profoundly solidified my love for Montreal while I was in university were the Moondata LABProjects, a monthly event at O Patro Vys, and the weekly Kalmunity sessions at Sablo Café. Both unite musicians in improvisational glory, with brief discussions of direction mere hours beforehand. Kalmunity is still going strong every Tuesday, but Moondata had taken a nearly two-year absence while founders Matt Lederman and Vid Cousins went on tour with many of Canada's indie darlings, and co-founder Rhyna Thompson continued her management duties.
Moondata was always intriguing to me because the musicians that appeared onstage often came from wildly disparate scenes. It was not uncommon to see Chet Doxas playing tenor alongside Kid Koala, or to have crooner John Labelle front a band of indie upstarts. And of course, with any evening of mostly improvised music, some of them were hit and miss - generally, they were hits.
Love has always brought the best out of the Moondata collective - while I missed the last Valentine's soirée with Labelle and company, I did see the one the year before, featuring Patrick Watson and Elizabeth Powell weaving love songs over a band of (then)-couples. No surprise then that the long-awaited "reunion" would fall on Valentine's Day. This time around it was less a collision of divergent forces than a group of friends (on stage and in the audience) coming together again for a shared experience. The band featured Matt & Vid on guitars and fx, joined by McGill alumni Sarah Pagé (harp), Andy King (trumpet), and former Indigone drummer Liam O'Neill, as well as Mishka Stein of the Patrick Watson band on bass, Andrew Barr on drums and percussion, and guest vocalist Lhasa. Much of the first set was grounded in atmospheric post-rock, with Barr on steel drum and waterphone, and the whole band starting one improvisation with various whirling air tubes (I can't remember the name of that instrument). King's harmon muted trumpet blended almost too well with Lhasa's formidable kazoo playing. The final tune of the first set featured a monster groove and collective handclaps.
The second set continued along its path with what Lederman called the "avant-garde" portion of the evening "because love can be scary," with Pagé assuming the waterphone this time while heavily effected guitars and trumpet swirled. There were many more double-headed grooves with Liam and Andrew locking in really well. The double drum set-up has been a staple of Moondata, and it's always been a revelation to see how the drummers, ranging from Bell Orchestre's Stefan Schneider to Kalmunity's Jahsun, have hooked up. Sending the night off with a "dance tune," the group proceeded to wink at, salute and deconstruct four-on-the-floor house, culminating in a wild jumble of sound. A far more engaging soundtrack to Valentine's Day than the norm.
Matt and Vid are moving more into the audio and production side of the world, but perhaps someone can assume the mantle of Moondata from them. I and many other listeners realized how much we missed them. More on the show from Sarah Brideau.