Night at the popera

New clothes. New food products. New winter tires. Newness has always excited our fidgety species. The WSO’s New Music Festival kicked off Saturday night, with shows at both the concert hall and the Union Sound Hall. In an effort to stay current with the new, I phoned for a Hummer limo and got a ride down to the Sound Hall for Pop Nuit.

Pop Nuit is the New Music Festival’s popular music sidecar, where it allows pop music to ride along and wear funny goggles. The first Pop Nuit (of two) featured a divergent pair of local acts – breakcore knob-twiddler Venetian Snares and effects-peddling prog-rockers Mahogany Frog.

I stomped up the stairs into the midst of the Maho-Fro show. Progressive rock has always been rock n roll’s emissary to classical music, so it makes sense to have these guys playing Pop Nuit. They even look like classical musicians: gorgeous curly hair at the top of long, tightly sheathed legs.

Their songs have always sounded like something that the boys were reading from sheet music. Mahogany Frog songs are dense, ornate compositions that trace the long running line of bohemian sensibilities into the amplified rattle and hum of our times.

They are a local treasure and I think the city should commission a sculpture of them to be placed on top of some other sculpture.

Maho-Fro wrapped and the audience broke for intermission, climbing out the back fire escape to bum cigarettes off of each other. We reentered to Venetian Snares.

Sonically it is a wall of thittering and thumps, of warwarwars and bowows and thuds. I shouldered my way forward through the more-dreadlocked electronic music crowd toward the stacks and the stage.

Venetian Snares is Aaron Funk. He’s a longhair, goateed and blackteed, one of those electronic musicians who looks like a Norwegian metal guy. He stoops over his table of gear, twiddles and throttles and taps, and then steps back to groove-nod along for a measure before leaning in again for a redial.

Breakcore isn’t for everyone, but you have to admit that it is music that sounds like everyday early 21st century living. You know: “boweerp, bodoboobydoww wobo dowaa er erp erp” all over snare rolls that speed into one solid sound and then back out again. Life.

The second Pop Nuit features master multireedist Colin Stetson.

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It goes Friday, January 31 at Millennium Centre. Hannah Epperson opens things up.

The New Music Festival is running all week. Check out the full schedule here.

Go hear some new music and see if it triggers any new feelings, new ideas or new winter tires.

Ross McCannell is a writer, a treeplanter, and the arts editor at the Spectator Tribune.