A Rainy Night with The xx and Grizzly Bear

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“We are Londoners so we are used to rain. But the enthusiasm and support despite the weather is amazing.”

This is what the bassist and vocalist, Oliver Sims of The xx, said to the drenched crowd on Friday night here in Montréal. And it was true. Everyone was ecstatic and there were even some free-spirited concert goers dancing in the rain. A great concert can make for a great experience regardless of the season. But Montréal is high precipitation city and hosting an outdoor concert can mean some unfavourable temperatures. The xx and Grizzly Bear landed here on a cloudy day, fragile to the threat of rain that sprinkled on and off on Friday. As optimistic as I wanted to feel about the weather that day, it ended up pouring like cats and dogs by the end of the night at Lachine Canal.

I had dressed appropriately with layers under my rain coat, had pulled on my tall rain boots, and hauled my big umbrella. But this city rains more than my hometown of Toronto — and of course Montréal gets more snow as well. At last year’s Osheaga, a violent rain storm drenched the concert for at least one of the three days of the music festival.

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Grizzly Bear in performance before the big rain fall

So the weather was disappointing, but the concert did not disappoint. We arrived a little bit after 7:30 when Grizzly Bear opened the night in support of their fifth album, Shields. Their playlist included songs from their newest album, which was released last year, as well as some old favourites (“The first time we played in Montréal we had like 20 people show up. Point is, this is an old song.”), and crowd hits such as Two Weeks. This was their hit from their critically acclaimed 2009 album, Veckatimest, which was when I first heard about Grizzly Bear and interestingly when a slew of animal-named musicians such as Gold Panda, Animal Collective, and Caribou, came into my musical consciousness. That was the year I started confusing all these animal bands for each other but I now have their names right, so there is no need to worry.

This year of 2013 is a great one for music. So many great musicians released or will be releasing albums this year — Yo La Tengo, The National, The Knife, Phoenix, Daft Punk, Jon Hopkins, Boards of Canada. The xx’s sophomore effort, Coexist, came out last year but this is their second worldwide tour in support for the album. Brooklynites Grizzly Bear joins the U.K.-based The xx for their North American tour dates, and I was so happy to catch both bands here in Montréal, which is the second date of their multi-city tour.

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I had previously watched the YouTube video of The xx performing with The BBC Philharmonic, so I knew The xx would be a tight band live. Grizzly Bear was also a great band live, and every time I see a great live musical show, I become enamoured with the talent of musicians of whose gift I could never emulate. What made The xx show so special, however, was how the band performed remixed versions of their own songs for about 60% of the set. This is not surprising because, as I noted in my Music Favourites for 2012, the band are remix and cover masters. The track Shelter from their current album was remixed as Romy Madley Croft, vocalist and guitarist, sang a beautiful rendition of the song which I hope the band will issue for fans. Another highlight was the song Far Nearer from The xx’s producer and multi-instrumentalist’s solo work as Jamie xx, which was fit in as a segway into the group’s album tracks. Finally, during the encore, the band played the two tracks I had been waiting for all night — the instrumental Intro from their first and Mercury Prize-winning album, xx, and Angels, the first single from their current album.

It was another rainy night in Montréal but I ended it listening to the dark and atmospheric grooves of The xx. I heard the songs in my head as I went to sleep that night, and it was beautiful.

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Watching The xx underneath umbrellas

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